The region that centres on St-Lô, just south of the Cotentin, is known as the Bocage; the word describes a type of cultivated countryside common in western France, where fields are cut by tight hedgerows rooted into walls of earth well over 1m high. An effective form of smallhold farming in pre-industrial days, it also proved to be a perfect system of anti-tank barricades. When the Allied troops tried to advance through the region in 1944, it was almost impenetrable – certainly bearing no resemblance to the East Anglian plains where they had trained. The war here was hand-to-hand slaughter, and the destruction of villages was often wholesale.

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