Source Lieutenant-Colonel W.T. Barnard, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada: 1860-1960. Ontario: The Ontario Publishing Co. Ltd., 1960.
Normandy beachhead map from Barnard's regimental history.
THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY: 6 JUNE-2 JULY 1944
THE D-DAY LANDING
REVEILLE, on D Day 6 June 1944, was at 0315 hrs. The water in the Channel was rough; the spirits of the men boisterously high. For years they had trained for and dreamed of this day. Now, in a few hours, their fortunes would be put to the touch. A and B Companies, the first-wave assault troops, were on the S.S. Monoway, a Red Ensign ship from New Zealand. An excellent breakfast was served. By 0500 hrs everything was completely ready for the transfer to the L.C.A. (Landing Craft Assault) manned by Royal Marines. At 0600 hrs, seven miles off the French coast, the order came. The troops filed silently into the craft and the boats were away. The rough water soon made a goodly number of men seasick; nevertheless, the anti-seasick pills did help the great majority.
The dull roar of far distant bombing could be heard but all was quiet around the assault craft. Thanks to our Navy and Air Force not once was the immense D Day flotilla really menaced by enemy ships or aircraft. Steadily the L.C.A. forged ahead. Suddenly, at 0725 hrs, with Bernières-sur-Mer just in sight, the air was filled with screaming shells; later the rockets joined in; a veritable inferno that numbed the senses and shattered coherent thought. To the men bobbing about on the flimsy craft it was tremendously reassuring that this great weight of metal was all going in the right direction.
The original H hour had been 0745 hrs. Now word was received that H hour would be delayed for at least ten minutes. At that moment the assault craft were only a few hundred yards from shore. The sea was now so rough that the D.D. tanks, designed to swim in with the infantry, were ordered to land in the normal way from their craft. This delay meant that The Queen's Own would have to capture Bernières without tank assistance. The A.V.R.Es., (Armoured Vehicles Royal Engineers), landed with the second wave but were held up on the beach until suitable exits could be made.
The supporting fire was now thickened by artillery firing from their craft. Everyone prayed for the order to land. Soon the guns would cease and the men well knew that the longer the elapsed interval between the cessation of fire and the actual attack the greater the enemy's chance of recovery. The fast-rising tide was also hiding the mines and obstacles that the craft would have to sweep through. It was a grim few minutes; the craft circled slowly; an occasional shell whined out from shore; then, at 0805 hrs, came the glad word to go in.
A Company on the right and B Company on the left touched down at 0812 hrs. The line between the companies was the railway station. Several L.C.A. hit mines on the run in but casualties were light. Nevertheless, of the ten L.C.A.'s that carried A and B Company in, only two managed to get off the shore. Strangely enough the battalion lost all its flame-throwers at this point—one by enemy action, the rest by waves soaking the mechanism. The rising tide had now left about two hundred yards or so of beach between the water's edge and the sea-wall. The strip was swept by enemy enfilade fire but, with a rush, A Company, under Major H. E. Dalton, was over; clambered up the sea-wall, and reached the railway line.
9 Platoon, A Company, was on the extreme right flank of the 8th Brigade attack. Their area of the beach was covered by an 88 mm. gun position which had not shown on the air photos. Before it was silenced this gun caused heavy casualties to the platoon. Lt. P. C. Rea was wounded twice, the F.O.O. (Forward Observation Officer) was wounded, L/Sgt. J. M. Simpson killed and two-thirds of the platoon killed or wounded. Sgt. C. W. Smith, later awarded the Military Medal, gathered together the ten or so men remaining and, although wounded, fought his way through to the railway station. Here he collapsed and a corporal took over. Now house-to-house fighting began. Here the enemy put up a stubborn resistance and numerous casualties resulted; but the attack was pushed relentlessly.
