In April of 2019, a group of 7 men made a journey to Europe will the goal of following our Canadians from Juno Beach on the Normandy coast through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and then into Germany. The group consisted of men who were interested in the history of our Canadian fallen, the military history and its significance in our lives today. We also were going to experience the emotions one would feel when you visit the cemeteries and memorials where our young men are honoured and remembered. We spent the majority of our time covering World War II but also spent 2 1/2 days covering the Canadian Corps from World War I at such places as the Somme, Flanders, Vimy, Ypres and of course Passchendaele. This time in north-west Europe lasted 19 days.
We departed Canada on Sunday April 7th and flew to Paris and two days later began our historical adventure after travelling from Paris to Bayeux near the Normandy landing beaches.
World War II
During 1940-41 the Germans had failed to defeat the England and following this turned their attention to the east and Russia. However, in late 1941 the decision was made by the German Command to build a defensive wall along the coasts of occupied Europe and this wall when finished ran from the French / Spanish border on the Atlantic coast along the coasts of continental Europe and north along the coast of Norway. The coastal wall stretched 2,000 miles and included fortresses, gun emplacements, tank traps and many types of obstacles.
Hitler was very aware that the Allies would at some point try to cross the English Channel in an attempt to take back Fortress Europe and for the 1,000 year Reich to survive the German military would have to throw the Allies back into the channel.
This wall had 15,000 concrete emplacements and many still stand and were to be manned by 300,000 soldiers. It was begun in March or April of 1942 and it was completed in May 1943.
The wall had a three tier system of defences which included fortress port cities along the Atlantic, Normandy coast and Norwegian coast. The second tier included lesser ports, military installations and radar stations and all were "strong points" defended by gun batteries and positions under independent command. The final tier were "resistance nests" which were less hardened but featured interconnected bunkers and medium caliber guns.
It is estimated 1.2 million tons of steel and 17 million cubic metres of concrete were used and the manpower was 250,000 French workers. Only 10% of the workforce was German. Albert Speer the Minister of Armaments and War Production oversaw the construction. He also built the Autobahn and the Siegfried Line along the French-German border.
The guns along the Atlantic Wall were of different caliber and they came from all over occupied Europe. They came from French and German warships, some of them were captured French and Czech guns and as a result the Germans found it very difficult to supply the ammunition and it became a nightmare.
Prior to D Day the Germans had laid more than 5 million mines along the total length of the wall.
Filed Marshall Erwin Rommell in late 1943 came to Normany and inspected the defences and he later said of Hitler's strategy - "it was out of cuckoo land".
This wall became known as the Atlantic Wall and it was an engineering marvel but it did not stop the Allies from landing on five Normandy beaches over 80 miles and breaching the German defences. Still Hitler believed these landing to be a feint and that the invasion would take place at the Pas de Calais.
OPERATION JUBILEE August 19 The winter of 1941/42 was not a good one for the Russians and as a result asked their Allies ro open a second front in the west to force the German military to thin out their forces in Russia which was significant.
The British had been successful with commando type raids in Norway and St. Nazerine and the thinking now was a raid such as this might be successful and would spare a western front in the west.
From the beginning, the planning and strategizing was full of errors and as a result the mission would end in disaster.
Dieppe was chosen as the site for this raid as it had a deep water port, wide beaches and it was a reasonable distance of reconciling the maritime air cover issue.
*****These British thinkers at British Command had no idea at all what Dieppe was like as there was very little effort to gather any useful intelligence. They should have known the situation on the beaches, they should have put a red flag up concerning the high cliffs surrounding the port. Churchill wanted more commando style raids on the French coast with one desire being to draw the Luftwaffe out and hopefully draw them into battle and thin their numbers down. Mountbatten was the individual who planned this raid and he was a senior Royal Navy Officer who knew nothing at all about the workings of the Army or the Marines fighting a land battle. What Dieppe turned out to be was a lesson in how not to conduct a coastal assault. The Canadians assigned to the raid were inexperienced as were their commanders, there was no heavy bombardment before and there was no battleship support.The Royal Navy had recently lost some ships in action - thus not battleship. The Royal Air Force did not want to use its bombers and felt a bombardment would cause needless casualties. Mountbatten said it was a necessary raid for the future invasion of the continent. Field Marshall Montgomery opposed the plan and he was overruled by Mountbatten. Following the raid, Mountbatten used his political influence and connections with the Royal Family to avoid any serious accusations concerning the Dieppe raid. The man should have been seen to be incompetent.*****
The plan was to seize the town for one tidal period of about 6 hours, destroy the defences on either side of the port and then retreat.
Personnel involved would number 13,000 with 6,000 being involved in the raid itself with naval support coming from 250 vessels and air support from 864 aircraft. There would be 50 tanks landing on the beaches.
The raid was to take place at 5 sites along a 10 mile front from Berneval on the east flank to Ouiberville on the west flank.
It is mentioned above why the raid failed so badly bit it also failed because the eemy had the very high ground and the enemy was waiting for the Canadians to hit the beaches.
The casualties of the raid were extreme with many men being unable to get off the beahes to the seawall and if they did get that far they were unable to retreat.
Those men involved in the raid felt that they had been sacrificed and it was a totally unnecessary slaughter.
The Canadian casualties of the 5,652 men involved were 916 or 16% men killed, 586 men or 10% were wounded and 1,950 men or 35% became prisoners of war. The men returning to England numbered 2,200 men or 39%
*****The main landing beach at the center of town was defended by 150 men with machine guns.*****
The results of this raid were.....
- Not one target was met.
- The air raid in support of the ground operation was a failure.
The British seemed to have learned somethig from the Dieppe raid which was.....
- Prior airstrikes are a necessity.
- Paratroopers must be dropped prior to any landing.
- Special tanks will have to be sent in as well in support of the infantry.
- Support artillery is a necessity.
- Sandy beaches oly are suitable for any landings and not rocky or shale beaches.
Following the raid.....
- the German military felt they were invincible in Normandy.
- The German military felt the Atlantic Wall was impenetrable.
- The German military now felt the invasion would come at places such as Pas de Calais or Le Havre.
- Following the raid the Allies were manufacturing assault craft and the Mulberry harbours.
- Beginning in 1944 the Allies began systematic bombing campaign against enemy road and rail infrastructure in north-west France.
- The invasion of the continent when it took place would have to take place at high tide, it would be a dawn assault and the night prior would have to be a full moon for the parachute landings.
We began our journey of history at the most westerly landing beach which was Utah and the objective here was to secure a beachhead on the Contenin Peninsula and the important dock facilities at Cherbourg. Here the enemy defenders were poorly equipped and were non German conscripts.
The 4th US Division lost 197 men while the airborne troops suffered 2,500 casualties out of the 14,000 men who were dropped.
The port of Cherbourg could not be taken until June 26th and by that date the dock facilities had been destroyed. Cherbourg became operational in September.
At Pointe du Hoc which was the highest point between the two American beaches the cliffs were 100+ high and here the Germans had concrete gun emplacements and gun pits. There were 6 casements but only 4 were completed and these had 155mm guns. The American Rangers scaled these high cliffs and assaulted the enemy positions.
At Omaha Beach the Americans suffered heavily and here the enemy was very well organized and heavily defended against a beach assault. They struggles to get on shore and once on shore had much difficulty against the enemy beach obstacles.
On this beach there were high cliffs to overcome measuring 150 feet in height. At the close of D Day the American losses on Omaha were 26 guns, 50+ tanks, 50+ landing craft, 10 larger landing vessels and 2,000-4,000 men killed, wounded, missing or prisoners of war.
Longues sur Mer Battery was located between Omaha and Gold beaches and was a gun battery constructed by the Wehrmacht and completed in April of 1944. Here there were 4 155mm (6") naval guns and each was protected by a concrete emplacement and there was also a command post, shelters for personnel, shelters for ammunition and defensive machine gun positions.
Prior to the landings this site was subject to bombing runs and 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped. Some found the mark. Then at 05:37 hours shelling began to fall from the French cruiser George Leygues and from the USS Arkansas. At 06:05 hours the enemy guns began to return fire and this position fired 170 times during the day. Three of four guns were disables from the fire of HMS Ajax and Argonaut with the remaining gun staying active until 19:00 hours. The crews of these gun emplacements numbered 231 men and over 50% were 40+ years of age and they surrendered on D Day +1.
Arromaches was situated just west of Gold Beach and this location was chosen for the site of Port Winston which was one of the two Mulberry harbours the Allies used to bring supplies to shore. The other Mulberry was placed at Omaha beach.
These concrete harbours were towed across the English Channel on concrete or steel pontoons or "beetles" and then anchored to the seabed with massive anchors.In this way they could float up and down with the tides. They were put together much like one puts a jigsaw puzzle together. Each harbour was made up of 6 miles of steel roadway known as "whales" and the roadway then ended at giant pier heads that had "legs" which rested on the sea bottom. These Mulberry harbours were protected from the waves of the English Channel by sunken ships, sunken caissons and these acted as a breakwater.
Each harbour required 144,000 tons of concrete, 85,000 tons of ballast and 105,000 tons of steel. These harbours were met to stay in place until the harbour at Cherbourg was ready to receive ships and cargo. On June 19th, a violent storm descended on the beaches and in three days the harbour at Omaha beach had been destroyed.
The Mulberry at Gold Beach was in operation until April of 1945 and by that time it had landed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tons of goods and material.
GOLD BEACH was the center beach of the five beaches and it too had high bluffs at its western edges. The objective was to secure the beachhead and then take Arromanches to the west, then hook up with the Americans to the west. They would then advance onto Bayeux capture Bayeux and then hook up with our Canadians to the east at Juno Beach.
British losses during the landings were 1,000 - 1,100 men. At this beach 29,740 men cam ashore along with 2,100 vehicles and 1,000 tons of supplies.
SWORD BEACH was the most easterly situated of the beaches and here there were low casualties in the initial landings with casualties numbering 683 men. This beach was closest to Caen. Further inland from the coast was where the resistance became the greatest.
During D Day 28,845 men landed here and it was found that this beach was defended by only two companies of no more than 300 men.
1st CANADIAN PARACHUTE BATTALION June 5/6 was a battalion within the 6th British Airborne Division and on the night of June 5/6, they crossed the English Channel and were dropped on the eastern flank of the landing area a short time prior to the landings. They experienced very unfavourable weather conditions with limited visibility and when they landed they found they were quite scattered and some landed far from the drop zone.
They experienced enemy resistance but in spite of the obstacles they were able to achieve their objectives which were to cut the bridges across the Dives River in Varaville and the Divette River in Robehomme in an effort to protect the flank of the 9th Parachute Battalion. Following this action the Canadians were involved in ground action to strengthen the bridgehead and support the Allied advance to the Seine River.
Two members of the 1st Parachute Battalion from Huron County are resting in Ranville War Cemetery.
Day 2) JUNO BEACH June 6th ran from just west of Sword Beach at Saint Aubin sur Mer to just west of Courseulles sur Mer and was 6 miles wide. The Canadians as they came onto the beaches had the support of the Royal Canadian Navy while the Royal Navy provided the sea transport, swept the Channel of mines and supported the naval bombardment. The navies of Norway, the Free French and other Allied nations were also in support.
The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was tasked with cutting the Caen-Bayeux Road, seize the Carpitquet Airport west of Caen and then form a link between the two British Beaches on the Canadian flanks. The two Canadian beaches were names "Mike" and "Nan".
Mike Red & Mike Green: 7th Brigade landed at Courseulles sur Mer at the western flank and included the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the Canadian Scottish and the 1st Hussars of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.
Nan Green: 7th Brigade also landed at Courseulles sur Mer at the western flank and included the Regina Rifles along with the 1st Hussars.
Nan White: 8th Brigade landed at Bernieres sur Mer on the eastern flank and included the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and the Fort Garry Horse the the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.
Nan Red: 8th Brigade landed at St Aubin sur Mer and included the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment and the Fort Garry Horse.
Initially, there was heavy enemy resistance from the 716th German Infantry Division numbering 7,771 men as the bombardment was much less effective than the Canadians had wanted. The rough seas had delayed the first wave reaching the beach and in this wave the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and Queen's Own Rifles took heavy casualties. However, within two hours of landing the majority of the coastal defences had been eliminated because of strength of numbers, co-ordinated artillery fire support and the armoured squadrons. Mixed results were achieved during the push towards Carpitquet Airport and the Caen / Bayeux railway achieved mixed results.
On the beach, the volumes of men and equipment coming ashore created delays in the advance to the south and as our Canadians began to advance to the south the enemy resistance stiffened greatly. Resistance was coming from the 716th German Division at Tailleville and be evening the Canadians had pushed further inland than anyone else.
The original prediction from Command about Canadian casualties was 2,000 men killed with 600 men drowning but in reality Canada lost 340 men killed, 574 men wounded and 14 men becoming prisoners of war. Out of the 306 Canadian landing craft 90 were lost.
The German 716th Infantry Division met the Canadians with 7,771 men and by the end of D Day one Battalion with 80% strength remained. The artillery of the 716th that was captured or destroyed was at 80%. Only two enemy gun batteries west of the Orne River were intact. On June 9th which was D Day +3 the remaining strength of the German 716th Division was just 292 men of all ranks. The Division had lost 96% of its men.
ST CROIX SUR MER June 6th The Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Scottish with the support of the 1st Hussars of the 6th Armoured Regiment were facing the German II Grenadier Regiment 736 plus the 716th German Infantry Division.
During the assault the Royal Winnipeg Rifles had taken serious casualties and needed the support of the Canadian Scottish. They approached this position in front of the enemy defenders and following bitter fighting they were able to take St Croix in the evening.
This position was a priority and had to be taken as the British Engineers arrived on the morning of June 7th and began to work in the area to the north and began constructing a RAF airfield which was the first Allied airfield in Normandy.
COURSEULLES SUR MER June 6th The Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the Regina Rifles with the support of the 1st Hussars were facing the II Grenadier Regiment 736 and 716th German Infantry Division.
