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

 

Bretteville l'Orgueilleuse

Bretteville l'Orgueilleuse was a Battle Honour granted to units participating in battles following D-Day during the Battle of Normandy, the first phase of the North-West Europe campaign of the Second World War.

Background

D-Day on 6 June had left the three British and Canadian beachheads reasonably secure, thanks to a slow German response and lower than anticipated casualties, yet the gap between the British 3rd Division and the 3rd Canadian Division was troublesome.  There had been no counter-attack during the night of 6-7 June because the Germans were simply not ready for such an enterprise. The 7th Canadian Brigade was ordered to resume the advance at 0600 on the morning of D+1 (June 7) in order to gain their D-Day objective, a phase line code named OAK, running along the road Bayeux-Caen.1

 

Early Actions on D+1

The brigade moved off in a two battalion formation at staggered times; the Royal Winnipeg Rifles on the right stepped off at 0615 while the Regina Rifle Regiment moved out an hour later with the Canadian Scottish Regiment in reserve. There was little resistance offered by the remnants of the 716th Infantry Division still in the area. By 0850 on June 7, brigade headquarters had felt there was no danger to be had and ordered the reserve in, pressing all three battalions to "go flat out for their final objectives." The official history reports it was "about noon" that the Winnipeg Rifles were in Putot-en-Bessin and the Reginas in both Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse and Norrey-en-Bessin. The 1st Hussars, whose two assault squadrons on D-Day had been depleted such that they were amalgamated into a single squadron, were not able to provide support, but resistance had been so slight, and limited to "groups of snipers" (in the words of the official history) that "tank support was not needed."2

Taking Norrey

During the fighting on June 8, the Regina Rifles were able to establish themselves on the left flank of the 7th Brigade's front, while the other actions swirled around them at Authie, Buron and Putot. The Reginas firmly held Bretteville, with a rifle company forward in Norrey-en-Bessin, south of the rail line.

Major Stuart Tubb, commanding "C" Company, took one look at the approaches to Bretteville and decided to occupy the village of Norrey-en-Bessin a kilometre to the south. This position would allow the Reginas to dominate the approaches to Bretteville and the railway embankment. Brigadier Harry Foster questioned this decision, but Lieutenant-Colonel F.M. Matheson, the commanding officer of the Reginas, insisted that Major Tubbs had made the right decision. Foster accepted his judgement.3

On June 8th, the Winnipeg Rifles had been counter-attacked at Putot and driven out, but the Canadian Scottish launched an attack with heavy support in the evening and retook the village. At about the same time, the Germans began their own assault on Bretteville. The commander of the 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer, concluded that there was little further danger of a follow-up attack on Buron after the battles at Authie on June 7th and therefore in conjunction with  the commander of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment and the divisional commander, he implemented a new plan of action.

Enemy Intentions

While the Canadian forces were busy trying to reach their D-Day objectives on June 7 and 8, the 12th SS Panzer Division was attempting to assemble. The 26th Panzergrenadier Regiment had assembled west of the 25th Panzergrenadier Regiment in the morning of 8 June, only partially closing a six-mile gap between the 25th at Buron west to Audrieu where the division's reconnaissance battalion covered the open flank of the division. Beyond Audrieu, the I SS Panzer Corps had yet to form its front, and there was no physical contact with the 84th Corps.

There had already been orders, as early as the evening of 7 June, from the divisional commander, SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Witt, to take Norrey-en-Bessin, Bretteville, Putot-en-Bessin and Brouay, in order to clear the Caen-Bayeux road and provide I SS Panzer Corps with jumping off positions for a major counter-attack towards the beaches. The need for a local counterattack was also urgent; Luftwaffe radar sites at Douvres-la-Délivrande were still holding out nearby, even though surrounded.4

The 12th Division was by 8 June spread across an 11-mile front, from Cristot to Epron. The Regina's positions in Bretteville, and especially Norrey, however, made an uncomfortable bulge in the line - in the words of one author, "an irritating and potentially dangerous salient." There was thus a clear rationale for an attack on the Reginas.5

