Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War
The Victory Campaign
The Operations in North-West Europe, 1944-1945
Colonel C.P. Stacey,
O.B.E., C.D., A.M., PH.D., LL.D., F.R.S.C.
Director, Historical Section, General StaffMaps drawn by
Major C.C.J. Bond
Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defence
Roger Duhamel, F.R.S.C., Ottawa, 1966
Queen's Printer and Controller of Stationery
©Crown Copyrights reserved
In the writing of this volume the author has been given full access to relevant official documents in possession of the Department of National Defence; but the inferences drawn and the opinions expressed are those of the author himself, and the Department is in no way responsible for his reading or presentation of the facts as stated.
In the Falaise Gap, August 1944
From a watercolour by Major W.A. Ogilvie, M.B.E.
Men of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade moving forward through the debris of the German armies.
In the centre is a 7.62-cm. self-propelled gun. Painted on the spot near Ecorches.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter Page I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PLAN FOR INVADING NORTH-WEST EUROPE, 1940-1944 The Beginnings of "OVERLORD" 3 Allied Uncertainty, January-July 1942 5 The Tactics of Assault 6 Testing the Assault Tactics 12 Allied Strategic Planning, 1942-43 13 The COSSAC Plan for "OVERLORD" 16 The COSSAC Plan is Altered 21 Operations Before D Day 22 The Anglo-American Debate 26 II. THE CANADIAN ARMY AND THE INVASION PROJECT The Strategic Background, 1939-43 28 First Canadian Army in Transition 30 The Canadian Assault Force 34 First Canadian Army Prepares for Action 38 The Responsibilities of the Canadian Army Commander 41 The Eve of D Day 46 III. THE GERMANS IN FRANCE, 1940-1944 The Creation of the Atlantic Wall 48 German Forces in the West 50 The Advent of Rommel 54 A Confusion of Commands 56 German Knowledge of Allied Plans 59 The Final German Preparations 61 The Defences of the Normandy Coast 64 IV. THE PLAN OF ATTACK The Overall Plan 71 The Joint Fire Plan 74 The Role of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division 76 The Supporting Arms 80 Operations After "Neptune" 82 The Administrative Plan 84 The Decision to Launch the Operation 87 V. THE LANDINGS IN NORMANDY, 6 JUNE 1944 Forth to Normandy 90 Operation "NEPTUNE" Begins 91 Bombardment by Air and Sea 93 "Drenching" the Beach Defences 96 The Assault on the Beaches 100 The 7th Brigade's Beach Battle 102 The 8th Brigade Beaches 107 The Reserve Brigade Lands 110 The Situation at the End of D Day 113 VI. NORMANDY: THE BRIDGEHEAD BATTLE, 7-30 JUNE 1944 The German Reaction to the Assault 121 The 7th Brigade Advances to the Final Objectives 125 The 9th Brigade Thrown Back 126 The 8th Brigade on 7 June 134 The Attacks on the 7th Brigade: Putot-en-Bessin and Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse 135 The Failure at Le Mesnil-Patry 139 General Montgomery Directs the Battle 141 The Battle of the Odon 147 The Situation at the End of June 150 VII. NORMANDY: THE BATTLES OF CAEN AND BOURGUEBUS BRIDGE, 1-23 JULY 1944 A Momentary Pause 152 The Capture of Carpiquet 153 Theatre Strategy and the Use of Heavy Bombers 155 The Action of the Orne: The Capture of Caen 157 The Situation After the Capture of Caen 164 Operation "GOODWOOD": The Battle of Bourguébus Ridge 166 Operation "ATLANTIC": The Capture of Colombelles and Vaucelles 170 Canadian Operations on 19 July 173 The Last Phase of "ATLANTIC" 174 The Results of "GOODWOOD" and "ATLANTIC" 176 VIII. NORMANDY: THE BREAKOUT BEGINS, 24-31 JULY 1944 Montgomery's Orders for the Breakout 181 Operation "SPRING": The Action of Verrières Ridge-Tilly-la-Campagne 186 Operation "SPRING": The 3rd Division Front 189 Operation "SPRING": The 2nd Division Front 190 The Operation Is Suspended 192 First Canadian Army in the Line 196 Strategic Policy in the Last Days of July 198 IX. NORMANDY: THE FALAISE ROAD, 1-12 AUGUST 1944 The Situation at 1 August 