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

 

Mount Sorrel

Mount Sorrel was a Battle Honour granted for participation in this action, occurring in June 1916, the first major action by the Canadian Corps.

Background

The newly created Canadian Corps found itself responsible for the most easterly projection of the Ypres Salient at the beginning of June 1916. The 2nd Division held positions in front of St. Eloi, where it had fought its first major battle. The 1st Division, under Major-General Arthur Currie, held positions centred on Hill 60, due north of the Ypres-Comines railway. The remainder of the corps front was held by the 3rd Canadian Division, newly formed under Major-General Mercer. They held two miles of front with four battalions in front-line positions. The 3rd Division held the only portion of the crest of the Ypres Ridge still remaining in Allied possession, giving Canadian troops the ability to observe movement in the enemy's trenches. They had the advantage of high ground from about 1,000 yards east of Zwarteleen, next to Hill 60, extending over the flat knoll known as Mount Sorrel, and then over two slightly higher elevations (Hill 61 and Hill 62) before falling away to the Menin Road.1

Hill 62 was also known as Tor Top, from which a broad spur known as Observatory Ridge jutted out 1,000 yards due west. This protuberance, covered in farmland, split Armagh Wood from Sanctuary Wood. Enemy capture of Tor Top, and further advance down Observatory Ridge, would prove to be such a threat given the commanding position it would prove behind friendly lines that such a move could even compel withdrawal from the Salient. At a minimum, such a move by the Germans would draw additional British resources to the area to counter such a threat, and the Germans were well aware of this threat. British resources relocated to Ypres would obviously be unavailable for use elsewhere.2


Observatory Ridge and the corner of Armagh Wood, taken from Mount Sorrel. (click to enlarge). LAC photo


Mount Sorrel, with Armagh House in the foreground. (click to enlarge). LAC photo

Enemy

The German 27th and 26th Infantry Divisions opposed the 1st and 3rd Canadian Divisions, and were in fact preparing for an assault on Tor Top. German engineers had been reported by Canadian patrols in May to be pushing forward saps on either side of the heights. Machine guns and artillery was unable to deter their progress. The sap heads were connected by a lateral trench by the end of May, fifty yards ahead of the main front line trench. Other saps were also observed in the vicinity of Mount Sorrel and further south. Royal Flying Corps pilots reported life-size models of the Canadian positions at Tor Top behind enemy lines, which post-war histories confirmed to be practice trenches used by the German 26th Infantry Division for assault rehearsals.3

German activity across the lines also indicated an attack, included the deployment of trench mortars of large calibre, unusual activity by artillery, aircraft and observation balloons. Poor weather prevented decent Allied observation of German rear areas to confirm suspicions of an attack, and no evidence of significant troop movements lent credence to a belief that such an attack was imminent. In actual fact, no additional troops were deployed by the Germans other than artillery.4
 

German Attack

On the night of 1-2 June, the German guns fell silent for seven hours and no artillery hit the Canadian trenches. The reason, which the Canadians did not deduce, was that enemy work parties were in No Man's Land clearing paths through the barbed wire and did not want their own artillery interfering with their work. Canadian suspicions were averted when the guns resumed firing later.

At 06:00hrs on 2 June, General Mercer and Brigadier-General Williams, commander of the 8th Brigade, set out on a reconnaissance of Tor Top and Mount Sorrel.

They had just reached the front-line trenches of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles on the brigade right when the enemy's preliminary bombardment burst upon them. It was the Canadian Corps' first experience of the terrific violence that artillery preparation was to attain in the summer of 1916. "All agreed", writes Lord Beaverbrook,* "that there was no comparison between the gun-fire of April and of June, which was the heaviest endured by British troops up to that time." 5

The bombardment lasted four hours, ranging over Canadian positions from half a mile west of Mount Sorrel itself to the northern flank of Sanctuary Wood. The 4th CMR was the hardest hit unit, on the right flank of the 8th Brigade, while the 1st CMR and PPCLI also came under heavy fire. The 4th CMR positions in front of Armagh Wood dissolved into "a cloud of dust and dirt," in the words of a German observer, and trenches dissolved under the weight of fire. A feature known as "The Tunnel" dug on the reverse slope of Mount Sorrel was used as a casualty collection point. This gallery, dug by sappers of the 2nd Canadian Tunnelling Company, only offered temporary safety, as it too was eventually destroyed by gunfire and the survivors captured. The 4th CMR suffered 626 killed and wounded of a strength of 702 officers and men. The 76 men who came through unharmed represented an 89 percent casualty rate.