This position was defended by a large anti-tank wall and two strong points. One strong point had an 88 mm gun, two 75mm guns and a 50mm anti-tank gun. The second strong point was defending the southern accesses of Graye sur Mer which was the eastern flank of Juno Beach. This strong point was surrounded by trenches. The Allied aerial bombardment had not eliminated all the threats prior to the landings.
Both the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the Regina Rifles faced the enemy and began to whittle down the enemy defences and eliminate the threat of the enemy guns. To the west of the town the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were facing heavy enemy resistance from enemy fire coming from opposite of Graye sur Mer and in addition there were many enemy snipers operating and this hampered the progress but my the middle of the afternoon the Canadians had the situation at this location under control.
JUNO BEACH CENTRE This facility opened in 2003 by our Canadian veterans and volunteers to honour and remember our Canadians who fell during the war years of World War II. The mandate is to preserve this legacy through education, honour, remembrance and respect.
During World War II 45,000 Canadians fell and out of this number 5,500 fell during the Battle of Normandy with 359 falling on D Day itself.
There are programmes for educators and students alike and they have the Commonwealth Brick Program for schools which honours a veteran who fell during the war years.
The exhibits are permanent and temporary and they help you understand the contribution our country made to the war effort and the defeat of the Axis Powers with areas of emotion, reflection, discovery and remembrance and all the while bringing out the emotions of an individual.These exhibits show photographs, eye witness accounts of events, documentation, artifacts and the use of multimedia. Room A places you in a landing craft heading for the beach at Courseulles sur Mer. You are aware of other landing craft around you, naval support behind you, air support overhead, enemy fire falling around you. You are feeling what the Royal winnipeg Rifles and Regina Rifles were hearing and feeling those many years ago. Room B provides you with information of what Canada was like in the 1930s and you learn of the Government of Canada, our military, the economy of the period, the social climate and the geography and demographics of Canada. Room C tells you about what happens in Canada following the declaration of war, it tells you about 1,000,000+ men volunteering, it explains the build up of the Canadian military and you can hear radio broadcasts from people as Neville Chamberlin, MacKenzie King and Hitler. Room D provides you with information of the campaigns our Canadians fought such as Italy, Normandy, the Scheldt, the Rhineland and finally victory. It will also tell you of the diaster at Dieppe in 1942. Room E explains of how many of our Canadians came home but 45,000 did not and here their names scroll across the ceiling. Room F shows the film "They Walk With You" and you hear radio announcers, you see war film footage, you see emotional recreations of the events that took place on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. This is an emotional time for anyone watching this film. Room G faces the sea and provides you with how Canada is today.
ST AUBIN SUR MER June 6th The North Shore Regiment from the 3rd Infantry Brigade with the support of the Fort Garry Horse of the 10th Armoured Regiment and the Royal Marine Command with the support of the 80th Assault Squadron were facing the II Grenadier Regiment 736 as well as the 716 German Infantry Division.
This village was defended by two enemy strong points. The first was defended by a Company of enemy soldiers and the second strongpoint was defended by
a 50mm anti-tank gun.
The earlier aerial bombardment had not been effective and the anti-tank wall was still intact and the enemy was waiting.
The North Shore took heavy casualties during their landing and were taking fire from St Aubin sur Mer plus they had to cross 100 yards of open ground in front of the village. Now, their advance was slow and it was very deadly. The two advancing companies needed to be reinforced before the advance could continue. While the North Shore were advancing so to were the Royal Marines and by afternoon the position was being controlled by the Canadians.
BERNIERES SUR MER June 6th The enemy the Canadians were facing was the II Grenadier Regiment 736 and the 716th Infantry Division. The Canadians consisted of the Queen's Own Rifles along with the Regiment de la Chaudiere of the 8th Infantry Brigade with the support of the Fort Garry Horse.
This village was defended by a large anti-tank wall and one strong point.At the strong point there were several casements for various guns and a 50mm anti-tank gun.
The anti-tank wall and the enemy gun were still intact and had not been affected by the earlier aerial bombardment.
Once the Queen's Own had made their landing they were in front of Bernieres sur Mer and were taking high losses. They encircled the enemy position and made their attack from the rear and the first line of enemy defences fell. "B" Company of the Queen's Own then entered the village and began the task of clearing the enemy and all the while they were under heavy fire. By late morning the Canadians were in control of the position.
BENY SUR MER CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY The Canadians resting here are from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division who died on D Day and in the first days following the landings.. It is located in the town of Reviers and overlooks the English Channel. The Canadians resting here numbers 2,048. Many of the Canadians fell in battle against the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and 716th German Infantry Division before the liberation of Caen.
TAILLVILLE June 6 On D Day the Germans had established themselves in the castle and it is the North Shore Regiment of the 8th Infantry Brigade with the support of the Fort Garry Horse who have to deal with this situation. The enemy had a company of soldiers at a strongpoint which had a network of trenches, tunnels and there were several Tobruks which were small concrete bunkers with a machine gun in it.
In the early afternoon the North Shore Regiment reached the edges of the village and here they encountered fierce enemy fire and the fighting was very bitter as they entered the village at 2 pm. and this fight continued into the evening and at this time enemy positions were overrun. Canadians lost 34 men killed and 90 men wounded.
RANVILLE WAR CEMETERY Ranville was the first place in Normandy to be liberated after the bridge over the Caen Canal was secured intact. Two members of the 1st Parachute Battalion from Huron County are resting here. Private Arnold Richard Archibald age 22 was killed on June 9th and Private Henry Stanley Mohring aged 22 was killed on Tuesday June 27th.
Day 3) AUTHIE June 7 One of the objectives for June 6th had been the rail line from Caen to Bayeux and the airfield at Carpitquet and they now advanced toward this.
In the early hours of June 7th the Nova Scotia Highlanders / Le Regiment de la Chaudiere were attacked by half tracked infantry.
As dawn broke the Sherbrooke Fusiliers and the North Novas advanced south toward Villers le Buissons in three rows of tanks.Initially there was slight resistance but this grew as they drew nearer to Buron which was occupied at mid day. "C" Company searched Buron and "B" Company moved to Authie but were taking mortar fire from St Contest and the Sherbrooke tanks in between Buron and Authie. Buron was taken but came under very heavy fire.They were aware of enemy armour 800 yards east of Authie and some tanks of the Sherbrookes were in Franqueville and the North Novas were nearing Authie but were under heavy fire as they were on foot.
There was not any available artillery support but when they did receive support the artillery was effective. However, now the infantry had exposed flanks and no support was there. "A" Company dug in at Gruchy and "B" Company left Authie and joined "A" Company. "B" Company was pinned in Buron by enemy fire and part of "C" Company had to deal with an enemy counter-attack.
The commander of the 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment was observing from the chapel at the Abbey d'Ardenne and saw the tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers fanning out. At 14:00 hours the enemy infantry attacked Authie and Buron.
"B" Squadron of the Sherbrookes made enemy contact east of Authie and "A" Squadron made enemy contact West of Authie and immediately lost 2 tanks. "A" Squadron engaged the enemy and destroyed several enemy tanks and as they advanced ran into obstacles and under heavy fire withdrew to Gruchy.
The North Novas and Cameron Highlanders pinned in Authie faced enemy infantry and tanks and were overrun. What is certain is the young fanatical infantry of the enemy had taken heavy losses and they turned on the Canadian prisoners in revenge. 20 Canadians were slaughtered in Authie
Buron was lost in the afternoon but retaken with the support of the Sherbrooke tanks and artillery support but as dusk fell back to Les Buissons. They would remain here for a month when once again they would advance on Buron.
On this day the North Novas had 84 men killed, 30 wounded and 128 men were captured. The Sherbrooke Fusiliers lost 26 men killed, 34 men wounded or prisoners and lost 21 tanks with another 7 damaged.
PUTOT EN BESSIN June 7/8 Between Juno Beach and the British Sword Beach which was the most easterly beach the beaches were secured to a point due to a slaw enemy response. There had been no counter-attack on the night of June 6/7 and the 7th Canadian Brigade was then ordered to continue their advance. There was little enemy resistance and the Canadians went full speed toward their objectives. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles were in Putot en Bessin with little enemy contact made and the 1st Hussars tanks had been depleted so now there was but one Squadron of 16 tanks for support.
At 06:30 on June 7th The Winnipeg Rifles encountered soldiers from the 5th Company of the the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 12th SS Panzer Division and they had the support of armoured halftracks and a Panzer III tank . A platoon of the Winnipeg Rifles and the Cameron Highlanders of Canada with the support of artillery pushed the enemy back. Enemy snipers were pressuring the Canadians and there were running battles throughout the day. Two Companies were under attack by the 2nd Battalion of the 26th SS Panzsergreandier Regiment and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were taking casualties and having difficulty obtaining ammunition. By 13:30 hours three Companies of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were surrounded, their automatic weapons had been eliminated, they were short on ammunition and there was no support from the 1st Hussars. They tried to fall back and very few were able to. They were forced to surrender.
The losses for the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were 106 men killed or wounded and 150 becoming prisoners of war. 100+ me were turned over to the enemy military police and taken to Le Haut du Bosque. From there they began to march toward the Regimental Headquarters and ordered to stop. They were then all murdered near Fontenay le Pesnel.
Another 26 men were taken to the the 3rd Battalion of the 26th Panzergrenadier Regiment took them to the 12th SS Panzer Division where some were questioned with out providing any information and these men were also executed.
A Canadian counter-attack took place at 20:30 hours with a Squadron of 16 tanks from the 1st Hussars, artillery support from the 12th / 13th Field Regiments and the machine guns of the Cameron Highlanders of Canada. At 21:30 hours the Canadians were mopping up and the enemy was not to occupy this objective again.
ABBAYE d'ARDENNE June 7/8 This was a very large area containing medieval buildings including an early Gothic church and other buildings that were surrounded by walls with fields surrounding the location.
On June 7th the German 12th SS Panzer Division with the Hitler Youth began an attack upon the Canadians. The North Nova Scotia Highlands with the support of the tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers were in Authie and there was a bitter battle in progress. Several of the Sherbrooke tanks were destroyed and the Canadian infantry was overrun.
Many of the North Novas and Sherbrooke Fusiliers were taken as prisoners of war and taken to the Abbaye where the Commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division had made his Headquarters. Ten men were picked at random and then another man as well were taken to the chateau beside the Abbaye. In the evening they were taken to the garden and murdered.
On June 8th more Canadian prisoners were taken to the Abbaye, questioned and they too were murdered.
Later on June 8th, the Regina Rifles were able to take the Abbaye and the remains of some of Canadian soldiers were found. Some of these men had been buried in the garden and even today 75 years later you can see where they were buried.
NORREY EN BESSIN June 8/9 On June 7th the Regina Rifles moved into the village without a fight and were able to overlook the Bayeux / Caen Road. That same day the SS Panzer Greandier Regiment 25 made a counter attack from Caen with the objective of reaching the landing beaches. The enemy speed and destructive power forced the Canadians into a defensive position.
The tanks of the 1st Hussars were in support of the Regina Rifles. On the night of June 8/9 No. 3 Company from the 1st Battalion of the Panzer Regiment 12 attacked with 23 tanks from Rots toward Norrey en Bessin. They raided the Canadian lines but could not break through.
On June 9th at mid day the Germans again attacked this time with 12 tanks and they were facing 9 Canadian tanks including a few Firefly Sherman tanks that had a gun that could destroy enemy tanks. They were supporting the infantry and as the enemy tanks advanced they made a turn that exposed their flanks and in the ensuing battle 7 enemy tanks were destroyed by the Sherman tanks, the Canadian Punder anti-tank gun and the Canadian artillery.
LES MESNIL PATRY June 11/12 There was a gap between the Canadian 7th and 9th Brigades and the Germans were in a valley of the River Mue. The enemy was between Rots and Cairon and the Canadian artillery at Bray was exposed to the enemy.On June 10 the plan was to move to high ground at Cheux south of Norrey en Bessin and eliminate the threat with tanks.
The Canadians would have to clear the Mue valley and the 8th Brigade and tanks of the Fort Garry Horse were tasked with this operation. As they advanced they cleared towns and as they advanced the enemy opposition increased. By the morning of June 12th the area had been cleared. The 2nd Battalion of the SS Panzer Regiment 12 moved to the south of Les Mesnil Patry.
The British 69th Brigade was launching an attack upon Bronay with the Canadians attack to be in assistance to the British advance on June 11th.
The Queen's Own Rifles and the tanks of the 1st Hussars were to attack through Norrey en Bessin and then take the high ground at Cheux making a right flanking motion at Norrey en Bessin and by passing Cheux. The tanks of the Fort Garry Horse and Sherbrooke Fusiliers would join the 1st Hussars on the objective.
At 14:30 hours the advance began with the Queen's Own riding on the tanks and as they were on the open ground between Norrey en Bessin and Les Mesnil Patry they came under heavy enemy fire from machine guns and mortars. Small parties of infantry and tanks managed to reach Les Mesnil Patry before encountering enemy tanks and anti tank guns. The 1st Hussars with drew to their start line.
The 1st Hussar "B' Squadron did not receive the withdraw order and lost all but two tanks, lost all its officers and all but 3 NCOs. "D" Company of the Queen's Own lost 99 men with 55 men killed, 33 being wounded, 11 men missing and 4 men being captured and executed.. The 1st Hussars on this day lost 37 tanks, 80 men with the majority being killed. The German tank losses were four.
The German forces held Les Mesnil Patry until June 26th when Operation Epsom began and the town then fell to the 149th British Brigade.
OPERATION WINDSOR July 4/5 This was an Operation where the Canadian 3rd Division was tasked with taking Carpitquet and the nearby airport.
On July 4th, The North Shore Regiment and the Le Regiment de la Chaudiere of the 8th Brigade plus an attached battalion attacked Carpitquet and were supported on their flanks by the Fort Garry Horse of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. The tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers protected the north flank and made a diversionary attack on Granqueville. Carpitquet village was captured by mid afternoon and at this time the Queen's Own Rifles were to pass through and try to take control of the airport control buildings. They managed to reach the hangars and fight their way through but were ordered to withdraw twice. The enemy resistance in the south defeated two attacks onto the airport even with the support of air and tank support.