Terrain

Norrey was well-chosen as an anchor for the brigade "fortress" by the Canadians:

The embankment provided the Canadians a significant barrier to German armour. In order to advance frontally against the brigade "fortress," the Germans were required to first capture the village of Norrey in order to gain a passage for their tanks across the embankment. The villages themselves, consisting of "stone buildings and narrow thoroughfares," greatly enhanced the defender's resilience. The Brigade was also anchored on its left flank by the Mue River, which was lined with hedges and farm walls. Worse still for the 12th SS, the natural terrain of the area consisted of flat fields and gentle rises interspersed with small wooded areas. The Canadians were able to use the church towers to view enemy movements over a large area.6

The terrain in the area was actually quite complex; the history of the 12th SS notes that the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment operated over ground "generally less open and more severely undulating" than that due north of Caen (i.e. further east), with contrasts in contour ranging from 180 to 300 feet above sea level.

West of the axis St. Manvieu-Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse and into the area about le Mesnil-Patry, wide, hedgeless fields of wheat, turnips and clover blanketed the ground; only along the Mue were there thickets of trees and bush. Around le Mesnil-Patry itself hedges and clumps of trees somewhat limited visibility. South of Brouay the country was typical bocage. Its dominant feature was the hedgerow...Sturdy, high stone walls encased the ubiquitous orchards and numerous individual farmsteads, and wove their way through the villages, creating obstacles for the attacker. The villages, moreover, with their stout stone buildings and narrow thoroughfares, represented formidable strongholds...Finally, the Caen-Cherbourg rail line ran south of the Route National(e) 13...with its many high embankments the rail line posed an additional obstacle, particularly to armor.7

The Battle

At 0300 on 8 June, the 1st Battalion of the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment (I./26 SS PzGren Rgt) left their positions at Cheux to advance on Norrey, with No.2 Company on the left, No. 3 Company on the right, and No. 1 Company echeloned to the far right rear. Not waiting for their tank support to arrive, and with the noise of their armoured personnel carriers having alerted the Canadians to their presence, they bypassed St. Manvieu and continued on until No.3 Company came under fire of a small covering force of Reginas. The outposts withdrew to rejoin "B" and "C" companies in Norrey, and heavy Canadian artillery fire was now called down as the Germans crossed the Mue. No. 3 Company went to ground on the rising slope while No. 2 Company managed to reach the rail line to the northwest and clear a group of houses in the hamlet of Cardonville. By now No. 1 and No. 3 Company were both pinned down by heavy fire and throughout the day, Canadian artillery and mortars prevented the Germans from moving any further.8

The Regina Rifle War Diary described the assault as a minor "counter-attack." In fact, the Reginas had easily repulsed an enemy battalion hoping to force a breakthrough in a poorly executed operation. The assault had been undertaken without artillery support even though no efforts were made to surprise the entrenched opponents. Hubert Meyer insists that this serious failure was due to Canadian radio interference which prevented the forward observer from communicating with his battery. Without the suppressing effect of artillery, the Hitlerjugend were quite vulnerable to Canadian fire. The 1st Battalion was continuously pounded by Canadian artillery throughout the attack, and the pinned-down German companies waited out the storm in forced silence. The assault cost the battalion approximately twenty-five casualties, while the Canadians suffered minimal losses. That the Regina Rifle Regiment was unaware of the full extent of the attack's scale is a testament to their success. The Hitlerjugend had failed in their first push.9

The second push was scheduled for that night. Just before dark, the Panther-equipped battalion of the Panzer Regiment was sent in the direction of the Caen-Bayeux road carrying soldiers of the 25th Regiment's reconnaissance company to Rots. The Regina Rifles' outposts were overrun and a number of Panzerkampfwagen V tanks came within 300 yards of the Canadian battalion headquarters in Bretteville, where they lobbed shells and machinegun fire into the village.10

