Caen's defence fell to two divisions; the 12th SS Panzer Division of I SS Panzer Corps, and the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division of LXXXVI Corps. An assault on the city was expected, and it was assumed that further attacks in the Odon valley towards the Orne river would quickly follow suit.
The 12th SS Panzer Division, commanded by Kurt Meyer, consisted of three panzergrenadier regiments including one—the 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment—borrowed from the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (1st SS Panzer Division). With its 61 surviving tanks 12th SS Panzer was holding the northwest approaches to Caen, defending the city and Carpiquet airfield from the 3rd Canadian and 59th British Infantry Divisions. The main German defensive line, a 9-kilometre (5.6 mi) arc of villages from the northeast to the west, was held by the 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment and elements of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment. Troops from the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment were holding the western flank, concentrating their strength, which included mortar batteries and a few tanks, in the area around Carpiquet airfield. The 1st SS Panzergrenadier Regiment was occupying a line from Franqueville to the western end of Eterville; the villages formed mutually-supporting strongpoints with dug-in tanks and assault guns, and the defensive line was 2–3 miles (3.2–4.8 km) in depth, supplemented by anti-tank ditches, weapons pits, minefields and other obstacles. The rest of the division, with 35 tanks of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment, were held in reserve, with elements located north, west and south of the city. Most of the division's artillery had been moved back across the Orne, and the divisional command centre had been relocated from the Ardenne Abbey to Abbaye-aux-Dames in the centre of Caen.
The 16th Luftwaffe Field Division was an inexperienced infantry division that had only recently arrived in Normandy to relieve the 21st Panzer Division of its defence of Caen and its positions east of the Caen canal. The division was under-trained and lacked sufficient anti-tank weapons; to remedy the latter it was reinforced with a tank battalion from 21st Panzer. The Luftwaffe division was deployed on both sides of the Orne, with three battalions holding the villages to the immediate north of the city.
The 1st SS Panzer Division was roughly 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Caen with a regiment of dual purpose 88 mm guns from the III Flak Corps. The II SS Panzer Corps was to the west, with the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg around 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of the city.
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