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Battle Honours of The Calgary Highlanders

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It is tradition in the Canadian Army to award Battle Honours to individual regiments. These honours mark the deeds of units during war. The rationale for awarding honours differs from conflict to conflict. During the First and Second World Wars, a unit had to have at least half its strength engaged in a particular action to be considered eligible.

Of these honours, a select few are permitted to be "emblazoned", or in other words, borne by the Regimental Colour, as well as appearing on the Regiment's drums. The Drum Major also wears these honours on his distinctive uniform sash.

Battle Honours are granted by a special committee appointed to research all the actions and claims submitted by individual units, name the individual battles, and consider which aspects of which battles were worthy of recognition.  The process for awarding Battle Honours for the First World War took over a decade, and The Calgary Highlanders were first awarded Battle Honours for the actions of the 10th Battalion, CEF, on 15 September 1929. 

Oddly, the official granting of Battle Honours to the 10th Battalion was not done until 15 October of the same year.  There was also one minor change; while the Calgary Highlanders were granted "Arras, 1917, '18" as a Battle Honour, the 10th Battalion's Honour read only "Arras, 1917."

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The dates on some Battle Honours are to distinguish like named battles that occurred in different years.

To the Calgary Highlanders' dismay, while the overall battle of Saint-Julien was considered worthy of a Battle Honour, the counter-attack at Kitcheners' Wood was not.   This led to the introduction of the Oak Leaf shoulder badge, which is described under Regimental Dress on this website. 

The Battle Honours for the First World War, as granted to The Calgary Highlanders, are listed below.  Note that the proper method of listing Battle Honours is in chronological order, from top to bottom, or if in more than one row, from left to right and top to bottom.  Battle Honours selected for Emblazonment are noted below in bold type:

Ypres, 1915 - 17 Battle Honours
First World War
Saint-Julien Festubert, 1915
Mount Sorrel Somme, 1916
Thiepval Ancre Heights
Arras, 1917, '18 Vimy, 1917
Arleux Hill 70
Passchendaele Amiens
Scarpe, 1918 Drocourt-Quéant
Hindenburg Line Canal du Nord
Pursuit to Mons France and Flanders, 1915-18

After the Second World War, the Calgary Highlanders once again submitted their recommendations for Battle Honours, which were officially bestowed in the late 1950s.

Bourguébus Ridge

Battle Honours
Second World War

Faubourg de Vaucelles
Verrières Ridge, Tilly-la-Campagne Falaise
Falaise Road Clair Tizon
Forêt de la Londe Dunkirk, 1944
Wyneghem Antwerp-Turnhout Canal
The Scheldt Woensdrecht
South Beveland o Walcheren Causeway
The Rhineland The Reichswald
The Hochwald Xanten
The Rhine Groningen
Oldenburg North-West Europe, 1944-45

In May 2014, the Canadian government began the process of bestowing honours for the campaign in South-West Asia.

Battle Honour - South-West Asia

Battle Honour Descriptions - First World War

Ypres, 1915 - 17 - The Second Battle of Ypres in 1915 was the first major action for the First Canadian Division, with whom the 10th Battalion served.  It was also the first instance on the Western Front of the use of poison gas as a weapon of war.  A wide scale German attack using this gas routed two entire French Divisions, but the First Canadian Division held firm, at a cost of some 6,000 of its 10,000 men.   It was during this battle that the St. Julien battle was fought, and the counter-attack at Kitcheners' Wood was mounted, for which the Oak Leaf shoulder badge distinction was eventually granted.  St. Julien's Day is commemorated annually by the Regiment, and one of the Regiment's official toasts is "To The Glorious 22nd of April."

The Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 describes very large operations in this area, including the Battle of Passchendaele. 

As a note on pronounciation - while the people of Flanders pronounce this name as "ee-pray" (and in fact have changed the spelling to Iepres), to many Canadians who served and died there, it was known more familiarly simply as "Wipers".

