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

 

Falaise

Falaise was a Battle Honour granted to units who participated in the actions to close the Falaise Gap during the Battle of Normandy, the first phase of the North-West Europe campaign of the Second World War. Several of these actions were also recognized by the grant of a separate Battle Honour to the units involved.

Background

The capture of Caen on 9 July 1944 brought to a close the initial phase of the Battle of Normandy. General Bernard Montgomery, commanding all Allied land forces in the bridgehead, turned his attention to the next phase of operations. In his opinion, further offensive action should include the destruction of German armour, the capture of Falaise, and the encirclement and destruction of the German 7th Army by both the U.S. 1st Army and British 2nd Army.1 The offensive operations at Verrières Ridge proceeded as part of the overall plan to expand the bridgehead. Operation SPRING on 25 July failed to take the ridge while the Americans began Operation COBRA on the same day. The U.S. Army secured St. Lô and began blasting their way out of the hedgerow country, advancing 40 miles in five days to take Avranches. A Canadian Army official historical summary noted that the "tremendous operations which were now beginning are second in importance to none in the whole history of the war."2

 

The Normandy bridgehead and front line, as it developed between 16 June 1944 (ten days after D-Day, or D+10) and 24 July 1944.

On 25 July 1944 major offensives opened on both the western (U.S.) and eastern (British-Canadian) sectors of the bridgehead.

With American forces streaming west into Brittany and south past Mayenne and Laval, the German situation in Normandy became desperate. British forces continued their attacks to keep pressure on the Germans, attacking toward Vire on 1 August and to the Orne on the 7th.3 General Montgomery's plan for the battle in Normandy, laid out in April 1944 (before the landings) envisioned a drawing of German armour to the British front at Caen while U.S. forces took the Cherbourg peninsula, then wheeled eastwards. By the end of July the preconditions for the great wheel to the east seemed to be in place.4

The British breakout battle began with Operation BLUECOAT on 30 July. The 30th Corps began the operation with attacks on a three-brigade front, 8th Corps joining in an hour later while U.S. forces on their flank continued to attack towards Vire. The operation continued until 4 August and succeeded in pushing the British line several kilometres to the south.5

Operation TOTALIZE

Success by both the British and Americans created the opportunity for decisive action by 1st Canadian Army. By the end of July, the armoured divisions that had garrisoned the right of the German line at Caen and continued to bar the way to Falaise began moving away from the British front. By 7 August 1944 only a single panzer division remained opposite the Canadians, following the transfer of the 1st SS, 2nd, 9th SS, and 21st Panzer Divisions. While three new infantry divisions entered the line, and with them formidable anti-tank weapons, "to break through these positions was now a more practicable operation of war."6 General H.D.G. Crerar, commanding First Canadian Army, outlined a "basic tactical plan" that called for surprise. While the Germans would certainly be expecting an attack on the Canadian front, he hoped to secure surprise by timing and method of attack.7

See also article on Falaise Road

Operation TOTALIZE, launched on 7 August 1944, was planned by 2nd Canadian Corps to achieve the maximum surprise desired by Crerar. Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, commanding the corps, utilized a number of unique tactical innovations in the initial attack. He planned the breakthrough battle to occur at night, and mounted the infantry in armoured vehicles, including halftracks, universal carriers, and for the first time, fully-tracked armoured personnel carriers, which he created by stripping the armament from self-propelled guns. Direction finding for the attacking columns was aided by the use of tracers firing on fixed lines, special navigation parties, coloured star shells and the use of artificial moonlight (searchlights bouncing off of low-lying clouds).8

TOTALIZE was a two-phase attack, with heavy bomber support preceding each phase. The initial, night, assault was supported by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force supported the second, daylight, follow-up attacks. The Army Commander noted the anniversary; 8 August 1918 had been described by General Ludendorff as the "black day of the German Army" as it marked the beginning of the final 100 day offensive that finished the First World War. There was hope that a similar chain of events might be set off as the Battle of Normandy drew to a close.

