Quotulatiousness

July 27, 2014

QotD: Qui veut tout défendre ne sauve rien (Who defends everything defends nothing)

Filed under: Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

This is an elementary and self-evident Principle. Indeed, it is so axiomatic that few examples of it will be given in these pages. The only point to stress is that it is useless to hope to obtain complete security in passive defense. It is also unsound. “He who tries to defend everything saves nothing.” declared Marshal Foch, echoing Frederick the Great. It should be noted that the very act of assuming the offensive imparts a certain degree of security. Make as if to strike a man, and he instinctively assumes a defensive attitude. As General Rowan Robinson expresses it in his Imperial Defence, “The highest form of strategic security is that obtained through the imposition of our will upon the enemy, through seizing the initiative and maintaining it by offensive action.” There may sometimes be an element of risk in this, but, as we have seen, war in its nature involves risk.

Lt. Colonel Alfred H. Burne, The Art of War on Land, 1947.

July 24, 2014

The current organization of the Canadian Army

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 00:03

Canadian Army Land Force CommandI posted a link about a military exercise to be held next month in the Niagara Peninsula, and it mentioned the 31st Brigade, which reminded me I’d lost track of the current organization of the Canadian Army (which back in my day was still hiding under the name “Mobile Command”). In common with other allied armies, the units and organizations have changed significantly since the end of the Cold War — in the case of the Canadian Army, many of the changes were triggered earlier by unification in 1968. In the case of the regular infantry regiments, Wikipedia has this to say about the post-WW2 era:

(more…)

Niagara Peninsula to host brigade-level military exercise in August

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:02

A report in Niagara This Week by Paul Forsyth discusses a major Canadian military exercise to be held in the area next month:

Called Stalwart Guardian 14, the exercise is an annual one for troops across Ontario. But unlike many other training exercises that typically take place on military bases, this one will be much more visible to the public.

Col. Brock Millman, commander of the London, Ont.-based 31 Canadian Brigade Group, said in a letter to Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani earlier this year that the exercise will be “massive,” but will be conducted in a “safe, respectful and environmentally sound manner.”

At the July 15 meeting of Thorold city council, Millman and Maj. Paul Pickering — who is co-ordinating the exercise — said conducting the operation off-base makes it more realistic, because foreign bad guys are likely to hit infrastructure in populated areas.

“The terrain (on bases) is not complex, there are not big buildings, there are not roads, there is not a civilian population,” said Millman. “The training is not as effective as it can be.

“We’re coming here because it’s much more effective.”

Millman’s brigade, which is the reserve Canadian army in southwestern Ontario, is part of the 12,000-strong 4th Canadian division. He said more than 2,000 soldiers — a mix of reservists and veterans of missions in Afghanistan and Bosnia — will descend on Niagara for the exercise running from Aug. 16 to 24.

Back in my day, we’d have a camp established just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake and unless something went wrong, most of the civilian population in the area wouldn’t know we were there except for the unusually high number of short-haired guys in the bars after 6pm. In the mid-1970s, short hair was an unusual fashion statement…

While the soldiers take their soldiering seriously, Millman said there will be civil-military co-operation personnel to arrange interaction between soldiers and Niagara residents.

“Kids will get a chance to climb on their vehicles,” he said. “We’re not going to discourage (residents) from engaging with the soldiers” if it doesn’t conflict with the training, he said.

He told St. Catharines city council on Monday night that people simply find military vehicles fascinating

“There’s a five-year-old child in all of us who thinks…Thomas the Tank (Engine) is pretty cool,” he said. “Thomas the Coyote surveillance vehicle is super cool.”

Thorold city councillor Becky Lott said she hopes there is plenty of publicity about the exercise before soldiers arrive so people don’t fear the worst.

“I can see people calling and saying ‘why is there a tank rolling down my street?’” she said.

Coyotes? In my day we were just getting rid of the Korean War-vintage trucks and jeeps… get off my lawn, you kids!

Coyote Armoured Patrol Vehicle

July 23, 2014

Closing the Eastern Ukraine pocket

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:28

CDR Salamander links to a recent Ukrainian report that seems to show how far the Ukraine forces have come since May in reclaiming territory from the “separatists”:

Click to see full-size image

Click to see full-size image

Look at what has happened in the last two months.

