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Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/12/2022 2:14:59 PM
This day seventy eight years ago one week had elapsed since D day. Another eleven weeks, more or less, were to pass before what we call the Battle of Normandy came to its dramatic but somehow controversial end. In the course of the twelve weeks of fighting, the British and Canadian armies had suffered casualties of roughly 1,000 killed, wounded and missing per day, on average, while their US counterpart had incurred a daily average of approximately 1,500. More precisely, the British and Canadians reported 83,045 casualties : 15,995 killed ; 57,996 wounded and 9,054 missing. American casualties were returned as 124,394, including 20,668 killed and 10,128 missing, with - presumably - 93,598 wounded.

Using the database of the CWGC, I have tabulated the British and Canadian commemorations over the twelve weeks between D day and 28 August 1944. These are for Army deaths only, from all causes, throughout France. There would be hundreds of non battle deaths - there were plenty of accidents and some men were seriously ill - and there would have been, of course, some Commonwealth deaths in Operation Dragoon that commenced on 15 August. It must be the case, though, that the vast preponderance of these twenty two thousand deaths were battle fatalities from the Normandy fighting, and we can attribute virtullay all of them to the Normandy Campaign.

Just going to eat some supper, back in a minute.

Back to my post : there’s nothing worse than trying to complete a demanding chronicle against that clock !

British and Canadian soldiers commemorated in France, by weeks :

6-12 June : 3,377 ( 30% Canadian)

13- 19 June : 1,230

20-26 June : 1,155

27 June - 3 July : 1,772

4-10 July : 2,027

11-17 July : 1,753

18-24 July : 2,022

25-31 July : 1,501

1-7 August : 1,923

8-14 August : 2,843 ( 37.7% Canadian )

15-21 August : 1,452

22-28 August : 955

Total : 22,010 ( 23.8% Canadian )

Note that Operation EPSOM spanned the 25th to the 29th June ; Operation GOODWOOD started the 18th July, and that Operation TOTALIZE spanned the 8th to the 10th August. Apart from those eccentric British names, based on their cherished races in their county townships, it’s noticeable that the TOTALIZE fighting was especially fierce, and that in both the most intense periods of battle in Normandy, the Canadian contingent came to the fore. The Falaise fighting was a real crescendo in the ferocity of the campaign, and it’s significant that TOTALIZE itself was predicated on the drive to Falaise.

My apologies to my American friends ; I only wish I had a comparable source to use to cite their weekly deaths . Does the Battlefield Monuments Commission afford us a similar rendition ? It would certainly be revealing if we could gauge the loss of life in Operation COBRA.

What I fixate on is the difference between the sixteen thousand reported killed in action, and the actual total of well over twenty thousand deaths. To what should we attribute such a disparity ? Obviously many of the nine thousand missing were dead . What of the mortally wounded ; are they included in the killed, or did they account for additional significant numbers who swelled the total ?

If this applies to the Commonwealth figures, should we infer that the US figure of 20,668 KIA might also imply a total of roughly thirty thousand ? If so, then we have a total of fifty thousand US, UK and Canadian soldiers killed or died from wounds in those twelve weeks, not to mention those hundreds of phenomenally brave Poles we’ve been mentioning in another thread, or the Free French , and even some Norwegian sailors who perished when their destroyer was hit. And there were sixteen thousand aircrew “ lost” in the operations leading up to the invasion and in the subsequent fighting. Most tragic of all are the great numbers of French civilians who also died in thousands , maybe even tens of thousands.

As for the Germans, they left ten thousand dead in the Falaise Pocket alone, and we have to assume that at least fifty thousand of their soldiers perished in the whole battle.

Liberating the land of the Conqueror was a deadly slog and a nightmare ordeal.

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Brian Grafton
Victoria BC Canada
Posts: 4210
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/12/2022 9:09:09 PM
Phil, great data. Thank you.

You’ve named this thread “Normandy week by week”, which I assume is your indication that this is carrying the “This Day in History” thread to the WW2 forum.

