THE CANADIANS

25 Apr

Canada has been shoulder to shoulder with Great Britain in times of conflict over the years. Without doubt the armed forces of Canada are really formidable when it comes to the crunch. I will mention a few of those very notable battles the Canadian forces were very involved with.

During the First World War in 1917 there was heavy fighting in the Arras offensive. The Canadian Corps which was made up of men from all parts of Canada was given the task of capturing the heavily fortified positions held by the Germans. The Germans were well dug in on high ground, which overlooked the surrounding area known has Vimy Ridge. The battle took place 9th to 12th April 1917. Supported by a creeping barrage the Canadians attacked the German positions and during the course of heavy fighting, captured most of the ridge on the first day of attack. The town of Thelus and the rest of the ridge were captured on the second day. Taking many casualties the Canadian forces overcame heavy resistance outside the town of Givenchy-en-Gohelle. The town was eventually captured on the 12th April with the German forces retreating. With Vimy Ridge now in the Canadian forces hands the British advanced without the fear of German fire.

During this battle for Vimy Ridge the Canadian Corps suffered 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded. Four members of the Canadian Corps received Victoria Crosses for valour during the course of this battle. One can only try to visualise the bravery shown in taking Vimy Ridge. The area of the battle is now a memorial park dedicated to the 59,544 Canadian forces that lost their lives in the First World War. If you are ever in this area, please take a visit and see this wonderful memorial to the brave men of Canada.

During the dark days of World War two, thankfully we had Canadian Forces fighting alongside British troops. On the 18th August 1942 a large force of troops mainly from Canadian Regiments set sail for Dieppe on Operation Jubilee. The attack on the French Port area was destined to start just before dawn on the 19th. It involved 5000 Canadian Troops 1000 British Troops and 50 U.S Rangers.

The objective was to capture and hold the Port, gather intelligence and destroy the coastal batteries. The attack was meant to be a morale booster for things to come in the future. The Germans had got wind of the attack and were on high alert, of which spelled disaster to the attacking force. The well-fortified German forces held the Canadian forces that did land on the beach. The Canadians on one sector were pinned against the sea wall by devastating fire. Unable to advance The Royal Regiment of Canada was just about annihilated of the 556 men in the attacking Regiment 200 was killed and 264 men who were suffering injuries were captured. Within a few hours of the landing, the order went out for a retreat back to the landing crafts. It can only be described as carnage and many brave men lost their lives with many more captured. The South Saskatchewan Regiment and The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada landed on Green Beach without being detected but in their advance to Pourville, met with positioned German Machine guns and took heavy casualties on a bridge just outside Pourville fighting bravely before retreating back to the beach.

In the Dieppe attack in general, virtually none of the objectives were met. The fire support was totally inadequate leaving the attacking force mainly trapped on the beach by obstacles and well positioned German troops. Within 10 hours of the initial landing. The men who had not been killed or captured were evacuated back to England.

It was said later by Mountbatten who justified the raid by arguing that lessons learned at Dieppe in 1942 were put to good use later in the war. He later claimed by saying the Battle of Normandy was won on the beaches of Dieppe. For every man killed at Dieppe, at least 10 were saved at Normandy. Winston Churchill said that his impression of Operation Jubilee is that the results fully justified the heavy cost and it was the Canadian contribution of the greatest significance to final victory. To many especially the Canadians it was a major disaster. Of the attacking force of 5000 Canadian soldiers 900 were killed and 1874 taken prisoner. Whatever has been said about this raid, many brave men of Canada paid the supreme sacrifice towards the eventual victory in Europe.

On 6th June 1944 The Canadian Forces were given Juno Beach for their landings. Many of these troops had fought two years previously at Dieppe. At the close of D-Day one The Canadian Forces had pushed further in land than any other landing force. This speaks volumes for the well trained Canadian Forces. Approximately 44,198 Canadians were killed in WW2 with 55,368 wounded.

Going back to the opening lines I wrote. We in Great Britain are really grateful that we have the shoulder of Canada to be alongside us, in times of peace and conflict

 Alan

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