The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada
caption=Cap badge of the Camerons of C
dates= 1 February 1910 - Present
type= Line Infantry
role= Light Role
size= One battalion
Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
identification_symbol_2= [http://i211.photobucket.com/albums/bb309/hammersfan_01/Tartans/CameronofErracht.gifCameron of Erracht]
identification_symbol_4=Camerons of C
patron= HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh
The Piobaireachd of Donald Dhu"
anniversaries=Regimental Birthday - 01 Feb 1910; Shankland's VC - 26 October 1917; Dieppe - 19 August 1942
The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada is a
Primary Reserve infantryregiment of the Canadian Forces.
As early as 1905 the local Scottish community, led by the St Andrew’s Society, began lobbying the government to raise a Highland regiment in Winnipeg. Under increasing pressure from the Scottish lobbyists the government relented and the initial steps taken to form Western Canada’s first Highland regiment. On 29 September 1909 the prospective officers met and committees dealing with finances, uniforms and the band were formed. As the government grant did not cover the entire cost of uniforms and equipment, the Scottish societies and the officers undertook to raise the money themselves managing an initial amount of $25,000.00. Almost all of the original accoutrements were manufactured in Scotland, obtained from William Anderson & Sons Ltd. On 01 February 1910 the 79th Highlanders of Canada were officially gazetted, headquartered in the former Dominion Lands Office at 202 Main Street. On 09 October 1910 the Regiment received its first stand of Colours, presented by Mrs. D.C. Cameron, wife of the Honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
The availability of the number "79" was fortuitous and enabled the new Canadian regiment to adopt the regimental number of a famous regiment in Scotland, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders who had been raised in 1793 as the 79th (Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. Along with the regimental number the new Canadian regiment chose to also perpetuate the uniform of the [http://www.regiments.org/regiments/uk/inf/079QOCH.htm Imperial Camerons] . This association with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders became official on 31 January 1911 when His Majesty, King George V authorized the alliance of the two Highland regiments. Eight months later, on 22 June 1911 a contingent of 61 Camerons, parading with their allied regiment, participated in the coronation of King George V.
First World War
When the First World War broke out the Canadian Army did not mobilize based on its existing structure. Instead Sir Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia created and entirely new table of organization with numbered battalions raised on geographical lines. This often meant that more than one militia regiment contributed men to a single new Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) Battalion. Under this mobilization plan militia regiments were to remain in Canada acting only as drafting units. Initially only a company of 7 officers and 250 other ranks under Captain John Geddes were accepted from the Camerons for the CEF. They mustered at Camp Valcartier, Quebec where they formed Number 4 Company of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion CEF. The other Companies of the 16th came from drafts from three other Militia highland regiments. The 16th Battalion was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division and left Quebec for England with the first contingent on 30 September 1914. The 79th Camerons next provided the second-in-command, Major D.S. MacKay, a company (10 officers, 250 other ranks) and a signals section for the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion CEF.
The first complete Cameron battalion, the 43rd (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) Battalion CEF, was formed on 18 December 1914. They departed Winnipeg on 29 May 1915 and embarked for England on 01 June 1915 with a complement of 39 officers and 1020 other ranks under command of the 79th Cameron’s first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel R.M. Thompson. Almost immediately upon arriving overseas, the 43rd provided two reinforcement drafts to the 16th Battalion, which placed the 43rd in peril of being broken up entirely and used as reinforcements. The Cameron Overseas Drafting Detachment in Winnipeg quickly managed to bring the 43rd Battalion back up to strength avoiding its dissolution. Assigned to the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division, the 43rd Battalion left England and set sail for France on 21 February 1916.
The Camerons were authorized to raise two more overseas battalions in January 1916. The 179th (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) Battalion CEF was formed from the Overseas Drafting Detachment and mobilized in February 1917 under command of Lieutenant Colonel J.Y. Reid. The 174th (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) Battalion CEF mobilized during the summer of 1917 under command of Lieutenant Colonel H.F. Osler. On arrival in England, both the 174th and 179th were absorbed by reserve battalions, the men sent as reinforcement drafts for the 16th and 43rd Battalions serving with the Canadian Corps in France.
In World War I, the regiment produced one of the three Victoria Cross winners for which
Valour Roadin Winnipeg, Manitoba, was named: Captain Robert Shankland.
Shankland’s Victoria Cross
Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Sanctuary Wood in 1916 as a Sergeant, Shankland received a battlefield commission and continued to serve with the 43rd Battalion as an officer. On the morning of 26 October, he led his platoon of forty men from “D” Company to the crest of the hill at the Bellevue Spur, the main trench line defending Passchendaele. Overrunning it and holding the position was critical to capturing the town.
On the right, the 58th Battalion, which was under heavy fire from Snipe Hill, was forced to retire after failing to reach its objective. Some of the men joined Shankland’s platoon, but this still left his right flank open. For four hours they withstood incessant artillery shelling and German counterattacks, sustaining frightful casualties. By this time the 8th Brigade on the left was forced to withdraw leaving both of Shankland’s flanks exposed.
He and his men were in danger of being cut off and losing the vital position gained at such fearful cost. The only solution was to bring up reinforcements and counterattack. Shankland turned over his command to another officer and then weaved his way through heavy mud and German shelling to battalion headquarters where he gave a first-hand report of the situation. He also offered a detailed plan on how a counterattack with reinforcements could best be achieved. He then returned to his men to lead the forthcoming attack supported by reinforcements from the 52nd and 58th Battalions. For his actions that day Robert Shankland was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Citation reads:
"Having gained a position at Passchendaele on 26th October 1917, Lieutenant Shankland organised the remnants of his own platoon and other men from various companies to command the foreground where they inflicted heavy casualties on the retreating Germans. He later dissipated a counter-attack, allowing for the arrival of support troops. He then communicated to his HQ a detailed evaluation of the brigade frontage. On its completion he rejoined his command, carrying on until relieved. His courage and his example undoubtedly saved a critical situation."
Between the Wars
In 1920 a major reorganization of Canadian Militia units took place. Some units were disbanded, others were re-rolled or amalgamated and almost all numerical designations were dropped from regimental titles (the two notable exceptions being the 48th Highlanders of Canada and the Royal 22nd Regiment of Canada). Thus the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada became simply, the Cameron Highlanders of Canada. In order to perpetuate the Regiment’s accomplishments during the First World War, the Regiment was reorganized as three battalions: the 1st Battalion “43rd Battalion CEF”, 2nd (Reserve) Battalion (174th Battalion CEF) and 3rd (Reserve) Battalion (179th Battalion CEF). In reality the 1st Battalion was the only active militia unit. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions were reserve units where non-active personnel could transfer for an interim period or upon retirement and remain subject to future recall.
The popularity of Highland Regiments was at an all time high in Canada after the First World War and a number of line infantry units chose to adopt Highland dress and customs. In 1920 The Ottawa Regiment (The Duke of Cornwall's Own) converted to a Highland Regiment adopting the title of The Ottawa Highlanders and the uniform of the Camerons. Steps were taken to form an alliance with the new Cameron Regiment in Ottawa and the alliance was formally granted in 1923. Subsequently in 1933 The Ottawa Highlanders changed their name to The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa.
On 24 October 1923, his Majesty King George V was “graciously pleased” to grant permission for the Regiment to be named the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada in recognition of the Regiment’s exemplary service during the First World War. With granting of the royal designation “Queen’s Own” the Regiment decided to adopt badges that more closely resembled the pattern worn by the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of the British Army. The new cap badge depicted the figure of St. Andrew holding in his arms a Cross, enclosed by a wreath of thistles and leaves and across the lower part of the wreath, scrolls inscribed: QUEEN’S OWN CAMERON HIGHLANDERS OF CANADA. New collar and sporran badges of a pattern identical to the Imperial Camerons were also chosen.
The new pattern badges were authorized by the War Office on 31 August 1925 and the cap and collar badges received by the Regiment on 24 February 1927. The new pattern badges were held in stores pending the acquisition of the new sporran badge. With the sporran badges still yet to be acquired, the collar badges were finally issued in January 1930 and the cap badges towards the end of the year.
