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Igoville

Background

After the German Army had been ejected from Normandy, they formed a line of defence along the river Seine. In late August 1944, the Canadian Army stood poised at the river, faced with the task of breaking the German defence. For the Argylls, it would be one of the costliest battles of the war.

Preparation

On 26 August 1944, the Argylls moved to the village of PONT-DE-L'ARCHE on the south bank of the Seine River in preparation for the assault crossing. Movement to the village was extremely hazardous as the approach lay in full view of the Germans on the north side of the river. While in PONT-DE-L'ARCHE, the unit would endure heavy 88mm and mortar fire. One Argyll was killed and 12 wounded.

The Crossing

On 27 August 1944, the Algonquin Regiment crossed the Seine and attacked the village of IGOVILLE. Meeting considerable opposition, they held fast and waited for the Argylls to pass through while enduring heavy machine gun fire and shelling.

The Argylls moved into IGOVILLE and formed up behind a railway embankment where they would wait 6 hours while the attack on the town was organised.

Just before the Argyll assault commenced, the fog of war descended and series of errors resulted in the capture of the unit Main Battalion Headquarters (Main BHQ). The Commanding Officer travelled in the Tactical Battalion Headquarters (Tac BHQ) consisting of about a half a dozen people who kept up on foot with the lead companies. The Main BHQ was some 20 all ranks who travelled in several vehicles behind the fighting companies. One of the primary vehicles was a signals corps half-track that carried the large radio sets that allowed the unit to remain in contact with brigade HQ.

The Main BHQ crossed the Seine to the east of IGOVILLE and headed toward the town. Being unable to raise the Tac BHQ or the companies, they were relying on a forecast of where they should be. In addition, they received faulty directions along the way and ended up driving into IGOVILLE just forward of the line of friendly troops. The troops of "A" and "D" companies as well as the Tac BHQ watched in horror as the Main BHQ drove into German hands. "D" Company fired mortar smoke in front of them, "A" Company fired tracer in front of them and the Commanding Officer tried to shoot their tires out but it was to no avail. Of the staff of the main BHQ, two were killed, three escaped and 15 were made prisoner.

Just after the capture of the Main BHQ, the Argyll assault went in at 1500 hours (3:00 PM). "B" and "C" companies lead supported by "A" and "D" companies. Fighting through was costly and bitter but the town was cleared by 1800 hours. "A" Company took 50% casualties. Two shells hit one of the platoons of "A" Company and only 9 men of 36 were left unhurt. Forty prisoners were taken and the Germans suffered as many dead and wounded. The Argylls suffered 14 killed, 46 wounded and 15 POW. The situation was still not resolved as the Germans continued to hold HILL 95 to the north of the town.

During the fighting on the 27th the unit was taking a lot of sniper fire. In order to clear out the snipers from a farm field where they were hiding among the crops, the unit carrier platoon mounted what was described as a "cavalry charge" through the field. Forty German prisoners were taken and an equal number were killed and wounded. In this action the carrier platoon commander Lieutenant Philips and the carrier platoon second in command Sergeant William B.(Bull) Jackson were both killed.

Hill 95

The Argylls spent most of 28 August 1944 in IGOVILLE reorganising after the heavy losses of the previous day. Much mortar and sniper fire was directed at the town by the Germans. At 1700 hours (5:00 PM), the unit was ordered to attack and capture HILL 95. The attack was preceded by 30 minutes of fire from 4 Division artillery assets. At 1930 hours (7:30 PM), "B", "C" and "D" companies swept forward supported by "C" Squadron of The South Alberta Regiment. In 45 minutes they captured the hill taking 50 prisoners and killing as many. Argyll casualties were three killed, nine wounded and 3 POW.

Aftermath

The battle at IGOVILLE was one of many hard won assault crossings the unit would endure during World War II. It was certainly a bitter engagement for the Argylls due to the lengthy casualty list and the unexpected capture of the Adjutant, the Signals Officer and most of the Main BHQ; an organisation usually spared the forefront of battle.

Source: ASHofC History


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