Phase I commenced half an hour before midnight on 7/8 August. The 51st (Highland) Division and the 2nd Canadian Division attacked in four columns each, each column consisting of a squadron of tanks in the lead, followed by flail and AVRE vehicles, a mounted infantry battalion in armoured carriers, and additional tanks following behind. The columns by-passed strong-points while infantry on foot mopped up.

The wisdom of General Simonds' plan of attack was more than vindicated by the event. The armoured columns tore through the Germans' front positions, and in the early hours of the morning they were fighting in the vicinity of their first objectives far to the rear and had almost cleared them. Thanks to the armoured carriers and the degree of surprise that had been attained, the infantry had been carried through the German fire zone and deposited close to these objectives with very few casualties. Meanwhile, the marching battalions moving up in rear had entered the villages of the enemy's front line, those little hamlets with the bloodstained names - May-sur-Orne, Fontenay-le-Marmion, Roquancourt, Tilly-la-Campagne. By following close behind the barrages put down by our guns, they got into them with comparatively little trouble, but some very bitter fighting followed.9

Phase I had achieved its goal of breaking through German defences north of Falaise, and did so "after suffering remarkably few casualties in men and equipment, especially by the bloody standards of Normandy."10

Phase II was delivered against the next line of German defences, sitting on high ground five miles further on, beginning at 13:55hrs on 8 August 1944. The attack was marred by short-bombing by U.S.A.A.F. heavy bombers, and several casualties were caused among Canadian and Polish troops, including the tactical headquarters of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Major-General Rod Keller, the General Officer Commanding the division, was wounded and evacuated. Brigadier R.A. Wyman, commanding the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, was also wounded while conducting personal reconnaissance during the day.

The Polish armour passed through the 51st (Highland) Division while the 4th (Canadian) Armoured Division passed through the 2nd Canadian Division, taking the high ground that flanked the Caen-Falaise road. The Canadian Army's official historian concluded that "Had the two armoured divisions not been fighting their first real battle, they might perhaps have got further on this day. As it was, they did not attain the final objectives and further advance had to be deferred until the morrow."11

General Simonds was gambling for high stakes in Operation Totalize. So far, his gamble was paying off. His night attack had taken the enemy by surprise and had propelled 60,000 combat troops eight miles deep into enemy territory in the early hours of 8 August. But the ill-fated bombing raid later on the same afternoon that was to initiate the next phase of the attack backfired. It failed to subdue the Germans and, in fact, caused heavy casualties and confusion among the unfortunate Allied soldiers caught by "friendly bombs."

The 1st Polish and 4th Canadian Armoured Divisions - fresh to Normandy and totally unrehearsed in the battle plan - were plunged into exactly the situation Simonds had tried so hard to prevent. They clashed head-on in broad daylight, with no support, against a well-entrenched and heavily armed enemy. That they managed to advance at all was a great achievement. For one infantry battalion, the Canadian Argylls, it was a superb effort, ranking in tactical brilliance and raw courage with the best in any war. For another armoured unit, the British Columbia Regiment (BCR), it was a gallant effort, but one of the most disastrous of the war.12

The Germans relocated to new defensive positions, and the continued assault on 9 August made little progress. In one notable instance, the 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Regiment) became confused and navigated to the wrong hill. the navigation error was compounded by the inability to contact supporting artillery, and as the sun rose, the exposed BCR was blasted apart by superior German firepower. The regiment lost 47 tanks, various other vehicles, and 240 men including the commanding officer.13

See also article on Quesnay Wood

Operation TOTALIZE had driven eight miles toward Falaise, achieving the objective of breaking through the German front. Falaise itself lay eight miles distant. On the night of 10-11 August 1944, an attack was mounted against Quesnay Wood by the 8th Canadian Brigade in order to push German units back from the Caen-Falaise road, but this assault was driven back with heavy casualties. "It was apparent that it would be necessary to mount another deliberate attack with powerful support to break through the new enemy gun-screen."14

Counter-attack at Mortain

As the Canadians attempted to advance their front and emulate the successes of the Americans and British to their right, the Germans engaged in offensive operations of their own. In an effort to cut the communication and supply lines of the U.S. 3rd Army that was advancing south and west past Avranches, Hitler personally directed that a German armoured counter-attack be mounted west across the Cotentin peninsula, beginning east of Mortain and aimed at Avranches.15

The attack was the most powerful yet attempted by the Germans in the west, commencing on 6 August with five panzer divisions on a front between Mortain and Vire. The attack saw little success, yet the Germans "continued to pour in (their) forces recklessly in spite of very heavy losses."16 As the Germans continued to deploy their mobile forces in the west against the Americans, the prospect of taking Falaise, and of cutting off the bulk of the German armies in France, became more likely.