No. 4 Company of the 12th SS Panzer Regiment advanced from their positions at Franqueville on the right, with No. 1 Company on the left. They were led by No. 15 Company of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the reconnaissance company, who replaced them in the front line with his engineer company, as all other available foot soldiers in the regiment were committed to the front line with nothing in reserve. A battery of self-propelled 10.5cm "Wespe" artillery accompanied the battle group, and the attack was coordinated with the 1st Battalion of the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, who was to assault from St. Manvieu. Regimental commander Kurt Meyer personally led the attack in his motorcycle sidecar.11

The battle group was sighted by the Regina Rifles just before 2200hrs and a section of the Carrier Platoon was deployed to the south of Bretteville, joined by a section of Vickers machine guns from No. 4 Platoon of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa; they were ordered to engage the Germans and delay their advance.12

The Reginas were in place just to the south of the Caen-Bayeux highway, and the Vickers guns to the north, when the lead vehicles began to descend a gentle slope in the road 300 yards outside of Bretteville.

(T)he attackers struck a wall of anti-tank and machine gun fire. The tanks of both companies halted; with their powerful 75mm guns they hosed the entrance to the village with high explosive shells, supported by the battery of 105mm self-propelled artillery. The Panthers of the 4th Company then made a wild dash towards their objective.

The battle that followed was utterly murderous, and, at times, dominated by indescribable confusion; it would last through the early morning hours. Racing forward to the eastern fringe of Bretteville, the 4th Company was again sprayed by vicious enemy anti-tank fire. The Panther of the company commander received a direct hit and burst into flames. The SS riflemen, exposed to a furious mélange of small arms fire from infantry of the Regina Rifles ("A" Company) entrenched about the village, dismounted and attempted to work their way forward.13

SS-Hauptsturmführer Horst von Büttner had been among the first to die in the exchange; the commander of the reconnaissance company had been riding in the turret of the lead tank when anti-tank fire struck the vehicle. Meyer's motorcycle was also hit, and his driver mortally wounded, but he escaped with minor burns when the gas tank caught fire. In the meanwhile, the Canadian perimeter positions fought for about thirty minutes before a few survivors managed to escape to rejoin "B" Company of the Reginas.14

The Hitlerjugend attempted to shift the attack towards the south, but other tanks were ignited by the accurate artillery fire. Tanks from the 4th Panzer Company then attempted to churn their way into the eastern edge of Bretteville, but anti-tank fire destroyed the command tank, and the infantry dismounted to storm forward on foot. The Germans were taken aback by the ferocity of the Canadian response. "We were surprised by heavy anti-tank weapons." Due to the intense small arms fire, the small numbers of infantry could not press the attack and went to ground. The Kampfgruppe had shattered the Reginas' outer defenses — "several carriers were knocked out and their position overrun," but before assaulting Bretteville itself, the German armour shelled the village at a distance of about 300 yards. This continued for approximately half an hour before the Panthers again ventured forward.15

Near midnight, two of the Panthers entered Bretteville, and one approached battalion HQ, where it was knocked out by three PIAT hits.

It was a wild night's work. Supported by 6-pounders of the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment...the Reginas stood off the attack. A passage from the account given by Lt.-Col. Matheson to the division's Historical Officer is well worth quoting: "Altogether 22 Panthers circled about Battalion HQ and A Company's position during the night, and it is hard to picture the confusion which existed. Contact with all but D Company was lost. Fires and flares lit up the area, and the enemy several times appeared to be convinced that opposition had ceased. A foolhardy German despatch rider rode through Bretteville on a captured Canadian motorcycle, only to be brought down by the CO's Sten gun. Some time later a German officer drove his Volkswagen up before Battalion HQ, dismounted and gazed about for a few seconds, until an excited PIAT gunner let fly with a bomb, which hit him squarely." Both the 6-pounder, firing the new "discarding sabot" ammunition, and the PIAT showed themselves formidable opponents for the Panther. Lt.-Col. Matheson computed the night's score in enemy tanks at five Panthers and one Czech light tank knocked out. Two Panthers and the light tank fell victims to the PIAT. The Germans say they lost six Panthers.

