The following article appeared in the July 1945 edition of "The Glen",
the regimental newsletter that was begun in September 1939. The overview is told in
the words of the editorial staff of The Glen - in other words, soldiers who were with the
battalion during the Second World War. The article originally ran without maps or
illustrations, and was intended as part of a "souvenir" edition, aimed primarily
at serving soldiers of the Regiment to take home as a keepsake. Some minor edits
have been made by the webmaster, chiefly to alter abbreviated words, plus minor spelling,
grammar and punctuation edits.
This site will eventually have detailed
examinations of all of the major operations described below, but this abridged version of
the history will also no doubt be of interest to those only wishing a brief overview of
the battalion's history.
The detailed examinations on other pages will
also put some of the more obscure references below in a more comprehensible context for
the reader unfamiliar with Canadian operations in NW Europe as a whole.
The Breakthrough and Pursuit
The war in Europe was almost a month old
when, on the sixth of July, 1944, The Calgary Highlanders landed in France. The
first glimpse of things to come was a 1000-bomber raid on Caen, seen as the later elements
of the battalion came ashore. The more personal angle came as we de-waterproofed our
weapons and vehicles and moved inland towards the great battle, settling for a while in
the shadow of the Abbey at Cussy. There, we had our first casualties, a reminder
that war was not all route marches and waving banners.
On the nineteenth, our first action started,
our orders being to take Hill 67. We marched through Caen, passed through the Black
Watch and the Regiment de Maisonneuve and, under a terrific barrage, swung into battle
with pipes skirling. Clearing out all German opposition on the way, we pressed
forward, taking Fleury-sur-Orne and The Hill itself. The first counter-attack,
supported by tanks, came in about two hours later, causing considerable casualties but
gaining no ground. The enemy lost two Panthers and one Pz Kpfw IV. The
Calgaries had stood the test and now knew that they were as good as the best of German
soldiers - the SS; the phrase was no longer a meaningless instructor's platitude. An
extra phase of this battle was the taking out of Etavaux, a small thorn in our right
A few days later, we were ordered down the
hill to capture May-sur-Orne. The enemy contested every foot of the ground and we
did not get our final objective. Tired, weary and much depleted in ranks, we retired
to Basse in the early hours of the 26th, leaving the town of St. Andre to be held by the
Regiment de Maisonneuve. Back at Basse, we were re-equipped and the new
reinforcements were fitted in to plug some of the gaps.
All too soon, we felt, we were flung once
more against the enemy, this time at Tilly-la-Campagne. We could not then understand this
seemingly senseless beating of our heads against the might of the German Army. Only later
were we to see that these battles had held the German armour long enough to enable the
American Army, far on our right, to break through at St. Lo. It was the end of a phase.
The seventh of August saw us on the start of
the great Falaise Breakthrough. The tempo of the fighting decreased as we fought our way
through Bretteville and Clair Tizon. However, the fatigue of the pursuit increased as we
tried, generally in vain, to engage the enemy at Urville, Fontaine-les-Pin, through the
shelling at Orbec to Ste. Germain-la-Campagne. It was on the way to Orbec, as we passed
through Vimoutier and Laboscraie, that we felt the first collapse of the German Army. At
the latter place, we could hear Jerry starting up his vehicles and pulling out as we
advanced. It was there, too, that we came upon mile after mile of vehicles which had been
knocked out by the Air Force.
The night air attack at St. Cyr de Salerne
was the prelude to the relief of the Watch at Bourgtheroulde and the terrific shelling in
Foret de la Londe, where the regiment stood up to sixteen hours of the heaviest shelling
the enemy could turn against us.
We crossed the Seine on the
3rd Div bridge
at Elbeuf and were the first of the Allies to enter Rouen. So great was the reception of
the French people that it took three hours to travel the four miles through town.
And so to Dieppe! There it was spit, polish
and blanco - shades of England again. The General Officer Commanding the division and the
mayor of Dieppe took the salute, honouring the Canadians who had made the first trial
landing in force on 19 August, 1942. After a short pause, on up the French coast, where we
tidied Ste. Folquin, then Bourbourgville and the assault and capture of Loon Plage, where
our most forward elements reached Fort Mardick, jut short of Dunkerque. Little did we
realize that only with the utter collapse of the Germany Army, way on in 1945, would
Dunkerque be free once more.