203 "Prodding" South of Caen 204 Planning the Breakout Attack 207 Air Support for "TOTALIZE" 211 The Führer Intervenes 213 The First Phase of "TOTALIZE" 216 The Second Phase of "TOTALIZE" 222 X. NORMANDY: VICTORY AT FALAISE, 12-23 AUGUST 1944 The German Counter-Offensive and the Allied Change of Plan 232 Preparations for Operation "TRACTABLE" 236 The Action of the Laison 238 The Drive Continues Towards Falaise 245 The Action of Chambois: The Closing of the Gap 256 The 1st British Corps Drives Eastward 265 Plans for the Advance to the Seine 266 The Landings in Southern France 268 XI. NORMANDY: THE BALANCE SHEET The German Losses and Our Own 270 The Rival Strategies 271 On the Battlefield in Normandy 274 The Significance of Normandy 277 XII. THE PURSUIT ACROSS THE SEINE, 23-30 AUGUST 1944 Advancing Towards the Seine 279 The Infantry Reinforcement Problem Appears 284 The Forêt de la Londe 287 XIII. ANTWERP, ARNHEM AND SOME CONTROVERSIES, AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1944 The Pursuit to the Somme and Antwerp 296 The Germans Lose Antwerp but Save an Army 301 A Difficulty with the C.in-C. 303 The Debate on Strategy 306 The Failure at Arnhem 310 XIV. CLEARING THE COASTAL BELT AND THE PORTS, SEPTEMBER 1944 The Advance Beyond the Somme 323 The Need for the Channel Ports 329 Operation "ASTONIA": The Capture of Le Havre 331 Operation "WELLHIT": The Capture of Boulogne 336 Operation "UNDERGO": The Capture of Calais 344 The Cape Gris Nez Batteries 352 Clearing the Flying-Bomb Sites 354 XV. THE BATTLE OF THE SCHELDT, SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 1944
PART I: PLANNING, AND OPERATIONS NORTH OF ANTWERP
The Task is Assigned 358 Fighting on the Scheldt Outworks 361 Polish Operations South of the Scheldt 364 The 2nd Division in the Antwerp Sector 365 Planning the Scheldt Battle 369 Special Problems of Planning 373 The Final Plan for the Scheldt Battle 378 Fighting North from Antwerp 381 The Shortage of Trained Infantrymen 385 Strategic Discussion and a New Priority 386 XVI. THE BATTLE OF THE SCHELDT, SEPTEMBER-NOVEMBER 1944
PART II: BRESKENS, SOUTH BEVELAND, WALCHEREN
Operation "SWITCHBACK": Clearing the Breskens Pocket 392 The Attack Across the Leopold Canal 393 The Assault Across the Braakman 395 Operation "VITALITY": The Clearing of South Beveland 401 The Fight for the Walcheren Causeway 403 Preparations for the Landings on Walcheren 406 The Final Plan and the Decision to Assault 412 The Assault on Flushing 414 The Assault at Westkapelle 416 The End of the Battle 421 XVII. WINTER ON THE MAAS, 9 NOVEMBER 1944-7 FEBRUARY 1945 Strategy for the Next Phase 427 Schouwen and the Salient 430 Life in the Line 434 Planning the Rhineland Offensive 436 The Ardennes Offensive and Its Results 440 The Other Side of the Maas 444 The Fighting at Kapelsche Veer 450 Planning for "VERITABLE" is Resumed 455 The Administrative Foundation 457 XVIII. THE BATTLE OF THE RHINELAND
PART I: OPERATION "VERITABLE", 8-21 FEBRUARY 1945
The Battle Area 460 The Enemy's Defences 461 The Pattern of "VERITABLE" 464 First Canadian Army Goes Into Germany 467 The Siegfried Line is Breached 472 Through the Materborn Gap 474 Advance Through the Floods 479 The 2nd Canadian Corps Enters the Battle 481 Clearing Moyland Wood 482 The Goch-Calcar Road 486 The Capture of Goch 489 XIX. THE BATTLE OF THE RHINELAND
PART II: OPERATION "BLOCKBUSTER", 22 FEBRUARY-10 MARCH 1945
Plans for a Renewed Offensive 491 On the Enemy Side 494 "BLOCKBUSTER" Goes In 496 The Fighting for Üdem 502 The Battle for the Hochwald 503 The Enemy's Plight 509 The Struggle in the Gap 510 Eastward from the Hochwald 514 The Capture of Xanten and Veen 516 The Rhineland Victory 521 XX. THE RHINE CROSSING AND THE 2nd CORPS' ADVANCE TO THE NORTH SEA, 23 MARCH-22 APRIL 1945 Strategy: Malta and Yalta 527 The 1st Corps Arrives from Italy 529 Planning Operation "PLUNDER" 530 The Watch on the Rhine 533 The Crossing of the Rhine: The Assault 534 The 9th Brigade Beyond the Rhine 537 Beginning the Northern