See also article on Clair Tison

As the main follow up operation to TOTALIZE was planned, the 2nd Canadian Division engaged in subsidiary operations on the right flank of 1st Canadian Army aimed at clearing out the wooded areas west of the River Laize and linking up with the British 2nd Army, which was advancing across the Orne River.17

The Germans were already pulling back from their failed Mortain counter-offensive, beginning on 12 August. A gap was created between Falaise and Argentan through which retreating elements of the enemy armies were beginning to move, and five different national forces were moving to close the gap.

Patton's XV Corps with the 2nd French Armoured was nearing Argentan, fifteen miles south of Falaise; the British were squeezing the retreating enemy units from behind, forcing them more and more tightly into the narrow escape hatch. On the ridge overlooking the Laison River, the Canadians and Poles were exerting pressure from the north and north-east. They were eight miles from Falaise.

A mere twenty-five miles separated the two jaws of the trap.18

 On the same day, two brigades of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division were ordered to mount a reconnaissance in force toward the town of Clair Tizon, with intermediate objectives of Barbery and Moulines. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry's attack on Barbery was designated the main effort for the entire 2nd Canadian Corps, and at a cost of 20 dead and 100 wounded seized Barbery.

The 4th Brigade passed through to take Moulines in hand-to-hand fighting. After midnight on 13 August 1944, the Calgary Highlanders continued on to the final objective at Clair Tizon, taking the vital bridge over the Laize in a daring night-time action, passing through enemy lines. Le Régiment de Maisonneuve finished the attack with an under-strength company.

In darkness, fresh troops from the 6th Brigade waded across the river and secured the high ground. Falaise was now barely six miles south-west of them. The end was in sight. Second Canadian Division was well south of any other Canadian or British unit.19


Sherman tanks of The Fort Garry Horse near Brettevile-le-Rabet, France on 14 August 1944. LAC photo.

Operation TRACTABLE

See also article on The Laison

The final effort to break through to Falaise bore great similarities to Operation TOTALIZE. Named TRACTABLE, the operation was conducted in two phases and utilized great columns of armour and mounted infantry. Instead of using the cover of darkness, front and flanks of the attack were screened by smoke. Two columns were used in the first phase, each column with two infantry brigades and an armoured brigade. The formations involved were the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. To maintain surprise, there was no preliminary bombardment. Fighter bombers attacked for 20 minutes before H-Hour, and the units crossed the start line at noon on 14 August 1944 as artillery laid great quantities of smoke across the front and flanks.

The attack was successful, but costly. Many tanks were lost and the commander of the 4th Armoured Brigade was killed. A copy of the operation order found its way into German hands in the confusion of the battle, allowing the Germans to deploy anti-tank weapons to vulnerable positions. The second phase of the operation was marred by another short-bombing incident, this time by R.A.F. planes, who nonetheless provided material support to the attack despite the error. By the evening of 14 August, Canadian troops were on the heights above Falaise and by the morning of the 15th the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions were being directed to complete the capture of the town itself.20 The command to take Falaise actually represented a change in plans, as British divisions had been closer to Falaise, but were blocked by stubborn German resistance.

It was certainly a good command decision by Montgomery and illustrated his hands-on grip of the action, although critics might carp that he should have planned it that way at the outset and allocated to Crerar the resources necessary to do the job. Be that as it may, the problem was now in Crerar's hands and the Canadians would have to adjust in mid-battle. They would also have to do it with the formations that they had. Simonds, the Corps Commander responsible, decided to use the 3rd Infantry and 4th Armoured Divisions in the original left-hook role north-east of Falaise while 2nd Infantry Division was assigned the difficult job of taking that city - the birthplace of William the Conqueror.21

The 2nd Division entered the town on the 16th, the same day that Point 159, the heights above the town, fell. By noon on 17 August Falaise was cleared, the last strongpoints around a monastery holding out until midnight. Entire streets had been reduced to rubble.22


Sherman tank of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment) with infantry of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal in Falaise on 17 August 1944.  LAC photo.