1. Ukraine secured its maritime territory.
2. Ukraine managed to re-establish control over most of its borders – though in a thin salient in some places. Not firm control as we know traffic is getting through, but at least partial control to the point they are willing to claim it.
3. They are pushing to widen the salient in the south while increasing its SE bulge, pushing north along the Russian border.
4. From the north, they are pushing south along the Russian border.
5. Yes kiddies, we have a classic pincer movement to envelope a pocket of the enemy, nee – a double envelopment at that. As a matter of fact, a secondary double envelopment is about to take place in that middle thumb centered on Lysychansk – or at least there is an opportunity for one.

Cut off the Lysychansk based separatists there while at the same time cutting off their unopposed access to the Russian border – and then you can destroy the pro-Russian separatists piecemeal at your leisure.

A quick Google search for “ATO progress map” also turned up this map posted to Twitter a couple of days ago by Viktor Kovalenko:

Click to see full size image

Click to see full size image

As the original CDR Salamander post points out, these are based on claims by one side so apply whatever filters you feel are needed to counteract any PR or propaganda bias.

July 21, 2014

The science of ballistics, the art of war, and the birth of the assault rifle

Filed under: History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 15:47

Defence With A “C” summarizes the tale of how we got to the current suite of modern military small arms. It’s a long story, but if you’re interested in firearms, it’s a fascinating one.

To understand why we’ve arrived where we are now with the NATO standard 5.56mm calibre round you have to go all the way back to the war of 1939-1945. Much study of this conflict would later inform decision making surrounding the adoption of the 5.56, but for now there was one major change that took place which would set the course for the future.

The German Sturmgewehr 44 is widely accepted as the worlds first true assault rifle. Combining the ability to hit targets out to around 500 yards with individual shots in a semi-automatic mode, as well as the ability to fire rapidly in fully automatic mode (almost 600 rounds per minute) the StG 44 represented a bridge between short ranged sub-machine guns and longer ranged bolt action rifles.

[...]

After the second world war the US army began conducting research to help it learn the lessons of its previous campaigns, as well as preparing it for potential future threats. As part of this effort it began to contract the services of the Operations Research Office (ORO) of the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for help in conducting the scientific analysis of various aspects of ground warfare.

On October 1st, 1948, the ORO began Project ALCLAD, a study into the means of protecting soldiers from the “casualty producing hazards of warfare“. In order to determine how best to protect soldiers from harm, it was first necessary to investigate the major causes of casualties in war.

After studying large quantities of combat and casualty reports, ALCLAD concluded that first and foremost the main danger to combat soldiers was from high explosive weapons such as artillery shells, fragments from which accounted for the vast majority of combat casualties. It also determined that casualties inflicted by small arms fire were essentially random.

Allied troops in WW2 had been generally armed with full-sized bolt action rifles (while US troops were being issued the M1 Garand), optimized to be accurate out to 600 yards or more, yet most actual combat was at much shorter ranges than that. Accuracy is directly affected by the stress, tension, distraction, and all-around confusion of the battlefield: even at such short ranges, riflemen required many shots to be expended in hopes of inflicting a hit on an enemy. The ORO ran a series of tests to simulate battle conditions for both expert and ordinary riflemen and found some unexpected results:

A number of significant conclusions were thus drawn from these tests. Firstly, that accuracy — even for prone riflemen, some of them expert shots, shooting at large static targets — was poor beyond ranges of about 250 yards. Secondly, that under simulated conditions of combat shooting an expert level marksman was no more accurate than a regular shot. And finally that the capabilities of the individual shooters were far below the potential of the rifle itself.

This in turn — along with the analysis of missed shots caught by a screen behind the targets — led to three further conclusions.

First, that any effort to try and make the infantry’s general purpose weapon more accurate (such as expensive barrels) was largely a waste of time and money. The weapon was, and probably always would be, inherently capable of shooting much tighter groups than the human behind it.

Second, that there was a practical limit to the value of marksmanship training for regular infantry soldiers. Beyond a certain basic level of training any additional hours were of limited value*, and the number of hours required to achieve a high level of proficiency would be prohibitive. This was particularly of interest for planning in the event of another mass mobilisation for war.

July 18, 2014

QotD: The duty of the soldier

Filed under: History, Liberty, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Every young American today is subject to military service; most of them, as shown by the Mayer Report, et al., are not prepared for it, either emotionally or by formal schooling…

He doesn’t see why he should expose himself to death; nothing in his experience justifies it. The whole thing is wildly implausible and quite unfair — like going to sleep in your own bed and waking up in a locked ward of an insane asylum. It strikes him as rank injustice.

