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

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

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Dec 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

 

Normandy Landing

Normandy Landing was a Battle Honour granted to units participating in the invasion of Normandy, the first phase of the North-West Europe campaign of the Second World War. The landings took place on Tuesday, 6 Jun 1944, and Canada played a major role in this operation.

The Canadian Army participated with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Operation OVERLORD

The overall objectives of Operation OVERLORD are described in the article on that operation. On D-Day itself, elements of six US, British and Canadian divisions were tasked with gaining a firm beachhead in France. Three US and British airborne divisions were tasked with supporting this invasion, by securing terrain on the flanks of the invasion, creating confusion in the German rear, and helping prevent German movement to or from the beaches. The actual invasion itself was termed Operation NEPTUNE.

 

 

Airborne Landings

The plans for the Airborne landings were not finalized until a relatively late date. The Air Commander in Chief, Allied Expeditionary Air Force (British Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory) was especially pessimistic about the US airborne plan and was on record as objecting to it, predicting excessively high casualties. US Army Chief of Staff General Marshall had also advised the Supreme Commander, US General Dwight Eisenhower, about employing the US Airborne differently, suggesting landings much deeper inland than the actual plan called for.

The British airborne plan (in which the Canadians would be participating) was less controversial.

 


Mass drop of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion in the UK, Feb 1944. Invasion season is approaching. LAC Photo.

British Airborne Plan

The British 6th Airborne Division, consisting of two parachute brigades and an airlanding (glider) brigade, was tasked, on 17 Feb 1944, to provide one of its parachute brigades for the initial assault in Normandy on D-Day. Study of the problem quickly resulted in the conclusion that the entire division would be necessary to ensure the success of the airborne mission.

That mission (with the code name Operation TONGA) was to land by parachute on the left flank of the British/Canadian landing beaches and secure the beachhead from possible German counter-attacks, as well as securing vital terrain. The bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River at Benouville featured prominently in the plan, as did a coastal battery at Merville which was slated for destruction by the Airborne before the landings could commence. The division was expected to secure the area between the Rivers Orne and Dives, operating offensively in hopes of delaying German movement from the east or south-east. TONGA was to be followed by a second lift on the evening of 6 Jun, codenamed Operation MALLARD.
1 Can Para Plan

The first Canadians to land would be "C" Company of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, as part part of the advance party of the British 3rd Parachute Brigade. The company was tasked to secure the drop zone near Varaville, where the main body of the Brigade would land. The remainder of the battalion were to destroy a bridge over the Dives River at Robehomme, and to cover the movement of the British 9th Parachute Battalion as they advanced on the Merville Battery. Once the bridge and battery were destroyed, the battalion was to take up defensive positions around the crossroads at Le Mesnil, as part of the overall line of defence set up by the 3rd Parachute Brigade running north from Troarn along a ridge towards Salenelles.

A series of exercises were conducted, with one exercise on 24 Apr 1944 involving almost the entire division.

Canadian paratroopers on D-Day jumped from two types of aircraft. "C" Company jumped from twelve converted Abelmarle bombers (above) based at Harwell Field, ten men (one stick) per plane, while the remainder of the battalion jumped from 26 C-47 Dakotas based at Down Ampney, which could carry up to 25 men but generally carried two sticks (20 men).1 Three more Dakotas towed gliders carrying jeeps, signals equipment, and ammunition trailers.2

The Landings

The first British airborne soldiers on the ground belonged to the coup de main force tasked with securing two bridges over the Canal de Caen a la Mer and the Orne River, near Benouville. This task was accomplished with great speed and the story has been retold many times.3

All the airborne landings on D-Day (US, British and Canadian) were scattered widely, due to navigational difficulties, pilots taking evasive action to avoid heavy anti-aircraft fire, and difficulty in seeing landmarks. The wet ground also caused problems; much of the lighting equipment dropped with the "pathfinders" and intended to mark the drop zones for the main body was lost. One pathfinder group was dropped in the wrong area, and marked a false drop zone unwittingly. On D-Day alone, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion lost 84 men taken prisoner, an extraordinary amount. The battalion also suffered 19 killed and 10 wounded or injured. The dispersion of the Canadians is shown on the map above.