Second World War
On 01 September 1939, the Camerons were officially notified of the impending war. Within seventeen days of being ordered to mobilize, the Battalion was at full strength of 807 all ranks. This time the Camerons would not fight in their kilts as the Regiment had twenty-five years earlier. A War Department directive issued in April 1940 made battledress the standard uniform for all units and the Highland regiments reluctantly surrendered their kilts for trousers. The Regiment was increased to two battalions, the 1st Battalion being placed on active duty for overseas service as part of the Second Canadian Division and the 2nd Battalion to remain in Winnipeg to recruit and train replacements. On 16 December 1940 the 1st Battalion embarked for overseas onboard the S.S. Louis Pasteur, arriving at Gourock, Scotland on Christmas Eve.
On 19 August 1942, the Camerons landed in occupied Europe as part of Operation JUBILEE, the raid on the French port of Dieppe. The South Saskatchewan Regiment were to land in the first wave of the attack on Green Beach to secure the beach at Pourville, the right flank of the operation. The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada would then land in the second wave and move inland along the eastern bank of the River Scie to meet up with the tanks of the Calgary Regiment coming from Dieppe and capture the airfield at St Aubin. The Camerons and the Calgary tanks would then clear the Hitler Battery and attack the suspected German divisional headquarters at Arques-la-Batille.
The attack went in on time (0450 hours) but the South Saskatchewan Regiment did not land astride the river as intended, but to the west of it. This didn't pose a problem for the force aiming to clear the village and attack the cliffs to the west, but for the other force it meant they had to move through the village, cross the exposed bridge over the river before attempting to get on the high ground to the east. The delay this imposed meant that the Germans had time to react and deploy. “A” and “D” Companies of the South Sasks took all their objectives, including a large white house on the western headland that proved to be some kind of officers quarters. The other two companies found that the bridge was swept by fire from a number of German pillboxes on the high ground facing them and the attack stalled as Canadian casualties mounted.
As the Camerons were the second wave to attack on Green Beach they came into an aroused German defence. The Camerons were riding in plywood landing craft. About one thousand yards off Green Beach, the craft formed in a single line and moved toward the beach. The sound and fury of hell began as German shore batteries, machine guns, and mortars opened fire. Above the angry roar of battle and the growl of racing engines came a sound that riveted the attention of U.S. Ranger Sergeant Marcell G. Swank. On a small forward deck of the landing craft to Swank's right, piper Corporal Alex Graham stood courageously playing A Hundred Pipers. "He stood there," recalled Swank, "defiantly telling the world that the Camerons were coming. God what a glory." Inspired by their piper, the Camerons landed on Green Beach with courage and élan and swept forward. This is the last recorded instance of Canadian troops being piped into battle. (See statement by Bill Blaikie, MP in [http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=2332301&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=35&Ses=1#2823 Hansard, motion 2823] )
The Camerons hit the Green Beach an hour after the South Saskatchewan Regiment, some thirty minutes late, as their commander had not believed that the South Saskatchewan Regiment would be able to clear the beach and village in the allotted time. As they landed the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred Gostling, was killed by a sniper and the unit was taken over by the Second-in-Command, Major A.T. “Tony” Law.
"“Our first casualty was C Company’s sergeant major. He got hit right in the head and was killed instantly. It was through him that Colonel Gostling was killed. He looked over and saw that the CSM was hit but he didn’t know he was dead. He stood up and yelled, “Stretcher-bearer, stretcher-bearer!” Just then he was shot.”" Pte Herbert Webber, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.
Again, the majority of the force was mistakenly landed to the West of the river and so Law decided to alter the plan. Those that had landed to the East were told to join the South Saskatchewan Regiment while the majority to the west advanced up the valley with Major Law. They were harassed on their journey by fire from Quatre Vents Farm and decided to seek shelter in the woods through which they reached the high ground above Bas d'Hautot. There they saw that the enemy already held the bridge at Petite Appeville in some strength (by a heavily reinforced anti-tank company from the 571st Infantry Regiment). Law's group could not now realistically take the bridge, nor could they bypass it for the road from Ouville was now swarming with enemy reinforcements. Meanwhile, the rest of the Camerons had joined up with the South Saskatchewan Regiment but despite closing in on Quatre Vents Farm and the radar station they were halted by enemy fire.
Although the Camerons made the deepest penetration of the day, the main landing at Dieppe had been unsuccessful. By 0930 a decision had to be made. The failure of the tanks to arrive had made it impossible for the Camerons to gain their objectives and suggested things were not going quite as planned on the main beaches. Faced with increasing German opposition and a complete lack of communication with higher headquarters, the Camerons began to fight their way back to Pourville, carrying their wounded. With Support Platoon leading, “A” Company guarding the flank and “C” Company forming the rearguard, the battalion made it back to Beronville Wood and re-established contact with the South Saskatchewan Regiment. It was only then that they found out the landing craft would not return for re-embarkation until 1100 hours.
Major Law and Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt (Commanding Officer of the South Saskatchewan Regiment) set up a combined headquarters in the Grand Central Hotel and prepared their battalions to stand and fight for a full hour against a rapidly increasing enemy who had their line of withdrawal (the beach) enfiladed with fire from innumerable guns. The Camerons fought desperately to keep their foothold on the high ground to the west while the South Saskatchewan Regiment grimly held on to a piece of high ground to the east. Slowly the Germans collapsed the pocket smaller and smaller, until they dominated the entire beach and the slopes east of Pourville. By this time few of the Camerons and South Saskatchewan Regiment were unwounded. At 1100 the landing craft began to arrive, taking grievous losses on the approach into the beach. More men were killed and wounded as they tried to board the landing craft under the enemy’s withering fire. Almost miraculously five landing craft and one tank landing craft managed to rescue men from the shallows and cleared the beach with full loads. By 1130 the situation had become impossible and no further extractions were attempted.
Of 503 Camerons on the raid, 346 were casualties: 60 Killed in action; 8 died of wounds after evacuation; 167 prisoners of war (8 of whom died of wounds). Of the 268 returning to England, 103 were wounded. Twenty-five Camerons were decorated for their actions at Dieppe. The Regiment received two Distinguished Service Orders (the second highest award for bravery for officers after the Victoria Cross), two Military Crosses, three Distinguished Conduct Medals (the second highest award for bravery for non-commissioned members after the Victoria Cross), four Military Medals, thirteen Mentions in Dispatches and a Croix de Guerre with bronze palms. One of the Distinguished Service Order recipients was the acting Commanding Officer, Major Law. The citation for his award read:
"Major Law was 2 i/c of the Regiment during the Dieppe operation, 19 Aug 42. The Commanding Officer having been killed immediately on landing, Major Law took over the unit, and despite very heavy enemy fire, reorganized it and proceeded to direct its attack. This officer successfully and efficiently fought his unit approximately two miles inland, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. On the order for withdrawal being given, Major Law fought a rearguard action to the beach, and so effectively controlled the battalion that approximately 80% of the personnel were intack (sic) at this time. The cool and steady manner in which Major Law directed the action throughout, while continually under fire, was an inspiration to the whole battalion, and to him goes the major portion of the credit for the fact that a comparatively large proportion of its personnel was successfully withdrawn at the conclusion of the operation."
OPERATION ATLANTIC - St. Andre-sur-Orne
On 07 July 1944 the Battalion was back in France, landing at Grays-sur-Mer, Calvados as part of 6 Brigade, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. On the evening of 11 July the unit moved to the vicinity of Rots and then relieved the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at Carpiquet the next day. The next six days the Battalion spent digging in to avoid enemy shelling and patrolling to root out enemy snipers and remnants. On 19 July the Battalion left Carpiquet for an assembly area across the River Orne in preparation for the start of OPERATION ATLANTIC the next day. Enroute to the start line the Battalion suffered casualties from enemy artillery and mortar fire. The Camerons launched their attack from Fleury-sur-Orne, supported by artillery and Typhoon squadrons. “A” Company advanced on the right with “B” Company left, “C” Company in depth and “D” Company in reserve. No tanks actually accompanied the attacking infantry but a squadron of tanks from The Sherbrooke Fusiliers was allotted to the Camerons for counter-attack. Things did not get off to a good start. The Officer Commanding Headquarters Company, Captain H. Grundy and the Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant J. Maloney were both killed when an enemy 88mm hit the scout car. The Battalion War Diary for June was lost with the vehicle. The loss of this command vehicle would hamper radio communications throughout the battle. “A” Company was held up five hundred yards from the start line, coming under intense machinegun fire. Suppressing the enemy machine gunners with artillery and medium machinegun fire from the Toronto Scottish, “A” Company was able to carry on. “B” Company encountered mild resistance and reached its objective advancing through the sniper, mortar and machinegun fire. As “A” Company had ended up somewhat to the right of their objective “C” Company was pushed through to fill the gap between “A” and “B”. “C” Company met no resistance until it reached the south end of village. “D” Company moved up to secure the rear of the Battalion position.
