The Canadian Army at War

Canada's Battle in Normandy

The Canadian Army's Share in the Operations,
6 June -- 1 September 1944


Colonel C.P. Stacey, O.B.E.
Director, Historical Section, General Staff

With a Foreword by

Lieutenant-General C. Foulkes, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O.
Chief of the General Staff, Canada

Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defense

Printed by the King's Printer at Ottawa, Canada

This booklet is based upon a preliminary examination of official records.

The illustrations consist mainly of paintings by Official War Artists of the Canadian Army and photographs by Canadian Army Overseas Film and Photo Units.

In this brief account of operations involving many thousands of men it has not been possible to make specific reference to every unit engaged, let alone to every individual officer or man who distinguished himself by acts of gallantry. A few such officers and men are mentioned, in order simply that their deeds may stand as types of many; had space permitted, the number might have been increased by many hundreds.

Painting: General H.D.G. Crerar
General H.D.G. Crerar, C.H., C.B., D.S.O.,
G.O.C.-in-C., First Canadian Army
(From an oil painting by Lieut. T.R. Macdonald, June, 1944)


This booklet is the third in a series published by the Department of National Defense with the object of giving the Canadian people authentic historical information concerning the contribution of their Army to victory in the recent war.

The earlier booklets, The Canadians in Britain 1939-1944 and From Pachino to Ortona dealt respectively with the years of waiting in the United Kingdom and with the opening phase of Canadian operations in the Mediterranean Theatre. The present volume tells the story of the Canadian Army's part in the initial and all-important stage of the great final campaign in North-West Europe. The operations in Normandy produced perhaps the most remarkable and significant victory in modern history; and in that victory Canadian forces played a very distinguished part.

It is not intended to extend this series of booklets further. Instead, the Department of National Defence proposed to publish at the earliest possible time a comprehensive one-volume Official Historical Sketch which will afford a brief but accurate account of the work of the Canadian Army in all theatres throughout the war. The Official History proper, which it is hoped may be produced in about five years, is planned to consist of four volumes and will give a more detailed account of the events on the basis of a complete examination of all available sources of information.

Charles Faulkes
Chief of the General Staff.


  Prefatory Note 13
I. Foundations of Victory
The Long Road to Normandy--The Canadian Army Prepares--The Atlantic Wall--The Balloon Goes Up
II. A Wall is Breached
The Scheme of the Assault--Ring Up the Curtain--The Battle of the Beaches--The Brigades Push Inland--Entry of the Gladiators--Defending the Bridgehead
III. The Battle of Caen
Building Up the Invasion--Back to the Offensive--The First Break-out From Caen--The Canadian Army Takes Over
IV. Victory at Falaise
"One Great COnsistent Pattern"--The Infantry Went Through--Over the Heights to Falaise--The Pocket and the Gap--The Graveyard of an Army
V. Pursuit to Dieppe
The Pursuit Begins--The Great Advance--International Army--Return to Dieppe--The Battle of Normandy

Plan of NEPTUNE Assaults showing D-Day Objectives 42
The Caen Area 76
The Expansion of the Normandy Bridgehead 102
The Falaise Area 106
Pursuit to Dieppe 136
General H.D.G. Crerar, C.H., C.B., D.S.O., G.O.C.-in-C., First Canadian Army frontispiece
D-Day: The Assault 39
"When quiet again descended upon the area of the Gap, it presented an extraordinary and terrible sight" 129
"The formidable concrete positions which had belched fire and steel in 1942 now discharged only oily and sullen smoke" 141

. . . For who is he, whose chin is but enrich'd
With one appearing hair, that will not follow
These cull'd and choice-drawn cavaliers to France?


Prefatory Note

The decisive battle in North-West France in the summer of 1944 was fought and won by gallant men from many nations. Britain, the United States, and Canada contributed the largest components; but Poland provided a fine division, the French Forces of the Interior and subsequently French regular forces played essential roles, and Belgium, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia all did their part. The victory won by the selfless cooperation of the men who made up these international forces is the property of no one nation; it is the monument of brace soldiers who died in different uniforms for one cause.

If this was a joint triumph of many nations, it was also a victory shared by the three fighting services. Sea, land, and air, they worked together for the defeat of the enemy so unselfishly and unceasingly that it would be difficult to say where the credit due to one element ended and that due to another began. All were courageous, all were skillful, all were bold; and together they achieved one of the greatest victories in the history of warfare and left all civilization their debtors.

In this campaign to which so many races and services contributed, the Canadian Army played a part of some significance. It is of that particular part that these pages tell.

Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation