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

►Ypres, 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

.
►Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Trasimene Line
►Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

►Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

►Gabbiano

1 Jul 44

►Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

►Tuori

5 Jul 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

►Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 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

 

Kapelsche Veer

Kapelsche Veer was a Battle Honour granted to units participating in an offensive operation on the River Maas during the winter stalemate of November 1944-February 1945. The action at Kapelsche Veer was the only major offensive action undertaken by Canadian forces in North-West during the period spent in the Nijmegen Salient.

Background

German planning for their Ardennes Offensive had included the possibility of a breakthrough along the front of the US 1st Army. Army Group "H" under Generalleutnant Kurt Student, opposite the Canadians, had planned to follow up in that event with an offensive of their own (under orders from Field Marshal von Runstedt, who ordered them to advance once the Ardennes forces had reached the Meuse River). The Maas would prove to be a difficult obstacle to cross, and one likely crossing point for them was at Kapelsche Veer. The island was a small German outpost on the river, located just 18 kilometres from Tilburg, the headquarters of 1st Canadian Army. On 21 Dec, the garrison on the island was increased to one company of infantry, with an advanced observation post linked to medium artillery, self-propelled guns and mortars north of the Maas.1 Allied troops had not occupied the island originally, thinking the terrain there could be dominated by fire instead.2

By the end of December, the prospects of a German offensive against 1st Canadian Army had diminished. The outpost at Kapelsche Veer was viewed as troublesome in light of the weakened condition of the Polish Armoured Division stationed on that sector of the front. An attack on 30 December 1944 by infantry of the Polish Armoured Division made little progress and cost 46 casualties for a gain of a handful of German prisoners from Parachute Division 6. Another attack a week later (Operation MOUSE) saw a temporary seizure of the harbour area but counterattacks pushed the Poles back with 120 casualties.

 

A third attack (Operation HORSE) ordered by the commander of I British Corps, Lieutenant General Crocker, saw 47 Commando Royal Marines attack on the night of 13-14 Jan 1945; this assault also faltered under high officer casualties and expenditure of ammunition. "To abandon the fight after three failures would be to concede superiority to the enemy, an example to the shaken Polish Division which could not be afforded. Crocker ordered the 4th Canadian Armoured Division to destroy the German position."3 Two other reasons were also given for the order; the post allowed the Germans to observe Allied movements, direct fire, and mount patrols into Allied positions south of the Maas, and it was also felt that a determined attack at Kapelsche Veer would draw attention away from the main offensive to be launched by 21st Army Group in Feb, in the Rhineland.4

Canadian Plans

The terrain surrounding Kapelsche Veer ("veer" translates as "harbour", and refers to a small ferry harbour) was a barren stretch of ground lying low and flat where the Maas branched into two channels; the wide Bergsche Maas to the north and Oude Maasje to the south. The island was five miles long and only one mile across at its widest point, tapering to 1000 yards wide at the eastern end. Dykes roughly twenty feet high and thirty feet wide protected the island's south side from the strong current; the dykes angled up at 45 degrees.

The 29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment) (SAR) had made contact with the enemy there in mid-Dec, before the sector was turned over to the Polish Armoured Division. Reports from SAR recce patrols that the Germans had established a post on the island were not believed.

The fourth assault on the outpost on Kapelsche Veer would be Operation ELEPHANT ("the size of the code-names escalating, it appears, in direct proportion to the size of the operations.")5 The operation involved two infantry battalions, a tank regiment, considerable artillery support, and comprised what the official historian described as "five icy days of thoroughly nasty fighting - the phrase of the 10th Brigade's historian is 'sheer misery'..."6

The operation would certainly be well supported; with 300 guns firing in support ranging from the SAR's 75mm guns on their Sherman Tanks to 5.5-inch Guns of the medium artillery regiments, it was to be the heaviest concentration of artillery ever allotted solely to the 10th Infantry Brigade for a single action. The operation would also rely on the element of surprise, despite three previous attacks signalling Allied intentions to take the island. The surprise would come from forgoing an initial barrage and attacking in daylight through a smoke screen. Flamethrowers were to be heavily used, including six Wasps (Universal Carriers armed with flame projectors) and 24 Lifebuoy units. Two companies would attack from the east and one company from the west, moving simultaneously to their objective - the harbour. Fifteen canoes would also be used to land infantry paddling from the eastern tip of the island to land astride the harbour, also making use of a smoke screen for cover, and preventing German reinforcement from the north bank.7

Preparations

Canadian preparations were extensive; General Vokes had requested a week to train for the operation. In that time, the Lincoln and Welland Regiment issued white snowsuits and conducted rehearsals on dykes similar to that on the island.

