Page 28

Chapter 2: The Canadian Army and the Invasion Project

(See Sketch 1)

The background of Canadian participation in Operation OVERLORD is as long a story as the preparation of the operation itself. Through the years from 1940 onwards when the operation was being planned, Canadian troops were present in the United Kingdom in increasing numbers, and it was always assumed that when Allied forces returned to the Continent the Canadians would have a considerable share in the invasion. This chapter attempts to trace the development of their part in the project, which passed through many changes during four years of planning.

The Strategic Background, 1939-43

Readers of the previous volumes of this history are aware that the 1st Canadian Division arrived in Britain in December 1939. The assumption that the role of this division and those that followed it would be participation in a campaign in France alongside the British Expeditionary Force was dispelled by the disastrous battles of 1940 and the expulsion of British forces from the Continent. For a long period thereafter the immediate task of the Canadians in Britain was limited to preparation for defence against a probable invasion; but when the invasion did not come, and when during 1941 Soviet Russia and the United States were successively drawn into the war on the side of the Commonwealth, planning for a return to the Continent assumed a more realistic aspect, and the Canadian connection with these schemes became a matter of increasing importance.

In Volume I* we have said something of the Canadian relationship to the invasion plan produced in 1942 known as Operation ROUNDUP. The situation was unstable and there was no really firm basis for planning, but in September 1942 it was assumed that if and when ROUNDUP was carried out the role of the First Canadian Army would be to “follow up” through a bridgehead secured by an American army. General McNaughton described the plan in these terms to the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Canadian General Staff on

* See Six Years of War, Chap. X.

Page 29

3 October.1 On 19 November the Chief of the Imperial General Staff told McNaughton that “large scale raids of limited scope and duration” against the U-boat bases in the Biscay ports were planned for about April 1943; it was hoped the Canadian Army would participate.2 Early in 1943 there was talk of a limited cross-Channel operation, along the lines of the previous year’s SLEDGEHAMMER plan; it was suggested that Headquarters First Canadian Army would control the whole operation, with a British assault division under command (see Volume I, Chapter XII). But in describing Exercise SPARTAN to the authorities in Ottawa at the same period, General McNaughton pointed out that the role of First Canadian Army in this exercise-the breakout “from an established bridgehead”—was the one which it was expected to play in actual major operations.3 On 10 February 1943 he asked General Paget, the Commander-in-Chief Home Forces, for a firm statement on this matter. Paget replied that he was quite certain that the Canadian formations should be used for the mobile task of exploiting the bridgehead. It had been decided that the initial attack would be under the direction of Headquarters First Canadian Army; but to conduct the actual assault Lieut.-General F. E. Morgan’s 1st British Corps of three infantry divisions would be placed under it. Subsequently the two Canadian corps would be employed for exploitation, and two British Armies would be brought in. It was emphasized that such a campaign could be undertaken only if some deterioration in German morale was evident.4 At this time, as a result of the initiation of the North African campaign, there was less than a single United States division in the United Kingdom, and any immediate operation based on that country would have had to be almost exclusively British and Canadian. Looking back on the developments of this period, it is evident that the plans being considered at the War Office for action in France were extremely vague and fluid.

With the appointment of General Morgan as Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (designate) in April 1943, and that of General Paget in July to command the 21st Army Group, planning entered a more definite stage. In order to keep himself informed of the progress of this planning—a matter which had always been difficult—General McNaughton, on Morgan’s invitation, appointed to the COSSAC headquarters a Canadian liaison officer, Major-General G. R. Turner. General Turner represented General McNaughton, not in the latter’s capacity as an Army Commander but as “the accredited military representative of the Canadian Government in the UK” The British Chiefs of Staff were “lukewarm” to the idea of this appointment, but General Morgan told a staff meeting on 24 April that they had “tacitly conceded” its desirability.5

As we have already seen, by the middle of July 1943 COSSAC had completed a plan for the invasion of North-West Europe. This plan assumed that Canadian forces would not take part in the actual assault, but that this would be shared between British and United States divisions. A map, included with the plan, which illustrates the situation as envisaged after two days’ fighting in Normandy, shows no Canadian formations ashore. But another, of the situation as it would have been six days later, shows a Canadian corps of three divisions in the centre of the Allied front; and the plan assumed that by D plus 14 the Allied force

Page 30

ashore would consist of an American army of seven divisions on the right, a British army of six divisions on the left, and in the centre a Canadian army of five divisions “organised in an infantry corps of three divisions, facing South, and an armoured corps of two divisions moving South-East”. The Canadian army headquarters would have been the third such headquarters to land. It was recommended that a British Army Commander should control the assault.6

The command pattern could not be made final until a Supreme Commander had been appointed and had considered the proposed plans with his chief subordinates. In the meantime various possibilities presented themselves. On 7 December 1943 a meeting of “Joint Commanders-in-Chief” (Admiral Ramsay, General Paget, and Air Marshal Leigh-Mallory) approved a “system of command and control” by which the assault would be directed by the First US Army, under the 21st Army Group and with the 1st British Corps and one US corps under command. In the second phase, this plan provided, “As soon as two British Corps are established in France, First Canadian Army will land and take command of these two Corps at a time to be agreed mutually between Commander, First US Army and Commander, First Canadian Army”.7 Under this scheme, the Canadian Army would have had no concern with the assault but would have landed ahead of the Second British Army.

This proposal was cast aside when Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery were appointed and proceeded to recast the COSSAC plan. With a wider front of assault agreed upon, it was decided that the front should be shared between two armies, operating under the 21st Army Group; and that they should be the First US Army and the Second British Army. On 8 January 1944 General Montgomery, in conversation with Brigadier Charles Foulkes (Brigadier General Staff, First Canadian Army) “confirmed that the Cdn Army would be used as a follow-up army”.8 It is possible that this final decision was influenced by the fact that at that moment First Canadian Army was without a commander.