On July 5th, the Canadians threw back enemy counter-attacks and were able to hold Carpitquet. If they could capture the airfield it would enable further attacks onto Caen.
Canadian casualties were 377 with 127 men killed. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the North Shore Regiment each lost 132 men killed, wounded, missing or becoming prisoner. The Fort Garry Horse lost 17 tanks and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers also lost tanks.
OPERATION CHARNWOOD July 8/9 This Operation was intended to capture Caen and hopefully prevent the transfer of German armoured units to the US forces in the west. The 3rd Canadian Division would advance with the support of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.
On July 8, three infantry divisions began their advance on Caen behind a creeping barrage and supported by three armoured brigades. By the end of the day the 3rd Canadian Division had cleared the villages in their path and reached the edges of Caen.
On July 9th as they moved into Caen they discovered there was enemy resistance from units trying to withdraw across the River Orne. The airport near Carpitquet had fallen by early morning and by early evening the Canadians and British had linked up along the north bank of the River Orne. The remaining bridges across the river were either well defended or impassible.
The German forces were forced to withdraw from the north of the River Orne and the Allied could not push past the River Orne.The enemy was dug in and were preventing the Allies from moving south and further attacks would be much to costly in manpower and equipment but that heavy attrition had been thrown at the enemy.
During this Operation the British and Canadians suffered 3,817 casualties and lost 80 tanks. The Allied tanks faced enemy 75mm and 88 mm guns and the majority of the tank losses were caused by one enemy shell.
OPERATION ATLANTIC July 18/20 This was an Operation for the capture of Caen and area and was initially successful with successes on the flanks of the River Orne near Saint-Andre-sur-Orne but an attack by the 4th / 6th Brigades of the 2nd Canadian Division against very heavily defended enemy positions on Verrieres Ridge to the south was very costly and was not successful.
This Operation was to take place on the western flank of the British VIII Corps to liberate Colombelles and the rest of Caen south of the River Orne and then the British would capture Verrieres Ridge. The 3rd Division was to cross the River Orne near Colombelles and then proceed south to Route 158 and capture Cormelles. The 2nd Division would attack Caen to the south-east then cross the River Orne to capture the outskirts of Vaucelles. They would then use Cormelles as a jumping off point for an attack against the high ground near the Verrieres Ridge three miles to the south.
Caen south of the Orne was captured but Verrieres Ridge was not captured and another offensive in a few days time was planned and would be a "holding attack"
Operation Atlantic cost the Canadians 441 men killed and 1,524 wounded, missing or taken prisoner.
Verrieres Ridge to the south of Caen dominated the landscape at 90 feet in height ad controlled the Caen/Falaise road. The 2nd & 3rd Divisions + the 2nd Armoured Brigade were facing three Panzer Divisions and over six days of battle and enemy counter-attacks there was little Canadian gain with very high casualties.
There were strategical and tactical errors made as the enemy held the high ground and could see the advancing Canadians who were then under constant heavy enemy fire.
On July 19th, the Canadians attacked the northern spur but enemy fire limited their progress. The Tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers supported and eliminated enemy threats on Point 67. The infantry dug in under accurate return fire and over a few hours were able to strengthen their position. The 5/6 Brigades tried to exploit their gains but under tenacious enemy fire the Canadians were broadly repulsed with heavy casualties.
On July 20th, the infantry secured a position at St. Andre sur Orne but a number became pinned down and the others moved up the ridge but became bogged down in the heavy rain and mud. At this point the enemy counter-attacked and pushed the Canadians back down. The supporting infantry came under heavy direct attack, tried to hold back the enemy attack and took extreme casualties.
On July 21st, the infantry tried to stabilize an unstable position and managed to contain the German armour.
When the action was called off the enemy had four divisions on the ridge while the Canadians had a secure position on Point 67.
The South Saskatchewan Regiment lost 282 men on July 20th. The Essex Scottish Regiment lost 300 men.
OPERATION SPRING July 25/27 This was an Operation designed to place pressure on the enemy units opposite the Canadian / British front and at the same time the US forces would try and break out from western Normandy.
Most importantly, this operation was designed to capture Verrieres Ridge and the towns on the south slope. There was a strong enemy presence on the ridge, as well as strict adherence to a defensive doctrine of counter-attacks, stalled the offensive on the first day. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the attacking forces and this prevented a breakout of the British / Canadian sector.
Verrieres Ridge was blocking the Allies from reaching Falaise and it was imperative for this position to be captured and consolidated.
On July 25th the Canadian infantry units attacked the Ridge and May sur Orne to secure the flanks of the main assault carried our by the infantry and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.
Poor weather delayed the advance which allowed the enemy to reinforce their positions. The Canadians would be facing 480 tanks and 500 guns.
One Canadian unit took casualties on their way to the assembly area and as a result were 2 1/2 hours late and the supporting armour did not arrive.
At 9:30 the Canadians advanced and they were easy targets for the enemy. Very few reached the top. The Black Watch began with 325 men and when it was over only 10 men remained for a loss of 97%. The central area of the ridge was taken and it was held.
Both the Operation to take Verrieres Ridge and the Operation for the US forces to try and break out of western Normandy began at the same time and for two days the enemy thought Operation Spring and Verrieres Ridge was the Allied main effort. After the enemy realized the American advance was urgent they began sending units west.
OPERATION TOTALIZE August 8/9 The objective of the Operation was to break through the German defences south of Caen on the eastern flank of the Allies and exploit that success by driving south, to capture the high ground north of Falaise. The goal was to collapse the enemy front and cut off the retreat of German forces fighting the Allies to the west.
Verrieries Ridge was taken on August 8th. The Canadian losses were 1.059 men killed and 3,003 men wounded, missing or becoming prisoners.
On August 8 the Canadians advanced using mechanized infantry and broke through the enemy front lines and then captured important enemy positions deep within the German defences. Two fresh armoured divisions were to continue with the advance but they hesitated and the enemy armour counter-attacks slowed the defensive. The Allies advanced 9 miles and were halted 7 miles north of Falaise and then made plans for a fresh attack.
On August 9 four divisions of the Canadian Army held positions on Hill 195 directly north of Falaise.
The Canadians lost 75 men killed and 248 men wounded on August 8th. On August 9th the Canadians lost 47 tanks, 117 killed, 202 men wounded and 79 men wounded.
BRETTEVILLE SUR LAIZE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY We visited this cemetery to pay our respects to our Canadian fallen but to especially honour the men from Huron County who rest here.
The men who rest here fell during the later stages of the Normandy campaign, the capture of Caen and then the push south toward Falaise. Every unit of the Canadian II Corps is represented in this cemetery.
MOULINES August 11-14 The 2nd Division was tasked with conducting "a reconnaissance in force" from Bretteville sur Laize to the south with supporting units from the 2nd Armoured Brigade and the Royal Artillery. The 4th Brigade would lead a single thrust.
During the night of August 10/11 patrols had been sent out and their report was that the west bank of the Laize River was clear from Perouville to Bretteville and in the morning The Royal Regiment of Canada began to move toward Bretteville Sur Laize.
Moulines was in a valley with high ground to the east and west.
Each Company had a section of carriers, a section of 3" mortars, a section of anti-tank guns, a section of assault pioneers and an artillery forward observation officer.
The advance was slow and without incident as the Royals continued toward Moulines with a squadron of tanks in support. They came under heavy enemy fire about 800 yards south-east of Barbery as they were advancing in grain fields and were able to work their way forward to a small wood near the cross roads Here they found cover in old slit trenches but could not entrench due to heavy enemy sniper fire. The lead tank came up in support, was struck , and the other tanks backed off.
New orders came and the Royals were to clear Moulines as far as the bridge over the river and then secure the high ground on the left of the stream
The majority of the Germans had withdrawn as they neared the town and they captured three enemy snipers.
During this advance the Royals lost 10 men killed and 57 men wounded.
The Essex Scottish had failed to take Point 184 and had consolidated on the left of the Royals.
On August 14th, the Royals were tasked with Point 184 and would follow the main road followed by support tanks. In mid morning they advanced and had gone 500 yards when the lead tank was hit and the remaining tanks backed off. One Company was pinned by enemy fire from both flanks but the infantry managed to go forward and knocked out an enemy tank on the right flank. They were unable to eliminate the threat from the left flank. Casualties were heavy. They then withdrew 400 yards at at 2 pm advanced with the support of artillery fire and received very heavy return fire. Two Companies then attacked the left flank with tank support and the enemy forces were overwhelmed.
The Royals lost 3 men killed and 41 men wounded and then were able to consolidate with the Essex Scottish and then advance to take their objective.
OPERATION TRACTABLE August 14-21 This was the final Operation and the final attack by the Canadians / Poles in Normandy. The objective was to capture Falaise and the smaller towns of Trun and Chambois. The result was the largest enemy encirclement on the Western Front. The beginning of the operation started slowly with few gains north of Falaise and the tactics used by the Polish forces while pushing for Chambois enabled the Falaise Gap to be partially closed by August 19 which trapped 150,000 - 200,000 German soldiers in the Falaise Pocket.
The Falaise had been narrowed to several hundred yards , attacks and counter-attacks by the Poles and the enemy onto Hill 262 at Mont Ormel preventing the Gap from being closed quickly. This delay allowed 1000s of enemy soldiers to flee on foot. During two days of continuous fighting with the Poles having the support of artillery, managed to hold of enemy counter-attacks from seven German divisions in hand to hand fighting. On August 21 elements of the Canadian forces relieved the Poles and sealed the Falaise Pocket. This led to the surrender and capture of all remaining German units.
All the strong German formations that had caused the Canadians so much grief and damage had been destroyed. The Panzer Lehr Division and the 9th SS Panzer Division existed in name only. The 12th SS Panzer Division had lost 94% of its armour, all of its field guns and 70% of its vehicles. What was left of the 2nd & 12th SS Panzer Division had escaped east to the River Seine. Approximately 50,000+ German soldiers were captured.
By August 23rd what was left of the German Wehrmacht had entrenched itself along the River Seine. In the following weeks the Canadians would be attacking these enemy units on the River Seine in their attempt to break through to the Channel Ports.
Canadian losses in Operation Totalize and Operation Tractable are put at 5,500 men. Following the Falaise Pocket the German losses for the 7th Army were 50,000 - 200,000 men, 200 tanks, 1,000 guns and 5,000 other vehicles. In the fighting around Hill 262 the German losses were 2,000 men, 5,000 men taken prisoners, 55 tanks, 44 guns and 152 armoured vehicles. The Poles lost 346 men killed, 1,037 men wounded and 114 men missing.
FALAISE CAMPAIGN August 14 - 21 This was the Operation having the objective of cutting off the German forces trying to escape to the east. The Canadians were tasked with capturing Falaise and then turn to the east towards Trun and Chambois.
FALAISE The 2nd Canadian secured the ruins of Falaise on August 15th even with small pockets of the enemy fighting hard in the ruins. This was a group of about 60 from the Hitler Youth Division who chose not to surrender and fought until all had died. On August 17th, the South Saskatchewans reached the railway at the east of Falaise.
The capture of Falaise had now deprived the Germans of their best route to the east but still had the north-east road from Argentan to Trun.
Falaise is where William the Conqueror was born and his castle somehow escaped with little damage.
THE GAP - FALAISE IN NORTH / ARGENTAN IN SOUTH / CHAMBOIS IN EAST By the night of August 16/17, the German 7th Army was in full rapid retreat trying to get to the River Orne. They began to enter the Gap with the hope of reaching the heavy woods north-east of Argentan before first light. The Canadians were pounded them as was the aerial bombing. The enemy had battle groups north of the Falaise-Trun road and their objective was to keep the road open. The Canadians were moving south while the Poles were north and moving parallel with the fleeing enemy. On August 18th, the 4th Canadian Armoured division secured Trun and controlled the road to Vimoutiers.
By August 18th, the enemy retreat eastwards had reached full flood and the enemy was now using large scale road movements in daylight hours. On August 19th, the 2nd Division from Falaise was now to take over the northern portion of the 3rd Division's sector along the River Dives.
SAINT LAMBERT SUR DIVES August 18 - 21 The Falaise Pocket was now an area 6x7 miles and it full of 10,000s of enemy soldiers and equipment. They were very short of fuel and hundred of vehicles had been destroyed and now the crews were trying to flee on foot. Very quickly the congestion became so great that many vehicles could not move and get through and as they retreated they had to deal with the artillery and aerial bombings. The gap was closing and there were still areas where the Germans could squeeze through and some did.
During the evening of August 18th, a small group of Canadians numbering about 175 men were ordered to close of these spaces the enemy was squeezing through. This was at the village of Saint Lambert sur Dives. The fighting here was centered on a stone bridge across the Dives River. The Canadian force consisted of tanks, self propelled anti-tank guns plus infantry and their task was to cut off the enemy at one of these escape points.
In the village itself, there was strong enemy resistance and the enemy 88s knocked out two tanks. Major David Currie of the South Alberta Regiment of the 4th Armoured Division entered the village that night on foot. He wanted to see the situation for himself and to also bring back the two crews from the destroyed tanks. He succeeded all the while under enemy mortar fire.
Early on the morning of August 19th, Major Currie personally led an attack onto the village without artillery support. There was fierce opposition from enemy tanks, guns and infantry. By noon the Canadians had advanced and had succeeded in taking and consolidating a position about half way into the village. They were unable to go any further as there was not sufficient manpower to proceed.
From this point until the night of August 20/21, the enemy continuously counter-attacked but under the leadership of Major Currie all attacks were repulsed with the enemy taking heavy losses. As the sun was setting on August 20th the enemy made one final assault but this was routed before it could advance. By now seven enemy tanks, twelve 88s and 40 enemy vehicles had been destroyed by PIATS and grenades. About 300 of the enemy had been killed with 500 more being wounded and another 2,100 became prisoners. The Canadians then again attacked the village and this time captured it and secured their position.