To assist the passage of armour onto the island, a bridge dubbed "Mad Whore's Dream" had been erected by the 9th Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers on the eastern end of the island, only 500 yards from the Germans and using a previously demolished bridge as a foundation. The engineers worked at night with equipment silently rafted into position.

The Germans, for their part, reinforced the garrison at Kapelsche Veer, which would number about 150 men of Number 10 Company, Parachute Regiment 17. The commander of the 6th Parachute Division was ordered by Generalleutnant Kurt Student to hold the island at all costs. The Germans constructed elaborate defences including underground positions in the dykes and well-site machine guns able to cover all approaches to the harbour with fire. In the week before ELEPHANT commenced, aggressive patrols were launched at night, sometimes triggering firefights with similar Canadian patrols.


Lincoln and Welland Regiment soldiers, equipped with new white snow smocks, train in the canoes they will use for their assault on Kapelsche Veer. LAC Photo 142423.

The Battle

26 January

A smoke barrage augmented by the use of smoke generators heralded the start of Operation ELEPHANT at 0715 on 26 Jan 1945. The right hand attack got underway at 0725, with "C" Company supported by four Wasps crossing the bridge, linking up with "A" Company who had crossed by Buffalo amphibious tractor a mile and a half to the east. The Wasps were too heavy to mount the dyke and the infantry had to push on alone. The objectives were two houses, codenamed by a Canadian staff officer GRAPES and RASPBERRY.

The canoe party also set off from the island near the "Dream", though an inch of ice on the river required them to haul the boats out over the ice to the water. Thoroughly wet and cold, the party was forced deep into the stream by the ice, where the smoke cover was less dense and dissipating due to a shift in the wind. The party came under fire from the north bank as it paddled to the harbour and several canoes were sunk. The survivors disembarked on the island about halfway to the objectives, but the 60 men had dwindled to just 15. German machine guns firing on fixed lines through the smoke met them on the top of the dyke, and attempts to return fire were ineffective owing to weapons frozen solid after their soaking in the canoes.


Lincoln and Welland soldiers in white snowsuits, after the battle at the Veer, Feb 1945. LAC Photo.

In the meantime, "A" Company pressed to within 30 yards of GRAPES before being repulsed by heavy fire. The Lifebuoy operators were especially vulnerable and the combination of 60 pounds of dead weight on their backs combined with the use of metal-cleated boots in the snow and ice resulted in all the flamethrower operators being killed. By 0945, "A" Company was stopped cold, and the survivors dug in on the dyke a few hundred yards from the objective. A heavy counter-attack drove them back further into "C" Company coming up behind them. "C" Company lost all its officers, and by 1130 the right-hand attack was all over. The remnants of "A" and "C" Companies were withdrawn from the island.

The left hand attack went well initially; "B" Company of the Lincoln and Wellands crossed to the island in Buffaloes and moved along the dyke under good smoke cover towards RASPBERRY until stopped by heavy fire. By noon the left hand attack was also over.

The South Albertas had provided indirect fire from one troop but played no further part in the morning's fighting. Brigadier Jefferson, commander of the 10th Brigade, ordered renewed attacks with the Lincoln and Welland continuing the advance on the left and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada taking over the attack on the right. Tanks of the South Albertas were ordered forward to support both attacks. While the "Dream" was considered suitable for tanks, getting tanks to support the left hand attack would require rafting them over, and 9 Field Squadron, RCE, was ordered to assemble materials to build a Class 40 raft on the bank of a subsidiary canal.

Two Stuart Tanks of the SAR crossed the "Dream" but found little traction on the dyketop and not enough room to turn around. The Argylls, now on the eastern end of the island, were under mortar fire from across the Maas. The pair of Stuarts spent the next two days providing fire support with their 37mm guns and machine guns, as well as using their armour to safely transport wounded soldiers and bring up ammunition and supplies to forward positions. At the west end of the island, the engineers found constructing the raft to be a very complicated and time-consuming process, exacerbated by the need to work in the water which was partially frozen. A German patrol and a sudden snow-storm on the night of 26-27 Jan also delayed the construction. Tank support for the Lincoln and Wellands would have to wait.

27 January

Attacks from both east and west on Kapelsche Veer on 27 Jan were beaten off by German automatic weapons fire and heavy mortar fire from across the Maas. The narrow dyke tops restricted movement to single platoons at a time; moving off the dykes was not possible due to the soft ground and snow. Artillery and tactical air support were seen to be useless in silencing the German positions which were well entrenched. All the Canadian Wasp flamethrower carriers had been bogged down and the devastation wrought on the Lifebuoy operators the day before left no volunteers to carry the weapons into action. The only option left was tanks.

