The hedgerows of Normandy were serious barriers to Allied troops following the D-Day landings in 1944 . In the Cotentin area, there was intense German resistance in difficult terrain of small fields and orchards. This conflict became known as the “hedgerows war” or the “battle of the bocage” (the French name for hedgerow).
The ancient hedgerows were up to five metres high, having been neglected during the years of occupation. Dense barriers of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and brambles were interspersed with apple and pear trees, grown for calvados, pommel and local ciders. These created perfect defensive fortifications. Ground troops could not see through the bocage to see if a tank or self-propelled gun was waiting for them, and the Germans cut small holes in order to see attackers coming and set up ambushes.
Tanks were unable to penetrate the dense hedgerows – driving into one was reportedly like driving a car into a brick wall. American troops experimented with flamethrowers and commandos with explosive devices, both with limited success. Eventually they improvised cutting attachments by fixing blades to their tank wheels in order to slash through the bocage and head on to the easier terrain beyond.