Officer taken prisoner in Normandy; still from a German newsreel dated 14 Jun 1944.

Nonetheless, the Merville Battery - found to consist of 75mm guns rather than high calibre weapons - was taken by the 9th Parachute Brigade despite only having a fraction of their men under command. "C" Company of 1 Can Para destroyed a bridge over the Divette east of Varaville and overwhelmed a German stront point west of the village that posed a threat to the Brigade's drop zone. "B" Company reached their objective at Robehomme, but without the engineers who were tasked to destroy the bridge there. They managed to demolish the bridge, and held the hill at Robehomme until the morning of 7 Jun, when they withdrew to rejoin the battalion in position at Le Mesnil.

Overall, the division managed also to destroy three other bridges over the Dives, and in the afternoon of D-Day, commandos from the British 1st Special Service Brigade under Brigadier Lord Lovat linked up with the airborne troops, and mopped up German defences east of the Orne. Reinforcements from the British 3rd Infantry Division joined up with the Airborne, as did the division's own 6th Airlanding Brigade. According to the Canadian official history, "Of all the Allied divisions that fought in Normandy on D-Day, Major General R.N. Gale's 6th Airborne was the most successful in seizing and holding its prescribed ground. There was no important objective which it failed to take."4

Seaborne Landings

Objectives

JUNO beach was the assigned landing sector of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, and was 7,000 metres wide, running from Graye-sur-Mer to St-Aubin-sur-Mer. The beach was defended by Infanterie Division 716, strongly fortified in concrete bunkers in a thin defensive line on the coast with considerable obstacles placed on the beaches and in the shallow water on the shoreline.

Juno Beach was divided into two sectors: Mike (Green & Red) west of Courseulles and Nan (Green, White and Red) between Courseulles and St-Aubin-sur-Mer. The division's objective was to reach the line of the Caen-Baeyeux road and rail line (codenamed OAK), capture Carpiquet airfield, and link up with the British landings to their left and right.

German Defences

German defences on the Normandy coast were not complete at the time of the landings, but in the Juno Beach sector were formidable.

Underwater Obstacles

Several types of obstacles were set in the water of potential invasion beaches along the French coast by the Germans. These belts ranged as far out as 1200 yards from the high water line, and in general were sited within the upper tidal half (meaning they were submerged at high tide). The obstacles generally had mines attached to them (either Teller anti-tank mines, or artillery shells with pressure igniters), with the beaches themselves not being mined.

Starting from seaward, lines of wooden or concrete stakes were driven in the ground. Ramps made from logs or steel were set into the sand at the seaward end, rising to a height of six feet at the landward end (these were intended to tip over landing craft approaching the beach), "tetrahedra" were made from concrete, steel or wood, being pyramid shaped obstacles intended to impede vehicular movement. Finally, metal "hedgehogs" made of three riveted girders assembled with metal plates formed a last line of obstacles, with notches in the upper part designed to tear open hulls and hold landing craft back in the defenders' field of fire. The bases were set in concrete for stability.

"C"-Element

The Germans also made extensive use of Cointet-element, referred to generally in English histories as "Belgian Gates", or as C-element. This referred to a heavy steel fence of about 3 metres wide by 2 metres high, typically mounted on rollers, and used as an anti-tank obsatcle. These barricades had originally been planted on the Belgian frontier between Sep 1939 and May 1940. A total of 77,000 pieces were provided by 28 Belgian firms for installation on their "KW-line" between Koningshooikt and the city of Wavre. After Belgium's rapid collapse in May 1940, the Germans relocated many of these barricades, using them at Normandy to prevent landing craft from closing to the shore.

Belgian Gate in 1940. Belgian Gate as beach defence. Single stake, with Teller Mine attached.
Fortifications

Small bunkers called "Tobruks" by the Allies (due to having first encountered them there during the fighting in North Africa) and Öffener Beobachter by the Germans, were interspersed among larger fortifications. At its simplest, the Tobruk was essentially a round slit trench made from concrete from which a single weapon (machine gun, flamethrower or mortar) could be deployed, or an observer sited. Some Tobruks were fitted with a tank-turret, generally from captured and obsolete tank types such as the French R35 tank.


