Canada in the Second World War

Events

Algonquin Regiment, War Diary, 7-10 March 1945

National Archives of Canada, RG-24, volume 15001

Vicinity VEEN, 7 MAR. 1945

Algonquin Regiment moving forward near the Hochwald Forest, Udem, Germany, March 1st, 1945.

Algonquin Regiment moving forward near the Hochwald Forest, Udem, Germany, March 1st, 1945.
Photo by Jack H. Smith. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-192879.

1. Weather: Bright sunny day – Warm, roads drying nicely. Visibility good.

2. Lt Col Bradburn was called to Brigade Orders Group at 1000 hrs at MR 069347. The battalion, less “D” Coy went back under command 10 Canadian Infantry Brigade – “D” Coy remains with 4 Canadian Armoured Brigade.

3. 10 Brigade task was to attack VEEN (MR 1135). Part of a two battalion show with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment on the right and The Algonquin Regiment on the left. Centre line – Main road SONSBECK – VEEN, included to Algonquin Regiment.

4. Our task was divided into three phases: 1. outlying buildings 700 WEST of VEEN. 2. Buildings at MR 111360. 3. Exploitation into VEEN. Under command was “A” Squadron South Alberta Regiment.

5. Battalion Orders Group was held at PAUHENOF (MR 043364). The following plans was outlined: “A” Coy objective, crossroads at MR 105354 and buildings at MR 105357, called MARCH. “B” Coy objective PIDGEON, buildings MR 102361 and 103358, “C” Coy were subsequently to pass through “B” Coy. Our 3in mortar platoon set up at MR 091353.

6. At 1500 hrs command post was established at MR 093354. “H” Hour was at 1600 hrs. At 1730 hrs “A” and “B” Coys were on their objectives, less certain enemy strong points within their areas and though by this time casualties were well over 50%, the positions were firm and each supported by tanks but there was very little offensive power left in either coy.

7. At 1800 hrs “C” Coy arrived at “B” Coy position with the intention of passing through. Their casualties, mostly from small arm fire were also over 50% and the Commanding Officer ordered that they firm up with “B” Coy in the buildings at MR 102360.

8. “A” and “B” Coys, though firm enough, were never more than 100 yards away from the enemy who were similarly set up in reinforced houses. “B” Coy in attempting to expand their holdings, made two unsuccessful attempts to capture the adjoining buildings, on the first occasion with one officer and 7 other ranks casualties and the second time with 7 more casualties. The Commanding Officer then ordered that no more attempts be made for the present.

9. During the night casualties were evacuated under the difficult conditions of bad ground and heavy fire. Food and ammunitions were delivered to the forward companies and several more tanks fought their way forward to provide support.

10. During all this action most of our casualties were caused bay aimed small arm fire from the reinforced houses in which it was impossible to neutralize the fire even with the guns of our tanks. On one occasion after a tank had fired three rounds of rapid HE through the window of a building, a German soldier stuck his head out of a window and thumbed his nose at the oncoming infantry. Resistance was fanatical and a very small number of prisoners were taken. The percentage of killed to wounded was higher than the battalion has ever experienced. This was due to the aimed small arm fire of the enemy and the absolute lack of cover in the open ground over which the advance took place. The artillery concentrations, although magnificently placed, only served to pout the boch’s head down momentarily and then he would come up to murder our men in the final assault.

Vicinity VEEN, 8 MAR. 1945

1. Weather: Rain in AM. Drizzle at odd times during the day. Visibility poor.

2. All during this day our force was completely pinned down by anti-tank fire, snipers and shelling. Jerry sniping was uncanny and every time a head showed it was almost certain to be picked off. Our tanks, due to bad ground found manoevour almost impossible and were forced to remain strictly on the defensive. However, at no time did the position seem insecure defensively. Company strengths at this time were “A Coy 24; “B” Coy 35; “C” Coy 33. Officer casualties were Lts Fraser and Mowry, Killed, and Lts Brassard, Hawkings and Heywood, wounded.

3. During the day, evacuation of casualties by jeep ambulance was impossible as Jerry completely ignored the existence of the red crosses on the vehicles. No less than three ambulance drivers were hit by enemy snipers before evacuation was discontinued until after dark.

4. It was during this day and night that Lt Burslem, unit signals officer, made no less than eight trips to the forward companies, personally doing line repair. He also guided food and ammunition parties and carried several loads himself. All signals personnel did a mighty fine job during this operation, and in a written tribute to his platoon Lt Burslem modestly makes no mention of his won heroic part.

5. All the shelling in this area appeared to be the result of direct observation from the high ground to the North East. At every sign of vehicle movement anywhere throughout the area, Jerry immediately threw the book at us.

6. One of our command post warriors was heard to remark that he was several times allowed sufficient leeway to go out for a crap, but he was never given time enough to wipe himself.

Vicinity VEEN, 9 MAR. 1945

1. Weather: Cloudy in the AM. Windy with sun out in the afternoon. Visibility good.

2. During the early morning hours, Lt FR Caron was ordered to take command of “A” Coy and to take forward 30 reinforcements who had just arrived in the theatre and none of whom had ever seen battle before.

3. On the left a plan was devised to get Crocodiles [flame throwers] into the area in an attempt to burn Jerry out. Although six crocs started for the area, only one managed to get through and that one had to be smoked in after daylight.

4. At 0830 hrs an attack with the flame thrower and infantry moved onto the buildings at MR 013358 – Results, 12 prisoners of war and 12 civilians taken. The attack then moved towards another house at MR 105357. Here a white flag was draped out of a top window but it was ignored by the attackers. Some Jerries escaped out the back door under cover of smoke but later investigation proved that the attack had netted 15 Germans “well and truly fried”. This was the end for Jerry and at 1000 hrs “A” and “C” Coys pushed forward into VEEN against no resistance.

5. At 1100 hrs the Commanding Officer was advised that the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada were to concentrate in VEEN and the Algonquin Regiment was given the task to clear the wood know as KEATEN (Square 1036) Results – 12 prisoners of war were immediately put to work gathering up both our dead and their own. The battalion then firmed up in this general area.

6. Command post was then established in the house where the 12 civilians were found, and although fraternization was at a minimum, two females were allowed in the building to do the chores and Private Red Gugeon, COs batman, saw to it that they were the best looking of the lot. This house had been booby trapped and Sjt Webb I L, of “B” Coy was killed when pulling a blanket off a bed. Two SBs were wounded when removing sheets for bandages. After this the owner of the house was brought in and threatened with being shot unless he divulged where other booby traps might be located. He apparently had no idea of exact locations, but several rooms where he thought they might exist were locked up and placed out of bounds.

7. As our immediate future was still unknown – reorganization was rampant, although our Quartermaster, Capt W Fischer, maintained the supply of vehicles could not keep up to the demand – The unit losing no less than five vehicles by enemy mines after the action was finished.

8. About midnight it appeared the offensive had started again, but investigation proved it was only the Quartermaster calling for “little Joe” in a crap game.

9. Our total casualties from 27 Feb to 9 Mar were 288 other ranks and 13 officers.

10. The foregoing narrative is the general picture as seen from command post and is based mainly on Lt Col Bradburn’s observations. For a more detailed report of the separate actions by companies, see “Coy Notes” a copy of which is appended to each copy of this narrative.

11. “D” Coy is still engaged in the attack on WINNENTHAL and from reports that keep filtering in, they are putting up a damned fine show.