The enemy still held part of Hill 112 and continued to subject the Camerons to very heavy fire from west of the Orne. Heavy rain interfered with radio communications that were already affected by the loss of the scout car. With three companies forward the Camerons held a wide frontage so the Commanding Officer ordered “C” and “B” Companies to withdraw slightly to draw in the perimeter. “B” Company was shifting their positions when the Germans counter-attacked. The company managed to consolidate in their new position but sustained significant casualties. As a result the Commanding Officer moved “D” Company up to replace them and moved “B” back as Battalion reserve. Elements of the 1st SS Panzer Corps counter-attacked along the entire Battalion front with especially heavy concentrations of infantry thrown against “A” and “D” Companies. Towards dusk a heavy counter-attack supported by eight Panzerkampfwagen V (Panther) tanks was launched against “D” Company. Three of the Cameron anti-tanks guns were knocked out but the Camerons destroyed two of the panzers with PIATs (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank). “D” Company was overrun and forced to withdraw to link up with the remains of “B” Company. Overnight on 20-21 July “A” and “C” Companies beat back repeated counter-attacks. At times the opposing forces were within shouting distance of each other.
In the morning further counter-attacks by small groups of tanks were fought off on the left flank in “C” Company’s area. 10 Platoon of “B” Company was entirely cut off from the rest of the Battalion as the battle raged around the perimeter of the orchard. A company of German infantry that had infiltrated across the river overnight launched a series of small attacks against the Battalion headquarters, which were beaten off with many prisoners being taken by “A” Company and the Scout Platoon. The Germans continued to counter-attack on 22 July but their strength was reduced. Attacks by two or three tanks supported by small groups of infantry were beaten off throughout the day. At one point “A” Company was forced to withdraw but with the assistance of heavy artillery support counter-attacked and regained their positions. 11 Platoon was sent from “B” Company to reinforce “C” Company in driving off an enemy attack and remained under command of “C” Company, taking up defensive positions on the left flank. When not counter-attacking the Germans shelled the Cameron positions with artillery, mortars and Nebelwerfers (rockets). By 23 July the counter-attacks had dwindled to minor infiltrations that were easily handled and the Germans resorted to increased shelling. “C” Company was so reduced by this time that the remainder of 10 Platoon was sent from “B Company to reinforce it.
The Camerons suffered heavy casualties in the fighting for St. Andre-sur-Orne: 52 wounded (including the Commanding Officer and the Officer Commanding “B” Company) and 29 killed. Company Sergeant-Major Sutherland and Private G.T. Munroe were each awarded the Military Medal for their actions at St. Andre-sur-Orne and the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel N.H. Ross, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his handling of the battalion throughout the battle. Ross’ citation read:
"Lieutenant Colonel Norman Hugh Ross, Officer Commanding the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, has at all times demonstrated outstanding qualities of high courage, sound and quick judgement, clear appreciation and foresight during operations and absolute control of his troops under the most difficult battle conditions."
"When his unit was ordered to capture St Andre sur Orne on 20th July 1944, unexpected and considerable enemy fire was encountered from the west side of the river. By an immediate alteration in his dispositions and plan, and by skilful employment of ground and supporting fire, the unit was able to continue the advance and capture the objective."
"During the three days following, the enemy launched several major counter attacks with heavy supporting fire, infantry and tanks and the Camerons position was at times subject to intense mortar and artillery fie fore from the exposed right flank. Colonel Ross through his inspiring leadership, personal courage and aggressive determination set an example of the highest order and brought his unit honour in the success of their battle."
OPERATION SPRING – the breakout begins
On 24 July the Battalion was placed under command of 5 Brigade to secure the start line for the brigade’s attack on May-sur-Orne and Fontaine-le-Marmion. A composite force from “B” and “D” Companies under Major Lane met fierce resistance and reinforcements were needed before the start line was secured. Still under 5 Brigade, the Camerons had elements of the Black Watch of Canada and the Calgary Highlanders placed under command on 25 July to occupy St. Martin to protect the left flank of le Régiment de Maisonneuve attacking May-sur-Orne. The Maisonneuve attack was unsuccessful and that evening they relieved the Camerons in St. Martin.
On 26 July the Camerons returned under command of 6 Brigade and set about consolidating their positions in Saint-André-sur-Orne. On 31 July the unit started rotating companies out of the line two at a time for rest and refit. “A” and “C” Companies remained in Saint-André-sur-Orne under command of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal while the remainder of the unit was withdrawn to Caen for rest. Even in the rest area the unit was subject to enemy artillery and was required to dig in to minimize casualties.
On 1 August Battalion Headquarters and “B” and “D” Companies were resting in the vicinity of Faub-de-Vaucelle while “A” and “C” Companies were still under command of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal in Saint-André-sur-Orne. That evening “B” and “D” Companies relieved “A” and “C” Companies and provided support to Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal in capture of a church in the vicinity that was occupied by the Germans. On 3 August “B” and “D” Companies assisted Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal in taking a group of houses that had been identified as being occupied by the Germans by Cameron patrols the night before.
On the 2nd Canadian Division front the mine directly south of St. Martin-de-Fontenay had been a thorn in the side, the lofty shaft-towers affording the Germans excellent observation and the mine tunnels offering a means of infiltrating the whole area. On the night of 03-04 August, “A” Company with a detachment of the 11th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, conducted a raid on an enemy occupied mine. The company succeeded in surrounding the mine despite heavy machinegun fire but the accompanying engineers were unable to demolish the mineshaft. In order to demolish the shaft towers the sappers had to climb some 20 feet from the ground and as soon as they did so they became targets for snipers in the bright moonlight. After a number of men had been hit, it was decided that the demolition task could not be carried out, and the raiding party withdrew. Casualties suffered on the raid were 9 missing and 21 wounded which speaks to the fierceness of the resistance. Three prisoners from the 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division (one Corporal, one Lance-Corporal and one private) were taken during the raid.
On 04 August Lieutenant-Colonel Runice took command of the battalion and that night the Camerons moved to Verrières to relieve the Essex Scottish. The next two days were relatively quiet with the unit patrolling and receiving only occasional shelling form the enemy. A prisoner from the 1055th Grenadier Regiment of the 89th Infantry Division was captured by patrol from “C” Company.
OPERATION TOTALIZE - Fontenay-le-Marmion and the Falaise Road
The battalions of the 6th Brigade had been tasked to attack the villages forming the front line. On the afternoon of 07 August the battalion moved to a forming up position near Ifs in preparation for an attack against Fontenay-le-Marmion that night. “D” and “C” Companies led the attack with “B” Company in close support and “A” Company in reserve. “D” Company had a hot time securing their objective. Within ten minutes of crossing the start line, 16 Platoon was pinned down by intense machinegun fire. When 18 Platoon conducted a left flanking to free up 16 Platoon, they came under intense 8.2cm mortar fire pining them down as well. The company crawled forward into an assault line and then launched an all-out frontal attack, fighting their way into the village against fierce opposition by elements of the German 89th Infantry Division. By 0100 hours “D” Company had reached their objective, the first company to do so, and began preparing for counter-attacks. “C” Company had their own difficulties in the assault. 13 and 14 Platoon were temporarily cut-off from 15 Platoon and “C” Company headquarters when they advanced past a nest of enemy machinegun posts. The enemy allowed the forward platoons to pass and then poured heavy fire into the company headquarters and remaining platoon, which after sustaining several casualties bypassed the machinegun posts by working their way around the left flank. “C” Company headquarters and 13 Platoon reached their objective, the orchard, hoping to find the other two platoons but only encountered elements of “B Company”. Linking in their defensive positions with “B” Company on the east side of the orchard they prepared to fight off the inevitable enemy counter-attack. Almost immediately after crossing the start line “B” Company came under fire from both sides of the road. In response “B” Company launched a determined attack on the quarry where a concentration of enemy were dug in with 11 Platoon forward, 10 Platoon left and 12 Platoon right. Sergeant J. Mahon was later awarded the Military Medal for his actions in the fight for the quarry. Once they had cleared the enemy from the quarry, “B” Company continued on to the outskirts of Fontenay-le-Marmion to link up with the remnants of “C” and “D” Companies occupying the buildings.
