The Normandy campaign is probably one of the
best known campaigns in the history of the Second World War. This series, Battlefield
Normandy is all about the Canadian involvement in that famous Normandy campaign. We will
start today’s episode with D-Day, the Canadian Landings at Juno beach.
The Canadian landings at Juno beach were a part of the much larger Operation Overlord,
the Allied plan to liberate Europe from the Nazi-occupiers. 6 Allied divisions were tasked
to gain a firm bridgehead on the appointed beaches. The Canadian Third Division, commanded
by Major General Rodney Keller was tasked to secure Juno beach.
The Canadians also had an Airborne battalion, but they won’t be featured in this series.
Although they fought courageously against the German opponent, this series is more about
the landings at Juno beach and what happened after that.
Juno beach was a stretch of beach of seven kilometres long. It ran from Graye-Sur-Mer
to St. Aubin-Sur-Mer. Opposing the Canadian Third army would be members of the Infanterie
Regiment 736 who were a part of the Infanterie Division 716. Like all along the French coast,
the beach was littered with various bunkers, pillboxes and fortified positions, all part
of the famous Atlantikwall. These fortified positions went by the name of Widerstandsnest,
roughly translated as resistance nest. Next to the German infantry, many minefields and
beach obstacles were laid out all along Juno beach. All the defensive zones were a part
of the Stützpunkte or strongpoints. Juno beach was split into two sectors. Each
sector being subdivided into two or three parts. On the right flank of the Canadians,
or the left flank of the German defenders was Mike-Sector. Mike Sector was divided into
Mike-Green and Mike-Red. On the left flank of the Canadians was Nan-Sector. Nan was divided
into Nan-Green, Nan-White and Nan-Red. Mike beach and a part of Nan beach were designated
to the 7th Canadian Infantry brigade. The rest of Nan Beach was designated to the 8th
Canadian Infantry brigade. 9th brigade was in reserve. The First objective was to create
a bridgehead around the beaches on the Yew line. The second Objective was the The Elm
line, a line further inland which ran from Cruelly to Anguerny. The final objective of
the Third Canadian Division for June 6 1944 was the Caen-Bayeux road and the adjacent
railway line. These objectives were codenamed OAK. Another objective was the Carpiquet airfield
and the Canadians were also tasked to link up with the British divisions on their left
and right. The Canadian assault was well planned and
it even involved the famous Duplex Drive shermans. The two assaulting Canadian Armoured Regiments
were the 6th Canadian armoured Regiment or 1st Hussars and the 10th Canadian Armoured
Regiment or Fort Garry Horse. Both regiments had their A and B squadron’s equipped with
19 of the swimming Sherman tanks. The remaining tanks would disembark from their LCT’s and
drive towards the beach. The infantry was to dismount from their LCA’s and wade towards
the beach. C company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment
landed on the extreme right flank of the Canadian forces. Next to them were the men of D company,
Royal Winnipeg Rifles. They landed at Mike-Green at exactly 07h49am. Around 10 minutes behind
the original schedule due to rough seas. Behind them were the tanks of A Squadron, 1st Hussars.
Crab flail tanks and AVRE’s followed afterwards. Flail tanks were designed to take out the
many minefields along the invasion beaches. The Winnipeg Rifles landed on the left of
Mike-Green and they moved along the beach to deal with the several pillboxes whose fire
enfiladed the landing beaches. D company of the Winnipegs had to destroy the pillboxes
themselves as no armour of the 1st Hussars could be seen. In eliminating the concrete
strongpoints, the Winnipegs suffered multiple casualties. C company of the Canadian Scottish
had an easier task as their objective had already been destroyed by the preliminary
bombardment. Mike-Red was a tougher nut to crack. Mike-Red
fell right on top of WN31. A Strongpoint with PAK-Guns, machineguns and mortars. Manning
WN31 were members of the 6. Kompanie Infantrerie Regiment 736 or Infantry Regiment 736. B company
of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles stormed the beach. Supporting them were the tanks of A squadron,
1st Hussars. The initial bombardment on the coast failed to eliminate the concrete positions
of WN31, so when the Canadians landed, they fell under severe fire. B company found itself
fired upon before they had even disembarked. When they finally did disembark they were
chest-deep in the cold seawater and bullets were whizzing past their heads. They nevertheless
fought on and managed to eliminate the pillboxes along the beach with the help of the supporting
tanks. B company moved up towards Courseulles where they managed to seize the bridge over
the Seulles. They also cleared the island between the harbour and the river of Germans.
B company had endured immense losses. The landing and the subsequent fighting reduced
B company to Captain P. E. Gower, the Company commander, who earned the Military Cross and
26 men. A and C companies, who were in reserve endured mortar- and machinegun fire when they
landed at 08h05am. The rest of the Canadian Scottish landed at 08h35am.