Pte. A. B. Lockhart and Pte. W. H. Campbell amidst the wreckage of Falaise in August 1944.
Lockhart wears despatch riders breeches and boots while Campbell has what appears to be a French medal on his shirt and a captured
German holster on his belt. His scarf is a standard issue camouflaged face veil. LAC Photo

See also article on Chambois

As the 1st Canadian Army drove south, the other Allied armies in Normandy were continuing their own operations. The U.S. 1st Army drove forward at the Germans attacking toward Mortain, pushing them back and establishing contact with the British 2nd Army. The U.S. 3rd Army continued a rapid drive to the east, through Le Mans, and then looping north again towards the rear of the German divisions facing the Canadians. By 13 August Patton's lead forces were approaching Argentan, about fifteen miles south-east of Falaise.

The result was that the enemy's forces were now in a "pocket" threatened by complete encirclement as the Canadian jaw of the pincers cut south through Falaise and the American jaw moved northward from the vicinity of Argentan. Realizing, somewhat belatedly, the extreme danger to which he was exposed, the enemy pulled back a major part of his armour to hold the American advance, and its northward progress was greatly slowed, though to the east it continued unchecked. The burning question now was whether the Germans could withdraw their forces, or important parts of them, before the jaws of the trap closed. Eastward movement out of the area had certainly been in progress for some days, but vast numbers of Germans remained in jeopardy.23

On 13 August 1944, a day before TRACTABLE and the final effort to push to Falaise, the Germans had abandoned their failed Mortain offensive. As TRACTABLE closed four days later,  the Allies were driving hard to close the "Falaise Gap" - encircling the German forces in Normandy in an effort to destroy them.

The 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division occupied Turn on the night of 17-18 August, as well as the high ground to the north, cutting one of the few good roads the Germans had available to effect their withdrawal from the pocket. The 4th Armoured were relieved by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, and General Montgomery directed the 1st Polish Armoured Division on Chambois, south-east of Trun. They carried on over broken ground despite German resistance from inside and outside the pocket. By the 18th, American troops were two miles from Chambois in the Forest of Gouffern, while the Poles were themselves within striking distance.

The Germans, desperate to escape, had no choice but to resort to mass road movement by daylight despite Allied air superiority. As the gap through which they could safely retreat shrank, targets of opportunity for the air forces grew. Artillery fire was concentrated on the German escape routes. Hundreds of men and vehicles fell victim to fire, but desperate fighting continued around Trun and Chambois. On the evening of 19 August, the Poles finally made contact with the U.S. 90th Infantry Division, technically closing the Falaise Gap, but "the condition remained critical for some time thereafter; it could not be asserted that there was a continuous established line containing the enemy, and at times the situation at various points was far from clear."24 The Poles were in fact cut off from the rest of 1st Canadian Army for a time, and on 21 August an air-lift of ammunition had to be provided to them. They nicknamed their position on Hill 262 Maczuga (the Mace) and held out with the assistance of the Canadian Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA).25

During this period of extraordinarily savage and chaotic fighting, there were certainly many fierce encounters of which no full account was ever put on paper. But some incidents of those desperate days have been clearly recorded and serve to give us some idea of what was passing in the whole area about the Gap. We know, for instance, that on 20 August two squadrons of the 18th Canadian Armoured Car Regiment (12th Manitoba Dragoons), forsaking their normal role of reconnaissance, devoted themselves to working havoc among the struggling enemy, and continued to do so until their ammunition was exhausted, killing hundreds and capturing "well over a thousand".26

