Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War

Volume III

The Victory Campaign—The Operations in North-West Europe, 1944–1945

By Colonel C. P. Stacey, OBE, CD, AM, PhD, LLD, FRSC

Director, Historical Section, General Staff

Maps drawn by Major C. C. J. Bond

NOTE: 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.

[Transcriber note: This transcription is taken from an image PDF obtained from the “official” Canadian web site. However this image PDF was itself transcribed by OCR from the original printed book, and many of the usual OCR recognition errors remain. Corrections have been made to as many of the obvious typographical errors as possible.]

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The Development of the Plan for Invading North-West Europe, 1940–1944

The Beginnings of OVERLORD—Allied Uncertainty, January–July 1942—The Tactics of Assault—Testing the Assault Tactics—Allied Strategic Planning, 1942–43—The COSSAC Plan for OVERLORD—The COSSAC Plan is Altered—Operations Before D Day—The Anglo-American Debate

Chapter 2: The Canadian Army and the Invasion Project

The Strategic Background, 1939–43—First Canadian Army in Transition—The Canadian Assault Force—First Canadian Army Prepares for Action—The Responsibilities of the Canadian Army Commander—The Eve of D Day

Chapter 3: The Germans in France, 1940–1944

The Creation of the Atlantic Wall—German Forces in the West—The Advent of Rommel—A Confusion of Commands—German Knowledge of Allied Plans—The Final German Preparations—The Defences of the Normandy Coast

Chapter 4: The Plan of Attack

The Overall Plan—The Joint Fire Plan—The Role of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division—The Supporting Arms—Operations After “Neptune”—The Administrative Plan—The Decision to Launch the Operation

Chapter 5: The Landings in Normandy, 6 June 1944

Forth to Normandy—Operation NEPTUNE Begins—Bombardment by Air and Sea—“Drenching” the Beach Defences—The Assault on the Beaches—The 7th Brigade’s Beach Battle—The 8th Brigade Beaches—The Reserve Brigade Lands—The Situation at the End of D Day

Chapter 6: Normandy: The Bridgehead Battle, 7–30 June 1944

The German Reaction to the Assault—The 7th Brigade Advances to the Final Objectives—The 9th Brigade Thrown Back—The 8th Brigade on 7 June—The Attacks on the 7th Brigade: Putot-en-Bessin and Bretteville-l’Orgueilleuse—The Failure at Le Mesnil-Patry—General Montgomery Directs the Battle—The Battle of the Odon—The Situation at the End of June

Chapter 7: Normandy: The Battles of Caen and Bourguébus Ridge, 1–23 July 1944

A Momentary Pause—The Capture of Carpiquet—Theatre Strategy and the Use of Heavy Bombers—The Action of the Orne: The Capture of Caen—The Situation After the Capture of Caen—Operation GOODWOOD: The Battle of Bourguébus Ridge—Operation ATLANTIC: The Capture of Colombelles and Vaucelles—Canadian Operations on 19 July—The Last Phase of ATLANTIC—The Results of GOODWOOD and ATLANTIC

Chapter 8: Normandy: The Breakout Begins, 24–31 July 1944

Montgomery’s Orders for the Breakout—Operation SPRING: The Action of Verrières Ridge–Tilly-la-Campagne—Operation SPRING: The 3rd Division Front—Operation SPRING: The 2nd Division Front—The Operation Is Suspended—First Canadian Army in the Line—Strategic Policy in the Last Days of July

Chapter 9: Normandy: The Falaise Road, 1–12 August 1944

The Situation at 1 August—“Prodding” South of Caen—Planning the Breakout Attack—Air Support for TOTALIZE—The Führer Intervenes—The First Phase of TOTALIZE—The Second Phase of TOTALIZE

Chapter 10: Normandy: Victory at Falaise, 12–23 August 1944

The German Counter-Offensive and the Allied Change of Plan—Preparations for Operation TRACTABLE—The Action of the Laison—The Drive Continues Towards Falaise—The Action of Chambois: The Closing of the Gap—The 1st British Corps Drives Eastward—Plans for the Advance to the Seine—The Landings in Southern France

Chapter 11: Normandy: The Balance Sheet

The German Losses and Our Own—The Rival Strategies—On the Battlefield in Normandy—The Significance of Normandy

Chapter 12: The Pursuit Across the Seine, 23–30 August 1944

Advancing Towards the Seine—The Infantry Reinforcement Problem Appears—The Forêt de la Londe

Chapter 13: Antwerp, Arnhem and Some Controversies, August–September 1944

The Pursuit to the Somme and Antwerp—The Germans Lose Antwerp but Save an Army—A Difficulty with the C-in-C—The Debate on Strategy—The Failure at Arnhem

Chapter 14: Clearing the Coastal Belt and the Ports, September 1944

The Advance Beyond the Somme—The Need for the Channel Ports—Operation ASTONIA: The Capture of Le Havre—Operation WELLHIT: The Capture of Boulogne—Operation UNDERGO: The Capture of Calais—The Cape Gris Nez Batteries—Clearing the Flying-Bomb Sites

Chapter 15: The Battle of the Scheldt, September–November 1944 Part I: Planning, and Operations North of Antwerp