Among the casualties were Major-General Mercer, felled by a broken leg and burst ear-drums and then killed by shrapnel as he lay on the ground wounded. Brigadier-General Mercer was wounded and taken prisoner by German assault infantry. Command of the 3rd Canadian Division was assumed temporarily by Brigadier-Genearl E.S. Hoare Nairne of the Lahore Divisional Artillery, and the 8th Brigade by Lieutenant-Colonel J.C.L. Bott, commander of the 2nd CMR, then in brigade reserve. However, the transition was not made for several hours and both formations were required to conduct a defence of their positions without leadership.

Enemy fire became more intense as the morning went on. Allied artillery was unable to respond effectively, nor could the two squadrons of British aircraft flying in support. Forward observation officers spotting for the artillery were killed or wounded by German shellfire, and all telephone lines back to the batteries were eventually cut.

Just after 1:00pm the enemy exploded four mines, just short of Canadian trenches on Mount Sorrel. This was the signal for their attack and two battalions of the 121st Infantry Regiment and two more of the 125th Infantry Regiment (both of the 26th Infantry Division) attacked on the right. On the left, two battalions of the 27th Infantry Division's 120th Regiment attacked Mount Sorrel. Five more German battalions remained in support, with six additional battalions in reserve.

In bright sunlight the grey-coated figures advanced in four waves spaced about seventy-five yards apart. Afterwards Canadian survivors spoke of the assured air and the almost leisurely pace of the attackers, who appeared confident that their artillery had blotted out all resistance.

All was methodically planned. The men in the first line had fixed bayonets and carried hand grenades and wire cutters. Those who followed were equipped with entrenching tools, floor boards and sandbags. As they flowed over the flattened trenches along Mount Sorrel and Tor Top they encountered only small, isolated bands of survivors from the 1st and 4th C.M.R. who could offer little effective resistance. There were brief episodes of hand-to-hand fighting with bomb and bayonet, and where sheer numbers were not sufficient to overcome resistance, the enemy used flame projectors. The machine-guns of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the 5th Battalion (1st Division) - on the left and right flanks - raked the attackers. Though they inflicted substantial casualties they could not halt the advance. It remained for the 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles holding a series of strongpoints immediately behind the 1st and 4th battalions to check enemy attacks on the east and south-east sides of Maple Copse with rapid and accurate fire. Exploiting along Observatory Ridge, the Germans captured three strongpoints and overran a section of the 5th Battery C.F.A., killing or wounding all the gunners. Of this incident a German regimental historian was to write: "It is fitting to stress that here too the Canadians did not surrender, but at their guns defended themselves with revolvers to the last man."

This German attack marked the only time that guns of the Canadian Corps fell into enemy hands. Two 18-pounders had been posted well forward on Observatory Ridge, deployed to camouflaged pits within 400 yards of the front line as "sacrifice guns" in case of an emergency. Under the command of Lieutenant C.P. Cotton, the guns fired on German attackers at point blank range and remained in action until the position was overrun, the three surviving gunners and two sappers manning the weapons with Lieutenant Cotton were all killed or wounded. Both guns were later recovered during fighting on June 12 and June 13.7

The Germans were able to seize the bulk of Armagh Wood before consolidating, and had forced the Allies back all along the line, with the exception of the northernmost 600 yards of Canadian front line in Sanctuary Wood. Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry had one of its two forward companies overrun during the attack, but the second company emerged from the bombardment in relatively good order and was able to direct rifle fire into the enemy's right rear when it advanced. For eighteen hours, the company of P.P.C.L.I. held out, isolated and with all its officers killed or wounded.8

No. 1 Company of the P.P.C.L.I. was badly hurt by the bombardment and as the German fire slackened around 1:00pm, with half the company killed or wounded, both of the Patricia's flanks were open. To the right, the CMRs had been virtually destroyed. German infantry poured into the Canadian lines. No. 2 Company, posted on the Patricia's left, fired small arms into the right rear of the Germans swarming over the positions of No. 1 Company. No. 3 and No. 4 Companies, in support and communications trenches behind the main front, had to be redeployed to meet the new threat. At 3:00pm the German advance seemed to stall all along Observatory Ridge, though three more attacks went in against No. 2 Company that afternoon. They withdrew during the night, taking all weapons, stores and casualties with them and without suffering additional losses.9 The reserve companies defeated German attempts to reach the support line before Canadian reinforcements could arrive. The Patricias suffered 400 casualties in all, including 150 dead, among whom was Lieutenant-Colonel H.C. Buller, the Commanding Officer.10

Under orders issued before the attack the Germans dug in 600-700 yards west of their former line, though short of "the position to be occupied in the most favourable case". Their formation histories, reporting the road to Ypres open, regret the brake upon exploitation applied in advance by the command. Fortunately for the Canadians no German officer had the initiative to exceed instructions and capitalize on success. Pressure to the north against the weakened defenders might well have rolled up the Canadian left wing, which had been so gallantly held by the Patricia company backed by The Royal Canadian Regiment at Hooge.11