"Tobruk"

Resistance Nests (Widerstandnest (WN)) were established by the Germans with concrete gun, observation and fighting positions. These were in essence defended localities which dominated the beaches and were placed for mutual support. On the Canadian front, the average distance between WNs was 2,000 yards. Each was generally organized around concrete pillboxes or casemates with roof and seaward walls up to seven feet thick, with guns between 50mm and 88mm, sited to fire down the beach in enfilade. Their firing apertures were effectively shielded from seaward by buttresses which worked well on D-Day. The bunkers were supported by trench systems in which mortars and machine guns were emplaced, sometimes of Tobruk type, with wire and mines protecting the whole, and each locality manned by about 30 men.

In addition to the WNs were fortified strongpoints (Stützpunkte), strengthened by additional concrete fortifications, artillery and other weapons, used to defend areas of special importance such as harbours. Stützpunkt Courseulles was protected to the east of the harbour by an 88mm gun in a casemate, a 50mm anti-tank gun, and a 75mm casemated gun 500 yards to the east. Six MG posts were sited in this stretch of beach. On the west side of the harbour were a 75mm and two 50mm guns, with 6 machine guns and two 5cm mortars. The next 75mm casemate was 1300 yards west, north of Vaux, marking the western limit of Juno Beach.

Heavy weapons deployed against the Canadians on the invasion beaches on D-Day included an 88mm gun at WN29 (Courseulles East), four 75-mm guns (one at Vaux, two in WN29 (Courseulles East) and one in WN31 (Courseulles West)), six 50-mm guns (WN27 (St. Aubin-sur-Mer), two in WN28 (Bernières-sur-Mer), WN29 (Courseulles East) and two in WN31 (Courseulles West)), and five 8.1cm mortars (two located 150 yards behind the beach at Bernières and three located directly behind the beach at St. Aubin). The mortars are reported to have caused the most casualties on D-Day. Electrically fired flame weapons were found mounted on the beach but none were actually used in the event.

German Forces

The area in which the Canadians were landing was defended by Infanterie Division 716.

As for the beach defences proper, these were not and could not be continuous. They took the form, normally, of a series of "resistance nests" (Widerstandnester) - defended localities well sited immediately above the beaches and commanding them. These localities were placed close enough to each other to ensure that so long as they remained in action no enemy could land at any point on the beach without coming under small-arms fire. On ordinary sections of the 716th Division's front the average distance between them was approximately 2000 yards. While there was considerable local variation, the pattern of these resistance nests was fairly standard. In some cases they centred on a massive concrete pillbox or casemate (with seven feet of concrete on the roof and seaward side) mounting a 50-, 75- or 88-mm gun which was invariably sited to fire down the beach in enfilade, usually in only one direction. The embrasures of these works were protected from fire from seaward by heavy "buttresses" which proved effective on D-Day, the more so as our Intelligence had not been able to inform the Navy of this feature. In half a dozen cases 50-mm anti-tank guns were mounted in rather lighter concrete shelters, shielded from seaward but open on the land side and able to fire down the beach in both directions. These various concrete structures were surrounded and supplemented by trench systems and mortar and machine-gun positions which were often of the "Tobruk" type, i.e. concrete-lined pits with their upper edges flush with the ground. Additional 50-mm guns were sometimes found in open concrete positions. The localities as a whole were well protected with mines and wire. Each was usually designed to be manned by an infantry platoon.5

In addition to Widerstandnester, the Germans established fortified strongpoints (Stützpunkte). These were resistance nests strengthened by additional concrete fortifications, artillery and other weapons, and were used to defend areas of special importance (including all harbours no matter how small). "Sometimes a battery position was included within one of these strongpoints or was close enough to it to form a single defended area." The harbour at Courseulles was so designated, and Stützpunkt Courseulles was protected to the east of the harbour by an 88mm gun in a casemate, a 50mm anti-tank gun, and a 75mm casemated gun 500 yards to the east. Six machine gun posts were sited in this stretch of beach. On the west side of the harbour were a 75mm and two 50mm guns, with 6 machine guns and two 5cm mortars. The next 75mm casemate was 1300 yards west, north of Vaux, marking the western limit of Juno Beach.6

