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Morei

Fighting
for Canada
Five Battles, 17601944
Edited by
Donald E. Graves
with
Robert H. Caldwell
John R. Grodzinski
Ian M. McCulloch
Michael R. McNorgan
Brian A. Reid
and
Maps and illustrations by
Christopher Johnson
R o B I N B R A s s s t u D I o
Toronto
Canadian Light Horse, 1918
Formed in 1916 from the divisional cavalry squadrons of the four infantry divisions of the CEF, the Canadian
Light Horse was attached to Brutinels Independent Force in the autumn of 1918. Here, a CLH squadron moves
up to the front in the autumn of 1918 while German prisoners and Allied wounded move back. (Canadian Forces
Photo, O.3320)
Introduction: The Tactical Level of War 9
Prelude: One Last Throw of the Dice 15
1 From April battles and Murray generals, good Lord deliver me!
The Battle of Sillery, 28 April 1760 17
Interlude: A Battle That Should Never Have Been Fought 71
2 Were making history, eh? An Inquiry into the Events that Occurred
near Cut Knife Hill, North West Territories, 1-2 May 1885 73
Interlude: A Victory for Citizen Soldiers 145
3 A most dashing advance: Paardeberg, 27 February 1900 147
Interlude: Last Canadian Cavalry Charge 199
4 My God, look at them houses moving! Combined Arms Action
at Iwuy, 10-11 October 1918 201
Interlude: A Successful Small Unit Action 235
5 A perfect example of teamwork: The Battle for the
Melfa Crossing, 24-25 May 1944 237
Appendices
A orders of Battle and strengths, British and French Armies at the
Battle of sillery, 1760 313
B order of Battle and strengths, opposing Forces at the Battle of
Cut Knife Hill, 1885 318

Contents
C orders of Battle and strengths, opposing Forces, Paardeberg,
February 1900 321
D orders of Battle, Canadian and German Forces, Action at
NavesIwuy, october 1918 327
E orders of Battle and strengths, Battle of the Melfa Crossing,
24-25 May 1944 330
Endnotes 333
Index 353
the Contributors to More Fighting for Canada 365
T he BaT T l e f or T he Me l f a Crossi ng, 2425 May 1944 G 269 268 G More f i ghT i ng f or Canada
The Dragoons reached niaxo\ well ahead of the infantry at 10.30 a.x.
and the enemy withdrew after a brief skirmish. The Dragoons paused to con-
solidate but, without waiting for 11 Infantry Brigade to catch up, continued on
to xuxxii, on high ground about 2,000 yards to the northwest near Mancini.
Although it was a shorter distance than that to their frst objective, it took the
tanks longer to reach as enemy resistance was intensifying. xuxxii was reached,
however, at 12.20 i.x. but Vokes Force immediately came under intense heavy
shelling and encountered enemy Panther tanks and self-propelled guns. On the
left, B Squadron faced several Mk IV and Panther tanks. Lieutenant Nigel Taylor,
a troop leader in that squadron, remembered encountering the most enormous
tank I had ever seen I promptly reported this beast as a Tiger. It turned out of
course to be a PzKw V Panther. My gunner, Tpr Cecil D. Shears was a crack shot
Two quick shots and the Panther was fnished. Seconds later, Taylors Sher-
man was hit and Shears killed. The Dragoons lost three tanks but knocked out
one Panther, two Mark IVs and seven anti-tank guns. Dismounted Germans still
milled about, and as the infantry had not yet come up, members of the Dragoon
Recce Troop dismounted to consolidate the position.
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This was the frst action for the British Columbia Dragoons and it had gone
well: for a loss of four tanks and fve men, they had secured their objectives,
destroyed several German armoured vehicles, rocket launchers and other equip-
ment, and captured about 50 prisoners. Their engagement against the Panthers
was particularly noteworthy and the Dragoon war diarist recorded that these
were a new type of tank, and to the best of our knowledge only one had previ-
ously been knocked out by the British Army. On the debit side, resistance had
intenifed as the Dragoons advanced up the Liri Valley, and the Germans were al-
ready withdrawing to new defensive positions on their next objective, the Melfa,
which lay 4,000 yards ahead.
40
S
hortly after Vokes Force had moved off, Lieutenant Edward Perkins and his
fve vehicles from the Strathcona Recce Troop followed them to monitor
their progress. Earlier, Perkins and the Strathconas commanding offcer, Griffn,
had carefully studied air photographs to select possible crossing sites along the
Melfa. They decided on two sites one that C Squadron would attempt and the
other for Perkinss Recce Troop to cross. Perkinss site was deliberately chosen as
the most diffcult since it was far less likely to be defended. As his troop moved
forward, Perkins sent radio reports describing the opposition being encountered
and the obstacles slowing the rate of advance. The destructiveness of the Dra-
goons battle was apparent by the number of trees blasted by shellfre and the
damaged equipment scattered about, but the close terrain made it diffcult to
see and navigation proved more diffcult than anyone could have predicted. The
aerial photos and panoramic photos they had studied had distorted the true na-
ture of the ground in the valley, but Perkins did fnd them useful for navigation.