Once in the hands of the Canadians Saint Lambert sur Dives denied the enemy the Chambois-Trun escape route.
During these four days, the Canadians took severe casualties with all officers either killed or wounded. During this period Major Currie was only able to sleep one hour. When the Canadians were relieved Currie fell asleep on his feet and collapsed. When Currie was relieved only 70 Canadians were standing.
The 15th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery set up an observation post following the relief of Major Currie's men on high ground directly north of Saint Lambert sur Dives and below them in the valley enemy targets appeared one after the other. The roads and the fields were full of two enemy armies trying to flee eastward. At this point the Canadian Artillery came to life and the carnage below them was horrific. The enemy had no artillery support as all artillery fire from the enemy had ceased.
CHAMBOIS The enemy rush east had pushed the Americans back a bit. The enemy was not making any attemp to attack the Allies as they were just fleeing. This enemy rush prevented the Canadians from the west, the Poles in the north and the Americans in the south from closing the Gap entirely. On August 21st, the 4th Canadian Division smashed its way through to Chambois and on this day the Canadians and Poles made contact and the Gap was then closed.
Across the region the enemy dead and wounded lay thick everywhere on the ground north of Saint Lambert sur Dives. In the sealed Gap at the east end the Canadians and Poles found 187 tanks and self propelled guns, 157 light armoured vehicles, 1,778 lorries, 669 cars and 252 guns. The heaviest concentration of dead and wounded enemy soldiers and their equipment was to the south and south-west of Saint Lambert sur Dives.
Canadian casualties from August 7th during Operation Totalize through to the Falaise Gap being closed were 6,184 men killed, wounded, missing or becoming prisoners. German casualties are estimated to be 150,000+ while another 100,000 escaped to the River Orne.
On August 21st, the 2nd Canadian Division began their pursuit of the enemy to the east and two days later the 3rd Canadian Division and 4th Canadian Armoured Division began their advance eastwards.
The Germany Army during the Battle of Normandy had lost 40 Divisions.
Day 4) THE LIBERATION OF DIEPPE September 1 Following the landing of the 2nd Canadian Division in early July and before before the 2nd Canadian Corps began their push east to Belgium and beyond the German forces had quickly evacuated Dieppe. On this day, the 2nd Canadian Division re-entered Dieppe as liberators.
On September 1/2, the Canadians paused for reflection, to honour and remember their fallen comrades from two years previous and to re-organize.
On September 3, there was a victory procession through the streets of Dieppe, and symbolically they reclaimed their dead. All units of the Division were represented and they marched through the streets at te abreast behind the massed pipes and drums of the Division's highland regiments. Following the victory parade it once again became sombre in Dieppe as the Canadians and the citizens paid their respects to the men who fell in August of 1942. It was the German forces who buried our Canadians and it was in this cemetery where they still rested. The Canadian Red Ensign was flying throughout Dieppe and as well at the cemetery.
The beaches for the Dieppe raid ran from east to west and included.....
- Yellow: The landings were to be at Berneval and the commandos were to silence the gun batteries at this location. However, as they were in the English Channel they encountered a enemy convoy which resulted in a firefight. All surprise was gone and the enemy went on high alert and waited for the Canadians to land. Those that did manage to land were unable to advance or retreat or join the the main force and were forced to surrender.
- Blue: The Royal Regiment of Canada and three Platoons of the Black Watch landed at Puys and the enemy at this location had been alerted that a raid was taking place. They were tasked with neutralizing the enemy machine guns and gun batteries but were 20 minutes late and the smoke sceen on this beach had already begun to lift. The advantage of surprise and darkness was lost and the enemy was waiting. As soon as they landed they were pinned at the seawall with nowhere to go. These men were annihilated. The total number of men who landed were 556 and the casualties were 200 or 36% being killed and 264 men were wounded or 48%. The number of men who became prisoners numbered 92 or 16%.
- Red & White: These were the main beaches and off of these beaches destroyers were pounding the coast and squadrons of Hurricanes were striking the shore defences. Here the Essex Scottish and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry began their advance at approximately 04:00 hours without the support of tanks which were late. They met heavy enemy machine gun fire from the cliffs above them, they were unable to unable to clear obstacles and scale the seawall and were taking heavy casualties.When the tanks arrived only 29 of 40 made it to the beaches. The soft shale beaches bogged down 12 tanks and only 15 tanks made it up to and across the seawall. These tanks could not go any further and reversed and went back to the beach and provided support to the retreating infantry. None of the tanks was able to get off the beach and their crews were either killed or captured.
- The reserve units were unaware of the situation on the beach and were sent to the beaches and they encountered heavy enemy machine gun fire, mortar fire and grenades and only a few reached Dieppe.
- At 09:40 the withdrawal began and that part was completed by 14:00 hours.
- Green: This was the beach the South Saskatchewan Regiment came ashore on and landed without being detected. The had left the landing craft before there was enemy fire but on the way to the beached landing craft had drifted west of the River Scie and not east of it. The objective had been the hills east of the village and to get to their objective had to cross the only bridge at Pourville. They were stopped by enemy machine guns and anti-tank guns and stopped the South Saskatchewans. The wounded and dead were piling up on the bridge. After repeated attempted to cross the bridge the Regiment and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders could not obtain their objective. The Camerons did penetrate further inland than any other unit enemy reinforcements forced them back. More casualties were taken as they tried to withdraw. Only 341 men of the two Regiments were able to get off the beaches.
- Orange: The commandos landing on this beach west of Dieppe and the objective was the coastal batteries. They climbed the steep slope then attacked their target and neutralized the artillery battery of 6 - 150mm guns. Most returned to England.
While we were in Dieppe we visited Blue Beach, Red Beach & White Beach and Green Beach. There are memorials to our fallen Canadians at each beach.
We visited the Dieppe Memorial at Place Camille St Saens which honours our fallen Canadians along with the British who died. Moving beach by beach it documents the events of that disastrous day.
We visited the August 19 42 Memorial at Rue de Quest which is a museum dedicated to the fallen Canadians and British from that fateful day.
We visited the Canadian War Memorial at Canada Square which is in a small park at the western end of the Esplanade. Here, there is an inscription which reads "On the 19th of August 1942 on the beaches of Dieppe our Canadian cousins marked with their blood the road to our final liberation foretelling us their victorious return on September 1, 1944"
DIEPPE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY This Canadian cemetery is a short distance south of Dieppe at Hautot sur Mer.
There are 765 Canadian and British soldiers resting here and 582 are Canadians. This cemetery was created by the Germans and is unusual in the fact that the soldiers are resting back to back which was the way the German military buried their war dead. The Canadians decided not to disturb the graves and this unusual arrangement remains.
V1 ROCKET SITE This site is located in the Eawy Forest and was built in the forest at Arduval about 20 miles south of Dieppe in 1943. It is where there was a V1 launching site and today you can see A V1 rocket on the launch pad aimed directly at London which is 200 miles to the north-west. In addition, we saw the blast bunker where the military launched the rockets from, various shelters for personnel and explosives and workshop buildings of various sizes. Surrounding this site deep in the forest are many very large bomb craters which came from the Allied bombing raids against such facilities. Following the Battle of Normandy it was up to the Canadians to eliminate these sites that were very near the coast of France.
These rockets were manufactured in Germany and then arrived at or near their launch sites by rail. They were pilotless and once the vehicle was launched there was no control. The V1 fell to the ground when either it ran out of fuel or a valve shut off the fuel flow. This was one of Hitler's vengeance weapons. In total 9,521 V1 rockets were launched from France and 2,448 were launched from Belgium.
The Allies called it the "buzz bomb" or the "doodlebug".
The Germans launched this vehicle during 1944-45. It weighed 4,740 pounds. The length was 27 feet - 3 inches. The width was 17 feet - 6 inches. The height was 4 feet - 8 inches.
The warhead was Amatol-39 which is a mixture of TNT and Ammonia Nitrate and the warhead weighed 1,870 pounds.
The fuel used on the V1 was 75 octane gas. The range was 160 miles. The speed was 400 mph. The ceiling was 2,000 - 3,000 feet.
The Allied countermeasures against the V1 rocket.
- Anti-aircraft guns needed to be mobile for as time passed the flight paths changed because the launch sites were being systematically destroyed. At low altitudes if was very difficult to hit a moving target and at 2,000 - 3,000 feet the V1s were just above the effective range of light anti aircraft fire and just below the optimum range of the heavier anti-aircraft guns .
- In 1944, the British introduced the QF3 7" gun which had a much more rapid traverse and these guns were placed along the south coast of England in June 1944. Following the placement of these guns 17% of all V1s launched were destroyed in the first week. Then, in August these guns were destroying 60% of the V1s and by the end of the month the success rate was 74%. Originally 2,500 anti-aircraft shells were needed to destroy one V1 and by August 1944 it was 100 shells needed to destroy a V1.
- Barrage Balloons were also used it the hopes that if a V1 struck the balloon cables it would fall out of control. The V1s were fitted with cutters on the leading edge of their wings and less than 300 were brought down this way.
- Aircraft were used to bring this menace down and the aircraft used were the Mosquito with 623 kills, the Spitfire XIV with 303 kills, the P51 Mustang with 231 kills and other aircraft as the Hawker Tempest and P47 Thunderbolt who destroyed 158 V1s.
We now leave our World War II part of our journey and for the next two days we shall be visiting the World War I sites where our Canadians fought and died over 100 years ago.
ARRAS Arras was established during the Iron Age about 500 AD by the Gauls. 1,000 years later Arras was part of the Spanish Netherlands, which was a portion of the low countries controlled by Spain between 1556-1714.
Arras was evacuated by the French Army on September 29, 1914 and shortly after German forces entered the city. One day later, on September 30th the French forces forced the Germans out. During the whole of the war the front lines were a short 6-7 miles from Arras.
The "Boves" were underground caves used by the Allied armies during the course of the war and here there were places for living spaces, shelter and medical facilities and as time passed these caves grew into an underground city below the destroyed city above.
Tunnels were also carved out of the chalk by Allied tunnelling Companies for the launch of the Battle of Arras on April 9, 1917. British troops taking part in the upcoming offensive against the Germans at Vimy Ridge opposite of Arras gathered in the tunnels prior to the attack. They were able to leave these caves and tunnels in relative safety and advance toward the front in preparation for the attack onto enemy positions.
By the end of the war, Arras had been badly damaged from the German artillery and aerial bombings but the ancient churches and buildings were rebuilt following the war. 75% of the city was rebuilt.
There were a series of battle fought around Arras during the course of the war including The First Battle of Arras (October 1-4, 1914), The Second Battle of Arras (April 9 - May 16, 1917), The Second Battle of the Somme (August 21 - September 2, 1918) and the Hundred Day Offensive (August 8 - November 11, 1918) which ended the war.
During 1917, the New Zealand tunnellers vastly expanded the system of medieval tunnels running under the city, and these became a decisive factor in the Allies holding the city during the Vimy Campaign.
WELLINGTON TUNNELS These tunnels are an honour to the 1,000s of Allied soldiers who lived under Arras between 1914-1918. Following the arrival of the New Zealanders in 1916, their tunnelling companies began to dig underneath the city and new tunnels with rooms off of them began to take shape. These new tunnels were joined up with the tunnels that had been dug many 100s of years earlier. The tunnels were fitted with running water, they had electricity. the troops could live and sleep below the city, there was a large hospital in a labyrinth of rooms able to accommodate 700 wounded men and it also had operating theatres. Names for the system of tunnels and quarries was needed and a system of signposts and numbers was devised to allow the men to find their way.
The New Zealanders named this underground world "Wellington" after their capital city.
There were many 100s of men assembled in the tunnels and rooms on April 8-9, 1917 ad Exit No. 10 was one of the main exits they used to leave for the Vimy front.
GRAND SQUARE is the larger square and PLACE DE HEROES is the smaller of the two ancient squares and both of the squares in Arras were the centre of commerce from the XI century and this squares are spread out over 17,000 square metres of historical paving stones. There are 155 facades in both squares and these date from the XVII & XVIII centuries and are supported by 345 sandstone columns. The majority were destroyed during World War I and following the war were rebuilt with brick and stone. On the Grand Square there is a building with red flowers on it and this building is now a hotel. The building dates back to 1467.
lace de Heroes was renamed following World War II to honour members of the French Resistance who were shot here during the war.
During World War II, Arras was the location of a British counter-attack against the flank of the German military that was pushing the Allied forces toward the coast and Dunkirk. Following this, the Germans occupied Arras and it was during this occupation that 240 suspected resistance fighters were shot at the Arras citadel.
ABLAINE SAINT NAZARINE This is the location of the Ring of Remembrance and this site is guarded every day of the year by the Lorette Guards who are soldiers of Peace and Remembrance. They have been guarding this site since 1927 and it is their way of paying homage to all those who fell during the Battle of Artois.
This is an international monument with 600,000 names engraved on 500 steel plaques. The names are alphabetical, without any distinction of nationality, rank, gender or religion. The font used was designed specifically for this memorial ind as known as the "Lorette". The first name is the name of a man from Nepal serving with the British Merchant Navy and the last name is that of a German.
Katherine Maud McDonald is named here. She was a Nursing Sister who was killed in 1918 during a bombing attack against a hospital in Etaples.
MONT ST ELOI The Abbey that was built here was built on a ridge to the north of Arras and this structure was surrounded by the fighting of 1914-15 as the French advanced on Notre Dame de Lorette and Vimy Ridge. Shells damaged much of the main building and the spire towers. The main building is gone today but the towers remain. During 1914-15, the French used the spire towers to observe the German forces at Lorette Spur and Vimy Ridge. The suspicions of the French were aroused when the Germans began to fire onto the Abbey at their every move. The French then realized that as their observers climbed the spire towers to observe they would disturb the birds and that the Germans themselves were observing the Abbey and they would then bring their artillery to bear on the Abbey.