The heavy weapons deployed against the Canadians on the invasion beaches on D-Day included:

  • 88mm Gun
    • WN29 (Courseulles East)
  • four 75-mm Guns
    • Vaux
    • WN29 (Courseulles East) - two guns
    • WN31 (Courseulles West)
  • six 50-mm Guns
    • WN27 (St. Aubin-sur-Mer)
    • WN28 (Bernières-sur-Mer) - two guns
    • WN29 (Courseulles East)
    • WN31 (Courseulles West) - two guns
  • 8.1cm Mortars
    • 2 located 150 yards behind the beach at Bernières
    • 3 located directly behind the beach at St. Aubin

"Among other weapons in the defences, the 8.1-cm mortar seems to take pride of place on the basis of casualties inflicted on us on D-Day. There appear to have been 11 of these mortars on the British and Canadian fronts, chiefly mounted some distance inland from the beaches. Beach-defence weapons also included a few electically-fired static flame throwers, none of which came into action on D-Day." Landmines were sown extensively to a depth of from 300 to 800 yards inland from the beaches, concentrated especially at likely beach exits. Mines were not planted on the beaches themselves, though "almost all the foreshore obstacles had mines attached to them."7

Aside from direct-fire supporting guns and mortars, the 716th Division also had coastal and field batteries. On D-Day, the following batteries are identified in the Canadian Official History as being partially or fully emplaced in concrete positions:

  • 716th Divisional Artillery
    • Four 10cm Czech field pieces, in concrete battery positions at Merville
    • Four 10cm Czech field pieces, in concrete battery positions at Ver-sur-Mer
    • The heaviest guns in the 716th's divisional area was a battery of four captured French-built 15.5cm guns, but they were moved from half-finished concrete positions southwest of Ouistreham to some other location.
  • 1260th GHQ Coastal Artillery Battalion
    • Four 12.2cm Polish-built guns at Mont Fleury (only one gun in a concrete position and the other three in open field positions behind)
    • Four (possibly five) French-built 15.5cm guns in unfinished positions at Riva Bella

Other batteries ("the vast majority of the guns in the sector") were in open field positions, such as the battery of four 10cm guns near Beny-sur-Mer (referred to in some histories as the "Moulineaux Battery"). In all, the 716th divisional sector included 16 batteries (each battery generally having 4 guns) of artillery armed with approximately 67 guns of calibres from 10cm to 15.5cm. This was not including beach defence guns and anti-tank guns.

Canadian Forces

Canadian units were organized in unique ways for the assault phase of Operation OVERLORD.

Assault Organization

Armoured Regiments

The two assault regiments (6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) and 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse)) were equipped with Duplex Drive Sherman Tanks, organized as follows:

  • "A" Squadron
    • Squadron Headquarters (4 DD tanks)
      • 1st Troop (3 DD tanks)
      • 2nd Troop (3 DD tanks)
      • 3rd Troop (3 DD tanks)
      • 4th Troop (3 DD tanks)
      • 5th Troop (3 DD tanks)
  • "B" Squadron
    • As for "A" Squadron

These two assault sub-units were to "swim" to the beaches and support the infantry directly. The remainder of the regiment, organized as follows, was to land via landing craft once the beaches were secure:

  • Regimental Headquarters (4 Sherman III)
  • "C" Squadron
    • 1st Troop (1 Firefly Vc, 2 Sherman III)
    • 2nd Troop (1 Firefly Vc, 2 Sherman III)
    • 3rd Troop (1 Firefly Vc, 2 Sherman III)
    • 4th Troop (1 Firefly Vc, 2 Sherman III)
    • 5th Troop (1 Firefly Vc, 2 Sherman III)
  • Intercommunication Troop (9 Scout Cars (Humber or Lynx))
  • Anti-aircraft Troop (6 Crusader AA tanks)
  • Reconnaissance Troop (11 Stuart V)

LCT loading diagram, based on the Chris Johnson drawing found in Century of Service, showing how LCTs carried the 22nd Field Battery of the 13th Field Regiment (SP) into Normandy. Vehicles include two Sherman Observation Post tanks, four M7 Priest self-propelled 105mm guns, and two Universal Carriers. X-shaped braces behind the M7s are attached to ammunition sledges, details of these are given in the book.
Artillery Regiments (Self-Propelled)

Artillery regiments were equipped with self-propelled guns for the landing and organized into assault forces consisting of the 24 guns of the regiment and a minimum number of personnel to man and fire them. FOO parties were also to land with the leading infantry.