And it is … [sic] the rankest sort of injustice.

My basic purpose, then, was to promote in that prototype youth-in-a-foxhole a better understanding of the nature, purpose and function of the ridiculous and dangerous predicament he found himself in.

There were various ancillary purposes but this was the main one … I was forced to limit my scope to: “Why in hell should a young man in good health be willing to fight and perhaps die for his country?” …

I do not expect you to like the book, nor to speak approvingly of it, since you quite clearly do not like it and do not approve of it. But, in fairness, I ask that you, in published criticism of it, (a) read more carefully what I did say and not impute to it things which I did not say, and (b) judge it within its obvious limitations as a short first-person commercial novel and not expect it to unscrew the inscrutable with respect to every possible facet of an extremely complex philosophical question (i.e., don’t expect of me more than you require of yourself).

Robert A. Heinlein, letter to Theodore Cogswell 1959-12-04, quoted in William H. Patterson Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 2014).

July 12, 2014

Canadians fighting in foreign wars – idealists, mercenaries … and jihadis

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In the Globe and Mail, Jack Granatstein remembers many occasions where individual Canadians have chosen to get involved in other peoples’ wars:

Some historical perspective might suggest that Canadians serving in foreign armies is not new to our times. Many Canadians served in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, fighting for the Union and against slavery. Upward of 50,000 Canadians are estimated to have enlisted in the Union forces, and a few hundred wore Confederate grey. Union recruiters operated openly in the Canadas during the war, and many Canadians went south to join up. Even Calixa Lavallée, the composer of O Canada, served as a Union officer. No one objected strenuously.

A few years later, Bishop Ignace Bourget and the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec raised troops to help defend the Papal States against the forces seeking unification of Italy. More than 500 well-educated francophones enlisted in the Papal Zouaves, ready to sail to Italy to defend the Vatican’s territory. Not all the Zouaves made it to Rome by the time the struggle ended in 1870, but eight died. Once again there were few complaints, although Protestants were surely annoyed at this ultramontane Catholic fervour.

In the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War pitted General Francisco Franco’s Nationalists against the Republican government of Spain. Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy supported the Nationalists. The Soviet Union backed the Republicans; so did at least 1,300 Canadians who volunteered to fight against fascism and went to Spain to serve in what went on to become the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, while another 300 fought in the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

The worry about today’s Canadians-fighting-in-foreign-wars revolves primarily around young Muslim men going abroad to fight religious wars. Thus far, few of them have come back to Canada with an obvious intent to bring the war back with them:

None of those war veterans brought jihad home to Canada, a legitimate concern we live with today, although some communists who fought in Spain might have had attitudes inimical to the Canadian capitalist state. Most of the Islamist volunteers, if they survive to return to Canada, will likely settle down to a “normal” life. But so long as ideology, religion, adventurism and a soldier’s pay still matter, Canadians will likely continue going off to fight in other people’s wars.

July 6, 2014

QotD: The inherent weakness of the defence

Filed under: Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

At first sight the chances would appear to favor the defender; for he can remain still, he can dig, he can shoot accurately; whereas the assailant, while on the move, is dangerously exposed and can do none of these things. The latter, however has important advantages on his side. The forward rush, the excitement, a goal to win, combine to give him a moral uplift wholly lacking in the defender, who is always looking to right and left, anxious lest his flanks be turned and communications severed. The assailant, especially against a passive defense, has freedom of action and power of maneuver and can accordingly concentrate superior forces against any selected point of his adversary’s line, or where the front is not continuous against his flanks and rear.

Major-General H. Rowan Robinson, quoted in The Art of War on Land by Lt. Colonel Alfred H. Burne, 1947.

June 21, 2014

New Zealand’s Defense Capability Plan

Filed under: Military, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:05

At The Diplomat, Ankit Panda reports on the recent Defense Capability Plan (DCP) released by the New Zealand government:

The DCP emphasizes enhancing the NZDF’s “proficiency at joint operations and growing its combat, combat support and combat service support capabilities.” The shortest term goal for the NZDF as explained in the DCF is to achieve Joint Taskforce Capability by 2015. In the medium term, by 2020, the NZDF will focus on enhancing its combat capability. According to the DCP, the NZDF will be charged with:

  • defending New Zealand’s sovereignty;
  • discharging [New Zealand’s] obligations as an effective ally of Australia;
  • contributing to and, where necessary, leading peace and security operations in the South Pacific;
  • making a credible contribution in support of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region;
  • protecting New Zealand’s wider interests by contributing to international peace and security, and the international rule of law;
  • contributing to whole of Government efforts to monitor the international strategic environment; and
  • being prepared to respond to sudden shifts and other disjunctions in the strategic environment.

