History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Battle of Normandy

 

 

The Battle of Normandy was fought in 1944 as part of the North-West Europe campaign, between Allied forces from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Poland, and the German forces occupying France. The actual invasion of France was the largest amphibious operation in history, and has popularly become known as D-Day.

Situation

German forces had occupied France since the summer of 1940; utilizing large numbers of forced labourers, massive concrete fortifications were emplaced at key points along the entire French coastline; with garrisons in Denmark and Norway, the German positions became known as the "Atlantic Wall." The costly raid at Dieppe in August 1942 is widely credited as cautioning Allied planners to ensure detailed planning, sophisticated tactical solutions to overcoming beach defences, and overwhelming firepower all featured into the plan.

Operation OVERLORD was the code name for the invasion; the stated plan was to establish a beachhead and reach the line of the Seine River by D+90 (ie 90 days after the day of the invasion). The battle would open with a combined airborne and seaborne assault on five designated beaches.

The Normandy invasion began when the first pathfinders landed on Norman soil on the night of 5-6 June, leading the way for three divisions of airborne troops (including with them the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, fighting with the 6th British Airborne Division.) Early on the morning of 6 June 1944, six divisions came ashore, including the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division supported by the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.

Prelude

Allied Preparations

After the dispatch of 1st Canadian Infantry Division to the Mediterranean in 1943 and the rebuilding of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division after Dieppe, largely from scratch, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was selected for the assault role on the Canadian beach, code named JUNO.

 

While a cross-channel attack had been discussed since 1942, and several alternate plans drawn up, Allied strategy revolved around landings in North Africa in late 1942, Sicily in July 1943, and various operations in Italy in 1943 and into 1944, when the Allies finally felt ready to commit to landing in France.

Planning began in earnest in March 1943 by British Lieutenant General Sir Frederick E. Morgan (who was appointed COSSAC - Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander), whose plan was developed further beginning in January 1944 by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander, US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was named to this post on 24 December 1943. Operational command of the armies going ashore would go to General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, who had advised the Canadians in the UK on matters of training, had been involved in some preliminary planning of the Dieppe Raid, and who had commanded the 8th British Army (to whom the 1st Canadian Division, 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade belonged) in Sicily and later southern Italy.

The Normandy invasion would mark the first operation in which formations passed from control of the First Canadian Army to the Second British Army and vice versa. For the assault, 3rd Canadian Division would be under operational control of I British Corps. Canadian higher headquarters would come ashore after the beachhead had been expanded. Once 2nd British Army had established a firm foothold, First Canadian Army would breakout and advance from a secure bridgehead. During Exercise SPARTAN in March 1943, the First Canadian Army trained to do exactly that, with three Canadian divisions and three British divisions under command.

The short operating range of Allied fighters from UK airfields, as well as the geography of the French coast, limited the choice of landing area to either the Pas de Calais or the Normandy beaches. The need for a large port facility resulted in the innovative idea of bringing one across to Normandy rather than attempting to capture one. The artificial harbours, codenamed MULBERRY, were just one of the many logistical successes; others included PLUTO (Pipe Line Under the Ocean) through which vital supplies of gasoline were pumped into the bridgehead from England. Other technical innovations would be used directly on the beach, particularly the "funny" tanks; armoured vehicles adapted for special purposes.

 
The Atlantic Wall featured formidable obstacles to Allied invasion, including weapons of all types and sizes sited in strong concrete and steel fortifications.
Elements of the 3rd Canadian Division come ashore on Juno Beach from LCI(L) 299 of the 2nd Canadian (262nd RN) Flotilla, optimistically bringing their issue bicycles with them. LAC 137013.

The Canadians made great use of the Duplex Drive (DD) tanks; regular Shermans fitted with collapsible canvas screens and propellers to allow them to swim to shore and provide immediate close support. Other vehicles were equipped to assist in the passage of obstacles and demolition of strongpoints and were used by Royal Engineers units of the British Army.

