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Operation Totalize

The regiment used the period at Vaucelles to first and foremost ensure that their vehicles were in tip top shape, rest up, absorb new vehicles and replacement crews, and once again reorganize the Squadrons. Many small things during this period contributed to relieving the stress of combat operations. As already mentioned, the troops were entertained with movies and a show, bath parades and trips back to Courseulles-sur-Mer for swimming were laid on, and baseball games were arranged. In addition, the tedious preparation of meals was taken away from the individual soldier and became a communal task of cooks assigned to the Squadron echelon and, more and more frequently the usually less than appealing and monotonous “Compo rations” were supplemented with fresh food. However, overriding all else as a morale booster was the arrival of a beer ration. Although never enough nor as frequent as the men would like it was a great and welcomed pick-me-up.

Operation Totalize was Major General Guy Simonds third attempt to crack the German line at Verrieres Ridge. As the name implies it was to be a maximum effort conducted by three infantry divisions, two armoured divisions, and two armoured brigades,. The highly ambitious plan using innovative tactics was to drive two Anglo-Canadian armoured brigades supported by two infantry brigades through the German defences at "night" something that had never been tried on this scale. Several innovations were included in the plan. One was the use of search lights reflecting off of clouds to provide artificial moon light, others included the use of special radio equipped guide tanks which would follow a radio beacon along the proper course, and anti aircraft guns firing tracers over the correct route. However, a specifically Canadian invention was also going to be tried for the first time. This involved mounting the assault infantry for the first time ever in newly created "armoured" personnel carriers known as "Kangaroos". These would travel with the tanks and transport their infantry to within 200 yards of their objectives. The attack would be preceded by a massive 1000 plane bomber raid on the German positions and supported by more than 700 Artillery pieces. The assault forces were to continue on to their initial objectives bypassing any resistance. They were to open a breach in the German lines for two armoured divisions to pass through continuing the advance on to the important transportation hub of Falaise some 18 miles to the South. Totalize was to be the offensive that would finally break the German resistance in Normandy. As can be seen this was a very large operation in which the 1st Hussars were just one small part. Once again I will concentrate on our role. The First Hussars would be operating on the right flank of the assault over the same ground and with primarily the same objectives as they had during Operation Spring. Our role was to move out at first light and support the follow on infantry in mopping up any remaining enemy resistance and later in the day support the advance to the town of Bretteville-sur-Laize and the wooded area around Quilley approximately 1.5 miles further south.

Phase one of Totalize was a massive success. By 14:00 Verrieres Ridge was finally in Canadian hands. A and B-Squadrons were at the village of Caillouet almost 6 miles into the German rear area preparing to support the infantry of the Calgary Highlanders and Le Regiment de Maisonneuve on to their final objectives. Earlier, C-Squadron had been diverted a short distance West to assist in the capture of Fontenay-le-Marmion. In the process they managed to collect over 250 enemy prisoners. By 18:00 all objectives for the day had been secured. Although 2nd Armoured Brigade had been very successful in a very complex mission. The day had not been without cost for the 1st Hussars and ended on a very sombre note. The A-Squadron commander Major Conron and his crew had a very close call when their vehicle was put out of action by 3 very near misses from what were believed to be 150mm artillery rounds. These destroyed the main gun and cracked open the hull. The B-Squadron commander Major Powell was wounded by shrapnel from an artillery air-burst. However, in a truly tragic mistake 8 Hussars lost their lives and 10 more were wounded when the Echelon area was bombed by allied aircraft.

These pictures show the 1st Hussar echelon under attack

Fortunately Phase 2 of Operation Totalize did not involve the 1st Hussars. In the first place it was delayed waiting for an allied air attack which had already been scheduled. This allowed the Germans to reorganize their defences and mount a very powerful preemptive armoured counterattack which included several Panzer IVs and assault guns, but was led by 7 of the much feared Mk. VI Tigers with their powerful 88mm guns. When the air raid did eventually materialize those bombs that dropped on their intended targets fell behind the attacking Germans. Unfortunately, as with the morning raid, many of the bombs were dropped short on the waiting Polish armoured division. This further disrupted and delayed Phase 2 of the attack and resulted in over 300 casualties among the Poles. The result was that the Germans were given time to react to the initial break through and reorganize their defences. When the attack was finally mounted during the afternoon it was stopped cold by a series of powerful armoured counter attacks and skilfully sited anti-tank guns. Some minor advances were made on the 9th and 10th of August but essentially the operation had stalled and was called off early on the 11th. Although ultimately unsuccessful, Totalize had made a serious penetration into the German defences North of Falaise, and the fanatical counter attacks by the 12th SS Panzer Division that afternoon and over the next 2 days had severely depleted the available German armour which could not be replaced.

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