The DCP sets out some of New Zealand’s longer term procurement concerns. The country will have to replace its aging C-130H and Boeing 757 fleets “in the early 2020s.” Additionally, ANZAC frigates and the highly versatile P-3K2 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft “will also reach the end of their service life in the 2020s.”

The DCP can be read here.

June 18, 2014

Is the RCN “kicking the tires” of the Mistral?

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:59

The French navy is visiting Canada’s East coast this week, taking part in Exercise LION MISTRAL. David Pugliese reported on the operation a few days ago:

Approximately 200 Canadian Army soldiers from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group in Valcartier, Quebec will take part in Exercise LION MISTRAL alongside members of the French Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force from June 16-23, 2014, in Gaspé, Quebec, according to a news release from the DND.

  • Canadian Army soldiers, primarily from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (1 R22eR), will board The Mistral, the French amphibious assault ship and helicopter carrier in Halifax on June 18; 

  • Canadian Army troops will conduct littoral operations, including running air-land operations and battle procedures, and establishing a helicopter landing site and a beachhead. Ex LION MISTRAL will also feature a humanitarian assistance air evacuation operation that will help train expeditionary forces to respond to humanitarian disasters;


  • Ex LION MISTRAL will culminate in two disembarkation operations on a Gaspé beach on June 20-21 marking the end of the amphibious exercise. In response to a request by the town of Gaspé, the members of the 1 R22eR will also be offering a static display of their vehicles and equipment on June 21;


  • More than 400 French Navy members of The Mistral and 175 of La Fayette will be participating alongside some 200 Canadian soldiers, including 20 engineers from 5 Combat Engineer Regiment from Valcartier;



On Flickr a couple of photos from yesterday, as equipment was being loaded onto Mistral in Halifax:

Members of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment load light armored vehicles onboard the French Navy amphibious ship Mistral as part of Exercise LION MISTRAL 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 17, 2014. Photo: MCpl Patrick Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera IS2014-3030-06

Members of the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment load light armored vehicles onboard the French Navy amphibious ship Mistral as part of Exercise LION MISTRAL 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 17, 2014.
Photo: MCpl Patrick Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera IS2014-3030-06

Halifax, Nova Scotia.  FS Mistral (L-9013) is an Amphibious assault ship, and lead ship of her class. She was commissioned in 2006. She features a landing craft dock, and Helicopter facilities. Photo: Halifax Shipping News

Halifax, Nova Scotia.
FS Mistral (L-9013) is an Amphibious assault ship, and lead ship of her class. She was commissioned in 2006. She features a landing craft dock, and Helicopter facilities.
Photo: Halifax Shipping News

Additional photos by M/Cpl Blanchard were posted on the Ottawa Citizen website.

June 9, 2014

The not-so-hidden racism in the Bergdahl release

Filed under: Humour, Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:22

Nicole Mullen explains why you’re an awful racist if you don’t see the awful racism in the swap of five Taliban prisoners for US Army hero/deserter Bowe Bergdahl:

Treating politics like professional wrestling rivalries comes with its fair share of downfalls though, and this Bergdahl case is a perfect example of such shortcomings. As a leftist myself, I was quick to dismiss any notion of Bergdahl’s traitorous behavior, nor did I take exception to Obama’s decision to circumvent congressional approval when he released five terrorists from Gitmo. I simply read that a trade occurred, googled to find out how the right felt about it, and then blindly argued against every single point that they made. Is Bergdahl a deserter? Of course not, he’s a hero. What evidence do I have of that? None. Who cares? I’m right and you’re wrong.

But, this is where the breakdown occurs, because there’s something my fellow liberals are missing in all of this, and only part of it is to blame on fervent, unquestioning support of the president. It’s odd to me that in a whole industry of race obsessed blowhards collecting freelancing checks, I’m the only one who noticed how racist the Bergdahl trade was.

