Hill 122 The battle of Mont Castre and le Plessis-Lastelle

The hill is just to the east of La Haye du Puits and was one of the first battles in the Normandy breakout. Mont Castre is a small hill just over 300 ft above sea level. It was used by early man and was a fort in Roman times. In 56bc Caesarís army under Quintus Titurius Sabinus used this as a camp for his army of 18,000 men during his battle with the Gauls. In 1944 the Germans had dug themselves in on Hitlerís orders to stop the American advance to the south. They called it the Mahlmann Line and it was defended by an elite Regiment the 15th Regiment of the 5th Parachute Division. Cherbourg had already fallen to the Americans and they now turned their attention to a southern breakthrough. On July 3rd at 05:30 the attack began with three Infantry Divisions, from east to west they were 79th and 82nd Airborne, plus the 90th starting in a line from Port Bail to Pretot. The main assault on the hill was made by 1 battalion of the 358th and two battalions of the 359th, both from the 90th Division. By the evening of the 5th they had fought their way to the foot of Hill 122 but it took a further four days to drive the Germans from the hill. It took until July 12th to reach Plessis-Lastelle at enormous cost to both armies, over 5,000 casualties in the 90th Division. To put the battle into perspective, the 90th Division had 26% of all the causalities suffered by the Allied Armyís in all theatres of the war during that week. The 3rd Battalion of the 358th Regiment which started with 19 officers and 582 men lost 11 officers and 343 men in a single days fighting. It took a further five days fighting to reach the town of Periers just eight miles away. Today the site of Hill 122 is a nature reserve and also of interest is the ruined chateau and church, together with traces of the Roman camp. On the other side of the hill at Plessis-Lastelle is a ruined castle. Built by William the Conquer in 1047, this castle suffered damage during the battle for the hill, and has now been turned into a site of pilgrimage and has the journey of the Stations of the Cross leading to the summit.

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