First Canadian Army in Transition

During the months in 1943 when the COSSAC plan was being developed and approved, the situation of the Canadian Army changed materially. As has been described in Volume II of this history, in April a decision was made to dispatch the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade to take part in the assault on Sicily which was delivered on 10 July. Although it had been tentatively considered that these formations might be brought back to the United Kingdom after the Sicilian campaign, policy developed in the opposite direction. Early in October a further decision was taken. Not only were the 1st Division and the 1st Army Tank Brigade to remain in the Mediterranean theatre, but the Headquarters of Lieut.-General H. D. G. Crerar’s 1st Canadian Corps, the 1st Canadian Corps Troops and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division were also sent thither. Thus for the next period of the war the Canadian field army was divided. With one corps headquarters, two divisions and an armoured

Page 31

brigade in Italy, there remained in the United Kingdom for participation in the approaching campaign in North-West Europe only the army headquarters, one corps headquarters, one armoured division, two infantry divisions and one armoured brigade, along with a large number of corps, army and GHQ troops.

This situation raised the question of the future of the First Canadian Army, more particularly since just at this moment the personal position of the Army Commander also came under consideration. In December 1943 General McNaughton relinquished the command, and Lieut.-General Kenneth Stuart took it over in an acting capacity, at the same time becoming Chief of Staff, Canadian Military Headquarters, London.*

On 18 October General Paget had told General McNaughton what changes were planned as the result of the 1st Canadian Corps’ impending movement. It was proposed, he said, that for the invasion the 21st Army Group would be composed for the time being of “an American Army, the Second British Army and a combined Anglo-Canadian Army”. The 12th British Corps would be placed under the First Canadian Army. He added that in these circumstances it would be desirable to include in the staff of the Canadian Army a proportion of British officers.9 When McNaughton reported this General Stuart (then still Chief of the General Staff at Ottawa) read more into Paget’s suggestions than McNaughton had stated. Stuart wrote to the Minister of National Defence10 in part as follows:

I am in favour of this proposal for the following reasons:-

(a) The British will undoubtedly request that, initially at least, this new Army will be commanded by a battle experienced British officer who will be supported by a number of battle experienced British Staff Officers. Such an arrangement, in my opinion, is in the best interests of Canada and of the 2nd Canadian Corps.

(b) If, at a later date in the war, the bulk of our Canadian formations were serving in the same theatre, it would be possible to reconstitute a First Canadian Army by utilizing the framework of the proposed Anglo-Canadian Army.

(c) There is only one practical alternative to Paget’s proposal, that is to disband HQ First Canadian Army and fit our 2nd Cdn Corps and our ancillary units into one or more British Armies. Paget’s proposal, for the reason stated in (b) above, is the more attractive. I have not given any consideration to the retention of HQ First Canadian Army in its present form simply because it is not a practical proposition; the British would not accept it. This is borne out by Paget’s proposition.

In November the Minister and Stuart went to England to discuss these questions and to enable Mr. Ralston to visit the Canadian troops in Italy. During their stay in London General McNaughton’s resignation took place and the question of the future of the Army became urgent. The event proved that Stuart’s judgement of the situation had been inaccurate. The British authorities do not seem to have attempted to procure the appointment of a British officer to command the First Canadian Army. It is evident that Ralston had no intention of accepting such a solution, and it is very unlikely indeed that his colleagues in

* See Six Years of War, 222-3, and The Canadians in Italy, 343-4. The interim appointment of Stuart was suggested to the Minister by General Crerar on 29 November, after he had heard of McNaughton’s impending departure and the possibility that he would himself become Army Commander. Stuart told the Army’s Chief of Staff, Brigadier Mann, that for security reasons he did not wish to be informed of the detail of tactical plans. In these circumstances Mann carried an extra responsibility during the interim period.

Page 32

the government would have accepted it. In a memorandum of a discussion with Ralston on 14 November, General McNaughton wrote, “He spoke of insisting on a Canadian Commander for First Canadian Army, and we spoke of Crerar, and I told him of my endeavour to develop him and to shield him from the controversy in which I had necessarily been involved.”11 Headquarters First Canadian Army continued to exist, essentially in the same form and under a Canadian officer.

On 4 January 1944 the War Office wrote to Canadian Military Headquarters making formal proposals for “amending the present relationship between First Canadian Army and 21 Army Group”.12 These proposals had already been informally discussed and agreed upon. Since July 1943 the Canadian Army had been “associated with 21 Army Group for operational direction and formation training related thereto”. It was now proposed that First Canadian Army should be “detailed to act in combination with 21 Army Group” under the terms of the Visiting Forces Acts—that is, actually placed under its command. The War Office letter proceeded:

2. In the event of this being agreed the Commander-in-Chief, 21 Army Group, will wish to carry out certain interchanges of formations between First Canadian Army and the British component of his force. In anticipation of this it is therefore considered desirable that certain appointments on the staff of Headquarters First Canadian Army should be filled by British officers. It is proposed that the proportion of British officers should not exceed 50 per cent, the actual numbers of appointments, and the interchange of formations, being agreed mutually between the Commander-in-Chief, 21 Army Group, and the General Officer Commanding in Chief, First Canadian Army.

3. It is further proposed that the Commander First Canadian Army should be appointed by the Canadian Government after consultation with His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. Colonel Ralston told the Cabinet War Committee on 1 March 1944 that the form of the clause concerning the manner of appointment of the Army Commander was his suggestion. He said that he had considered it desirable to avoid any implication that the appointment of the Army Commander could be made otherwise than by the Canadian Government; at the same time, since so many British troops would now be included in the Army, it had seemed to him only proper that the appointment should be made after consultation with the United Kingdom.

The War Office proposals were immediately accepted.13 The obvious Canadian candidate for the command of the Army was Lieut.-General H. D. G. Crerar, then commanding the 1st Canadian Corps in Italy. The British authorities agreed to this appointment, subject to a favourable report being received upon his performance in Italy. There were no major operations during his command there, and in point of fact no formal report was made, though the matter was discussed between Generals Brooke and Montgomery.14 On 1 March 1944 the Cabinet War Committee in Ottawa was told that General Crerar was being appointed to command the First Canadian Army, with the concurrence of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and of General Montgomery. He formally took command of the Army on 20 March.

In practice the proportion of British staff officers appointed to Headquarters

Page 33

First Canadian Army never approached the 50 per cent provided in the Anglo-Canadian agreement. No British formation came under the command of Canadian Army Headquarters until after it had moved to France, and this had some effect on the question. The staff list of HQ First Canadian Army for 19 July 1944 shows 28 British officers out of a total of 200 listed—that is, 14 per cent.