I want to make it clear that I’m not criticizing the president for his decision to rescue Bergdahl, but there’s something that the white left is afraid to talk about here. When Obama traded five men of color for one white man – he made a very clear statement about race. He let the entire world know that one white life is worth at least five brown ones, and that is incredibly fucked up and gross and problematic.

Think for a second – if Bush had made that trade, is there any doubt that we would be calling him out for how outrageously racist it was? If a white man had traded five brown men for one white man, we would be quick to see it for what it was – an affirmation of white privilege and power. But, because Obama is a man of color himself, it seems as if no one noticed.

I can only imagine the struggle Obama, a man of people of color, must have felt as he authorized that trade. He was betraying himself – the black part of himself – while simultaneously affirming the privilege and power structures inherent in the white part of himself. The courage it took to make that decision is remarkable, and again, I feel like he made the right choice, but we should really look at this situation and use it as a way to reflect on our cultural attitudes to the devaluation and reductive characterization of colorful men that we objectify through cisrace projections of cultural self-worth.

June 8, 2014

Modern weapons would make a D-Day style landing almost impossible

Filed under: Military, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:34

At The Diplomat, Zachary Keck looks at how the evolution of military technology would make future D-Day style invasions much more difficult:

Seaborne invasions are one of, if not the most, difficult kind of military operation. That is partially why, as Mearsheimer points out, the great stopping power of water is so consequential in international politics. At first glance, it might seem like the innovations in transportation and communication technology that have triggered globalization would make contemporary amphibious assaults easier

Not so, however. To begin with, many of the basic challenges that have always plagued seaborne invasions are rooted in geography, which remains relatively fixed. Namely, the defending force in amphibious invasions are usually heavily fortified while the landing force typically has to initially fight in the open. The landing force also remains extremely vulnerable before actually reaching land, especially since the defending force can rely on land-based defense systems.

In fact, as Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm, points out, modern defense technologies have made amphibious assaults much more difficult. The most “significant development” since World War II, Stratfor points out, is precision-guided munitions (these did exist in rudimentary form during the conflict). The analysis goes to explain:

“A contemporary landing force would approach the beachhead in an amphibious landing vehicle such as the U.S. Assault Amphibious Vehicle, which moves at around 13 kph (8 mph). This would be vulnerable to anti-tank guided missiles fired from positions onshore. On D-Day, ships in the Allied invasion fleet were also able to come relatively close to shore to deploy landing craft. The deadly threat of anti-ship cruise missiles in modern warfare would force a modern fleet to remain farther out to sea, leaving amphibious vehicles even more exposed.”

This last point is especially important. As Sydney Freedberg noted back in April, “The new [Marine] Corps concept, Expeditionary Force 21, predicts long-range threats will force the fleet to stay at least 65 nautical miles offshore, a dozen times the distance that existing Marine amphibious vehicles are designed to swim.”

Smaller invasions against undefended coastline — think of both the initial Argentinian attack on the Falkland Islands and the British counter-attack as examples — are still possible, especially in bolt-from-the-blue surprise fashion, but an attack against an active defence with modern weapons might well be unacceptably hard for even the US Marine Corps.

June 7, 2014

China’s Taiwan military end-game options

Filed under: China, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:14

At Business Insider, Armin Rosen examines what might happen if China decided to resolve the status of Taiwan by military force:

War from the air. The entire island sits within range of Chinese surface to air and short-range ballistic missile systems:

Taiwan Strait SAM and SRBM coverage

Taiwan Strait SAM and SRBM coverage

Constant air attacks could “degrade Taiwan’s defenses, neutralize Taiwan’s leadership, or break the Taiwan people’s will to fight.”

A full-scale invasion. Chinese military thinkers have published numerous texts thinking through the realities of an amphibious landing in Taiwan. One, entitled the Joint Island Landing Campaign, “envisions a complex operation relying on coordinated, interlocking campaigns for logistics, air, and naval support, and electronic warfare.”

The report doesn’t think that an invasion is necessarily within China’s current capabilities, and notes that China is mindful of the international scorn that such aggression would invite. But China could seize smaller inhabited Islands that Taiwan claims. And the country maintains numerous military assets in and around the Strait:

PLA forces in Nanjing

PLA forces in Nanjing

PLA forces in Guangzhou

PLA forces in Guangzhou

And if China establishes a beach head, it would enjoy a substantial manpower advantage over the Taiwanese military: China has 400,000 troops positioned around the Strait, compared to 130,000 total combat soldiers in Taiwan’s standing army.