Gravenstafel - The Gravenstafel Ridge was a low rise east of Ypres, one of the key features in the German attacks from 24-26 April, 1915.  The 10th Battalion by this point, after suffering heavily in its counter-attacks of 22-23 April, mustered only 174 men but still contributed enough to the defence of the position to merit a Battle Honour for their work.

Saint-Julien - The town of St. Julien was located east of Ypres, in the south-western part of Belgium known as Flanders.  The 10th Battalion was called forward on the night of 22-23 April to counterattack the strong German formation advancing through a large gap in the line created by the rout of two French divisions.  Forming up in front of the Sixteenth Battalion, the two units mounted a hasty assault on an oak plantation known as Bois de Cuisineres, or Kitcheners' Wood, so named because the French had located their field kitchens there.   The assault cost the life of the Tenth's Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Boyle, and of the 816 men who crossed the start line on 22 April, only some 193 survived.   Nonetheless, the German advance was stopped.  This action moved the overall commander of the French Army to describe the attack as the single bravest act of the entire war.

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Festubert, 1915 - Fought twenty kilometres north of Vimy, France, this unsuccessful attempt to capture K5, a small hill, was stopped short with heavy losses due to wet terrain, strong German defences, and little time to prepare.

Mount Sorrel - Another unsuccessful assault, this counter-attack by the 10th Battalion was launched on a small knoll in the Ypres Salient on 3 June 1916.  Considerable losses were suffered.  Despite the relatively low height of this feature, it provided an excellent viewpoint over the otherwise flat terrain in the area and was of considerable strategic importance.

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Somme, 1916 - The Canadians were not involved in the opening phases of this campaign, which began on 1 July 1916 - the "July Drive."  That first day was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army, with 20,000 men being killed and 40,000 more being wounded.  That opening day was only the beginning of several months of major operations by both the British and French armies.  By the time the battle wound down to an official conclusion in November, hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides of the lines had been killed, and thousands more maimed and injured.  The 10th Battalion was involved in a series of operations from 8 September and 17 October, primarily defensive actions which were successful, north of Albert, France near the town of Boiselle.

Thiepval - Thiepval Ridge, near the town of Courcelette, represented a successful offensive operation for the 10th Battalion, fought on 26 September 1916, at the cost of 241 casualties.

Ancre Heights - Another successful defensive battle fought by the 10th Battalion, during the Somme Campaign, near the town of Albert, France.  Modest casualties were suffered during the action on 10-11 September 1916.

Arras, 1917, '18 - The Arras battles refer to the overall British offensives in that area of Northern France, the first battle (in 1917) of which included the dramatic Canadian capture of Vimy Ridge.  The 10th Battalion fought in the Arras battles of 1917 and 1918.

Vimy, 1917 - Intended as a diversion to draw attention away from French actions farther south, and often serving only as a footnote to the less successful overall Battle of Arras in 1917 waged by the British armies, Vimy was the greatest victory of the war for the Canadian Corps, which by 1917 numbered four divisions.  In a dramatic assault on Easter Monday, the 9th of April, and representing the best in Canadian tactical ingenuity, military engineering, and technical innovation, the Canadians seized most of this dominating feature in a few short hours, and finally clearing the entire ridge in three days.  The British and French had been unable to clear these heights since the Germans first seized them in 1914, and had lost more men in the process of trying than the Canadians as a whole started out with on 9 April.  The 10th Battalion had its own role to play in this great drama, and reached all its objectives on time, at the cost of 374 casualties.

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Arleux - The Arleux Loop was a follow up to the Vimy operation, launched on 28 April 1917, aimed at capturing a major German billeting area at Arleux-en-Gohelle.  The operation went in over open ground and produced serious casualties.