There were other changes besides the change of Army Commanders. Lieut.-General Sansom, who was in hospital, was succeeded in the command of the 2nd Corps by Major-General G. G. Simonds, who had commanded the 1st Division with notable skill in Sicily and Southern Italy and subsequently commanded the 5th Armoured Division after its arrival in that theatre. Simonds now became a Lieutenant General. The 2nd Infantry Division was taken over by Major-General Charles Foulkes when Major-General E. L. M. Burns went to Italy to succeed General Simonds in command of the 5th Division. Major-General F. F. Worthington was succeeded in the command of the 4th Armoured Division by a much younger officer, Major-General George Kitching, aged 33, who had been the 1st Division’s senior General Staff Officer in Sicily and later commanded the 5th Division’s armoured brigade for a short time.

Other officers who had distinguished themselves in the Mediterranean campaign were brought back to give the benefit of their experience to the Canadian formations still in England. Brigadier R. A. Wyman, who had commanded the 1st Armoured Brigade in Sicily and Italy, took over the 2nd for the Normandy landings; Lt.-Col. E. L. Booth, who had commanded the 12th Armoured Regiment (Three Rivers Regiment), and Lt.-Col. J. C. Jefferson, who had commanded The Loyal Edmonton Regiment in the Mediterranean fighting, were promoted to command respectively the armoured and infantry brigades of the 4th Armoured Division. Brigadier A. B. Matthews, Commander Royal Artillery of the 1st Division, became Commander Corps Royal Artillery in the 2nd Corps, and Lt.-Col. Geoffrey Walsh, the 1st Division’s Commanding Royal Engineer, became Chief Engineer of the 2nd Corps.

Among senior staff officers, Brigadier C. C. Mann became General Crerar’s Chief of Staff at Army Headquarters (the appointment now ceased to be termed Brigadier General Staff). The senior administrative staff appointment at Army Headquarters (Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster General) continued to be held by Brigadier A. E. Walford. Brigadier N. E. Rodger, a former Personal Assistant to General McNaughton and more recently an infantry brigade commander, became Chief of Staff to General Simonds at HQ 2nd Corps. Brigadier H. V. D. Laing was and remained DA & QMG 2nd Corps.15

It is evident from the examples that have been given—and the list could be lengthened—that sending the 1st Canadian Division to the Mediterranean for Operation HUSKY had returned a considerable dividend. It gave the First Canadian Army a proportion of battle-experienced senior officers with which to face the North-West Europe campaign. Their experience in the south had not been long, but it was very much better than none at all, and a great asset. And the action taken in the spring of 1943 had resulted in Canadian soldiers having a share, active and distinguished if not very large, in the fight against Germany for

Page 34

a good eleven months before the Normandy D Day. All this was good. Not so much can be said for the later decision, taken on the Canadian Government’s strong urging, to send the 1st Corps to the Mediterranean (Operation TIMBERWOLF). As has been explained in Volume II, the fact that the units had to be sent without equipment kept them inactive in Italy for months. The Corps finally took over a sector of the line at the end of January, but the line was static. Not until 23 May 1944 did the 1st Corps deliver a major attack as a Corps—the onslaught on the Adolf Hitler Line. By that time the Normandy assault was only a fortnight away; the Canadian Government, as we shall see, had already gone on record as favouring the reunion of its troops under a single command; and the Canadians in Italy were already looking to such a reunion with hopeful anticipation. It did not take place until 1945. Viewed in the light of hindsight, TIMBERWOLF cannot be termed a profitable venture.

The Canadian Assault Force

Although the expectation, so long entertained, that the First Canadian Army would not be used in the actual landings on the coast of France, proved in the event to be accurate, a considerable number of Canadian troops did take part in the assault. This was arranged nearly a year in advance. On 3 July 1943 General McNaughton informed General Crerar, commanding 1st Canadian Corps, that the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, which had been commanded since September 1942 by Major-General R. F. L. Keller, had been selected for assault training with a view to taking part in the OVERLORD assault. He added that the plan for this operation would not be available “for some months”, and told the Corps Commander that it was intended that his headquarters should be responsible for the Division’s “training and operations”.16

It thus happened that the first stages of the 3rd Division’s preparation for the assault were conducted under Crerar’s direction, and had things gone differently the 1st Canadian Corps might well have been one of the assault corps in Operation OVERLORD. However, when that Corps was moved from the United Kingdom to the Mediterranean in October, the 3rd Division was deprived of its guidance. As an interim measure the Division was taken directly under the command of Headquarters First Canadian Army; at the same time the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, which was to be associated with the Division in the assault, came under its command. It was now proposed that the Canadian assault formations should form part of the 1st British Corps; and on 12 November 1943 General McNaughton issued an order providing that the 3rd Division as then constituted, which included the 2nd Armoured Brigade, would “be associated with 1 Brit Corps for operational direction and the training related thereto for the purpose of Operation OVERLORD only” from 1 December. The Division was to remain under First Canadian Army for all other purposes. This period of “association” ended on 30 January 1944, when the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was placed under the actual command of the 1st British Corps for further training, operational planning and operations.17 This command relationship lasted until after the Division had carried out its mission in the Normandy assault.

Page 35

The training of the Canadian assault formations was carried out in four phases,18 which can be described only in outline.

The initial phase was preliminary training. It involved, first, a study of the principles of combined operations and, secondly, practice in embarkation and disembarkation, scaling obstacles, clearing minefields, etc. These activities were carried on during the summer of 1943 at the units’ stations in southern England. Mock-up landing craft were built on parade grounds and embarking and disembarking were practised with men and vehicles. During August division and brigade staffs were engaged on a preliminary planning exercise known as DIPPER.19 In the last week of July the 1st Canadian Corps held a Combined Operations Study Period which ended with a summary by General Crerar. He emphasized the need for overpowering fire support to get the assault on to the beach and through the defences, and suggested that the required weight of fire might be provided by using four successive flights of craft approaching the beaches, each of the four (ending with the personnel craft carrying the infantry) being capable of laying a pattern of fire on the beaches at varying distances from the shore. The flights would engage the beach defences as they came within range, those with the longer-range guns allowing those with shorter-range weapons to pass through them so that a crescendo of fire would be laid on the beaches by the time the flight carrying the assault troops landed.20 On D Day no attempt was made to pass the flights through one another, this presumably being too complicated from a naval standpoint; instead, the flights carrying the longer-range weapons fired from the rear or from the flanks of the craft carrying the troops. In other respects the D Day plan resembled Crerar’s. The general theme of both, that of the heaviest possible fire support, of course reflected the basic lesson drawn from the Dieppe operation (Volume I, Chapter XII).