The British arrived in 1916 and used the site as billets and set up gun sites and a Royal Flying Corps aerodrome. Many thousands of troops were here during the buildup prior to the Second Battle of Arras in 1917.
SOUCHEZ The Canadian front prior to the Battle of Vimy Ridge ran from Souchez to Ecurie and this is where the 4th Canadian Division was positioned with the 3rd Infantry Battalion from the1st Canadian Division on their right.
CABARET ROUGE BRITISH CEMETERY This cemetery lies between a French and German cemetery to the south of Souchez and contains the resting place for 7,650 soldiers. In 1915, Cabaret Rouge was a small brick cafe with a thatched roof and it stood less than a mile from Souchez and was destroyed in 1915.
In 2000, the remains of a young unknown Canadian soldier was exhumed from this cemetery and brought back home to Canada and now he rests in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa.
This is the cemetery where the majority of those Canadians killed at Vimy Ridge now rest. About 50% of these men are not known and known only to God
GIVENCHY EN GOHELLE was a location just north of the northern boundary of the Canadian Corps.
The 12th Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division were positioned here in front of Givenchy prior to the advance onto Vimy Ridge in 1917. It is one mile from the Vimy Memorial and during World War I it was the front line and was severely damaged. Givenchy was also the site for underground warfare.
NEUVILLE SAINT VAAST was the site of some very intense underground mining, first by the British and then the New Zealanders and finally the Australians. The 172nd and 176th Tunnelling Companies were here. I mention this because there are men from Huron County who were attached to these units.
The German War cemetery at Neuville Saint Vaast contains the remains of 44,883 soldiers who are buried back to back as was the German way.
This cemetery was established by the French Government in 1919 as a place where the remains of German soldiers to be buried and who fell to the north, east and south of the Arras region.
There is a embankment surrounding the cemetery with high hedges. There are no flowers within the cemetery and is not well maintained. It is also not very visible from the nearby roads.
There is a small chapel at the main entrance and this provides you with the names of the men resting here and the plot number of the graves.
The crosses are metal and below each cross lie the remains of four soldiers who lie back to back.
ECURIE was the Canadian front prior to the Battle of Vimy Ridge ad ran from Ecurie to Souchez with Ecurie being the southern border of the Canadian front.
VIMY RIDGE World War I This was a four mile front for the Canadian Corps and the Germans holding Vimy Ridge had a commanding view of the Allied front.
The Canadian Corps would be advancing over an open grave yard. The French Army had attempted to take the ridge numerous times and their losses numbered 150,000 men.
The Canadian Corps was under the command of General Arthur Currie, but overall the Allies were under the command of General Douglas Haig. General Currie and Haig were polar opposite in their command and leadership styles. General cared for his men and planned and strategized his upcoming moves and over time he became very successful and achieved his objectives. Haig on the other hand could not do what Currie nor did he want to and during the course of the war his casualties were astronomical. His thinking was that he should place large numbers across from an objective and face the enemy head on and if he failed he would use the same tactic day after day. He believed the cavalry and the horse would win the war and even new technology would change his thinking.
General Currie of the Canadian Corps had a battle plan and the commanders knew every piece of ground and the foot soldiers also knew the piece of ground his unit was responsible for in the upcoming advance. Every branch of the Canadian Corps was given their roles and responsibilities and they spent weeks far back from the front preparing for the assault upon Vimy Ridge.
Tunnels had been built under Arras and elsewhere for the purpose of getting the men to the front line areas without suffering high casualties.
General Currie felt that the key to success in the upcoming assault onto Vimy Ridge would be how accurate and effective the artillery would be in the pre assault bombardment and with the rolling barrage when the assault took place. In early, the artillery began to pound the enemy positions and on April 9, 1917 there were 1,000 artillery pieces firing onto the enemy.
In the early hours of April 9, 1917 at 05:30 hours during a blizzard of wind, rain, snow and sleet 20,000 members of the Canadian Corps "went over the top". They overran the German positions and even when they encountered heavy enemy opposition they continued to roll. Hill 145, the highest point along the front and where the Vimy Memorial now sits was the most strategic feature along the Ridge. Our Canadians captured this feature during a frontal bayonet assault against enemy machine guns.
The Canadian Corps had achieved their objectives in less than 8 hours. Each infantryman was carrying a minimum of 70 pounds.
Canadian casualties on this day were 3,598 men killed and 10,602 men wounded, missing orbecoming prisoners.
VIMY MEMORIAL Spring 1940 During the Battle of Vimy Ridge there was a German lance corporal across from the Canadians in the German trenches. He was a runner and attached to a Bavarian Regiment.
The as the Second World War unfolded in Europe, Hitler was Fuhrer and Commander in Chief of all German military forces.
In the spring of 1940 as the German military was pushing the British Expeditionary Force into the sea at Dunkirk.
In the spring of 1940, the Vimy Memorial was four years old. It was unveiled in 1936.
At about this time the Canadian Government put out a story stating that the German troops were damaging the Canadian memorial at Vimy. When the citizens of Canada learned of this they were angry and outraged. Apparently, so was Hitler outraged.
The Canadian Vimy memorial was Hitler's favourite memorial from World War 1 as it was a memorial to peace and not in any way a celebration of war. There were no carved guns, nor soldiers with helmets and no cannonballs stacked up. Instead there were statues showing how Canada was grieving the loss of her boys.
On June 2, 1940, Hitler went to the Vimy Memorial with Nazi officers in ankle length leather coats. The press was also with him and he insisted they take photos of the Memorial to show there was no damage. He then ordered the troops of the Waffen SS to guard Vimy Ridge and the Memorial.
The SS had a brutal and ruthless reputation and they were Hitler's personal army and bodyguards and it was these soldiers who were to protect the memorial from not only Allied forces but from the Werhmacht soldiers who might want to damage it. No one would defy the SS.
Hitler's plan worked. All the Australian cemeteries from WW1 were destroyed during the war years of World War 11, but the cemetery beside the memorial and the memorial itself were untouched.
The Vimy Memorial to Canada's fallen is still there because it was saved by Adolph Hitler.
ST ELOI CRATERS March 27 - April 16, 1916 This was the site of the 1st engagement for the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and it was a tragedy.
There was very much tunneling taking place by both the British and Germans in this area. Sappers dug tunnels and cavern under enemy positions and filled them with explosives. The ground in this part of Belgium were cratered from previous underground explosions.
The attack was over wet and muddy Belgian soil and this is where the the 2nd Canadian was quickly rushed to the front line to face the enemy. This was to be the first taste of battle for the 2nd Canadians Infantry Division. The plan was for the British to attack and then for the Canadians to take over and continue the push.
At 04:15 hours on March 27th with heavy gun fire and at this time six British mines were exploded, one after the other, the earth rumbled and shook and the debri from the explosions threw out yellow smoke and debris like a volcano. The enemy trenches sank and disappeared. The explosions were heard in England 110 across the Channel.
The exploded mines now created huge craters in no man's land and the British captured three craters along with the 3rd enemy line. For several days there was hand to hand fighting and advanced until April 3rd.
The British were confused as to where they were and where the enemy was. Four of the six mines blew up so close to one another there was now a water filled lake that was 45 feet deep and 170 feet across. The British fought from inside the craters sometimes waist deep in mud or water and all the while it was windy, raining, snowing and sleet blowing. Many 100s of men on both sides were killed after a confusing week of firing at each other and shelling. Early on April 4th, the Canadians took over the front lines from the weary British.
After the Canadian 2nd Division arrived at the front they found a severe shortage of helmets, machine guns and defensive positions and as was the case with the British the Canadians had trouble knowing where they were or where the enemy was. The 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion tried to drain the craters and improve the defences and at the same time the enemy began to shell the Canadians and 100s f Canadians were killed.
Early on April 6th, the enemy attacked down the main road and the Canadians had poor communications and were pushed back. The Canadians fought hard but could not advance because of the rain and mud. Those Canadians trying to recapture craters quickly became mired in the mud and unable to move or defend themselves they were killed. And as the sun rose that day the enemy was in control again of the terrain they had lost at the beginning of the fight.
A group of Canadians attacked and captured craters 6 & 7 but in reality they were craters 4 & 5 and they were cut off and all were lost in the enemy onslaught.
At dusk on April 8th the Canadians attacked but could not advance against the enemy fire. The enemy could not advance either because of the conditions.
The Canadian command had no idea which craters were held by who and did not know the situation at the front because all were pinned down and unable to get messages out. Even the messenger pigeons were dead.
The Canadians and Germans battled one another for another two weeks and after aerial photography showed the hopeless situation the 2nd Canadian was in and Command ordered a halt to the assault on April 16th.
On April 17th the enemy attacked again but this time with tear gas and a German night attack in the rain pushed back the Canadians further. The mud had stopped the Ross Rifles of the Canadians from working. About 50% of the remaining Canadians crawled away and the remaining men in the craters surrendered.
Canadian casualties over almost two weeks of fighting was 1,370 men killed, wounded, missing or becoming prisoners.
The battle ended as it had begun on March 27th - the Germans were still in control!
ESSEX FARM CEMETERY The cemetery was established on farmland next to an advanced dressing station established by the Canadian Field Artillery during the Second Battle of Ypres. The Canadian dressing station operated from early 1915 until 1918.
Wild poppies will only flower when other nearby competing flowers die and the poppy seeds can lie dormant for long period of time or until the ground is disturbed and then the seeds will sprout and flower. During the 2nd Battle of Ypres the battlefield was very much disturbed and during this period of the war the poppies seemed to be blooming as never before.
Major John McCrae had been a doctor for quite a period of time and in 1914, he was offered the position of Brigade Surgeon for the 1st Canadian Brigade of Field Artillery. He was responsible for a field dressing station at the front along the banks of Yser Canal. He treated the wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres, and included in his duties as surgeon, he offered himself on the military guns whenever they would be in need of manpower. In addition to being a surgeon and working on the guns from time to time he performed burial services.
During his years as a surgeon on the front, he was never able to get used to all the human misery and suffering he was witnessing. He could not forget the screams of the wounded and dying or forget all the blood. He treated the wounded from Canada, Britain, India, France and Germany.
He had a very close friend attached to the 2nd Battery - 1st Canadian Brigade of Field Artillery and this was Lieutenant Alexis Hulmer from Montreal. During the morning of May 2, 1915, Lt. Humer had just left his dugout and was on his way to his battery when an enemy 8" shell dropped very close to him and he was killed instantly.
Very near to the 1st Brigade's position there was a small burial ground that was first used during the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. By May of 1915, this small piece of land held the remains of Canadian and French soldiers.
The following day, on May 3, 1915, Major McCrae led the burial service and laid his friend to rest.
Then, it has been said, during the evening of May 4th, Major McCrae was seen sitting on the back steps of an ambulance and he expressed his anguish, grief and loss of his friend by penning a poem.They also say that as he wrote one could hear the larks singing overhead and you could see the wild red poppies by the graves in the ditches in front of him.
The soldiers nearby, mentioned that as he was writing all could see how tired his face was but that he was very calm. As he wrote, he would pause now and then and gaze at the grave of his friend Lieutenant Hulmar but that he would continue writing. When he completed the poem, he handed it to a nearby soldier who was delivering the mail to the soldiers. This man stated the poem stated exactly how it was in front of Major McCrae. When the poem was finished there was a gentle breeze blowing from the east and that in fact the poppies were gently swaying.
It has also been said that this poem was written of fire and of blood.
The Field Dressing Station where Major McCrae worked was on top of a trench and he tended to the wounded in a hole dug into the side of the bank of the nearby canal. Between the crash of the enemy shells landing and the bark of the replying Canadian guns there was from time to time a lull and during those times you would be able to hear the larks overhead.
CLOTH HALL in Ypres Prior to World War 1 the Cloth Hall formed the heart in the city. It still is 100+ years later. It began at approximately 1200 AD and was extended throughout the following centuries. It was one of the largest buildings of medieval times and served as the area market and textile center. The original ground floor halls had vaulted brick ceilings and these were used for storage and the sale of goods and produce. To provide easy access for the citizens of Ypres and area, the merchants and traders had 48 south facing doors looking out to the square. The upper floor had interconnecting halls and the roof was made of large wooden beams. These halls were used for storage and banquets.
At the beginning of World War 1 in 1914, the population of Ypres was 17,000-18,000 citizens and both the city and the Cloth Hall were razed to the ground from the constant German shelling throughout the war. During 1914, there was a brief period where the German military occupied the city but other than that it was under the control of the Allies.
In defence of this city, some 150,000 Allied soldiers died between 1914-1918.
Winston Churchill stated that Ypres should remain destroyed and not rebuilt as an enduring monument to the sacrifices made by the British. However, the citizens were determined to rebuild their city and resume their lives and the reconstruction process began in 1928 and was not completed for another 40 years.
THE MENIN GATE in Ypres This is a war memorial dedicated to the men of the soldiers of the Commonwealth who passed through these gates and died in the battlefield located in the Ypres Salient of World War 1. The memorial is at the east end of the city and is one of the five main roads the soldiers would have followed to the front.
The Memorial itself was designed in 1921 as a barrel vaulted passage through the mausoleum that honours and remembers the missing men with no known graves. The Hall of Memory contains the names of the missing who died in the Ypres Salient on stone panels. When the Memorial was complete it was found to be too small for all the names. The decision was then made to put 34,984 United Kingdom soldiers onto the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing.
The inscription on the archway of the Memorial states "Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in the Ypres Salient, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death".
There are 54,896 names inscribed on the panels of which 6,983 are Canadian and these names are on 60 concrete panels.
Following the Memorial opening in 1927, the citizens of Belgium wanted to express their gratitude to those who gave their lives for Belgium's freedom.
Since July 2, 1928, the buglers of the Last Post Ceremony have continuously been performing the "Last Post Ceremony". This is a daily event that takes place each evening at 8 pm. During World War II when Belgium was occupied, the ceremony was performed at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England. On the evening when Polish forces liberated Ypres in World War 11, the ceremony was once again performed in Ypres even though heavy fighting was still continuing in other parts of Ypres.