On the 18 September, 1944, we left Loon Plage
to proceed to Wommelghem, situated on the outskirts of Antwerp. The trip proved to be a
very interesting one, through the beautiful rolling country of Northern France, passing
through and near such famous places as Ypres, St. Julien, Passchendaele, Poel Capelle,
etc. All along the road, we were warmly welcomed by the people. On 22
September we made the long-to-be-remembered and highly successful crossing
of the Albert Canal. Stiff encounters were fought; we finally drove the Hun
from his positions, thus establishing a firm bridgehead through which the
remaining 2nd Division units could pass.
After a short rest, we once again started to
roll, making for St. Leonard, via Ryckevorsel and Oostbrecht. On approaching St. Leonard,
opposition became increasingly more stiff and a tough battle was fought in St. Leonard
itself and on the outskirts of Brecht. As that particular sector was the hub of the German
defence system in that area, we may well be proud of our achievements there. We then moved
to Lochtenberg, where a company took over Fort de Schooten, which had been
left undefended by the Germans. A new plan was unfolded, in which the 2nd Division was given the job of
moving up the new enemy defensive line, which had been prepared south of Bergen-op-Zoom.
On the seventh of October, at 0530 hours, we
crossed the start line to attack and capture the town of Hoogerheide. Small pockets of
resistance were encountered on the axis of the advance but, finally, each company was
firmly established on its objective, in spite of the enemy's reluctance to give ground.
That night a great many counter-attacks were successfully repelled and it was then
realized that we were in the centre of Jerry's defence line. On the ninth, a large, well
organized attack was launched by the Germans and they were successful to some degree, in
that they regained a vital cross-roads on the outskirts of Hoogerheide; however, we
quickly regained our offensive spirit and the next day the cross-roads was once again in
We were relieved on October 11 and proceeded
back to an area around Ossendrecht for regrouping and a well earned rest.
From this area, we moved out to the water
country and it was here that we got our first taste of real "Dyke Warfare."
After a week of intensive patrolling, we felt that we were ready to attack the formidable
Hun positions, which were cleverly and securely dug in along the sides of the dykes and a
railroad which ran directly across their defense line. So good were these positions that
they were safe from artillery fire, other than lucky, direct hits. at 1500 hours on
October 23, we moved into the attack, corssing open country swept by murderous machine gun
fire from the enemy, and were successful in dislodging the enemy, from the positions he
had held for so long. Casualties were amazingly low, in spite of the stubborn fight the
enemy put up in the initial stages of the attack. Some of the Huns managed to withdraw to
a high piece of ground which commanded the main road out to Beveland; however, we again
came to the fore and cleaned this pocket out the next day, thus sealing off the Beveland
Peninsula. Another job well done.
No sooner had we got organized for a nice,
long rest than orders came through to start moving along the Beveland Peninsula. After
passing through Goes, we cleared and captured our first two objectives, which were Heer
Hendrikskinderen and Heer Arendskerke. The main problem other than the Heinies was the
large amount of mines encountered, which slowed the advance up somewhat.
Finally, all that remained to be done before
the port of Antwerp would be free for shipping was the clearing of Walcheren Island, which
is joined to the mainland by a narrow causeway. We drew the job of crossing the causeway
and establishing a bridgehead on the Island, to enable other units to pass through. The
Germans had this narrow entrance well covered with all types of fire. We were successful
in crossing and managed to establish a small bridgehead but the fire brought down by the
enemy on this small area was too much and we withdrew, taking up positions on the causeway
itself, later to be relieved by another unit. It was there that the good news came that a
real rest was assured for us. It was the first one since we had landed and we were more
than happy to hear of it.
The Winter Campaign and Attack to the
The Battle of the Scheldt had been won only
at considerable cost, in men and equipment, to the Canadian Army. We had not escaped heavy
losses, paying a high price for the reputation we had gained. It was, therefore, with a
sense of relief that we heard we were to return to Lierre, Belgium, for the period of rest
In Lierre, equipment was overhauled and our
unit was brought up to strength. Training on platoon and section bases was carried out.