See also article on St. Lambert-sur-Dives

One of the "fierce encounters" of note was at St. Lambert-sur-Dives. The South Alberta Regiment was the armoured reconnaissance regiment of the 4th Armoured Division, though in practice the regiment was equipped with Sherman tanks identically to the three armoured regiments of the division and often performed tasks other than reconnaissance. Their "C" Squadron under Major David Currie, with a company of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, advanced on St. Lambert. German fire knocked out several tanks and desperate Germans continued to pour through the gap. Currie and his battle group continued on and on the morning of 19 August had captured most of St. Lambert, knocking out two tanks. At 11:00hrs a German convoy was brought under fire and destroyed. The rest of the SAR moved up into supporting positions and artillery observers and the air forces joined in the fighting. German shell and mortar fire intensified cutting off "B" Squadron, but at 18:00hrs Currie's force was reinforced inside St. Lambert. German attacks intensified. By dusk on the 20th, seven enemy tanks, twelve 88mm guns, and forty trucks had been destroyed, 300 enemy soldiers killed, 500 wounded and over 2,000 captured. All of Currie's officers had been killed or wounded in the course of three days fighting, but St. Lambert was finally taken. Currie received the Victoria Cross, the first of the campaign in Northwest Europe and the only one approved for a soldier of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps.27


One of the most well-known Canadian images of the Second World War. Major David V. Currie, third from left with pistol in hand, oversees a German surrender during the fighting at St. Lambert on 19 August 1944. Currie commanded a battle group made up of tanks from his own 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment) and infantry of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's). It is often said that this photo is the nearest that war photographers of the Second World War came to capturing a man in the act of earning the Victoria Cross. Currie was the only soldier of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps to be awarded the VC. LAC Photo

The End

On 20 August, the 4th Armoured Brigade was belatedly moved south, aiding the Poles on Maczuga and at last sealing the Gap by moving into positions behind the Trun-Chambois road.

Why (Major-General Kitching) had not ordered this last mission two days before is a mystery and one which probably contributed to his later sacking. Partly due to this tardiness the Germans would later claim that up to 40% of their troops who were still in the pocket on the 20th managed to make their escape. But thousands did not.28

Canadian tanks reached the Poles on the afternoon of the 21st. The Falaise Gap was truly closed at last. The German 7th Army had been shattered, and so many of their soldiers had been killed in the Falaise Gap that bodies lay unburied for weeks. Total casualties for Canadian troops from 7 August to 23 August (from the start of TOTALIZE to the end of the fighting to seal the Falaise Gap) were 389 officers and 5,795 other ranks killed, died of wounds, wounded and missing. Prisoners taken on the front of 1st Canadian Army totalled 18,381. There was no attempt to tabulate the number of German dead.29

The Canadian official historian noted that a "(i)t had been a great victory."30 Other historians later criticized the way in which the victory had been won:

Of course, it was not (the last great battle of the war): and to make it such would have required an adventurousness and flexibility quite alien to most Allied armies. Among the Canadians, generally speaking, the fault lay not with the regimental soldier or his officers, but in the slow, deliberate British doctrine, founded 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...

Tactical and operational weaknesses were compounded at the strategic level, where Montgomery still controlled the ground battle. Arbitrary boundaries, inflexible procedures, and monumental egos (of Bradley and Patton, as well as Montgomery) excused - or prevented - the Americans from pressing north to meet Crerar's men and close the pocket. Tens of thousands of Germans fled eastward, out of its slowly narrowing mouth, ravaged and decimated as they went by the awesome power of tactical air forces.31

John English was even more strident in his criticism:

The operational, strategic and operational consequences of a Canadian triumph in Normandy are impossible to know. Had the First Canadian Army succeeded in its 8 August drive to Falaise (webmaster's note: Operation TOTALIZE)...it is not unreasonable to presume that it might have, as in 1918, spearheaded the British Army's advance into the heartland of Europe. The tragedy was that on the morning of the 26th anniversary of the Battle of Amiens, Simonds's corps had cleanly sliced open the German defensive zone without realizing it...

