Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

The Battle For Verrières Ridge

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by Spaniard, Feb 17, 2010.

  1. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    The Battle of Verrières Ridge from the perspective of many military historians battle tacticians, and the 1st Canadian Army
    History of WWII. This battle is remembered for its horrific costly carnage and strategic tactical, miscalculations, off the
    ignorance and incompetence of the actions taken by Lt.-Gen. Guy Granville Simonds, a supposedly experienced artillery commander.
    Mostly being the controversial attack by The Black Watch “Royal Highland Regiments” Of Canada, on July 25th 1944. The
    Battle of Verrières Ridge was part of a series of engagements fought as part of the Battle for Normandy, in Western France
    during World War II. The main opponents were The 1st Canadian Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Harry Crerar.
    Consisted of the British I Corps, responsible for the extreme eastern flank of the Allied lines, and 2nd Canadian Corps south of Caen.
    II Corps, which was commanded by Simonds, consisted of the, 2nd Canadian Division, 3rd Canadian Division British 51st
    Division, against three divisions+++ of seasoned well equipped as embedded German SS. Montgomery's plan was a “holding attack”
    The Canadian and British forces would have to conduct in accordance with "Montys" plan, to create the opportunity for
    a decisive blow on the opposite flank, to insure a succesfull "breakthrough" From the US in Opreation Cobra.

    Lt.-Gen. Simonds after having received confirmed intelligence reports of the massive build up, he dismissed them. "Jerry" hand
    embedded and fortified the area with more troops, artillery and heavy armour. Since the “Jerries” were expecting further attacks
    and a push out of Caen in Calvados, by the Allied forces in anticipation fortified Verrières Ridge like a fortress and the surrounding
    areas in the days preceding the attack. By the end of 24th July, 480 tanks, 500 field guns, and four additional infantry battalions
    of 600 men each had been moved into the sector by the Germans.

    "Spring" was a III main phase Operation with a fourth phase that would move in armour and artillery to reach the final objective
    south of the ridge. Each phase of the plan required precision and timing. If any phase of the plan would be delayed, it would result
    in devastating faller. The 3rd phase was considered the most important which fell on the Shoulders of, The Black Watch Royal
    Highland Regiment of Canada. Operation Spring was called off on the 26th with a relentless German counter attack.



    Questions:


    Was Lt.-Gen. Guy Simonds a Competent Professional Battlefield Op Commander?

    In Op Spring and Atlantic, Lt.-Gen. Guy Simonds went on record Blaming the Infantry Regiments Commanders for the
    High casualties and failures, as The Black Watch for it's "Tactically Unsound & Detailed Execution" Who really holds
    the Blame for the Needless Carnage?

    Lt.-Gen. Simonds, Brig.-Gen. Megill and Maj.-Gen. Foulkes received vital Intel information concerning the Iron mines Long
    underground tunnels and ventilation system that connected the Villages “The Factory area” never seeing the importance of
    passing down the Intel to the C.O’s. of the Infantry Regiments. Why?

    Lt.-Gen. Simonds in a 1946 report, declared that Operation Spring was designed not as a "Breakout" battle. Merrily a “Holding Attack”
    to distract the Germans, While allowing the US in Op Cobra on Simonds Right flank to break out. Was it really as ordered by
    "Monty", a "Holding Attack" Or was it a "Breakout Attack"?

    The original mission according To The Black Watch War O.R. The plan: Camerons Of Canada to clear St. Andre-sur-Orne,
    Calgary Highlanders to take St. Martin de Fontenay and our Bn. to take May-sur-Orne. End Then all 4 would
    Assemble and start an Assault on Verrières Ridge. Who changed the Plans, Mission of the Black Watch and what was the New Objective.?

    On The 25th Maj.-Gen. Foulkes sent Brig.-Gen. Megill to inssuer the Black Watch “Get Cracking!” Megill arrived around 08.30hrs
    in St. Martin with Lt Colonel Neighswander, CO 5th Field Artillery. Griffin stood looking over towards May completing his order
    group, in a battle battered house with a fenced porch. What really happened and said in that meeting?

    Maj. Griffin, how the Heck did The Black Watch get to the Start Line before 09.30hrs on the "Minors Road" leading to Fontenay-le-Marmon
    600 yards away from Verrières Ridge?? Fontenay was fortified and crawling with Germans!

    On July 25th The Camerons Of Canada to clear ST. Andre-sur-Orne, Calgary Highlanders to take St. Martin de Fontenay with
    18 tanks from B SQN of the 1st Hussars. Evidence clearly shows around 8 tanks can be accounted arriving in St Martin that morning.
    On their approach at 05.30hrs, Only 4 tanks arrived in the out skirts of May to fined "The Calgary Coys" with High Casualties.
    In which 2 Tanks were destroyed attacking May as 2 were also destroyed in St.Andre. Did those tanks ever reach
    The Black Watch for support as promised and how?

    Let.-Gen. Simonds had twenty Regiments of artillery and two armoured divisions available.What happened to the Artillery
    barrage and Tanks, supporting The Black Watch on Verrières Ridge?

    Was the “Regimental Honour” Of The Black Watch ever at stack & The Black Watch Never Retreats?

    Was Maj. Griffin on the 25th Responsible for the deaths and injuries of the men under his command? Would a more Mature
    and seasoned leader, have prevented the outcome?

    Did Maj. Griffin on the 25th for his actions. Professore "Copp" Stated "Professional Leadership" and Others for his Gallant
    heroics Merit a nomination and be awarded “The Victoria Cross!”?


    The British were still called Tommies by the Germans in World War II. The phrase "for you Tommy, the War is over!

    Following British defeat by the Boers at the Battle of Magersfontein in December 1899, Private Smith of the Black Watch,
    wrote the following poem:

    Such was the day for our regiment,
    Dread the revenge we will take.
    Dearly we paid for the blunder!

    A drawing-room General’s mistake.
    Why weren’t we told of the trenches?
    Why weren’t we told of the wire?
    Why were we marched up in column!
    May Tommy Atkins enquire…


    Lest We Forget. Spañiard over and Out,,,............
     
  2. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    Battle Maps for US Operation Cobra


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    Frist Map Canadian Landing on D-Day
    [​IMG]



    Battle Maps of Operation Goodwood, Atlantic & Spring
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]




    [​IMG]




    The Below are Aerial Recon Intel Pictures of Verrières Ridge, and area.

    Second Picture May-sur-Orne (right center) and Fontenay-le-Marmion (left top corner). The "factory" south of St. Martin
    may be seen at the bottom right corner of the photograph. Note the shape of the fields 2” (the field is rectangular light
    colour, dark and light) from the bottom left which correspond to the crest of Verrieres Ridge. The minors road running
    eastnorth from May on the right was the Black Watch start line. (LCMSDS)

    The third Picture St Martin-de-Fontenay and the "factory" Tower (bottom Left) and May-sur-Orne (top) Left Minors Road `
    The Black Watch Start Line Photo taken on 7 August 1944. (LCMSDS) and fourth Picture shows the Famous Factory Area!

    5th Picture Looking back to St. Martin from the north edge of May-sur-Orne, the mine tower in the "factory" area is clearly visible as is the
    Church 2”to the right from the Tower in St. Martin. Point 67 may be seen in the background (Photo taken in 1946). (PMR 90-412)
     

    Attached Files:

  4. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    Have you read the books by George Blackburn or Dennis Whitaker, which are accounts by men who were there, but who also did comprehensive research? You quote Terry Copp, so I am assuming you have read Fields of Fire.

    George Blackburn in his introduction to The Guns of Normandy notes:

    page xii
    "No one has succeeded in accurately describing the ferocity of the battles for Verriere Ridge and beyond. And perhaps no one ever willl, for few who served with the rifle companies of the infantry battalions, including artillery FOOs and their crews, managed to survive more than a few days

    Some were casualties within hours of joining units, and, of the few who survived to see it through all the way with a rifle company, none seemingly have been able or willing to write of it. During my interviews with them - many of which were conducted right after the war ended, when battle experiences should still have been alive and clear - I discovered that for those who had survived the worst of it, memories of Normandy were blurred and disordered bits and pieces. While retaining vivid impressions, they recalled few details and resorted to generalities when they tried to describe them."

    Further, on at page xiv:

    "I think I would have keeled over in shock had I come across one historian, purporting to describe the battles on the road to Falaise, who once acknowledgeed that those battles (like those in every major operation extending over several weeks) were not fought by alert, well-rested, well-fed, healthy men, but by men suffering utter exhaustion, from heat and dysentery and the neverending itching induced by lice and sand fleas, from never being allowed to stretch out and get a night's sleep, and from continuously living with grinding tension arising from the irrepressible dread of being blown to pieces or being left mangled and crippled.

    Everyone tends to forget how awful some aspects were. I had to be reminded of my bout with distrubed bowels by an ex-major of the Royal Regiment of Canada. His recall of one man's dystery-induced expulsion aroused my own memories of the convulsive cramps and feverish, shuddering ague brought on by that damnable sscourge that struck the Canadian Army around Verrieres before the drive down the Falaise road began, which worsened as time went on to the point where it came close to putting some units out of action when supplies of medicine to treat it ran out. Yet dysentery, if mentioned at all by historians, is touched on only in passing, as though of no more consequence than some minor irritating inconvenience like lice of mosquitoes.

    What a hellish nightmare it must have been for foot-soldiers with dysentery just to drag themselves orver hill and dale, let alone dash here and there for cover when on the attack, and then dig in on the objective to meet the inevitable counter-attack....."
     
  5. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    Articles by Terry Copp in the Legion Magazine regarding Verrieres Ridge

    The Approach To Verrières Ridge: Army, Part 25 | Legion Magazine

    The Toll Of Verrières Ridge: Army, Part 26 | Legion Magazine

    The hard part about some of your questions is that history is always written by the victors, and in particular, the survivors. We will never know Major Griffins side of a conversation or what influenced his decisions, and if we could (IMHO) - the truth would fall somewhere between each persons accounting of what occurred that day.
     