The Task is Assigned—Fighting on the Scheldt Outworks—Polish Operations South of the Scheldt—The 2nd Division in the Antwerp Sector—Planning the Scheldt Battle—Special Problems of Planning—The Final Plan for the Scheldt Battle—Fighting North from Antwerp—The Shortage of Trained Infantrymen—Strategic Discussion and a New Priority

Chapter 16: The Battle of the Scheldt, September–November 1944 Part II: Breskens, South Beveland, Walcheren

Operation SWITCHBACK: Clearing the Breskens Pocket—The Attack Across the Leopold Canal—The Assault Across the Braakman—Operation VITALITY: The Clearing of South Beveland—The Fight for the Walcheren Causeway—Preparations for the Landings on Walcheren—The Final Plan and the Decision to Assault—The Assault on Flushing—The Assault at Westkapelle—The End of the Battle

Chapter 17: Winter on the Maas, 9 November 1944–7 February 1945

Strategy for the Next Phase—Schouwen and the Salient—Life in the Line—Planning the Rhineland Offensive—The Ardennes Offensive and Its Results—The Other Side of the Maas—The Fighting at Kapelsche Veer—Planning for VERITABLE is Resumed—The Administrative Foundation

Chapter 18: The Battle of the Rhineland Part I: Operation “Veritable”, 8–21 February 1945

The Battle Area—The Enemy’s Defences—The Pattern of VERITABLE—First Canadian Army Goes Into Germany—The Siegfried Line is Breached—Through the Materborn Gap—Advance Through the Floods—The 2nd Canadian Corps Enters the Battle—Clearing Moyland Wood—The Goch–Calcar Road—The Capture of Goch

Chapter 19: The Battle of the Rhineland Part II: Operation “Blockbuster”, 22 February–10 March 1945

Plans for a Renewed Offensive—On the Enemy Side—BLOCKBUSTER Goes In—The Fighting for Üdem—The Battle for the Hochwald—The Enemy’s Plight—The Struggle in the Gap—Eastward from the Hochwald—The Capture of Xanten and Veen—The Rhineland Victory

Chapter 20: The Rhine Crossing and the 2nd Corps’ Advance to the North Sea, 23 March–22 April 1945

Strategy: Malta and Yalta—The 1st Corps Arrives from Italy—Planning Operation PLUNDER—The Watch on the Rhine—The Crossing of the Rhine: The Assault—The 9th Brigade Beyond the Rhine—Beginning the Northern Drive: Emmerich and Hoch Elten—Strategy for the Final Phase—The Re-Entry of First Canadian Army—Zutphen and Deventer—Operation CANNONSHOT: Crossing the Ijssel—On to the North Sea—The Advance to the Küsten Canal—Preparations for the Final Phase

Chapter 21: The 1st Corps in the Western Netherlands, 1–22 April 1945

Problems of an Assault Across the Neder Rijn—Operation DESTROYER: Clearing the “Island”—Intermission: Preparations for Further Operations—The Capture of Arnhem and a Revision of Strategy—The Capture of Apeldoorn—Operation CLEANSER: The Drive to the Ijsselmeer—Operations on the Left Flank, 15–19 April—The Problem of Dutch Relief—The Halt in the Western Netherlands

Chapter 22: The German Surrender

Canadian Tasks for the Final Phase—The Fight for Delfzijl—Across the Ems and the Leda—The Advance into the Emden–Wilhelmshaven Peninsula—The Advance to Oldenburg—The Parachute Battalion Marches to Wismar—Help for the Western Netherlands—The German Surrender

Chapter 23: The Aftermath of the German Surrender

Implementing the Surrender—Morale and Repatriation—The Canadian Army Occupation Force

Chapter 24: Administration, and some Special Activities and Problems

Canadian Administration in North-West Europe—The 1st and 2nd Echelons—The Reinforcement Organization—The “Canloan” Scheme—Canadians and the European “Resistance”—Civil Affairs and Military Government Officers—No. 1 Canadian Forestry Group


Appendix A: Directive to GOC-in-C First Canadian Army

Appendix B: Canadian Army Casualties, Normandy, 6 June 1944

Appendix C: Approximate Casualties of the Allied Armies by Sectors, Normandy, 6 June 1944

Appendix D: General Montgomery’s Directive to Generals Bradley and Dempsey, 30 June 1944

Appendix E: Field-Marshal Montgomery’s Directive, 16 October 1944

Appendix F: Canadian Army Units in North-West Europe (8 May 1945)

Appendix G: Officers Holding Principal Appointments in the Canadian Army in North-West Europe (6 June 1944–8 May 1945)