The Camerons holding Fontenay-le-Marmion were under fire from heavy sniping and direct fire from a German 88mm gun to the northeast and the number of casualties grew. Engaged in heavy house-to-house fighting through the night and into the morning, the battalion, down to one hundred and fifty men, fought off numerous enemy counter-attacks. Battalion headquarters was hit by an enemy 88mm, wounding the commanding officer. Overnight fourteen men from 14 Platoon and one from 13 Platoon who had worked their way back to the start line were brought up to rejoin “C” Company and Major C.W. Ferguson, a Cameron serving as Brigade Major of 6 Brigade was sent to take over the battalion. On the morning of 08 August the enemy counter attacked from the north with twelve Tiger Tanks and the unit was temporarily surrounded. To add to the chaos, Battalion headquarters was hit again likely by the same 88mm that had been shelling the unit from the start of the battle. The new Commanding Officer was wounded forcing Major J.J.D. Gagnon, Officer Commanding “D” Company to assume command of the Battalion.
On the afternoon of 08 August, two companies of the South Saskatchewan Regiment with a squadron of the 1st Hussars broke through, swept the ridge north of Fontenay and cleared the left flank, relieving the pressure on the Camerons. The Camerons captured two hundred and seven enemy prisoners that day. That night Cameron patrols confirmed that the enemy had withdrawn. On the morning of 09 August “B” Company (under Company Sergeant-Major Abram Arbour) launched a successful attack on the right flank and “A” Company captured a barracks on the high feature that was the source of the heavy fire that was pinning whole Battalion down. The clearing weather allowed RAF Typhoons to locate and destroy the German 88mm that had been wreaking so much havoc on Battalion Headquarters.
In the evening Major E.P. “Tommy” Thompson assumed acting command of the Battalion. In the fierce fighting for Fontenay-le-Marmion the Camerons lost two Commanding Officers wounded (Ferguson would die from his wounds the next day), two Company Commanders wounded, Major E.R. Talbot of “C” Company and Major J.E.E. McManus of “B” Company and the Adjutant, Captain G. Kidd, wounded in action. The Carrier Platoon Commander, Captain R.R. Counsell was awarded the Military Cross for keeping the companies supplied during the fighting and Company Sergeant-Major Arbour was awarded the Military Cross (a decoration usually awarded to officers) for his actions as acting Company Commander of “B” Company during the battle. Arbour’s citation is as follows:
"During the night 7-8 Aug 44, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highrs of Can attacked and captured the town of FONTENEY-Le-MARMION. On consolidation, “B” Company was allotted the defence of the northern sector of the town in the vicinity of Bn Hqrs."
"During the early hours of the morning, Aug 8, the enemy shelled and mortared the town very heavily. The Company Comd was wounded and CSM Arbour immediately took over command of the Company and completed reorganization of the defence position. At approximately 0800 hrs and enemy counter attack in some strength moved against “B” Coy pons. This attack was pinned down by small arms fire and CSM Arbour personally formed and let (sic) a counter attack force to mop up the enemy. Withutter (sic) disregard for personal danger and with absolute confidence he formed and led a composite force of Coy Hqrs and 10 Pl and under covering fire form 11 and 12 platoons assaulted and killed or captured the enemy force which threatened h is company position. CSM Armour, by his speed in handling a difficult situation, and his supert (sic) courage was directly responsible for the Battalion holding and consolidating the objective."
OPERATION TRACTABLE - Clair Tizon and Falaise
The remainder of 09 and 10 August were spent resting and reorganizing prior to relieving the North Nova Scotia Highlanders at Gouvix the next day. Patrols the night of the 9th brought in a couple of prisoners – one from the 1056th Infantry Regiment and the other from the 189th Anti-Tank Battalion. At dawn on the 12th of August “B” Company stood-to to discover it was completely surrounded by an enemy patrol. A brief skirmish ensued and the enemy withdrew. Later that day the new Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel A.S. Gregory arrived to assume command.
In the early morning of 14 August the battalion launched an attack to clear enemy pockets west of the River Laize and seize a bridgehead across the river at Clair Tizon. Initially resistance was light but stiffened as the Camerons approached the river. The battalion’s objective was seized by 0910 hours and that night the anti-tank platoon got their first kill – a Panzerkampfwagen V (Panther) that was knocked out at a range of about two hundred and fifty yards. Two of the crew were killed and the remainder taken prisoner by Scout Platoon snipers who were in the area. Numerous prisoners of war were taken in the operation, many Poles and Russians who were happy to desert from their impressed service in the Wehrmacht.
The next day, 15 August, the Camerons took La Cressonnière and held it against three fierce counter-attacks by elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division. One of only two Bronze Stars awarded to members of the Regiment during the war was won during the battle for La Cressonnière. Private J.P. DeGarmo was awarded the American decoration for his actions. The citation reads:
"On 16 August 1944 The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada launched an attack against very strongly prepared and well concealed positions at LA CRESSOUNIÈRE, France."
"In order to ensure the success of this attack an extensive fire plan was arranged, which included the support of the battalion three-inch mortar platoon. Private DeGarmo was employed as Number One of a mortar detachment in support of the attack."
"No sooner had the mortar platoon begun to fire in accordance with the time programme, than the enemy retaliated with intensely accurate mortar and air burst artillery fire, inflicting eight casualties on three of the mortar detachments, thus silencing all but two mortars. Private DeGarmo was himself badly wounded in the leg by shell fragments, but had it dressed sufficiently to stop the bleeding and refused to be evacuated. He went back to his mortar, continued to fire his weapon, despite the enemy counter fire, until the objective had been gained."
"Private DeGarmo’s display of courage and devotion to duty, in spite of his suffering and loss of blood, was an inspiration to the entire mortar platoon and contributed largely to the success of the attack. By his disregard for personal safety, aggressive spirit, and superb courage, this soldier distinguished himself by heroic achievement with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada"
That afternoon bombers from No 6 (RCAF) Bomber Group dropped bombs on enemy pockets of resistance between the Cameron lines and Falaise. Several bombs fell short on Battalion headquarters inflicting eight casualties. More casualties were suffered when the Regimental Aid Post was shelled by an enemy 88mm. The Medical Officer, Capt H. Marantz and Sgt G.A. Wilwand were both killed and the remainder of the Aid Post wounded. 10 Field Ambulance put together a composite force and sent to forward to act as the Cameron Regimental Aid Post.
The task of taking the ruins of Falaise fell to 6 Brigade. At 1500 hours on 16 August, Brigadier Young attacked with the South Saskatchewan Regiment on the left and the Camerons on the right, each supported by a squadron of tanks from the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. As the Battalion moved towards Falaise, they ran into a group of twenty-five enemy of which two were taken prisoner. The huge craters caused by the earlier RAF bombing impeded the advance. Moreover, parties of the enemy from the 12th SS Panzer Division were still fighting hard in the ruins. By the morning of 17 August the South Saskatchewans had reached the railway east of the town. The Camerons had not advanced as rapidly, their tanks being hung up in craters; but they finished their task that day and then moved south across the River Traine to establish a defensive position around the village of St. Clair. Many enemy prisoners of war were taken (a number from the 978th Grenadier Regiment) and a scout car that had run out of gas was captured as well. That night a flight of U.S. Army Air Force P-38 Lightnings bombed and strafed the unit killing two and wounding six.
On 18 August contact was firmly established with Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. The relative quiet allowed hot meals, mail and new clothing to be enjoyed by all members of the unit. The pause also allowed the commanding officer to reorganize the battalion to prepare for future operations. Patrols from the unit netted a number of prisoners (two from the 1056th Infantry Battalion, one from the 128th Grenadier Regiment, one from the 937th Infantry Reserve Regiment and one from the 453rd Reserve Grenadier Battalion). On 19 August the battalion moved to a new location near Les Moutien on Auges by the river Dives and then on to an assembly area at le Grand Mesnil on the 21st. That night they moved again, this time to a position ear Meulles. On 22 August the battalion pushed towards Orbec slowing as they met increasingly stiff opposition and heavy fire from the high ground across the river Orbec. Overnighting neat Les Bois, southwest of Orbec the Camerons launched a left flanking attack north of Orbec the next day. Seizing their objective, the battalion fought off counter-attacks by enemy infantry supported by tanks and self-propelled guns. After having two tanks and a self-propelled gun knocked out, the Germans withdrew leaving the unit in firm possession of Orbec. The Camerons were greatly assisted in the taking of the town by the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars) who had crossed the river to the west of the town and then circled back and taken out the enemy blocking position from the rear. With the withdrawal of the enemy, two Cameron scouts were finally able to emerge from the town jail where they had been holed up with a German commander and his staff that they had captured, awaiting the battalion to capture the town.
