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Operation Charnwood Caen July 8 1944

Operation Charnwood was the renewed attempt to take the northern portion of Caen which had been an objective of D-Day a month before. The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division supported by the 2nd Armoured Brigade were on the right flank. Their attack would be carried out in two phases. In phase 1 the 8th Brigade with the Fort Garry Horse in support would complete the capture of Carpiquet airfield on the right while 9th Brigade supported by the Sherbrooke Fusiliers would capture the towns of Authie and Buron. The road running between these two towns would serve as the start line for phase 2 where A-Squadron 1st Hussars would support the Canadian Scottish Regiment in the capture of Cussy while C-Squadron would support the Regina Rifles in the capture of l’Abbaye Ardenne. Unbeknown to the Canadians at the time the Abbey was the headquarters of the 25th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 12th SS Panzer Division and the location of the murder of 18 Canadian prisoners taken the previous month. B-Squadron would be in reserve for this action.

As the Regiment moved forward the men were in high spirits, they were well rested, and had watched in awe the previous evening as the air force had dropped thousands of tons of bombs on the target in preparation for the attack and the attack that morning had been preceded by a massive artillery bombardment by more than 650 guns of all calibres. However, it soon became clear that the battles for Authie and Buron were being heavily contested and Phase 2 of the attack was repeatedly delayed. It was not until 18:30 that 7th Brigade along with the Hussars were finally committed but even then, they had to fight their way to the start line. Three of A Squadron’s tanks were hit in quick succession Major Brooks crew was saved when the extra track welded to the front of their tank absorbed most of the damage from the incoming round. The Sherman of Sergeant Chester “Chet” Lumley was hit and caught fire as the Squadron approached the objective of Cussy. In a rather unusual move given the reputation that the Sherman was gaining in Normandy for catastrophic fires the crew stuck with their vehicle and managed to put the fire out and return to the harbour under their own power. As darkness fell Cussy was firmly in Canadian Hands. One point of particular note mentioned in the after action report of A-Squadron was the first and very successful use of the "Tank phone" installed on the rear of the tank which allowed a relatively safe method of communications between the infantry and the tankers. This had been one of the recommendations put forward by the Regiment following Le Mesnil-Patry. in this particular instance the infantry were able to spot a concrete gun emplacement and and successfully direct the tank fire in its destruction.

The battle for the Abbey was a different matter. The Abbey was fiercely defended by infantry, Tanks, and a battery of 88mm guns from the 12th SS Panzer Division. In addition, the approaches were protected by a minefield. It is a testament to the bravery and perseverance of the Regina Rifles and the skilful application of fire and movement by Major Marks' C-Squadron that the objective was finally secured shortly before midnight. In this action Lieutenant Gordon Henry and his "Crack" gunner Archie Chapman claimed two more Panthers bringing their total ten Following the battle, it was clear that the enemy was withdrawing and the 3rd Division along with the 2nd Armoured Brigade pushed forward into the northern suburbs of Caen itself. Major Brooks having lost his tank earlier in the day accompanied the infantry forward in a scout car and spent the night in the city. He met his Squadron as they arrived the next morning and as the situation was well in hand accompanied them back to the new Regimental harbour to await their next action.Operation Charnwood had been a great success and moral was very high.

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