Allied intentions were masked through successful and complex deception plans and intelligence/counter-intelligence operations. Security was extremely tight and Allied soldiers entered the "sausage machine" several days in advance of the landings; these were sealed camps in which the soldiers waterproofed vehicles, received final briefings, and were cut off from contact with the outside world as a security precaution.

At left: His Majesty, King George VI, inspects the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG) on 25 April 1944. Preparations for the invasion included new helmets, boots, and equipment such as the 1942 Battle Jerkin, and of course a flurry of Royal Inspections. Canadian Army Photo.

At right: His Majesty inspects self-propelled 105mm guns (dubbed "Priests") of the divisional artillery of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division on 25 April 1944. LAC 145376.

Objectives

  • Establish a firm lodgment with all five assault divisions linked up by D+1 (one day after D-Day).

  • Create a firm beachhead including the cities of Caen (to be captured on D-Day) and Cherbourg (with its permanent port facilities)

  • Liberate Brittany, the Atlantic ports, and advance on a line from Le Havre to Le Mans to Tours by D+40.

  • Reach the line of the Seine by D+90.

The Landings

The task on Juno Beach was to establish a five-mile wide beachhead between Courseulles and St-Aubin-sur-Mer, then push forward between Bayeux and Caen, penetrating eleven miles inland to Carpiquet airfield. On their flanks, the 3rd and 50th British Divisions would take Caen and Bayeux with the Canadians astride the road and railway linking the two towns.

7th Brigade

The Brigade was delayed by bad weather and rough seas, and faced strong opposition from enemy strongpoints on the beach which had survived the initial bombardment, with mines on the beach also causing considerable losses. High casualties resulted in the fighting for Courseulles-sur-Mer and the inland villages of Ste-Croix-sur-Mer and Banville. The brigade consolidated on its intermediate objective near Creully by evening.

8th Brigade

Assault engineers arrived in a timely manner and assisted greatly in the reduction of enemy strongpoints; the beach and town of Bernières were taken although Bény-sur-Mer, on the road to Caen, held out comparatively longer.

9th Brigade

The reserve brigade was able to land just before noon, moving from Bernières through Bény to Villons-les-Buissons, only four miles from Caen. The advance was stopped short of the division's final objective, Carpiquet airfield.

Flanks

The 3rd British Division only came within three miles of Caen, and the 50th had been stopped short of Bayeux by two miles. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion fought well as part of 6th Airborne Division, though they had been badly scattered like most of the three airborne divisions.

Approximately 14,000 Canadians landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944, with the assault force suffering 1,074 casualties; 359 of them had been fatal.

Early Actions

The first days ashore saw several frantic actions as the Germans mobilized their armour in an attempt to push the invading Allied armies back into the sea. The defence of the beaches had been entrusted to coastal formations of largely low calibre, tied to fortifications and given no armour and little motorized transport. The British 2nd Army faced only a single German division on D-Day, the 716th Infantry. Inland, however, were the armoured divisions.

On the front of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitlerjugend" attempted several counter-attacks, which while unsuccessful for the most part at seizing ground, inflicted heavy casualties on the Canadians in the week following D-Day. After actions at Authie, Putot-en-Bessin, Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse, and Le Mesnil-Patry, the division settled in to a routine of patrolling and local actions. The first six days ashore cost the Canadian Army 196 officers and 2635 other ranks; 72 officers and 945 of whom had died. With respect to the German counter-attacks on the Canadians, the official Army historian summed up:

The Germans' plan of defence had failed. They had not succeeded in mounting the great armoured counter-offensive which was to drive the invaders into the sea. Even a more limited attack, in which General Geyr von Schweppenburg (whose Panzer Group West had now taken over the Caen sector) planned to use parts of the 21st and 12th SS Panzer Divisions under the 1st SS Panzer Corps against the Canadian front, had to be cancelled on 10 June; and immediately afterwards a devastating attack by aircraft...which wiped out almost his whole staff put an end to such projects for the present, and the sector was returned to the 1st SS Panzer Corps' control. Moreover, the Germans remained fully convinced that a second invasion...was probable. They therefore continued to hold (at Calais) the divisions that might have turned the scale in Normandy.1