Shortly after crossing the start line at 1.40 i.x., however, Perkinss tank broke
down and he moved to Sergeant Clifford Maceys vehicle, while another sergeant
remained behind to repair the immobilized Honey.
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Ten minutes later, Perkins cleared xuxxii and his four Honeys with 20 men
were now leading 5th Division. About 1,000 yards past the Dragoon position,
the troop opened fre at a German halftrack and infantry near a building. They
had moved another 2,000 yards when they spotted a Panther 300 yards ahead.
Perkins opened up on the German crew commander, visible in the turret, who
slumped forward out of the cupola. The German tank did not engage Per-
kins, who continued moving as fast as he could. Shortly thereafter, he observed
two more enemy tanks that apparently could not see him and, as the troop ap-
proached the river, they also spotted a house near the bank with some Germans
in it. They fred on it, a white fag quickly appeared and eight Germans emerged,
who were turned over to the crew of a scout platoon vehicle that had just came
up. At 3.00 i.x. Perkins reached the Melfa River.
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As his other vehicles came up, Perkins discovered that one had strayed his
three Honeys and 16 men were now the lead element of 5 Armoured Brigade
British Columbias victory
During their advance up
the Liri Valley on 24 May
1944, the British Columbia
Dragoons had what was
likely the frst encounter
between Allied amour and
German Panther tanks on the
Western Front. A Sherman
tank belonging to 4 Troop,
B Squadron destroyed this
particular Panther on 24 May
1944. (Courtesy The British
Columbia Dragoons)
T he BaT T l e f or T he Me l f a Crossi ng, 2425 May 1944 G 271 270 G More f i ghT i ng f or Canada
but they were on their objective. The Honeys were parked under cover while
Perkins and Sergeant Macey dismounted to recce for a crossing site while being
covered by the troop. Perkins carefully studied the site he had previously selected
from aerial photos. It was about 2,000 yards south of the railway; to the south
the bank was impassable but about 75 yards to the north was a ledge leading
down to the river that was steep but appeared usable by tanks. The river itself was
some 50 yards wide at this point but with little water running in it. A number
of prepared enemy positions were observed all along the river bank, but they
appeared to have been vacated in great haste. Perkins and Macey crossed the
river and immediately came under not only enemy fre, which they returned, but
also machine gun fre from a Strathcona A Squadron tank which had reached the
east bank of river. Perkins noted this friendly misunderstanding was extremely
nervewracking, not only because the fre was close but because we did not know
how soon it would be followed by a high explosive round from the enemy
Shermans 75 mm main gun. Fortunately, he recalled, the Squadron leader saw
what was happening and ordered the tank to stop fring.
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Continuing his recce, Perkins found a spot that, with some improvements,
would be passable as a crossing site. With a 20-foot bank and tangled with sap-
lings and under bush, it was not perfect but would have to do. While Perkins
remained on the far bank to guide his tanks, Macey returned to the other bank.
The troops three Honeys now crossed the river one at a time and went into hull-
down positions just below the far bank. They were all across by 3.20 i.x. Two
men were deployed to provide cover, while the remainder of the troop set about
improving the crossing using explosives to remove obstructions, although most
of the work was done with pick and shovel. The track was also widened, a retain-
ing wall built out of tree trunks and a gap flled with dirt. Speed was critical as
the enemy were nearby.
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About 100 yards south of the crossing position was a house that appeared
occupied by the Germans. It had to be cleared and, accompanied by Macey and
three other men, Perkins crept toward it under cover of the bank. Rushing into
the courtyard, he saw eight German paratroopers through the windows facing
towards the planned crossing site for C Squadron farther to the south. Perkins re-
membered the Germans as big well-built men armed to the teeth and that for
a moment I did not know what was going to happen. Perkins shouted drop
it and the Germans turned around in considerable astonishment. Although
his trigger fnger itched, Perkins did not open fre and fnally one German
dropped his rife to be instantly followed by all the others and their hands rose
in sullen astonishment. While watching the expected crossing site, the Germans
had been surprised by an attack from the other direction.
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With the immediate area secure, Perkins moved his three surviving Hon-
eys up to the house and deployed them to provide all-around defence while the
prisoners were sent back over the Melfa along with Macey, who would guide A
Squadron across. Almost immediately Perkinss men came under fre from a Ger-
man sniper who proved to be an astonishingly poor shot, and two rounds from
the PIAT removed this threat. Perkins was pleased with what he and his troop
had accomplished in such short time and awaited the arrival of A Company of
the Westminster Regiment, on whose heels would be the remainder of the bat-
talion, and the tanks of A Squadron of the Strathconas.
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Honeys en route to the Melfa
Each armoured regiment in 5th Canadian Armoured Division had a troop of American-built Stuart (Honey) light
tanks for reconnaissance. Three of these lightly armed vehicles and a handful of men charged ahead of 1 Canadi-
an Corps, gained a bridgehead over the Melfa River and held it against signifcant opposition. (NAC, PA-204157)