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

 

Ancre, 1916

Ancre, 1916 was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian units participating in the Battle of the Ancre in October 1916, one of the battles on the Western Front during the First World War.

Background

The Allies had spent 1915 unprofitably, and despite numerical superiority, had been unable to achieve a decisive result in the field. By the end of the year, with German success in Russia and Austria successful in Serbia, the Allies had decided that simultaneous offensives on the Western, Eastern and Italian fronts would be the key to victory. The French and British agreed to launch a simultaneous offensive on the Somme in the middle of 1916. The Germans, however, struck first, at Verdun, and by by 1916 the British offensive on the Somme was a desperate bid to relieve pressure from the hard-pressed French.

July and August 1916 were quiet months for the Canadians in France. While the British Army bled in order to relieve the French (as is well known, the first day of the Somme offensive on 1 July 1916 was inauspicious to say the least, with 57,000 killed or wounded making for the worst single-day loss in the history of the British Army.)1 The scale of the losses was not interpreted as a reason to call off further operations on the Somme. The Battle of Albert continued for twelve days. Other operations followed, in which slow advances with gains of only hundreds of yards were measured. By mid-October, three Canadian Divisions had participated in the offensive and were being withdrawn, but the war situation demanded that the offensive on the Somme continue. The 4th Canadian Division entered the battle just as the other divisions were leaving the stage.

Allied Offensive 1916

Somme, 1916 – Albert (Beaumont Hamel), 1916 – Bazentin – Pozières – Flers-CourceletteThiepval – Le Transloy –
Ancre HeightsAncre, 1916

The Canadian Corps had taken part in a number of operations beginning in mid-September, pushing slowly forward in the area of Courcelette, advancing north towards Regina Trench. Two major attacks in October were unsuccessful, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions, having suffered heavily in the fighting, were relieved. On 10 October, however, the 4th Canadian Division, newly arrived in France, went into the line and continued operations aimed at capturing Regina Trench as part of the 2nd British Corps. The artillery of the other three Canadian divisions also remained on the Somme under command of the 2nd British Corps.


click to enlarge

The plans for a converging advance on both sides of the Ancre River were discarded on 17 October, with separate attacks by both the 4th Army and the Reserve Army planned instead. The next day, a disappointing attack by 4th Army early in the morning caused further reassessments, and alternating coordinated attacks by both armies were planned. The Reserve Army was called on to capture Regina Trench on 21 October, preparing the way for an attack astride the Ancre on 25 October. On 23 October the 4th Army in conjunction with the French 6th Army would being attacks toward Le Transloy, with the main assault there to come on 26 October. All operations were deemed dependent on the weather, and as such, only the first action on Regina Trench materialized.

The 4th Division at the Somme

The Ancre Heights had been the last battle the Canadian Corps fought on the Somme, and on 17 October, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions moved north to a new sector of the front near Arras. For the 4th Canadian Division, however, the Battle of the Somme was only beginning. The division landed in France in mid-August, and began its front-line service on 25 August 1916. It remained in the north while the other three divisions moved to the Somme, and joined a temporary formation called "Frank's Force" on 3 September 1916 along with British, Belgian, and Australian artillery and miscellaneous units. This formation, named after the 2nd Army's artillery commander, held a 4.5 mile front that extended from a point west of Messines to the Ypres-Comines Canal. They were opposed by the German 26th Division along with elements of the 4th Replacement Division.