After firing in support of the landings, the self-propelled artillery was scheduled to actually land at midmorning, with "A" Echelon landing in the afternoon.

Infantry Battalions

The infantry battalions generally had two assault companies tasked to land directly on the beach from LCAs. Each boat could carry 35 men, with men of infantry platoons augmented by engineers equipped to deal with obstacles. Each infantry company was carried by five LCAs.

The Landings

Preliminary Bombardment

Infantry Landings

Mike Green

"D" Company of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles landed to the west of the fortified areas of the strongpoint at Courseulles, and successfully gapped the minefield and cleared the village of Graye-sur-Mer. The infantry landed at 0749hrs, ahead of the tanks which were scheduled to land 5 minutes ahead of them. DD tanks of "A" Squadron of the 1st Hussars, along with Crab flail tanks of "B" Squadron, 22nd Dragoons and AVsRE of the 26th Squadron, 5th Assault Regiment Royal Engineers were all scheduled to land on Mike Green and Mike Red, and were late due to navigational problems during the crossing.

"B" Company of the Winnipegs landed on the right on Mike Green and moved along the beach to deal with the group of concrete casemates forming a strongpoint whose fire enfiladed the landings. On this sector of the beach there was no sign of supporting armour, so the infantry stalked the concrete pillboxes on foot. Enemy small arms fire was concentrated and accurate and the Canadians suffered as a consequence.8

 
Mike Red

The beach known as Mike Red landed at WN31 (Coursuelles West), which was defended by a 75mm gun, two 50mm guns, six machine guns and two 5cm mortars, manned by soldiers of No. 6 Company, Infanterie Regiment 736. The beach was assaulted by "B" and "D" Company of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, with support from "A" Squadron of the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars). The battalion's war diary reported that

The bombardment having failed to kill a single German or silence one weapon, these companies had to storm their positions 'cold' - and did so without hesitation.

"B" Company came under fire when their LCAs were still 700 yards from the beach, and they remained under fire until touchdown. Many men were hit is water as deep as chest-high - nonetheless "B" Company captured pillboxes commanding the beach, with the support of the tanks, and fought into Courseulles, seizing the bridge over the Seulles and clearing enemy positions on the island between the river the harbour.

The landing and subsequent fighting reduced the company to the company commander and 26 men. Captain P.E. Gower, the company commander, received the Military Cross. Supporting troops of the 6th Field Company, RCE, lost 26 men during the course of the day.

 The reserve companies - "A" and "C" landed under heavy mortar and machine gun fire, and pushed on two Ste. Croix-sur-Mer and Banville, respectively. Banville fell easily, but tanks of the 1st Hussars were needed to batter down opposition in Ste. Croix. By 1700hrs the entire battalion was consolidated in and around Creully.

Nan Green

The planning for the assault on the eastern portion of Courseulles was intensive. Each block of the town was numbered, and the Commanding Officer noted afterwards that "nearly every foot of the town was known long before it was ever entered."

"A" Company touched down immediately in front of the strongpoint where a 75mm gun position fired an estimated 200 rounds before being put out of action by what was presumed to be a direct hit by a Canadian tank. A lone 88 was also presumed destroyed by direct hits by Canadian tanks. "A" Company flanked the strongpoint aided by tank fire, but found German troops infiltrated back into positions by tunnels and trenches and had to be cleared a second time from the beach. "B" Company's landing was easier, with only slight resistance in the village. One of the two reserve companies lost several landing craft to mined obstacles hidden by the rising tide and was reduced to just 49 men. The Reginas concentrated at Reviers late in the afternoon and by 2000 hrs was in possession of Fontaine-Henry and Le Fresne-Camilly.