Drive: Emmerich and Hoch Elten 539 Strategy for the Final Phase 543 The Re-Entry of First Canadian Army 545 Zutphen and Deventer 548 Operation "CANNONSHOT": Crossing the Ijssel 551 On to the North Sea 552 The Advance to the Küsten Canal 557 Preparations for the Final Phase 562 XXI. THE 1st CORPS IN THE WESTERN NETHERLANDS, 1-22 APRIL 1945 Problems of an Assault Across the Neder Rijn 564 Operation "DESTROYER": Clearing the "Island" 567 Intermission: Preparations for Further Operations 568 The Capture of Arnhem and a Revision of Strategy 570 The Capture of Apeldoorn 573 Operation "CLEANSER": The Drive to the Ijsselmeer 576 Operations on the Left Flank, 15-19 April 580 The Problem of Dutch Relief 581 The Halt in the Western Netherlands 587 XXII. THE GERMAN SURRENDER Canadian Tasks for the Final Phase 590 The Fight for Delfzijl 591 Across the Ems and the Leda 594 The Advance into the Emden-Wilhelmshaven Peninsula 597 The Advance to Oldenburg 601 The Parachute Battalion Marches to Wismar 603 Help for the Western Netherlands 606 The German Surrender 609 XXIII. THE AFTERMATH OF THE GERMAN SURRENDER Implementing the Surrender 613 Morale and Repatriation 615 The Canadian Army Occupation Force 619 XXIV. ADMINISTRATION, AND SOME SPECIAL ACTIVITIES AND PROBLEMS Canadian Administration in North-West Europe 623 The 1st and 2nd Echelons 628 The Reinforcement Organization 630 The "Canloan" Scheme 633 Canadians and the European "Resistance" 635 Civil Affairs and Military Government Officers 638 No. 1 Canadian Forestry Group 639 CONCLUSION 641
"A" Directive to G.O.C.-in-C. First Canadian Army 647 "B" Canadian Army Casualties-Normandy-6 June 1944 650 "C" Approximate Casualties of the Allied Armies by Sectors, Normandy, 6 June 1944 651 "D" General Montgomery's Directive to Generals Bradley and Dempsey, 30 June 1944 653 "E" Field-Marshal Montgomery's Directive, 16 October 1944 655 "F" Canadian Army Units in North-West Europe (8 May 1945) 657 "G" Officers Holding Principal Appointments in the Canadian Army in North-West Europe (6 June 1944-8 May 1945) 663 ABBREVIATIONS 669 REFERENCES (Endnotes are included at the end of each chapter) 675 INDEX General 733 Formations, Units and Corps 758
Following page First Canadian Army: From Normandy to the Scheldt (front end-paper) 1. German Forces and Defences, 716th Infantry Division Area, 6 June 1944 50 2. Canadian Assaults, D Day 114 3. The Battle of Bourguébus Ridge, 18-21 July 1944 178 4. Operation "TOTALIZE", 7-10 August 1944 226 5. The Closing of the Falaise Gap, 17-21 August 1944 266 6. Forêt de la Londe, 26-29 August 1944 290 7. The Capture of Boulogne, 17-22 September 1944 338 8. The Battle of the Scheldt, October-November 1944 424 9. The Ardennes Crisis, 16-26 December 1944 442 10. The Rhineland: Operation "VERITABLE", 8-21 February 1945 490 11. The Rhineland: Operation "BLOCKBUSTER", 22 February-10 March 1945 518 12. Advance on the Northern Front, 23 March-22 April 1945 560 13. The Western Netherlands: 1st Canadian Corps Operations, 2-25 April 1945 584 14. The Final Phase: 2nd Canadian Corps Front, 23 April-5 May 1945 608 First Canadian Army: From the Maas to the Weser (back end-paper)
(in Black and White)
Page 1. Great Britain and Northern France 25 2. German Formations in the West, 23 October 1943 53 3. German Formations in the West, 6 June 1944 65 4. Plan Before D Day 86 5. The Invasion of Normandy, Allied Concentration and Routes, 6 June 1944 92 6. Operations 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 6 June 1944 118 7. The Canadian Front, 7-8 June 1944 127 8. Le Mesnil-Patry and the Mue Valley, 11 June 1944 139 9. The Normandy Bridgehead, 6-30 June 1944 148 10. The Attack on Carpiquet, 4 July 1944 154 11. The Capture of Caen, 8-9 July 1944 159 12. German Dispositions, British Front, 24-25 July 1944 184 13. Verrières Ridge-Tilly-la-Campagne, 25 July 1944 188 14. Operation "TOTALIZE": The Plan 217 15. Operations 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment, 9 August 1944 226 16. Clair Tizon, 