The second phase was basic training in the mechanics of assault landings. This was carried out by brigade groups during August and September 1943 at the Combined Training Centres at Inveraray and Castle Toward in Scotland. Here the battalions did exercises involving actual assault landings supported by artillery fired from landing craft and by smoke-laying aircraft. This training advanced in the course of a fortnight or so from company training with dummy landing craft up to full-scale brigade exercises. It was not, of course, limited to the infantry, but was also carried out by the artillery, the engineers and the other arms and services, each practising its own function.21

The third stage, assault training by brigade groups, was marked by increased realism. It was carried out in the Portsmouth area in conjunction with Force J, the naval assault force which, as we have seen, was in fact the Dieppe force which had been kept in being as a laboratory in combined operations, and which was to remain associated with the 3rd Canadian Division until after the assault.* The 7th Infantry Brigade began this phase of training early in September 1943, while the 8th and 9th Brigades were still completing the second phase in Scotland. That month Divisional Headquarters was set up at the Balmer Lawn Hotel,

* Force J was commanded during the early part of this training by Commodore J. Hughes-Hallett, who had been Naval Force Commander at Dieppe. When Hughes-Hallett left late in 1943 to take an appointment in the Home Fleet, Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Vian succeeded him. In February 1944 Commodore G. N. Oliver took over Force J and commanded it in the assault.

Page 36

Brockenhurst, in the New Forest (Hampshire). In the following April it moved a short distance to Otterbourne, near Winchester.22

A significant landmark, not only in the training of the 3rd Canadian Division but also in the development of the assault tactics for the operation as a whole, was Exercise PIRATE, referred to in the previous chapter, which was carried out at Studland Bay, Dorset, on 16–19 October 1943. In this exercise the assault was delivered by the 7th Brigade, with the build-up phase being enacted by the remainder of the Division and its attached troops. The execution of the exercise was far from perfect. Apart from the fact that bad weather compelled the abandonment of the intended Turn Round Control and Build-up phase entirely, and also led to cancellation of the RAF bomber effort, the actual shooting by the 3rd Division’s artillery while seaborne did not turn out well, the fire falling several hundred yards short in the opening stages. This was the less surprising as the guns used were not self-propelled weapons on tank chassis but wheeled guns lashed to the decks of the tank landing craft.23

The fourth and final phase, collective divisional assault training, was carried out concurrently with later exercises on the brigade group level. It may be said to have begun about 30 January 1944, for it was at this time that the Division began its detailed planning; a divisional planning staff spent nearly a month in London on this task.24 The relationship between these “collective” exercises and the final divisional plan for Operation NEPTUNE is very close. The exercises were, in fact, rehearsals carried out on the basis of the actual plan for the landing. One of particular importance was TROUSERS, carried out at Slapton Sands, Devon, on 12 April and designed to exercise Force J in the passage, approach and assault landing and the Division in signal communications and fire support in the assault.25

The only exercise approximating to a complete rehearsal of the invasion as a whole was FABIUS, held early in May. This was divided into six parts, numbered from FABIUS I to FABIUS VI, of which only FABIUS III concerned the Canadian force. FABIUS I was for Naval Force O with its US army formations, which were to land at Slapton Sands. FABIUS II, FABIUS III and FABIUS IV were for the three British naval assault forces, G, J and S, with their army counterparts, including the 3rd Canadian Division; these landings took place east of Portsmouth, at Hayling Island, Bracklesham Bay and Littlehampton respectively. (The remaining assault force, U, the American force intended for the most westerly of the Normandy beaches, held its final rehearsal, Exercise TIGER, separately at the end of April.) FABIUS V and FABIUS VI exercised the machinery for loading personnel and equipment in the Thames Estuary and East Coast ports and preparing the invasion “build-up” in the Southampton-Portsmouth area. Since most of the landings were made in inhabited areas, no actual firing was done except in FABIUS I.26

After a postponement of 24 hours caused by heavy seas, the 3rd Canadian Division began its landing at Bracklesham Bay on 4 May. Conditions were still unfavourable, however, and the naval authorities were forced to put a stop to disembarkation before the exercise was completed.27 In spite of this, FABIUS

Page 37

produced valuable results, particularly in the practice it afforded in the marshalling, embarkation and sailing of the assault forces.

During this long process of training the 2nd Armoured Brigade worked closely with the Division and the individual units with which the armoured regiments were to cooperate. Equipment posed special problems for the tankmen. The brigade was to use Sherman tanks in the operation, but as late as 23 January 1944 it possessed only 10 of these. The changeover from the Rams and Valentines which were used for training was not in fact quite complete until the end of May, and many of the new tanks received required modification. The units’ fitters and the brigade Electrical and Mechanical Engineers had to put in “Trojan work” to ensure that the regiments would go into action with battle-worthy equipment.28

Two of the armoured regiments—the 6th Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) and the 10th (The Fort Garry Horse), which were to lead the assault on the 7th and 8th Brigade beaches respectively—were equipped with amphibious tanks, one squadron of each regiment however retaining the normal Shermans. The “DD” (Duplex Drive) tank was an ordinary Sherman equipped with flotation gear. The tank, floated by means of a thick canvas screen which could be raised, was pushed through the water by two propellers. While thus swimming it could not fire its guns. On landing the struts supporting the screen were broken and the tank became an almost normal land tank.29 Until after the assault, the DD tank was a very closely guarded secret. The regiments’ training with it took place at Great Yarmouth under the supervision of the 79th British Armoured Division, the formation which had been set up to provide “special armour” of various types for the 21st Army Group.30

The divisional artillery had rather similar problems. In addition to its own three field regiments, the 12th, 13th and 14th, the Division had been given the 19th Canadian Army Field Regiment, so that each assaulting brigade could be supported by two regiments. All were equipped for the operation with American 105-millimetre self-propelled guns (“Priests”). These guns began to arrive at the end of September 1943.31 The question of whether or not fire by seaborne army artillery was likely to be a really useful contribution to the assault seems to have remained open until Exercise SAVVY, carried out on 12 February 1944. Many distinguished observers attended this exercise, among them King George VI and General Montgomery. The firing was considered “a great success”, no small relief to the divisional artillery staff, which had suspended detailed planning pending the results of the exercise.32

