“A” Company, sometimes referred to phonetically as “Ack” Company, or in the last years of the war by the new phonetic “Able” Company, was organized as a standard rifle company.
The following two articles are taken from the July 1945 issue of the regimental newsletter “The Glen”. Some historians may be inclined to dismiss these “souvenir” articles as a simple form of high school yearbook for soldiers, and therefore unsuitable for reproducing on a website. The webmaster feels it is fitting that the officers and men who comprised these companies in action should have their voice preserved in this manner – and that while some hyperbole should be taken with a grain of salt, the significance of certain events are revealed in no uncertain terms as the important and noteworthy events they were to these men. Each company had its own character, generated by the personalities of the men on its rolls.
In fairness to the original authors of these pieces, they were probably requested by the highest level to put together some words regarding their companies for this souvenir edition. Fighting men – especially those who have seen 11 months of continuous operational service – are not necessarily the best ones to expect literary genius from. In traditional yearbook style, some of what is written below may indeed include in-jokes or other observations indecipherable to the modern reader. But for what they are worth, below are reprinted the articles, in the words of those who were there, with slight editing of abbreviations.
“A” Company was initiated to action at Fleury-sur-Orne, near Caen, where they were given the job of clearing that small town prior to the attack on Hill 67. Following their success in Fleury, they swung in behind “C” Company for the attack on the famous Hill. Then, I think, “A” Company gets the honours for successfully carrying through the first single company assignment, in clearing the “trouble spot” Etavaux near Hill 67. Etavaux proved to be a stronger enemy position than was expected, but it was cleared.
Of the intense shelling and fierce fighting at May-sur-Orne and Tilly-la-Campagne, “A” Company can tell with the rest, at these two places “Jerry” was at his best and strongest.
Then the offensive, those long, hectic marches, wondering where and when. Bretteville and Clair Tizon, where “A” Company was well up when the fighting started. To the fellows fighting, the situation wasn’t quite clear but they were successful in their task and it was important.
I think that one of the most remarkable achievements of “A” Company was that of leading the Battalion from Norrey-sur-Auge to Vimoutier. It was remarkable because the route wasn’t definite, it was long, the country was difficult, of the enemy no one was certain and “was it ever raining.” The Battalion did arrive though, at the right place and on time. In the shelling at Orbec and in the fighting at St. Germaine, “A” Company was once again well up. Then the long hazardous route to the Seine, the bombing when even in a slit-trench a fellow had to be lucky. The intense enemy fire at Foret de la Londe where “A” gritted their teeth, dug in and gung on with the rest.
Things weren’t bad then until Bourbourgville, those horrible ditches with creosote and water in them, “good old Jerry”, Loon Plage, with its snipers and 88’s and those hair raising patrols in the general direction of Dunkerque.
At the Albert Canal in Belgium, “A” Company had a tough assignment, they crossed in their turn and in spite of strong objection from “Jerry” they stayed. At St. Leonards too, they smashed in and held firm.
Hoogerheide in Holland, here “A” Company had a cross roads to seize. What a spot! At times “Jerry’ seemed everywhere at once, he even shared houses with “A” Company but “A” Company stayed through the nearest possible thing to “hell” and until relieved. Then the dykes, where the fresh meat ration seemed to improve, and the nightmare battle of the dykes called Woensdrecht. “A” Company will long remember the railroad and the Radar Station there.
The mad rush down the South Beveland Peninsula wasn’t eventful until they got to the Causeway to Walcheren. The Company was only dug in there for a day or so but it seemed years. That Causeway wasn’t very wide, it stood out like a “sore thumb” and Jerry certainly had no trouble hitting it.
At Nijmegen about all we can say is that the Company dug and froze patrolled as gracefully as possible.
The offensive again in February. Wyler just across the German border. If Schumines were not encountered before, they certainly were there. They didn’t stop “A” Company though from taking the battalion’s furthest objective and in good time too. The Hochwald and Xanten were on the style of May-sur-Orne, terrific for shelling and fierce for fighting. Into Holland again, Doetinchem, the areas of Laren and Holten. Groningen where “A” Company took the first “bite” on the town and collected 103 prisoners in about 20 minutes. Then again to Germany. Near Delmenhorst, “A” Company fought its last and I think one of its greatest battles. [Gruppenbühren – webmaster] Across about 1000 yards of open country from which a smoke screen had lifted, and through a curtain of enemy fire that was at least intense. The objective was taken and firm base secured from which the other companies could jump. they were especially proud to report success that evening.
The peace came quietly upon “A” Company and was accepted quietly by them.
I think that “A” Company might well look back with a satisfied feeling at having contributed in a grand way to the outstanding record of a great battalion.
– F.H. Clarke, Major
Officer Commanding “A” Company
In this souvenir issue we are attempting to make a record of events in “A” Company that will, in years to come, assist the reader in pleasantly recalling his interlude as a Calgary Highlander in action. This presents an initial difficulty because, in the average rifle company, there are very few men who last out the course of hostilities. Therefore, if our narrative appears at times a trifle disjointed, kindly remember that the experiences of many diverse characters are herein combined.