Shortly before first light on the morning of 9 June Meyer pulled his defeated Panthers back to the vicinity of Rots. He himself attributed the failure to the firm hold we had established on Norrey, which served to split the attack and prevent the cooperation between the tanks and the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment which had been planned.16

Above: Destroyed Panzerkampfwagen V "Panther" tank in Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse

Left: PIAT anti-tank gunners of The Regina Rifle Regiment who knocked out a German PzKpfw V Panther tank thirty yards from Battalion Headquarters, Bretteville-l’Orgeuilleuse, France, 8 June 1944. (L-R): Riflemen Joe E. Lapointe and Gil A. Carnie, Lance-Corporal Clarence V. Hewitt. Lapointe was awarded the Military Medal for this action. (Library and Archives Canada photo and caption)

When it was realized the attack was faltering, the 1st Panzer Company was ordered to bypass Bretteville to the south, circle north, and attack again from the southwest, but anti-tank fire and the loss of several more Panthers forced the company to break off this maneuver. In the early morning of 9 June, the surviving German tanks withdrew towards high ground near Rots. The cost of the attack had been 12 dead and 30 wounded in the Panzer Regiment, and 19 dead, 16 wounded and 9 missing from the reconnaissance company. The 1st Company of the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, covering Rots, also suffered losses to tank and artillery fire.17

Counter-Attack at Norrey

At 0900 on 9 June, No. 3 Company of the 12th Panzer Regiment was relieved in the line by a detachment of Panzerkampfwagen IVs, which permitted it to move back through Rots to la Villeneuve, where they received new orders: to attack Norrey-en-Bessin with infantry from I./26 PzGren Rgt and elements of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. There would be no artillery support and instead "surprise" would be relied upon. It was still considered crucial to retake the villages held by the Canadians from which a proposed counter-attack on the Allied landing beaches would jump off from. The attack started just after 1230hrs, when twelve Panther tanks moved out in a single line at right-angles to the railway embankment.

The company was led by Hauptmann Luedemann, as the commander, Oberststurmfuehrer von Ribbentrop, had been wounded earlier. Though von Ribbentrop merely watched from the rear area along with Max Wuensche, he had recommended that the company drive at high speeds in a broad front — only stopping to fire their 75-mm guns. Luedemann followed Ribbentrop's advice, and the infantry were left far behind. As the Panthers approached the village, not yet facing any enemy fire, Luedemann ordered the company to swing left. The five tanks of the 3rd section hugging the rail embankment were forced to speed past the 2nd section in order to keep a solid line of tanks facing Norrey. The four tanks of the 1st section had by this point slowed to form a reserve. Although the order to swing left, presenting the Panther's thicker frontal armour to the Canadian defenders in Norrey, was an understandable action, it had consequences that the Hitlerjugend had not anticipated.

Nine Sherman tanks including several "Fireflys" equipped with the 17-pounder, were being moved towards the front to reinforce the Reginas' position in Norrey. As the tanks, from the Elgin Regiment, were making a detour in front of the village when they spotted the advancing Panthers. Catastrophically for the 3rd Panzer Company, the swing to the left, though protecting them from the 6-pounders in Norrey, exposed their flanks to the Shermans at not more than 1000 metres distance. The Canadian tanks deployed in a straight line and opened fire. A "Firefly" commanded by Lieutenant Henry hit the tank nearest the rail-line first. Adolf Morawetz thought he had struck a mine; "after a dull bang and shaking, as if the tracks had been ripped off, the tank came to a standstill." After another bang, the ammunition for the MG-42 ignited and the Panther burst into flames. Before Morawetz desperately attempted to open the hatch he had just closed, he looked through his periscope and watched as the neighbouring Panther exploded — throwing the turret into the air. Morawetz survived, but his tank and crew had been destroyed. Six other Panthers were quickly dispatched in the next four minutes. The survivors, including the badly burned crews who had bailed out of their destroyed tanks, fled back towards the underpass. The infantry were forced to join the men of the 2nd Company under the bridge, as an artillery barrage began to pound the area inflicting heavy casualties. The converging attack of the 1st Battalion of the 25th Panzer Grenadiers never materialized. The assault was a complete and total failure.18