A company of the Regina Rifles took Nan-Green for their record. They landed directly in
front of WN29 at Courseulles-Sur-Mer at 08h09am. WN29 was equipped with several AT-guns, one
of which an 88mm gun, and machineguns. A company landed right on top of a 75mm gun casemate.
The German Anti-tank gun was put out of action by a Canadian tank after putting up one hell
of a fight. The 88mm gun was also destroyed by the Canadian armour. Helped by the tanks,
A company flanked the strongpoint. They however found the Germans retreating through tunnels.
B company of the Regina Rifles had an easier time in landing as they didn’t encounter
much fire. They landed at 08h15am. The resistance in the village was also slight. In the rising
tide, D Company, one of the supporting companies suffered dearly as multiple landing crafts
hit the in-the-meantime hidden beach obstacles. D company was reduced to just under 50 men.
The Regina Rifles consolidated and waited for further orders.
A and B companies of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada assaulted Nan-White at Bernières-Sur-Mer.
They landed at 08h12am, nearly 20 minutes behind the original schedule due to rough
seas. B company was on the Canadian left, A company on the Canadian right. B squadron
of the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment, Fort Garry Horse was to follow the infantry, but
they arrived late, arriving behind the AVRE’s of the 80th Assault Squadron of the Royal
Engineers. The Fort Gary Horse, in contrast to the 1st Hussars drove to shore. The 1st
Hussars really swam towards the beach. B company of the Queen’s Own Rifles landed more to
the east than originally planned. Meaning that they landed immediately in front of a
resistance nest at Bernières-Sur-Mer. Within the first minutes, B company suffered 65 casualties.
Lieutenant W. G. Herbert, Lance Corporal René Tessier and Rifleman William Chicoski managed
to fight themselves towards the pillbox that was inflicting the heavy casualties upon their
comrades. Armed with Grenades and Sten Guns the three soldiers managed to put the pillbox
out of action. Lieutenant Herbert would receive the Military Cross for his action and Lance
Corporal Tessier and Rifleman Chicoski both earned the Military Medal for their daring
action. A company of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada
landed more to the east. Although they had an easier time getting of the beach, they
were still under mortar fire and they suffered several casualties due to the sea wall in
front of them. The final beach for the Canadians to secure
was Nan-Red. Nan-Red was the objective for the North Shore Regiment which landed on the
beach at 08h10am. They were supported by C company of the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment.
The strongpoint at St. Aubin-Sur-Mer, which was their objective was reported to be untouched
by the preliminary bombardment. The strongpoint, WN27 was the task of B company of the North
Shore. They were however supported by tanks. A company found its job easier, but when they
cleared the village of Germans, they found many houses booby-trapped and several casualties
resulted because of it. At 08h30am, 8th brigades reserve, the Régiment
de la Chaudière landed together with the remaining companies of the North Shore and
Queen’s Own Rifles. Next to the Canadians were the men of the British No.48 Royal Marine
Commando. The Commandos were to pass Saint-Aubin’s eastern edge and occupy Langrune-sur-Mer on
the eastern end of Juno. The strong point facing them had not been fully cleared and
120 of the 400-man unit became casualties within seconds of landing.
After Juno was largely secured, Keller prepared to deploy his reinforcements in the form of
the 9th Infantry Brigade and the tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. Keller was faced
with a difficult decision as the incoming messages were contradicting. Stiff German
opposition and problems with mine obstacles on the beaches at Nan-Red meant that the 9th
Brigade was going to have to land in Bernières-Sur-Mer and the Nan-White sector. The 9th Brigade
finally touched down at 11h40am. A congestion on the Nan-White beaches caused severe trouble
in disembarking the troops. The 9th brigade moved across the beach and joined the Chaudières,
Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the Fort Garry Horse at Bernières-Sur-Mer, where they
awaited further orders to go inland. At 14h35pm, with objective Yew being secured,
General Keller had a meeting with all brigade commanders including the commanding officer
of the newly constructed 2nd armoured brigade. At the meeting he ordered the 7th and 8th
brigade to advance towards the second Elm Objective. Once the Second objective was reached,
9th brigade would take over the advance towards the third and final objective by the name
of Oak. Facing the Canadians were the remnants of the battered 736th Infantry regiment and
the 726th regiment. B company of the Royal Winnipegs was still
facing snipers in Courseulles when companies A and C of the same regiment moved off the
beach to capture the Chateau of Vaux and the town of Graye-Sur-Mer. After Graye was secured,
they moved up towards Banville, were the command post of the German second Battalion, 726th
Regiment was located. C company managed to near Banville when they were fired upon by
German machineguns just in front of the town. While C company was under fire at Banville,
A company of the Royal Winnipegs moved up towards St. Croix together with C company
of the Canadian Scottish. They were supported by a troop of C squadron of the 1st Hussars.
