The Governor General's Horse Guards 1939 – 1945.
(1954). Toronto: The Canadian Military Journal.
The material below reproduces the pages of the above-cited
reference with the exception of the photograph
and its caption at the end of this page.
These have been added.
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The regiment of the Governor General's Horse Guards
was an armoured reconnaissance unit from Toronto that
was outside any brigade; it received its orders directly
from the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.
The Governor General's Horse Guards were
also known as the 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment.
At last light
Headquarters moved with Brigade to a farmyard
three miles west of Otterloo and the Regiment settled for the night.
We were very widely separated and communications were difficult.
The long months in the winter, when we had relied almost entirely on telephones to the
exclusion of wireless, had left an unfortunate legacy, and operators seemed
to have forgotten the basic principles.
In addition, atmospheric conditions were deplorable.
Communications were atrociously bad in the daytime; but at night, when
interference inevitably increases, they became impossible and we were
totally out of contact.
Every formation was having the same trouble, and as the Division was
scattered in a series of small islands across many miles of country, the
situation was dangerous.
There were still large pockets of enemy left on the flanks of our advance, and
as a result even the echelons were menaced.
For the first time we were fighting the book version of an armoured battle, and
a front, in the conventional sense, had simply ceased to exist.
Everyone was potentially front, as we were very soon to discover.
As the enemy was still in Haarskamp, Lieut. Col. Payne, the
C.O. of the
had decided to attack in the morning, using his own ‘C’ Company
and three of ‘C’ Squadron's troops.
Just before last light, with a platoon of the Irish, Fourth Troop had moved out
to the northern edge of the woods to act as a standing patrol and keep
observation on Haarskamp.
Maj. Crosbie called an ‘0’ group
for 2330 hours to go over the plan of attack, and
the discussion had just started when it was suddenly interrupted
by loud shouts and bursts of small arms fire outside the church which Squadron
Headquarters was occupying.
An enemy patrol had entered the village, making a great deal of noise and shooting
up the building next to the church which was held by the Irish Headquarters.
With this warning of unexpected developments everyone
barricaded windows and doors and prepared for a siege.
They had not long to wait.
Shortly after midnight the battery of the
17th Field Artillery,
which was in the
woods to the north of the village, reported that large numbers of Germans were
moving south through the woods.
At the same time the standing patrol of
Fourth Troop and the
found their position surrounded.
The darkness made recognition impossible, so, spiking their guns, the
artillery retired and the patrol began to withdraw.
As the officers were all at the ‘0’ group when the attack began, they
were pinned in the church and unable to rejoin their troops.
For the whole night the troops were led by the sergeants and NCO's.
Sgt. Toffan organized Fourth Troop, and carrying the Irish on the backs
of their tanks, they withdrew through the enemy to a position with Third Troop
and ‘C’ Company on the northwest edge of the village.
Corp. Foulds then reported to the Company Commander and was asked to place
his tanks in the best position to support.
This he did with considerable courage, as the whole area was being swept with enemy fire.
In the village itself, the enemy was forming in strength, and began digging
trenches to consolidate his gains.
The capture of Otterloo would have cut off most of the division, who were
many miles to the west and in danger of complete isolation.
‘C’ Squadron Headquarters had barricaded their windows
and doors and the whole officer body was preparing a last ditch stand.
The Irish had requested that a tank drive up and down the streets to intimidate the
Germans, so Sergeant Wood set out in a Squadron Headquarters tank, moving up
the road to the east, from which direction the enemy was advancing.
As the Irish and the Germans were closely intermingled, the tank was ordered
not to fire, but simply moved up and down, with the Germans running beside it
shouting “Canadians Surrender, Canadians Surrender.”
The two troops to the west were also unable to fire because of the darkness and
confusion, but although the attack was coming from the opposite
direction, they, too, became slightly involved.
The artillery, who had moved to the village, requested volunteers to
evacuate two of their wounded, so Troopers Allan and Kuffner, of
Fourth Troop, adanced into town to collect the casualties.
In addition, they picked up twenty-two prisoners from the Irish,
who were too busy to handle them, and took them back to their positions.
We were also requested to cover the road junction just east of Otterloo
and First Troop was ordered to seize it.
Sergeant Johnston led the troop to the position, discovering
that it was then held by the enemy.
He was at once engaged by bazookas, and although he was himself
wounded in the head by a rifle bullet, none of the bazooka bombs scored and
he continued controlling his troop.
L/Cpl. Spence drove into the enemy position, firing at point blank range
and crushing the Germans under the tracks of his tank.
The tank under command of Cpl. Stitt, H.D., had been struck by a bazooka bomb, which
made the traverse unworkable, but with his usual almost legendary coolness
the corporal climbed outside the turret, and, pushing tbe gun by hand,
continued to engage.
In the end the Germans withdrew and began to dig in along the road.
It was decided to counterattack at first light to complete the defeat
of the enemy, but, as the attack was about to go in, ‘B’ Company of the Irish
reported six enemy tanks approaching their positions from the east.
The report was at once confirmed, as three
shells struck the church and a fourth hit the Irish headquarters.
‘C’ Squadron remained unscathed, but as two of the Irish
were killed and three more wounded, First Troop was ordered to take on
the tanks immediately.
The troop demurred, as they were convinced that they were
but the order was repeated and they opened fire.
They knocked out the leading tank with a round of HE,
but at this point the hostile force was definitely identified as
Churchills, and the battle ceased before there was any more damage.
The crew of the tank was uninjured and their officer apologized
profusely, announcing that he had mistaken our troops for Germans.
As the situation was still confused. the mistake was understandable, but
the tide was about to turn.
In a few minutes the Irish flamethrowers were sweeping up the road, blasting
the enemy ditches.
Their appearance created stark terror in the ranks of the enemy, who fled in
precipitate disorder, leaving about seventy charred corpses
as mute testimony to the flamethrower's prowess.
Even our own troops were sickened by the sight of retreating
suddenly converted into leaping pillars of fire.
As the area between Otterloo and the woods to which the Germans were racing was
a flat open field, those who had escaped the flamethrowers fell easy prey to the
guns of Third and Fourth Troops, who mowed them down like ninepins.
Any hope of reorganization had vanished and the battle was over.
Otterloo was secure.
Third and Fourth Troops assisted the Irish in mopping up, knocking out two
guns and capturing sixteen prisoners.
During the fighting we had had four men wounded.
Sgt. Johnston and
Cpl. McCaskill were able to remain on duty while Sgt. Elinesky and Cpl. Lee
had to be evacuated.
Unfortunately, during the morning our casualty list was
extended, as Cpl. Stitt, H.D., was killed by a truck which ran over his body
while he was resting beside his tank.
It seems paradoxical that one who had come unscathed through the thick of
so many engagements should have lost his life in an accident when the last
real scrap was over.
The battle of Otterloo was the only real fight which the Regiment
encountered in Holland, and the NCO's who had led the troops without
officers had done an excellent job. · · ·