  6. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    Hi, George Blackburn or Dennis Whitaker, Terry Copp, O'keefe or Mckenna+++. No I have not read their books completely. I just browsed through their information, and the reason why is due to the inaccurate accounts from many as example Copps can even get Griffin age right plus has changed a few times his mined with his assessment of Griffin+++. O`keefe due to the Fact he served with the Black Watch glorified Griffin, Mckenne can`t get many accounts correct. The Ridge was not steep but a very gentle slope, and many other accounts that are incorrect as I found out by putting the pieces together. Like The Black Watch Regiment by many or all accounts was decimated. Not true it was only a section of the Battalion that was, since the Black Watch had a total of around 900 men.

    You got that very right these stories have been recycle so many times and all the inaccurate accounts with it. So what I did was cross reference all the stories to see if this accounts held water.

    Your comment is so True, and thats what many failed to understand. Plus the fact Caen was the First major Battle ever fought by 2nd Division. All were very Green then to be put through such unthinkable Carnage the mind goes into overdrive, and many with in days showed Battle fatigue or shock which Simonds went on record stating a sign of cowardness.

    I found out the same thing I was shocked. Plus the Confusion of so many With daybreak Michon, still convinced and believed he was in May, organized his men to systematically clear the eastern part of the village. “We took many prisoners there and on our way through the eastern edges of the factory district. While there I met a 'B' Coy FOO (Artillery Forward Observation officer) who also thought he was in May-sur-Orne. Michon did not learn where he really was until the Black Watch arrived in St. Martin shortly after 0700.”


    What a hellish of a nightmare is an understatement dear !

    This comment from you intrigues me. You have first hand accounts

    Sorry for the different Letter format I`m having problems with the System.

    I was going to write a 4 page article on this Epic Battle but the Madness has sent in I`m up to 65++ pages with many pictures.

    I think I would have keeled over in shock had I come across one historian, purporting to describe the battle of Verrières Ridge.
    Since I`m no historian and especially no Writer you might be in shock yet.

    George Blackburn or Dennis Whitaker, which are accounts by men who were there. Do you have their books on PDF Just asking. I read from other articles as they make reference to those books on the comment or statement of accounts.

    Even thou I severed Regimentaly proud in The Black Watch (RHC). And as a well informed and yearly updated on military matters & tactical procedures. I will not let my Regimental pride get in the way of my better judgement, disorienting the facts and above all the truth! Since every expert and historian or arm chair analysts, have given there input on this Matter, these are my conclusions on Facts, written B.W.O.R. War Diary, Tactical operational maps, aerial reconnaissance pictures, the miss information from Report #162, documented facts, Archived Documents, accounts from other Regiments, {taken with a pinch of salt} as the Testimonials from my Ancestral Brothers who survived and laid wittiness to the Madness and Carnage of The Battle for Verrières Ridge.

    Mr David Bercuson, Mr Brian Mckennaincluding Mr David O'Keefe how’s been declared an expert on this epic Battle have taken it vigorously personal and for years insisted that “Major Phil Griffin” Should of been nominated & received The Victoria Cross, for his “Heroic Gallantry” and professional Leadership. And vindicate Griffin for the dishonour he received as the complete blame from LT. –Gen. Simonds and others. You have to note that Mr O’Keefe served in the Black Watch (RHR) as an Officer, and I believe his Regimental Honour and pride has slightly distorted his train of thought which usually is impeccable; note I’ve read many of his articles and find him to be quite precise and well analysed, War Historian as Mr Brian Mckenna As Copp++++! As for professor Terry Copp has changed his mined a few times through the years and still can’t get Griffins age right. Mr Copp should of stuck with your first assessment of Griffins actions “reckless and I’ll conceived” as for the claims from 1st Hassars B SQN all covered up Lies.

    Let me See the Problem with the System I Will answer the rest Plus provide you with Information I have discovered.

    I have C.P. Stacey’s Report #162 which is a falsified that replaced Report #150. I found out I can get Report 150 I have the Address and the place It`s kept, just have to send them a letter or Fax to obtain a copy of It!

    As far as I`m Concern Griffin is Responsible for the Carnage inflected on the men he lead that day.

    I made my article as an analysis of all the facts in which I do answer many question not answered before.

    And maybe with your Help we can finally get to a Majority of the facts. I can see It now A women got to the Bottom of this Epic Battle,
    which is Great by Me! LOL I wounder what Copp will state, since he had negative comments about everybody else's assessment. Lmaooooo.

    P.S. I`m adding Some pictures

    And Thank you for taking the Time Was advised about you and read many of your Posts I consider you very well informed in these Matters!

     
  7. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    Hi Spaniard,

    The quotes in my post were from George Blackburn's book. I don't have pdf versions of their books - when I quote them I type it up from the books! I believe it is possible to still get Blackburn's and Whitaker's books, although sometimes they are used ones from dealers (For example, http://www.amazon.com/Guns-Normandy-Soldiers-View-France/dp/0771015038). Blackburn was a FOO with the 4th Field Regiment and Whitaker an officer with the RHLI. What I like about them is the extent to which they researched everything they wrote about, the personal interviews with others from multiple regiments and at all levels from private/gunner to Generals - as well as their own recall from their personal experiences. Blackburn, in particular, had the ability to give me the feeling of being there - before and after the war he was a reporter.

    I have a lot of reading and much to learn. I will finally see some of the locations this spring, including being on Verrieres Ridge on April 29. My Dad's regiment, the 3LAA, was there.

    In analyzing, Operation Spring, it is important to look at the operations that preceded it and what occurred for each unit involved. The SSR's were decimated there in mid-July. Units went for days without sleep. Spaniard, you ask about the artillery support - In The Guns of Normandy p 234, Blackburn notes that in the days preceding Operation Spring "You tell the RSASC sergeant the gunners are exhausted from an awesome amount of iring during the past few days with very little sleep. He assures you he is well awre of the voracious appetite of the guns, having participated in shell dumpings the like of which they are told, have never been attempted before: 86,400 rounds for 2nd Division alone in the past three days. Now tonight 46,000 rounds more, and before noon tomorrow another 26,000. In less than five days, 158,000 rounds for the division: 2,200 rounds per gun"

    Then Blackburn notes (Guns of Normandy p 245-246, regarding plans for July 25: "In the opening phase, an extensive artillery fire plan will be carried out on German positions and gun lines by nine Canadian and British field artillery regiments, and three AGRAs (2nd Canadian, 2nd British, and 8th British Army Groups Royal Artillery) containing nine medium regiments of 5.5-inch guns and two heavy regiments of 7.2-inch guns, as well as one heavy ack-ack, four anti-tank, and five light ack-ack regiments.

    At 1:15 A.M. enemy bombers come over, and while no bombs land on 4th Field positions, they create havoc among other field and medium regiments sprad across the densely populated fields reaching back to Caen. Many fires are left burning among vehicles and ammunition dumps. Nevertheless, throughout the night all three divisional artilleries continue desultory harassing fire, until 2:30 A.M., when along with the mediums, they take part in a twenty-minute counter-battery program. At 3:28 A.M., just two minutes before H-hour for the attack to go in, the CO reports Phase 1 has been postponed thrity minutes. (Startlines have not been cleared at either the farms or at St. Martin.) By 4:00 A.MM. FOOs are reporting it very foggy, as the three divisional artilleries open on a series of timed concentrations, which 2nd Division guns will continue until 6:00 A.M., consuming 360 rounds per gun."

    By the time Operation Spring occurred, the hill had also been subjected to heavy rain (July 21 to 23) and had to affect the terrain over which the regiments proceeded. Weather - July 1944 to May 1945 - and then combine that with the ground condition with the craters from bombing and shelling.

    More to write....
     
  8. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    Madame Michelle I just checked my notes many of the declarations or accounts I made on my Analyses come from Blackburn and Whitaker. When I crossed referenced found them to be very accurate accounts.

    Now I have dyslexia so please do understand sometimes I get a little confused or when I type have to check many times to make sure.

    I formatted to the Size allowed Old Aerial surveillance Intel Pictures but having great difficulties Downloading them????

    Many make this battle as long distances travel by the Regiments Only 1200 yards the Pictures I have shows. from May to St. Martin

    Now My analysis Starts from the 18th to the 28th of July.

    The Info you provided is correct 110% Not counting the Rolling barrages + was all wasted. Why from what I found out the Jerries was out of range and the Allied exhausting bombardments caused hardly no German casualties. As example from many accounts I read Caen was leveled I saw some Pictures WOW! When the Regiments went in Nothing Nada not one German Casualty was found or any signs any Germans held the City. But from what I found out the Artillery Barrages also caused many Canadian Casualties from the 19th to the 28th from the accounts from many that went on record.

    this is correct not only Foggy but by day light the hole area due to the shelling and buildings++ that burned very smoky, Very bad Visibility!

    Now Yes I know of the Torrential rains which canceled Operation Goodwood Cobra and the Start of Spring by 2+ days.

    I also Have the accounts of the Artillery barrages for the 25th which real started the night of the 24th with the Camerons advancing to their Startline. Remember the St. Martin May. Andre, Fonetany++ had long Tunnels system for the Iron Mine. As the Allied Artillery barrages fell in those areas the Germans hid in them and never affected them. Simonds Knew of them this has all been revealed by Op "ULTRA"

    So you don't waste your time Typing and showing me info I know. My article starts from the 18th to the 28th! What I'll do is for the 25th I'll start adding what I wrote to this Thread Remember It's the first draft, Anything you fined that is not accurate or incorrect or New Info, inform me or other info you have, it will make things a little easier! I can also Gladly send you all those Pictures I have plus report 162+++!

    So your Dad was an FOO, Never in the rear with the gear thats for sure, you stated you interviewed many? Just asking.

    I'm Just stating this with The deepest Respect intended. War History or Historians is male dominated. It's refreshing to see a Lady so involved! I'm quite Impressed and moved. Many can't really comprehend the great roll women played in WWII, I Do due to the research I've done!

    I will start adding what I wrote for the 25th!

    Ok It worked great! I Have to format the pictures with Paint Resize them and then download them! It won't work With Photo-Shop??? Ok no big deal. Will do same to all those Picture I have.

    Look at this Picture!