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Hill 70 - Rising only 15 feet over surrounding terrain, this hill north of Lens, France was the scene of a diversionary attack to relieve pressure on the city of Lens itself.  On 15-16 August 1917, a strong German counter-attack was repulsed by the 10th Battalion.  Private Harry Brown, who was killed acting as a courier during this battle, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.  In addition to the VC, three DSOs, 7 MC, 9 DCMs and 60 (!) MMs were earned by the 10th Battalion - giving the 10th Battalion the distinction of winning more medals than any other Canadian combat unit in a single action in the course of the First World War.

Passchendaele - Named for a village located on a low rise in the Ypres Salient, the very word Passchendaele has become synonymous with suffering and waste.  Strong German defences in this area, developed over the course of more than two years, gave the British extremely hard going. 

The 10th Battalion were called out of reserve to assist an attack on Hill 52, part of the same low rise Passchendaele itself was situated on.   The Battalion was not scheduled to attack, but the CO wisely prepared his soldiers as if they would be making the main assault - a decision that paid dividends when the unit was called out of reserve. On 10 November 1917, the 10th Battalion took the feature with light casualties.

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Amiens - The offensive Allied campaign under the command of Marshall Foch of the French Army cleared the Germans from positions near the important rail centre of Amiens.  Consisting of a series of battles fought from August to September of 1918, it signalled the beginning of the end of the war on the Western Front.

Scarpe, 1918 - A defensive operation, finding the 10th Battalion once again in the Somme sector.  A successful defence of the Fampoux area on the Anzain-Arras Road was made beside the Scarpe River, between 27 April and 4 May 1918.

Drocourt-Quéant - The D-Q Line, as it was commonly known, was but a part of the famous Hindenberg Line, a large series of German fortifications and defensive positions.  During the Amiens campaign mentioned above, the 10th Battalion was part of a successful advance along the Arras-Cambrai road towards Viller-lez-Cagnicourt.  Acting Sergeant Arthur Knight was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his expemplary courage during this action.

Hindenburg Line - The last line of defence for the German Army in the Amiens campaign, broken when Cambrai fell on 9 October 1918, and the beginning of a German retreat that would not end until the Armistice on 11 November.

Canal du Nord - The last major operation of the 10th Battalion, part of the Battle of Cambrai.  The Fighting Tenth mounted a crossing of this obstacle on 27-28 September 1918, suffering heavy losses.

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Pursuit to Mons - The fight at Mons in August 1914 had been one of the opening acts of the war on the Western Front, and the city had great sentimental significance to the British, who had lost it to the Germans.   The 10th Battalion entered the newly captured city during the war's last days, when it was a prime objective for the British Army seeking revenge, and were there when the Armistice was declared.

France and Flanders, 1915-18 - This Battle Honour reflects the continuous service by the Battalion from February 1915, when it went into the lines in France, to November 1918.  During the First World War, more than 1300 soldiers were killed while serving as members of the 10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Battle Honour Descriptions - Second World War

An interesting comparison can be made between the official list of Battle Honours for the Second World War, above, and the following list, which was submitted by the Regiment for consideration by the committee.  It can be seen that many of the individual actions by the Regiment were incorporated into larger overall Battles.  The committee also consolidated the Verrières Ridge and Tilly-la-Campagne honours into one single Battle Honour.

Hill 67 Fleury-Sur-Orne Tilly la Campagne
Bretteville Clair Tizon Orbec
St. Cyr de Salerne Bourgtaeroulde Foret de la Londe
Bourbourgville Loon Plage Dunkerque
Escaut Canal Fort de Schooten Hoogerheide
Woensdrecht Peninsula South Beveland Walcheren Island
Rijk Van Nijmegen Wyler Hochwald
Haus Seelen Birten Doetinchem
Holten Groningen Grossenknetew
Bookholz-Berg Hude Neuenkoop

Bourguébus Ridge - located to the south of Caen, the capital of lower Normandy and one of the original D-Day objectives, this ridge was the dominating feature crucial to the success of any further movements beyond the city.  When Caen finally fell one month after D-Day, this ridge, and the adjacent Verrières Ridge, became the scene of much fighting.  The Calgary Highlanders launched two attacks on the Bourguébus Ridge, a failed attempt on 25 July 1944 to secure the heights, and a successful action from 7-9 August.  The cost of these actions was very high.