They were however unaware that the 8. Kompanie of the 726 regiment was preparing for a counterattack.
Fortunately for the Canadians, the Canadian Scottish saw what was happening and they managed
to stop the German counterattack before any harm was done to the Canadians.
D company of the Winnipegs joined the members of C company in their struggle for Banville,
but with the aid of the reinforcements and artillery, Banville was captured at 13h10pm.
The Regina Rifles advanced towards Reviers. During their advance, they came into contact
with men of the 8. Kompanie 736th Infantry Regiment. The Regina’s managed to capture
the town of Reviers by 12h15pm and started to consolidate their newly won positions.
8th brigade’s advance into the French mainland started slower than their sister brigade to
the west. Mostly because the Chaudières had lost their equipment during the advance on
the beaches. Even worse for the 8th brigade was that C company of the Queen’s Own Rifles
was pinned down at Bernières due to accurate sniper-fire. They were unable to cross the
open fields beyond the village. Their armour support was halted by German anti-tank fire
from Beny-Su-Mer. When the Chaudières were put into action they found themselves in a
crossfire. Their A and B companies were pinned down. B company lost nearly a full platoon
due to 88mm fire. After two hours of softening up the German defences at Beny, the 8th brigade
finally managed to move forward. At 14h00pm, Beny-Sur-Mer at last fell into Canadian hands.
At the exact same time, C and D companies of the North Shore regiment, supported by
tank of the Fort Garry Horse entered the town of Tailleville, which was the headquarters
of the II battalion 736th Infantry Regiment. The Canadians were however oblivious to the
fact that the Germans had created a tunnel system at Tailleville. It took the Canadians
a further seven hours to clear the town of German fighters. This meant that the North
Shores were unable to capture an important German Radar position to the south.
At the beach, B company of the North Shore regiment together with No. 48 Commandos were
tasked to secure St. Aubin-Sur-Mer and Langrune-Sur-Mer. B company of the North Shore regiment had
captured WN27 within two hours of their landing. That way A and B Company of the commandos
could advance further. The commandos moved up towards WN26. At the same time on Sword
Beach, No. 41 commando was pushing west towards the same objective to make contact and unite
both bridgeheads. The gap in between both beaches was defended by the German 736th Infantry
Regiment. Several attempts by the No. 48 failed to capture the WN and during the night, orders
were to stop attacking as the 21st Panzer Division was endangering the entire operation
by driving a wedge in between both beaches. Langrune-Sur-Mer and Luc-Sur-Mer would only
be captured on June 8. The small Canadian bridgehead was at that
point so crowded that some units couldn’t be moved properly. This severely hindered
the advance on Basly. In the end the Chaudières finally managed to secure the town at 18h15pm.
The Queen’s Own Rifles had in the meantime already captured Anguerny, on the Elm line.
With reports of the German 21st Panzer Division moving in, Lieutenant General Dempsey, the
Commander of the British Second Division ordered to halt all advances of the day and to dig
in. On the 7th Brigades flank, the men had pushed
on well beyond the Elm line and the Canadian Scottish and the Regina Rifles finally stopped
their advance at 21h00pm, after reaching Cairnet and Le Fresne Camilly. A remarkable advance
was made that day by No. 2 troop of C Squadron 1st Hussars. Three Sherman tanks continued
their advance towards Carpiquet, and apart from some Machinegun nests, virtually no opposition
was found. They managed to reach the Caen-Bayeux railway line. That way they were the only
units to reach the final D-Day objective. Commanding the unit was Lieutenant William
McCormick. He tried to contact his superior so they could sent reinforcements, but his
attempts were in vain. The three Shermans under McCormick eventually had to retire to
the Canadian lines. Although the casualties were high, they were
not as high as initially feared. On June 6, the Canadian Third Division suffered a total
of 950 casualties dead, wounded and missing. If you compare this to the Dieppe Raid which
saw the Canadians having more casualties for objectives far less ambitious than the Normandy
landings, the number is quite remarkable. Not all objectives were met on June 6. The
Caen-Bayeux road was not captured and nor did the Carpiquet airfield fall into the Canadian’s
hands. The Canadians did however manage to secure a bridgehead, but the battle was far
from over as the 21st Panzer Division created a gap between the Canadians and the British
Third Infantry Division at Sword and the Canadians hadn’t met the 12th SS Hitlerjugend.
This was The AceDestroyer! I hope you have enjoyed this documentary! If you did, I would
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