May I note that, IIUC, it was only on 12 or 13 June that the beach heads linked up. I would argue that is the earliest date at which the D-Day landings could be considered solid. For me, however, linking the beaches was nothing more than stabilizing a foothold. By this time some beachheads had been driven further inland, but none was totally secure; German troops were still strong, and blending effective defensive warfare with punishing counter-offensives.

My own sense is that Allied commanders were not assured of the solidity until the offensive including the bocage breakout and the slaughter of the Falaise Gap.

Just an opinion.

Cheers
Brian G
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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6913
Joined: 2006
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/12/2022 10:50:29 PM
Hi Phil,

Good thread, you carried through on your idea of creating a D day WWII section, the 1st MHO has had??
I just saw a video on D day Spies! They did such a good job fooling the Germans, that Hitler, & the Wehrmacht brain trust waited 4 to 5 weeks after June 6, 1944 to be fully convinced the invasion wasn't at Calais.!? They still believed Normandy was just a convincing faint!??

Go figure??
MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
GaryNJ
Cumberland NJ USA
Posts: 177
Joined: 2010
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 1:30:32 AM
Phil,

The numbers you give are almost identical to those given by Ellis in vol. 1 of Victory in the West. He has 21st Army Group (British, Canadian, and Polish) with 16,138 killed, 58,594 wounded, 9,093 missing for a total of 83,825. His figures for the US are 20,838 killed, 94,881 wounded, 10,128 missing for a total of 125,847.

I don't know of any weekly listing of US casualties as you have listed for British and Canadian casualties. Here is a listing of US casualties by theater. For the European Theater as a whole the US had 586,628 total casualties with total deaths of 135,576. There is a lot of info there.

[Read More]

Here are some statistics on reported German losses on the Western Front in Niklas Zetterling's book on page 95 Normandy 1944: German Military Organization, Combat Power and Organizational Effectiveness.

June:KIA 4,975 WIA 14,631 MIA 15,848
July: KIA 10,839 WIA 38,834 MIA 55,135
August KIA 7,205 WIA 13,605 MIA 127,633
September KIA 9,418 WIA 30,558 MIA 86,131
October KIA 7,238 WIA 28,143 MIA 33,559
November KIA 8,182 WIA 30,712 MIA 44,645
December KIA 9,268 WIA 31,909 MIA 25,996
Totals: KIA 57,125 WIA 188,392 MIA 388,947

Zetterling's German casualties for June, July, and August total 23,019 KIA, 67,070 WIA, and 198,616 MIA. This is less than what the Allies claim.

The Allied casualties were higher than expected in the infantry. This was particularly significant for the British. They simply did not have enough replacements. As a result later in 1944 the British had to break up the 59th and 50th infantry divisions and an infantry brigade in Northwest Europe. Monty had to be careful to avoid a high casualty rate among the infantry for the rest of the war in NW Europe.

Once the Allies had overcome the German beach defenses the war became one of attrition. The Germans had no chance of winning such a battle given they were already being bleed to death on the Eastern Front.

Gary
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 5:12:41 AM
Thanks so much, Gary, for providing that German record of casualty figures. As you say, it needs to be held up against the very different claims made by the Allies.

And, Brian G, you’ve weighed in with constructive comments and canny appreciation, which will encourage me to investigate the story of this surreal campaign more closely. Thanks. And you, too, Dave : as always , supportive and positive, helping MHO along with your unique approach.

That word I use - “ surreal” - does have legitimacy here, I feel.

Normandy 1944 is, perhaps, singularly dramatic in modern military annals. Multi dimensional onslaughts, by land, sea and air, with unimaginably high stakes for the belligerents and the afflicted peoples of Europe, and, by extension, the World. Titanic political figures towering over the ensemble, for better or for worse. A real existential struggle between good and evil.

To make the cup run over, this week in 1944 the Germans unleashed their vengeance weapon against London, thereby adding a civilian death toll to be part of the reckoning . I wonder how many victims of the “ Doodlebugs” there were in these June days in 1944, and how the worst days compared with those suffered by the Commonwealth forces in Normandy.