Allied patrols found considerable portions of the enemy's front line unmanned - an indication of his willingness to treat the Ypres Salient as secondary to the Somme area and to contain the Allied forces there with a minimum of effort. On many days fire from his artillery and mortars was extremely light, and drew in reply three rounds to one. Activity increased in mid- September, when the Second Army carried out some thirty raids as a diversion to the Fourth Army's assault in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Of ten raids on the night of the 16th-17th, seven were conducted by Canadians. In all, 274 officers and men took part, representing the 46th, 47th, 54th, 72nd, 75th and 87th Battalions. In the six raids rated successful the Canadians captured 22 prisoners and killed a known 30 Germans, at comparatively light cost to themselves. On 18 September the 4th Canadian Division came temporarily under command of the 9th Corps as Franks' Force ceased to exist. Three days later it went into Second Army reserve in the St. Omer training area. Here the troops learned to handle the newly issued Lee-Enfield rifle, and practised cooperation with aircraft and artillery. There was emphasis on methods of recognition-by ground flares, and chalk marks on helmets - and on advancing behind a creeping barrage at the rate of 100 yards in three minutes. Each man received a new box-type respirator, and tested it with tear gas. On the night of 2-3 October the Division entrained for the Somme.2

Following a series of reliefs in the wake of the Canadian Corps' departure, the 4th Canadian Division was situated as the right wing of the 2nd Corps, holding 2,000 yards of front between the East Miraumont Road to Below Trench. The weather remained fine for a few days and then turned to steady rain which dissolved the front line trenches, also hard-hit by enemy shelling and eventually reduced in places to little more than ditches knee-deep with water. Lack of dugouts caused troops to attempt to burrow under the parapets for overhead protection, which caused the danger of cave-ins. When the skies cleared again temporarily, spirits lifted as the troops anticipated their first action. Patrols reported that enemy wire was being flattened by artillery in front of Regina Trench, and though the Germans persisted in stopping up the gaps each night with fresh rolls of concertina, they were unable to keep up with the progress of the Allied artillery.

Battle of the Ancre

Battle for the Ancre Heights was resumed on 21 October when the 2nd Corps renewed its assault on Regina Trench on a cold and clear day, the first of three operations outlined by the British Expeditionary Force's Commander-in-Chief three days previously. In the trenches opposite, the Marine Brigade had been relieved in mid-October by the 5th Replacement Division. A general advance on a 5,000 yard front was called for with the 11th Canadian Brigade on the right of the line, a brigade of the 18th Division to their left, two brigades of the 25th Division to their left, and a brigade of the 39th Division on the far left. The operation was supported by the field artilleries of seven divisions (including the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions) supplemented by 200 heavy guns and howitzers.

Regina Trench: 21 and 25 October

The 11th Brigade was aimed at a 600-yard stretch of Regina Trench on 21 October, just east of the Courcelette Trench. The 87th and 102nd Battalions attacked just after noon and in fewer than 15 minutes both units had arrived at the objective, pleased to find the German wire had been shattered by a systematic bombardment. They made effective use of the barrage, which also had killed many Germans in their front line positions. Survivors had little fight remaining and were eager to surrender. By 1:00 p.m. 160 Germans were taken prisoner and two hours later the 87th Battalion, attacking on the right of the line, had established a block 200 yards east of the Courcelette-Pys road. The 200 Canadian casualties had mostly resulted from German shellfire after the objective had been reached.

Enemy counter-attacks on the 102nd Battalion during the afternoon were broken up by artillery, and a howitzer barrage firing throughout the night blocked the still untaken portion of Regina Trench off to the right flank. Success had been had on the Corps left and centre as well, with Stuff Trench and most of Regina falling to other British brigades, and in all the 2nd Corps took more than 1,000 prisoners. However, the remainder of Regina Trench continued to stubbornly resist, and would deny one more assault by the Canadians.

The 4th Division took over 400 yards of the 4th Army's left front in anticipation of a renewed assault on the last hold-outs in Regina Trench on 24 October, extending the line of their parent 2nd Corps east to the Le Sars-Pys road. The ease of the action on 21 October may have led to a decision to employ a single battalion of the 10th Brigade in the renewed attack. The objective was to be a re-entrant 700 yards of Regina Trench that had originally been the objective of the 3rd Brigade during the disastrous operation of 8 October.

The plan of attack followed "Proposals for Minor Operation", circulated on 22 October by 10th Brigade Headquarters (and reproduced for want of other stationery on the back of spare copies of the military "Form of Will"). After a postponement had held the attacking troops for 24 hours of pouring rain in jumping-off ditches half full of mud and water, the 44th Battalion assaulted at 7:00 a.m. on the 25th.