Fauborg de Vaucelles - A suburb of Caen, south of the city and the Orne River.  During Operation Atlantic and Operation Goodwood, the Highlanders launched successful attacks in the vicinity of this city during the period 18-21 July 1944.

Verrières Ridge, Tilly-la-Campagne - Adjacent to the Bourguébus Ridge, Verrières Ridge was another dominating feature of which German possession ensured the British and Canadians in Normandy would be pinned against the sea.  On 25 July, 5th Brigade assaults on this feature proved costly for the Calgary Highlanders, and especially for the Black Watch who lost over 300 men in the course of a few hours, making their attack the costliest single day of battle for a single battalion, not counting Dieppe.

Falaise - The next significant feature after the Verrières Ridge was the town of Falaise; a German pocket was created when they counterattacked towards Mortain - the American Armies, moving fast from the south under the command of General George S. Patton Jr., threatened to cut off this pocket of Germans and trap an entire Army.  The northern shoulder of the "Falaise Gap" was the scene of much fighting, and the Battle Honour covers all the fighting from the eventual breakout at Verrières and Bourgebus ridges, to the final collapse of German resistance on 16 August 1944.

Falaise Road - Operations Tractable and Totalize were conducted in the period 7 - 16 August 1944, and The Calgary Highlanders were involved in fighting along the road to Falaise during this period.

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Clair Tison - Located near the Falaise Road, this surprise attack by The Calgary Highlanders on the night of 12-13 August 1944 forced a German abandonment of positions during the Falaise Road fighting, and was executed with very few casualties.  The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel DG MacLauchlan, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his handling of this battle.

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Forêt de la Londe - This forest, located on the Bourgtheroulde-Rouen Highway, was nestled in a bend of the Seine River and was an excellent defensive position for German forces retreating to the other side of the river.   A blocking position here was assaulted and overwhelmed during a series of actions from 28-30 August 1944, with moderate losses to the unit.

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Dunkirk, 1944 - Allied supplies were being sent to France mainly via the open beaches in Normandy; the need to secure a sizeable port facility was thus acute.  The port of Dunkirk was put under siege, and the Highlanders joined these actions from 6 to 18 September 1944.  The action here was mainly patrol work, though a successful battle to liberate the town of Loon Plage stands out from this otherwise dreary episode.  The port never fell, and like many of the French Channel ports, it remained in German hands until May 1945.

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Wyneghem - In September 1944, the acute need for a port promised to be alleviated by the capture of Antwerp, with its large port facilities intact.  However, the British failed to act quickly to secure the Scheldt Estuary, the waterway leading into Antwerp.  No Allied ship could come within miles of Antwerp until the large number of coastal guns lining the Scheldt were silenced.   The Germans were aware of the importance of the Scheldt, and hastily organized an amalgam of veteran parachute units and low grade infantry units.  The Canadian Army moved to clear the lands east of Antwerp, and south of the Albert Canal.  Wyneghem was one of the towns in this area, and was cleared of Germans by the Highlanders in September.

Antwerp-Turnhout Canal - This canal was one of the waterworks connecting with the city and its badly needed port facilities.  The Calgary Highlanders arrived in this area on 18 September 1944, and on the 21st a bridgehead over the Albert Canal was created by Sergeant Ken Crockett and a handpicked section of ten men.   His brave foray into enemy territory was soon expanded to a company sized bridgehead, after which the entire 5th Brigade was able to follow.   His nomination for a Victoria Cross was turned down at the highest levels of command for a very well deserved Distinguished Conduct Medal instead.