On 24 August the Camerons marched to an assembly area at Le Ruquesni where they were picked up by trucks and moved to the 6 Brigade area at Ducore. That night they moved again to an area north of St. Pierre-de-Salerne where they were warned to be prepared to move south into Brionne. On 25 August the Battalion moved into Brionne against slight resistance and received a hearty welcome by the townspeople. Previous to this the towns the Battalion had liberated had been abandoned by the inhabitants and Brionne was the first of many towns to greet the Camerons as liberators. On 26 August the Battalion was on the move again, taking up positions for the night along the River Seine near Bourgtheroulde. The next day the Camerons continued the advance through Bourgtheroulde, meeting determined resistance as the German rearguard fought fanatically to protect their line of retreat across the Seine. By late evening the Battalion had consolidated their position near La Chenaie, overlooking the River Seine and effectively cutting off the German escape route. For the next three days the unit suffered heavy casualties from intense shelling, also inflicting heavy casualties on the retreating Germans trying to cross the river. The War Diary entry for 29 August noted “Thousands of Germans drowned or were killed from our 4.2” mortars and arty fire plus our MMGs.” By 30 August the fight was over. The German remnants had retreated from the Seine and Rouen area. The next day the Battalion moved across the River Seine into Rouen to be greeted once again as liberators.
Clearing the Channel Ports
September 1944 found the unit in the West suburbs of Rouen from where they moved to occupy barracks formerly used by German Engineers South of Dieppe. For the next four days the unit participated in parades and commemorative ceremonies to mark the 2nd Division’s previous visit to Dieppe in August 1942. Aside from the ceremonial duties it was an opportunity to rest and reconsolidate. On 06 September the Battalion was loaded on trucks and moved to Autingues where they overnighted on 07 September before moving on to Furnes. On 09 September the unit occupied La Panne Bains, chasing out scattered pockets of German resistance. The next day the unit continued the advance through fire from heavy machineguns, mortars, anti-aircraft guns and heavy coastal guns and spent the night occupying a portion of the German West Wall defences.
The advance towards Bray Dunes continued on 11 September against increasingly stiff opposition from elements of the 1055 Grenadier Regiment of the German 89th Infantry Division. Before first light on 13 September the Camerons launched a concerted attack against Bray Dunes. “A” and “C” Companies made a right flanking attack through the sand dunes by the coast while “D” Company infiltrated through the enemy lines to size the crossroads. While “D” Company achieved their objective by 0530, “A” and “C” Companies failed to penetrate enemy opposition leaving “D” Company surrounded and cut-off. At 1800 the Battalion launched a right flanking attack through Gyrelde to relieve “D” Company. “A” and “B” Companies were stopped after passing through Gyrelde but “C” Company on the on the left flank fought through fierce opposition to occupy a position 300 yards south of “D” Company but could not complete the link up until the following evening. By early afternoon on 15 September the Battalion had secured Bray Dunes. That evening the unit was moved to a rest area east of Bray Dunes where they kept up aggressive patrolling each night.
WO2 F.K. Breakey won the DCM during the battle for Bray Dunes
"On 14 September 1944 the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada attacked BRAY-DUNES where the enemy were firmly established in strong emplacements covering the crossroads. The enemy resistance was most stubborn and they were determined to hold this position at all costs, as it was their escape route to DUNKIRK. A two-company attack was launched but soon lost momentum because of the very heavy and close range machine gun and mortar fire directed form the built-up area. At this time the commander of B Company was wounded and evacuated. Company Sergeant-Major BREAKEY immediately took over command, and made a reconnaissance, under the most arduous conditions, to endeavour to find out where the main enemy resistance was. He discovered that it was coming from a group of buildings in front of the company on his right. Quickly appreciating the situation, he ordered his company to attack around the left flank. As the attack began Company Sergeant-Major BREAKEY, armed with a PIAT and three bombs, dashed forward over the open ground towards the group of buildings. The enemy once opened fire on him wounding him in the head. With great determination and despite his suffering, he continued to move forward to within fifty yards of the enemy position. From this point he fired the three bombs through windows in the building causing terrific casualties to the defenders."
"The two companies, inspired by this action, assaulted the position, captured their objectives, and so enabled the battalion to consolidate in this important sector."
The Low Countries
On 19 September the Battalion moved to Duffel where they were to stay until 23 September. Arriving in the vicinity of St. Job in’t Goor, the Camerons advanced as the reserve battalion in the 6 Brigade advance to the Antwerp-Turnhout Canal. On 27 September the Battalion took up new positions west of Gravemwezel trading fire back and forth across the canal with the enemy and conducting aggressive patrolling. During one of these patrols Lieutenant E.J. Reid won the Military Cross. His citation reads:
"On the night of 27 September 1944 lieutenant E.J. Reid, THE QUEEN’S OWN CAMERON HIGHLANDERS OF CANADA, led a fighting patrol across the ANTWERP-TURNHOUT CANAL to determine the enemy strength in FORT de SCHOOTEN. This information was necessary if the Brigade were to make a successful crossing of the canal."
"The patrol crossed in reconnaissance boats, fought it’s way through the enemy lines and, despite frequent skirmishes, remained there four hours obtaining the required information. It then returned to the point of re-crossing where it encountered a considerable force of enemy and was pinned down by rifle and machine gun fire. Telling his patrol to start for the canal when he opened fire, Lieutenant Reid, without any regard for his own life, rushed the nearest enemy position firing his sten gun and finally silenced it with a grenade. He then turned to the next position and advanced firing, keeping the enemy engaged while his patrol crossed the canal. After finishing his ammunition and throwing his remaining grenades Lieutenant Reid dove into the canal and reached safety."
"Lieutenant Reid’s inspiring leadership and superb courage saved the patrol and the important information obtained was thereby returned to the battalion."
On 29 September the unit moved again to cross the Anvers-Turnhout canal under command 5 Brigade to relieve le Régiment de Maisonneuve in the area of Oostbrecht. On 01 October the Camerons under command of 5 Brigade launched an attack against Sternhoven. Taking the objective, the Battalion was immediately ordered to carry on to their subsequent objective, a crossroads. Before they could get out of Sternhoven the Camerons were hit by a concerted counter-attack and spent the night in desperate close combat amongst the burning buildings of the town. Successfully beating off the counter-attack, the unit handed Sternhoven over to Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and began preparations to continue the advance towards Camp de Brasschaet. Before the Cameron attack could get underway, the Germans launched another counter-attack on Sternhoven and the unit went to the aid of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal to quash the final enemy attempt to regain the town. Probing towards Camp de Brasschaet on the morning of 02 October, “B” Company, with tanks from the Fort Garry Horse in support, met heavy resistance and was forced to retire to their former positions. Acting Captain Reid, who had won the Military Cross less than a week before, was killed during this action. On 3 October the Battalion launched an attack on Camp de Brasschaet and secured the objective taking eighty-two prisoners of war from the 1018 Grenadier Regiment and 14 Reserve Machinegun Battalion. On 05 October “C” Company, tasked to clear the road to Sternhoven, was forced to retire after taking heavy casualties. “A” Company was moved forward in their place to consolidate in the Lake area.
The Battalion remained at Camp de Brasschaet for the next few days resting and reorganizing for their next operation. An active patrolling program netted ninety-two Prisoners of war. On 09 October the Battalion moved to an area northeast of Putte to relieve the Essex Scottish with Battalion Headquarters setting up at Villa Anna. On 10 October the Battalion secured the flank of the successful 2nd Division attack to cut off the German garrison south of the Scheldt and the islands north of the River Scheldt. Resuming vigorous patrolling, three prisoners of war from the 847 Grenadier Regiment were taken on 11 October. During this period a company of one hundred and fifty men of the Belgian White Brigade came under command of the Camerons. On the night of 14-15 October three Fallschirmjaeger were captured by another patrol. On the evening of 20 October the Battalion moved to relieve the Royal Regiment of Canada and then again the next day to relieve the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at Woensdrecht.