The L&W attacking from the left got to within 300 yards of RASPBERRY but found German soldiers infiltrating along the north side of the dyke to get behind them and threaten to cut them off. The Argylls managed to get within 1000 yards of GRAPES with supporting fire from the machine guns of the two SAR Stuarts.

The German mortar fire was met with indirect fire from SAR Shermans and 25-pounder shells from the 15th Field Regiment, and the harbour itseld was attacked by a squadron of Spitfire aircraft during the day in addition to shelling. The Canadian artillery frustrated attempts to reinforce the garrison at Kapelsche Veer, but was not able to stop elements of the pioneer and anti-tank platoons of the 17th Parachute Regiment from crossing the Maas.

As work on the raft progressed during the day, at the eastern end of the island two Shermans successfully crossed the "Dream" (officially a Class 18 bridge, the two Shermans were a full 17 tons heavier than the bridge should have been able to bear, not counting the extra tracks welded to the tanks which increased the weight by several more tons) at 1500. The Shermans assisted the Argylls' Pioneer Platoon in removing mines from the dyke in preparation for a renewed infantry attack. At about the same time, the raft on the western end of the island was finished, and three Shermans were floated over to support the L&W.

28 January

The attacks were renewed at 0900 on 28 Jan, now with tank support. Rising temperatures turned ice into mud, and the second tank of the three on the left bogged down, blocking the passage of the tank behind it. The lead Sherman carried on towards RASPBERRY with the infantry, but was forced to stop when the infantry went to ground under heavy fire with heavy officer casualties.

The four tanks moving towards GRAPES made better progress, but the infantry were driven to ground by heavy automatic fire and mortars. The tanks fired at likely enemy positions until low on ammunition, then backed up to where the infantry was sheltering to resupply and move forward again.

Heavy mortar fire continued to punish the Canadians on both flanks, despite the heavy Canadian artillery fire that continued to rain down north of the Maas. The attacks faltered until 1400. A Wasp managed to move onto the dyke top, and after a miscommunication refused to stop among the leading infantry of the Argylls and made for GRAPES at speed. With the tanks providing cover fire, the Wasp bogged just short of GRAPES, managing a couple of shots from its flame gun.

One Sherman managed to find a spot on the dyke from where it could depress its weapons onto the north bank of the island, where it managed to inflict heavy casualties to a 25-man platoon of Parachute Regiment 17 that was stationed there, killing 17 and wounding 5 more. This feat by Trooper Albert Broadbent, commanding the ad hoc troop of four tanks, allowed the Argylls to close the range to GRAPES and finally seize the building.

The L&W on the left also seized RASPBERRY with the support of the single Sherman there during mid-afternoon; German infiltration from positions in the dyke so confused the infantry, however, that they withdrew at 1600 to regroup leaving the sole tank by itself. The Sherman stayed in position, firing in support of the Argylls whom the commander could make out to the east, but eventually he was forced to reverse down the dyke to get more ammunition. The commander, Lieutenant Ken Little, was killed by a German sniper as he directed his driver from the open turret hatch. As his crew brought his body back to the other tanks, it bogged down also, blocking the dyke completely.

By late afternoon, GRAPES and RASPBERRY were both in Canadian hands but the Germans were still present in a large number of tunnels. After dark, a counter-attack had both buildings back in German hands before midnight, forcing the Canadians back several hundred yards both east and west. The day's gains had been completely wiped out.

29 January

During the night of 28-29 Jan, the Canadians carried out reliefs in place. The direct fire support position, which had been code named ANNE, saw a changeover from "A" Squadron of the SAR to "C" Squadron. The tank crews on the island itself changed over also, as well as the infantry companies and artillery Forward Obervation Officers. At first light, German mortar fire that had been only sporadic during the night increased in intensity, and Canadian artillery responded in kind. By the end of the battle, the 15th Field Regiment had fired 14,000 rounds of 25-pounder ammunition, twice the original expected allotment, and they were only one of several field and medium regiments, as well as 4.2-inch mortars and the tanks of the SAR as well as the British Columbia Regiment, all of which provided fire support to ELEPHANT.