There were many visitors. (“Everyone seems to want to look at us”, remarked one diarist.)33 On 28 February General Montgomery went round the 3rd Canadian Division, travelling some 50 miles in the course of his inspection. On 25 April the King honoured the Division, spending several hours with the units. On 13 May the Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, paid a visit; instructions had been issued in advance that there would be no rehearsals for the brigade parades held in his honour. The Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. King, was at Divisional Headquarters informally on 18 May, but did not visit units.34

Page 38

General Crerar had suggested that Mr. King be given a chance to see something of Exercise FABIUS, but this was discouraged by General Montgomery, who preferred “to have no ‘non-professional’ people about”.35

As may be imagined, this month of May 1944 was one of extreme activity and tension for the units of the assault force. On 15 May Commanding Officers and staff officers were briefed by General Keller at Divisional Headquarters at Cranbury House, Otterbourne. Similar briefings at brigade headquarters for commanders on lower levels followed a week later.36 On 26 May all camps in the teeming concentration areas close to the South Coast were sealed; no one could now get in or out without a special pass. On that day all officers of the assault force were briefed in closely guarded rooms containing maps, aerial photographs and plaster and sand models. But the maps bore bogus names and coordinates; Caen was POLAND, Courseulles ALBA, and so on.37 Only after embarkation, when sealed packages of maps were opened, were junior officers and men told their actual objectives.38

In the last days of May the men of the Canadian infantry units began moving into the Marshalling Areas adjacent to the ports, from which they were to be called forward for actual embarkation. Even the most skeptical now began to feel that this was just not another exercise. “At long last”, the diarist of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles wrote on 31 May, “this looks like the real thing.” On 1 June the Canadians began embarking at Southampton and Stokes Bay, and the process went on until the 4th.

With action obviously approaching, there were undoubtedly some individuals who shrank from the formidable prospect of attacking the well-advertised and redoubtable Atlantic Wall. (“Channel fever” was the contemporary label of their complaint.) Every man in the Allied assault force had to overcome deep unspoken fears within himself as D Day drew slowly nearer. But observers who watched these Canadian soldiers who had waited for action through the long years in Britain recorded that the approach of the climax did not find them wanting. Commodore Oliver, the commander of Force J, later wrote in his report, “During embarkation and prior to sailing the high spirits of the soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division were outstanding; their enthusiasm infused itself throughout the Force.”39 In such a mood did the division approach its first battle.

First Canadian Army Prepares for Action

Training for an assault landing is an exact task. The target area is normally well known and closely studied. A detailed plan is made on this basis, and every unit and sub-unit, and to a certain extent every individual, has a definite task which is thoroughly rehearsed. This was the process followed with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the troops attached to it in Operation NEPTUNE. For the formations of the First Canadian Army, whose task as we have seen was to be exploitation from an established bridgehead, the situation was quite different.* No one could foretell the circumstances in which they would be

* For a general narrative of the training of the Canadian Army Overseas, see Six Years of War, Chap. VIII.

Page 39

committed to the battle, and there was no basis on which they could make a detailed plan. They might study and plan for hypothetical future operations, but there was no certainty that they would ever be called upon to carry out these operations, at least in the form in which they were studied. And in fact the operations of the First Canadian Army, when at length its headquarters took over a sector of the front in Normandy, were to be rather different from anything specifically anticipated during the planning period.

The basis for the Army’s planning was directives received from HQ 21st Army Group. The first of these, dated 1 March 1944, defined its tasks as follows:

2. The role of First Canadian Army will be to land after Second British Army over the beaches between MAYNOOTH [Asnelles] and WIGMORE [Ouistreham] and subsequently to assume responsibility for the left-hand sector of the bridgehead. For this purpose one corps (with appropriate increment of Army troops) from Second British Army will come under your command after you arrive in the bridgehead area. As operations permit, you may expect 3 Canadian Division and 2 Canadian Armoured Brigade to revert to your command after you arrive.

3. After taking over the left-hand Sector of the bridgehead it is probable that First Canadian Army will be required to advance Eastwards and to capture the ports of WHITSTABLE [Le Havre] and CLARENCE [Rouen].

The Army’s immediate prescribed tasks were the preparation of “build-up priority tables, staff studies, and administrative instructions” for the movement to the Continent of Headquarters First Canadian Army, Army Troops and the 2nd Canadian Corps less the 3rd Canadian Division; along with a study of the problem of capturing the ports of Le Havre and Rouen, to be known as Operation AXEHEAD.

Army Headquarters was told that in studying AXEHEAD it should consider the possible employment of a “seaborne lift” equivalent to one Naval Assault Force (that is, a force capable of lifting one army division), one airborne division, and DD tanks. It was pointed out that the crossing of the Rivers Dives, Touques, and Risle, and of the River Seine below Rouen, was a highly specialized engineer operation for which it might be assumed that specially trained engineers from GHQ Troops would be available. The Canadian headquarters was warned, however, that engineer units under its command should “undergo special training as early as possible”. Headquarters 21st Army Group sent to First Canadian Army on 20 March a more detailed appreciation of Operation AXEHEAD containing information to assist in planning.*

The most serious aspect of the prospect thus opened was the contemplated assault across the Seine in the face of opposition. This river in the lower part of its course is a formidable obstacle, and Army Headquarters proceeded to prescribe a careful programme of planning and training accordingly. In the latter part of March the 1st Canadian Army Troops Engineers began training in the crossing of wide tidal rivers at Goole, in Yorkshire, near the head of the Humber estuary. The 1st Canadian Army Troops Engineers comprised three field companies and one

* General Crerar sent his own headquarters’ detailed appreciation of AXEHEAD to General Montgomery on 12 April. It is of interest that his covering letter questioned the soundness of an assumption made in the Army Group appreciation, that “most of the mobile divisions at the enemy’s disposal” were likely to have been drawn away from the sector by the time the operation took place.