    What I found out is the Grave registry would fallow the men into Battle and make temporary grave ares. Therefore Imagine your going into Battle down a road and you crossed them with the Crosses must of been quite demoralising and a big reality check on what was to be.

    Do you see the Can attached to the Cross is that the Personal effects of the Individual before buried would be removed and put into a can??? Can you shed some light on this
     

    Attached Files:

  9. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    I assume that the box would contain identification of the individual buried. See here:

    The Hins World War II Collection - Canadian Identity Discs for an explanation of the identity discs/tags used by the Canadian military in WWII.

    If I find anything further, I will post it here for you.
     
  10. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    What is the source of your evident passion regarding the history of The Black Watch during WWII?
     
  11. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    That's what I figured about the Can

    Thanks for the Link. If you check the post where the Canadian Battle Maps are. I downloaded 5 intel Pictures you will see the Famous Factory Area.

    I served with the Black Watch! But will never allow that to get in the way of the Truth, A few at the Regiment got mad at me when I made
    certain statements about Griffin. Because of his careless Actions That day many good men from my Regiment Died Needlessly!

    Leaders must take responsibility for their mistakes. Plus the Fact Simonds left a stain on the Tartan of The Regiment.

    It's the responsibility of the next generation to make sure their Sacrifices as their endeavors to persevere may never be forgotten,
    Of all Canadian Regiments that Fought Against all Odds!

    Lest We Forget!
     
  12. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    Black Watch War O.R. Diary; MAY-SUR-ORNE, 25th. Fri.


    Weather - clear and warm. This morning at 0400 hrs Lt. Col. S.S.T. CANTLIE, every bit a fighting man, was fatally wounded by machine gun fire while out on a recce with the I.O., Lt. DUFFIELD, who was also wounded. Lt. Col. CANTLIE died from his wounds at 0600 hrs and was buried near the caves at FLEURY-sur-ORNE. At 0330 hrs the CALGARY HIGHLANDERS started their attack, and from the outset a grim battle ensued. The CALGARY HIGHLANDERS did manage to get a Coy into MAY-sur-ORNE but were unable to consolidate there. The Bn under the command of Maj. GRIFFIN, acting O.C., formed up and went in on the attack, but the Coys were able to get no farther than the ridge overlooking the town when they ran into a heavy concentration of fire, and of the fwd companies, practically all are missing. F. Ech was badly shelled and mortared on the outskirts of ST. ANDRE-sur-ORNE, where Sgt. JANES was killed when a mortar landed in his slit trench. Capt. STUART was wounded as were many others. An attack on MAY-sur-ORNE by the Regt de MAISSONEUVE was planned for 1900 hrs to relieve the pressure on the Bn but halfway to town they, too, ran into very heavy m.g. fire and were unable to reach their objectives. The Bn was now cut off, with very little chance of recovery. End

    On July 25, two days behind schedule, Operation Spring was launched, being a III Phase plane with a fourth phase that would move in armour and artillery, to reach the final objective south of the ridge. It’s understood and proven that on the opening day of Operation Spring, at all high command levels tension were very high. The German defences were demoralizing and lethal, battalions that opened the offensive were inflicted heavy losses with little ground gained. Simonds was determined that all his battalion commanders must push forward with maximum effort regardless. His favourite expression was “Get Cracking!” The General commanding officer of the 2nd Division arrived at Megill's headquarters to inform him that Lt. –Gen. Simonds directing the battle from Hill 67 was furious at the lack of progress by Brigadier General W.J. Megill 5th Brigade. Simonds had sent Foulkes forward to “Get Cracking”. As Megill described it, "there was pressure to attack on that front, from every Headquarters from that of General Eisenhower down. And told in no uncertain terms, that keeping the pressure up was vital. 5th Brigade's attack was to be launched by The Camerons of Canada, The Calgary Highlanders were to proceed forward through, while clearing two neighbouring villages of St. André-sur-Orne and then St. Martin-de-Fontenay once succoured, The Calgerians would go into May-sur-Orne. And clear a Start-Line for The Black Watch as the Calgerians would fill from behind with B SQN 1st Hussar would rally and attack Fontenay-le-Marmion with the Black Watch in the lead once cleared, they would attack the Ridge, since both towns are at the lowest point of the foot of Verrières Ridge.

    Fifth Brigade was informed, 1st Phase of “Spring” at St. Andre-Beauvoir road would be the start line. The three Regiments would be supported by 18 tanks from B SQN 1st Hussars, The Camerons proceeded on the 24th just hours before “Spring” was launhed, immediately they meet with “Stiff opposition.” As Jerry inflicted casualties, it was necessary to keep reinforcing the Camerons attackforce, which lost three officers in the first hour. By midnight the dust had settled, as the start line was cleared. The 3 wise men, Simonds Foulkes and Megill received vital Intelligence information concerning St. Martin and the surrounding area, the Iron Mines and “The Factory area” was occupied by Jerry, while the outskirts of Saint Martin on the sunken road healed warehouses for the iron mine, with a single prominent tower housing equipment and machinery. As artillery support pounded the St. Andre-Verrieres road where the barrage would begin, while never seeing the importance of passing down important Intel to the C.O’s, of the Infantry Regiments. The German Troops in large numbers occupied their flank, in old subterranean iron minesshafts filled with tunnels, vent holes and quarries, Jerry while having taken cover avoiding aerial detection as the rolling bombardments, manoeuvred inside the long network of tunnels, reappearing in deferent locations undetected from which Jerry infiltrated 2nd Divisions rear. While tacking the lead The Calgary Highlanders from the check line to their objective May-­sur-Orne, was ordered to clear a start line for The Black Watch. The Germans occupied the mine works in strength and maintained well concealed positions throughout the south eastern edge of St. Martin.

    Commander of 5th Brigade Brigadier W.J. Megill, preparing an advance tactical headquarters sent two Camerons officers forward. They arrived undetected while they opened a house door they heard Germans voices and informed Megill, the location was occupied by Jerry. He decided to asses the situation for himself, since The Camerons of Canada lost a number of officers days prior, including their CO. Acting commander, Major J. Muncie, who took control of the situation, and told Brigadier Gen. Megill The Camerons weren’t in control of St. Andre, as they were facing continuous mortar fire, with frequent enemy counterattacks as constant infiltration of small groups of enemy soldiers. Late morning on the 24th a patrol of approximately 25 Jerries appeared in a quarry on the left-rear of battalion headquarters. As a section of the Toronto Scottish medium machine guns were deployed in the area and the enemy patrol was destroyed. On the left flank The North Nova Scotia Highlanders advanced steadily to the outskirts of Tilly-la-Campagne. Their lead companies fired a flare at 04:30hrs, signalling success in reaching their objective. At 05:25hrs, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Petch ordered his reserve companies into the village to mop up and reported “Hamlet” the code word for “on the objective” to division and corps. In the centre, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry overcame initial opposition and seized Verrières village by 0530 hours. At 0750, Lt.-Col. John Rockingham reported that his battalion was firm on the objective.


    The Calgary Highlanders A Coy on the left “discovered that the area was not clear” and “had to fight to get on the start line.” They hit the check line on time and swung further east to bypass the Factory Area, but came under small arms fire from the eastern edge of St. Martin. Maj. Campbell deciding to press on as he kept his men moving forward, leaving the enemy behind advancing up to May with the barrage. This would become a critical mistake seriously affect the other Regiments and Campbell would later occupy in defensive positions that area. “Campbell's men advanced forward to the eastern edge of May-sur-Orne and informed battalion H.Q. they reached their objective.” The artillery barrage continued to pound the village with some shells falling short as men waiting on the sloped field were hit by friendly fire. According to Lieutenant Morgandeen went on record; the Coy stayed in that position at the edge of May “only about fifteen minutes, light was breaking and our artillery remained on the objective. There was no area between the position we had reached and our final consolidation position where we might have set up a proper defensive area. Hence we came back and took up position to the east of St. Martin.”

    C Coy assigned to the west area of the main road, ran into opposition “from both flanks” from the start line on. “Three men of the leading section were killed.” Scouts were sent forward to “see if we could clear out this opposition” but it was “too dark and too difficult to clear the enemy out at night.” It was cloudy and smoky and so thick we could not see anything.” The company commander decided to wait until morning. As dawn broke C Coy moved up towards May “advancing in single file in the ditches on either side of the road passing the factory area. There, as before, were some snipers and also groups of Jerries who wanted to surrender.” The advance continued using the left ditch which was deep provided protection. The lead platoon, under Lieutenant Orville Mageli, was within 200 yards of May when Major Sherwin Robinson called an Order Group. He knew that “men had been in May­-sur-Orne without meeting any fire, notably the signals sergeant” who had twice entered the village in an attempt to lay a cable to A Coy. It should be noted; the complete day was plagued with wireless communication problems from Simonds to brigade to Regiments even Coy Com’s had broken down. Remember the C3! Asthe difficulty imposed, on command and control isn’t possible without proper communication! This plagued infantry companies frequently, losing touch with their battalion H.Q. and each other through WWII.

    As B Coy advance on A Coy’s right flank, they met machine-gun fire the moment they crossed the start line. Fire from a German outpost at the checkline from the sunken road area dispersed the company, commanding officer Major C.C. Nixon was killed. The company continued south as two of the platoons were forced to the ground, “after meeting sweeping fire along there lines from eight machine guns in St. Martin.” The third platoon, commanded by Lieutenant John Moffat, was on the left flank and continued south, arriving at a “waterhole on the eastern edge of May-sur-Orne. The village was still being shelled by Allied artillery “which came in so low” the men had “to take shelter from it in dead ground.” When the barrage stopped Moffat went to recce the main crossroad in May as day light started. Sergeant Wynder revealed to the Historical Officer, “As first light came we saw three Tiger tanks and two SP guns. Just along the south side of the road” from May to Fontenay. “When we were spotted by them the tanks and SPs tore in behind the ramps of a blockhouse and began firing.” Lieutenant Moffat returned from May and decided that “the objective was held by too strong a force for 20 men and one PIAT” {Projector Infantry Anti-Tank} a Spigot Bomb to contest. They proceeded “slowly and carefully” back towards St. Andre and met men from A Coy “who told them the rest of our company was in the area just east of the “Factory”. This came to haunt The Calgareans having avoided clearing the Factory area, Campbell's men were immediately pinned down by Jerry who they had bypassed during their advance to May. “Mortar and rifle fire kept the men in their slit trenches and Campbell, who had lost his wireless signal again, wasn’t capable of get a message through battalion H.Q. to inform MacLaughlan of their withdrawal from May. They moved to this area and took up defence positions with the rest of B Coy between 07:30hrs and 0830hrs.”

