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Tilly-la-Campagne
 
 
Location: The Western Front France, vicinity of Falaise
 
  Regiment Losses - July 24-26, 1944
Killed
 3rd Canadian Division North Nova Scotia Highlanders
58

 3rd Canadian Division Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders

4

 Second Canadian Armored Brigade Fort Garry Horse

13
 
Lt. General G.G. Simonds decided to improvise with a new technique to light the enemy lines during the night. He ordered searchlights to be bounced off the clouds to create "Artificial Moonlight". There was no rehersal and the men were not well briefed. During the attack on Tilly-la-Campagne someone ordered the search lights be dropped to ground level, sillouetting the Canadians to German fire. Dozens of Canadians were killed.
 
Above: Canadian soldier silhouetted by artificial moonlight

Major-General R.F.L. Keller prepared his divisional attack to lead off with a single battalion. Simonds permitted this.

The North Nova Scotia Highlanders moved off as planned on the 3rd Division front, supported by the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse. One company went straight at Tilly from the start-line, two others moved around to outflank it from the south and east. At 0545 they reported they they has reached their objective and had taken it.

But dawn broke to reveal that the North Novas had only half of Tilly-la-Campagne in their possession, then the Germans held the other half and were moving back into strenght supported by armour and ready to launch a counter-attack. Most of the Canadian tanks were destroyed; The North Novas in and around Tilly-la-Campagne were cut off. After nightfall, a remnant made it back to the Canadian line.

They had fought a pitched battle through the night, but the improvided planning had proven disastrous for the Canadians. The machine guns of the German SS divisions decimated the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. In the aftermath of the battle, the Canadian dead littered the battlefield, bu Canadian HQ ordered the regiments to reform and attack Tilly once again. The field commanders refused to follow the order. Canadian Brigadier Dan Cunningham came out to visit the battlefield and the scene convinced him to call off the second attack.

"I couldn't send them back against the SS. It would have been murder. I decided to go and see Keller and tell him it was all off... he ordered me to attack again. I told him that it would be murder. He said that if I didn't attack again, we'd both lose our jobs. I told him I had a law position waiting for me back in Kingston. And I was not about to sacrifice my Highlanders to save his job."

It was a moment of desperation for General Keller who wanted to prove his loyalty and ability. Under pressure, earlier in the month he had tendered his resignation but Simonds refused to accept it.

In the assault on Tilly la Campagne, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and the North Novas suffered grievios losses. Cunningham was reassigned to duties in Canada.

Above: In Normandy the dead were so numerous that they were often stacked liked cord wood waiting for graves registration

Sources: Canadian War Museum, ValourandHorror.com, Canadian Virtual War Memorial

Last updated on Feb 22, 2007 22:00. Page viewed 10280 times.