Canadian Counter-Attack

The new corps commander, Lieutenant-General Julian Byng, pronounced that all ground taken by the Germans during the day would be retaken that night. The counter-attack was hastily planned. Machine guns from the 10th Battalion, along with batteries of the Motor Machine Gun Brigade, were sent forward.12 The counter-attack was ordered to begin at 2:00am. The 10th Battalion moved to relieve the 7th Battalion in place so it could mass for the counter-attack.13

The 1st Division placed two brigades at the disposal of the 1st Division due to their heavy losses. The 2nd Brigade would operate against Mount Sorrel and the 3rd against Tor Top. The 7th Brigade of the 3rd Division, augmented by two battalions of the 9th Brigade, deployed on the left. The counter-attack was delayed past 7:00am due to the distance to be travelled by units involved, and the attack signal - seven simultaneous green rockets - proved troublesome. Fourteen rockets were employed due to misfires, and only six managed to burst. Not bursting simultaneously, and with at least two of the involved battalions reporting having seen no rockets at all, units continued to await the start signal past the appointed Zero Hour.

When the attack did commence, it was at different times. The 7th Battalion went forward on the right, the 14th and 15th Battalions in the centre, and the 49th on the left. Rifle and machine gun fire was able to concentrate on each unit in turn, and all four suffered heavy casualties as they went across in broad daylight. Small numbers of Canadians reached the enemy line, where they proved unable to overcome the defences in hand-to-hand fighting, and many losses were suffered there. By 1:00pm three battalions had withdrawn, only the 49th on the left remaining in possession of some trenches just short of the previous German front line. In all, casualties for the 7th Brigade for the first four days of June totalled 1,050 all ranks.

The attacks had failed to regain the original Canadian line, but did close a 600 yard gap between Square Wood and Maple Copse while advancing the Canadian line forward approximately 1,000 yards from where they had been pushed back. The line was now extended north toward Hooge, and positions in depth were constructed. The Germans also fortified his own line with barbed wire, machine guns and new communication trenches.

Further Attacks

With preparations underway for the July Drive on the Somme, the commander of all British troops in France, Sir Douglas Haig was unwilling to divert more troops than necessary to the Ypres Salient even though he agreed with the local Army commander, General Plumer, that German troops on high ground just two miles from Ypres was undesirable. Therefore, only limited resources were redirected to the sector. This included artillery and just one brigade of infantry.

(Haig) suggested that the next counter-attack be carried out with few infantry but many guns. This emphasis on artillery - which followed the tactics so successfully employed by the Germans at St. Eloi - brought to the disposal of the G.O.C. R.A. Canadian Corps, Brig.-Gen. H. E. Burstall, one of the greatest arrays of guns yet employed on so narrow a front. The 218 pieces included 116 eighteen-pounders, and ranged in calibre up to two 12-inch howitzers. They represented the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery, the 1st and 2nd Divisional Artilleries and the Lahore Divisional Artillery; the British 5th, 10th, 11th Heavy Artillery Groups, 3rd Divisional Artillery, 51st Howitzer Battery and 89th Siege Battery; and the South African 71st and 72nd Howitzer Batteries. The "heavies" of the British 5th and 14th Corps, on either flank, were to cooperate.

The main task of the artillery before the counter-attack was to hamper the enemy's consolidation by pounding his front and support lines and seeking out hostile batteries for destruction. German accounts admit the success of this programme. "The losses of the 120th Regiment and the 26th Infantry Division mounted in horrifying numbers ... What was constructed during the short nights was again destroyed in daytime". But bad flying weather made it impossible to register the heavy guns, and the counter-attack, originally set for 6 June, had to be postponed.14

The Germans struck first, this time attacking the spur at Hooge which had already changed hands several times since 1914. The most recent had been in August 1915, when the Germans had held it for eight days before being evicted. Overlooking Ypres, possession of the spur now would give domination of the Salient. The 2nd Division entered the fray when reliefs of the 6th Brigade came up from reserve and took over the 7th Brigade's sector north of Sanctuary Wood to hold the extreme left of the Canadian Corps front. On June 6, four large mines went off in the vicinty of 200 yards of trenches at about 3:05pm. Two companies of the 28th Battalion, guarding the eastern outskirts of Hooge's ruins, took heavily casualties, one company almost wiped out in the blasts. The remained of the 28th joined with the 31st Battalion in pouring rifle and machine gun fire into the following German infantry attack. But it was to no avail, as Hooge fell to the Germans. Following the policy of the Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant-General Byng opted to leave the trenches at Hooge in German hands so as to limit operations in the Ypres Salient and not hamper the preparations for the impending Somme operation.

Instead, the Canadians concentrated on seizing Mount Sorrel and Tor Top.