A lot more to come, but right now that damned clock is timing me out, and we must go shopping.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 8:58:26 AM
Great post Phil. I spent some time trying to match the sequence of operations around Caen and heading toward Falaise to determine the uptick in deaths taken during those operations.

June 26 Operation Epsom. Taking of Capriquet. Too many casualties for what they gained.

July 8. Operation Charnwood. Taking of Caen. 2027 killed in the period July 4-8

July 18 Operation Atlantic (CDN op associated with Goodwood). This CDN and British operation was designed to clear the Germans from the high ground south of the Orne. 2022 British KIA according to your stats from July 18-24.

It took multiple attacks to dislodge the German forces from Verrieres Ridge and many Canadian, British were killed. The battle for that ridge took place from July 19-25 so it appears to be part of both Goodwood and Spring.

July 25. Operation Spring. Supposed to capture high ground around the ridge. Not successful.
KIA 1501

I noted that the most costly single day for a Canadian battalion since the Dieppe raid, was on July 25 when the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) were sent up the slope and were cut down in the wheat fields. While in the assembly area, one of men was heard to have said, "What is this, fucking world war 1?" 300 of 320 Black Watch were killed or wounded on that day. EDIT: That should include POW too.

Sometimes this battle is painted as one that was instrumental in drawing German firepower away from Bradley's US operations to the east as Cobra began on the same day. I do not know whether that is true.

Aug. 8 Operation Totalize. Planned by CDN Guy Simmonds. It went brilliantly during the first phase but the attack was delayed for a few hours before phase 2 to allow for a bombing raid, I believe. Mistake, it allowed the Germans to regroup when they had been on the run.

Aug. 14. Operation Tractable. When Totalize petered out, it was necessary to mount Tractable which was an armoured push to drive the Germans beyond the Laison River. It was hoped that the CDN, British and Poles would link with the Americans move up but that did not happen resulting in a gap that needed plugging near Falaise.

As you noted Phil, the fighting associated with Totalize and Tractable was particularly bloody. Many deaths in the area of Trun, Chambois and Coudehard for Brits, CDN's and Poles as the Germans headed for the one gap available in the Dives Valley.

This is not a very enlightening post I'm afraid. I was trying to associate your data with events on the ground. It helps me to do that.

Cheers,

George

Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 9:58:42 AM
As always, an excellent contribution, George.

Your attempt to correlate the CWGC data with events on the ground works brilliantly.

Further to my allusion to the V1 bombs, this day in 1944 witnessed the first Doodlebug hit on London, when one landed in Grove Road in the East End and killed six people. Several thousand more Londoners were to be killed by these infernal things in the weeks and months ahead.

Brian is right, I think, in his view that the situation for the Allies in the beachhead was still fragile at this point.

Editing : George, the fate of the Canadians in the Black Watch on the 25th July was appalling. Three hundred out of three hundred and twenty cut down ! I suspect that the number refers not to the total battalion strength, but to the number of riflemen. There were specialists, MG and mortar detachments etc, who swelled the numbers in the battalion. To be at the sharp end in the rifle companies in Normandy in 1944 was as dangerous as it had been in 1917. Incidentally, shocked by that reference I consulted the CWGC database, and, yes, the Canadian commemorations for 25 July 1944 in France are 340, nearly as many as D day itself ( 357). I’ll try and find out how many were in that battalion .

Just found it : 80 commemorated from The Black Watch (RHR) Canada for 25 July 1944. Maybe there were additional men who died from their wounds in the following days.

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 11:30:35 AM
Thanks Phil. The Black Watch would take another pasting during the battle of the Scheldt when assigned to take the causeway to Walcheren. Hard luck outfit.

At Verrieres Ridge, the German soldiers were appalled at the tactics of the Canadians. So were the Canadian soldiers. They were sent up that slope without tanks. This phase of the battle and the errors made must be placed on the shoulders of Lt. Gen. Simonds.

Simonds was a good officer. Monty thought that he was brilliant but he didn't handle this operation well.

Quote:
“In four years in Russia, we never saw anything like it. The soldiers were marching upright, holding their rifles across their breasts in readiness, as if on parade drill.”
.

source: Peter Prien, 2nd Panzer SS who defended the ridge on that day.