    All of the officers except Moffat were now casualties and CSM Ralph Wilson as Sergeant Jack Brandon were preparing to lead their platoons against the German positions in the “Factory area”. No one contacted battalion headquarters. With communication breaking down restabilising on intervolves, MacLaughlan, Megill, Foulkes and Simonds assumed Calgary A Coy, as all the other Regiments where on their objectives. It was now 0:900hrs and Robinson ordered C Coy to clear buildings on both sides of the road “right up close to the church.” For the Black Watch Jump of Point they “found no one.” At this point snipers to the rear as from the right of the church began firing on Mageli's platoon. East of the houses in the orchards Jerry snipers had concealed positions with a clear shot, the platoon had a difficult time. At this same time the Calgarians came under friendly fire from Simonds artillery.” In fact this was the barrage intended to lead the Black Watch from May to Fontenay. C Coy, which knew nothing about Griffins New plan, took cover in the ditches along both sides of the road and remained there throughout the Black Watch attack on Verrières Ridge.

    The Calgarians two reserve platoons arrived at the assembly area improvised a Coy headquarters setting up in the rear of B Coy. Quickly the situation became confusing, as one platoon became involved in a fire fight with four light machine guns located in an orchard just south of the start line. Lieutenant E.A. Michon, commanding the other platoon was informed the acting CO had been wounded and went forward to take command. Michon led the company “straight down the wheat fields” to what he thought was the east side of May-sur-Orne. The men took up defensive positions around a church which turned out to be in St. Martin not May. Lieutenant Michon went on record and stated “in the confusion of the night and the battle, I lost my sense of time and space.” With daybreak Michon, still convinced and believed he was in May, organized his men to systematically clear the eastern part of the village. “We took many prisoners there and on our way through the eastern edges of the factory district. While there I met a B Coy FOO (Artillery Forward Observation officer) who also thought he was in May-sur-Orne. Michon did not learn where he really was until the Black Watch arrived in St. Martin shortly after 0700.” The Calgary attack on May did produce close to a hundred prisoners as inflicted other casualties, their objective was still controlled by Jerry while the assembly area for the Black Watch, not to mention their intended start line was still dominated by German mortar and machine-gun fire from the 272 Div, one Battalion of the 503Pz Abt, 2nd and 9th Div. SS Pz tanks.


    Note This is over 13 Pages and the first Draft will be adding more.

    Part One.
     
  13. keefer

    keefer recruit

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2010
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    1
    Hello, I have been monitoring your discussion and thought you could benefit from an article that I wrote a few years ago for Canada's Red Hackle (The Black Watch Regimental Journal). Some of it may be too detailed for your discussion or perhaps too "Black Watch," but I think it will clear up some misconceptions and add to the discourse.
    Cheers
    David O’Keefe
    The Ghosts of Verrières
    Myths and Legends of the Black Watch Massacre
    July 25th 1944
    By
    David R. O’Keefe




    Those who were there always called it “the Battle of St. Andre.” It was the day when 320 of Canada’s Black Watch assaulted Verrières Ridge in the summer sun of 1944 only to see 20 \answer at roll call later that night. The battle had turned into a massacre, and the four rifles companies of the 1st Battalion of Canada’s senior Highland regiment had disappeared into the Hell and fury of an Operation known as Spring. 62 years later, I made my third visit to the battlefield where I put the finishing touches on a documentary entitled “Black Watch: The Massacre on Verrières Ridge” that will air this November on History Television in Canada.
    Over the last three years, I have spent over 20 days on Verrières Ridge and its surrounding area while filming, and as Col Roman Jarymowitz once told me “you have to walk the ground, - you have to walk the ground.” Roman (whose association with the Black Watch goes back three decades and includes a stint as historian for the Valour and the Horror), could not have been more on the mark. When I arrived, I quickly realized how much the nuances of the terrain dictated the eventual fate of the Black Watch. I also realized, after meeting many of the local townspeople of the mining and farming community of St. Martin de Fontenay that their recollections of July 25th 1944 are as vivid and emblazoned on their souls as the men who went up those gentle rising slopes south of the town many decades ago.
    With this in mind, I dare to set the record straight on many myths, legends, and misconceptions that have grown over the six decades since the massacre. The main problem when working with film and TV as a medium is that you have only 45 minutes and 46 seconds (including credits) to tell a story that took a week to plan, 4 hours to unfold, and over six decades to come to grips with. Although I do not propose to answer everything here, it is hoped that dispelling some myths etc, will make the documentary that much easier to grasp, experience and enjoy when it airs this November during History Television’s Week of Remembrance.

    MYTH NO 1:

    “Hill 67”

    In the Black Watch War Diary, much is made of “Hill 67.” This is not surprising as it is a prominent rise that flanks the main Thury-Harcourt road running from Caen, to St. Andre sur-Orne, St. Martin and on to May-sur-Orne, and is readily seen from anywhere in the Orne valley. Named after the height represented on British Army survey maps, it descends eastward until it meets the main road leading from Ifs to Fontenay-le-Marion. It was in this area, just 500 yards east of the point on the map called 67, which Hill 61 resides. This is the area where the South Saskatchewan, and later Essex Scottish, panicked and broke under fierce German counterattacks in the early hours of July 21st, forcing the Black Watch to be rushed forward with orders to stop the panic and restore the line. It was here that the Watch withstood four days of heavy rain, little sleep, cold rations and enemy probes, snipers and shelling – and took it all in stride for the most part, although casualties were notable. It was here at Hill 61, not 67 as most veterans and the War Diary recall, that a rocket shell killed Major George Fraser seconds after checking on the welfare of his men dug into the wheat fields on Hill 61.


    MYTH NO 2:

    “St. Andre-sur-Orne”

    As Major Stan Matulis once said to me during a reunion dinner chat, it was “always the battle of St. Andre to us.” Certainly, for those who fought there, or like Matulis, followed in their footsteps in the wake of the massacre, this moniker has stuck. However, the Black Watch were never in St. Andre – at least until after July 25th that is. Let me explain…
    When you first glance at any wartime map produced by the British Army Ordnance, you will notice the twin towns of St. Andre and St. Martin; the former running northwest and the latter running southeast of the main east west road that connects with Hill 61 at the foot of Verrières Ridge. You will also notice that the name “St. Andre” is above the town of St. Martin with that name tucked away to the south making the twin towns appear as one named ‘St. Andre.’ In reality, after being pounded on Hill 61 for days, the Black Watch moved down the east-west road and into St Martin – not St. Andre that remained 500 yards to the west - and fought through the tiny back roads, gardens, orchards, and laneways to the churchyard of St. Martin where Colonel Cantlie was killed. The area just south of the churchyard in St. Martin, and not St. Andre was marked as the Black Watch assembly area. After it became clear that the assault had turned into disaster, and the rifle companies had disappeared into the Hell and fury of Verrières, the support company was joined by about 20 survivors in a farmyard on the north side of the road across from the churchyard in St. Martin. Here they set up a makeshift defense along with the Calgary Highlanders and the Cameron Highlanders. Along the walls they laid out the wounded and put the most serious cases in the dark, dank cellar of the main barn on what was then the Leccollet family farm and was the most prominent landmark, next to the church in St. Martin.

    MYTH NO 3:
    The Megill/Griffin meeting in St. Martin.
    The Black Watch “boogey man” throughout the war was Brigadier William J. Megill. Known to some as “Bloody” or “Killer” Megill, the former Signals Corps Lt Colonel, turned Infantry Brigadier, was not a popular figure amongst the men in the Black Watch or in other units in 5th Brigade. In the aftermath of Spring, the Black Watch blamed Megill for sending them to their fate on July 25th. This stems from a legendary meeting between Megill and Griffin that occurred on the outskirts of St. Martin just minutes prior to the Black Watch assault. In Black Watch lore, Griffin and Megill argued over whether to cancel or alter the plan by securing May-sur-Orne first before tackling their final objective of Fontenay-le-Marmion. Allegedly, the decision was reached when Megill was overheard saying, “I’m giving the orders here” clearly indicating that he was the one who dictated the axis of advance, forcing Griffin to comply. In Megill’s version, he maintained that he wanted Griffin to change the plan and avoid moving straight up Verrières, but that Griffin’s confidence and enthusiasm, coupled with the fact that everything was already laid on for an attack along the most direct axis, swayed the Brigade commander and he reluctantly acquiesced. In reality, there was never any indication that Griffin thought seriously about calling off the attack. When he took command, Griffin radioed his situation and asked for instructions, to which the only reply according to various regimental and non-regimental sources was simply to “press on.” According to Capt R. E. “Ronnie” Bennett, Griffin never hesitated but rather tackled the problem facing the battalion. According to the Adjutant, Capt Campbell Stuart, (who was responsible for maintaining the radio link between Griffin and higher command), the acting Black Watch CO was flooded with message after message designed to pressure the young major to action. At 0715, Griffin received a direct order by Megill to “go ahead” which was roughly two hours before their meeting. During this period, Griffin re-grouped the battalion, sent out patrols, re-scheduled the artillery and armour support, and fought the battalion through the streets of St. Martin in the duel effort to secure a solid base of operations and avoid intense German fire in the churchyard area in St. Martin. According to Stuart, Griffin was “relieved” to report that the Battalion was on the move towards Fontenay when Megill arrived for their meeting. In reality, neither one had a decision to make at this point as they were adhering to the strict guidelines laid down by 2nd Canadian Corps Commander Guy Simonds, who designed and controlled Operation Spring. In Simonds’ highly centralized command structure, (that relied on fear rather than cooperation as the locomotive that drove operations); only the Corps Commander could make alternate arrangements or call any part of the operation off. On numerous occasions, Simonds would drive home to his subordinates “you follow the music, I’ll play the variations.” As a result, the division commander (Maj-Gen Charles Foulkes), Megill and Griffin all had their hands tied to varying degrees and their scope of “decision-making” was strictly limited. In this narrow context, they could only obey or disobey - and if they chose the latter it would mean mutiny and not only the end to careers, but the stellar reputation of the Black Watch as well. According to Stuart’s post war account, Griffin did not want to risk the reputation of the Black Watch and decided therefore to make the best of a daunting situation. Despite conflicting accounts of the meeting between Megill and Griffin, the fact is that when it broke up, the plan remained unaltered - by this time Operation Spring had taken on a life of its own and only Simonds could stop the Black Watch from careening towards disaster.