Renewed attacks on the two buildings at 0700 were met yet again by automatic and mortar fire. The effects of shelling and thawing left little snow on the island, and the tanks were hampered by the mud. All three Shermans on the left were by now bogged well and good, and on the right one Stuart was stuck in so badly that no other vehicle could move past it, though luckily the other three tanks were not trapped behind it. Engineers went forward with a bulldozer after attempts to move the tank by pushing it and even using High Explosive shells failed. It would take 18 hours to build a diversion around it.

In the meantime, at 1245, the attack on the right progressed forward, and two tanks supporting the Argylls as they took GRAPES one more time. Heavy German fire prevented movement west to RASPBERRY. On the left, the L&W were stopped cold and without tank support, though a German prisoner reported that only 70 paratroopers were left in the garrison, including 20 wounded men. By last light, German control of the island had been reduced to a few hundred yards surrounding RASPBERRY and the west side of the harbour. By now the Germans were also under direct fire from a pair of Crusader anti-aircraft tanks in addition to heavy artillery concentrations and tank fire from the island itself.

During the night, the diversion around the Stuart was completed on the right, and on the left another Sherman floated across to the island. One of the previously bogged Shermans also unstuck itself after an effort of several hours, and decided to go forward to assist mine-clearing by the L&W. The tank only made it a few feet before bogging again. German boats were seen on the river, though it was not clear if they were withdrawing or reinforcing. Canadian foot patrols were also made from GRAPES to RASPBERRY.

30 January

First light saw the two Shermans at GRAPES opening fire on what was left of RASPBERRY just 100 yards away down the dyke, and found that their Brownings had seen so much use during the battle that the barrels had been worn smooth. New guns had to be brought over, delaying further operations, and the Argylls did not move forward until 1115. They were quickly driven to ground by automatic weapons fire, and once on the ground were mortared from north of the Maas. Another attempt at 1500 to cross the 100 yards to RASPBERRY was also beaten back, and at 1530 the Germans respected a Red Cross flag that appeared as the Canadians went forward to pick up their wounded. A third attempt was supported by two more Shermans that had crossed the "Dream" and over the diversion past the Stuart. With four tanks in support firing 75mm HE and .30 calibre machine guns, the Germans were forced to call down smoke from their mortars to obscure the tank crews' vision - but too late, for the Argylls had taken RASPBERRY and searched desperately for an opening into the German tunnel complex. Unable to find it, they used demolition charges on every hole they found under the rubble, and turned to driving west the last few hundred yards to link up with the L&W.

The L&W, for their part, were unable to assist, with their three bogged Shermans blocking the fourth one in. The tanks supported the Argylls as best they could. The Argylls tried to advance past RASPBERRY but were driven back. One of the Shermans on the east side of the island tried to move forward of the infantry at 1800 just as light began to fail, and was stopped by a Panzerfaust; two of the crew were cut down by small arms as they bailed out.

The two houses had been taken, but for now, the two groups of Canadians were stopped short of each other.

31 January

During the night, one of the Shermans on the left managed to become unstuck, and the tank moved to the knocked out tank to prevent it from being used by the Germans as a bunker. The Sherman remained in position without infantry support all night, firing on Germans attempting to enter the knocked out tank. No other activity took place until first light on the 31st. Fresh tank crews replaced those in the vehicles and covered the Argylls, who managed this time to move the few hundred yards to link up with the L&W at 0800. It had been easy; the Germans had finally evacuated the garrison during the night. A handful of prisoners were all that was left, in addition to the odd mortar bomb lobbed from across the Maas.

The German withdrawal had probably been precipitated not by a change of heart by Student. On the 29th, he had passed command of Army Group "H" to General Johannes Blaskowitz. The commander at Kapelsche Veer, who had complained that Student would not give authority to withdraw, evidently obtained that permission from Blaskowitz.8

Controversy

The appointment of Major General Chis Vokes to command the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division proved controversial, as did his decision to undertake the operation. While Vokes was obligated to carry out the orders of his superior, Lieutenant General Crocker, it has been suggested that "If Vokes was...unsure about the prospect of success, he should have perhaps tried harder to call off the operation. His reluctance to do so, despite his qualms about the assault, may have been due to the fact that Operation ELEPHANT would be the first time he commanded 4th Division in battle and as the new boy he did not want to make waves." In fact, the idea for the canoe landing had been his, and after the war he claimed that his request to have canoes included in the operation "was a ploy to get the operation cancelled."9

