1st Battalion, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, War Diary, 6-13 October 1944
National Archives of Canada, RG-24, volume 15234
Friday 6 OCTOBER 1944
Sunny and cool with fair visibility. At 0400 hrs the Battalion moved off for the form-up place in WARMSTRAAT and at 0530 hrs the companies were in position and Battalion Command Post established at 023993. The unit spent the day quietly as 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade reserve battalion. The 3″ mortar Platoon gave supporting fire to the Regina Rifles, who, with the 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment crossed the LEOPOLD CANAL in the face of a rain of enemy artillery and machine gun fire, and established two shallow bridgeheads on the North canal bank. The CO [Commanding Officer] attended a Brigade Orders Group at 2100 hrs and on his return at 2230 hrs held a Battalion Orders Group and issued orders for the four rifle companies to cross the canal during the night.
Saturday 7 OCTOBER 1944
Sunny with fair visibility. During the night A and B coys with Maj J.T. Carvell in command crossed the LEOPOLD CANAL over a heavily shelled bridge constructed by RCE [Royal Canadian Engineers] at 042020. Having completed the crossing the two companies, with A Coy leading, moved West along the Canal and by 0700 hrs had reached area of 033023 where a temporary halt was made owing to the presence of a strong enemy force at 034026. While moving up from the bridge, 12 Platoon of B Coy were sent to assist a hard pressed platoon of 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment in repelling a determined enemy counter-attack. A bitter close quarter battle was fought before the attackers were routed. Two Cpls, Goodall, J., and Blue, L.G.S., distinguished themselves in this action by taking PIATs out in the bullet swept open and blasting holes through a windowless brick wall of an enemy occupied house to enable hand grenades to be tossed at the sheltered attackers. A and B Coys opened an assault on the enemy at 034026. B Coy made a frontal attack while A Coy, under cover of a dyke, approached the enemy’s right flank unobserved. On reaching a pt less than a hundred yds from the enemy, A Coy opened up with fire from every available weapon, including PIATs and 2″ Mortars fired at low angle. The surprised Germans offered some confused resistance but were soon overpowered and 64 prisoners were captured while many more were killed. Forty troops of 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment were relieved by this action after having been cut off and believed lost since the previous day. B Coy occupied the area and A Coy returned to their original position along the canal. C and D Coys took up positions to the rear of A and B Coys in the afternoon. Continuous shelling, mortaring and small arm fire made movement almost impossible and the troops suffered greatly from being wet and cold. Casualties for the day were hy and evacuation slow and difficult as wounded had to be carried for over a mile over flooded fields and roads blocked by fallen trees.
Sunday 8 OCTOBER 1944
Partly cloudy and cool with rain in the evening. Visibility poor. At 0100 hrs 6 stretcher bearers were sent to 1 Canadian Scottish Regiment HQ to assist in evacuating wounded. The Battalion Regimental Aid Post moved to 042014 at 0400 hrs. Several counter-attacks involving close quarter fighting were beaten off during the night by the tired but spirited troops and hy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, including several prisoners captured. Lt-Col J.M. Meldram held an Orders Group at 0900 hrs and issued orders for an advance to the West in an attempt to link up with Regina Rifles right flank at 020017. D and C Coys started the adv at 1400 hrs and succeeded in pressing some distance fwd, but owing to hy casualties and lack of ammunition were forced to retire to original positions. A Coy was more successful and reached a pt at 026017 before concentrated enemy artillery and observed machine gun fire forced them to dig in along the canal. Hy casualties were suffered by both sides and the ground was littered with both German and Royal Winnipeg Rifles dead. Two Platoon Commanders, Lt J.A.M. Currie and Lt O.D. Hamilton and A/Coy Comd Capt W.B. Fraser were included among the wounded. Prolonged exposure to wet and cold still had to be endured in flooded slit trenches or smashed buildings as unusually bold enemy snipers and machine-gunners were on the lookout continuously and often succeeded in infiltrating between companies and platoons. Few of these lived to tell their story as the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were no less aggressive. Ammunition, cold rations and casualties still had to be carried for more than a mile.