Prien also noted that they could see a small number of Canadians trying to escape. The total number of soldiers making it back was 16.

Quote:
“You should know that we did not fire on these retreating men. We were too deeply impressed, and embarrassed, by this sacrifice and gallantry of men who had no chance. It had been sheer butchery.”
- Prien

Cheers,

George



Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 11:50:28 AM
Quote:
Thanks Phil. The Black Watch would take another pasting during the battle of the Scheldt when assigned to take the causeway to Walcheren. Hard luck outfit.

At Verrieres Ridge, the German soldiers were appalled at the tactics of the Canadians. So were the Canadian soldiers. They were sent up that slope without tanks. This phase of the battle and the errors made must be placed on the shoulders of Lt. Gen. Simonds.

Simonds was a good officer. Monty thought that he was brilliant but he didn't handle this operation well.

Quote:
“In four years in Russia, we never saw anything like it. The soldiers were marching upright, holding their rifles across their breasts in readiness, as if on parade drill.”
.

source: Peter Prien, 2nd Panzer SS who defended the ridge on that day.



Prien also noted that they could see a small number of Canadians trying to escape. The total number of soldiers making it back was 16.

Quote:
“You should know that we did not fire on these retreating men. We were too deeply impressed, and embarrassed, by this sacrifice and gallantry of men who had no chance. It had been sheer butchery.”
- Prien

Cheers,

George





George,

That last quote from Prien sounds very redolent of the claims of German machine gunners a generation earlier , who claimed to have withheld their fire at Loos when they saw the heaps of dead and dying British soldiers on 26th September 1915, and sought to spare those who were still able to escape.

I have to say that it’s an incongruous contrast with the claim I’ve read that one in seven of all the Canadian soldiers who were killed in the first week of the Normandy battles were massacred after they had been captured.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 1:19:53 PM
Phil, I wanted to emphasize that British, Canadian and Polish troops fought together in many of the battles in Normandy. In fact, many British regiments were attached to the First Canadian Army as two CDN divisions were still busy in Italy.

Operation Totalize which was a Canadian Army operation is an example of how the CDN army was augmented by troops of other nations. Simonds plan for Totalize was innovative and daring. That it did not immediately open the road to Falaise and the reasons why are still debated.

So 2nd Canadian Corps which was to spearhead the attack consisted of 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division, 1st Polish Armoured Division, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and the British 33rd Armoured Brigade. (source was wiki)

The Brits lost so many men in the Normandy campaign that it would be incorrect for me to imply that the Canadians operated alone.

Cheers,

George

George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/13/2022 3:40:53 PM
Quote:
George,

That last quote from Prien sounds very redolent of the claims of German machine gunners a generation earlier , who claimed to have withheld their fire at Loos when they saw the heaps of dead and dying British soldiers on 26th September 1915, and sought to spare those who were still able to escape.

I have to say that it’s an incongruous contrast with the claim I’ve read that one in seven of all the Canadian soldiers who were killed in the first week of the Normandy battles were massacred after they had been captured.

Regards, Phil


I noticed that the German soldier was SS and it occurred to me that there was little love between the Canadians and the SS because of the murders of so many Canadian soldiers. And these weren't the shooting of soldiers who had just surrendered. There was no "heat of battle" excuse. These were executions and mostly by the 12th SS Panzer Div. I believe.

The Normandy massacres total about 156 CDN soldiers over the course of the Normandy battles.

This is the Abbaye d'Ardennes which was where Kurt Meyer could observe the Canadians as they moved inland from Juno Beach. During the battle of Authie on June 7, many North Nova Scotia Highlanders and Sherbrooke Fusilier (armoured) were captured and taken to the abbaye.



Later that night, 11 North Nova Scotia Highlanders were taken into the garden of the Abbay and shot in the back of the head, one by one. The next morning, 7 more received the same treatment.

The next day, June 8, several dozen Winnipeg Rifles were captured and taken to another SS HQ called Château d'Audrieu, and estate and 45 of them were murdered in batches. There are many more similar cases.