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The Scheldt - The Scheldt battles were fought on both sides of this waterway during September, October and the early part of November 1944.  All three Canadian divisions in northwest Europe took part in these actions, as well as several other divisions under the command of First Canadian Army.   Major features north of the Scheldt Estuary included, from west to east, Walcheren Island, North Beveland, and the South Beveland Peninsula.  To the south of the Estuary was the area known as "The Breskens Pocket".  The Calgary Highlanders fought many actions in the Scheldt battles, highlighted by the Battle Honours listed next.

Woensdrecht - a village at the base of the South Beveland Peninsula in the southwest of The Netherlands.   Any units seeking to gain access to South Beveland had to clear a series of villages in this area of enemy soldiers.  From 22-27 October, much mighting was seen in this area between the 5th Brigade and veteran German paratroops of Battle Group Chill.

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South Beveland  -
a long peninsula marking the northern boundary of the Scheldt Estuary, the waterway through which Allied ships would have to sail to reach Antwerp and shorten Allied supply lines, still being traced over land all the way back to Normandy.  The failure to secure a port closer to the front line meant the expenditure of thousands of gallons of gasoline trucking supplies through France, Belgium and Holland.  The Highlanders fought their way west down the Peninsula with the rest of the 2nd Canadian Division, in order to reach Walcheren Island and silence the many German coastal batteries there.

Walcheren Causeway - After South Beveland was secured, the only land route to Walcheren Island - last holdouts on the Scheldt Estuary - was a long causeway just 40 metres wide and over 1000 metres long.   The Slooe Channel through which the Causeway ran was too shallow for assault boats, and the salt marshes and mud made the way impassable to land vehicles or marching infantry.  On Hallowe'en Night, the Calgary Highlanders followed up a disastrous attack by the Black Watch on the Causeway, and managed to force a shallow bridgehead on the far end.  Fierce fighting ensued, and the Highlanders were relieved by Le Regiment de Maisonneuve on 1 November.  Sixty-four Highlanders were killed or wounded in the action; the ferocity of the fighting was testified to by the actions of Sergeant Emil Laloge, who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for, among other things, picking up German grenades and throwing them back at the enemy before they could explode among his men.  This battle is commemorated each year by the Regiment with a drumhead ceremony and visit from the Dutch community.

The Rhineland - After the Battle of the Scheldt, the Canadian Army spent the winter of 1944-45 in static positions in the Nijmegen Salient.  The next big offensive action was in February and Operation Veritable, when all remaining land west of the River Rhine - the last great barrier between the Allies and the heart of Germany - was to be cleared in anticipation of a massive assault crossing of the great obstacle itself.  The fighting in the Rhineland was fought in terrible conditions of terrain and weather, and the Calgary Highlanders' part in that fighting is exemplified by the other Battle Honours, listed below, earned in that campaign.

The Reichswald - a small forest by the Hochwald which needed to be cleared to make possession of the Hochwald possible.  The fighting here was part of Operation Blockbuster.

The Hochwald - A small national forest just east of the Dutch border, south of the River Rhine.  This forest blocked access to the town of Xanten, which was a key German defensive position on the Allied side of the river.  Several difficult and costly actions were fought here, also as part of Operation Blockbuster, which commenced 26 February 1945 and ended with the capture of Xanten on 7 March.

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Xanten - Key defensive position defending the approaches to the River Rhine, and ultimate objective of Operation Blockbuster. Xanten was completely ruined in the bitter fighting there.

The Rhine - The bitter fighting in the Rhineland paved the way for the much anticipated assault crossing of the Rhine which went ahead on 23 March 1944.  Units of the Third Canadian Division participated in the earliest battles on the far side of the Rhine, with units of the Second Canadian Division crossing over after the bridgehead was formed.  One of the major battles of this phase was in Doetinchem in which the Calgary Highlanders played a major part.