As of today, May 24, 2019, there have been 31,415 "Last Post Ceremonies".
I have been at the ceremony at the Menin Gate and it is one of the most moving, emotional and sombre ceremonies I have ever been witness to. In 2014 & 2015 I laid a wreath in honour and remembrance of our fallen Canadians but especially for the boys from Huron County whos names are etched on the concrete panels.
When a group of us attended this ceremony in April we decided to go to the Menin Gate at 7 pm as a number of the group had never visited Ypres. There was only a handful of people there at that time. At 7:30 pm there were still a score or two of people but shortly after that the people began to arrive in mass and shortly before the ceremony was to begin there was a hush. Silence took over the Memorial and now there were 1,000s of people standing. There were people from Canada, all parts of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.
On this day, our last day of visiting the World War 1 sites where our Canadians were we left Ypres and headed toward the first of three stops.
TYNE COT CEMETERY + MEMORIAL This cemetery is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world and here 11,954 men and women resting here ad of that number 966 are Canadians.
There are a number of German concrete pill boxes on the site that are still visible today but some of them are slowly sinking and this land lies on a broad rise on the landscape with overlooks the countryside. This site was of strategic importance to both the Allies and Germans.
On October 4, 1917, this site was captured by the Australians and two days later on October 6th a cemetery for Canadian and British soldiers was begun. The enemy took back this site and the the Belgian forces it again in late September of 1918. By the end of the war there were 343 graves and following the war it was greatly expanded.
While here we paid our respects to those who fell from Huron County.
CREST FARM CANADIAN MEMORIAL + CANADA GATE The Memorial that has been placed on this site where Crest Farm was located in World War 1. It overlooks the Ravebeek Valley.
During October and November of 1917, the Canadian Corps fought some of its fiercest battle.
The Memorial is a large block of Canadian concrete that is set in a grove of maple trees and surrounded by a low hedge of holly.
The inscription reads THE CANADIAN CORPS IN OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 1917 ADVANCED ACROSS THIS VALLEY - THEN A TREACHEROUS MORASS - CAPTURED AND HELD THE PASSCHENDAELE RIDGE As you stand where the Memorial itself sits look down a long avenue of trees, you can see the rebuilt spires of Ypres in the distance.
Following the Canadian success at Vimy, the Canadians were in the Arras area to divert attention from the French front and to hide the upcoming offensive in Flanders.
In the Battle of Hill 70 on August 15-25, The Canadian Corps captured the very important approaches to the city of Lens and secured the western parts of the city. The casualty numbers for the Canadians totalled 9,198 men killed, wounded, missing or becoming prisoners. The enemy planned to send fresh troops to Flanders, but this was not possible as the Canadians had gained ground.
To the south, the French command in Lorraine suffered casualties of 200,000 men which caused the Soldiers of the French Army to mutiny. This paralyzed the French for months.
The British commander, Haig, had planned another drive toward the coast to try and capture the enemy submarine bases there. Originally, the British were successful at Messines which was followed by a delay of weeks.
The next phases of the British offensive began with an artillery barrage that warned the enemy what was coming. Now the battlefield was full of craters and it was dry and dusty. When the offensive began so did the rains come and suddenly the battlefield was a muddy swamp. The British struggled in the mud and the German forces inflicted very severe losses.
The British, near Ypres, over the next four months were only able to advance a short distance, and in early October of 1917 all the British objectives were still in the hands of the Germans. The British were exhausted.
Haig was determined that there would be one more push, the Canadians were then ordered to relieve the Austrlians and New Zealanders and to prepare an assault onto Passchendaele.
General Currie of the Canadian Corps inspected the battlefield and said it was impossible and that the costs were going to bee too high. Haig overruled him.
Again, General Currie planned his assault with much care and carefully planned and stategized so that the losses for the Canadian Corps would be at the minimum. He predicted losses of 16,000 men.
On October 26, 1917, the Canadians advanced 20,000 men advanced from shell hole to shell hole under heavy enemy fire. On October 30th, the Canadian Corps with two British Divisions made their move onto Passchendaele itself. They reached the edges of the town in a very heavy storm. They held on for five days in the mud and water that was waist deep and sucking the men under and were always under enemy fire and shrapnel.
On November 6th when reinforcements arrived at the front the prediction of General Currie was correct - 15,650 Canadians had become casualties of the assault onto Passchendaele.
The Canadian Corps was heroic and skillful in capturing the objective and it is why the Canadian Corps had become the crack Allied force on the Western Front. From this point forward to the end of the war, the Canadian Corps was first to advance and achieve its objectives.
***This is the point in our journey where we leave the World War 1 part and continue on with World War 11***
THE LIBERATION OF BELGIUM September 6 - On September 4th, Hitler gave the order for his forces to defend the Channel ports to the last man but the Allied aerial photos showed Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk "deserted" The 2nd Canadian Division was tasked with clearing the coastal strip of France and Belgium from Dunkirk to the Dutch frontier. On the night of September 5/6 the 3rd Division was facing the outer defences of Boulogne and they were ordered to capture the city and destroy the garrison.
On September 6th, the 4th Armoured Division began its advance into Belgium from St. Omer toward Bruges and Eecloo. On September 8th it came up against the enemy at the Ghent Canal. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on the night of September 8 attacked across the canal at Moerbrugge and took heavy fire from enemy 88s and mortars. On the 9th, the Lincoln and Welland joined the Argylls and both units threw back enemy attacks. On the night of September 9/10 the tanks of the South Alberta Regiment crossed the canal in support and during the day the bridgehead was expanded
The 2nd Division was now refitted began its advance on September 6th and on September 7/8 captured Bourbourg and was instructed to contain the enemy at Dunkirk and then ordered to contain the enemy within Dunkirk which numbered 10,000 and had outposts in Mardick, Loonplague, Spycker, Bregues and Bray Dunes.
The Calgary Highlanders advanced on Loon-Plague on September 7th and occupied this location on September 9th.
The 2nd Division was now going to move to the Antwerp sector.
The 6th Brigade occupied Fumes, Nieuport and La Panne. West of La Panne the Canadians occupied enemy coastal defences.
On September 12th the division advanced on Bray Dunes and Bray Dunes Plague and finally occupied these positions on September 15th. There was no indication the enemy was about to give up Dunkirk.
On September 9th Ostend was occupied and the enemy had not defended it as it had not been mentioned in the orders Hitler gave. The concrete gun emplacements had excellent vision of fire but the fortifications had been partly destroyed. Before the port could be used sunken ships and mines would have to be dealt with. Beginning on September 28th supplies of all types began arriving at Ostend and would be in use until the port of Antwerp was opened.
Bruges was liberated on September 12th and on September 16th Bergues was occupied.
On September 10th, the Canadians relieved the British at Ghent.
Antwerp was liberated by the British on September 4th but the port would not be able to be used until the Canadians cleared the Scheldt of the enemy.
MOERBRUGGE September 8-10 The Lincoln and Welland Regiment, The Algonquin Regiment and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division were tasked with crossing the Ghent Canal at Oostkamp across from Moerbrugge in early September of 1944. At this location the canal was wide and it was deep.
Two batteries of the 15th Field Regiment were placed in support but because at this point in the war the supply lines were long and not much ammunition was available and the artillery would only be used "as required".
The tanks of the South Alberta Regiment were protecting the flanks from Oostkamp but they were becoming short of ammunition. The Argyll's were short of 3" mortar ammunition and the machine guns of the New Brunswick Rangers were also low on ammunition.
There was not expected to be any enemy opposition and one Battalion was chosen to cross the canal which was the Argylls. "A" Company of the Argylls, the scout platoon and a squadron the South Alberta tanks moved to the north as a diversion to test the enemy defences.
The remaining Companies of the Argylls were then ordered across but had not arranged for assault boats as the acting Commanding Officer felt it "would be a crossing of opportunity".
Civilian boats were discovered which ferried the three Companies across the canal. "B" and "C" Companies as they were crossing the boats began sinking and the heavily laden soldiers began to drown. "D" Company started to cross and at this point the enemy 88s and mortars opened up on the Argylls and the casualties mounted.
On the night of September 8/9 three Companies of the Argylls were across and holding a narrow bridgehead.
On September 9th, the Lincoln and Welland crossed the canal and positioned themselves to the right of the Argylls and during the day the enemy counter-attacked a number of times. The Argylls "C" Company was cut off but threw back the enemy attacks. Both the Canadians and the enemy were taking casualties
The enemy opposition became so intense the Canadian Engineers could not even attempt to build a bailey bridge so supplies could get across and instead they were forced to use boats. Slowly the much needed supplies were reaching the canal.
During the afternoon "A" Company and the scout platoon were called from the diversion tactics and moved to support at Oostkamp as there was fear the bridgehead could collapse.
At 7 pm in the evening the enemy laid down a heavy barrage from their mortars prior to their final counter-attack but it not successful and they were thrown back. The enemy fire was still preventing the Engineers from completing the bailey bridge.
During the night of September 9-10, the Canadian artillery had surppressed the enemy fire and in the morning the tanks of the South Alberta Regiment crossed the now completed bailey bridge and contact was made with the soldiers who had been cut off on the previous day.
OPERATION ASTONIA September 10/12 This was an Operation with the objective of capturing Le Havre which had been declared a fortress by Hitler and the command in the city were ordered to fight to the last man. The Canadians hoped to capture the harbour with all facilities intact. This was a British Operation with the Canadian 1st Armoured Carrier Regiment participating. They were attached to the 31st Tank Brigade of the 79th British Armoured Division.
On September 10th 49th & 51st British Divisions advanced with the support of the 79th Armoured Division and the Canadians. The 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment were the first part of the assault and advanced rapidly, with gaps through the minefields and anti-tank ditches being breached.
On September 11th, the attack continued with support from the air and armoured vehicles and the enemy outer strong points surrendered.
On September 12th, the assault was against the town center and this forced the surrender of the German troops which numbered 11,302 men.
There had been very few casualties but the damage to the infrastructure was severe with 11 miles of docks destroyed and 15,000 building destroyed but the port began operations again on October 9th.
ADEGEM September 12 On this day the 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade liberated Adegem.
Adegem Canadian War Cemetery During the last week of September, Antwerp was in Allied hands but both shores of the Scheldt estuary were controlled by the Germans. The task of clearing the south shore was tasked to the 3rd & 4th Canadian Divisions and the British 52nd Division. This operation took from September until early November when the enemy was cleared from north-west Belgium. The south shore of the estuary was free. There had been a bitter and fierce battle to cross the Leopold Canal and the majority of those resting in this cemetery lost their lives during the operation to clear the enemy from the south Scheldt. In addition, many men also lost their lives in other parts of Belgium and they too rest here.
Canada Museum This museum shows you the occupation and liberation of Flanders and is presented in different dioramas the Battle of the Scheldt and Leopold Canal, weapons, 200 models and a movie.
There are 4 gothic windows: One window shows you the weapon and flag of Canada, the Crown and flag of the Queen of England, the 4 old Canadian flags, weapons of the Canadian provinces and territories and below the 40 weapons of the cities and villages liberated by the Canadians and Poles. Another window shows you the weapons of the 61 regiments and three divisions of Canadian forces who fought in Belgium.
MALDEGEM September 12 On this day the 4th Canadian Armoured Division liberated Maldegem. The Division then moved quickly moved eastward toward Bergen op Zoom.
OPERATION WELL HIT September 17-22 This was an Operation with the task of taking the heavily defended city of Boulogne but the enemy defences halted the advance of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade 5 miles from the city.
The Canadian units involved were the 8th & 9th Brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment of the 31st Tanks Brigade / 79th Armoured Division. There was a very high degree of co-ordination between the ground forces, the artillery and aerial support.
Hitler stated Boulogne was a fortress but in fact the landward defences were not complete, many of the troops inside were poorly trained and equipped and they were also demoralized by their isolation and the fact they could not be rescued or supported.
Boulogne sits at the mouth of the River Liane and it splits the city. The western side of the river has a 250' peninsula between the river and the coast. There was high ground surrounding the city with enemy heavy positions at La Tresorerie three miles north of city center, Mont Lambert which was two miles east of city center and Herquelinge 2 1/2 miles south-east of the city
September 17th: the 8th Brigade captured Rupembert and the radar installation intact and they consolidated in Marlborough about 1 mile north-west of city center. The 9th Brigade pushed on Mont Lambert, cleared paths through the minefields and with support of the Fort Garry Horse tanks and the tanks of the 79th Armoured Division much of Mont Lambert was in Canadian control by nightfall.
September 18th: The guns at La Tresorerie were captured by the North Shore Regiment with the remainder of the 8th Brigade working their way through the suberbs and hills north of the city.
The North Novas subdued Mont Lambert and the enemy commander now felt it was impossible to defend the port. The Glengarry Highlanders pushed to St Martin and beyond to the upper town and citadel. This area was surrounded by a very heavy medieval wall with dry ditches in places and as the Canadians prepared to assault these obstacles some citizens showed them secret passages under the walls. At the same time the tank fire and the demolition of the gates persuaded the enemy inside to surrender.
The North Novas broke through to the River Liane in the city center and the Highland Light Infantry passed through the Glengarries to the river. Here the bridges had been partially destroyed which preventing an advance to the western side. The Highland Light Infantry then stormed across the river with the support of every available gun and improvised repairs were made to one bridge during the night of September 18/19.
September 19: Light transport was now moving across the River Liane on the one available bridge. The 9th Brigade then moved along the west bank and took Outreau and under heavy fire from an enemy position op top of the peninsula between the river and the sea. The infantry and the creeping barrage allowed this position to be taken.
The Cameron Highlanders assaulted and took Herquelinge heights south-east of the city during the night of September 18/19 but they did not know there was a large enemy force underground and these were eliminated separately on September 20th.
The North Shore Regiment moved on Wimereux and the Queen's Own Rifles took the fortress of Fort de la Creche which was heavily defended and manned by the best troops of the enemy.