The record of Canadian formations in Normandy has been controversial. New research has suggested that the 3rd Canadian Division in particular has been misunderstood by previous historians. The division's role may in fact have been primarily a defensive one, to defeat the German armoured counter-attacks - a role they performed extremely well.2

Normandy Bridgehead: June 1944

For three weeks, the 3rd Canadian Division held a line from Putot-en-Bessin to Villons-les-Buissons, with all three brigades in the front line and no reserve. By the end of June, Canadian Army casualties for the month of June totalled 226 officers and 3066 other ranks.3

The Americans on the right flank of the invasion had  fought hard to establish themselves ashore, particularly at OMAHA Beach where an above-average division, the 352nd, reinforced the coastal defences. Bayeux fell to the British on D+1 (7 June) but the 21st Panzer Division effectively intervened between the British 3rd Infantry Division and Caen. Territory intended to marshal the 1st Canadian Army remained in German hands, and the narrow bridgehead prevented the arrival of additional formations on French soil. The Americans had better progress in the west; while St. Lô, remained in enemy hands, on 18 June Cherbourg fell, and the Cotentin Peninsula on which it sits was cleared by 1 July.

These triumphs owed much to hard fighting by the British Second Army. Although progress had been halted for the moment in the region immediately about Caen, the lodgement area was somewhat extended as the result of the determined efforts...south and south-east of Bayeux. Here in the last week of June a bridgehead established across the Odeon, a tributary of the Orne, seemed to offer the hope of "pinching out" Caen by an enveloping movement. Against this threat the enemy concentrated a tremendous mass of his very best formations....(All told) the enemy had no fewer than eight armoured divisions on the Anglo-Canadian front between Caumont and Caen. On  30 June, in a directive to his British and American Army Commanders, General Montgomery wrote: "My broad policy, once we had secured a firm lodgement area, has always been to draw the main enemy forces in to the battle on our eastern flank, and to fight them there, so that our affairs on the western flank could proceed the easier." The policy succeeded; but it meant some very hard sledding for the British and Canadians.4

Additional Canadian forces deployed to Normandy toward the end of June, including advance elements of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, the headquarters of 2nd Canadian Corps, and the headquarters of 1st Canadian Army.

Operation EPSOM

EPSOM was a British operation intended to seize Caen, with fighting lasting from 26 June to 1 July 1944; local objectives were met but the city remained in German hands. German counterattacks forced British units back just south of Buron. 

Operation WINDSOR

On 4 July 1944, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division launched a costly assault on Carpiquet aerodrome, originally a D-Day objective. A small force of the 12th SS Panzer Division inflicted sizeable losses on the attacking force, including the North Shore Regiment, the Régiment de la Chaudière, the Queen's Own Rifles and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Supporting the operation were the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse, assault vehicles of the Royal Canadian Engineers (as well as a flame-throwing Crocodile), and the entire divisional artillery.

Operation CHARNWOOD

This operation, following Epsom in the second week of July 1944, finally managed to push into the city of Caen itself. The 3rd Canadian Division saw heavy combat to the west of Caen, suffering heavily in their first major advance since the D-Day landings; the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, for example, lost 262 men in Buron during the battle to extricate a battalion of the 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment from the village.

Operation ATLANTIC

Operation ATLANTIC was the Canadian component of Operation GOODWOOD, involving Canadian actions in the vicinity of Caen. Their objectives including taking the suburbs of Colombelles and Fauborg-de-Vaucelles. Both Canadian infantry divisions were to operate on the flanks of the armoured operations as part of Operation GOODWOOD, with Canadian troops tasked to cross the Orne, clear the suburbs, and eventually push on to the Bourguébus Ridge.