There are more but to your point, many Canadian soldiers have reported anecdotally that when the discovery of the executions was learned that they did not take prisoners if the enemy was SS, unless ordered to bring in prisoners. And the SS apparently were aware that they had angered the Canadians.

So why would Prien have said that they could not shoot escaping Canadian soldiers on July 25? I have no answer really and I do hope that his story is the truth. It gives me some faith in humanity.

Cheers,

George


GaryNJ
Cumberland NJ USA
Posts: 177
Joined: 2010
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/14/2022 12:42:07 AM
I have an interesting book titled Colossal Cracks: Montgomery's 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, 1944-45 by Stephen Ashley Hart. Some may find it relevant to the topic in this thread. The book is based on his ph.d titled Field Marshall Montgomery, 21st Army Group, and North-West Europe, 1944–45. You can get a copy here.

[Read More]

Another interesting ph.d titled British Army Manpower Crisis 1944 by John Robert Peaty can be obtained here.

[Read More]

Gary
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/14/2022 10:04:04 AM
In the course of visiting my bookshelves to find material to post in this thread, I’ve encountered a real gem.

SUMMON UP THE BLOOD, The War Diary Of Corporal JA Womack, Royal Engineers, D-Day & The North West Europe Campaign May 1944 -February 1945.

This is edited by his daughter, Celia Wolfe.

Her father was a British soldier, born in West Yorkshire in 1916, and took part in the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, when he was a corporal in the Royal Engineers. For the actual invasion he was attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, and landed at Bernieres -sur - Mer on JUNO beach at H + 3 1/2 hours. His work was to assist in establishing communications between the 3rd Canadian and 3rd British Divisions.

Ironically, British soldiers were not allowed to keep diaries, but this rule was flouted.

The remarkable thing about the book - apart from its dramatic testimony to the searing events of that fighting - is the standard of editing and historical narrative imposed by his daughter.

Celia Wolfe is about our age, George, and she’s done something wonderful here. You and I both share her experience of having a father who served in front line combat in that war, and I only wish that I had compiled something about Dad’s war that was half as good as this.

It alludes to the atrocious killings of Canadian prisoners, and to the devastating impact of friendly fire. I’ll browse through and select some entires to post, along with the high calibre comments of the daughter.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/14/2022 11:34:02 AM
Thank you Phil. I have been curious about the communications links between 3rd CDN and 3rd British. It was that gap between the two divisions that the Germans tried to exploit on June 6 and they did succeed in getting vehicles to the beach. Does Celia Wolfe allude to the role that her Dad played during the attempt by the Germans to get to the beach? I wonder how long it took before the two divisions were in communication with one another and what they did to encourage the German force to retreat.

Cheers,

George
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/14/2022 1:03:10 PM
Regarding friendly fire incidents: With the danger of a stalemate developing at Caen, a decision was taken to bomb that city. It was destroyed and many French civilians lost their lives. In this case, the British and Canadians pulled back to allow the bombers to attack. I do not know whether any Brits or CDN's lost their lives. In fact, Harris had insisted on a 6000 yd buffer zone between the target and friendly forces. He knew that BC training did not allow for pinpoint accuracy.

But the destruction of Caen did allow the British and Canadians to eventually drive the Germans out.

The heavy bombers had been used in a tactical role for which they were not designed and they would continue to be employed during the Normandy campaign for both British operations. The success at Caen and the fact that BC kept the destruction within the square designated as the target was encouraging to army types.

Bombers were used to bomb German defences during Operation Goodwood. I believe that it was decided to bring the bombers in partly because the British and Canadians could not provide sufficient numbers of replacements for the men lost in the first month of trying to break the Germans around Caen. The Orne River bridgehead existed in a narrow corridor. and Monty didn't have room for all of the tanks and artillery needed. So bring in the bombers. I don't believe that there were any friendly fire incidents from Goodwood operations but the bombers were remarkably accurate.