B Company, under Major C.O. Dalton, was even less fortunate. The company had landed directly in front of a concrete strongpoint that was still in action. Almost one half of the company was lost in the initial dash across the beach. A supporting flak ship was wirelessed for support. The flak ship came in so close that it almost ran aground and began firing at point-blank range. Finally, Lt. W.G. Herbert, Cpl. R. J. Tessier and Rfn. W. Chicoski did a very neat job in silencing the strongpoint with grenades and Sten guns. By now Major C.O. Dalton, Lt. J.D. McLean, Lt. W.G. Herbert and CSM W. Wallis were wounded. Sgt. F.B. Harris' and Sgt. G.W. Morrison had been killed. Lt. H.C. F. Elliot took over command until relieved by Captain J. I. Mills. Corporals were playing the leading roles; the smashing impetus never faltered.
An initial mischance now turned out to be a determining factor in B Company’s success. One L.C.A. had its rudder jammed and ran ashore off course. Here there was no enemy defence. Quickly, Lt. H.C. F. Elliot, the platoon commander, seized the opportunity and worked his way inland along the shore. The unexpected flank attack convinced the enemy that they had had enough. It was as well, for by now the rest of B Company had been practically wiped out.
At 0830 hrs C Company, under Major O.A. Nickson; D. Company under Major J. N. Gordon, and alternate B.H.Q. (Battalion Headquarters) landed. Half of the L.C.A. had struck mines but, by a miracle, few of the men were wounded and all swam or waded ashore. B Squadron, Fort Garry Horse, had also landed. An exit was breached in the sea-wall and very soon the armour joined the forward companies of the Queen s Own.
C and D companies immediately pressed forward along the brigade Centre Line: Bernières-sur-Mer, Beny-sur-Mer, Basly, Colomby sur-Thaon, Anguerny Heights. Great stress was placed on the capture of the last mentioned which was of great tactical importance to the division. By 0900 hrs Bernières had been cleared, so A Company followed in support of C and D. The few remaining in B Company re-organized and were held back in Bernières until the afternoon. In the original plan B Company were to remain to form a firm base. Now there was no choice.
The brigade reserve, The Régiment de la Chaudière, had landed; so too had The 14th Field Regiment R.C.A. with its S.P. (self-propelled) guns. Their initial progress was held up by an enemy 88 mm. gun on high ground overlooking the town. So deadly was the fire that four Priests (Sherman tanks carrying a 105 mm. gun) were knocked out. Then a detachment of The QOR of C, riding on a tank, outflanked the position and put the quietus on the crew.
Steadily the advance continued down the road forming the Centre Line. The tanks ranged far and wide and did valuable work in locating and destroying pockets of the enemy. It was a tank-infantry fight against scattered nests of enemy resistance and never did the co-operation work more smoothly. Finally, at 1730 hrs, the battalion reached its D-Day objective, Anguerny Heights, and dug in around the village of Anguerny; the Carrier Platoon, under Lt. S. C. Biggs, occupied, after a sharp fight, a prominent local feature—ring contour 70 on the map, but Big 2 Hill to the carrier platoon. The most forward position was the village of Anisy which had been taken by D Company after a sharp brush with the enemy.
Chester Wilmot remarks in The Struggle for Europe: "So fast did The Queen's Own move against this and other positions that when The Régiment de la Chaudière began to land behind them fifteen minutes later, the only fire on the beach was coming from snipers." To merit these words everyone had given to the limit. Never did the rifleman's creed of dash and initiative reap a richer reward. Let the padre be taken as an exemplar. He was everywhere; cheering up the wounded and exhorting the men still fighting. While comforting Sgt. Morrison in his last moments a bullet inflicted a flesh wound in the padre's foot. The next day, when the first opportunity came to take off his boots, as the blood-soaked sock was cut away the bullet fell out!
The Régiment de la Chaudière and The North Shore Regiment had made good progress also so that, by the evening, the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was loosely conformed into a jutting salient with The QOR at the apex. In error, The Queen's Own first line reinforcement, who were sorely needed by the battalion, had been sent to Régiment de la Chaudière. Two or three days elapsed before the mix-up was straightened away.