On 29 June 1944, Lieutenant General Guy Simonds activated tactical headquarters of II Canadian Corps at Amblie, becoming operations on 11 July. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division came ashore in the first week of July 1944 and moved into the line along the Orne on the right flank of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

The operation began on 18 July 1944, and 3rd Division moved south to Colombelles, with the 8th Brigade battling for the suburb and the 9th Brigade passing through into Fauborg de Vaucelles. To the east, Giberville was taken by the 7th Brigade. On the 19th, objectives across the Orne near Cormelles were captured.

The 2nd Division also attacked through Fauborg de Vaucelles, coming into action for the first time since Dieppe, and though intially managed to achieve their objectives of clearing the suburbs of Caen across the Orne and establishing a bridgehead south of the city, when pressed to relieve the British armoured divisions halted in their attack on the Bourguébus Ridge, the operation became a costly one for the units involved.

Operation SPRING

Operation SPRING was an operation in which the costly attacks on the Verrières Ridge occurred on 25 July 1944.

Operation TOTALIZE

The 21st Army Group decided that after SPRING the primary task on the Canadian front would be pinning the enemy down while the main effort would shift away from the great German strength opposite, to the British front east of the Orne. The start of August saw the Canadians (now serving under their own Army headquarters) delivering local attacks, but also saw German units - now realizing that no attack would come via Pas de Calais, as they feared - moving across the Seine and into the battle area. Armoured units opposite the Canadians were pulled out and redeployed to face the 3rd US Army. By 7 August only one German armoured formation remained on the Canadian front.

By this point, the British had made progress at the Vire and Orne Rivers, and the Canadians were ordered forward to Falaise. On 7 August, Operation TOTALIZE went forward, with heavy bomber support and the infantry using for the first time in history fully tracked armoured personnel carriers. While the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division attacked east of the Falaise road, the 2nd attacked to the west under cover of darkness. The newly arrived German 89th Division fought hard but the defensive line that had held out for two weeks was finally breached, and the heights of the Verrierres Ridge were finally seized. The second phase saw two armoured divisions - including the newly arrived 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division - pass through. Stiff fighting brought the Canadians to a halt - by 11 August, eight miles had been gained, but eight still remained between the Canadians and Falaise.

The German armour that moved away from the Canadian front was used to launch a desperate counter-attack towards Mortain beginning on 6 August. The attack ground to a halt within a day, and the Canadian advance on Falaise worried the German Field Marshal in command, who was prohibited by Hitler personally from redeploying his troops. The opportunity to encircle large parts of the German Seventh Army now presented itself, as US armour rolled towards Argentan from the south. The Canadian Army was ordered south; while the armour made its preparations to move on the 14th, the 2nd Division busied itself with preparatory attacks, crossing the Laize River at Bretteville-sur-Laize and southward for two days, re-crossing the river at Clair Tizon and threatening the main German defensive line along the Falaise Road.

 

Operation TRACTABLE

Operation TRACTABLE was an attempt, initiated on 14 August 1944, to meet up with American forces driving north to close the "Falaise Gap". Initial efforts were stopped and a renewed offensive on 16 August managed to liberate Falaise. The Gap itself remained open while efforts were made to close it by both the US forces from the south and Canadian and Polish forces from the north. The 1st Polish Armoured Division linked up with the US Army at Chambois late on 20 August 1944, and the Canadians linked up with the Poles the next day.

 

Pursuit to the Seine

2nd Canadian Infantry Division began to move east on 21 August, into the valley of the Seine, where hard fighting in the Forêt de la Londe awaited the 4th and 6th Brigades. Fierce forest fighting lasted from the morning of 27 August to the afternoon of 29 August against well equipped enemy troops present in strength.