Additionally, Graves points out in the SAR history that unit commanders of the SAR, L&W and Argylls were all absent during the planning of ELEPHANT. Lieutenant Colonel Wotherspoon of the SAR was in the rear at divisional battle school while his second-in-command led the regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cromb of the L&W had been granted home leave after five years of overseas service, and Vokes had relieved Lieutenant Colonel Dave Stewart of the Argylls when he protested the costly program of patrols. "When it comes to protesting orders or getting them changed, new or acting commanders don't have the influence that veterans do." The acting commanders of the units involved felt obliged to follow their orders without protest.10

The historian of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment felt that

the tactics of the day were the result of some very serious misconceptions which developed from an increasingly urgent need to capture a stubborn German stronghold of questionable military value. The results were tragic: the intial tactics employed were inappropriately based on surprise and speed, rather (than) the less spectacular, though tested principles which eventually led to the island's capture after five long days.11

Historian Terry Copp, however, made the following observations:

There is one other lesson that those who comment on the battle might wish to consider. Historians often assume that when things go wrong some alternate course of action would naturally have worked better. There is a good case to be made for a different operational plan for Kapelsche Veer, but can we be certain the idea of seizing the island was mistaken? What if the enemy had used Kapelsche Veer to launch an attack on the understrengthed Polish Division? On Jan.18 an entire battalion of the 7th Parachute Regt. crossed the far more formidable obstacle of the Rhine near Arnhem and captured the village of Zetten. By the time 49th West Riding Div., supported by Canadian tanks, had retaken the town they had suffered 220 casualties. Indeed, command decisions are rarely simple in war.12

Aftermath

The final enemy casualty toll was reported by Stacey as 145 Germans killed, 64 wounded, and 34 captured. The outpost had been established in part to provide battle inoculation for German replacements; the Canadian official historian noted wryly "The tough young paratroopers had received in the end a rather more severe lesson in the art of war than (General Kurt) Student had intended."13 The actual German losses, according to Graves, were revised to 64 killed and wounded, and 34 taken prisoner. The commander of Parachute Division 6 put his division's losses from mid-Dec to the end of Jan as about 300-400 serious casualties, with 100 more frost-bite cases.

Canadian casualties were 133, as follows:

  • Lincoln and Welland Regiment: 39 killed, 35 wounded

  • Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada: 15 killed, 35 wounded

  • South Alberta Regiment: 4 dead, 5 wounded

Previous assaults by the Poles and Royal Marines had cost 231 casualties, and so total Allied casualties in efforts to take the island added up to 364 killed and wounded men.14

After the battle at Kapelsche Veer, no further offensive operations were mounted by Canadian formations in the Nijmegen Salient, as planning had already long since been focused on the upcoming Operation VERITABLE and the fighting in the Battle of the Rhineland which commenced just 8 days after the Germans pulled back over the Maas.

Battle Honours

The following units were awarded the Battle Honour "Kapelsche Veer":

4th Canadian Division

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

  • The New Brunswick Rangers

 

10th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Lincoln and Welland Regiment

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

Further Reading

The most detailed account of the battle by far is in South Albertas: A Canadian Regiment at War by Donald Graves, which includes many photographs. Official histories of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment also have detailed accounts and a number of sketches, some reproduced in Graves' book. The book Brave Yesterdays is also probably a good source of information, and although the webmaster has access to a local copy, has not viewed it in some time.

There are a number of websites dealing with the battle; their accuracy of reporting is varied and most tend to report inaccurate casualty figures; a common error is reporting the total casualties for the Parachute Division 6 for Dec-Jan as being inflicted during the five days of fighting at Kapelsche Veer.

Notes

  1. Williams, Jeffery. The Long Left Flank: The Hard Fought Way to the Reich, 1944-45. (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., Toronto, ON, 1989) ISBN 0773721940 pp.176-177

  2. Graves, Donald E. South Albertas: A Canadian Regiment at War, p.249

  3. Williams, Ibid, p.179

  4. Graves, Ibid, p.250

  5. Ibid, p.250

  6. Stacey, C.P. The Canadian Army: 1939-1945 (Queen's Printer, 1948) p. 232.

  7. Graves, Ibid, pp.250-251

  8. Stacey, C.P., Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-West Europe, 1944-1945 (Ottawa: The Queens Printer, 1960) p.455

  9. Graves, Ibid, p.251

  10. Graves, Ibid, p.251

  11. Hayes, Geoffrey, The Lincs: A History of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment at War (Alma: Maple Leaf Route, 1986) pp. 93-94; quoted in Graves, Ibid.

  12. Copp, Terry. The Battle For Kapelsche Veer (Article in Legion Magazine May/June 2002 issue.)

  13. Stacey, The Canadian Army, Ibid, p.232

  14. Graves, Ibid, p.261


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