A subaltern of The Regina Rifle Regiment briefs non-commissioned officers with a map of Courseulles.

Nan White

Assault forces at Nan White consisted of "A" and "B" Company of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, supported by "B" Squadron of the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse). The tanks arrived on this beach late, behind the infantry. AVsRE of the 80th Assault Squadron, Royal Engineers landed after the infantry, followed by tanks of the Fort Garries. Unlike the tanks of the 1st Hussars, the Fort Garries left their landing craft very close to shore and waded, rather than swam, to the beach.

"B" Company of the QOR landed 200 yards east of their intended position, and directly in front of the resistance nest at Bernières, suffering 65 casualties within the first minutes. Lieutenant W.G. Herbert, Lance Corporal René Tessier and Rifleman William Chicoski managed to knock out the pillbox inflicting these casualties with grenades and Sten Gun fire. (A MC and two MMs, respectively, were awarded for this action.)

"A" Company landed west of the strongpoint and had an easier time getting off the beach, though mortar fire once across the sea wall caused casualties.

Tank support was reported as "ineffective" - the only Canadian beach to report inadequate tank support. Canadian engineers of the 5th Field Company, RCE also reported heavy casualties on both Nan Red and Nan White.9

Nan Red

The beach was assaulted by The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment support by "C" Squadron of the Fort Garries. The strongpoint at St. Aubin was untouched by preliminary fires and "B" Company had to assault it with the assistance of DD tanks and AVsRE (Armoured Vehicles, Royal Engineers). The tanks here landed very near to shore and in close support of the infantry. "A" Company had an easier time but found booby-trapped houses inland. The reserve companies secured St. Aubin and Tailleville later in the day.

Engineer Units

Units of The Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers landing on D-Day consisted of

  • 5th Field Company, RCE

  • 6th Field Company, RCE

  • 16th Field Company, RCE

  • 18th Field Company, RCE

  • 3rd Field Park Company, RCE

A variety of “funnies” or special tanks saw action on the landing beaches, performing engineering and infantry support tasks. These included amphibious Duplex Drive (DD) Sherman tanks, mine-clearing “Crab” tanks, and Armoured Vehicles, Royal Engineers (AVRE) of various types. These were largely provided by the British 79th Armoured Division.

Four troops of “B” Squadron, 22nd Dragoons and the 26th Assault Squadron were scheduled to precede the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade into Courseulles-sur-Mer; a 30 minute delay saw six Canadian DDs land ahead of them to suppress most of the enemy opposition. Two of the Crabs were able to clear mines on the eastern part of the sector, but two tanks to the west lost tracks to mines and a third Crab fell into a crater, with a fascine-bearing AVRE also bogging in an attempt to assist. The AVRE was left in place and a steel bridge section and fascine used to simply bridge over top of it. Farther east of the Seulles River, the “funnies” were able to open roads by 09:00hrs; six AVsRE cleared wreckage and beach obstacles while three others assisted the infantry in mopping up Courseulles itself.

At Bernières-sur-Mer, the remaining elements of “B” Squadron, 22nd Dragoons and the 80th Assault Squadron landed in support of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. One flail tank managed to open the road but a following AVRE was disabled by a mine and had to be pushed aside by an armoured bulldozer. Another path was swept by flail tanks towards a breach in the pier, with a ditch bridged by fascines, and infantry were able to clear the sector without the assistance of DD tanks which arrived late.

Another breaching team experienced heavy losses, with two AVsRE hit. Their flails cleared a path to the seawall but the latter was too heavy for the petards to breach. Infantry were able to get through a small breach in the C-element created by AVRE petards.

One breaching team managed to put a SBG onto the pier using effective cover fire from the 75mm guns of the flail tanks and the weapons of the AVsRE; yet another breaching team on Juno reported a damaged AVRE and a successful deployment of a Bobbin carpet on soft ground. In all, twelve exits were cleared from Juno Beach, and the Crab tanks went on to flail both the beach itself and surrounding terrain.

