Army

Army

The Bloody Battles Around Caen: Army, Part 96

On the afternoon of July 11, 1944, Canadian Corps Headquarters once again became operational on the soil of France. Lieutenant-General Guy Granville Simonds assumed responsibility for 7,280 metres of front in the Caen sector of Normandy. There was little time or inclination to mark this event or link it with the memory of the vaunted Canadian Corps of First World War fame because there was too much to be done. Third Division, weary from 35 days of battle, was to be withdrawn for an all-too-brief period of rest and for some rehearsing for its next operation. Elements of the newly arrived 2nd Div. would take over part of the line and acquire some badly needed experience. Plans for the corps’ role in Operation Goodwood had to be elaborated while Simonds met with his divisional and brig...
Army

Taking Caen: Army, Part 95

Operation Charnwood, the July 8-9, 1944, attack on Caen, Normandy, by I British Corps, was a multi-phase advance. The first part, intended to collapse the city’s outer defensive perimeter, required Canada’s 9th (Highland) Infantry Brigade to capture Buron, Gruchy, and Authie, three villages that the 12th SS had fortified during the month-long pause in the Caen sector. On July 8th, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders waited in the Buron anti-tank ditch for the order to seize Authie, the village where many of their comrades were murdered by the 12th SS on June 7. This time the field and medium artillery regiments targeted every possible enemy position, and when the North Novas left the ditch they followed a lifting barrage into the largely abandoned village. The panzer grenadiers had wi...
Army

Clearing Buron: Army, Part 94

On July 5, 1944, the millionth Allied soldier landed in France. The lodgement phase of Operation Overlord—codenamed Neptune—was over. The port of Cherbourg was secure and to everyone’s surprise the supply system, using the remaining Mulberry (artificial) Harbour and the open beaches, was working smoothly. No operation can succeed without solid logistical support and the Allies were bringing manpower and materiel to Normandy more quickly than the enemy. By early July, Allied strengths included total mastery of the air and sea, plus an intelligence system that allowed the Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his senior commanders to accurately gauge German strengths and intentions. The situation was very different for the enemy. On the eastern and western fronts, Hit...
Army

Lessons Of Carpiquet: Army, Part 93

The battle for Le Mesnil-Patry, which proved so costly for the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and First Hussars, was part of a larger attempt to expand the Normandy beachhead. The Canadians, with 114 fatal casualties in what the Hussars call their “Charge of the Light Brigade,” were no harder hit than British divisions on either flank. The 51st Highland Division suffered heavy losses in the Orne River bridgehead, including an entire company of the 5th Black Watch. Both 50th Infantry and the 7th Armoured were roughly handled in the attempt to reach Villers-Bocage. General Bernard Montgomery decided to pause in front of Caen, ordering General Sir John Crocker’s 1st British Corps, including the Canadians, to practice “aggressive defence” without risking large casualties. As overall groun...
Army

A Well-Entrenched Enemy: Army, Part 92

On  June 7, 1944, D+1, the 12th SS Hitler Youth Division blocked the Canadian and British advance to Carpiquet and Caen by committing the tanks and infantry of Kurt Meyer’s 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment to battle. It was a tactical victory with enormous operational consequences. Sepp Dietrich, the commander of 1st SS Panzer Corps, who was supposed to launch a powerful counterattack against the Allied bridgehead in Normandy with three armoured divisions, found that both 21st Panzer and 12th SS were heavily engaged and could not be withdrawn. Panzer Lehr, the third armoured division, was also being drawn into combat with British 30 Corps. T he best that Dietrich could do  was to try and dislodge the Canadian 7th Brigade which had seized ground astride the Caen-Bayeux highway and then...
Army

Murder In Normandy: Army, Part 91

All those involved in the planning for D-Day knew there were two quite separate problems in securing a beachhead. The first task, breaking through the crust of defences known as the Atlantic Wall was rightly seen as the major challenge, but preparation and rigorous training was also required to carry out the advance inland to widen and deepen the bridgehead. The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, known as the Highland Brigade, had been selected to lead the Canadian advance, so Brigadier D.G. “Ben” Cunningham and his battalion commanders prepared detailed plans. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Petch, and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, led by Lt.-Col. Mel Gordon, trained together in England where they broke down the barriers to effective infantry-tan...
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