With this were mixed shows, dances and 48-hour passes to Antwerp and Brussels. However, th
rest soon came to an end and, on the night of 10-11 November, 1944, we moved to Malden,
near Nijmegen, which was to be our area for some time to come.
During the next
three months, we were to assist in the task given to the Canadian Army of
holding what was known as the "Nijmegen Salient." The 2nd Division occupied the Groesbeek area, facing the
Reichswald Forest. The general plan was to have two brigades forward, holding the line,
with one brigade kept in the rear, resting.
Following ten days of "restful"
training and bridge guarding we took over the role of reserve battalion in the brigade.
Much patrolling and souvenir hunting in the 82nd Airborne Division landing zone was
carried out during this period.
On 1 December we took over from the Black
Watch. Activity was very varied at this stage, ranging from the annoying of Jerry to the
"mercy killing" of "shell-shocked" cattle and pigs - the resultant
meat from the latter being a welcome addition to our diet.
On 8 December we were relieved by the South
Saskatchewan Regiment and, until the 15th, we were once more in "rest." On the
latter date we moved up to the front again to take over from the Royal Hamilton Light
Infantry in the woods facing the Reichswald Forest. It was a cold, dreary, wet day with
snow on the ground, and the position that had to be taken over definitely reminded
everyone of the stories they had heard about trench life in the last war. The positions
were none too good when we moved in; as a result, in addition to bothering Jerry and
keeping him quiet, all possible efforts were directed to building dug-outs, log cabins
(well sandbagged or underground), crawl trenches and fire bays. After improvements had
been made, life became more tolerable. As a western battalion we obtained a new
understanding of a gopher's life.
Here, patrolling formed a large part of the
work. Creeping through woods where a false step would snap a twig or rustle a leaf to
betray one's presence, mindful of the Schumines sown thereabouts, exposed to sporadic
mortaring or shelling, we found this a period of strain, especially at night.
Christmas Eve brought an amusing incident.
Suddenly, from the Jerry lines, came the sound of a trumpet playing, rather badly,
"Silent Night" as accompaniement to our sundry voices. In retaliation two of our
pipers regaled the Hun with regimental company marches past.
Christmas Day was spent "in the
line" but our special dinner was held back, as it was hoped that we would be relieved
before New Year's Day. However, the Germans started their drive in the Ardennes and itw
as feared that they might attempt an airborne landing in our area. The
necessary counter measures deprived our brigade of its relief and we had
Christmas Dinner in the line, after all, and we stayed there until the 10
January 1945, when we were relieved by the South Saskatchewan Regiment. We
spent twenty-seven consecutive days in our front line positions; it was the
longest single period put in by any of the units of 2nd Division.
We passed seven days cleaning up, resting and
taking part in entertainment after our long spell of "the front", after which,
on 17 January, we moved to Grave barracks for a week's training with the tanks of the Fort
From the 3rd Division we took over an
entirely new area - Berg en Dal - on 25 January, where more patrolling was carried out.
The first of February found us back in the Groesbeek area, well done.
On 8 February the drive to the Rhine got
under way, at 1042 hours, after a heavy artillery barrage of five hours' duration.
We, in company with the Regiment de Maisonneuve, were to take Wyler and, by 2000 hours,
the objective was gained. Two hundred prisoners were taken, including the first
woman prisoner we had captured.
On 10 February, we were pulled back to the
area we had occupied before the attack on Wyler, following which we made a brief stay in
Nijmegen. After that, we went to the Cleve area, on the 18th, where we relieved the
9th Cameronians. We spent the time until the 24th keeping Jerry "hotted
up." This included a well-staged platoon attack with the aid of flame throwers,
which netted some forty Jerries, dead and prisoners.
After three days spent in a brigade
concentration area, preparing for the attack on the approaches to Xanten, we started the
attack on the 27th, moving toward the Hochwald Forest. Very stiff opposition was
encountered but we reached our final objectives: however, we had to repulse a
counter-attack the next morning. We remained in this general area until 9 March, on
which date we assisted in the clearing of the area south of Xanten.
