Do We Remember?
From our archives:
From the history of the 12th Field Regiment:
“About 0630 hrs the LCT’s deployed for the firing run-in and at 0715 the blue flag broke out at the masthead of our ML. Everyone forgot his sea sickness for this was it! 12thField-DDayOur ranging rounds required only a small correction before our fire plan began. There were no “hitches” and as we approached the shore we saw our rounds landing. The whole beach seemed a raging inferno; – fighters and fighter-bombers were strafing and bombing. Destroyers and cruisers were bombarding the beaches, four Regiments of Artillery were firing, plus the devastating closer support weapons, Landing Craft Rockets and Landing Craft Guns. Nothing had been left out and it was impossible to comprehend this vast picture. From the sea it looked as if the whole area would be a completely pulverized and annihilated by the time we arrived. We earnestly hoped so!
From MEMORANDUM OF INTERVIEW WITH Lt Col R H Webb, CO, 12 Cdn Fd Regt 23 Jun 1944
Fd Arty in the Assault :
1. 12 Fd Regt, RCA, was loaded into six LCTs with additional marching parties mingled with the res inf coys of the assault – bees, -R Wpg Rif, 1 C Scot R, and HQ 7 Cdn Inf Bde. The Channel crossing was rough – so rough that everyone was surprised to hear that the op was under way.
2. During the run-in Maj A G Goldie acted as Fwd Observer and directed the regt’s fire onto the WEST end of COURSEULLES, where he reported it to be effective, with rounds falling in the target area. 120 rpg were fired and the results in COURSEULLES were clearly visible to the gnrs after landing.
3. The four observing offrs and the recce parties had landed with their coys at approx H + 15 mins. Maj E Pickering, 2IC, Maj J D Ross, OC 16 Bty, Capt G M Wright and Lt Gothard were all wounded by MG or mortar fire shortly after reaching land.
4. Maj Goldie found the beach exits blown by the enemy and the low ground SOUTH of the dunes flooded and impassable. It appeared as if several hrs work were: required before exits could be made ready. Meanwhile the guns served no useful purpose lying offshore. It was therefore decided to bring the craft in to the beach and to put the guns in action at once. The scheduled time for landing was H + 75 mins; the actual time was very close -about 0900 hrs. The tide by this time had covered the obstacles so that the LCTs had to find their way through them. In some instances vehs were forced to wade off into deep water. But all guns were ashore and providing arty sp to the advancing inf in a short space of time. To the confusion of men and vehs on the beach was added the roar of the guns, firing from the water’s edge, with RHQ behind them literally in the water. 12 Cdn Fd Regt was thus the first unit in the div to bring down arty fire from land. No guns were lost, but two vehs were drowned.12th Field SP-ARTILLERY-FIRE-LCT-JUNE-1944
5. When the exits were opened the regt moved inland, one bty at a time so as to provide continuous sp, beyond the minefds to BANILLE area, where it remained for the balance of D-day and the following night.
“This battle was the single most important battle on the Western front. DDay is the military codeword for the paratrooper operations on the night of June 5 and the beach landings on the morning of June 6 in Normandy. Canada’s 3rd Division led the way at Juno Beach supported by four regiments of field artillery plus an anti tank and anti-aircraft regiment. Three thousand, two hundred Gunners landed on D-Day, losing 17 officers and 40 other ranks. The Commander Royal Artillery of 3rd Division was Brigadier Stanley Todd, a First World War Gunner and a great hero amongst Canadian Gunners. On the morning of June 6, 1944, it was cloudy and pouring rain. The tide was low, and thousands of soldiers from America, Britain, Canada, and many other countries were prepared to storm the beaches. The battle was going to be fierce, and thousands of men would lose their lives fighting.
D-Day-landingcraft-Priest 12th Field Regt Before the infantry landed on the beach, all artillery launched a saturation barrage against the enemy defences. Destroyers pounded the beaches, large landing crafts fired their 4.7-inch guns and Landing Craft Tanks fired rocket rounds. Four field artillery regiments of the Royal Canadian Artillery, in all 96 guns of 105-mm, embarked on 24 LCTs, moved toward the beaches simultaneously.
From its craft the 12th Field Regiment opened fire against a fortified position in Courseulles. At 0655hrs, the 13th Field Regiment attacked another position west of the cliff. At 0744hrs, the 14th Regiment fired on the Bernières fortified position.
WAR DIARY or INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY – 12th CDN FD REGT
June 6, 1944:
The assault on the beaches was preceded by heavy bombardment from naval forces consisting of two cruisers, four destroyers of the Hunt class, rocket craft and LCGs etc as well an our own 105mm guns who were firing 120 rounds apiece. At the last minute it was found that the Avries were late, and this caused some confusion to the landing parties, as many of the beach obstacles were not removed. Our recce parties landed at approximately H plus 15 with the leading assault companies of the infantry. They met heavy mortar fire and Major E. PICKERING 2 1/c of the Regiment was wounded and Sigmn. SWAN was killed. Gnr. A.A. ELLMAN, batman, was badly wounded as was Major J.D. ROSS of the 16 Battery. Lt, E.C. GOTHARD), CPO of the 43 Battery was also wounded.
Heavy fighting took place on the beach. The enemy flooded the low land behind the beach, and the beach exits became impassible. The Engineers worked furiously with bulldozers to clear them. In the meantime the regiment landed and took up a gun position on the beach• In many cases engaging the enemy over open sights, Snipers and mortars were taking a heavy toll of the men on the beach. The WINNIPEG RIFLES managed to get forward and clear out several machine gun nests, but the REGINAS were held up for some time at the little village of GRAYE STIR MER It was approximately 16oo hrs when the squadrons of the INNS OF COURT managed to get through the beach exits and get away on their job of blowing the bridges from CAEN east and north towards the beaches. At approximately 1700 hrs 12 Fd Regiment was able to take up its position near gun area “MARY’ which was between the town of BANVILLE and SAINT CROIX SUR MER. Prisoners began coming in and the 13 Fd regiment managed to land all their troops excepting one whose ramp door had become jammed. By 1000 bra 7 Brigade forward companies had reached the intermediate objective which was known as code word “ELM”.On this line BRIGADIER FOSTER decided to re-organize for attacking the following morning.
June 7th 1944:
The attack was launched early Wednesday morning supported by 12 and 13 Field Regiments and two batteries from the ROYAL MARINES armoured support regiment who are under command of the 12 and 13 Fd for the invasion. The attack was slowly pressed home, and by late afternoon the WINNIPEG RIFLES were on the final objective known as “OAK” which was the railway line running from CAEN to BAYEUX. By this time elements of the 3rd A/Tk and 246 and 248 batteries ROYAL ARTILLERY plus several squadrons of armour had been landed, and were able to take part in an anti-tank role. In the centre the REGINA RIFLES were a little short of their objective while on our left flank the 9th Brigade who had come through the 8th Brigade were still short of the objective, due 10 stubborn enemy resistance, one of which is the RADAR STATION near BENY SUR MER and which is still in enemy hands although surrounded.
Excerpt from Canada’s Phantom Regiment Documentary
Going Home (28:33 min)