Napoleon once taunted the British with being a nation of shopkeepers. It would be a little difficult, however, to evince a shopkeeping instinct stronger than that possessed by the owner of an estaminet in Bernières. No sooner had the troops cleared the area round his place than the proprietor popped up from the cellar and, with bullets still flying, started to sell wine. He did no business with The Queen's Own; nevertheless, many factors combine to impede the orderly progress of an attack!
The night of 6-7 June was full of alarms and excursions. Everyone was waiting for the expected counter-attack; but it never came. At 0100 hrs, 7 June, a truck load of Germans drove into Anguerny. All were taken prisoner. Later, an enemy patrol broke into A Company in the rear of B.H.Q. The patrol was fought off and the officer in command captured after being bayoneted by Rfn. Frank Mumberson, 7 Platoon. Throughout the night our patrols brought in prisoners. One was identified as belonging to the 21st S.S. Panzer Division (Hitler Jugend). S.S. is the abbreviation for Schutzstaffein or Staff Guards. They were all hand-picked, fanatical Nazis.
At day break, 7 June, small parties were sent back to search for missing personnel. Fighting patrols roamed the area looking for enemy snipers; some were rooted out in Anguerny itself. Captain A. Kirsch R.C.A.M.C., who had worked unceasingly looking after the wounded on D Day, left for hospital on 7 June. He had been wounded on 6 June but refused to leave at such a critical time. On that day while giving Lt. P. C. Rea morphine to ease his pain a mortar shell landed nearby. Captain Kirsch was wounded—so, for the third time, was Lt. Rea. Captain Kirsch dragged Lt. Rea to a more sheltered spot, dressed the wounds, and carried on as before, calmly and efficiently. It was the ultimate in the depiction of a medical officer in action. Major M. Bruser became the battalion M.O. until 13 July. Then Captain R. D. Oatway R.C.A.M.C. took over and remained until the end of the war. Throughout he served the battalion well and faithfully. Seventy first-line reinforcements arrived on D+l. They were badly needed. That day saw the expected counterattack hurled against the 9th Brigade on the battalion's left. The brigade fought gallantly and the 12th S.S. Panzer Division was held.
Now the troops were well dug in, a little reflection was in order. The probabilities that the two first-wave assault companies would be commanded by brothers were rather remote; but so it was; and both Major C.O. Dalton and Major H. E. Dalton were in the regiment in the old N.P.A.M. (Non-Permanent Active Militia) days. It was a pleasing thought too, that, of the four battalions in the initial Canadian assault wave, three had been rifle regiments: The Queen's Own Rifles, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles and The Regina Rifles. The Green Jackets seem to produce what is required for crucial moments. The reflections closed on a note of pride. The battalion had proven itself; it had fought its way almost seven miles in from the beach; it had captured the objective as laid down; and was part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, which, of all the allied divisions engaged, had made the deepest penetration.
The casualties had been heavy; in fact, the heaviest suffered by any Canadian unit that day. Fifty-six other ranks had been killed in action; seven died of wounds. Six officers and sixty-nine other ranks had been wounded; five other ranks suffered battle injuries. These were the men who paid most dearly, and, in so doing, wrote another illustrious page in the annals of the regiment.
For gallantry displayed in smashing the defending 716th German Infantry Division on that memorable day the following awards were made: Major C.O. Dalton—DSO; Lt. W. G. Herbert—MC; Sgt. C. W. Smith, Cpl. R. J. Tessier and Rfn. W. Chicoski—MM.
ROLL OF OFFICERS, WARRANT OFFICERS AND SERGEANTS
Commanding Officer: Lieutenant-Colonel J. G. Spragge
O.C.: Captain T. E. Parkinson
O.C.: Captain R. A. Cottrill
Officers: Lt. B. Dunkelman, 3 Pl. (Mortars)
O.C.: Major H. E. Dalton
Officers: Captain R. D. Medland (2nd-in-Command)
O.C.: Major C.O. Dalton
Officers: Captain J. I. Mills (2nd-in-Command); Lts H.C.F. Elliot, W.G. Herbert and J. D. McLean.
