Lest we forget!
from our project archives: August 2017
August 14th, 1944 – It was to be the grimmest day of the war for the 12th Regiment R.C.A. The Regiment was the victim of a horrible and ghastly tragedy. The R.A.F. and R.C.A.F. bombed their first target, which was German troops, accurately.
The second wave hit factories near the quarries which brought everyone out to watch. The next wave bombed behind the 12th Field. The following waves bombed the 12th, and many other units located in the area, for over an hour.
There were 16 killed and at least 51 wounded.
August 14th, 1944
Canadians Bombed by 500 R.A.F. Planes
Globe and Mail by Ralph Allen, the War correspondent. 43rd D. RHQ – – excerpts:
Could See it Coming
Before we reached our destination it had already become apparent that something had suddenly gone wrong with the bombing program. British heavies had changed their course slightly and when we heard the next gargantuan blast of heavy bombs and saw the next pillar of smoke belch toward the sky, the area had somehow shifted to our own lines. Bombs appeared to fall on Cauvicourt, a mile northeast of the quarry.
Brigade headquarters was already reporting it to division when we arrived at the operations room, a dugout that had served as a German divisional headquarters only a few days before.
From the top of the quarry, H.D. Zeiman, correspondent of the Daily Telegraph; Collin Rayment, Montreal, our conducting officer, and I watched the first squadron of Lancasters come in two hours after the Canadian infantry had launched an attack across the Liaison River toward Falaise and drop their bombs with perfect accuracy in the area of Quesney Wood, 2 1/2 miles from our observation post.
Hundreds More Planes Coming
But the next wave of bombers hit due north of us and it occurred to us that perhaps it was time to take note of the fact that bombs had now been dropped on three sides of us and that there were hundreds more planes still in the air coming straight towards us. The planes were flying low. We waited another minute, looking through our binoculars to see if the bomb doors on the leading planes were open. Then the major called out: ” Everybody in trenches or dugouts “.
Pte. Jerome Latour, Toronto driver of our press jeep, jumped in and drove the jeep along the quarry shelf to the front of the dugout, where there was protection for it to one side. Rayment, Zeiman, the major and I jogged along on foot glancing uneasily over our shoulders, but we made just as the first bomb hit the quarry with the deafening, teeth-shattering impact of a rabbit punch from a giant. We spilled inside the dugout, past a narrow runway, down two steps and around a corner into a square room in which eight or 10 privates were already sitting around a kerosene lamp.
The scene in the Dugout
There wasn’t much to the room but a big operations map and a double tier of wooden bunks. The soldiers moved back on the bunks to make room. One of them sat on a box, his head bent over a set of signaller’s earphones. ” Hello, Sarah Two, Hello Sarah Two, we are being bombed. Over, ” he was saying. His voice was firm, clear and decidedly matter of fact.
The rabbit punches were raining down by now, and through the smoke-filled corridor of the dugout every now and then the hot, liquid fingers of blast reached and tugged as though to drag us out of our trembling haven by sheer force.
We had now become the preferred target. The bombs came at us in catching sticks and each time a stick started we held our breaths and covered our heads with our arms….
Excerpt from the book ” Into Action with the 12th Field – Lt. Col. T. J. Bell M.C.
One hour and ten minutes of death and destruction _ and from our own support. It was almost unbelievable and the time seemed interminable. Many prayers were offered that day – not for life itself but that the end might come quickly. The agony of suspense was terrifying and escape impossible. The air after each stick was dropped, would be filled with flying debris and between waves the ammunition from dumps and blazing vehicles was exploding in every direction. The whole area of the quarry was raging inferno and yet strange to relate the dividing line of the bombing between the 11th, 16th and 43rd Batteries was as clean as the cut of a knife. Not that the 43rd felt safe but they were able to watch Lancasters come in an literally blow their brother Batteries to bits _ at least it seemed so at the time. They were only four hundred yards from the target and yet could only watch: any action was impossible.
An Auster air OP eventually put in an appearance and did its best to divert the bombers from us but it was only the last wave that was actually led from our area.
There was so much smoke and dust after the first few waves had passed that even decisive features on the ground had ceased to exist for orientation and from what we could gather the bombers were bent only on dropping their bombs in the same area as their predecessors.
Our toll, when it was over, was thirteen dead and fifty-three wounded to say nothing of the vehicles and guns. The gun position and Wagon Lines of the 16th and the Wagon Lines of the 11th Batteries were hit the hardest while the 43rd escaped untouched. The 16th lost practically all of their vehicles and trailers and most of their guns were damaged. The 11th suffered thirty-three vehicle casualties and it was a miracle that no more lives had been lost. Now we knew how the Germans stood it and the answer was going to ground. Unless a bomb scored a direct hit on a slit trench you were comparatively safe. It was a dreadful experience and the morale of the Regiment was at a low ebb following the raid. The Medical Officer performed miracles in his RAP in one of the tunnels and many casualties from the other Units passed through his hands.
No time was lost once the raid was over in checking vehicle and personnel casualties and the Regiment, less the 16th Battery, prepared immediately to move forward to support our Infantry in spite of our losses. The 16th had no guns or vehicles so they remained behind to refit and reorganize.
Canada’s Phantom Regiment excerpt- CHAPTER Five: Quarry Bombing and The Liberation of France (17 min)
We can no more master the past than we can undo it.
But we can reconcile ourselves to it.
It is, as Goethe has said ( in the Dedication to Faust ):
Pain arises anew, lament repeats,
Life’s Labyrinthine, erring course.