Canada in the Second World War

Arms & Weapons

Northwest Europe

Allied ammunition dump somewhere in Normandy, 9 June 1944.

Allied ammunition dump somewhere in Normandy, 9 June 1944.
Photo by Ken Bell. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-130150.

While the campaign in Italy wore on, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach on 6 June 1944, and the RCASC organization was not far behind. Lieutenant-Colonel J.R.W.T. Bessonnette, 3rd Division’s CRASC, and his staff landed about an hour and a half after the initial assault to set up the division’s storage dumps of ammunition, supplies, and POL in an open field beside the road running south from Courseulles and about three kilometres from the beach. Beach Ammunition Dumps were also established at Courseulles and Bernières, the latter inside a stone-walled field adjacent to the church. By nightfall the beaches were congested with vehicles, personnel, and stacks of supplies, tempting targets for German snipers and aircraft. Fourteen members of the RCASC were killed in action on D-Day. Bessonnette was killed by shell-fire on 17 June 1944.

Dutch civilians loading a Canadian-supplied truck with food, following agreement amongst Germans, Dutch and Allies about the distribution of food to the Dutch population. Near Wageningen, Netherlands, 3 May 1945.

Dutch civilians loading a Canadian-supplied truck with food, following agreement amongst Germans, Dutch and Allies about the distribution of food to the Dutch population. Near Wageningen, Netherlands, 3 May 1945.
Photo by Alexander M. Stirton. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-134417.

As the Allies advanced into the Netherlands and Germany following the Normandy campaign, supplying First Canadian Army became increasingly complicated by the lengthening lines of communication. Until the Battle of the Scheldt cleared the enemy from the approaches to Antwerp, the DDST First Canadian Army, Brigadier G.E.R. Smith, had to maintain columns of transport stretching back to the Normandy beachhead, a 1600-km, 7-day turnaround, in order to supply the 7000 tons of commodities required each day by the troops. The opening of Antwerp to Allied shipping did not ease his burden, however. By the spring of 1945, when First Canadian Army reached its peak strength, he was responsible for supplying food, ammunition, POL, and other supplies for over 500,000 troops. The RCASC also found itself confronted with the problem of relief for starving Dutch civilians living in the enemy-occupied western Netherlands. Rather than inflict further devastation at this late stage of the war, an unofficial local truce with the German forces came into effect from 0800 hours 28 April 1945, and on 2 May twelve transport platoons of 1st Canadian Corps began delivering 1000 tons of food and fuel per day through the enemy lines. Relief efforts were continued following the final surrender of Nazi Germany a few days later.