June 6, 2014

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion War Diary

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:38

Excerpt from 6 June, 1944:

6th June 1944

Place: Carter Bks, Bulford

The initial stages of operation OVERLORD insofar as the 1st. Cdn. Parachute Battalion was concerned, were divided into three tasks. The protection of the left flank of the 9th Para Battalion in its approach march and attack on the MERVILLE battery 1577 was assigned to “A” Company. The blowing of two bridges over the RIVER DIVES at 1872 and 1972 and the holding of feature ROBEHOMME 1873 was assigned to “B” Company with under command one section of 3 Para Sqdn Engineers. The destruction of a German Signal Exchange 1675 and the destruction of bridge 186759 plus neutralization of enemy positions at VARRAVILLE 1875 was assigned to “C” Company.

The Battalion was to drop on a DZ 1775 in the early hours of D Day, “C” Company dropping thirty minutes before the remainder of the Battalion to neutralize any opposition on the DZ. The Battalion emplaned at Down Ampney Airfield at 2250 hours on the 5th June, 1944. “C” Company travelled in Albemarles and the remainder of the Battalion in Dakotas (C-47). The flight was uneventful until reaching the French coast when a certain amount of A.A. fire was encountered. Upon crossing the coast-line numerous fires could be seen which had been started by the R.A.F. bombers. Unfortunately the Battalion was dropped over a wide area, some sticks landing several miles from their appointed R.V.. This factor complicated matters but did not deter the Battalion from securing its first objectives.

Protection of Left Flank of 9 Para Bn – A Company

“A” Company was dropped at approximately 0100 hours on the morning of 6th June, 1944. Lieut. Clancy, upon reaching the Company R.V. found only two or three men of the Company present. After waiting for further members, unsuccessfully, of the Company to appear, he decided to recce the village of GONNEVILLE SUR-MERVILLE 1676. Taking two men he proceeded and penetrated the village but could find no sign of the enemy. He then returned to the Company R.V. which he reached at approximately 0600 hours and found one other Officer and twenty Other Ranks of the Battalion and several men from other Brigade Units waiting. The entire body then moved off along the pre-arranged route to the MERVILLE battery. Encountering no other opposition enroute other than heavy R.A.F. Bombardment at GONNEVILLE SUR-MERVILLE. Upon completion of the 9th Battalion task the Canadian party acted first as a recce patrol to clear a chateau 1576 from which a German M.G. had been firing and then acted as a rear guard for the 9th Battalion withdrawal toward LE PLEIN 1375. The party left the battalion area (9th Battalion) at LE PLEIN at 0900 hours and reached the 1st Cdn. Para. Bn. position at LE MESNIL BAVENT cross roads 139729 at 1530 hours on the 6th June, 1944.

ROBEHOMME – “B Company

Two platoons of “B” Company were dropped in the marshy ground south and west of ROBEHOMME. Elements of these platoons under Sgt. OUTHWAITE then proceeded toward the Company objective. Enroute they encountered Lieut. TOSELAND with other members of “B” Company making a total of thirty All Ranks. They were guided through the marshes and enemy minefields to the ROBEHOMME bridge by a French Woman. On arriving at the bridge they met Capt. D. GRIFFIN and a further thirty men from various sub-units of the Battalion, including mortars and vickers Platoons. MAJOR FULLER who had been there for some time left in an attempt to locate Battalion Headquarters. Capt. GRIFFIN waited until 0630 hours for the R.E.’s who were to blow the bridge. As they failed to arrive explosives were collected from the men and the bridge successfully demolished.

A guard was left on the bridge and the main body withdrawn to the ROBEHOMME hill. Although there were no enemy in the village there were several skirmishes with enemy patrols who were attempting to infiltrate through the village and some casualties were suffered by the Company. An O.P. was set up in the church spire. An excellent view was obtained of the road from PONT DE VACAVILLE 2276 to VARRAVILLE. Artillery and infantry could be seen moving for many hours along this road from the East. It was particularly unfortunate that wireless communication could not be made with Bn. H.Q. as the subsequent fighting of the Battalion was carried out in such close country that observation of enemy movement was almost impossible.