Monday 9 OCTOBER 1944
Cloudy and cool with hy rain and poor visibility. Patrol activities and beating off counter-attacks occupied the four rifle companies during the night. Much needed reinforcements reached forward positions at 0330 hrs. At 0500 hrs A Coy launched an attack on an enemy outpost to the West and in the face of a hail of artillery and machine gun fire succeeded in destroying the position and occupying area 021018. This success completed the link up with the Regina Rifles and gave 7 Canadian Infantry Brigade an unbroken front. Lt W.G. Speechly with a party of pioneers attempted to clear fallen trees off the road at 040021 during the morning. Hy shell fire made the job impossible and after having suffered several casualties, including Lt Speechly, who was seriously wounded, the party withdrew. The CO attended a Brigade Orders Group at 1100 hrs and received orders to occupy the Southern approaches to the village of GRAAF JAN. With A giving covering fire, B Coy succeeded in reaching the objectives at 1500 hrs. Superior enemy forces in the village forced the coy to withdraw when ammunition was getting low. Hot meals were ferried across the Canal at 024017 during the evening. Wounded were evacuated by the same route. RAP moved to 024013.
Tuesday 10 OCTOBER 1944
Cloudy and cool with slight rain in the afternoon. Visibility poor. C Coy night patrol to GRAAF JAN returned at 0230 hrs without having contacted the enemy. During the morning A Coy assisted the Regina Rifles in destroying an enemy held pill box. Another C Coy patrol to GRAFF JAN failed to contact the enemy but rescued a wounded B Coy man who had been left when his Coy withdrew on the previous day. Enemy shelling was slightly less intense than during the first three days. SA fire continued to make it extremely difficult and dangerous to move about. Supplies and casualties were still ferried across the Canal. Capt H.C. Chadderton of C Coy and Lt L. Mendels of B Coy were among the numerous casualties for the day. Lt-Col J.M. Meldram left the area for medical treatment and the 2 IC [Second in command], Major L.R. Fulton, DSO, took command during the CO’s absence.
Wednesday 11 OCTOBER 1944
Partly cloudy and cool with fair visibility. During the night A Coy captured 28 prisoners who were taking part in a counter-attack on the Regina Rifles right flank. A Scout Patrol sent to GRAAF JAN in the morning were forced to withdraw by hy enemy SA fire from BIEZEN. At 1400 hrs a platoon from C Coy attempted to occupy GRAFF JAN but after a bitter struggle with strong enemy forces from BIEZEN the platoon was forced to withdraw owing to severe casualties and lack of ammunitions. Another C Coy Platoon assisted in the withdrawal by giving intense covering fire. Shelling and SA fire continued to make it impossible to move about in fwd areas except by crawling on the semi flooded ground or in water filled ditches, both of which were littered with German and Canadian dead.
Thursday 12 OCTOBER 1944
Partly cloudy and cool with fair visibility. At 0530 hrs C Coy, assisted by one platoon from A Coy launched a second attack on the village GRAAF JAN and by 0620 hrs the Royal Winnipeg Rifles had succeeded in occupying the village. The enemy immediately launched a determined counter-attack which resulted in a house to house battle and in some cases room to room. Every available weapon was employed by both sides and the issue was undecided until Sgt Kelly of C Coy, with a few of his men rushed out in the open and tossed hand grenades through windows of enemy occupied houses. The exploding grenades were too much for the Germans and leaving many dead and wounded the enemy withdrew to BIEZEN. Casualties among the Royal Winnipeg Rifles were also hy and included Lt D.L. Riesberry and one sec of A Coy who were killed or captured when they were surrounded and had used up all their ammunition. The Battalion snipers were brought forward and succeeded in killing Germans who risked exposing themselves. The remainder of the day was devoted largely to reinforcing the walls of occupied houses and in bringing up food and ammunition.
Friday 13 OCTOBER 1944
Partly cloudy and cool with fair visibility. Activities during the day consisted mainly of patrol activities which involved exchanges of fire with enemies to the North of the Battalion position. A Coy remained at 021019, B at 029023, C at 017023 and D at 030020. During the evening C Coy repelled a counter attack and inflicted severe losses on the enemy. Shelling was less intense but snipers continued to be numerous though less aggressive. Few casualties were suffered and many troops had succeeded in improving water proof shelters.