September 20th: The North Novas were still moving on the west bank of the River Liane and captured St. Etienne opposite of Herquelinge, then crossed the peninsula and moved north to deal with the defended coastal areas of Nocquet, Ningles and Le Portal while the Camerons crossed the Liane and covered the southern flank. The North shore had attacked Wimille.
September 21st: The North Novas had advanced on Wimille against stiff resistance but captured this position. The North Shore was in action north of Boulogne and advanced on Wimereux which restricted the use of artillery to lessen civilian casualties. Action against Fort de la Creche proceeded with out reconnaissance and the Queen's Own met strong resistance which was eliminated the aerial support.
September 22nd: Wimereux was captured and the troops at Fort de la Creche surrendered. The north of Boulogne was in Canadian hands and the last resistance was at Le Portal on the Outreau peninsula. An ultimatum by loudspeaker was given to the enemy and the the northern fort surrendered and the south fort did not surrender until heavy weaponry was brought forward and these men also surrendered.
The Canadians took 9,517 prisoners. Canadian losses were 634 men killed, wounded and missing.
OPERATION UNDERGO September 22 - October 1 This was an Operation taken by the 3rd Canadian Division against the port of Calais. A second objective was the capture of heavy enemy guns at Cap Gris Nez and these threatened the Boulogne approaches. The aim was to seal Calais, soften the enemy with artillery, aerial and naval guns and then assault with infantry and flame throwing tanks.
When pressed by the Canadians the enemy at Cap Gris Nex and the enemy in Calais needed little persuasion to surrender.
The 7th & *th Brigades advanced from south-west of Calais then cleared the outer defences on the south ad west sides of the port . The 8th Brigade then moved to the east and the inner defensive positions attacked from both sides.
The Germans called for a truce which was a misunderstanding that became an unconditional surrender of the enemy forces. The 9th Brigade had taken the heavy guns at Cap Gris Nez.
The port and port facilities at Calais were badly damaged and the use of the port was not to happen until November.
OPERATION SWITCHBACK October 6 - November 2 The Canadians were tasked with attacking and destroying all of the enemy in Belgium and in the Netherlands south of the West Schelde. The Port of Antwerp could not be used to supply the Allies as the German forces controlled the Scheldt Estuary which was the shipping lane from the sea to Antwerp. The German military controlled the coasts along the South Scheldt and Walcheren Island. They would have to be eliminated.
The South Scheldt was totally in low lying country with much of the land being reclaimed from the sea and very little of it no more than a few feet above sea level. Apart from the Leopold Canal which was the along its front, the German positions were protected by large areas of flooded land on their eastern and western flanks plus all the land approaching the Breskens area. All this flooded land was intersected with ditches and canals and the roads were built upon the dykes. Most of the fields were saturated and off road movement even by the infantry was difficult and for vehicles it was impassable.
The Canadians captured Breskens and Fort Frederik Hendrik provided the Canadians with positions to use their artillery against Walcheren Island before the Canadians were to make their assault on the island.
In the battle for the Breskens Pocket the 3rd Division captured 12,707 prisoners while many other enemy soldiers were killed, wounded or evacuated. Canadian casualties were 314 killed, 1,532 men wounded and 231 men listed as missing.
The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division crossed the Leopold Canal out of Belgium and into Holland where there was some high and dry ground. The ground here was flat and below sea level and surrounded by dykes. The Germans had fortified this area and it suited their defences well. This concealed the enemy from the Canadians resulting in very few areas where a assault could be carried out.
LEOPOLD CANAL October 6 - 14 The most desirable place to cross the canal was immediately east of where the Leopold Canal and the Canal de Derivation de la Lys separated. Here was a good dry strip of land beyond the Leopold almost in the shape of a triangle with its base on the Aldegem-Aardenburg road with the apex near the village of Moershoofd about 3 miles east. It was barely 600 feet wide at the base and the northern boundary was the boundary between Belgium and the Netherlands.
The 7th Brigade which was the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Regina Rifles and the Canadian Scottish plus the NorthShore Regiment from the 8th Brigade would lead the assault across the Leopold Canal and would have the support of the 2nd Division and British 9th Army Groups artillery plus the guns of the 4th Armoured Division.
They attacked on October 7th east of Strooibrug and were successful at Oosthoek on the right and north at Moerhuizen.
There was now two narrow bridgeheads on the north bank and when the surprise wore off enemy fire was vicious from his machine guns, mortars and small arms from the front and flanks and he began to counter-attack. It was not possible to link the two bridgeheads. On the left, the infantry was able to establish itself in Moershoofd.
The bridgehead situation were horrible with the infantry in places just below the canal bank, the ground was waterlogged, slit trenches one dug filled with water and were mostly about a foot deep and they were drenched with enemy fire.
On the morning of October 9th, the space between the bridgeheads shrunk. As the main road running north to Aardenburg was the line of advance the entire Brigade pushed to the left which narrowed but deepened the bridgehead.
On October 9/10 the 10th Brigade which included the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, the Algonquin Regiment and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders began their move across the Leopold. Patrols were sent out and met strong opposition and it was found that at Watervliet and at Isabella the enemy was withdrawing and the 10th Brigade pushed forward and made contact with other Canadian units which effectively sliced the eastern end off the enemy pocket and this resulted in a land supply route being opened.
On October 12th, the infantry had a position astride of the road, there were Canadians in Graaf Jan and there was a foothold in Eede on October 13th. That evening the Engineers completed the bridging of the canal and on October 14th there were tanks at the bridgehead.
There was heavy enemy opposition north of Strooibrug but Eede was found to be empty of the enemy on October 16.
On October 18th the 7th Brigade was relived by the 157th Brigade of the 52nd British Division.
Canadian casualties from October 7 - 14 were 111 killed, and 422 men wounded, missing or prisoners.
EEDE This village was liberated by the Canadian Scottish 7th Brigade on October 16th. This was the site that Queen Wilhelmina chose to return to her country following five years of exile in England. The reason for this was that her people in this part of the Netherlands had suffered greatly under the thumb of the Nazi occupation.
BRAAKMAN INLET October 9 This assault was to be carried out by the 9th Brigade which included the Highland Light Infantry, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders plus the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. The infantry was to be ferried up the Ghent Terneuzen Canal to Terneuzen and across the mouth of the Braakman Inlet to east of Hoofdplaat.
They advanced early on October 9th, with "green" beach being a few miles east of Hoofdplaat and "amber" beach which was closer to the Braakman. The enemy was surprised, there was no opposition and enemy shelling did not begin until first light.
The bridgehead was soon strong. The infantry moved onto Hoofdplaat with the the infantry moving south. The Germans had overcome their shock and reacted with strong shelling from Breskens and Flushing. There was strong opposition in the area of Biervliet. Hoofdplaat was captured on October 10 and Biervliet fell on October 11th.
OPERATION INFATUATE November 1-8 This was the Operation where Canadian and British forces were to open the Port of Antwerp with the 2nd Canadian Division forcing a crossing of the Walcheren Causeway at the western end of the Beveland Peninsula.The Causeway was the narrow isthmus connecting South Beveland to the mainland. Walcheren Island was heavily defended by the the German 15th Army. They had emplaced strong concrete fortifications and large calibre guns and this made it impossible to get shipping into Antwerp.
The plan was for the Canadians to cross by a water channel close to the causeway in the east. It became clear to the Canadian Command that a water assault was out of the question as the tidal flats around the water channel were impassable. That left the Canadians with an option of a direct assault along the well defended causeway on a 120 foot x 4500 foot exposed stretch. A bridgehead was established and the British 52nd Lowland Division pass through. The Command Command felt the best way was to breach the dykes and flood the interior. This would hamper both the attacker and defender. The enemy defences were on the high ground rim of the island.
RAF Bomber Command breached the dykes and the island became a lagoon and the enemy had installed defences on the dykes which turned them into a continuous fortification and there were guns of every calibre.
From October 1st until November 8th through the Battle for Breskens and Walcheren Island the Canadian losses were 6,400 men killed, wounded or missing. In this period the Canadians captured 41,043 prisoners.
OPERATION VERITABLE February 8 - 21 The goal was to reach the River Rhine which was the last significant natural barrier between the Allies and Germany.
This Operation was to take place in the Reichswald Forest and area of Germany. This was a northern pincer movement and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, in amphibious vehicles, would clear German positions in the flooded Rhine plain. The advance was slower than expected and the cost was higher and this delayed the US southern pincer movement giving the German forces time to concentrate on the Canadians and British.
The Rhineland terrain had clear boudaries with the River Rhine was on one side and the River Maas on the other, and this measured 30 miles long by 12-18 miles wide and it began to widen as you got further from the Allied start lines. The first third was flooded and the other two thirds was nothing but thick mud from the winter rains. Much of this area was covered in thick forests with very few noticeable high or low features. The engagement ranges were short and the enemy defences were well prepared. The German forces had built strong points and hedgehogs or positions for all-around defence against attacks from any direction
The fighting was bitter and hard and the Canadian advance continued and when they had Kleve and Goch the offensive continued under Operation Blockbuster.
The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions were to the north. As the Allies advanced the Germans opened the sluices of the Roer dam and other dams and flooded the low ground around the Reichswald Forest. The US forces were not able to move for two weeks.
The British XXX Corps advanced quickly but they had to fight violent clashes against the enemy. The British 43rd Division was ordered to advance past Kleve and this resulted in a traffic jam of 10 miles long on the only road available. The vehicles of four divisions were trying to use this road.
The 2nd, 3rd & 4th Canadian Divisions on February 11th were tasked with the drive along the River Rhine to Kalkar and Xanten.
The 3rd Canadian Division used Buffalo amphibious vehicles to move through the flooded areas as the water rendered the enemy field defences and minefield ineffective. German units were isolated on the high ground where they were picked off.
The Canadians and the Allies now paused to regroup.
OPERATION BLOCKBUSTER February 22 - March 10 The objective of the Operation was the Rhine River and this was a prelude to crossing the Rhine River into Germany itself.
The 4th Canadian Armoured Division now replaced the 3rd Canadian Division on the line and as they advanced they found the German military was desperate to hold on as long as they possibly could west of the River Rhine and they were sending 17 divisions were moving to the bridges at Wesel toward the Canadians and Americans which were 10 miles from the Canadians.
The 2nd & 4th Divisions were advancing abreast into heavy forest and the Hochwald, Tuschenwald and Bambergerwald which ean along a low ridge was were filled with improved enemy defences. The 2nd Division entered the Hochwald and the 4th entered a narrow gap in the woods. They soon found the armour could not just blast their way through as the enemy had a wide variety of close range anti-tanks weapons. In addition, the tanks had difficulty in the mud and the Canadians at this point in the war did not have enough infantry to clear the way for the tanks. The advances here measured in the 100s of yards.
The 3rd Division returned to the line and the 2nd Division sent a Brigade to assist the 4th Division in opening the gap. The other Brigades of the 2nd Division were putting pressure on the enemy in other places along the line.
Into the second week of March the German forces had fallen back to the Wesel Pocket, and the final actions at Veen and Xanten had cleared the final defenders away. An attempt to cross the Rhine was stopped after after heavy explosions were heard from the last bridges across the Rhine being destroyed.
The Canadians and British suffered 17,685 men becoming casualties. The First Canadian Army took 22,000 prisoners but had killed or wounded 22,000 more enemy soldiers.
OPERATION PLUNDER March 23-27 The British Second Army was to cross the Rhine between Wesel and Rees and on the right was the 12th Corps with the 30th Corps on the left. The 30th was to capture Rees and Haldern then establish an area large enough to permit the building of bridges across the River Rhine. The assault was tasked to the 51st Highland Division on a two-brigade front. The 9th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division would "follow up" immediately behind the 154th British Brigade on the left.
The task of the 9th Brigade would be to thrust forward towards Emmerich and then secure control of the area Vrasselt-Praest Dornick, as a preliminary to further operations by the 3rd Canadian Division directed against Emmerich.
Aircraft were pounding enemy positions and the Allies were preparing a bombardment from the west bank of the River Rhine. It is estimated there were 3,411 guns and of this total there would be 853 anti-tank guns and 1.038 antiaircraft guns and rockets. The fire plan included counter battery preparations to prevent the enemy from shelling the build up areas and crossing places. counter mortar tasks, a preliminary bombardment to bring the enemy morale down which the 4th Canadian Armoured Division was part of, harassing fire and a smokescreen. Artillery of the 2nd Canadian Corps not already tasked participated in a diversionary fire plan.
In less than two hours of Operation Plunder beginning the 4th Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment had fired 13,896 rounds and also gave directional tracer fire with a Bofors gun to mark the left flank of the 51st Division assault. The 1st Canadian Rocket Battery was also supporting the 51st Division assault. The preliminary bombardment resulted in only sporadic enemy return fire.
On March 24th units of the 9th Brigade began their crossing of the River Rhine and the Highland Light Infantry was the first Canadian unit across. The 51st Division met resistance in Speldrop and the Canadians were tasked with capturing the Village.some members of the British Black Watch were surrounded by the enemy in Speldrop when the Canadians advanced onto the outskirts. The Canadians pressed on over open ground with the support of two artillery regiments firing 7.2" guns. The enemy held out in the building of the town and were only eliminated through the use of flame-throwers and artillery fire. This battle went on until the morning of March 25th and even then houses were cleared by the use of the bayonet and it was necessary to push the enemy out into the fields where they could be dealt with.
The Highland Light Infantry relieved the British Infantry with losses of 10 men killed and 23 men wounded.
During the afternoon the rest of the 9th Brigade crossed the Rhine and that evening the Brigade and the North Shore Regiment from the 8th Brigade relieved the British 154th Brigade. During March 25/26, the 9th Brigade had difficulty in opening an exit from the pocket formed by the Alter Rhein to the north-west of Rees. These operation were in the area of Grietherbusch, Bienen and Millingen and in the afternoon the 9th Brigade came under command of the 43rd Wessex Division. The plan was to attack on a three-division front on the left.
