(35) A strong enemy position in Beuzeville was holding up the Brigade’s advance. The 8th Parachute Battalion attacked the south side of the town, while the 9th Parachute Battalion moved in from the northwest. Both battalions were successful in dislodging the enemy by late afternoon. At 1900, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was called on to move forward and to push on to Mon Maugher. Skirting Beuzeville on the west side the Canadians, now off the main road, traveled by track and footpath through the woods and across open fields. By 2300, they had got no further than, a point still 4 miles from Mon Maugher. Here, they stopped for 4 hours, at first light pushing on again to their destination, which they reached at 0740. Companies took up defensive positions, but no enemy was seen. Nor were any more enemy elements encountered by the Canadians during the remainder of their stay in France.

FM Montgomery Visits Canadian Troops in Kleve, Germany, February 1945. (l to r) MGen C. Vokes (4th Armoured Division UK), Gen H.D.C. Crerar (Army Commander), FM Montgomery, LGen B. G. Horrocks (British 30th Corps, attached Canadian Army), LGen G.C. Simonds (2nd Corps), MGen D.C. Spry (3rd Infantry Division), and MGen A.B. Mathews (2 Division)

(36) Nightfall of August 26 found the units of the 3rd Parachute Brigade resting in the Beuzeville area. The remaining formations of the 6th Airborne Division, the 5th Parachute Brigade; the Royal Netherlands Group (Princess Irene); the 4th Special Service Brigade; the 1st Special Service Brigade, the 1st Belgian Group (Brigade Piron) and the 6th Air Landing Brigade were grouped in that order along the left bank of the Risle River from Pont-Audemer to its junction with the Seine River at Berville-sur-Mer (WD, SD, 1st Cdn Army, Aug 44, Appx 324, Location Statement). On the Division’s right, brigades of the 49th British Infantry Division were closed in around Pont-Audemer, ready to take over or pass through the positions of the airborne formations. On August 28, orders were given to the 6th Airborne Division to move into the 21st Army Group Reserve. Less the 1st and the 4th Special Services brigades, it was done on the afternoon of August 30.

(37) It was no mean feat that the units of the 6th Airborne Division had accomplished since the beginning of their campaign in the early hours of D-Day. In all phases of the operation – the initial assault, when in spite of dispersal they had speedily gained all their objectives; the long and trying period of holding the area between the Orne River and the Dives River in the face of frequent and determined attacks by a more heavily armed opponent; and the final rapid advance to the Risle River, during which a very inadequate scale of transport had failed to keep them from maintaining contact with the retreating enemy – in all these phases they had borne themselves well.

(38) For a week, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion rested at Mon Maugher. Personnel was allowed to visit Beuzeville, 25% of the unit strength at a time. On September 4, TCVs carried the battalion to Concentration Area N°60 near Arromanches, and embarkation took place 2 days later. By late afternoon, September 7, all the troopers were back at Bulford, in the barracks they had left 3 months before. From September 12 to September 24, the entire battalion was on leave. On its return, general training became the order of the day, a role that was to continue for the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion until a Christmas Day embarkation at Folkestone marked the beginning of another chapter in the unit’s history.

Private Tom J. Phelan, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, who was wounded on 16 June 1944 at Le Mesnil, rides his airborne folding bicycle at the battalion's reinforcement camp, England, 1944.  Note he is armed with a Sten gun with wooden stock

Casualties and Decorations

(39) The casualties tool exacted for the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during its stay in France was heavy but not much heavier than had been anticipated. The War Office forecast of invasion activity for the 6th British Airborne Division had estimated that wastage for the 1st month would be at a double intense rate, i.e., 50% of the War Establishment for officers and 40% for the other ranks. (CMHQ file 1/Para/ Tps/1: Col J.G.K Strahy to DAG, CMHQ, May 15 1944). As was to be excepted, the number of casualties sustained during the early days of the operation far exceeded losses for the remaining time that the unit was in France. During the first 12 days of fighting, up to the time of the battalion’s first removal from the line, officer casualties amounted to 59% of War Establishment, the other ranks 39% (WE strength was 31 officers and 587 other ranks). Subsequent losses were on a considerably lower scale.

(40) The following table, compiled from Records Officer Casualty Reports, shows casualties suffered by the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion for 3 significant periods of the total operation. The Prisoner of War losses in the first period was all sustained on D-Day.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Casualties

June 6, 1944 – September 6, 1944
KIA, Officers 5, Other ranks 43. WIA, Officers 10, Other ranks 103. MIA, Officer 0, Other ranks 3. POW, Officers 3, Other ranks 82. Total casualties, Officers 18, Other ranks 231.

June 18, 1944 – July 4, 1944
KIA, Officer 0, Other ranks 13. WIA, Officers 4, Other ranks 32. MIA, Officer 0, Other ranks 0. POW, Officers 0, Other ranks 0. Total casualties, Officers 4, Other ranks 45.