"B" Company of the Regina Rifles had withstood another attack, aided by the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment on the left, and the 1st Hussars on their right.19 A history of the 12th SS notes that of 12 tanks participating, seven were destroyed, 18 men killed, and an equal number wounded.20

War Crimes

After the battle, the bodies of thirteen Canadians were discovered near Bretteville showing evidence of having been executed after capture; nine from the Regina Rifles and four from the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa. The murders were not fully investigated; they appeared to have been shot by machine-pistols close to the battlefield where they were captured, shot at point-blank range with pistols or machine-pistols. Two Canadians were also captured in the fighting at Norrey on 9 June; Rifleman L.W. Lee and Rifleman Ernest Gilbank; cut off from the rest of the Reginas while on outpost duty, they were picked up by dismounted tank crews after the successful ambush of No. 3 Company of the 12th Panzer Regiment. They were taken back to the railway embankment, interrogated by an English-speaking officer, and both were suddenly shot - Gilbank three times in the stomach and once fatally in the head, and Lee in the groin. An artillery barrage intervened before the officer could ensure Lee was dead; he survived to escape back to Canadian lines to report the incident.21

Aftermath

A last attempt to retake Norrey was made by the only uncommitted infantry left available to the 12th SS Panzer Division - the 12th SS Engineer Battalion. Ordered to assault at dawn on 10 June, without preliminary bombardment, they gathered in dakness and passed through the 1st Battalion of the 25th Panzergrenadier Regiment at 0500hrs, not firing a shot, moving up the gentle slope from the Mue until hit by artillery and mortars. Once again, the attackers were spurred on into a headlong rush for their objectives, and some of them made it to a sunken road despite the shelling and small arms fire, where they returned fire. Ritterkreuzträger (Knight's Cross holder) Oberleutnant Otto Toll, commanding No. 1 Company, sensed a lull in the firing and attempted to move forward again but machine gun fire blunted the attack quickly, and the sunken road collected with wounded, including Toll, who bled to death. The engineers were beaten back by 1000hrs with 28 dead, 42 wounded and 10 missing.22

Battle Honour

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Bretteville l'Orgueilleuse" for participation in these actions:

Image:3gif7bde.gif 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Regina Rifle 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.125

  2. Ibid, p.126

  3. Haller, Oliver "The Defeat of the 12th SS 7-10 June 1944" Canadian Military History Quarterly, Volume 3, Issue 1

  4. Luther, Craig W.H. Blood and Honor: The History of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth", 1943-1945 (R. James Bender Publishing, San Jose, CA, 1987) ISBN 0-912138-38-6 p.152

  5. Margolian, Howard Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON, 1998) ISBN 0-8020-4213-9 pp.103

  6. Haller, Ibid

  7. Luther, Ibid, p.153

  8. Ibid, p.156

  9. Haller, Ibid

  10. Stacey, Ibid, p.137

  11. Luther, Ibid, p.163

  12. Margolian, Ibid, p.104

  13. Luther, Ibid, p.164

  14. Margolian, Ibid, p.105

  15. Haller, Ibid

  16. Stacey, Ibid, p.137

  17. Luther, Ibid, pp.167-168

  18. Haller, Ibid

  19. Margolian, Ibid, p.107

  20. Luther, Ibid, p.175

  21. Margolian, pp.103-109
     

   

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