Grietherbusch was captured with ease but at Bienen the resistance was much stronger and here they attacked across open ground against determined defenders. They were in an area where German resistance was the strongest and at a road junction at Bienen the Cameron Highlanders were pinned by enemy fire. Contact between platoons was very difficult because of the intense enemy fire. With the aid of armour the infantry had penetrated in the southern area of Bienen but casualties were extreme. Men killed were 43 and wounded numbered 70. Now 17 pound self propelled guns were brought forward and Bienen was finally cleared with the last pockets of enemy eliminated on the morning of March 26th.
The town of Millingen was a mile further on on the main rail line between Emmerich and Wesel and the Canadians advanced here about mid day with the support of armour and artillery and the objective was secured the afternoon of March 26th. Other units were clearing the towns to the west of Millingen. The buildup of Canadian forces continued with the arrival of the 1st Canadian Battalion. The bridgehead was steadily being enlarged and the remainder of the 3rd Division were preparing to follow. The 7th Brigade joined the 9th Brigade at the bridgehead and the 8th crossed the Rhine on March 28th. At noon the 2nd Canadian Corps took the 3rd Canadian Division sector under its command.
OPERATION DESTROYER April 2/3 This was a plan to clear the area south-west of Arnhem and the Canadian II Corps was tasked with attacking the Ijssel defences from the rear, with a view of capturing Apeldoorn and the high ground between the Apeldoorn and Artihem, and was also tasked with co-ordinating efforts with Canadian I Corps. At the moment there was no prospect of a Canadian attack across the Nederrijn River and I Corps could undertake the clearance of the enemy out of the remainder of the flooded "island" between the River Waal and River Nederrijn.
The enemy controlled the north of the "Island" and the south was controlled by the 12th Manitoba Dragoons
The 49th British Division was not strong enough to clear the enemy and then hold their position and the feeling was that between the elimination of the enemy any long pause and the launch of the next Operation could result in very high casualties to the troops holding the south bank of the River Nederrijn. The advance was delayed until early April.
The I Canadian Corps proposed a three stage attack 1) the 49th British Division was to clear the south-east sector of the "island" 2) the 49th Division + the 5th Canadian Armoured Division would clear the rest of the "island" and dominate the left bank of the River Nederrijn 3) either the 49th Division or an additional infantry Brigade would make a "scrambled crossing" across the river at Oosterbeek or in the event the enemy still held the right bank and after the Canadian II Corps has crossed the River Ijssel, the I Corps would force the river and 5 miles downstream at Renkum.
On April 2/3, the 49th Division cleared the enemy from the eastern end of the "island". The British 147th Brigade rapidly took the south-east corner of the "island" and advanced 3 miles from Haalderen to Doorenburg which was cleared in the early afternoon of April 2nd with the support of the tanks of the Ontario Regiment. The 146th Brigade turned north and cleared the left bank of the Nederrijn below the Pannerdensch Canal in the direction of Angern and Huissen which were secured.
By late afternoon of April 3ed, all enemy opposition had been eliminated to the south of the Nederrijn with the Ontario Regiment tanks continuing with their support.
The 5th Armoured division on the advance left and the 11th Canadian Brigade had cleared the "island" westward to an area near Randwijk about 8 miles downstream of Arnhem. At dusk on April 2nd all three battalions of the 11th brigade with the support of the the Governor General's Horse Guards advanced to the north along a parallel axis with the Nederrijn River with little opposition. On the western flank of the Brigade many mines were encountered but very little active resistance was faced. By mid morning of April 3rd Randwijk was secure and they pushed to the riverbank.
On the right flank it was more difficult. Following the capture of Driel the enemy counter-attacked twice but the German forces were thrown back. The enemy was now forced back to the northern banks of the River Nedrerrijn and here the enemy remained active in the following days with the use of artillery, mortars and machine guns.
OPERATION QUICK ANGER / CANNONSHOT April 12-16 This was a Canadian Operation against the enemy forces holding Arnhem with the 1st Canadian Division supported by tanks of the 5th Armoured Division of I Canadian Corps.
In September of 1944, the Allies at that time had attempted to liberate Arnhem through Operation Market Garden which had been designed by General Montgomery.. This had been a failure due to poor planning, not appreciating the intelligence available to them, the unexpected presence of German Panzer units and the slow process of relieving the airborne forces on the ground.
Following this the citizens in Arnhem and Oosterbeek were forced from their homes and the Germans fortified them and were prepared to resist future Allied advances. In October of 1944 the road bridge at Arnhem which the British Airborne had fought so hard for was bombed by the RAF. This denied the enemy the use of the bridge. Dutch rail workers went on strike which was supposed to aid the Allies September advance and as a result the German military banned all inland freight movements of foods coming from the north to the south and west of the Netherlands. This caused the deaths of 1,000s of Dutch citizens in the infamous "hunger winter".
Only after the Canadians had taken the eastern bank of the River Ijssel and advanced north was it possible to advance upon Arnhem. The Canadian advance would be delivered from the east across the Ijssel River.
The attack onto Arnhem was to be in three stages 1) The British 56th Brigade was to cross the Ijssel in the dark with amphibious vehicles from the Ontario Regiment before clearing the eastern and southern areas of Arnhem. 2) The 146th British Brigade would advance and attack the high ground to the north 3) The 147th British Brigade would advance through the 56th Brigade and secure the high ground and the northern bank of the River Nederrijn to the west of Arnhem. Them with the heights secure the 5th Armoured Division would advance through Arnhem with the I Canadian Corps continuing its push to the west.
The Canadians and British liberated a destroyed Arnhem with the houses nothing more than wrecks and the liberation was likened to liberating a tomb.
The Allied advance continued and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division moved north to secure the town between Arnhem and Ijsselmeer and met a substantial enemy force which counterattacked the Canadians in Otterlo but they were thrown back. On April 17th, the 49th Division attacked Eede which was occupied by the Dutch SS and this area was liberated in 24 hours.
The Germans then ordered that the sea dykes be open but the Canadians arranged for a local aristice so that low flying bombers of Bomber Command could drop food to the starving Dutch population.
OPERATION CLEANSER April 15-18 This was an offensive that was to be carried out by the 5th Canadian Armoured Division. Canadian II Corps was clearing the north of the Netherlands, the Canadian I Corps was tasked with clearing the enemy 25th army from the Netherlands south of the Ijsselmeer. The 1st Division was moving on Apeldoorn, the 5th Division was planning a push north towards Ijsselmeer.
The Canadian armour began to cross the Ijssel River on the afternoon of April 14th a completed early on April 15th. The Canadian convoys moved slowly due to the constricted roads and this was accomplished by giving the Canadian priority across the Arnhem bridges.
Operation Cleanser began on the morning of April 15th as the 5th Armoured Brigade pushed forward to take the high ground to the north of Arnhem. On the right they advanced on Terlet following a route through densely wooded sandhills and movement off the roads around enemy roadblocks was effective only by the tanks forcing their way through the trees.
On the left, the 5th Armoured Regiment moved against moved on Deelen and the speed of the Canadian advance surprised the enemy and achieved both their objectives.
The 11th Brigade then cleared enemy remnants from the woods which were bypassed by the armour and by evening this had been completed.
The second phase was the capture of Otterloo and the high ground to the west. There was light opposition and the high ground to the south-west of the village was occupied.
On the 16th, the Canadians pushed toward Barneveld along the river and met enemy opposition near the road junction. Two tanks were lost before they by passed the town and reached the road to Voorthuizen and as they probed north along the road they encountered stronger opposition.
On the left flank the Canadians were now to the north-west of Lunteren.
On the right flank, Otterloo was cleared and the push continued to Voorthuizen with haste as they wanted to cut off the retreat of the enemy garrison from Apeldoorn.Enemy resistance increased along the road from Apeldoorn to Amersfoort . In the evening they attacked Voorthuizen and were able to cut the road.
The next morning, April 17th, the enemy tried to escape through Voorthuizen and were beaten back with heavy casualties.
The enemy was desperate to get out of Apeldoorn. Their late withdrawal turned out to be a full retreat along the road to the west of Voorthuizen which was already blocked by the Canadians, to the north-west toward Nijkerk, Putten and Harderwijk and along the road to the south-west Of Otterloo and ths group had 600-900 men in it.
Soon after midnight an enemy patrol entered Otterloo which quickly turned into an assault with the support of artillery and mortars.The Canadians fired over open gun sites onto the Germans as the enemy infiltrated. At foirst light the Canadians counter-attacked, pushed them back and their resolve was lessened.
By the morning of April 19th the final phase was ready which was to be a two pronged attack to the Ijsselmeer. The first prong was on the road leading to the north-west of Barneveld and Nijkerk and near the intersection of the Apeldoorn and Amersfoort road enemy anti-tank guns destroyed 3 tanks before pushingthem back. To the north of the intersection there were enemy dug in infantry covering roadblocks. They were ordered to disengage and support the second prong. The second prong was headed to Putten and was making good progress but they had a tough fight as they approached Putten. They then bypassed Voorthuizen the Canadians pushed north on the afternoon of April 17th and found the terrain difficult and they were under enemy fire. The enemy anti-tank guns, self propelled guns and Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket launchers inflicted losses on the Canadians i the afternoon and evening.
On the morning of April 18th this phase of German resistance came to an end.
An Allied supply route through Arnhem, but it was ordered the troops should advance no further than Eem and Grebbe rivers. The 1st Canadian Division and the 49th Division closed up to the line of these two rivers while the 5th Armoured Division toward the north of the Netherlands.
FRIESOYTHE April 13/14 During this period the I Canadian Corps was in operations in the western Netherlands, II Canadian Corps was eliminating the last pockets of enemy resistance in the northwestern areas of the country. The 4th Armoured Division crossed the Twente Canal on April 4th and had reached the Ems and continued it push toward the Overijsselsch Canal, then to Coevorden and then into Meppen on April 5th. The following day they occupied Meppen and 10th Brigade encountered stiff resistance at Wierden just west of Almelo.
Parts of the 4th Division were clearing areas as the 4th Division continued north.
The town of Friesoythe in Germany was occupied by 200 Luftwaffe troops and the Lake Superior Regiment assaulted the town but was thrown back. On April 14th the Argylls attacked and the enemy and the enemy paratroopers surrendered, or withdrew north to the Kusten Canal.
The enemy made contact with the Argyll HQ and when contact was made Lt-Col Wigle was shot, two soldiers were killed by a grenade and a signaller sent a message about the situation.
The reports now circulated that Lt-Col Wigle was shot in the back by a civilian sniper. What happened next was the citizens were cleared from the town, the engineers leveled the town and then burned it. They used the rubble to reinforce the road for the tanks.
The facts of this incident did come out and in fact Lt-Col Wigle had been shot in the back by a German soldier. The town was eliminated in a mistaken reprisal as the Canadians believed a civilian had killed Lt-Col Wigle.
GRONINGEN April 14-18 This was an Operation to liberate Groningen during the late stages of the war and the 9 Battalions of the 4/5/6 Brigades of the 2nd Canadian Division were involved.
The inner city of Groningen was an old city with very narrow street and the inner city was completely enclosed by a wide canal and 12 bridges and these were the only access to the inner city in peacetime. In April 1945 many of the bridges had been destroyed are rendered inoperative as the Germans had raised them.
There were several canals entering from the south and west which could be obstacles to soldiers approaching from those directions.
In the east of the city was a hospital and power generating station and the northeastern part of the city contained a natural gas power station.
There were two large parks at the western and southern approaches and as well several tall water towers, factories and churches which were enemy observation sites.
There were 2 batteries of anti-aircraft guns and there were about 7,500 troops defending the city.
Several reasons the Groningen area needed to be liberated were 1) the north of the country produced food for the rest of the Netherlands and liberating this area would ease the starvation of the citizens to the south - primarily by opening the port of Delfzijl to allow relief convoys to bring supplies to the city. German U Boats still operated in the Ems Channel, and closing their access to the sea was important. 2) there were 150,000 citizens in the city. 3) The entire area was nothing but an enemy garrison that would have to be eliminated piece by piece and there were Dutch SS units in the city making surrender unlikely. 4) there would be no aerial or artillery attacks would take place because of the high citizen count. The enemy would be engaged in close fighting.
On April 16th, the German commander surrendered with his staff but other enemy elements still resisted. The Van Starkenborough Canal on the north-east edge of the city was crossed. A lift bridge on the canal was in a raised position and Dutch civilians and Canadian soldiers crossed the canal by ladder under fire and lowered the bridge. After this resistance collapsed.
The 2nd Division had 209 casualties and took approximately 5,200 prisoners while another 2,000 escaped to the port of Delfzijl where they shortly would be in battle with the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.
OPERATION DUCK April 28-30 This Operation was designed to forced the Ems and Leda Rivers in north Germany and take the port of Leer. It would by tasked to the 3rd Canadian Division.
Lerr was a small port for seagoing shipping at the junction of the Ems and Leda Rivers and was an important communications centre.
The assault on Leer would happen in three phases 1) the 9th Brigade would attack across the two rivers and establish a bridgehead 2) the 7th Brigade would pass through ad capture Loga and a nearby wood 3) the 9th Brigade would enlarge the bridgehead to the north.
Through the three phases there was aerial and artillery support and objectives were made with light opposition or no opposition at all. The Highland Light Infantry faced machine gun fire and fierce hand to hand fighting.
By April 29th all objectives had been met as far as the railway in the east of Leer.
OLDENBURG April 17 - May 5 On April 17, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division crossed the canal at Edewechterdamm which was 11 miles from Oldenburg, held in the face of enemy counter-attacks, then extended the bridgehead two miles to the Aue River by April 21st. The Division then advanced on Bad Zwischenahn which fell on April 30th. The Division then moved to the north and when hostilities ceased the 4th Armoured Division was 10 miles north of Oldenburg. The 2nd Canadian Division was involved in the advance onto Oldenburg, Kirchhatten and Falenburg, captured those positions and were located in this area at the end of Hostilities.