July 5, 1944 – September 6, 1944
KIA, Officers 0, Other ranks 10. WIA, Officers 2, Other ranks 49. MIA, Officer 0, Other ranks 7. POW, Officers 0, Other ranks 1. Total casualties, Officers 2, Other ranks 67.

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Greven, Germany, 4 April 1945

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion – Campaign Casualties
KIA, Officers 5, Other ranks 66. WIA, Officers 16, Other ranks 184. MIA, Officer 0, Other ranks 10. POW, Officers 3, Other ranks 83. Total casualties, Officers 34, Other ranks 343.

(41) The deficiencies in the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion’s strength caused by these casualties were successfully met by unit reinforcements for the first 3 weeks of fighting. But during July, the source of supply dwindled, and the difficulty of obtaining replacements is reflected in the battalion’s diminishing strength returns. On August 5, the unit’s strength reached its lowest figure of the campaign, with 17 officers and 315 other ranks. There was a little improvement during the month, and when the battalion returned to England at the beginning of September, there was a strength deficiency of 5 officers and 242 other ranks (CMHQ, File 24/AEF/1/5, AG Stats Letter, May 5, 1945).

(42) 60 different officers and men of the 6th Airborne Division were decorated in the field by FM Bernard Montgomery shortly after D Day, 5 were members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Capt J.P. Hanson (Military Cross); Capt P.R. Griffin (Military Cross); Sgt G.H Morgan (D.136859)(Military Medal); Cpl Wm. Noval (B.146477)(Military Medal); LCpl R.A. Geddes (B.101038)(Military Medal). The Military Medal was also won but awarded posthumously by Sgt J.A. Lacasse (B.3047) (Died of Wounds); Pvt W.B. Ducker (F.25504) (Died of Wounds) and Sgt W.P. Minard (Status Unknown).

Collecting Aid Station somewhere in Normandy - Note de German Medic in the center of the photo

(43) These awards were earned in two actions. Charlie Co attack on the enemy position at Varaville on D-Day and the assault by Baker Co east of Le Mesnil crossroads on June 8. In the Varaville engagement, Capt Hanson (2 I/C Charlie Co), took command of the company when its commander, Maj H. M. McLeod was killed. Although he was himself wounded, he successfully led the action that resulted in the taking of the German bunker and the enemy Headquarters, inflicting many casualties and taking 40 prisoners. Pvt Ducker, a medical orderly attached to Charlie Co under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire gave medical assistance to the Company Commander and 3 others fatally injured when a German 75-MM shell detonated the Canadian PIAT ammunition dump, caring for them until certain that they were beyond aid (WD, 1 Cdn Para Bn, June 6, 1944). In the same action; Sgt Minard displayed exceptional qualities of leadership and initiative in commanding his platoon when its officer was killed. On June 13, he again distinguished himself when he exercised a steadying influence on his platoon during the relief by his company of part of 5 Black Watch, who were being strongly attacked at the Château south of Breville.

(44) On the morning of June 8, after his company’s return from Robehomme, Capt Griffin led one and a half platoon of Baker Co to assault a group of strongly held buildings in the Bois de Bavent, east of the crossroads at Le Mesnil. The enemy was driven out with heavy casualties, and a counter-attack with superior forces was successfully held off. Sgt Lacasse and Sgt Morgan won their decorations at the same time. The former though twice wounded, led his section across an open field swept by fire, to knock out an enemy LMG position; the latter displayed skill, initiative, and complete disregard of his own personal safety as he conducted his platoon’s successful assault upon the occupied buildings. In the same action, Cpl Noval and Cpl Geddes (at this time both being private soldiers), operating as a Bren gun and sniper team to give covering fire, accounted between them for less than 25 Germans (CMHQ File 21/Gen/8, Citations, France).

(45) Two major awards were won by personnel of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during the operation at Goustranville on August 18, 1944 (par #28). Capt J. A. Clancy was awarded the Military Cross, the citation noting his behavior on that day as but one example of ‘his devotion to duty and outstanding gallantry’ throughout the entire campaign in Normandy. As acting as 2 I/C of Able Co, he led a platoon in the assault against the southern bridge. By the momentum of his attack in the face of strong machine gun fire the bridge, which was vital to this Brigade, was captured before the enemy could destroy it. In the same engagement Sgt G.W. Green (B.62282), an acting platoon commander in Able Co, reorganized his platoon when it suffered heavy casualties and led his men in 2 attacks that resulted in the killing and capture of more than 25 Germans. Although severely wounded, Sgt Green continued to control his platoon until he was able to hand it over to his Company Commander. For this action, and for the inspiration to his men through the campaign up to that time, he was awarded the Military Medal.

C.P. Stacey, Colonel
Historical Officer

Canadian Military Headquarters

Additional Info & Image

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

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