Anecdotal reports by Canadian soldiers noted that in areas that suffered heavy bombing, demoralized German soldiers surrendered without much of a fight. But in areas that were not hit, the German soldiers continued to fight and fight well.



However, Goodwood was only partially successful and cost the British over 300 tanks. I have read that with a shortage of manpower that it was hoped that the tanks could drive through to Bourgébus Ridge but that failed. Monty and DDE butted heads because Monty had said that he would break out when in reality, Monty knew that this operation would probably serve to tie up German divisions to keep them from providing support for the US Operation Cobra. Monty had promised more than he could deliver, to get support for his request for Bomber Command support.

What Goodwood needed was a second RAF attack to support the second phase of operations. It wasn't planned for and operations bogged down.




The US forces were watching as well and noted that RAF bombers were quite successful even though they were used to night time bombing and had been required to bomb during the day. The USAF had been involved in day bombing for a long time so perhaps their skills could be applied to the breakout operation called Cobra.

Unfortunately, when the bombers came in to support Cobra on July 24, US ground forces had only withdrawn about 1000 yds. and some of the US soldiers were bombed by their own and I think that 136 men died at the assembly area. I don't know how this could have been prevented unless the soldiers were pulled back even farther. However, the US achieved their goal with a great breakout.

When CDN Lt. Gen. Guy Simonds and staff devised Operation Totalize, they felt that the bombers could be used effectively. They were encouraged by Operations Charnwood and Goodwood. I believe that Simonds felt that there was a shortage of tanks at the time of the operation and still a problem with finding replacements so they asked for bomber support. Operation Totalize has to be considered a success despite the fact that operations bogged down in phase two. (my opinion only, of course. Still much debate about Totalize.)

Bomber support for the Canadians and Poles and Brits would come from both the RAF and the US 8th. Unfortunately, when the US 8th came over, it bombed short and killed Canadians and Poles at the assembly area. 65 were killed and 250 wounded. Analysis of the situation indicated that only 24 US bombers of 493 made targeting errors but that is little solace to the men on the ground.

When Totalize didn't result in the taking of Falaise, another operation called Tractable was mounted and by this time, despite Harris' objections, allied command felt that the use of heavy bombers in close support of infantry was worth the risk.

Unfortunately, BC bombed the Canadian positions again with similar casualties taken, and several of the Group 6 bombers of the RCAF were involved in the error.

Still the results were encouraging and it was felt that since 90% of the bombers were successful in hitting the target, that it was well worth the risk to the ground troops. I don't suppose that they were asked about that.

The use of close support bombers was in its infancy in Normandy. There was a learning curve. One wonders whether the deaths of soldiers waiting to attack and the destruction of equipment could have been avoided.

Cheers,

George










Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/14/2022 3:35:41 PM
Some anecdotal stuff from Womak’s diary, George :

Thursday 13 July

General Crerar has now come over and I think that a Cdn Army will be formed. He has sent a personal message to the Cdns not to retaliate on the Germans for their atrocity in murdering 20 Cdn prisoners. It appears that these prisoners were made to dig a trench. They were then lined along the edge of it and cruelly mown down. These defenceless men had dug their own grave. I wonder if Gen Crerar heard what the French Cdns did on D+3 at a little village called Banville. They were advancing through this village when their major was shot dead by a sniper. The sniper was located in a church steeple and wrinkled out alive. He was then taken into a farmyard, made to kneel and was then beheaded with a woodman’s axe.


The daughter’s commentary attached is worthy of citing :

The church steeple at Banville had already caused problems for ‘C’ Company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. On 6 June they had dealt with six snipers concealed in the tower. Sniping was a constant problem as the War Diary of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade records : “ Sniping continued and aggressive measures were taken to put a cessation to these activities.” ( Op.cit.10 June 1944) Many churches were purposely demolished because they provided observation posts and harbours for snipers. Roman Catholic tank commanders were selected for the task so that Roman Catholic soldiers could not complain.