Another category of armour that saw employment on D-Day was the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group, who used the Centaur tank in support of No. 48 Royal Marine Commando at NAN RED/ Langrune-sur-Mer. The Centaur was a modified Cromwell tank equipped with a 95mm howitzer, and 48 of these vehicles landed on D-Day, relatively late, finding the Crabs and AVsRE had already provided support for the infantry. Some were used to engage strong-points on the far eastern end of JUNO, perhaps even in St. Aubin-sur-Mer. The RM Armoured Support Group remained in action until 24 June.

Sergeant Grant's Film

Sergeant Bill Grant of the Canadian Film and Photo Unit took what is recognized as among the most widely reproduced motion picture footage of the war, and what represented a major scoop for Canadian photographers.10 Sergeant Grant, working with a tripod mounted Bell and Howell Model-Q Eymo camera set up in the bow of an LCA (CFPU still and movie photographers habitually used tripods where possible as their editors gave priority to steady footage), waited as the craft approached Bernières-sur-Mer, and seconds before the doors opened and a platoon of Canadians clambered out onto the beach, he pressed the start button. The unit the men come from has been a subject of some debate, but historian Marc Milner seems to be positive they are from the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment.11

Stills from the opening of the Grant film; the doors on an LCA open and troops disembark; a good luck pat on the back of a nervous buddy.

The results would make history; two minutes and ten seconds of motion picture footage of the actual assault taking place. The footage is broken up and it is obvious where Grant had to stop to wind the camera; he also changed position in the landing craft as he did so.

After Grant changed position in the LCA; at right a PIAT gunner can be seen slinging his anti-tank weapon as well as his rifle.
These troops are not laden with large packs or haversacks and are carrying only fighting essentials onto the beach with them.

Grant stopped shooting with a few seconds left on the reel to change film; he transferred the exposed film to a metal tin on which the words "Press - Rush by whatever means possible - To Ministry of Information, London" had been painted in red, secured it with waterproof tape - and left it on the beach marked "Grant Number 1". Despatch Rider Brian O'Regan of the CFPU ran the film to the beach movement control officer, who sent it back to England by ship. Officials in Portsmouth sent the film to Merton Park Studios, where the Canadian Army Newsreels were produced, for developing. Staff Sergeant Ken Ewart received 300 feet of 35mm movie film. The best parts were spliced out for public consumption, with a censor's eye for information that might be of assistance to the enemy. The footage was soon being shown in Canada, the US, and Britain - often without mention that the troops in the dramatic footage were Canadian. The footage was also used in the 1945 Academy Award winning documentary The True Glory and in countless television shows since then.

Aftermath

In all, casualties for D-Day were considerable, but less than the most dire predictions had feared. No accurate figures for the assault phase only have been possible, but for both the landings and fighting later in the day, 950 men were killed, wounded or went missing, a figure usually compared to the much higher totals of the Dieppe Raid which had much less ambitious goals and far less fire support.

Battle Honour

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Normandy Landing" for participation in these actions:

British 6th Airborne Division

  • 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

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: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

Notes

1.  Thanks to Gary Boegel for the information regarding aircraft.
2. Grimshaw, Major Louis E. The Badges and Insignia of the Canadian Airborne Forces (Lone Pine Publishing, Edmonton, AB, 1981). ISBN 0919433014
3. Notably in the film The Longest Day (1962), and the book Pegasus Bridge by Stephen Ambrose, for just two accounts.
4. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War Volume II: The Victory Campaign (Queen's Printer, 1960) p. 117.
5. Ibid, p. 68
6. Ibid, p. 69
7. Ibid
8. Ford, Ken. D-Day 1944 (4): Gold & Juno Beaches (Osprey Publishing Ltd., Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford, 2002) ISBN 1841763683 p.61
9. Stacey, Ibid, pp.107-108
10. The full story of this film is chronicled in the DVD Shooters produced by James O'Regan, as well as the book Juno: Canadians at D-Day by Ted Barris (ISBN 0887621333).
11. https://legionmagazine.com/en/2010/04/the-riddle-of-the-d-day-footage/


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