Tragedy struck immediately. The barrage, which was being supplied by three field brigades of the 1st and 3rd Canadian Divisional Artilleries, proved woefully light and ineffective. From the Quadrilateral on the right the enemy was able to sweep no man's land with intense enfilading machine-gun fire, and in Regina Trench German riflemen and machine-gunners were seen standing unscathed waist-high at the parapet.106 With a hail of bullets mowing great gaps in their ranks, the attacking troops soon came under a deluge of shrapnel and high explosive, as a heavy defensive barrage burst relentlessly across the whole front. No one reached Regina Trench. Most of those who were not killed outright sought cover in shell-holes and disused trenches where they lay till darkness, a few managing to crawl back in daylight to their own front lines. From the 11th Brigade's holding on the left the 75th Battalion had managed to push its way 150 yards eastward along Regina Trench, only to be forced back to its original position when the planned junction with the 44th Battalion failed to take place. In its blackest day of the war the 44th Battalion had suffered close to 200 casualties.The charge of the battalion commander that "the barrage was a flat failure" is corroborated in numerous reports from infantry and machine-gun officers (including the admission by an artillery observer that the fire was "absolutely insufficient to keep down enemy machine gun fire, their being not enough guns on the zone and the rate of fire was too slow".)3

The failure of the barrage was apparently attributed later by the infantry brigade commander to statements by artillery officers that a move of their guns into new positions had given them insufficient time to register before the commencement of the attack. The task tables for the operation also, according to the artillery's official historian, reveal that despite the narrow frontage, little attention was paid to the flanks by those who planned the barrage, while "not a single shell appears to have been fired at the enemy's menacing Quadrilateral position."4

Weather in the next ten days delayed any further operations and in fact it rained for 16 of the first 21 days the 4th Division spent in the front line. The condition of front line trenches was poor, and it was not until 8 November, and the arrival of cold weather, that it was dry long enough for further offensive action. The Reserve Army, having been renamed the 5th Army, continued its task of offensive operations. As a prelude for a new offensive, the 4th Canadian Division was tasked to attack once again the Regina Trench.

The Capture of Regina and Desire Trenches

For the new assault, heavy howitzers were required to have two successful days of bombarding enemy trenches and wire as a prerequisite. This occurred on 9 and 10 November 1916, and the assault was launched at midnight on 10-11 November by battalions of the 10th and 11th Canadian Brigades. The 11th Brigade had the full divisional artillery of the 1st Canadian Division in support, and the 10th Brigade that of the 3rd Canadian Division, in each case for field artillery brigades.

The attack went well. On the right, the 46th and 47th Battalions went forward with the 102nd Battalion on the left. There were no complaints about artillery support, and the start line was moved to a point 150 yards forward of the Canadian trenches, allowing the infantry to stay inside the range of German counter-barrage work. A full moon in a clear sky provided ample light to the troops and the enemy was taken by surprise. Two counter-attacks were driven back by the 102nd Battalion, and consolidation of newly captured territory was completed by 2:20 a.m. German dead were numbered at 50, with 90 prisoners of the 58th and 1st Guard Reserve Divisions taken. Remarkably, only the 47th Battalion had encountered German machine gun fire during the attack, and casualties were light. The divisional General Officer Commanding, Major-General Watson, wrote a letter after the battle to the artillery to thank them for the "very splendid way that your arm of the service co-operated with us."5

The Battle of the Ancre Heights was finally over, and except for a spur west of Pys, high ground looking over Grandcourt and Miraumount from the south was now in Allied hands and Regina Trench was no longer a position of strength, having been blasted in repeated bombardments, either pounded flat in places, or blown as far as twenty feet wide in others, filled with debris and corpses.