At 1200 hours on the 7th June, 1944, it was decided to recce the route to Bn. H.Q.. Upon the route being reported clear orders were issued for the party to prepare to join Bn. H.Q. Lieut. I. WILSON, Bn. I.O. came from LE MESNIL to guide the party back. The move was made at 2330 hours, the strength of the party by this time being 150 All Ranks, the addition having been made by stragglers of various units who had reported in. The wounded were carried in a civilian car given by the cure, and a horse and cart given by a farmer. The route was BRIQUEVILLE 1872 to BAVENT road 169729, through the BOIS DE BAVENT and on to LE MESNIL cross roads. Near BRIQUEVILLE the lead platoon was challenged by enemy sentries. The platoon opened fire killing seven and taking one prisoner. Shortly afterwards this same platoon was fortunate enough to ambush a German car which was proceeding along the road from BAVENT. Four German Officers were killed. Bn. Headquarters was reached at 0330 hours on the 8th June, 1944.

VARRAVILLE – “C” Company

The majority of “C” Company was dropped west of the RIVER DIVES, although some sticks were dropped a considerable distance away including one which landed west of the RIVER ORNE. Due to this confusion the company did not meet at the R.V. as pre-arranged but went into the assault on the Chateau and VARRAVILLE in separate parties. MAJOR McLEOD collected a Sgt. and seven O.R.’s and proceeded towards VARAVILLE. En route they were joined by a party under Lieut. WALKER. One of the Sgts. was ordered to take his platoon to take up defensive positions around the bridge that the R.E. sections were preparing to blow. This was done and the bridge was successfully demolished.

MAJOR McLEOD and Lieut. WALKER with the balance of the party then cleared the chateau and at the same time other personnel of “C” Company arrived from the DZ and cleared the gatehouse of the chateau. The gatehouse then came under heavy M.G. and mortar fire from the pill box situated in the grounds of the chateau. The pill-box also had a 75 mm A/Tk. Gun. The whole position was surrounded by wire, mines and weapon pits. MAJOR McLEOD, Lieut. WALKER and five O.R.’s went to the top floor of the gatehouse to fire on the pillbox with a P.I.A.T. the enemy 75mm A/Tk. Gun returned fire and the shot detonated the P.I.A.T. ammunition. Lieut. WALKER, CPL. OIKLE, PTES. JOWETT and NUFIELD were killed and MAJOR McLEOD and PTE. BISMUKA fatally wounded. PTES. DOCKER and SYLVESTER evacuated these casualties under heavy fire. CAPT. HANSON, 2 i/c of “C” Company was slightly wounded and his batman killed while proceeding to report to the Brigade Commander who had arrived in the village from the area in which he dropped. “C” Company, together with elements of Brigade H.Q. and the R.E.’s took up defensive positions around the village and a further party encircled the pill-box in order to contain the enemy. A further party of “C” Company under Lieut. McGOWAN who had been dropped some distance from the DZ arrived in VARAVILLE in time to catch two German Infantry Sections who were attempting to enter the town. Lieut. McGOWAN’s platoon opened fire causing casualties and the remainder of the enemy surrendered. This platoon took up firing positions firing on the enemy pill-box. “C” Company H.Q. which was located in the church yard pinned an enemy section attempting to advance in a bomb crater killing at least three. The chateau was evacuated by our troops and left as a dressing station. An enemy patrol re-entered the chateau and captured the wounded including Capt. BREBNER, the Unit M.O., and C.S.M. Blair of “B” Company. This patrol although attacked by our own troops managed to escape with their prisoners.

Heavy enemy Mortar Fire and sniping was brought to bear on our positions from the woods surrounding VARAVILLE. During this time the local inhabitants were of great assistance, the women dressing wounds and the men offering assistance in any way. One Frenchman in particular distinguished himself. Upon being given a red beret and a rifle he killed three German Snipers. This man subsequently guided the Brigade Commander and his party towards LE MESNIL. Although it is believed he was a casualty of the bombing attack that caught this party enroute to LE MESNIL.

At approximately 1030 hours the enemy pill-box surrendered. Forty-two (42) prisoners were taken and four of our own men who had been captured were released. From 1230 hours on artillery fire was brought to bear on VARAVILLE from the high ground east of the RIVER DIVES. At 1500 hours cycle troops of the 6th Commando arrived and at 1730 hours on 6 June, 1944, “C” Company proceeded to the Bn. area at LE MESNIL. The german prisoners giving evident satisfaction to the French population enroute.

