Remembrance—November 11

The Canadian Army stalled around Caen for more than two months. It has been making small gains against the Germans in many attacks. During these two months, Canadian casualties were higher than during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Field Marshal Montgomery insisted that these battles of attrition were part of his master plan, but Field Marshals tend to plan their battles in reverse, noting that successful battles always went according to plan. The Canadian equipment, especially their tanks and anti tank guns were inadequate, but they kept attacking along with the British and Poles. They eventually cracked the Germans, who retreated across the Seine River. Paris fell shortly thereafter. 5300 Canadians died, and over 13,000 were wounded.

"I don’t know about glory, but I can tell you about heroism. Heroism is Bob Gentles from Kirkland Lake leaving good cover to get 15 yards closer to the Hun machine guns which have put down most of the men in his section in the last few minutes. They fire so fast the barrel has to be changed after 250 rounds. They fire so fast you hear a ripping sound, not the explosion of individual rounds. The German anti-tank guns are so powerful and the Canadian armour so thin that tanks cannot spearhead the attack. The infantry is alone. Bob has had dysentery for six days and little sleep in a week. The water he drinks tastes like pure chlorine and any food he gets passes through him in an hour. There are dead animals and men everywhere which attracts the flies which may carry the dysentery. He’s been away from home for more than four years. During his service, his high-school girlfriend, who became his fiancee, married a deferred man who makes a lot of money in a defense industry. He’s been in the glasshouse because he gets bored and drunk and angry and gets less than 40 dollars a month for his trouble. One of the times he was punished was, true to a Hollywood script, when he got his Dear John letter. His little pay has been stopped for punishment on four occasions. Three of his best friends have been killed and one lost a foot. He just crawled by the body of one of these friends, Alvin Crenwood, he had known since they were boys. Alvin has lain under the July Normandy sun for three days. It’s Bob’s battalion third attack on this position. His battalion, at full strength has 800 men. They went into this attack with 275. Bob still crawls forward. They have attacked the Germans around Caen many times. Each time it has been infantry against machine guns and Moaning Minnies, the German multi-barrelled rockets. Heroism."

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