To guard against further trouble on his left, the British 2nd Dismounted Cavalry Brigade, organized in three battalions, came on loan to the Canadian Corps as a counter-attack force.77 After further postponement because of bad weather the Canadian operation was set for 1:30 a.m. on the 13th. It was to be carried out mainly by the 1st Division. Because of the casualties suffered by units of two of his brigades in the unsuccessful counter-attack of 3 June, General Currie regrouped his stronger battalions into two composite brigades. Brig.-Gen. Lipsett on the right had the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 8th Battalions, and for the attack on Tor Top Brig.-Gen. G.S. Tuxford (3rd Brigade) commanded the 2nd, 4th, 13th and 16th Battalions. The 58th Battalion (9th Brigade), plus a company of the 52nd, was to assault on the left. The 5th, 10th, 14th and 15th Battalions were placed in a reserve brigade under Brig.-Gen. Garnet Hughes.

Four intense bombardments of 20 to 30 minutes' duration carried out between the 9th and the 12th four times deluded the enemy into expecting an immediate attack; it was hoped that when none materialized he would suppose the artillery preparation for the real thing to be merely another feint. For ten hours on 12 June all German positions between Hill 60 and Sanctuary Wood were shelled unremittingly, particular attention being given to the flanks, from which machine-gun fire might be expected to enfilade the attackers. At 8:30 that evening, after an intense half-hour shelling which proved extremely accurate, the assaulting units moved up to their start lines - in some cases in no man's land. For forty five minutes before zero there was one more blasting by the heavy artillery, and then the attack went in behind a dense smoke screen and in heavy rain.

Brig.-Gen. Burstall had hoped that with so much artillery support our infantry would be able to advance "with slung rifles", and events proved him very nearly right. In four long lines the battalions pushed forward through the mud, each on a front of three companies-from right to left the 3rd, the 16th, the 13th and the 58th Battalions. There were occasional checks by fire from some machine-gun emplacement which had escaped destruction, or from grenades hurled by isolated pockets of Germans. But the majority of the Württembergers, completely surprised and badly shaken, offered little resistance.

Almost 200 were taken prisoner, the survivors falling back to the original German line. In an hour the battle was virtually over. "The first Canadian deliberately planned attack in any force", states the British Official History, "had resulted in an unqualified success." The 3rd Battalion had retaken Mount Sorrel, the 16th now held the northern part of Armagh Wood, the 13th had cleared Observatory Ridge and Tor Top, and the attached 58th Battalion (reporting casualties of 165 all ranks) had recovered much of the old line through Sanctuary Wood. Between 2 and 14 June the Canadian Corps losses numbered approximately 8000; in the same period the Germans in that sector sustained 5765 casualties. Inability to take effective counter-measures because of the Allied superiority in aeroplanes, artillery (40 batteries to 28 German) and supplies of ammunition was cited by the Germans for their failure to hold their gains of 2 June. They even judged the weather to be in our favour. "For the continual rain contributed to the softening up of the troops, which were exposed to heavy fire day and night." It was a meteorological viewpoint which the Canadian veteran lying in lashing rain in no man's land until the assault or standing knee-deep in water in the assembly trenches might find difficult to share.

Consolidation of the new front line began early on the 13th, as did the enemy's bombardment as soon as he realized the extent of his lost positions. On the morning of the 14th he launched two counter-attacks against Mount Sorrel, both of which were broken up by our artillery. He subsequently advanced his own line to within 150 yards of ours (the average distance which had existed between the forward positions before 2 June) but made no further move to reopen the battle.15


German trenches at Mount Sorrel, with German dead, photographed in June 1916
. (click to enlarge). LAC photo

Battle Honours

The Battle Honour "Mount Sorrel" was granted for participation in these actions.

Notes

  1. Nicholson, Gerald Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 (Duhamel, Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery, Ottawa, 1964)

  2. Ibid

  3. Ibid

  4. Goodspeed, D.J., Battle Royal: A History of the Royal Regiment of Canada 1862-1962 (The Royal Regiment of Canada Association, 1962) pp.138-139

  5. Nicholson, Ibid

  6. Ibid

  7. Nicholson, G.W.L. The Gunners of Canada: The History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Volume II 1919-1967 (Royal Canadian Artillery Association, 1972) pp.254-255

  8. Nicholson, Ibid

  9. Bercuson, David J. The Patricias: The Proud History of a Fighting Regiment (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd, Toronto, ON, 2001) ISBN 0-7737-3298-5 pp.78-80

  10. Nicholson, Ibid

  11. Ibid

  12. Ibid

  13. Dancocks, Daniel G. Gallant Canadians: The Story of the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion 1914-1919 (The Calgary Highlanders Regimental Funds Foundation, Calgary, AB, 1990) ISBN 0-9694616-0-7 p.78

  14. Nicholson, Ibid

  15. Ibid


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