    MYTH NO 4
    Artillery and Tank support.
    A long held myth is that neither artillery, nor tank support materialized during the attack. With the average infantryman’s war ‘fifty yards wide and fifty yards deep’ and their main task on July 25th being the job at hand and mere survival, they can be excused for not grasping the complexities of the plan in place. To put it simply, there was artillery and a certain amount of armour support; but as the form of that support was not obvious to a unit still new to battle it is understandable that this was not appreciated. The original Black Watch fire plan went for naught when stronger than anticipated resistance in a supposedly “secure” St. Martin delayed the battalion in reaching their start line by 0530hrs. After Cantlie’s death, Griffin re-arranged the timings for 0930hrs. From the evidence that we do have, (message logs from 5th Brigade and testimony of two of the three Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) attached), the new plan went into effect at 0915hrs. The problem though was that Griffin augmented the fire plan slightly by lifting the concentrations in front of May-sur-Orne for fear of hitting the Calgary Highlanders who he thought to be in the area. Despite this, he retained the more distant concentrations on the reverse slope of Verrières Ridge that fell outside of both eyesight and earshot of the advancing troops giving the false impression that supporting artillery was absent.
    Likewise the armour support did not take on the same form as it did days before when the Black Watch and Hussars restored the line at Hill 61. On that day, the Hussars Shermans followed the Black Watch and supporting the assault companies with fire from the rear but on July 25th, the form was quite different. Instead of accompanying the infantry up the slopes exposing them to fire from the ridge and across the Orne, the tanks of the First Hussars were to push down the road to May-sur-Orne as the Black Watch started their ascent up the ridge. After moving through the town and linking up with the Calgaries, the tanks were to reappear on the eastern end of the town as the Black Watch started their descent towards their final objective May-sur-Orne. From this position they would “shoot” the rifle companies into Fontenay as while they clung tight to their artillery support. The key to success here of course was timing. All elements had to come into play in one great crescendo for the plan to work. If any component proved out of synch for any reason, the whole plan would be in jeopardy. In this case, fire emanating from both the ridge and across the Orne River delayed the Black Watch and Hussars. As a result, Griffin’s companies could not keep up and “lean” into the artillery barrage. By the time they reached the crest of the ridge the barrage had moved on leaving them completely open and at the mercy of German fire. A similar situation existed when the Hussars were late arriving at their rendezvous point in the factory area. When they finally arrived more than a half an hour after the Black Watch attack began, they in turn were instantly pinned down by heavy German fire. Under orders to wait until May-sur-Orne was clear before proceeding through the town, (orders that Griffin was apparently unaware of) the tanks remained in the factory area where they leant what support they could by “blind fire” from their co-axial machineguns. Once it became clear that the Black Watch were in dire straits, the Hussar tanks made a desperate attempt to rush the ridge - but it was a case of ‘too little, too late’ as a German counterattack engulfed the armour in the fighting in and around May-sur-Orne. The cumulative effect of these factors left the Black Watch devoid of direct and indirect fire support as they crossed the ridge leaving the lasting, but incomplete, impression that these crucial elements simply failed to materialize.

    MYTH NO 5
    “Friendly Fire”
    In hushed tones some have speculated that Col. Cantlie’s death may have come as a result of Canadian, rather than German machinegun fire. Although at first glance it is conceivable that Cantlie’s death could have come as a result of the confused fighting in and around the churchyard in St. Martin, there is no evidence to support this contention. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that his death came at the hands of a German machine gunner as originally reported and maintained throughout the years.
    Over the years, I have either interviewed or read the interviews of men who were with Cantlie when he was shot, or ones who arrived on the scene immediately after; not one of them mentions, or even hints, that this could have been from anything other than a German machinegun. Even queries pertaining to this question catch survivors off guard - revealing that this was never a consideration. Usually, when there is a conspiracy to hide the truth, questions are anticipated in advance with a pre-ordained answer to follow but that was not the case in any interview that I conducted or in any that I have read. What is clear from the men that I interviewed was that they were all caught off guard by that question. With that in mind, I felt sure that I could conclude that nothing was amiss in that regard. My experiences aside, there is plenty of objective evidence to support the claims that Cantlie was killed by German, and not Canadian machinegun fire.
    In the area where the 1st Battalion CO was killed the Calgary Highlanders suffered heavily at the hands of multiple machineguns a mere 90 minutes earlier as they attempted to reach May-sur-Orne one kilometer south of the churchyard. In these fields, German machineguns ripped the leading companies of the Calgary Highlanders to shreds during the pre-dawn hours and when the Black Watch, and Cantlie arrived in the Churchyard, one surviving company of the Calgaries were still “milling around” the area after attempting to clear the machineguns in the fields to the south. Due to a combination of darkness and poor navigation, D Company of the Calgaries moved through this area in the mistaken belief that the Church in St. Martin was really their rendezvous point - the Church in May-sur-Orne –one kilometer further south. Some have speculated that with the Black Watch arriving at the same time as D Company of the Calgary Highlanders, that fire could have been exchanged in error. However, this does not hold water as D company of the Calgary Highlanders were expecting to meet Allied troops in the northern outskirts of their objective – whether that be in May or in St. Martin. In addition, it appears that Cantlie was able to make contact with the Calgary Company before he was killed. The most important bit of testimony though comes from Calgary Highlander Private George Hleuka who during a 1992 interview for their Regimental history mentioned that: “the Black Watch came in. They weren’t there when we came in, but they were right next to us. So the Colonel of the Black Watch, there was kind of wall was kind of rubble, he climbed up the rubble and was looking through his binoculars to see where the firing was coming from. He had heard firing off in the distance, around May-sur-Orne and down he came.” The key to this testimony is that it is unsolicited; it was something that simply came up when Hleuka was describing his memories of July 25th for a Calgary Highlander audience.
    Although, it is certain that Cantlie was not killed by Canadian fire, there were at least three occasions where the Black Watch suffered from friendly fire. The first came during their advance up Verrières ridge as members of the Hussars who were in support, recall firing blindly up the slope hoping to help the Black Watch. This fire came from the factory area south of St. Martin where the Hussars’ Shermans were located. It is quite likely that some of the fire that the Black Watch survivors claim emanated from the Factory area came from the co-axial guns of the supporting armour. In addition to the tanks, artillery also claimed the lives of some Black Watch soldiers both during and after the attack. Although there is no confirmation, it is alleged that Canadian artillery fired short while during the advance up the ridge. Some however, have argued that this could have been plunging fire from a counter-barrage laid down by the Germans – a tactic they happily employed to counter Allied barrages. The other incident involving artillery came after the attack was over and the Germans were preparing for a counterattack. Allied artillery was called in to smash the likely concentration areas which unfortunately, and unknowingly, contained some of the Black Watch survivors who were pinned down in the wheat on the reverse slope of the ridge. The most striking friendly fire incident that we know of occurred late in the day as one section was making its way back to Canadian lines with some German prisoners in tow. According to Lt. Morgandeed of A Company of the Calgary Highlanders, both his company and the Hussars tanks mistook the group for enemy and “shot them up.” Although this was the only recorded incident, it is likely in the confusion of battle other events like this occurred but went unrecorded.

    MYTH NO 6
    The “Factory” and the Mineshafts:
    Another myth of Operation Spring was the claim that the Germans used tunnels of a mineshaft that ran underneath Verrières Ridge to filter reinforcements into forward areas. Partially this is true, but not in the context of earlier explanations. South of St. Martin, there was a mine head whose outbuildings resembled a factory. As a result, Canadian troops dubbed the area “The Factory” as they were unaware of its true nature until after the attack. Although reports indicated that the Germans were using mineshafts in the area to infiltrate troops into St. Martin, a post battle study by Canadian Army Intelligence, (which interviewed local mining experts), revealed that the mine was roughly 1200 feet deep and ran from the factory to center of the ridge. However, there is no indication that access from the ridge could be made to the tunnels that would afford German troops safe passage to the “factory” and hence to St. Martin. In addition, no German account of actions on that day has mentioned the use of the tunnels by their troops either. In all likelihood, the Germans, who were experts at infiltration moved overland through the dense wheat fields using the water tower of the “factory” as a reference point. In addition, it is quite possible that the mineshaft was used as a shelter, rather that a `subterranean highway`, for the Germans during Allied shelling. As the Black Watch moved through the “factory” on their way to deploy for the assault, they suppressed what resistance they encountered at the Factory; but with Germans taking refuge deep in the tunnels, they did not quell resistance completely.
    It is likely that there was a mixture of fire emanating from the “Factory” area as the Black Watch went up the ridge. Before Griffin gave the order to move up Verrières, he dispatched one company of the Calgary Highlanders that was still milling around in the Churchyard to St. Martin to take out any German resistance in the factory area prior to the Black Watch assault. The Calgary Highlander acting company commander, Lt. Emile Michon, conducted a small recce of the area and concluded that only a company with artillery support would be able to quell the resistance here. Realizing that this was not going to occur, Griffin arranged to have the tanks of the First Hussars meet them in the factory area prior to the assault. When the Black Watch arrived in this area, the tanks were nowhere to be seen as they were still in their harbor in St. Martin under orders from 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade not to proceed until May-sur-Orne had been cleared. In lieu of tank support, Griffin gave orders to clear the factory area as the Black Watch streamed through to their new start line in the wheat fields to the east. Roughly a half hour after the Black Watch started their assault the First Hussars arrived in the factory area where they encircled the outbuildings and riddled the area with machinegun fire. More than likely, the Germans in this area took shelter in the mineshafts and simply remained suppressed only to reappear later when the First Hussars move on. This leaves us with two possibilities for the origin of the fire that emanated from this area. Until the Hussars arrived, it is likely that small numbers of German troops armed with automatic weapons were able to pepper the Black Watch from behind as they began their assault, but after the arrival of the Hussars tanks this ceased. Any fire emanating from behind after 1030hrs could not have come from German guns as according to reports from the First Hussars, they were suppressed. In various accounts by Hussar members, it is clear that they leant fire support to the advance prior to their mad dash later that morning. As it was “mostly blind shooting” it is quite likely that the fire from behind, as reported by Black Watch survivors, was in actuality friendly fire from a desperate tank unit hoping to help.