Hill 67, the regiment’s first action, found Able Company leading, on the right of the axis which was one of the roads from Caen to Antoine sur Orne. Fleury sur Orne was the objective, gained after much hard fighting. The clearing of Etavaux was also left to Able Company and an excellent job was done. In these battles and the ones that followed our company made an excellent reputation for itself, and maintained its high standard throughout the war. The men of Able emerged from their “trial by fire” a very battleworthy outfit.
Then came the Seine. Huddle Green was called, and at 1100 hrs on the 29th of August, the regiment moved into the Foret de la Londe, to take up position for the crossing. After two days of intense shelling, we moved to Elbeuf, made an unexpectedly easy passage, and marched into Rouen. That’s one march that will long be remembered by Able Company.
The people greeted us with flowers, fruit, kisses and caresses. It was a very pleasant interlude, unfortunately too brief.
After some heavy fighting to secure the town of Loon Plage and the country in the vicinity of Dunkerque, in which “A” Company became extremely intimate with “Jerry” on more than one occasion, the unit moved on to Antwerp. The battle for the Albert Canal was the first of the many “battles of the dykes” in which the men of “A” Company saw a new and very gruesome type of warfare. Hoogerheide, in particular, has produced many a sleepless night for old “Able” men. The heroes crossed so many dykes on the way to Bergen op Zoom that one Private Underwood was found, on investigation, to be actually sprouting pinfeathers. By the time South Beveland had been crossed and the battle of the causeway was history, every man from the major down had a remarkable set of large goosepimples, perhaps the result of too much water. To this day, it’s difficult to get a Calgary Highlander on bath parade.
Be that as it may, it is a certainty that the long-awaited rest at Lierre was more than welcome. The depth of our appreciation was easy to see. When we left Lierre, the company had to be reequipped and all the Belgians were in uniform.
On November 12 we moved up to the Nijmegen Salient, and on the 23rd moved into the line to begin our weary winter work. Christmas and New Year’s passed by practically unnoticed as we shivered in our subterranean homes and cursed the squarehead for ever starting the blasted war. It was impossible to keep shaved or clean.
A great deal of ingenuity was expended on supplying the slit trench with some of the comforts of home. Everything from straw sacks and cartridge cases, to parachutes and glider wings found a place in the underground bedrooms. All slits sported some sort of a roof and some straw to sleep on. Those in the rear had homemade stoves of remarkable construction in which hardtack finally found some use; as fuel it was unexcelled.
The warfare at this time was looked upon, by some of the people at home, as more or less of a rest cure for the fighting men. This was anything but the case. Many positions held were in view of the enemy, and any movement in daylight brought down a deadly hail of fire. The clothing issued was poorly chosen, and insufficient to keep a man warm, and in the forward slit we were lucky to get undressed once a week. The long nights were spent peering over the edge of a slit trench into the black forest, wondering at every sound and anxiously awaiting the dawn.
Therefore, it was with mixed feelings that the big offensive at Wyler was greeted. The Hochwald Forest, Calcar, Moyland, all added to our already excellent reputation, and our desire to hear the end of the War.
Finally Xanten, the last objective was taken. On March 11, the regiment was dug in and waiting the signal to cross the Rhine. Private Barbour thought it was time for “Spring Cleaning” and “Interior Decorating” so he ventured forth across the railway to gather material. He found a nice panelled door and decided it would make an excellent wall in his trench, so with the door on his back he started back. As he was about to cross the track, some playful Jerry put a bullet through the prize door and very near to Barbour’s head, which made him lose all interest in redecorating and sent him scrambling into the nearest trench, with the door on top of him, cursing Jerry. This clearly shows the disadvantage of ambition.
After a rest at Berg en Dal the Calgarys fought on right up to Groningen, where “A” Company made a very successful attack and gained her objective on the Van der Aa canal. “A” Company was given all the comforts of home by the Dutch civilians and to this day [ie July 1945 – webmaster] some of the boys are receiving letters from them wondering if the Calgarys will ever come again.
A move into Germany then was made, where fighting was easy until Oldenburg. Here it was that we heard the cease fire. It was then a matter of occupying German towns. Able Company occupied the town of Schwei. We had plenty of guard and smartening up drills here, but the men didn’t seem to mind at all. The only thought now was to get home. Our company, along with all the rest, is being split up now, and many new faces are being seen. A few of our fellows went occupational while some went home to train for the Pacific or be demobbed. Most of the boys who stuck together all the way through are joining the Canadian Legion so that they will be able to have one good get-together a year. There is also a lot of exchanging adresses going on.
The men in “A” Company who have survived the battles from Hill 67 on will always have in their memories thoughts of the men who so gallantly died beside them in the struggle for freedom. We must prevent future wars.