Patrols overnight on 22-23 in preparation for an attack on the 23rd brought in seven prisoners of war. Launched at 0700, the attack on Woensdrecht met stiff resistance and by 1630 “A” Company, which had gone to the assistance of the South Sasks, was forced back to its former positions. Despite the fierce opposition, the Battalion captured forty Fallschirmjaeger from the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 6th Fallschirmjaeger Regiment. Continuing the attack 24 October, the Camerons made good progress against only light opposition, the majority of the enemy having withdrawn after the sharp fighting the previous day. By 2300 the area was cleared of enemy and the Battalion was relieved by the Black Watch of Canada.
Private C.R.J. Batty’s MM citation:
"On the 23rd October 1944, “A” Company of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada were attacking the road junction at the west end of WOENSDRECHT."
"The road junction was of paramount importance to the Division as at that time only muddy tracks across flooded areas were available for the advance to South Beveland."
"Private Batty with the leading platoon was ordered forward to bring automatic fire to bear on a church, from which the enemy were holding up the attack. He worked his way forward, finally succeeded in entering the church and completely destroyed the enemy holding it."
"After moving through the church to its rear, he observed two sections of enemy infantry attacking the church. He quickly took up a fire position and by skill full use of his weapon forced the enemy to withdraw, and inflicted heavy casualties on them."
"His platoon was then able to advance and take their final objective. During the final stages of the operation, Private Batty was wounded. His devotion to duty and personal courage were largely responsible for the battalion being able to capture the road junction."
On 26 October the unit moved into the Beveland Causeway. On 27 October the Camerons seized the town of Yerseke and launched an assault water crossing across the canal. Landing two companies on the island forming the lock gates on the West side of the canal, the attack was repulsed by mortar and heavy machinegun fire and the companies forced back across the canal. Another attempt to secure the lock bridges the next day succeeded in reaching the objective but was forced back across the canal once again.
Tommy Thompson’s DSO citiation:
"6 Canadian Infantry brigade was ordered to cross the SOUTH BEVELAND CANAL during the night of 27/28 October 1944. This was a most difficult and hazardous operation, due to extremely poor approaches to the Canal and the flooding of the land on the near side. These factors prevented deployment on a wide front and enabled the enemy forces to concentrate their defence against all three possible crossing places."
"As a quick crossing was vital to the Division’s task of capturing the peninsula and freeing the port of ANTWERP, it was decided to try crossings at all three places, with a battalion mounting the attack against each."
"The Brigade Commander had become a casualty the previous day, and Acting Lieutenant-Colonel E.P. Thompson, Officer Commanding Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, assumed command of the Brigade."
"Throughout the day, Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson personally reconnoitred the three crossing places, which were continually under heavy shell and small arms fire, completed planning with each battalion commander and made all detailed arrangements for the night crossings. Although the Brigade had been fighting continuously for over forty-eight hours, Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson organized a further difficult battle."
"When it became evident that the South Saskatchewan Regiment attack in the centre was the most successful, he remained at the crossing site which was, at that time, under very severe shelling form heavy calibre guns. With most determined and aggressive leadership, he ensured that the immediate advantage of tactical opportunities was taken to quickly reinforce the initial bridgehead, and to get forward the special equipment required for the difficult 300 feet bridging operation."
"By his outstanding personal efforts under the most difficult and dangerous conditions, this officer made a most notable contribution to the success of the critical phase in the Divisional advance across the SOUTH BEVELAND PENINSULA."
On 29 October the Battalion crossed the canal to relieve two companies of the Essex Scottish at Willemdinge. That night Corporal M.J. Robertson from “A” Company brought in twenty-one prisoners of war (nineteen from Grenadier Regiment 1020 of the 70th Infantry Division and two from 170 Feld Ersatz) he and two others had taken at Kattendijke while on a wandering patrol of their own. On 30 October the Battalion moved to Goes to relieve the Black Watch of Canada where they remained the next day.
On 01 November the Battalion moved to Willebroek for rest and refit. On 09 November the Camerons were on the move again, this time to the town of Mook to relieve the 5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry of the British 43rd (Wessex) Division. The remainder of the month was spent opposite the River Maas in the vicinity of Mook, dug into the flooded, soggy ground. In trading mortar fire back and forth with the enemy “A” Company had a couple of close calls. Private R.L. Shaw had a mortar bomb glance off his shoulder and land directly in his trench without detonating. Later an “A” Company observation post was asked to observe the fall of shot from friendly mortars when they received notice to keep their heads down as a mortar bomb was coming over minus its tail fin and would likely drop short. When asked to provide a correction for the next round the OP replied, “Cut all the tail fins off!” The defective bomb had landed right on a close by German machinegun nest that had been giving the company great difficulty. Patrolling by both sides, intermittent shelling and occasional mine strikes inflicted light casualties on the Battalion and ensured soldiers kept their edge in the miserable conditions.
December would prove to be a relatively quiet month for the Battalion. On 01 December the Camerons handed over their sodden positions at Mook to the Royal Regiment of Canada and moved to Cuijk to relieve the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. The Battalion stayed in the Cuijk area resting, refitting and training until 08 December when then moved to Bisselt to relieve the Black Watch of Canada. The unit remained at Bisselt for a week, conducting an aggressive patrolling program. On 15 December the Battalion handed over to the South Saskatchewan Regiment and moved into Groesbeek. The Battalion front remained fairly quiet with sporadic machinegun and mortar fire interrupting the calm. On the night of 19-20 December the Battalion provided fire support for a South Saskatchewan Regiment attack. During this action Lance-Corporal M.L. Nedohin won the Military Medal. The citation to his award reads:
"At Bruuk, Holland, on the 19th of December 1944, and attack by “D” Company of the South Saskatchewan Regiment was to pass through the area held by 9 Platoon, the Camerons of Canada. “A” Company Headquarters was to be the command post for the operation and a telephone line had been laid there to 9 Platoon."
"At 2330 hours this line was cut by enemy mortar fire. A signaller was despatched to repair this line as communications, at this stage of the battle, were vital. The signaller was seriously wounded by the hail of machine gun, sniper and mortar fire that was brought down. H-200179 Lance-Corporal Nedohin immediately went out under this intense fire and, by making skilful use of ground, managed to drag the wounded signaller to the Company aid post."
"Lance-Corporal Nedohin then insisted on going out himself and repairing the broken line. Again he braved this heavy enemy fire and made his way forward, knowing that no one would be able to reach him if he were hit. After half an hour under this fire he completed his task and returned safely."
"At 0115 hours on the 20th of December the same line was cut. Despite his previous experience, Lance-Corporal Nedohin again went out. This time he was hit by mortar shrapnel but nevertheless he completed the job and returned. Even then, although quite seriously wounded, he refused to be evacuated until he had checked the line and handed over his job to the other signaller."
"It was due to this man’s devotion to duty that communications, so vital to the success of this operation, were maintained."
On 23 December the unit was relieved in place by the Essex Scottish and moved with Battalion Headquarters, “B” and “C” Companies setting up in the area of Mook, Support Company in the area of Katwijk across the River Maas and “A” and “D” Companies at Oss. The battalion shot down and enemy aircraft the night of 26 December, capturing four of the aircrew south of Nijmegen. On 27 December “A” and “D” Companies were relived at Oss by the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. “A” Company relocated to Mook and “D” Company joined Support Company at Katwijk. The Battalion would spend the rest of the month in location resting, training and marking the holiday season.
On 08 January 1945, the Battalion received orders to relieve le Régiment de Maisonneuve the next day. Subsequent orders on the 9th delayed the move to 10 January. In the line again, the Camerons came under sporadic mortar, small arms and sniper fire and once again initiated an aggressive patrolling program. Overnight on 17-18 Jan “C” Company conducted a platoon size raid on a number of enemy held houses. On the afternoon of 18 January the battalion was relieved by Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal and moved back into the town of Mook proper. The Camerons were back in the line on 25 January, having relieved the South Saskatchewan Regiment. On the 31st the unit shifted to take over from Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal while the South Saskatchewans moved out of reserve to occupy the positions the Camerons were vacating.