11-14 August 1944 235 17. Operation "TRACTABLE": The Plan 239 18. Operation "TRACTABLE": 14-16 August 1944 242 19. Expansion of the Normandy Bridgehead, July-August 1944 253 20. The Pursuit to the Seine, 22-30 August 1944 281 21. The Seine Crossing, 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions, 26-30 August 1944 293 22. Advance to the Somme and Antwerp, 31 August-4 September 299 23. North-West Europe, The Front, 15 September 1944 311 24. Operation "MARKET-GARDEN", 17-26 September 315 25. The Coastal Belt, 4-12 September 325 26. Le Havre: Operation "ASTONIA", 10-12 September 1944 333 27. The Capture of Calais, 25 September-1 October 1944 347 28. Woensdrecht, 7-16 October 1944 382 29. The Leopold Canal, 6-13 October 394 30. The Walcheren Causeway, 31 October-2 November 1944 403 31. The Capture of Walcheren, 1-8 November 1944 415 32. The Northern Front, 16 October-10 November 1944 423 33. The Nijmegen Island, 2-7 December 1944 432 34. The Threat Across the Maas, Mid-December 1944 445 35. Kapelsche Veer, 26-30 January 1945 451 36. Attack by 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, 8 February 1945 470 37. Moyland Wood and the Goch-Calcar Road,- 16-21 February 1945 485 38. The Hochwald Gap, 27 February-3 March 1945 506 39. Xanten, 8-10 March, 1945 518 40. The Battle of the Rhineland, 8 February-11 March 1945 523 41. Closing to the Rhine, February-March 1945 525 42. Operation "VARSITY", Showing Situation 6th Airborne Division, Afternoon 24 March 1945 536 43. The Battle of the Rhine, The Left Flank, 23 March-1 April 1945 540 44. Zutphen and Deventer, 5-12 April 1945 549 45. The Clearing of Groningen by 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, 13-16 April 1945 555 46. The Küsten Canal Crossing, 17-19 April 1945 560 47. The Advance Across Germany, 23 March-8 May 1945 589 48. The Fight for Delfzijl, 23 April-2 May 1945 592 49. March to Wismar, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 27 March-2 May 1945 605
Facing Page In the Falaise Gap, August 1944 (in colour) Frontispiece Distinguished Observers at Exercise "TROUSERS", 12 April 1944 50 Infantrymen of the Assault Force in Training, 18 April 1944 50 The Royal Canadian Navy Lands the 9th Brigade 51 The Broken Atlantic Wall 51 Courseulles from the Air 82 Congestion on "MIKE R ED" Beach, D Day 83 Strongpoint at St. Aubin-sur-Mer 114 The Abbey of Ardenne 114 Divine Service on Board H.M.C.S. Algonquin, 18 June 1944 115 Canadian Convoy in Caen 115 The Steelworks at Colombelles, 19 July 1944 146 Forward to the Laison 146 Clearing Out Snipers in Falaise 147 The Falaise Gap 147 St. Lambert-sur-Dives, August 1944 274a The Railway "Y" in the Forêt de la Londe 274b The Forêt de la Londe 275 Lancasters Over Mont Lambert, 17 September 1944 306 German Prisoners at Boulogne 306 A Letter from the C.-in-C. 307 The Leopold Canal, Looking East, 1946 402 Biervliet From the East, 1946 402 Atlantic Wall Defences Near Cadzand 403 The Walcheren Causeway, Looking East Towards South Beveland 403 The Scene of the Westkapelle Landing 434 On the Dyke at Kapelsche Veer, January 1945 434 The Supreme Commander Visits Canadian Troops 435 Commanders in Operation "VERITABLE", February 1945 435 Warfare in the Floods 466 The British Prime Minister Visits First Canadian Army 466 The Algonquins Moving Up 467 The Hochwald Gap 467 "Melville" Bridge Carries Traffic Across the Rhine 498 The Patricias Cross the Ijssel 499 House-Clearing in Groningen, 15 April 1945 499 Conquerors Meet on the Baltic 604 Surrender of the German Twenty-Fifth Army 604 Senior Commanders, First Canadian Army, Hilversum, 20 May 1945 605 Canadians in Berlin 605
THIS is the third and final volume of the Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. The first and second volumes, dealing respectively with events in Canada, Britain and the Pacific and with the campaign in Italy, were published in 1955 and 1956. A volume dealing with military policy in the broad sense, and thus extending beyond the Army, is in preparation.