But whether my father’s story here is true or just a rumour, I cannot tell. Certainly, the French Canadians gained a reputation for ruthlessness. Again, Alexander McKee writing about Bernieres on D day :

“ Waiting to advance under cover of the sea wall was a French-Canadian regiment which had lost heavily crossing the exposed beach ; they were to acquire a reputation , later that day, for having dragged a female collaborator round the village behind a jeep. True, false, or exaggerated, it was a fitting rumour with which to open the ruthless battle of Normandy” (Op. cit.p.52)


My own father in law served in Normandy as a signaller, and told me that when he travelled through what was left of Caen, a lot of French women were visibly embarrassed by their( very young))children who were giving Nazi salutes to him and his comrades.

At the end of her book, Celia provides Appendix I and II respectively discussing the massacres of Canadian prisoners and some very harrowing renditions on the damage caused by American bombs falling on Canadian, British and Polish troops. I think, George, that the problems of using these bombers to provide support for the infantry was redolent of the same hazards implicit in the rolling barrages that had been effective in the First World War, albeit at the cost of many casualties from friendly fire.

I’ll try and get some more entries that address your questions.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5453
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/17/2022 4:23:28 AM
Look at this ! An entry from this day in 1944, in Womak’s diary :

Saturday 17 June

Pleased to announce today that the 5 Assault Regt RE sent in 1 Sqn and captured the Radar Station. The job was beautifully executed and the German Commander still cannot believe that the sappers got through the minefields. He ought to ask his intelligence people for some dope on our secret weapons. They are a little behind the times. These sappers in AVREs [ special tanks] and Flails smashed their way through the outer defences and got right on top of the underground stronghold, then with hand placed charges they blew hell out of it. Their casualties were fairly light, I believe, one AVRE and crew being blown up on a mine. The CE (Chief Engineer)is delighted , but nothing can be published in the newspapers because they are still on the secret list. There were 200 prisoners taken , plus their lady friends. The place was very lavish inside, containing underground hospital, cinema, and the very delicate machinery they had for detecting both our aircraft and our ships at sea. There was enough food to withstand a siege for a year and I think that we are all going to get a spring mattress for our trenches.

What a triumphal episode to add to the British folklore about technical skill and intelligence prevailing over odds ! Real “ Dirty Dozen” stuff !

The story reveals what Womak’s role was in TAC HQ, Royal Engineers, and might indicate what the task entailed : suppressing German intelligence and its armed deployment, with special importance being attributable to keeping the British and Canadians in touch with each other as the infantry had to slog it out .

I don’t know whether it was the RE or the REME who used to boast “ We do the impossible straight away, but fucking miracles take two minutes longer. “

This qualifies for one of those miracles, I reckon !

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/17/2022 7:32:26 AM
Great story, Phil. What exactly were the differences in skill sets between the Royal Engineers and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers?

Cheers,

George
scoucer
Berlin  Germany
Posts: 2979
Joined: 2010
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/17/2022 9:26:58 AM
Quote:
Great story, Phil. What exactly were the differences in skill sets between the Royal Engineers and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers?

Cheers,

George


Basically, the Royal Engineers build things and the REME repair anything and everything. It was the REME boast.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 12183
Joined: 2009
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/17/2022 10:38:39 AM
Thanks Trevor. Is REME a branch of the RE or a completely independent unit?

George
scoucer
Berlin  Germany
Posts: 2979
Joined: 2010
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/17/2022 1:50:28 PM
Quote:
Thanks Trevor. Is REME a branch of the RE or a completely independent unit?

George


Independent. It is a Corp commandered by a Brigadier. There is ,however, a lot of cooperation with the Royal Engineers and Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Despite a bit of unit rivalry, these units consider themselves the "real" elite of the army.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
redcoat
Stockport  UK
Posts: 364
Joined: 2004
Normandy week by week. Counting the cost
6/24/2022 7:30:46 PM
Quote:
; German troops were still strong, and blending effective defensive warfare with punishing counter-offensives.


Cheers
Brian G
While highly effective in defence, the German counter attacks tended to be highly costly failures for the German forces involved, as by this point in the war the British and Canadians were fully aware of the German obsession with immediate counter attacks and used it to inflict heavy casualties on the German forces exposing themselves in the attack.

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