Page 40

field park company, and an additional field company was attached from the 2nd Army Troops Engineers.40 Subsequently the scope of this training was extended to include all arms. On 11 April Headquarters First Canadian Army issued a directive to the 2nd Canadian Corps requiring it to conduct an exercise employing the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division in conjunction with specially trained engineers. It was to practise an infantry brigade headquarters in planning a brigade assault over a tidal estuary, and an infantry battalion group of the same brigade in carrying out its part in the plan. It was explained that engineer and other limitations precluded assaulting on more than a front of one battalion. However, if the Corps Commander desired, he might exercise two brigade headquarters in planning, and a succession of infantry battalion groups in the assault role.41

The exercise, christened KATE (“Crossing a tidal estuary”), began on 26 April on the River Trent, which runs into the Humber just below Goole; and training was still going on there late in May. Both the 4th and 5th Infantry Brigades practised the assault and build-up, the battalions crossing the river in stormboats propelled by outboard motors. The engineers erected rafts on the spot and used them to move heavy equipment across the estuary. Amphibious vehicles, including tracked “Buffaloes”, were tested in the course of the training.42

Similar but less intense training was given to the 4th Armoured Division. Beginning late in April, the battalions of its infantry brigade (the 10th) trained with the divisional engineers on the River Medway in Kent on assault boating and bridge crossing.43 Thus before D Day the Canadian units likely to be required to make the Seine assault had had considerable specialized training; and the Army Troops Engineers and other sappers had built up a fund of experience concerning the engineer aspects of such operations.

In addition to these special activities, the Canadian formations laboured at the general perfecting of their training, particularly emphasizing the operations which might be involved in a breakout from a bridgehead. Thus between 1 and 9 April the 2nd Division carried out Exercise STEP, a full-scale exercise designed to practise commanders and staffs in handling troops during a breakout operation, the advance of a division on a single “thrust line”, the crossing of a river and an assault using live ammunition. One field regiment and two medium regiments of artillery were in support. Large elements of the 4th Armoured Division took part.44 The 4th Division devoted these final weeks to hard general training, highlights of which were a cross-country route march of 25 miles carried out by each unit; joint infantry-tank training by the infantry and armoured units; street fighting practised by the infantry units in Eastbourne; and on 18 May an exercise at Alfriston Artillery Ranges in which the divisional artillery plus a regiment from the 2nd Division fired a barrage over the heads of the battalions of the 10th Brigade.45

Special exercises were held for formation and unit headquarters. Notable among these was Exercise LAST, a 2nd Corps signals exercise held in mid-April. It was designed to practise headquarters down to and including the unit level in passing information and conducting the operations involved in breaking out of a bridgehead. From 5 to 11 May the headquarters of First Canadian Army and

Page 41

No. 84 Group RAF held Exercise FLIT at Box Hill, near Dorking. It was designed to practise Army Headquarters and HQ No. 84 Group in setting up and operating in an integrated manner in the field.46

Mention of 84 Group brings up the vital question of the arrangements for air support for the First Canadian Army. These took the form of provision of a composite tactical RAF group of the sort first tested in the United Kingdom in Exercise SPARTAN (Volume I, pages 250-51). This group, composed entirely of fighter-type aircraft including fighter-bombers and reconnaissance machines, was not under the Army Commander, but its headquarters was set up alongside Army Headquarters and moved with it, and the group’s normal function was to provide the tactical air support which the Army required. The first RAF tactical group formed for Operation OVERLORD was No. 83. It included 15 squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force, about half the group’s total strength; its headquarters, however, was entirely British. To Canadians it seemed appropriate that it should be assigned to support the First Canadian Army, and (although in the first instance it was decided that it should be affiliated to the Second British Army and merely give the Canadian Army facilities for training when possible), after Canadian representations it was assigned to the First Canadian Army in June 1943.47 It worked with that Army until January 1944, after General McNaughton’s departure, when a change took place. On 26 January Air Chief Marshal Sir T. Leigh-Mallory, Commander-in-Chief Allied Expeditionary Air Force, told a conference that No. 83 Group would now support the Second British Army “and not the 1st Canadian Army, as in the original plan”.48 The reasons for this decision—which had the regrettable effect of separating the RCAF component in North-West Europe from the Canadian Army—are not stated; but it seems likely that it was considered desirable that the older and presumably better-trained group should support the army which was conducting the assault. In consequence No. 84 Group, which contained no RCAF squadrons, became affiliated with First Canadian Army and supported it most effectively throughout its campaign.* Leigh-Mallory had held out the hope that the RCAF reconnaissance wing (three squadrons) would be transferred from 83 to 84 Group,49 but this was evidently found impracticable. No. 84 Group was commanded in the first period of the association by Air Vice-Marshal L. O. Brown, and from 10 November 1944 by Air Vice-Marshal E. C. Hudleston. It is worth noting that an RCAF intercommunication flight was provided for HQ First Canadian Army at General Crerar’s special request.50

The Responsibilities of the Canadian Army Commander

Something must be said of the position of the First Canadian Army with respect to other Commonwealth forces, and of the national responsibilities of its commander. These matters, the result of constitutional developments since the

* Nos. 83 and 84 Groups, along with No. 2 (Bomber) Group, made up the bulk of the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force, commanded by Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham. The Headquarters of the 2nd TAF was associated with that of the 21st Army Group in the same manner in which the tactical groups were associated with the two armies.

Page 42

First World War, received considerable attention during the months before D Day. We have already seen (above, pages 32-3) that the First Canadian Army was formally placed “in combination with”-i.e., under the command of-the 21st Army Group in January 1944.

It had been General McNaughton’s custom as Army Commander to submit to the Canadian Government formal reports concerning the feasibility of operations in which Canadian troops were to take part. He had done this before the Dieppe raid, and also before the invasion of Sicily.* This procedure had pleased the Government, which desired it to be applied in the case of Operation OVERLORD also. Early in 1944 cables to CMHQ from the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Ralston) and the Chief of the General Staff (Lieut.-General J. C. Murchie) indicated a desire for information concerning the Canadian share in operational planning and the facts available concerning future plans. On 21 February the Minister cabled General Stuart:51

... Like you I am looking forward to the time when the Army Commander and the Chief of Staff [presumably of CMHQ] will be submitting to the Canadian Government reports regarding the feasibility of the operation proposed similar to McNaughton’s report on Sicily. It would be useful if we could know to what extent the Army Commander or the Chief of Staff has had an opportunity to consider and comment on the tactical plans which Canadians are expected to carry out before they are finalized so as to influence the tactical dispositions and the support and supply arrangements, insofar as they affect Canadian participation and ensure reasonable prospects of success.

I am sure that I am the last one to raise an abstract question. The reason for it is the necessity for being in a position to assure Canadian homes that Canadian staff and commanders are assured of timely opportunity to get all the information they need so as to be in a position to exercise their judgment for the benefit of the Canadian troops for whom they are responsible to Canada.