The 5th Army's front line encircled the valley of the Ancre on the west and south on 13 November when the Battle of the Ancre opened. In positions that had not changed since the beginning of July, the 13th and 5th Corps faced east toward Serre and Beaumont Hamel. The line ran east where it was held by the 2nd Corps along the northern edge of the Thiepval Ridge as far as the boundary with the 4th Army at the Quadrilateral northwest of Le Sars. The 5th Army now turned its attention to the salient at Beaumont Hamel, attacking with four divisions of the 5th Corps while the 13th Corps sent a division to Serre and the 2nd Corps assaulted north in the valley toward Schwaben Redoubt and Stuff Trench with two divisions. The artillery support was to include the divisional artillery of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions. The 48-hour bombardment was the heaviest artillery support of the war to date, with shells falling on all German-held villages, trenches and approaches to the battle area.

A 30,000 pound mine started the attack at Zero Hour, exploding at the head of the German salient as an enormous barrage crashed down across the front of the 5th Army. The 2nd and 5th Corps managed gains of 1,200 to 1,500 yards, capturing St. Pierre Divon and Beaumont Hamel and trapping large numbers of Germans in converging attacks in the valley of the Ancre.

(T)he total captured for the day was not far short of Sir Douglas Haig's earlier aspirations. General Ludendorff styled the British penetration "a particularly heavy blow, for we considered such an event no longer possible, particularly in sectors where our troops still held good positions." But on the northern flank the attack failed, as battalions advancing through mud in many places waist-deep were hurled back by the enemy's desperate defence of the Redan Ridge and the trenches in front of Serre. Next day, in a thin mist, the forces immediately north of the Ancre advanced another 1000 yards to the outskirts of Beaucourt, a village one mile east of Beaumont Hamel.

The two days which followed saw little action, as the mist thickened, and Haig, who was attending the Chantilly Conference, had ordered any further major operations postponed until his return. But the commander of the 5th Corps was optimistic that more could be accomplished, and General Gough obtained the C.-in-C.'s approval to resume the offensive on the 18th. Intentions changed more than once with varying estimates of the enemy's powers of resistance, and the final plan assigned the main attack to the 2nd Corps. Its left division (the 19th) was to take Grandcourt and cross the Ancre to occupy Baillescourt Farm on the opposite bank. In subsidiary operations on the right, the 18th Division and the 4th Canadian Division were to capture the new Desire (German "Dessauer") and Desire Support Trenches, which lay from 500 to 800 yards north of Regina Trench. On the left there would be no further attempt to reduce the strong Serre defences, but two fresh divisions of the Fifth Corps were given as objectives German reserve trenches farther east running northward from Grandcourt to Puisieux. In spite of uncertain weather and conflicting intelligence reports preparations went ahead with a haste that augured no good for their outcome.6

The night of 17-18 November brought the winter's first snowfall, and the operations began just after 6:00 a.m. on 18 November in a driving sleet that changed to driving rain as the morning progressed. The 4th Division, having taken over positions from the 18th Division's right-hand brigade on 16 November, attacked on a frontage of 2,200 yards. The infantry was forced to plod through freezing mud, the snow masking objectives and causing units to lose direction. Artillery observers couldn't spot targets and could only fire their pre-arranged programmes.

The 11th Brigade, on the left, represented the main effort. Reinforced by a battalion of the 12th Brigade, four battalions attacked astride both Miraumont roads (from right to left,  75th, 54th, 87th and 38th) while the 10th Brigade assaulted with the 46th Battalion on the right and 50th on the left, east of the Courcelette-Pys road. Artillery support was again heavy, with four divisional artilleries (1st Canadian, 2nd Canadian, 3rd Canadian and 11th British), 2nd Corps Heavy Artillery and the Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery all firing in support. No. 2 Special Company Royal Engineers screened the advance with a smoke screen across the front and right flank.