O.C.: Major O.A. Nickson
O.C.: Major J. N. Gordon
TWO DAYS' RESPITE
8 JUNE was quiet day for the 8th Brigade; for the 7th Brigade on the right, it was quite the opposite. The enemy launched a determined tank counterattack. A fierce fight ensued in which the brigade held line but at the cost of heavy casualties. The bridgehead, though somewhat precarious, was still intact. The award came through that day of an O.B.E. to Lieutenant-Colonel J.G. Spragge for his meritorious work during the long training period in England. During the day a funeral service was held for the men who had fallen on the beaches. The padre spoke feelingly of those who had trained diligently for three years and then had the ill fortune to last but a few minutes in action. Wisely, he did not attempt to explain the unexplainable—why one man lives and the next man dies. Instead, by turning back the thoughts of the battalion to the worth of those heroic men, he hardened the resolve to wipe out the primary cause of such tragic waste.
The 8th Brigade was now moved over in support of the 7th Brigade; so, at 1700 hrs, on 9 June, the battalion left Anguerny and moved to Bray. The move was made in T.C.Vs., which shows how speedily the build-up was progressing. Here a patrol went out to try and discover the enemy strength in the area of Rots. The patrol was badly shot up. Rfn. W. G. Edmonds, himself wounded, was later awarded the Military Medal for carrying a wounded rifleman to safety through two hundred yards of murderous enemy fire.
A Echelon was now functioning. B Echelon under R.Q.M.S. G. A. Wice, together with Captain E. F. Adamson R.C.A.P.C., arrived a few days later. As F, A and B Echelons are integral parts of a battalion it might be well to explain their composition and function.
F Echelon consisted of vehicles necessary in actual fighting; generally, the carriers of the Commanding Officer and the Company Commanders; and, of course, the carriers of the Carrier Platoon, the Mortar Platoon, and the Anti-Tank Platoon. Sometimes jeeps were included.
The composition and positioning of Battalion Headquarters, A Echelon and B Echelon varied with the tactical problem, the nature of the terrain, the ideas of the C.O. and so on. In general, B.H.Q., in action, operated in two sections. The C.O., together with his Signals Officer and Intelligence Officer, comprised a Tactical Headquarters. A carrier and a jeep provided transportation. The Tac. H.Q. was mobile and positioned itself where, for the time being, it could most effectively exercise control. B.H.Q. proper usually consisted of the 2nd in Command, the adjutant, the medical officer, the signals sergeant and the regimental sergeant-major with his ammunition truck. As well, the company quarter-master sergeants, each with his company truck, were positioned at this point. It is understood that, in each group, the necessary drivers, signallers, stretcher bearers, cooks and so on were present also.
It was a Queen's Own custom that, when in action, the company cooks started preparing a hot meal early in the morning. Then, whenever circumstances permitted the C.O. to order the food forward it could be rushed up in the straw boxes. Sometimes the food never did get served; but, if the opportunity arose, a hot meal was always ready.
A Echelon, commanded by O.C. Headquarters Company, was normally in the vicinity of Brigade Headquarters. Here were found the L.O.B (Left Out of Battle) personnel; vehicles not being used in any particular engagement; a forward training centre for reinforcement; a collecting centre for men leaving and returning and various other details. Quite often battle-exhausted men, particularly stretcher bearers whose work was most arduous, were given a few days' rest at this point. Perhaps because men going on leave were outfitted here, A Echelon was known invariably as "Happy Valley".
B Echelon, commanded by the Quartermaster, was usually near the Divisional Headquarters. Such specialists as the sergeant cook, artificer sergeant and orderly room sergeant were normally at this point. All food stores, supplies, mail, ammunition and equipment were drawn by B Echelon from the Divisional R.C.A.S.C., R.C.O.C., and R.C.E and then forwarded to A Echelon. The whole system worked efficiently but in action, never stagnated into a routine. Improvisation and enterprise were always necessary to keep the show on the road. As well, cooperation from those in the senior echelons was essential. Here Colonel, later Brigadier, D.G. J. Farquharson OBE R.C.O.C. stood out as one always willing to go "the extra mile" in helping out.