In very large measure, responsibility for the relatively lacklustre showing of Canadian arms in Normandy must be laid at the feet of division commanders....At best, Simonds's immediate subordinates were mediocre performers. Even at brigade level, with the possible exception of Foster, a lack of tactical judgement was often evident.32

More recent research by Brian Reid is slightly more forgiving, particularly with regards to TOTALIZE, and writes:

...TOTALIZE was successful, although it could and should have achieved more, more quickly. That it ultimately floundered on indecision and hesitation was due as much to cumbersome doctrine, inferior equipment and an unwieldy plan as it was to a few flawed commanders and the inability of the Allied air forces to follow through on their claims. However, it is indicative of the conditions under which the Allied armies fought in Normandy, that no one at the time thought that it was other than a successful operation of war.33

Battle Honours

The following units were awarded the Battle Honour "Falaise":

Image:2corpgif.gif II Canadian Corps

  • 12th Manitoba Dragoons

Image:2tankbde.gif 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars)

  • 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse)

  • 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment)

Image:2gif.gif 2nd Canadian Division

  • 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars)

  • The Toronto Scottish Regiment (MG)

Image:2gif4bde.gif 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Regiment of Canada

  • The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry

  • The Essex Scottish Regiment

Image:2gif5bde.gif 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada

  • Le Régiment de Maisonneuve

  • The Calgary Highlanders

Image:2gif6bde.gif 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal

  • The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada

  • The South Saskatchewan Regiment

Image:3gif.gif 3rd Canadian Division

  • 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars)

  • The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG)

Image:3gif7bde.gif 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles

  • The Regina Rifle Regiment

  • The Canadian Scottish Regiment

Image:3gif8bde.gif 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

  • Le Régiment de la Chaudière

  • The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment

Image:3gif9bde.gif 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Highland Light Infantry of Canada

  • The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders

  • The North Nova Scotia Highlanders

Image:4gif.gif 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division

  • 29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment)

  • The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor)

Image:4gif4bde.gif 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 21st Armoured Regiment (The Governor General's Foot Guards)

  • 22nd Armoured Regiment (The Grenadier Guards)

  • 28th Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Regiment)

Image:4gif10bde.gif 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Lincoln and Welland Regiment

  • The Algonquin Regiment

  • The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's)

Notes

  1. McKay, A. Donald Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 p.151

  2. 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.103

  3. Ibid, p. 105

  4. Ellis, L.F. Victory in the West: Volume I The Battle of Normandy (Queen's Printer, 1962 - reprint by The Naval and Military Press Ltd, Uckfield, East Sussex, UK, 2004) ISBN 1-845740-58-0 p.405

  5. Ford, Ken Falaise: Death of an Army (Osprey Publishing Ltd, Botley, Oxford, UK, 2005) ISBN 978-1-84176-626-3 pp.37-39

  6. Stacey, Ibid, pp.106-107

  7. Ibid, p.107

  8. McKay, Ibid, pp.165-166

  9. Stacey, Ibid, pp.113-114

  10. Reid, Brian. No Holding Back: Operation Totalize, Normandy, August 1944. (Robin Brass Studio, Toronto, ON, 2005) ISBN 1-896941-40-0 pp.359-360

  11. Stacey, Ibid, pp.114-115

  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.123

  13. Bechtold, Mike "Lost in Normandy: The Odyssey of Worthington Force 9 August 1944" Canadian Military History, Volume 19, Number 2, Spring 2010

  14. Stacey, Ibid, p.117

  15. Edwards, Roger Panzer: A Revolution in Warfare, 1939-1945 (Brockhampton Press, UK, 1998) ISBN 1-86019-8538 p.222

  16. Stacey, Ibid, p.117

  17. Ibid, p.118

  18. Whitaker, Ibid, pp.149

  19. Ibid, p..149-158

  20. Stacey, Ibid, pp.119-121

  21. McKay, Ibid, p.174

  22. Stacey, Ibid, p.121

  23. Ibid, pp.121-122

  24. Ibid, pp.123-126

  25. McKay, Ibid, p.179

  26. Stacey, Ibid, pp.126-127

  27. McKay, Ibid, pp.178-179

  28. Ibid, p.179

  29. Stacey, Ibid, p.133

  30. Ibid, p.133

  31. 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.304

  32. English, John A.  The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign (Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2009) ISBN 978-0-8117-3576-6 pp.238-239

  33. Reid, Ibid, p.366


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