    MYTH NO 7

    “Send No More reinforcements we have too many trapped here now”

    Perhaps one of the most controversial points that requires revision, or at least qualification, is one that will undoubtedly raise hackles as it touches on the legendary last words of Major Phillip Griffin - “Don’t send reinforcements we have too many trapped here now.” In the aftermath, there was a loss to explain what happened, and in the heat of conflict the standard reaction was to put the best spin possible on events. When it comes to Griffin, all we know for sure is that after he reached the reverse slope of the ridge, he stepped on a mine and was killed. Some survivor alleged that he issued an order for the few survivors to make their way back as best they could but none makes mention of Griffin uttering those now famous last words. The genesis for this is most likely to have originated with Capt John Taylor who was the first senior officer to bring word back of the situation on the ridge. In this case, there is no evidence to support the conclusion that Taylor was relaying Griffin’s words but rather simply stating the general situation as he saw it. The only hard evidence that we have comes from the after action report of Capt R.E. Bennett, (the Support Company commander and the nephew of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett). Sometime late in the afternoon of July 25th, casualties began to dribble back, and in Bennett words, “they included Capt John Taylor, a wounded officer who was still conscious.” Bennett asked him "what the situation was?" Taylor replied, ‘Don’t take men up there. The Battalion is absolutely pinned down. As soon as they pushed over the crest they were pinned down by MG fire and 88mm. They cannot move and there are too many men there now trying to dig in.” What gives weight to this testimony is that the interview with Bennett was conducted one week after the battle when events were still fresh; and four days before he lost his life in the August 5th assault on May-sur-Orne. After investigating the message logs from 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, Bennett’s account can be confirmed to have taken place around 1500hrs as Brigadier Megill was informed that “Capt Bennett just came back from 024605 (crest of the Ridge). States about 50% casualties. Said this is not confirmed but the general opinion of the lads who have come back. Incl. [sic]Capt Taylor…states the troops in the forward localities are pinned down and not moving forward.” Although there is contradictory testimony as to whether or not orders were issued to withdraw in some manner, there is no record of Griffin actually saying “Send no reinforcements, we have too many trapped here now” as reported in Ralph Allen’s article of July 27th 1944. Although Allen attributes Griffin’s words to a second-hand account by an unnamed Captain, it is not clear whether this was Bennett or Taylor but the evidence strongly suggests that Taylor’s personal assessment of events (likely reached independently of council with Griffin) was relayed to Allen by Bennett, who then “spun” the story in journalistic fashion for public consumption which for six decades has remained an deserved epitaph for the 1st Battalion.











     
    Spaniard likes this.
  14. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    While this is your thread, Spaniard, I hope you won't mind if I occasionally add information directly from some of the sources you have used. While you have done much research, others reading this will be new to some of the previous writings by others.

    It looks like you may have also been referencing The Brigade by Terry Copp. I found this assessment by Copp of the commanders:

    Pages 86 to 88

    “The battles for May-sur-Orne and V errières Ridge were soon to be rationalized as operations which had greatly assisted the American breakout from St. Lô. But in the immediate aftermath of what had seemed like a week of disasters, the senior officers of II Canadian Corps were forced to think about the events differently. Simonds met with both Montgomery and Dempsey to discuss “Sprint” and then talked with his two divisional commanders.60[War Diary, II Canadian Corps] The British generals must have had some reservations about Simonds’ conduct of the battle, particularly his persistence in continuing daylight attacks which, like Canadian operations on the last day of “Goodwood,” had been marked by heavy casualties to infantry battalions. Infantry was a terribly scare resource in 21st Army Group, and it seems unlikely that Montgomery or Dempsey would have permitted a British general to press such costly operation in the way the Canadians had.61 [Dempsey’s War Diary states that he met with Simonds at 9:30 P.M. on the twenty-fifth. “I told him to halt wehre he is, to hold all ground gained , no further attacks without reference from me.” Dempsey Papers, PRO WO/15]

    For Simonds, “Spring” was not a failure of command but a demonstration of the inadequacies of individual Canadian units.62 [G.G. Simonds, Attack by RHC – Operation “Spring”, 21 Jan. 1945, 8 pages, CMHQ Reporet No. 150] Brigadier D.G. Cunningham and the commanding officers of two of his Highland Brigade battalions were fired for refusing to press the attack against Tilly.63 [Interview Terry Copp with Brig. D.G. Cunningham, 1983] Major General Keller, whom the British had suggested replacing in early July, 64 [Letter to Dempsey to Montgomery, 6 July 1944, Crerar Papers, vol. 3] was retained in command, perhaps because he had followed orders and demanded that Cunningham mount a new attack. Major-General Foulkes was also left in command. Foulkes had functioned as little more than an observer during the first week of battle. He had received and outline plan from corps headquarters and passed it on to his brigadiers without reference to their circumstances. Communications with the assault troops and even with brigade headquarters were poor throughout the battles, but Foulkes did not go forward to discover what was happening. Much can be blamed on the fog of war, but a divisional commander ought to be more than a conduit for orders from higher formations. Foulkes confined his interventions to orders to “get going.”65 [At 6:45 A.M. Foulkes called Megill “to say that D. Coy. Calg not to dig in but to go wide and keep going.” This was not terribly helpful to anyone, at this time Foulkes also placed the Maisonneuves on “one hour notice to move” and return to 5BDE command but he did not release them from divisional reseve until the afternoon.]

    Second Division’s brigadiers had also failed to play a decisive role in the battles of July. Brigadier H.A. Young, commanding 6th Brigade, ignored the problems the Camerons were having in St. André, insisting that the start line for Operation “Spring” was secure. Young did not go forward to determine the situation for himself and does not seem to have grasped how difficult it would be to stage a night attack under these circumstances. Brigadier Megill, who has been much criticized for his role in “Spring,” did go forward repeatedly and did attempt to learn all he could about the actual situation. Megill had been appalled by the plan for “Spring,” which seemed to have been prepared by someone who could not read a contour map and had never seen the ground.66 [Megill Interview] Verrières Ridge, he believed, out to have been cleared from east to west, not by uphill attacks overlooked from three sides. Megillhad discussed this with Foulkes, and after a 7th Armoured Division liaison officer had suggested that his mend did not seriously believe that their part in Phase II of “Spring” was possible, Megill returned to Foulkes’ headquarters where he sought assurance that the brigade’s left flank would be protected by a vigourous British thrust. Foulkes told him that 7th Armoured would go all-out on the morning of July 25, and Megill had to accept this assurance.67 [Ibid]

    Once the operations began and his worst fears were being confirmed on an hourly basis, Megill could not bring himself to intervene. When Foulkes ordered the Calgaries to press their attack and told the Black Watch that speed was essential, Megill simply passed the orders on.68 [Message log 5BDE, 25 July 1944] When he learned over the “gunners net” that Griffin had arranged an attack for 9:30 A.M., Megill went to see the Black Watch commander but did not overrule his decision.

    Later that day Megill learned that Foulkes was going to renew the attack on May using Maisonneuves and leaving them under 6th Brigade command. Foulkes and Brigadier Young arrived at 5th Brigade headquarters to organize this venture, and Foulkes began the discussion by reporting that Simonds was “furious at the failure which had occurred.” 69 [Ibid., Megill Interview] Megill protested the decision to order the Mainsonneuves into battle, and a shouting match erupted with Foulkes demanding to know whether Megill was challenging his orders. The result of all this was not, however, to cancel an ill-conceived plan but rather to conduct it under the control of 5th Brigade.

    Megill offered this explanation of his actions on July 25 in a 1988 interview: “It was perfectly clear that the attack should have been called off at a very early stage in the morning. I suggested this not later than perhaps 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock. Instead the Corps commander was pressing the divisional commander and he was pressing us to get on with an attack with we knew was almost hopeless. Under these circumstances one does not quit. You do as much as you possibly can and hope that someone will see the light and give you some relief.” 70 [Ibid.] If Phillip Griffin had lived, he would no doubt have offered a similar explanation.

    Why did Simonds fail to “see the light”? the message logs suggest that he made the decision to go ahead with the infantry’s part in Phase II on the basis of reports that the North Novas and Fort Garry Horse were pressing a new attack on Tilly, the knowledge that the RHLI had captured Verrières, and the information that the Calgaries had troops in or near May. He appears to have used this fragmentary evidence as grounds for launching Phase II while reserving his armoured division until more complete information was available. He was wrong, but this was not an unreasonable decision.

    …The Canadian effort at Verrières Ridge, marred as it was by poor intelligence, communication failures, and the kind of mistakes inexperienced troops were bound to make, was nevertheless a successful military operation...The Canadians had endured, attacking a well-entrenched enemy posted on high ground and in villages. Operation “Spring” may not have been planned as a holding operation, but it certainly became a successful one."
     
  15. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    I do find myself put off, however, by the phrase in the paragraph above, "This is the area where the South Saskatchewan, and later Essex Scottish, panicked and broke under fierce German counterattacks in the early hours of July 21st, forcing the Black Watch to be rushed forward with orders to stop the panic and restore the line. " as it does not add the description of what they went through on the 21st, George Blackburn's description chilled me "In the centre, however, the South Saskatchewan Regiment are driven to wiggling back over the ridge on their bellies through wet grain and mud, seeking only to escape the save machine-gunning and the crushing tracks of rampaging Panther and Tiger tanks. They hardly reach their objective (a field of peas beyond the crest, looking across at distant ridges and nearby enemy-held villages) before being hit by a hail of machine-gun fire, shells, and mortars and driven back from their exposed position into the wheat, the only available cover.