ON 10 JUNE the battalion moved to Neuf Mer and was placed under command of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. Orders were received on 11 June, at 1100 hrs, that The Queen's Own would attack and seize the high ground south of Cheux. First, however, it was necessary to capture Le Mesnil-Patry. This was on the front of 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade. The Regina Rifles were to form the firm base for the attack. The attack was timed to go in at 1300 hrs. This, as one company commander put it, was a plan "conceived in sin and born in iniquity". First no time was allowed for reconnaissance; secondly, no artillery preparation was provided despite the fact that it was known that the place was strongly held; and thirdly, the men were expected to go in riding on tanks through flat wheat fields, thus providing perfect targets for the defenders.
The attack on Le Mesnil-Patry was to be made by D Company under Major J.N. Gordon. A Company, under Major H. E. Dalton, on the capture of the village, would pass through and secure the road junction half a mile beyond the town. Then B Company and C Company were to be carried on tanks a distance of some five miles from the Start Line to the high ground south of Cheux--a not unambitious programme.
Despite the hurry it was about 1430 hours before D Company, riding on the tanks of B Squadron 1st Hussars, left Norry-en-Bessin. Le Mesnil-Patry was 1,200 yards away. The intervening country was practically all flat fields of grain. About 300 yards had been covered before the storm broke. In a few minutes half the company and half the tanks had been wiped out. The losses would probably have been worse had not Lt. B. Dunkelman detected tank gun fire coming from haycocks. Immediately the mortar platoon rained down bombs and set the haycocks afire. That portion of the enemy fire power did no more damage.
D Company survivors now kept to the ground and crawled doggedly forward. Despite losses the outskirts of Le Mesnil-Patry were reached. Then Major Gordon fell wounded. Lt. R. Fleming took over the company. Now, in an attempt to turn the tide, Lt. H.G.W. Bean, already wounded in the leg, gathered together Sgt. S.T. Scrutton, seven riflemen and two tanks. Working to a flank the little group entered the village at the eastern end. Lt. Bean and Sgt. Scrutton, covered by the riflemen, directed the fire of the tanks; and, for a time, wreaked havoc. During this interval Lt. Bean had been wounded again. Now the tanks' wireless failed and Lt. Bean fell wounded for the third time. Sgt. Scrutton gathered what was left of his, intrepid little party, ordered them on the tanks and, by a miracle, roared back safely. Four returned unscathed, two were killed, one was missing and two were wounded. This action was an epic; spine-tingling in cold courage; brilliant in initiative and execution; a magnificent attempt to resolve a hopeless situation. Lt. Bean was awarded the Military Cross and Sgt. Scrutton the Military Medal.
D Company by now was thinned to the vanishing point. B Squadron, 1st Hussars, was in the same case. Both were ordered to retire. Then further calamity struck. The Germans managed to get in to our artillery wireless net and put in a call for defensive fire on The Queen's Own area and on The Regina Rifles at Norry-en-Bessin. It was a clever move on the part of the enemy. Immediately heavy fire poured down; some twenty minutes elapsed before Brigade H.Q. could get it stopped. The havoc wrought was dreadful. Not only did The Queen's Own suffer. The forward company of The Regina Rifles was badly shot up; the battalion's reserve ammunition was destroyed, and the 1st Hussars lost many of their reserve tanks positioned in Norry-en-Bessin.
The 1st Hussars, who fought throughout most gallantly, lost eight officers, fifty-two other ranks and nineteen tanks. D Company, QOR of C, went in 135 strong. Initially, eleven came back but during the next twenty-four hours other survivors made their way back to the lines. That day the battalion lost one officer and fifty-three other ranks killed in action; one other rank died of wounds. Three officers and thirty other ranks were wounded; four other ranks received severe battle injuries. One officer and one other rank received battle injuries but remained on duty. In all eleven men were captured; five were repatriated after the war; the fate of the other six is given below. Lt. R. Fleming, the one officer killed, was a young and promising subaltern. He had been married but a month. C.S.M. J. Forbes and Sgt. J. M. Mitchell, both first-rate soldiers, had fallen. An English newspaper summed up the whole action with the comment, “It was a modern version of The Charge of the Light Brigade”.