By now, the Americans were only a short
distance away and the "Battle of the Rhine" was over. We were relieved by
the South Saskatchewan Regiment and returned by Troop Carrying Vehicles to Berg en Dal, so
that we could rest and clean up there. After a couple of days of changing this and
that, bath parades, pressing bees and so forth, we looked smart and clean again.
Company dances and an Officers' Mess Dinner were held during this rest, as was a brigade
church parade, followed by a march past, when Major General A.B. Matthews took the salute.
On 28 March, our regiment was warned for a
move and, at 1302 hours, 29 March, we were on our way, crossing the Rhine near Rees, over
Across the Rhine and Germany kaput
After spending two nights in concentration
areas, we formed up south of Terborg. On 1 April, the attack on Doetinchem got under
way. This phase of the war was, for us, one of a somewhat varying nature; although
the ground lent itself chiefly to normal tactics, there was still quite a large number of
canals and rivers to be crossed. Doetinchem was taken by 2300 hours on that day,
with the exception of the town square. This held out until the following morning,
when efficient use of flame subdued the enemy.
We then engaged in a pursuit battle from
Doetinchem to Hengelo, crossed the Twente Canal on the fourth of April, engaged the enemy
again just short of Laren and, having earned it, were given a rest for two days.
On the 8th of the month, we crossed the
Schipbeek Canal and on the 10th, we moved by Troop Carrying Vehicle up to the next canal,
crossed the canal on foot and continued to a position southeast of Ommen. The 11th
saw us again on the march and we settled in at Balkbrug for the night. The Scout
Platoon did excellent work throughout this area by working well out to a flank, shooting
up the Boche.
April the 13th saw us again pushing on,
stopping for the night at Peelo, near Assen. The Hun had apparently retired to
Groningen; therefore, the brigade plan was now to attack that city from the west. We
pushed forward on the 14th to take Hoogkerk, establishing a firm base for the brigade.
The initial attack on Groningen was now planned and by last light we were on our
objectives within the outskirts of the city, having accounted for two hundred Huns
including those killed and taken prisoner.
On the 15th, we had the task of clearing a
U-shaped, canal bounded portion of the city. This area consisted mainly of
three-story apartment buildings; house to house and room to room fighting went on all day.
The sector was cleared, apart from the odd sniper, by 1700 hours, some flame and
three-inch mortar having been used. The total bag of Boche was five hundred, killed,
wounded and taken prisoner. It was a very successful operation.
After the Groningen battle, we made a long
move into Germany, arriving at Westrum, via Assen and Lingen, on 17 April. Thence to
Ahlhorn, from which area we moved off, on the 22nd, to attack Döhlen.
On the 26th, we withdrew to Delmenhorst,
having orders to thrust toward Oldenburg. We took Gruppenbühren and, despite mines
and heavy resistance, pushed forward another two thousand yards in the next three days.
On 30 April, we attacked through Hude on to Ocholt and
Neuenkoop. Although subjected to considerable shelling, all companies were on their
objectives by 1800 hours. Due to low lying country, heavy rainfall and the blowing
of bridges and craters by the Huns, vehicle movement was almost impossible. Several
companies reverted to horse and cart transport in order to get their rations up.
Extensive patrols were carried out by the
Scout Platoon during the next few days, keeping contact with the enemy and obtaining
The 3rd of May brought the
news that Oldenburg had fallen. The brigade was ordered to concentrate there on the
4th, prepatory to the drive on Wilhelmshaven. On the next day, while plans were
being made for the attack on the thumb between Bremen and Wilhelmshaven, word came through
that the sector in which we were fighting had surrendered. However, just in case the
news was incorrect, the plans were completed.
Cease Fire for
21 Army Group came into effect at 0800 hours on the 5th of May. This brought an end to our role as a fighting
In closing, it is fitting that special
mention be made of all the supporting arms, Artillery, Tanks, 4.2 inch Mortars, MMGs and
Engineers, who co-operated so magnificently with us. During the latter stages of the
war, battle-trained leaders realized the importance of all supporting arms and employed
them most effectively to assist the infantry soldier.