When Stuart referred this requirement to General Crerar, the latter took the view that the Government’s approval for Canadian formations’ participation in the forthcoming operations had been implied, if not formally expressed, in the action taken to place the First Canadian Army in combination with the 21st Army Group. ‘He pointed out that the War Office, SHAEF and Headquarters 21st Army Group certainly held this view, “as the detailed planning of the last few months could only have been undertaken on that basis”. Crerar went on to say that he had confidence in General Montgomery, “under whose direction the Allied Armies will launch the invasion of the Continent”, and added that the plans and preparations for the operation had been soundly conceived and carefully made.52

Ralston replied asking for something more specific.53 He wrote, “The Canadian Government has responsibilities to the people of Canada and before troops are embarked on the proposed operation the Canadian Government would expect a report by the Army Commander advising whether or not he is satisfied that the tasks allotted are feasible operations of war and whether in his opinion the plans formulated for Canadian formations with the resources which are to be made available can be carried out with reasonable prospects of success. This

* Volumes I, page 333, and II, page 26.

Page 43

course would seem to be in keeping with and part of the responsibilities of the Army Commander to the Canadian Government which are fully recognized by our Allies. It would not appear that there should be any undesirable reactions since this is a matter wholly between the Army Commander and the Canadian Government.” With this renewed request before him, Crerar, after asking and receiving from the 3rd Canadian Division the detail of its assault plans, sent the Chief of Staff CMHQ, for transmission to the Government, the following statement.54

I am satisfied that the tasks allotted the First Canadian Army, including the 3 Canadian Infantry Division and 2 Canadian Armoured Brigade, in the forthcoming invasion of enemy occupied Europe, are feasible operations of war and that the plans formulated for these Canadian formations, with resources available, are capable of being carried out with reasonable prospects of success.

On 1 May 1944 General Stuart cabled the Minister of National Defence suggesting that official instructions should now be sent to the Army Commander, and that the Army Commander and himself should see the instructions in draft form before they were formally signed. He added, “Crerar and I consider that the following expressed as desires of the government would strengthen our hands. The first being that except in cases of emergency the government would like Canadian formations to work together under First Cdn Army. The second being that when an armistice with Germany has been signed that [sic] the Cdn formations in Western and Southern Europe should be united under First Cdn Army.”55

Instructions were drafted and forwarded for comment overseas accordingly. After considerable cabled discussions56 the amended instructions were approved by the Cabinet War Committee on 24 May. During the discussion on that date the Prime Minister reported to the Committee that while in England he had had a discussion with General Montgomery and had assured him that although the Government felt it desirable that Canadians should serve together no “political” considerations of this sort would, ever be permitted to interfere with military operations.

The instructions to General Crerar are printed as Appendix A to this volume. It will be noted that emphasis was laid upon’ the fact that the Army Commander, and the commander of any detached Canadian force, possessed the right of reference to the Canadian Government if he considered that the welfare of his troops required it. The Army Commander, it was further pointed out, possessed the right to withdraw his force from “in combination”; but such action should be taken only in extreme cases.

With respect to the reunion of the Canadian formations in Western and Southern Europe, the Government chose to make a stronger statement than Crerar and Stuart had recommended. The Cabinet War Committee agreed on 3 May that this reference should not be restricted to the post-armistice period; and the instructions as approved expressed the desire that “as soon as military considerations permit” the formations serving in the Mediterranean theatre, as well as field formations and units elsewhere, should be grouped under unified Canadian

Page 44

command. General Stuart communicated this desire to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff.57 Mr. King, whose conversation with General Montgomery has been mentioned, was absent during the discussion on 3 May; but he was present when the instructions were finally approved on the 24th.

While these instructions were in preparation, a special matter related to them was discussed by the Canadian military authorities overseas with General Montgomery and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (General Brooke). It arose out of a relatively small incident, the visit of General Eisenhower to the 3rd Canadian Division on 13 May. No intimation of this visit to the Division, which of course was not under his operational command, was made to General Crerar until he heard of it from the Division itself that morning. The Army Commander accordingly wrote General Stuart at CMHQ remarking that under existing conditions there was “certainly a tendency on the part of SHAEF and HQ 21 Army Group” to forget the special position of Canada. Describing the incident, he wrote, “I do not propose to make an issue of this, but it would be very desirable if the proper procedure in these matters could be clarified on the political level, and explained to SHAEF, while our Prime Minister is now here. If the special position of the Commander, First Canadian Army, is not understood at the outset, I can see further and more embarrassing, incidents occurring in the future.”58

As a result, after further consultation with Crerar, Stuart wrote the Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 18 May59 referring to the incident and making the following comment:

As you know I am not anxious to tie any strings to Canadian Formations cooperating with those of the UK or the US. There is one string, however, that we must insist upon and that is the right of reference to the Canadian Government of our senior commander in any theatre. The corollary to this is that in the Western European theatre of operations Harry Crerar serves, in a sense, in a dual capacity. He commands the First Canadian Army and he is also the Canadian national representative in respect to all Canadian Formations and Units serving operationally in that theatre even though some may not be under his operational command. This dual role is inescapable because the Canadian Government quite rightly holds the senior Canadian Commander in any theatre responsible for all Canadian Formations and Units employed operationally in that theatre. ...

I hope you do not misunderstand me. As you know Harry and I and the whole Canadian Army have complete confidence in the commanders concerned. All I ask is that Harry’s responsibility for all Canadians in the theatre, whether under his actual command or not, be recognized by 21 Army Group and by SHAEF. The application of this recognition would not involve any interference in the normal chain of command, it would merely call for consultation in the pre-planning stage. ...

On 25 May General Stuart had a long talk with General Montgomery, and subsequently he received a personal letter from Montgomery60 which included the following passage:

We all want to win the war as soon as we can.

I admit the right of Crerar to refer any point to his Government, whenever he likes—through you I presume.

I admit that Crerar is responsible for the general welfare and administration of all Canadian troops in the theatre of war.

Page 45

I do not admit that Crerar has any operational responsibility for Canadian troops serving temporarily in another Army.

I do not admit that Crerar has any special right to be consulted by me when making my plans for battle—apart from the normal consultation I would have with my Army Commanders at any time.