At first it seemed that little had been accomplished. Later the view was taken that, viewed as a "spoiling attack", an enemy concentration had been completely disorganized and a proposed counter-attack had been brought to naught. The next day, Lieutenant-General G.G. Simonds, G.O.C. Second Canadian Corps, stated: "While the battle yesterday seemed futile, it actually put a Panzer Division attack on skids thereby saving 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade from being cut off and in the broader picture, it helped 7 British Armoured Division to advance on our right flank." The sector, previously very troublesome, gave no more bother, and on 16-17 June, after a British advance on the right the place was occupied without a shot being fired. The British found fourteen knocked-out German tanks and over two thousand Nazi dead in the fields and ditches.
The date is not known precisely but, after being captured on 11 June, some person or persons belonging to the 12th S.S. Panzer Division (Hitler Jugend) deliberately shot Sgt. T. C. McLaughlin, Cpl. E. J. Cook, Rfn. P. Bullock, Rfn. J. Campbell, Rfn. E.W. Cranfield and Rfn. G.L. Willett. The bodies were found by the padre. They had all been shot through the head. Some of the six, wounded in the fighting, still had Canadian field dressings on their wounds. A proper funeral service was held and the matter reported. Part II Orders, Canadian Section, General Headquarters, 2nd Echelon, 21 Army Group, No. 56 dated 16 November, 1944, lists these men as "murdered whilst unofficial prisoners of war”.
After the war, Meyer, the German divisional commander, was tried for this crime and sentenced to death. Major-General C. Vokes CB CBE DSO, refused to confirm the sentence as no evidence had been produced to prove that Meyer had ordered the shootings. Certainly, if a divisional commander were responsible personally for every act committed outside his direct orders, few generals on either side would be alive today. It took great moral courage for General Vokes to thus run counter to popular sentiment; but that he did showed that the ideals of justice, so frequently put forward as one of the war aims, were more than platitudes. It was impossible to trace the actual murderer or murderers but as the 21,000 strength of 12th S.S. Panzer Division had been reduced to a few hundred by the end of August, it is safe to assume that the perpetrators of this crime had met with their earthly deserts.
A COLLECTION OF INCIDENTS
The bridgehead was now firmly established. Three weeks, however, would elapse before the attack was resumed. It would be useless to attempt an offensive before the logistical demands had been met. On 12 June the battalion moved from Neuf Mer to Bray. The enemy artillery fire had lessened considerably. Naturally, the first thought at Bray was the defensive lay-out. Minefields, real and dummy, were laid. Trip wires and booby traps were set. The latter worked so well that two wandering cows were killed. The cooks immediately dashed out to secure that rare delight—fresh meat. Incessant patrolling went on; alternate positions were constructed; traffic near the defensive area was cut to a minimum; and, at all times, the attempt was made to plot the enemy positions and to hide our own.
On 17-18 June, The Queen's Own exchanged positions with The Regina Rifles. B.H.Q. was now at Bretteville-Orgueilleuse. The next week was full of incident. It became apparent that large quantities of the local calvados had been discovered. Calvados is a fiery brandy distilled from cider. Drastic measures were introduced to clean up these extra-curricular supplies.
This led to a minor charge being laid against one rifleman who had clashed with a French civilian. The brigadier immediately ordered a court-martial. Captain M. Gauvin came over from The Régiment de la Chaudière to translate and Lt. S. C. Biggs was detailed as prosecutor. The trial was held in the house of the Mayor of Bretteville-Orgueilleuse which was about a thousand yards from the forward positions. Three times during the trial, which lasted from 1900 hrs to 0200 hrs the next morning, the building came under heavy shell fire. Each time the court, the accused and counsel all disappeared into the cellar. Finally, the rifleman was found guilty and Lt. B. Dunkelman was summoned from his slit trench to give the customary character evidence before sentence was passed. Lt. Dunkelman was very short of trained men so requested that the sentence be served in the field. The request was granted. The rifleman left for his platoon. The Mayor, deeply impressed with this display of swift, sure Canadian justice, kissed the prosecutor on both cheeks and promptly produced a round of champagne.