Groningen - Capital city of the province of Groningen in the northeast of the Netherlands, this city was held by a mixed force of Germans, stiffened with Dutch SS who felt compelled to fight to the death.  The Calgary Highlanders participated in the assault on the city, attacking from the west on 14 April 1945, penetrating the Oranje Kwartier (Orange Quarter) and paving the way for the Black Watch and Regiment de Maisonneuve to advance into the inner city.

Oldenburg - Final battle fought by The Calgary Highlanders in the Second World War, on German soil once again just east of the Dutch border, on 3-4 May 1945.   The Regiment was in place in Oldenburg on VE Day, 8 May 1945.  "Betsy', the only surviving 6-pounder gun of the original 6-gun platoon, fired the last shot of the Regiment in World War Two here.  During the approach to Oldenburg, heavy fighting took place at Gruppenbühren, for which several awards for valour were made.

North-West Europe, 1944-45 - An all encompassing Battle Honour reflecting the long march of the Regiment from the initial landing in Normandy on 6 July 1944 to the final shots in May 1945.  Over 400 Calgary Highlanders sacrificed their lives during this campaign.

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“Afghanistan” Theatre Honour

In May 2014, the first honours for service in Afghanistan were bestowed. From the Prime Minister's website:

The process for the creation of Theatre Honours is the same for all types of Battle Honours. Following the end of a conflict, the Canadian Armed Forces begins the process of determining battle nomenclature (theatres, campaigns, battles, etc.) in order to create the specific Battle Honours for that conflict. Afterward, the eligibility criteria for awarding each of those honours is then determined. Each of these steps ultimately leads to approval by the Chief of the Defence Staff, who then forwards them to the Governor General, the final authority for the creation of Battle Honours and the eligibility criteria for each. The third step in the process is the allocation of the Battle Honours to individual Canadian Armed Forces units by the Chief of the Defence Staff. 

  • Units of the Royal Canadian Navy will be granted the Theatre Honour “Afghanistan” if their cumulative contribution of personnel reached a minimum of 20 per cent of the strength of the originating unit in the geographical area of Afghanistan.

  • Units of the Canadian Army will be granted the Theatre Honour “Afghanistan” if their cumulative contribution of personnel reached a minimum level of 20 per cent of the effective strength of the originating unit in the geographical area of Afghanistan.

  • Units of the Royal Canadian Air Force will be granted the Theatre Honour “Afghanistan” if they deployed within the air space of Afghanistan.

  • Units of the Canadian Special Operations Forces will be granted the Theatre Honour “Afghanistan” if they deployed within the land space of Afghanistan and their cumulative contribution of personnel reached a minimum level of 20 per cent of the effective strength of the originating unit in the geographical area of Afghanistan.

The Calgary Highlanders deployed 105 soldiers on 126 tours to Afghanistan as individual augmentees or on other assignments to Regular Force units during the war in Afghanistan. For this accomplishment - which represented deploying 107% of the total strength of the unit - The Calgary Highlanders became the first reserve infantry unit ever to be awarded the Canadian Forces Unit Commendation.

Major Simon Cox (at centre, with map) was Mentioned in Despatches. "On July 28th 2008, the lead element of a joint Canadian-Afghan patrol was pinned down by insurgents in Zhari District, Afghanistan.  With the squad in danger of becoming encircled, Major Cox, then Captain, moved through intense enemy fire to reinforce the isolated Afghans.  Despite fierce enemy resistance, he persistently continued forward, returning a heavy volume of fire to suppress the insurgent position.  Major Cox's courage and selflessness prevented the patrol from being surrounded by a numerically superior enemy."

MCpl C. Martin (above) and Cpl Malone (below) receive commendations for for their service in Afghanistan while serving in theatre. Making the presentation are Lieutenant-General Gauthier (Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command), General W.J. Natynczyk (Chief of Defence Staff) and Brigadier-General Thompson (Task Force Kandahar).

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