    And even as they crawl throught the three-feet-high wehat, the insensate steel monstters, with engines roaring horribly, follow them, trying to squash them or flush them out where their machine guns can get at them.

    Mercifully, darkness comes early under the black rain-clouds. With their actng commanding officer, intelligence officer, and two company commanders dead, and all companies badly dispersed and riddled with casualties (66 dead, 116 wounded, and 26 taken prsoner), the remnants of the SSRs are finally able to make their way back through the Essex Scottish dug-in around Point 67, about halfway up from Ifs." He goes on with a description of the Essex Scottish experience.



    I do find myself wondering why the same process was used for days and at the expense of over 2000 lives, not including those left maimed in mind and body. It was as though a WWI trench warfare mentality had overtaken Corps command.

    I found this today on teh DND site, http://www.journal.dnd.ca/vo8/no2/liedtke-eng.asp#n26 Canadian Offensive Operations in Normandy Revisited
     
  16. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58

    Madame Michelle It`s everybody's Thread, as far as I'm Concerned the more that contribute the more information, you can put as much info as you want dear. It's great so others can Fallow not a problem. You have to understand that the Info Copp used is from the same references many have used through the years! But like I stated Copp has made a few mistakes and changed his mind along the way Like Mckenna The Hitler Youth OK, LOL. That's why the Blackburn accounts as you stated are from the Individuals that lived those horrific days and are always referenced.[6] Blackburn

    Do you see the post just left on the Myths, read thats very important to know. If thats really Mr.David R. O'keefe that just left the Post? We have just hit Payload.:clap: Mr. O'keefe is a very well respected Historian as you know, this will get very interesting Indeed.
     
  17. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    2,756
    Likes Received:
    541
    Location:
    Saskatoon
    I'm looking forward to seeing different input of information. This Forum is often referenced by students and is usually allowed through school firewalls, so I'm quite happy to see thorough examinations of material from multiple sources on the battles fought by the Canadians.

    I found other writing by David O'keefe, and while it is not about Verrieres or the Scheldt, it is more on the Blackwatch and their challenges at Dunkirk in Sept 1944.
    http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj/documents/vol_11/iss_1/CAJ_vol10.4_full_e.pdf
     
    Spaniard likes this.
  18. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    I'm now on 65 pages on this article I wrote, Please note Mr O'keefe I'm no Historian and Especially ain't no write! LOL

    It's Called; The Battle For Verrières Ridge a “Griffin” Lay Dead on It’s Top Crest!

    Mr O'keefe First let me state It's a pleasure you joined the conversation. Your input is always appreciated Sir! Your talking
    about the Red Hackle Magazine I do believe, I read your articles. Too detailed not at all, details are very important! As for
    "to Black Watch," The Watch is always worthy of mention See my Picture Album on this Site.

    First let me give you a heads up about me Sir since I know who you are. See this link


    The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    All web Sites many Historians have stated the Origin of The Black Watch wrong for a year I've contacted almost all to
    correct this Info even the Red Hackle Magazine and they got a little Mad with me.


    In the Origins or tracing back the Lineage of the CDN Black Watch almost all Web Sites, Historians, researchers and
    Canada’s Red Hackle Magazine { See summer and spring Issue 2007 page 4 the Canadian Connection} have concluded that.
    With the threat of an American invasion looming, in 1862 volunteer Militia companies were hastily formed in Canada. One
    of this Unites was, The 5th Battalion Royal Light Infantry, in Montreal January 31 1862. which is incorrect. According to
    the Militia Act of 1855 further amended in 1859. Why can the Regiment be traced to those times, thats when the Payroll
    system was introduced and names of Regiments and the Names of the men who served, records were kept by PayRoll Clerks.


    The real Origins should state: In the Mergence of War being Declared by Britain on the US concerning the "TRENT" Affair!
    In 1862 a Volunteer Militia of Scottish citizens of Montreal were organized under General Orders January 31 1862 as
    "The 5th Battalion, Volunteer Rifles of Canada" Now known as The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders Regiment) of Canada.

    Mr O'keefe what if I told you the Regiment can be traced back to 1831? See on the Linage Chart even though the Regiment
    name was Changed many times from 1862 to around 1904 one name has always stayed the Same "5th" do you know why?

    It’s to be Noted that “The Volunteer Rifles” & “Royal Light Infantry” date back to 1837. De Bleury Street in Montreal is
    named after a CO that commanded two Rifle Regiments in 1837 Major de Bleury.

    I was talking to Capt Adam H. about your Commission with the Black Watch what Rank, I know Officer for 2 1/2yrs.

    Now back to the Thread.


     
  19. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58

    Really I didn't know about Students using this site for reference.

    O'keefe wrote a nice one called With Blinders On, The Battle for Spycker Sept 12-14 1944 its only 12 pages Short and sweet, I have it on PDF.

    I remember seeing it on a Web Site If I fined the Link I will send to you.

    I wrote this about that event

    Simonds ordered The Camerons of Canada and The Black Watch placed under Brigadier Young's command, as the Regiments were sent to restore the Front Line, with support from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The barrage began at 18:00hrs as it rained heavily, The Cameron's headed down Route d’Harcourt AKA Route 162 South which leads from Hill 67 to St Martin through May, attacking St. Andre-sur- Orne the first village from Hill 67. They suffered 81 casualties, 29 dead. Since it was expected from the Generals, The Watch uphold their fitting spirit reputation. The Black Watch hastily moved parallel fallowing the train tracks which The Saska’s and The Essex move down a day earlier and withdrew from in the afternoon that day, a few hundred meters away on their right flank the “Ladies” leaned into it with grit, moving up the ridge in small scattered groups with determination, in a WWII "text-book operation." Tanks remained on the road until the battalions antitank guns were deployed, with an effective tank and artillery support they recovered some ground that had been lost earlier that day, and were able to halt the aggressive counterattacks by the two SS Panzer divisions and 272 infantry with Air Support. That late night the forward positions were stabilized, on the lower slopes of the north end of the Ridge between the train tracks and Beauvior Farms situated on their left flank were the F.M.R with 7th armoured division held ground on the 20th. “The Ladies from Hell!” Lead by Lt.-Col. Cantlie, who was never in the rear with the gear, a soldiers soldier front line Officer with hart and guts, always in the lead as his men fallowed from behind, participating in Recce patrols assessing and seizing up the enemy for the next battle to come, always insuring the well being and safety of his men came First before Regimental Pride and Honour. Under the command of Lt.-Col. Cantlie a well seasoned respected Leader. You couldn't deny the “Gameness,” the wiliness and the ability to conquer above all odds, that fitting spirit of “The Ladies” that resembled the “Dead Game” of 13th Batt! The honoured Gallantry and heroics of the Regiment, undeniably ever be questioned or ever at stack!

    By days end, and despite these setbacks, Lt. –Gen. Simonds arrogant and opinionated attitude, in spite of all the appeals from many High ranking Officers, he forcefully urged on "that Verrières Ridge should be taken no matter the cost."

    Now Let Me add More Part 2 for the 25th on It's way.
     
  20. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2010
    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    58
    Part Two for the 25th



    Phase II of “Spring” the battalions were scheduled to move into position and advance to begin at first light around 0.530hrs. Limited visibility in the early morning mist of the OrneValley would provide some cover; they left their assembly area on time with the Royal Regiment of Canada seizing Rocquancourt while The Calgary Highlanders would secure as clear a start-line in May. The Black Watch advanced from the rear to May assemble and capture Fontenay-le-Marmion. These attacks were to take place in conjunction with an advance by 7th Armoured Division, now delayed by many hours. The Black Watch left the defensive position they secured on the night of the 21th north of Beauvoir farm. H-hour was at 03:30hrs, this plan just allotted two hours to fill in the rear of the Calgerians as they lead securing St Andre and St Martin then moving onto May. The fighting transport (F Echelon) of the regiment remained in the town of Ifs along with the men in Battalion HQ who had not been on Hill 67. Three of us from the I Section (Sgt. Fred Janes, “Dolly” Lessard, and I, Pvt. W.J. Booth) were to precede the rifle companies to St. Andre and then, according to our orders, into St. Martin-de-Fontenay to lay white tape marking the forward edge of the forming-up point. The tape was wound on a signals reel. St. Martin is sister to St. Andre, alongside an apple orchard The Watch manoeuvred in a long snaking line along the road to St. Andre it was not until the lead Coy turned south towards their planned assembly area near the church in St. Martin that real resistance was met. Jerry soon laced them with tracer fire from a machine gun fire on them inflecting few casualties. St. Martin was far from clear of enemy activity, along the eastern edge of the build-up area there were “high stoned walls and hedges surrounding orchards. Next to these were four knocked-out Panther tanks.” The whole area was filled with machine gun and sniper posts with “weapon slits outside the walls and hedges and dug-outs and scurry holes inside.” The artificial moonlight did nothing to help locate Jerries positions as the darkness caused confusion as everyone was aware, valuable time was ticking away. There was nothing to do but take cover where we were. I found a German slit trench in the orchard and at first light, as the vehicles of F Echelon began pulling into a large field behind us, moved across the road to a ditch with a hedge running alongside it. Looking over the hedge, one could see the wreckage of a bomber knocked down during operation Goodwood and beyond it the gentle rise of the grain fields to the crest of the Verrieres Ridge. The grain was about waist high at that time. Soon the vehicles in the vehicle park and those dug in around them and in the ditch running along the road would come under observed fire from the ridge and, though I think most of us didn’t know it at the time, from high ground west of the Orne.