Index Part 1


Index Part 2

Formations, Units and Corps


Frontispiece. In the Falaise Gap, August 1944—Distinguished Observers at Exercise TROUSERS, 12 April 1944—Infantrymen of the Assault Force in Training, 18 April 1944—The Broken Atlantic Wall—Courseulles from the Air—Congestion on MIKE RED Beach, D Day—Strongpoint at St. Aubin-sur-Mer—The Abbey of Ardenne—Divine Service on Board HMCS Algonquin, 18 June 1944—Canadian Convoy in Caen—The Steelworks at Colombelles, 19 July 1944—Forward to the Laison—Clearing Out Snipers in Falaise—The Falaise Gap—St. Lambert-sur-Dives, August 1944—The Railway Y in the Forêt de la Londe—The Forêt de la Londe—Lancasters Over Mont Lambert, 17 September 1944—German Prisoners at Boulogne—A Letter from the C-in-C—The Leopold Canal, Looking East, 1946—Biervliet From the East, 1946—Atlantic Wall Defences Near Cadzand—The Walcheren Causeway, Looking East Towards South Beveland—The Scene of the Westkapelle Landing—On the Dyke at Kapelsche Veer, January 1945—The Supreme Commander Visits Canadian Troops—Commanders in Operation VERITABLE, February 1945—Warfare in the Floods—The British Prime Minister Visits First Canadian Army—s Moving Up—The Hochwald Gap—“Melville” Bridge Carries Traffic Across the Rhine—The Patricias Cross the Ijssel—House-Clearing in Groningen, 15 April 1945—Conquerors Meet on the Baltic—Surrender of the German Twenty-Fifth Army—Senior Commanders, First Canadian Army, Hilversum, 20 May 1945—Canadians in Berlin


Front endpaper. First Canadian Army: From Normandy to the Scheldt

1. German Forces and Defences, 716th Infantry Division Area, 6 June 1944

2. Canadian Assaults, D Day

3. The Battle of Bourguébus Ridge, 18–21 July 1944

4. Operation TOTALIZE, 7–10 August 1944

5. The Closing of the Falaise Gap, 17–21 August 1944

6. Forêt de la Londe, 26–29 August 1944

7. The Capture of Boulogne, 17–22 September 1944

8. The Battle of the Scheldt, October–November 1944

9. The Ardennes Crisis, 16–26 December 1944

10. The Rhineland: Operation VERITABLE, 8–21 February 1945

11. The Rhineland: Operation BLOCKBUSTER, 22 February–10 March 1945

12. Advance on the Northern Front, 23 March–22 April 1945

13. The Western Netherlands: 1st Canadian Corps Operations, 2–25 April 1945

14. The Final Phase: 2nd Canadian Corps Front, 23 April–5 May 1945

Back endpaper. First Canadian Army: From the Maas to the Weser


1. Great Britain and Northern France

2. German Formations in the West, 23 October 1943

3. German Formations in the West, 6 June 1944

4. Plan Before D Day

5. The Invasion of Normandy, Allied Concentration and Routes, 6 June 1944

6. Operations 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 6 June 1944

7. The Canadian Front, 7–8 June 1944

8. Le Mesnil-Patry and the Mue Valley, 11 June 1944

9. The Normandy Bridgehead, 6–30 June 1944

10. The Attack on Carpiquet, 4 July 1944

11. The Capture of Caen, 8–9 July 1944

12. German Dispositions, British Front, 24–25 July 1944

13. Verrières Ridge–Tilly-la-Campagne, 25 July 1944

14. Operation TOTALIZE: The Plan

15. Operations 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment, 9 August 1944

16. Clair Tizon, 11–14 August 1944

17. Operation TRACTABLE: The Plan

18. Operation TRACTABLE: 14–16 August 1944

19. Expansion of the Normandy Bridgehead, July–August 1944

20. The Pursuit to the Seine, 22–30 August 1944

21. The Seine Crossing, 3rd and 4th Canadian Divisions, 26–30 August 1944

22. Advance to the Somme and Antwerp, 31 August–4 September

23. North-West Europe, The Front, 15 September 1944

24. Operation MARKET-GARDEN, 17–26 September

25. The Coastal Belt, 4–12 September

26. Le Havre: Operation ASTONIA, 10–12 September 1944

27. The Capture of Calais, 25 September–1 October 1944

28. Woensdrecht, 7–16 October 1944

29. The Leopold Canal, 6–13 October

30. The Walcheren Causeway, 31 October–2 November 1944

31. The Capture of Walcheren, 1–8 November 1944

32. The Northern Front, 16 October–10 November 1944

33. The Nijmegen Island, 2–7 December 1944

34. The Threat Across the Maas, Mid-December 1944

35. Kapelsche Veer, 26–30 January 1945

36. Attack by 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, 8 February 1945

37. Moyland Wood and the Goch–Calcar Road, 16–21 February 1945

38. The Hochwald Gap, 27 February–3 March 1945

39. Xanten, 8–10 March, 1945

40. The Battle of the Rhineland, 8 February–11 March 1945

41. Closing to the Rhine, February–March 1945

42. Operation VARSITY, Showing Situation 6th Airborne Division, Afternoon 24 March 1945

43. The Battle of the Rhine, The Left Flank, 23 March–1 April 1945

44. Zutphen and Deventer, 5–12 April 1945

45. The Clearing of Groningen by 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, 13–16 April 1945

46. The Küsten Canal Crossing, 17–19 April 1945

47. The Advance Across Germany, 23 March–8 May 1945

48. The Fight for Delfzijl, 23 April–2 May 1945

49. March to Wismar, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 27 March–2 May 1945