Visited by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General R. Keefler on 03 February, the unit was tasked with capturing a prisoner at any cost. A raid by “A” Company on the night of 05 February failed to secure the required prisoner but a fighting patrol from “C” Company succeeded two nights later. Due largely to Company Sergeant-Major Elvin Miller’s heroic efforts, for which he was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal (the award was downgraded to a Military Medal by a higher level headquarters) the Camerons were able to bring back a prisoner and obtain the information that was crucial to the planning of the upcoming OPERATION VERITABLE. WO2 Miller’s citation reads:
"At MOOK, HOLLAND, on the 7th of February 1945, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada was ordered to send out a patrol to capture a prisoner. Information at this time was vital as a large scale operation was to be mounted through this front. Many patrols had been sent out during the previous several days, but no prisoners were taken due to the clever siting (sic) and strength of enemy defences."
"The patrol was detailed from Company Sergeant Major Miller’s company, and he, realizing the urgency of the task, volunteered for it."
"At 0100 hours, on the 7th of February 1945, the patrol moved to an area in which three houses were known to be occupied by a German force of not less than twenty. The patrol halted, covered this position, while Company Sergeant major Miller walked alone straight towards the enemy until challenged by two sentries. He fired his Sten gun killing one German and wounding the second in the legs. The whole front became alive. Machine guns opened up on fixed lines which were right across the line of Company Sergeant Major Miller’s withdrawal, and enemy mortar fire was brought down in the area where the patrol had halted. Company Sergeant Major Miller, undaunted by the murderous fire, without hesitation, seized the wounded German and carried him back across the seven hundred yards of flat country to our own lines."
"It was due to this Warrant Officer’s very bold action, endurance and steadfastness of purpose, that the prisoner was brought back, under seemingly impossible conditions. The prisoner later died through further wounds received from his own fire on the journey back, but not before we had obtained the information considered so vital to the future operations."
On 08 February OPERATION VERITABLE was launched with a 1000 gun barrage. Due to the large number of casualties it had suffered since the start of the campaign, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division would sit this one out. Over the next few days, dozens of German soldiers surrendered themselves to the battalion. Thirteen prisoners were taken from the 1222nd Grenadier Regiment on 09 February and another 18 the next day. By the 11th the Battalion front was quiet, the enemy having either withdrawn or been captured. On 14 February, after three months in and around Mook, the unit was transported to Nijmegen where they went into billets for a few days of rest and refit. Next stop – Germany!
OPERATION BLOCKBUSTER - Into Germany
On 17 February the battalion moved across the border into Germany, taking up positions in Bedburg. The 18th saw the Commanding Officer and Intelligence Officer conducting a reconnaissance of the ground southeast of Calcar approaching the Hochwald in preparation for the upcoming offensive. The next night the battalion was placed under command of 4 Brigade and tasked to send “B” Company to relieve “D” Company of the Royal Regiment of Canada. That night Anti-Tank Platoon took one prisoner form the 1st Battalion, 60th Panzergrenadier Regiment. In the early hours of 20 February the unit was ordered to send another company to the Royal Regiment of Canada. After taking up new position in the Royals area, “A” Company was placed under command of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and dispatched to reinforce them against enemy counter-attack by the Panzer Lehr Division. By sunrise the remainder of the unit had been ordered to take over from the Royal Regiment of Canada and movement began to relieve the Royals so they could in turn relieve the Essex Scottish. By late afternoon the battalion was relieved by the Highland Light Infantry of Canada and had reverted to 6 Brigade command. The battalion spent 21 February preparing for the next day’s offensive only to have the attack postponed that night. Preparations continued on the 22nd with the operation still postponed. Finally in the early morning of 26 February, OPERATION BLOCKBUSTER was launched.
Riding in Kangaroo armoured personnel carriers, the initial advance was held up by mines and mud forcing the battalion to re-route their attack through the Fusiliers Mont-Royal’s objective. “A” Company rode onto the objective in their Kangaroos and took it after overcoming stiff resistance from the 156th Panzergrenadier Regiment. “B” Company reached their objective of Louisendorf with only thirty four effectives, many of their Kangaroos having bogged down or gotten lost enroute. With two tanks in intimate support the greatly reduced “B” Company took the objective, capturing twenty-six prisoners on the way to the town and another ninety in Louisendorf itself. “C” Company landed on their objective without opposition after spending considerable time trying to find it. Within an hour of securing the objective “C” Company was forced to fight off the first of numerous counter-attacks as a pair of enemy tanks shot up their positions. It was only “D” Company that was to reach their objective with little trouble. After hard fighting the unit had secured its objectives and taken one hundred and thirty six prisoner but at great loss – the dynamic and popular Commanding Officer, Lieutenant E.P. “Tommy” Thompson was killed by a sniper on the objective.
It was during this action that the Regiment received its second Victoria Cross nominee. Major David Rodgers, Officer Commanding “A” Company, was recommended to receive the Victoria Cross for his actions on 26 February 1945. The citation was approved at every level until it reached 21st Army Group where Field Marshall Montgomery downgraded the award to an immediate Distinguished Service Order. The citation reads:
"On the night of 25/26 February 1945 6 Canadian Infantry brigade launched an attack to seize a heavily wooded feature SOUTH of CALCAR, GERMANY. This vital high ground dominated the entire area and its retention by the enemy constituted a major threat to the flank of the main attack by the Corps. The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada were given the task of capturing the right of the feature essential to the success of the brigade attack. That the enemy, fully realizing the importance of this feature, made a determined stand, was evidenced by skilfully sited automatic weapons and snipers, and the intense mortar and artillery fire, which was brought down on the lines of approach."
"Soon after crossing the start line the Camerons mounted in Kangaroos and armoured troop carriers, ran into an area of soft ground heavily mined and it was necessary to change the line of advance. In spite of the difficulties of such a manoeuvre in darkness and under extremely heavy fire and without the full benefit of the timed artillery programme, Major Rodgers in the leading vehicle pushed on to within a hundred yards of the final objective only to find it infested with snipers concealed in houses and slit trenches, determined to make a last stand."
"Appreciating the seriousness of the situation and realizing that hesitation at this moment would result in his company being pinned down and thus prejudice the success of the entire battalion attack, Major Rodgers, ignoring the hail of fire which swept the intervening ground, leaped from his vehicle alone and dashed forward to the nearest house, completely clearing it before the first man of his leading platoon came up to him. Alone he also quickly cleared a second house. So inspired were his men by this gallant act that, emulating his example, they pressed the attack with such vigour that the fierce enemy resistance was soon overcome. During this action Major Rodgers killed at least four of the defenders, captured 12 prisoners and wounded several other."
"Unable to contact battalion headquarters by wireless, he quickly completed the reorganization of his company to hold the position in the event of counterattack and proceeded on foot to headquarters to report details."
"On reaching the area which had been chosen for battalion headquarters he found that the battalion commander had been killed, and the intelligence officer severely wounded by artillery fire, the whole headquarters pinned down by intense fire from strong enemy positions which had been bypassed by the main assault, and communications destroyed. The artillery representative who had taken charge explained the situation, pointing out a building from which the enemy were sweeping the area with fire from automatic weapons, supported by snipers firing from cleverly sited slit trenches outside the building."
"Appreciating that the success of the entire operation might well be prejudiced without headquarters functioning, Major Rodgers, accompanied by his batman, went forward through a barn on the near side of the road coming into the open within 25 yards of the house held by the enemy. Firing their automatic weapons from the hip they raced across the open to the front door of the house. Kicking open the door Major Rodgers charged into the nearest room. His automatic weapon now empty and no time to reload, he fired his pistol wounding two of the occupants and the remainder surrendered. Then room by room he cleared the entire house himself, killing or wounding at least nine and again capturing twelve prisoners."
"Quickly organizing the headquarters he requested the artillery officer to establish wireless contact with brigade headquarters over his set, then started out on foot to check the company position as no information of this progress had reached the headquarters."
"Arriving at the first company, the commander pointed out a concentration of enemy troops and tanks forming up for a counter attack. Again realizing the urgency of the situation, and in the particular instance the need for artillery support he returned to battalion headquarters to arrange the necessary fire. He was able to give the artillery representative such an accurate location of the enemy forming up place, that fire was brought to bear which completely dispersed the enemy counterattack force."