    As The Black Watch advance, while out on recce around 04:30hrs Lt-Coronal Stuart Stephen Tuffnel Cantlie is leading down a lane past an apple orchard with his officers close behind, suddenly a German MG 42 machinegun opens fire killing the 36yr old Cantlie and badly wounding, Major Eric Modzfeldt, the senior second in command I.O., Lt. Duffield. Cantlie, last words spoken “Someone takeover”. He died from his wounds at 06:00 hrs. The battalion devastated by these losses, while strung along the ditched hedgerow leading to St. Martin, instead of being on the scheduled start line for 05:30hrs advancing to attack Fontenay-le-Marmion. The Regiment after the tragedy regrouped while still enduring heavy German resistance on the St Martin road, and arrived hours behind schedule, while scouting for a safer assembly area on the outskirts of St. Martin, shortly after 07:00hrs Griffin meet up with Lt. Michon from The Calgary holding out all night in that area with his men thinking he was still in May-sur-Orne. “Didn’t learn where he really was in until the Black Watch arrived in the area.”

    By process of elimination command fell on a Green junior 26yrs-old, eager inexperienced company commander, as acting C.O. Since there was no way 1st battalion could reach its intended start line of May on time. In the meantime the battalion moved to St. Andre­-sur-Orne and occupy the cross roads there on the Verrieres road so that the men would be less obvious or targets form fire on the left flank from the “Factory Area” as a firm base for operations would be available.All the companies were in their new positions within 20 minutes of the conclusion of the 'O' Group. Up to this time few casualties, aside from the three serious losses in leadership amounting to 37 total casualties. Trying to cut corners and save time Griffin organized a new attack for 09:30hrs. Whilesending a patrol to May, verifying the villages was secure while insuring the start-line was cleared by Calgary. The patrol consisted of his intelligence officer, Lieutenant L.R. Duffield, Sergeant Benson and a scout sniper. The patrol moved straight down route 162 South “without using the ditches” and walked into the centre of May without seeing or hearing any Germans or any Calgary Highlanders which should of been occupying that location. At the main road crossing in the centre of the village they turned left towards the road which marked the battalion start line The Minors Road. Nearing 50 yards before the location, they’re fired on by a machine gun, Duffield returned to tell Griffin that the Calgarians were not in May, while the machinegun would be able to fire in the battalions flank. Griffin's responded by ordering Duffield to lead a reinforced patrol, six men, back to May to “take out” the machine gun. Griffin having assigned the task to taking out the machinegun, while he informed his company commanders, Duffied was successful in taking the position out. Duffield's recce patrol wasn’t the only ones to visit May that morning. Maj. Walter Harris, commanding the 1st Hussars squadron, had listened to divisional and brigade orders “to go ahead” with Phase II and had sent one of his four troops forward. This troop "located some of the Calgary Highlanders in a “hollow North of May,” badly battered and in need of stretcher bearers and medical attention, ammunition" Leaving two tanks to assist the Calgarians, the troop proceeded into May slowly manoeuvring cautiously. “At the main crossroads the lead tank was blow up by an anti-tank gun and the troop withdrew to a hull down position on the north edge of the village.”

    It’s to be noted; that Lt. Michon never told Griffin the Calgary Coy’s had met with stiff opposition and had to withdraw with many casualties in the early morning in May, as Germans in large numbers occupied the village with subterranean tunnels. Griffins new attack consisted for the Black Watch, since they were behind schedule to bypass May since it was apparent to Griffin after sending two patrols into May that Jerry had not occupied the town and advance directly on the bottom side of the ridge to Fontenay-le-Marmion assemble at the same start-line and attack Fontenay with “The Calgarians filling in from behind.” With the armour allotted of a single squadron of 18 tanks from B Squad, 1st Hussars which were originally intended to advance on the open left flank, would be switched to the right to assist the Calgarian’s in May then advance and support the attack of The Black Watch. It’s to be noted, in all the story’s ever told about 8 tanks of “B SQN” arriving in St. Martin can be accounted for that morning, this information has been covered up, Simonds ordered B SQN 10 tanks to stay on Reserve not to assist or advance, until ordered since they only had 18 tanks available. Wound up being called in when the German’s countered attack later that night.

    Brigade H.Q. was situated in the Cellar of a Brewery, when Megill, heard of Griffin’s revised plan through artillery radio net, requesting a change of the fire plane, while he advised Maj.-Gen. Foulkes, who decided to stayed behind and despatched Megill to St. Martin, to discuss the matter with the young Black Watch officer that had just taken command two hours ago. A Survivor of this battle Adjutant Capt Campbell Stuart, 24 of the Black Watch who was entrusted with the roll as middleman of the wireless radio between Griffin and headquarters has gone on record. Capt Campbell clearly remembers not but pressure “A Blizzard of Orders” I found myself receiving constant messages from Brigade, too pass on to Maj. Griffin. Command demanded an immediate attack and replies from Maj. Griffin, stressing the foolhardiness of pressing an attack.” Capt Stuart claims “the final straw. Was the appearance of Megill at St.Martin. Magill went on record and stated that. “He arrived at Saint Martin to fined Griffin preparing to attack up the Steep Ridge, and that he counselled caution and brought no pressure to bear on the Young Officer.” When he got there the operation zone appeared to be quite and no sound of gun fire from Jerry. Megill stated seeing a battle battered building with a fenced porch, Griffin stood looking over towards May completing his order group. While visited by Megill and Lt Colonel Neighswander, CO 5th Field Artillery. As you can see in deferent years Megill explains this event differently.

    Griffin was preparing the Plan with a map and compass, and took a bearing to the “Minor’s Road” his start line on the road to Fontenay then attack the Ridge, that’s the only way the Calgary and 1st Hussars could fill in from behind after clearing May fallowing the road. If Griffin would be preparing to attack the Ridge the Calgary would be in front facing and firing in the Black Watch direction. Major Edwin Bennett of The Black Watch went on record; "Furthermore it was getting close to H-hour 05.30hrs for the attack and the battalion was far from the start line. Soon the artillery fire would begin and would be of no value. Major Griffin had to make time to liaise with the artillery and, if possible retime their shoot. He had to get the tank commander into the picture and make use of his force in any new plans. Before this could be done, he had to find out the situation in St. Andre-sur-Orne from the Camerons of Canada and obtain what reports he could on the Calgarians and the situation at May-sur-Orne. He foresaw only a delay, which would at the outside be two hours, while he re-arranged timings and obtained essential information. The plan for the attack would be the same as had been previously set." Meaning same Start Line attack and clearing Fontenay, the only change was the tanks repositioned while a new artillery Fire Plan. Diary of Private W.T. Booth Intelligence H.Q., 1st Battalion Black Watch states; we assumed that the rifle companies began their advance about mid-morning, though we had no communication with them. The Watch had been strung out along the walls and hedgerows on the eastern side of St. Martin and were to advance to their “start line, a road running out of May” and up to the crest of the ridge, where they were to follow a creeping barrage onto their objective, Fontenay-le-Marmion.

    Brigadier Megill and Griffin debated as how the attack should proceed. There are two Known versions, concerning this meeting. The two men stood on a porch over looking May as Griffin explained his intentions of this new plan. According to Megill, Griffin replied and insisted that they had “patrols into May” and he doubted that it was held on “a continuous basis.” Megill went on record; recalling he suggesting that it might be better to stick to the original plan and move first to May, but Griffin insisted that “they had patrols into May, as little activity was seen.” Once the Black Watch attack went in, he argued, the Calgary’s “would fill in behind” once they passed their start-line. Megill stated he should of overruled Griffin and ordered the Black Watch to first secure May which was the Original plan. Megill admitted later, “in hindsight it seemed better to allow Griffin to go ahead rather than force changes that would require a new fire plan and a new orders group. Order, counter-order, confusion, and he hastily approved the plan.” Megill accepted this assessment and returned to his headquarters. Since Megill was sent By Maj.-Gen. Foulkes to St. Martin to issuer The Watch “Get Cracking!” And the fact Megill went on record many years later that he knew Griffins or the Original plan would fail in catastrophe, since all high command levels knew the Germans overwhelmingly out numbered and over powered them, embedded and concealed.


    By Griffin inconceivable reckless actions later on the jump of point as through the battle, which has reviled he was suffering from battle fatigue or shock. It’s clear that Griffin was manipulated by the General taking advantage of his young age and inexperience, while his grief for C.O. Cantlie was fresh on Griffins mined. As the Regimental honour and pride that all members of the Black Watch inherit, Megill knew the Plan was in disorder as being seriously behind schedule, while having minimal knowledge of the Calgarians Coy’s situation or positions. Megill prime directive was to issuer the advance as the attack on the ridge was carried out, he knew com’s where down, or not reliable. All the Regiments were already stretched thin, and were considerably delayed meeting their objectives due to heavy resistance from Jerry, since the III Phase was originally the most important, resting on the Black Watch shoulders. Megill told Griffin that great things were expected from the Regiment success and actions in the Battle since they carried a reputation, and since it was now Griffins mission he should take responsibility in caring out! All research as proof shows, this was Griffins Plan to bypass May while cutting corners and considerable amount of time, having the Calgarians clear out May as The Black Watch would assemble at a start-line on the “Minors Road” then the Calgerians and the Hussars would, fill in behind them as the Watch assaulted the ridge first then Fontenay. Megill gave his condolences and admiration for the lost of his C.O., who was killed only over two hours ago by Jerry, The Regiment needed to inflect Impunity in justification, a common statement in those times. Since the Junior Green Officer, was known to be impressionable easily influenced as his determination to impress higher ranks.


    Griffin wanted to impress the General while trying to convince Megill, to carry out his plane would succeed in attacking the ridge faster. Griffin insisted a Black Watch patrol sent into May reported that it only encountered a single machine-gun had opened up, he doubted that it was held on “a continuous basis.” His plan would save a considerable amount of time in reaching their objectives. While insuring the Regimental Honour would be at stack if his objectives were not met or carried out. As The Black Watch would not disappoint The General, an attack at 09:30hrs would be carried without delay on the Word & Honour of The Regiment, The Black Watch never retreats! What is known is that “a new artillery fire plan was agreed upon and tank support arranged with Major Walter Harris, the commander of B SQN, 1st Hussars which was not part of the original Plan.”

    It's to be noted theres two versions Attack from the outskirts of May the Minors Road to the Ridge then to Fontenay Or Attack Fontenay first and then the Ridge. Plus the version Griffin was orderd on a frontal attack up the Ridge?


    Part 3 Later. Please note I'm still adding info or making changes
     

Share This Page