The Canadian task was to seize Desire Support Trench and establish a new line 100-150 yards beyond, exploiting farther if possible. (A late order issued by General Watson's headquarters at 2:30 a.m. directed the 11th Brigade to advance to Grandcourt Trench, some 500 yards beyond Desire Support.) At zero hour, while maintaining a concentrated standing barrage on the enemy trenches, the guns put down a creeping barrage, behind which the infantry companies (two from each battalion except the 46th) advanced in four waves at intervals of 50 yards or less. Fine coordination between artillery and infantry brought excellent results. In less than an hour the 54th Battalion had sent back its first group of prisoners. By eight o'clock both brigades had gained their initial objectives and were hastily digging in beyond Desire Support. Prisoners from the 58th Division were coming back in groups of as many as fifty at a time. A German counter-attack against the 54th Battalion ended suddenly as the enemy threw down their weapons and surrendered; a second threat was broken up by artillery fire. On the left the 38th and 87th Battalions, having overrun both Desire and Desire Support, pushed strong patrols down the slope to Grandcourt Trench, establishing machine-gun posts there and taking more prisoners. The day's total harvest by the 4th Canadian Division was 17 officers and 608 other ranks.

Unfortunately the success achieved by Brig.-Gen. Odlum's troops was not matched on either flank. The situation with the 10th Brigade on the right - never as favourable as it seemed - had changed for the worse. The one assault company of the 46th Battalion had suffered so heavily from small-arms fire that it could not hold the ground it had won. On its left the 50th Battalion, having lost touch with the 11th Brigade, was forced back to Regina Trench by heavy machine-gun fire from both flanks. The 18th British Division, too, had been less successful than early reports suggested. The 55th Brigade (on Odlum's immediate left) seized about 300 yards of the east end of Desire Trench, linking this up with the Canadian-won portion of Desire Support, but the rest of its objective was still in enemy hands. There had been partial success in the valley of the Ancre, where the inner wings of the 2nd and 5th Corps had pushed a salient forward half a mile beyond Beaucourt. But General Jacob's left wing had failed to reach Grandcourt or Baillescourt Farm; and north of the river the 5th Corps had added very little to its gains of 14 November.7

Suffering heavy casualties, both corps were no longer in a condition to continue the offensive. The 56th Division's relief of the 58th during the day indicated a strong likelihood of new counter-attacks against the right wing of the 2nd Corps, and Major-General Watson decided as early as 12:30 p.m. to pull his patrols from Grandcourt Trench in order to shell as preparation for a full-scale assault. At 7:50 p.m., the situation across the Army front caused the cancellation of all further advance orders by the British 18th and 4th Canadian Divisions. The positions in Grandcourt Trench were most likely untenable in any event, but the gains of the day had been considerable - a half mile advance on a 2,000 yard front, for the loss of 1,250 casualties while inflicting heavy losses in killed, wounded and prisoners. In any event, heavy rain on 19 November prevented any further attacks regardless of the ability of the British corps to continue, and the 4th Canadian Division had at last fought its final battle on the Somme.

Aftermath

The 4th and 5th Army was faced with the task of preparing for winter. Fresh divisions had to be found for the front, where communications and front line trenches had to be repaired and strengthened. The 4th Army extended its front over four miles of French front, moving the boundary from Le Transloy to within four miles of Peronne, freeing three French corps for the spring offensive the French were preparing. The 4th Canadian Division remained in place, having spent seven weeks continuously in the front line before handing over to the 51st (Highland) Division between 26 and 28 November. The division rejoined the rest of the Canadian Corps on the Lens-Arras front.

Canadian battle casualties at the Somme had totalled 24,029.

 
Battle Honours

The Battle Honour "Ancre, 1916" was awarded to units for participation in these actions.

Notes

  1. Goodspeed, D.J. The Armed Forces of Canada, 1867-1967: A Century of Achievement (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1967) p.39

  2. Nicholson, Gerald W.L. Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 (Queen's Printer Ottawa, ON, 1964) p.167

  3. Nicholson, Ibid

  4. Nicholson, G.W.L. The Gunners of Canada: The History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Volume I 1534-1919 (Royal Canadian Artillery Association, 1972) p.269 Note that the official history of the CEF was written by the same historian who wrote the history of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, Colonel Gerald W.L. Nicholson.

  5. Nicholson, Official History of the Canadian Army, Ibid, p.192

  6. Ibid, p.194

  7. Ibid, p.196


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