VICKERS PLATOON – Initial Stages

The Vickers platoon was dropped in four sticks of ten or eleven each being a total of forty-one (41) All Ranks. For the first time their M.G.’s were carried in Kit Bags, a number of which tore away and were lost.

The Platoon was dropped over a wide area, a part of them joining “C” Company’s attack on VARAVILLE, part joining “B” Company at ROBEHOMME and part joining Bn. H.Q.. Casualties on the drop totalled twelve missing and three wounded. One of the missing, PTE. PHIPPS, was identified in a photo in a German newspaper found on a P.W. After the initial Company tasks had been accomplished the platoon was deployed to the Companies as single gun detachments or as Sections.

MORTAR PLATOON – Initial Stages

The Mortar Platoon was dropped over a wide area and suffered very heavy loss in equipment due to kit bags breaking away and a great majority of the men landing in marshy ground. As the platoon dropped they attached themselves to the nearest company they could find and assisted in the capture of the objectives. One detachment commander landed on top of the German pill-box at VARAVILLE. He was made prisoner and spent the rest of the time in the pill-box until the Germans surrendered to “C” Company. A point of interest was that the P.I.A.T. Bombs did definite damage to the interior of the pill-box and had a very towering effect upon the morale of the defenders.

Some of the Mortar Platoon which joined “B” Company at ROBEHOMME were detailed to guard the approaches to the destroyed bridge. Three enemy lorries full of infantry appeared on the other side of the bridge. The guard opened fire knocking out one truck killing most of its occupants. The other two lorries were able to withdraw. One of our own men who was a prisoner in the lorry was able to make good his escape.

Upon the detachments arriving at LE MESNIL they were re-grouped as a platoon and given three mortars which had arrived by sea. These mortars were set up in position in the brickworks where they engaged the enemy.

BATTALION HEADQUARTERS – Initial Stages

The Commanding Officer, 2 i/c, Signals Officer and the Intelligence Officer and a small portion of the Battalion Headquarters together with elements of 224 Para Fd. Ambulance and other Brigade Units met at the Battalion R.V. in the early hours of the morning of 6th June, 1944. The Signals Officer was detailed to look after the Enemy Signal Exchange near the R.V.. He went into the house and found a certain amount of Signals equipment which he destroyed but he found no Germans. The Intelligence Officer set out with two men to recce VARAVILLE and bring back a report on the situation. In the Battalion Headquarters meantime the party moved off to LE MESNIL taking with them many scattered elements including a 6 Pdr. A/Tk. Gun and crew. Upon reaching the Chateau 1574 they encountered part of the Brigade Headquarters. The party there upon split up into unit parties and continued until they reached the orchards 141729 where they came under heavy sniping fire from nearby houses. This fire caused several casualties including one Officer. The enemy were forced to withdraw from the buildings after an attack by the party. The party reached the Battalion area at approximately 1100 hours on 6th June, 1944.

H/T to @LCMSDS for the link.

Update: War diaries for units in the 3rd Canadian Division in Normandy can be read here.

Canadian paratroopers on D-Day – “he thought we were battle hardened and we were as green as green could be”

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Lance Corporal John Ross tells the Ottawa Citizen about his D-Day experiences with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion:

“We attacked the strong point; there was an all-night fire fight. We had casualties and the Germans did too. At about 10 o’clock in the morning they surrendered. There were about 30 of us there, 42 Germans surrendered to us. They outnumbered us and they out gunned us,” describes Capt (Ret) John Ross, now 93 years-old recalling his time as a paratrooper who dropped several kilometers inland of Normandy on D-Day.

“We took off on the 5th of June, one day before D-Day. C Company was given the job to go in 30 minutes ahead to clear the drop zone of any enemy and attack the German complex.”

Capt (Ret) Ross served as a Lance Corporal in C Company, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 3rd Airborne Brigade, 6th British Airborne Division. He was dropped from an Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle, a small two engine paratroop transport aircraft.

[...]

When thinking back to his time in Normandy Capt (ret) Ross remembers how Canadian soldiers were thought of as, seasoned warriors.

“I read an excerpt written by a German General after the war. He was in that area that we dropped in and he said that the reason they were overcome was because they faced battle hardened Canadians. I’d like to write a letter to him and say none of those Canadians had ever heard a shot fired in anger; he thought we were battle hardened and we were as green as green could be.”

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