August 1944 had been a pivotal month. Not only had the German 7th Army been virtually destroyed, but Allied landings in the south of France were coupled with the fall of Paris. The future looked bright, and as early as 20 August, and one division turned its gaze northwest to a familiar stretch of coast. First Canadian Army was advised by an order on that day from 21st Army Group "I am sure that the 2nd Canadian Division will attend to Dieppe satisfactorily."

As German forces retreated across the Seine at the start of September, the Battle of Normandy was over. The fighting for the Channel Ports was about to begin.

Casualties

TOTAL CANADIAN ARMY CASUALTIES - NORMANDY BATTLE AREA

Total from 6 June 44 through 31 July 44:5

  Officers Other Ranks
Killed - 136 1642
Died of wounds - 40 518
Wounded - 455 6525
Missing - 58 1116
POW - 3 55
Total 692 9856

(This figure represents battle casualties but does not include 31 deaths described in the CMHQ report as "ordinary".)

For the period 6 June to 31 August, 1,324 officers and 18,623 other ranks had become casualties, of which 340 officers and 4,285 other ranks had died.

The month of August 1944 was the costliest for Canada, not only in Normandy but for the entire Northwest Europe campaign, with 632 officers and 8,736 other ranks becoming casualties. Total enemy casualties are unknown but the 1st Canadian Army collected 26,400 prisoners between 23 July (when the army became operational) to 1 September 1944.6

Historical Assessments

Canada's battle in Normandy was a major historic event. One chronicle summed it up thusly:

Although one major battle remained (the Forêt de la Londe)... for all intents and purposes the Normandy campaign ended on 21 August when the Canadians closed the Falaise Gap...

The Canadians, despite some subsequent criticism - none directed at the troops - could look back with proud satisfaction on a job in Normandy very well done. In a 77 day campaign, fought for the first 42 days by just one division, the next 21 by two the final 13 by three the Canadians had played a lead role greatly transcending their small size. From start to finish they had been the spearhead of many of the most vital battles and advances undertaken by the Anglo/Canadian (21st) Army Group...It is noteworthy that of the 12 divisions of 21 Army Group in Normandy the 3rd Canadian Division suffered the heaviest casualties and the 2nd Canadian, which only came into action after Caen, the second heaviest of the entire campaign.7

General Foulkes, commander of the 2nd Canadian Division, was quoted in the Canadian Army's Official History in reference to those casualty rates:

The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division had also had its troubles, accompanied by very heavy casualties, in the bloody battles in the second half of July. It is in order to recall again here the frank opinion of its commander, General Foulkes: "When we went into battle at Falaise and Caen we found that when we bumped into battle-experienced German troops we were no match for them. We would not have been successful had it not been for our air and artillery support. We had had four years of real hard going and it took about two months to get that Division so shaken down that we were really a machine that could fight."8

The comments were later addressed by historian Brian Reid:

In the later days of (Operation ATLANTIC) as the 2nd Division attempted to expand the bridgehead it had seized south of Caen onto the Verrières Ridge, it was caught off balance by German counter-strokes and forced off the crest of the ridge in some disorder. That much of the responsibility for the reverse lay with two battalion commanders whose units had broken should not obscure the fact that basic battle procedure at the division and brigade level had broken down...Regrettably two common features of the division's operations in Normandy appeared in those early battles: Major General Charles Foulkes, the dour division commander, blamed his troops for the slow progress on the ground; and he was prone to temporarily shifting battalions between brigades with the results one would expect when unfamiliar units are forced to fight together...

Foulkes was a rather unimaginative commander and one who tended to act as a postal clerk in merely passing along orders without much amplification...The old adage about "a poor workman always blaming his tools" was not out of place here.9

Brereton Greenhous spoke of the ponderous advance on Falaise and the impact of doctrine:

Among the Canadians, generally speaking, the fault lay not with the regimental soldier or his officers, but in the slow, deliberate British doctrine, found in First World War experience, to which commanders rigidly adhered. They had long over-emphasized firepower at the expense of manoeuvre, and under-emphasized the coordination of the three combat arms - infantry, armour and artillery - which was...the essence of mobile warfare.

