Regimental Museum and Archives
- Virtual Tour Page 4 (Calgary Highlanders in the Second World War)
The next portion of the gallery is
a variety of photos and a copy of the famous communication which arrived at
Mewata Armouries on 1 September 1939, the same day that Hitler invaded
Poland. Canada was not yet at war, yet the Commanding Officer of the
Calgary Highlanders received this terse message from Ottawa:
The Second World War gallery commemorates
several key actions by the Calgary Highlanders during the fighting in
In September 1944, to help clear the port of
Antwerp in Belgium, the Calgary Highlanders were ordered to cross the
heavily defended Albert Canal and establish a bridgehead. The plan
called for a small patrol from "C" Company to cross over a lock gate
on the canal and secure a bridgehead. Two more Companies would follow
and the engineers could start construction of a bridge.
Crockett led the patrol of eight volunteers in the early hours of
September 22. Carrying only weapons and ammunition, the patrol moved
across a demolished footbridge to an island in the centre of the
canal. They moved silently to the edge of the 90 foot-wide lock gate
and began to carefully walk along the top, only to discover that the
last eight feet had been destroyed. The only connection to the shore
was a six-inch pipe with a taught cable stretched across it. Sergeant
Crockett and Corporal Roy Harold edged across the pipe and managed to
reach the enemy shore, enabling the remainder of the patrol to safely
reach the bank. The Germans had been alerted and immediately opened
fire with two machine guns and flares, wounding the last member of the
patrol and preventing the remainder of the regiment from crossing.
organized the various weapons of the patrol and set up a routine of
continuous fire, persuading the enemy that a much larger force had
actually crossed the canal. Much later, after re-establishing radio
contact with the Battalion, "C" Company crossed the canal to join the
patrol and was advised that the bridgehead had been taken.
The following day, the Highlanders expanded their bridgehead
and, led by Major Bruce McKenzie, repulsed several enemy
counter-attacks. By evening, the engineers had completed the bridge
and joined in the fight. The Germans attacked again that night, but by
morning the regiment had been reinforced by the Regiment de
Maisonneuve and the bridgehead was secured.
Sergeant Crockett was
awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his leadership and
exemplary courage during the crossing of the Albert Canal. Major
McKenzie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for conducting
the spirited defence of the bridgehead.
A full size diorama
depicting Crockett and Harold greets the visitor to this gallery.
Opposite this diorama is a 1:35 scale depiction of the Walcheren
The penetration of Allied
forces into North West Europe in 1944 created a need to establish a
shorter supply route to alleviate the existing logistical strain
exerted on the Brest and Normandy beachheads. Antwerp, with its large
docking facilities and proximity to the battlefront, was the logical
The key to utilizing
Antwerp was the control of Walcheren Island and the Breskens area:
whoever occupied these areas effectively controlled the Scheldt
Estuary shipping lane into Antwerp.
The capture of Antwerp in
late September 1944 still did not enable the Allies to use the port
facility, as the German army controlled Walcheren Island and the
Breskens area. The only way Walcheren Island could be approached by
land was by using the Walcheren Causeway, linking the island to the
South Beveland Peninsula.
The 2nd Canadian Division was tasked with the job of securing
Walcheren Causeway. On October 31 the 5 Brigades, which consisted of
the Calgary Highlanders, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of
Canada, le Regiment de Maisonneuve, and the Fifth Field Regiment,
Royal Canadian Artillery, attacked and successfully created a
bridgehead across the causeway.
Other displays in the
Second World War gallery include a life-size diorama incorporating a
surviving example of a three-inch mortar. These weapons were used to
great effect as the battalion's organic artillery. Six tubes made up
the Mortar Platoon, which belonged to Support Company. These mortars
rode into action in Universal Carriers and could be set up quickly in
mortar pits, or as in this diorama, behind a wall or other hard cover.
Also included in the
gallery is a mural depicting the battalion at the end of the war, as
it appeared on the return home to Canada.
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