Sixty-two sorely needed reinforcements arrived on 19 June. Already the reinforcement situation seemed in a bad way. The greater number of these men were not trained infantrymen. Indeed, only a few knew how to operate a Bren gun. So quick courses in basic training had to start immediately.
The great storm in the Channel was at its height on 19 June. This delayed the build-up several days. Specialist courses had to be started. By now Free French officials were taking over the local administration. Ralph Allen, representing The Globe and Mail of Toronto, paid the battalion a visit on 22 June. The same day Captain B. Dunkelman uncovered a tunnel system apparently leading towards Caen. Wild rumours of surprise underground assaults immediately received full play. Once again, on 23 June, the effectiveness of the slit trench was demonstrated. Some 2,000 mortar bombs fell in the area; yet the casualties were but one man killed and nine wounded. A similar bombardment on 24 June wounded eight men. As a happy ending to this pot-pourri a 170 mm. shell landed just outside B.H.Q.—and failed to explode!
A most regrettable incident occurred on 26 June when Cpl. G.A. Hadley was, through mistaken identity, shot and killed while trying to establish liaison with the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment. The tragedy of an individual is etched very clearly in the case of the unfortunate corporal. In the morning, a message had reached him that his wife had presented him with a son; during the night he was killed.
The Hampshire Regiment took over The Queen's Own area on 27 June. The battalion then went into reserve at Cairon. Enemy artillery could still reach the troops; but now the troops could reach a mobile bath unit set up in the North Shore lines. Ten men at a time were able to get a much-needed shower.
The first issue of the Big 2 Bugle came out at this time. This was a two- or three-page news sheet mimeographed at B Echelon. Sgt. S.D. Watson was the editor; Cpl. A. Irvine, assistant editor and artist; Sgt. R. Guiton drew the cover designs and Rfn. D. H. Williams looked after production. Publication was, as might be expected, irregular. The B.B.C. news synopsis was given; local battalion news recorded; a few digs were taken at anything and anyone; and a couple of the most recent jokes passed on. Contributions were invited and it is rather surprising to note the number of poems published. They were almost always serious in tone. It would seem men realized instinctively that, for the expression of emotion, poetry was a better medium than prose. Here is a sample from the pen of Rfn. J.N. Wagar.
During the night of 30 June the battalion moved to Marcelet to act as reserve to the Guards Brigade that was now holding this sector. A heavy enemy attack was expected. The attack failed to materialize so the battalion moved back to Cairon in T.C.Vs. under heavy shell fire.
On 2 July the padre, H/Captain J. C. Clough C.C.S., was taken to hospital. The battalion was saddened. Captain Clough had been with the unit from the early days at Sussex Camp, New Brunswick. His cheery laugh and unconquerable spirit had been a tonic to all ranks. He worked unceasingly for the spiritual and material welfare of the battalion; and, in his capacity as padre, no one will ever know how many men were advised, comforted and strengthened. He had the best tenor voice in the unit and was the only one who could hold his own in a wrestling match with Captain Dunkelman. Truly an admirable Crichton! H/Captain Clough was succeeded for a short time by H/Captain J. Stewart C.C.S. On 3 September, H/Captain A. J. Mowatt C.C.S. became the permanent padre and served admirably until the end of hostilities.
As can be seen from the above The Queen's Own were not engaged actively between 12 June and 2 July. Yet in that interval four men had been killed, twelve wounded and three injured. Everyone knew that major events were in the offing. The bridgeheads were now solidly established lodgment areas. As is well known, Montgomery's strategy was to attract the bulk of the German forces to the Caen area. This was the hinge that must take the pressure. Then could the Americans to the west roll back the enemy like swinging a door, break out and push for Paris. That is exactly what did happen. The Queen's Own part started on 3 July.