"Although the area was being subjected to intense artillery and mortar fire, in addition to which he was frequently under fire from machine guns and small arms, he visited each company in turn, encountering the men and assisting the commanders. After satisfying himself that each company was in proper position and prepared for any counter attack which might develop he returned to battalion headquarters remaining in command of the battalion until the arrival of the second in command, some time later."
"The capture and the retention of this battalion objective was vital to the success of the whole Corps plan and failure or delay would have necessitated a second attack with consequent losses in men, material and time."
"Major Rodgers, aware of the importance of his battalion’s task completely disregarded the intense fire and with no thought of his personal safety moved about the area on foot his only consideration being that the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada MUST get on to its objectives and hold them. His magnificent courage and leadership, coupled with exceptional skill and cool judgement were directly responsible for the decisive victory in this bitterly fought action. By is superb example he so inspired all ranks of his battalion that with magnificent contempt for the heavy odds against them they fought their way on to positions and held firm in spite of every effort made by a determined and fanatical enemy."
"This officer’s actions have become legend in his regiment and are worthy of the very highest traditions of the service."
The Germans continued counter-attacking on 27 February but the most of the enemy attacks were broken up with well-directed mortar and artillery fire. That night the battalion was relieved by the 5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and moved to Kirsel. 28 February was spent reorganizing and preparing for the next offensive.
The Cold War Period
The seeds of the Cold War had been sewn well before the close of the Second World War. Militant communism threatened the fleeting peace that was achieved through the defeat of the Axis powers. Operating under the belief that the next war would be nuclear and would likely be finished before a large-scale mobilization of reserves could be affected, the decision was reached that the Regular Army would need to be more robust and would become Canada’s main line of defence rather than the Militia. By 1946 the Militia was restored to basically its pre-1939 condition.
In 1950 the Red River climbed to its highest level since 1861, resulting in major flooding in Winnipeg from April to June. Heavy autumn rains and a long winter with heavy snowfall followed by a cold spring, which prevented normal thawing, all contributed to the catastrophe. More rainfall in early May exacerbated flooding. Six hundred square miles of Manitoba between the U.S. border and Winnipeg became a vast inland sea. The flood climaxed on the night of 05 May, known as "Black Friday”, when driving rain, sleet and snow swelled the Red River to the point where it tore apart eight dikes and destroyed four of Winnipeg's eleven bridges. Throughout much of the city homes and buildings were engulfed by the floodwaters. The Regiment was mobilized in aid of the Civil Power on 08 May. Organized into five work parties, the Camerons were piped to the dykes and worked around the clock in shifts for 17 days until the danger of flood diminished. When the flood was over, 107,000 people had been evacuated from the area. The cost of the flood was estimated at over one billion dollars.
In June 1950 the Cold War turned hot with Communist North Korea’s invasion of South Korea. Although the Canadian Government chose not to mobilize the Militia to fight overseas, numerous Second World War veterans and serving reservists, including many Camerons, chose to volunteer for the new battalions that were being raised to go to Korea.
In 1960, the Regiment celebrated its 50th Birthday. Part of the celebrations, the performing of a retreat ceremony on the Manitoba Legislative grounds, was broadcast on national television. The decade would provide little else to celebrate. The 1960s saw a serious erosion of Militia capabilities and morale. Undermanned and issued with aging or obsolete equipment, the reserves were not seen as playing any useful role in a major overseas conflict, particularly with the strategic assessment of the day seeing any future war quickly becoming nuclear and being of short duration. Lacking a war-fighting role, the focus of the Militia concentrated more on domestic operations, particularly territorial defence and survival operations after a nuclear conflict.
During the 1970s the role of the Army Reserve shifted again. Unification of the Forces and years of budgetary reductions had resulted in Forces wide personnel shortages. The focus for the Reserves shifted to providing individual soldiers to augment Regular Force units overseas. Camerons increasingly began to deploy as augmentees to Regular Force units on UN Peacekeeping duties in places such as Egypt, the Golan Heights and Cyprus and to participate on flyovers to Germany to serve with Canadian units operating with NATO in North-West Europe.
In the spring of 1979, the Red River jumped its banks again, rising to the flood levels of 1950. While Winnipeg was protected by the massive floodway built after the 1950 flood, the farming communities to the south were largely unprotected. Within an hour of the call for assistance, the Camerons had assembled and dispatched troops to augment 2 PPCLI operating inside the ring dyke around Morris, Manitoba.
In the 1980s the role of the Militia was once more re-defined. The 1987 Defence White paper espoused the belief that any conflict would only turn nuclear after a series of conventional battles, which would give the belligerents adequate time to mobilize and commit their reserves to battle. This thinking eventually gave rise to the Total Force concept in which the Reserve and Regular components were to be more fully integrated. The 1980s ended with the Regiment marking its 79th birthday in 1989. Celebrations were held at Minto Armoury with the itinerary including a military skills demonstration, a performance by the Pipes & Drums, and an all-ranks Regimental Dinner.
Post Cold War
The 1990s proved to be a very busy decade for the Regiment, both operationally and ceremonially. Falling out of Total Force was an increasing role for Reserve augmentation on overseas operations. Starting with OPERATION HARMONY Rotation 1 in 1992 (Croatia) the Camerons began to provide a steady stream of augmentees to Regular Force units deploying on Operations.
1994 and 1995 were the years for big parades. First, the Regiment participated in the Freedom of the City parade marking the 50th anniversary of the D Day invasion. Next, the Regiment celebrated its 85th Birthday in 1995, with a parade at the Manitoba Legislature. Finally, the Camerons participated in the Freedom of the City parade marking the 50th Anniversary of VE Day.
Fully focused on training for war once again, the late 1990s found the Regiment increasingly involved in Domestic Operations. In 1997, the Regiment was at ground zero for the “Flood of the Century”. This time the scope of the flood was so enormous, not even the floodway could protect Winnipeg as it had in 1979. The Camerons provided volunteers for the 38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG) Composite Company and spent the spring sandbagging and building dykes throughout Southern Manitoba. When the possibility of the Y2K bug threatened to paralyze the nation at the end of 1999, the Regiment was tasked to provide Provincial Task Force Manitoba (PTFMB) Company 2 for OPERATION ABACUS. The company headquarters was stood up several days before the end of December and was prepared to initiate a mobilization on order.
The new millennium carried on in much the same fashion as the last decade of the previous. When the Reserves were tasked with raising a formed Rifle Company to augment 1 PPCLI on OPERATION PALLADIUM Rotation 11 to Bosnia in 2002, the Camerons provided the Company second-in-command, Company Administration Officer, and eight other augmentees. In August 2003, disaster struck again. With forest fires raging out of control in many areas of BC, the Regiment was called to provide augmentees to fight fires (OPERATION PEREGRINE). Once again, Camerons responded to the call.
Today the Camerons fulfill both military and ceremonial functions at home and abroad. As an infantry regiment, the unit’s main focus is provide trained infantry soldiers to meet the operational requirements of the Canadian Forces. Whether it is augmenting Regular Force units on overseas operations or fighting floods and forest fires at home, the Camerons provide a ready source of trained soldiers. To date the Regiment has deployed 14 members to the mission in Afghanistan.
The Regiment parades at
Minto Armoury, 969 St Matthews Avenue in Winnipegon Tuesday nights from the last week of August to the second week of June. During the summer unit members attend military courses throughout Canada.
Motto: Ullamh (Gaelic: Ready)
Regimental March Past: The Piobaireachd of Donald Dhu
Regimental March: The March of the Cameron Men
A Company March: Blue Bonnets Over the Border
B Company March: A Hundred Pipers
C Company March: Glendaurel Highlanders
D Company March: Bonnie Dundee
HQ & Support Company March: The Muckin’ O’ Geordie’s Brier
Administration Company March: Queen Elizabeth
* [http://www.thequeensowncameronhighlandersofcanada.net Unit Website]
* [http://www.army.dnd.ca/CAMERON_HIGHLANDERS/qoch_history.htm Official DND Website]
* [http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=history/secondWar/dieppe/regiment/queens_highlanders Veterans Affairs Site]
* [http://ca.geocities.com/cameronhighlanderscanada/title.htm Unofficial Cameron's Museum Site]
* [http://army.ca/inf/qchofc.php Army.ca]
*GBR - The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
The Canadian Crown and the Canadian Forces
The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada Museum
Order of precedence
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