Churchill MkVII 'Astonia'
Fontaine-la-Mallet, Le Havre
Location and info
Operation Astonia Memorial, 76290 Fontaine-la-Mallet
Located to the north of Le Havre on the D52 Route de Fontaine-la-Mallet road between Fontaine-la-Mallet and Montivilliers.
This Churchill MkVII stands as a memorial to all those who fell during Operation Astonia, the battle of September 1944 to capture Le Havre – one of the most important ports in Northern France.
Facing the Allied advance were over 11,000 entrenched German soldiers, protected by some of the largest defensive bunker sites on the Atlantikwall.
The attack began on September 10 and involved two divisions – the 49th West Riding Infantry Division, known as Polar Bears, who took on the East sector and the 51st Highland Division in the west. They were supported by several artillery regiments, three armoured brigades, and one special armoured brigade known as the ‘Hobbard’ brigade, who had distinguished themselves on D-Day. Around 45,000 soldiers took part in the attack.
Following a preliminary bombing of the German defences where over 4,700 tons of ordnance were dropped on the area around the strongpoints and bunkers, flail tanks were employed to destroy three mine fields, while special assault bridges were deployed to cross anti-tank ditches around Montivilliers, to the north of the city.
Despite heavy losses, the first strongpoints were captured just after 7pm, just over an hour and a half after the battle had begun.
At midnight, the second phase of Astonia began at Fontaine-la-Mallet (where this tank is located) and at 5:30am from Gainneville, with Allied forces heading towards the city and port. The German garrison capitulated on September 12.
The Churchill which stands on the D52 Route de Montivilliers at Fontaine-le-Mallet was donated by the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK and was installed by the British Army on July 10, 2000.
It was restored by the association who tends the site and was positioned in front of a symbolic representation of an anti-tank ditch which has been spanned by a replica assault bridge.