Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Recollections of War: The Battle of the Falaise Pocket



 Major David Currie, seen talking with the young man in
the white shirt, commanded Canadian Forces
during the fierce battles near Falaise.
70 Years Since Falaise

        The Battle of Falaise, officially fought from August 12 - 20, 1944 was one of the hardest fought battles during the Allies campaign to liberate Europe.  At the end of the major portion of the fighting over 15,000 troops from both sides lay dead.  But the Allied breakthrough from Normandy was eventually completed and the German Seventh Army was no longer to oppose the British, Canadian, and American forces in Europe.

        The Battle of Falaise began when the German counter-attack on the American forces near St. Mortain was forcefully stopped by the US 30th Infantry Division on August 11-12.  Thus the German Seventh Army found itself becoming trapped between two Allied lines of advance.  The British and Canadian Divisions were coming east and south from Normandy, while the Americans were advancing north-east up from the south of France and Italy.  The epicenter of the final position of the Allies was the town of Falaise.  Study the map to the right for an excellent strategic view of things.


        While the Americans were making steady progress north, the Canadians were meeting heavy opposition.  The 2nd Canadian Division on August 14 was heavily repulsed, but on August 16 they broke through the German lines, and the next day, Falaise was captured and fell into Canadian hands.  But the Battle of the Falaise Pocket was far from over.
The initial objective was to encircle the German Seventh Army and link up with the Americans at Argentan, but this was then changed to the villages of Trun and Chambois by Gerneral Montgomery, who realized that the line would possibly be too weak to stem the German retreat at Argentan, and so ordered a stronger line formed with the capture of the latter villages.  This was finally accomplished on August 18th with the 4th Canadian and 1st Polish Armoured Divisions capturing, respectively, Trun and Chambois.

        Finally, the destruction of the German Seventh Army was achieved.  The Battle of the Falaise Pocket was over.  10,000 German troops were captured, and a large part of France was liberated.  Within a few weeks more, the western part of Europe was liberated from the Nazi occupation - from the Atlantic Ocean to Paris.  But at what cost?  Over five thousand Allied troops were casualties of the terrible fighting over the course of that one week.  Granted, it was considered the price that had to paid for many heroic stands and assaults, but in the end, war is a terrible thing. We should not glorify war, but we should remember and thank those who fought for freedom.

        On a related note, to the left is a photo of one of the actual maps issued to Canadian troops when passing, or as the case might be, fighting through Falaise.  My Grandfather brought this map back home with him after the war, and we found it just a few days ago.  He well remembers using it to navigate as his workshop which he commanded passed through Falaise following the Canadian artillery on its way through Europe.



Written and Posted by William A Moore



Bibliography

"The Normandy Landings" - Derek Blizard, Reed Intl Books, 1993.


Closing the Gap ~ Robert Taylor


Monday, 4 August 2014

Recollections of War: 4 August 1914 - 100 Years


        100 years ago - war was declared.  After Germany marched through Belgium, violating the Treaty of London, the British ultimatum delivered to the Germans was ignored, and at 23:00 (11:00pm) on August 4, Britain - and with her the Commonwealth, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - a state of war existed between the Axis Powers and the Allies.


        Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill later wrote about the scene in London that night:
                “It was eleven o’clock at night – twelve by German time – when the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were thrown wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof from which Nelson had received his orders were gathered a small group of admirals and captains and a cluster of clerks, pencils in hand, waiting. Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing ‘God save the King’ flouted in. On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war telegram, which meant, “Commence hostilities against Germany”, was flashed to the ships and establishments under the White Ensign all over the world. I walked across the Horse Guards Parade to the Cabinet room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were assembled there that the deed was done.”


        With that telegram, four years of conflict began.  Nation fought against nation - countries banded together against the enemy - whoever that was.  The world was changed.  Many wondered which side God was on?  However, the real question was, and in some ways still is - Who was on the Lord's side?  For this war and its victories and defeats, humanity and horrors, brought home to many the realization that this world is a broken world - yet, there is hope.  When Christ comes again he will make all things new, and there will be no war and death. Until then, we must live in light of that knowledge.
        Rudyard Kipling summed up the state of the world at this point in history many years earlier with his poem, "God of Our Fathers:"
'God of our fathers, known of old-
Lord of our far-flung battle line
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine-
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!'

(Read the rest of the poem HERE.)

        Thus began one of the most fiercest worldwide conflicts in all of history - The First World War. 


Written and posted by William A Moore