In the tangled mountains of Italy, these ponderous tactics were sometimes appropriate, but even there they left much to be desired on other occasions. In Normandy, over the open, rolling fields between Caen and Falaise, they were simply inadequate. Progress was slow; and slowness, inevitably, led to hard fighting and heavy casualties. Formulas that had plagued Anglo-Canadian planning since D-Day were hardening into principle, with unfortunate results.10

This view has also been reviewed by historians, notably Stephen Ashley Hart:

It is fair to argue that prior to D-Day, the British and Canadians might have done more to improve the tactical training of the soldiers fielded by the 21st Army Group...It is debatable, however, whether there existed enough time, or sufficient expertise within the army, to train personnel...to a significantly higher level of tactical effectiveness. In reality, however, what the British (and Canadian armies) needed to achieve...was to train its soldiers to an adequate level of tactical competency sufficient to permit them to exploit the devastation that massed Allied firepower inflicted on the enemy. For the 21st Army Group eventually would achieve victory...not through tactical excellence but rather through crude techniques and competent leadership at both the operational and tactical levels.

Some historians' criticism of the poor tactical combat performance of Anglo-Canadian forces, moreover, has given insufficient consideration to the strong influence that British operational technique exerted on their activities at the tactical level...The availability of massive firepower within the 21st Army Group would have stifled tactical performance to some degree even if better training had produced tactically more effective troops. Such copious firepower support inevitably created a tactical dependency on it amongst other combat arms. The availability of large amounts of highly effective artillery assets made it possible...to capture enemy positions devastated by artillery fire without having to aggressively fight their way forward using their own weapons.11

Historians will continue to discuss, and disagree about, many aspects of Canada's battle in Normandy. Doctrine, strategy and senior leadership are contentious issues that have been interpreted and re-interpreted and seem to be in no danger of finding consensus. What is not in doubt is the cost. As Brigadier-General Denis Whitaker, who actually fought there with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, pointed out:

Modern memory has a firm image of "suicide battalions" and futile battles of the Great War, but we are not accustomed to thinking of Normandy in these terms. Perhaps a single crude comparison will help to make the point. During a single 105-day period in 1917, British and Canadian soldiers fought the battle of Third Ypres, which included the struggle for Passchendaele. General Haig employed forces equivalent to those Eisenhower commanded in Normandy. When it was over, Haig's armies had suffered 244,000 casualties, or 2,121 a day. Normandy cost the Allies close to 2,500 casualties a day, 75 per cent of them among the combat troops at the sharp end who had to carry the battle to the enemy.12

Deployment Schedule

Formation/Unit Parent Formation Arrival in France Entered Front Line Notes
Image:1armygif.gif 1st Canadian Army 21 Army Group June 1944 23 July 1944  
Image:2corpgif.gif 2nd Canadian Corps 2nd Brit Army/1st Cdn Army 29 June 1944 11 July 1944  
Image:2gif.gif 2nd Canadian Infantry Division 2nd Canadian Corps 7 July 1944 11 July 1944  
Image:3gif.gif 3rd Canadian Infantry Division 1st Brit Corps/2nd Cdn Corps 6 June 1944 6 June 1944  
Image:2tankbde.gif 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade 1st Brit Corps/2nd Cdn Corps 6 June 1944 6 June 1944 Independent Brigade
Image:4gif.gif 4th Canadian Armoured Division 2nd Canadian Corps July 1944 31 July 1944  
1st Canadian Parachute Battalion British 6th Airborne Division 6 June 1944 6 June 1944 Withdrawn 6 September
Image:1armygif.gif 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron 1st Canadian Army 28 August 1944 2 September 1944 Formed in France

Battle Honours

The following Battle Honours were granted for Canadian units participating in the Battle of Normandy:

  • Normandy Landing

  • Authie

  • Putot-en-Bessin

  • Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse

  • Le Mesnil-Patry

  • Carpiquet

  •  Caen

  • The Orne or The Orne (Buron)

  • Bourguébus Ridge

  • Faubourg de Vaucelles

  • St. André-sur-Orne

  • Maltot

  • Verrières Ridge - Tilly-la-Campagne

  • Falaise

  • Falaise Road

  • Quesnay Wood

  • Clair Tizon

  • The Laison

  • Chambois

  • St. Lambert-sur-Dives

  • Dives Crossing

  • Forêt de la Londe

  • The Seine, 1944

Dramatizations

  • The Longest Day (1962). The only Canadian content seems to be a dramatization of two German pilots strafing Juno Beach, and the theme song by Paul Anka which was later authorized as the Regimental March of The Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Notes

  1. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume III: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-west Europe 1944-45 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1960) p.141

  2. See Milner, Stopping the Panzers

  3. Stacey, C.P. Canada's Battle in Normandy: The Canadian Army's Share in the Operations 6 June - 1 September 1944 (King's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1946) p.75

  4. Ibid, pp.79-80. The remarks by General Montgomery have come under scrutiny and much debate. For example, see Carlos d'Este, Decision in Normandy "What Montgomery absurdly attempted to portray as the end result of a deliberate master plan was, in reality, one of the most untidy series of operations he ever conducted."

  5. (Canadian Military Headquarters file 22/Casualty/1/2 - A.G. (Stats), C.M.H.Q., 14 Aug 44)) quoted in Canadian Military Headquarters Report: "OPERATION "OVERLORD" and its Sequel. Canadian Participation in the Operations in N.W. Europe 6 Jun - 31 Jul 44 (Prelim Report). (Report No. 131, revised edition, 1945)

  6. Stacey, Ibid, p.158

  7. McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 p.180

  8. Stacey, Victory Campaign, Ibid, p.276

  9. Reid, Brian. No Holding Back: Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 1944. (Robin Brass Studio, Toronto, ON, 2005) ISBN 1-896941-40-0 pp.47-48

  10. Greenhous, Brereton "The Victory Campaign 1944-45" We Stand on Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army (Ovale Publications, Montreal, PQ, 1992) ISBN 2894290438 p.303

  11. Hart, Stephen Ashley Colossal Cracks: Montgomery's 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, 1944-45 (Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2007) ISBN 978-0-8117-3383-0 pp.178-179

  12. Whitaker, Denis and Shelagh Whitaker (with Terry Copp) Victory at Falaise: The Soldier's Story (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Toronto, ON, 2000) ISBN 0-00-200017-2 p.312

References

  • Barris, Ted. Juno : Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944 (Toronto : T. Allen Publishers, 2004) xxii, 307 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., maps ISBN: 0887621333

  • Copp, Terry and Robert Vogel Maple Leaf Route: Caen (Alma, ON 1983) 119pp ISBN 0919907016

  • Copp, Terry and Robert Vogel Maple Leaf Route: Falaise (Alma, ON 1983) 143pp ISBN 0919907024

  • English, John The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign: A Study of Failure In High Command (Praeger, New York, NY 1991) 347pp. ISBN 027593019X

  • Granatstein, J.L. and Desmond Morton. Bloody Victory: Canadians and the D-Day Campaign 1944 (Lester & Orpen Dennys, Toronto, ON 1984) 240pp ISBN 0886190460

  • Milner, Marc Stopping the Panzers (University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2014) ISBN 978-0-7006-2003-6 400pp.

  • Reid, Brian A. No Holding Back (Robin Brass Studio, 2004) 491pp ISBN 1896941400

  • Whitaker, Denis and Shelagh Whitaker with Terry Copp The Soldier's Story: Victory at Falaise (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Toronto, ON 2000) 372pp ISBN 0002000172


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