Stuart was disposed to accept this situation, but Crerar felt that the principle involved should be maintained. He added however that he had great faith in Montgomery as a military leader and did not believe that any trouble would ever arise in practice. Crerar’s letter on the subject concluded, “To sum the matter up, while I consider that you will need definitely to maintain the principle of Canadian autonomy in your intended exchange of views with the CIGS, and to indicate that, in the last resort, my responsibility to the Cdn Government for the employment of all Cdn troops in 21 Army Group cannot be questioned, you would be quite safe to assure him that I have no intentions of allowing that autonomy, and that special responsibility of the Cdn Comd, to endanger a military situation, or to cause bad personal and professional relations between Monty and myself.”61

On 16 June, after further detailed consultation with Crerar, Stuart again wrote the Chief of the Imperial General Staff,62 referring to General Montgomery’s views and the Canadians’ disagreement with them. The last paragraphs of his letter ran:–

4. I think that the difficulty mainly arises from Montgomery’s interpretation of “operational responsibility”, which to him means that Crerar would require to be consulted, and to approve, orders issued by another Commander to Canadian troops not under Crerar’s command. This, of course, would be quite impossible, and the last thing Crerar would desire, or accept. At the same time, any Canadian Formation Commander, temporarily serving under other higher command, has the right to, and indeed by Government instructions must, appeal through Crerar, to C-in-C 21 Army Group if such Canadian Formation Commander considers that the demands made on him and his troops are, beyond doubt, improper, and remedial action has been refused. In this national sense, and in this very remote contingency, Crerar has an “operational responsibility” from which he will not be released by the Canadian Government.

5. Crerar does not expect to be consulted more than any other Army Commander as regards operational plans, but the Canadian Government does expect Crerar to be consulted prior to any regrouping of Canadian Formations which would result in their detachment from Canadian command. In practice, no issue should ever arise because Crerar will have an opportunity to discuss any particular Canadian issues during what Montgomery describes as “normal consultation”.

6. For the reasons I have given, I feel that issues will never really arise between the C-in-C 21 Army Group and the Canadian Army Commander even though the former tends to “turn a blind eye” to the latter’s separate national responsibilities. In the circumstances, therefore, I do not press that these constitutional points be now clarified with Montgomery. He has immense military responsibilities at this time and nothing should be done to “take his eye off the ball”. I do consider it important, however, that there should be no misunderstanding between the War Office and CMHQ, at any time, concerning the relationships and responsibilities of the Canadian Commander—hence this letter.

In reply, Sir Alan Brooke thanked General Stuart for “the very practical outlook which you have taken in approaching the case” and added, “I feel quite confident that no difficulties should arise, but should you feel that at any time there was a danger of a misunderstanding please let me know at once.”63

Page 46

Here the matter stood, the Canadian position having been made quite clear. In accordance with his instructions from the Canadian Government, General Crerar issued formal directives to the General Officer Commanding the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the Officer Commanding the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion,64 informing them that they had the right to refer to him and through him to the Government of Canada in case of urgent need. The final paragraph of both letters (mutatis mutandis) ran as follows:–

4. Unless you consider that the circumstances warrant otherwise, such reference will be made only when the remedial or other action deemed by you to be necessary has been represented by you to your superior Commander and he shall have failed to take appropriate action. The authority to withdraw the Canadian forces or any part thereof under command of 21 Army Group from being ‘in combination’ is vested in me and no action will be taken by you in such matter without my instructions.

The expectations of General Crerar and Stuart were fully realized. The right of reference thus established remained purely theoretical. No use was ever made of it during the campaign in North-West Europe.

The Eve of D Day

The dispositions of the Canadian formations in Britain as D Day drew near were of course related to their tasks in the invasion. The 3rd Division and the 2nd Armoured Brigade remained at the south coast adjacent to the ports where they were to embark for the assault. The 4th Armoured Division stayed in the Ashdown Forest area of Sussex. The other formations of the 2nd Corps, however, made moves with the object of attracting German attention to South-East England and away from the ports opposite Normandy.* In April Corps Headquarters and the Corps Troops moved from Sussex into Kent, and the headquarters was set up in Eastling Wood, a few miles north of Dover. The 2nd Infantry Division also moved into this area and set up its headquarters on the outskirts of Dover itself.65 These formations were of course not to take part in the assault, and the manner in which they would be committed to the battle would be decided by the course of operations in the days following the landing.

Like the assault formations, those remaining under First Canadian Army had many distinguished visitors during these weeks. They too were visited by the King. The Prime Minister of Canada, during his visit to the United Kingdom in the spring, had closer contact with them than with the assault troops, and witnessed an impressive review of the 4th Division on 17 May. The Supreme ‘Commander, General Eisenhower, made it his business to visit the Canadian formations.66 So did General Montgomery, whose tour was described by General Stuart (then still commanding the Army) in a communication67 sent to the Minister of National Defence on 8 March:–

* See below, page 75. On 23 May, Generals Montgomery, Crerar and Simonds met at a rendezvous outside of Dover and, accompanied by members of their staffs, proceeded to make an intentionally obvious visit to the town, inspecting the harbour, meeting the mayor and visiting Dover Castle.

Page 47

Have recently completed a five day tour of Canadian troops with General Montgomery in his private train. ... General Montgomery met and talked individually with every one of our senior commanders and staff officers. He looked over the men in groups of about 5000. Each group was formed up in hollow square with one side open in six to eight ranks depending on strength of group. The front three or four ranks were about turned and Montgomery slowly walked through the third and fourth or fourth and fifth ranks. His purpose was to look the officers and men well over and also to let them look him over. Then he mounted a jeep with loud speaker and told the parade to break ranks and come around the jeep. He then made everybody sit down and he talked to each group for about fifteen minutes. We did as many as five groups in one day and altogether we saw and he spoke to more than a hundred thousand all ranks.

Frankly I have never seen such a splendid body of men in my life and as Montgomery said to me you would not see such a body of men in any other army in the world. Their turn out was excellent but what impressed me most was the very fine type of men we now have throughout the Army. They seemed so keen, so interested and so intelligent looking. To see and study the faces of the thousands of grand young Canadians as they listened to Montgomery was the most impressive and inspiring sight I have ever witnessed. ...

Montgomery was tremendously impressed with what he saw. He was most complimentary and he not only told the men what he thought of them but also wrote letters of appreciation to each of our formation commanders. ...

Such was the Canadian Army in the United Kingdom on the eve of D Day. Its time had come at last. The value of the training it had received during the long years of waiting would soon be put to the ultimate test.