Canada in the Second World War

Events

Account on Capturing Germans North of Falaise

Written by Sergeant GARIEPY, 6 Canadian Armoured Regiment

Department of National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage, 141.4A6013 (D3)

My tank was in 2nd Troop under command of Lt THORNTON (now wounded) and we were on the left flank of the Sqn [Squadron] at the Start Line for the attack. The manoeuvres were to be of the highest speed possible to our objective, some high ground overlooking FALAISE.

We began our attack as per order and a high speed dash was made at 1200 hrs. Owing to the speed of the attack, it was not long before we lost usual contact with the other tanks of the sqn. The ground over which were advancing being furnished with natural depression and orchards, numerous hedges and copses. Our troop remained in close contact with each other after meeting and overpowering a number of Anti tank weapons. I counted eight on our immediate front between the Start Line and ROUVRES. We reached the high ground NORTH of ROUVRES and paused to reorganize. Not being able to see my troop leader I called him over the “B” set but without success, I then called him on the “A” set with the same result. Seeing our FIREFLY closeby I signalled by hand that I would give him a call on the “A” set, but he did not receive me. I could hear messages coming in but I was not able to send on either “A” or “B”.

A column of German troops captured near Ifs, Normandy, 8 August 1944.

A column of German troops captured near Ifs, Normandy, 8 August 1944.
Photo by Harold G. Aikman. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-113654.

I went alone on the EAST side of ROUVRES with intentions to remediate my wireless and also to change my Brownings; because of the intense speculative and essential firing done during the drive my two .30 were jammed by heat. Whilst walking in my tank the FireFly moved away and after I looked for it again it was gone. Not being able to repair my set but at least on Browning I decided to form up and conform with the first formation I would meet.

I eventually met Lt EVRETT of “C” Sqn and told him of my reduced efficiency and suggested that I should conform to his troop and adopt Code name No. 5. With him I crossed the river LAIZE on a “Bailey” bridge; then we continued our advance to the high ground SOUTH of ROUVRES; reaching the Apex we swung left (EST) and continued. There was much firing because a big number of the enemy could be seen ahead. My last Browning finally gave up and could not be used any longer. I continued advancing using AP [Armour Piercing] and HE [High Explosive]. There was a big number of heavy calibre enemy guns on our front and the 75 demanded priority. My solenoid firing mechanism (75) also gave out then. My gunner, Tpr [Trooper] P Kaspar said that he could perhaps fix it so I waited for an opportunity of a depression in the ground to take cover and do something about my deplorable condition.

Coming near a copse I was going to halt when I observed a few enemies at the end of the copse. I charged them and being very close, they took fright and came out with the now familiar “KAMERAD”. The first individual being a Major or the equivalent I shouted to him to come forward and I dismounted to search him personally while my crew covered me with the 75 mm. The enemy officer was about to burn some papers, map, diagrams, and sketches with notes which I gave to Bde I.O. [Brigade Intelligence Officer] on my return. There were 16 men there when I arrived and I asked if there were any more he said “yes, in the copse further.” I climbed back in the tank and while my co-driver was covering the prisoners with his Sten [gun], I told the Officer to order the remainder out or I would blast the copse. He gave a command but only two came out and he had shouted very loud, I did not seemed satisfied for he shouted again, this time he said, “All surrender” in German and to add, I fired one round of HE with the mechanical trigger. The remainder came out, 24 men, four of whom were lieutenants. I noticed the majority wore spurs and smelled of stable strongly so I investigated the copse and saw eight guns – 75s and 88s with limber lined up ready to be towed in a line facing our advance. After cleaning the copse of men the number of prisoners was growing all the time, they were coming from everywhere.

I had 110 around my tank in no times so I got the senior officer by my side, ordered him to line them up in fours immediately before my tank, which they did promptly. I then told him to have them drop the rest of their equipment, and they did also. I explained to him that they would march in front of my tank in a column of four and if anyone made a move suspicious to my crew they would fire and shoot the lot. I then ordered the column to march and we moved towards MEZIERE which I knew was occupied by our infantry. On the cross-country march I stayed in the open as much as possible because I did not want my people to fire on me. All the way along we were joined by small isolated groups of more prisoners and when I neared MEZIERE the count had gone over 200.

Just before we reached the village we were fired on by machine gun (enemy). I ordered the POWs [Prisoners of War] to sit down on the spot and having done so I went with my Officer to investigate where the shots came from. The officer told me that in a little bush on our left were 4 SS men who were firing on the prisoners. I dismounted one machine gun and tripod mounted same on a convenient spot and had my co-driver Tpr MILLER and operator Tpr SERWACK man the Browning. It was no good but the prisoners did not know that. I gave orders that if anyone got on his feet or made a move to do so my men would fire on everybody. I got in my tank loaded already with HE, advanced approx 400 yards to the designated spot and fired two rounds into the target. I moved forward and saw what was left of the four SS men and 25mm machine gun.

I rejoined the POW and we advanced on to MEZIERE with no more difficulty. In MEZIERE, the infantry gave me some 25 prisoners and told me the direction to the POW cage. I informed the infantry on the outskirts of the town about the location of the guns in the copse and I saw 6 men going up to guard them. I moved my column from MEZIERE to ROUVRE and collected some more on the way. When reaching ROUVRE I had 352 men. There I was informed by a captain of the Algonquins Regt that there was no POW cage near. He got in contact with his Bde and they gave me the reference point to the nearest one. It was CAUVICOURT, quite a long way.

I marched the column all the way with my tank covering them from the rear, and me leading on foot with the senior officer by my side. We reached CAUVICOURT at darkness much to my relief. There I handed my prisoners to an interrogation officer. He then informed me to stand by because he wanted me to escort them further, to IFS. I explained to him that it was impossible for me to do so because it’s extremely hard to escort POWs with a tank alone. He said he sympathised with me but it could not be helped.

After seeing my men I took it upon myself to refuse. We had had nothing to eat since early morning, we fought at a disadvantage from 1200 to 1600 hrs, herded a few hundred prisoners for 6 miles. It was dark then at approx 2200 hrs, my men were tired so I ordered to pull in a yard under cover, took leave on the QT from the interrogation officer and made the crew take a well earned rest.

The next morning at Day break rejoined Echelon B and reported to Lt Col COLWELL who was the A/Brigadier.

This is in detail the circumstances concerning the capture of 352 German soldiers and 8 pieces of artillery. I recommend it should be credited to C Sqn of our Regt.

P-1109 Sgt LR GARIEPY