The first stage of the Historical Section's work on the Second World War was represented by the three booklets published in 1945-46 under the series title THE CANADIAN ARMY AT WAR. The second was the Official Historical Summary, The Canadian Army 1939-1945, published in 1948. For a variety of reasons, the completion of the History proper has taken much longer than was at first planned; but it is believed that the period spent in preparation has helped to produce a better book.
A description of the principles which have been followed with respect to documentation, etc., and acknowledgements to some of the many individuals and organizations, in Canada and elsewhere, whose generous assistance has contributed to this book, will be found in the preface to Volume I, Six Years of War. A few remarks should however be made with respect to the present volume in particular. It may be noted that in some quotations from documents abbreviated forms have been written out in full, to assist the reader, without the fact being indicated. In connection with German documents, it should be observed that comparatively few of these have been available to Western military historians on levels below the headquarters of armies. For the final weeks of the campaign, almost no contemporary German documents on any level are to be had. It has therefore frequently been necessary to have recourse to reports of interrogations and to the post-war writings of German officers.
The great campaign dealt with in this volume witnessed innumerable deeds of gallantry, some of which were suitably recognized, while others, as is inevitable in some cases, were not observed or not reported. It is obviously out of the question to speak of all the well-merited awards that were made. A few are mentioned, not necessarily as being the most distinguished, but simply so that they may stand as types and examples of the hundreds of other heroic acts which must necessarily pass unnoticed here.
I am grateful to many members of the Historical Section of the General Staff for help with the volume. Lt.-Col. G. W. L. Nicholson, C.D., the Deputy Director, and Lt.-Col. E. W. Cutbill, D.S.O., E.D., C.D., the Executive Officer, have given constant assistance in too many ways to enumerate. Colonel Nicholson drafted Chapters XVIII and XIX. Lt.-Col. T. M. Hunter, C.D., wrote the first drafts of Chapters I, IV, XIII, XIV, XVII, and XX-XXIII. Captain John Porter drafted Chapter III, and Major D. J. Goodspeed Chapter XXIV. To these
gentlemen I offer my best thanks. They should not however be held responsible for the content of the chapters as now printed; for all of these have been considerably revised, for better or for worse, by the present writer, who also drafted the remaining eleven chapters. Other members of the Section staff who have made direct and distinguished contributions to the work are Major C. C. J. Bond, under whose most intelligent direction the maps were produced; Mr. A. G. Steiger, whose assistance in connection with the German sources was more valuable than words can express; Captain L. R. Cameron and Captain
A. L. Disher, C.D., who successively gave the author inestimable help as research assistants; Staff-Sergeant R. C. Wellstood, C.D., and Sergeant A. A. Azar, who did sterling work in checking quotations and references and preparing the index; and Q.M.S. (W.O.2) M. R. Lemay, C.D., who typed the successive drafts of this volume with the same cheerful and indefatigable efficiency which is acknowledged in Volume I. Other members of the staff have placed me under less direct but still important obligations. In writing a single volume devoted to so considerable an enterprise as the Canadian Army's participation in the North-West Europe campaign, and addressed primarily to the general reader, it has been necessary to be selective. Much detail which might appropriately have found a place in the story has had to be excluded, and in particular many technical and special matters have had to be left to corps and regimental historians. Those readers who discover errors or important omissions in the volume are asked to communicate with the Director Historical Section, Army Headquarters, Ottawa, Canada.
C. P. Stacey