Marteinson, John and Scott Duncan.
The Governor General's Horse Guards: second to none.
Toronto: The Governor General's Horse Guards Foundation.
Once Arnhem was taken by the
5th Armoured Division
was brought in to carry out a rapid thrust to the northwest — through
Otterloo and Barneveld to Nijkerk on the Ijsselmeer
(Zuider Zee) — to complete the clearance of the Germans between
Arnhem and the Ijsselmeer up to an old north-south defensive line known as
the Grebbe Line.
A secondary purpose of this movement was to ensure that the large body of
Germans still holding out in the hills east of Apeldoorn could not escape
west into the part of Holland still occupied by the enemy.
(As an aside, there was a tacit agreement with the German commander in
Holland that he would not destroy the dykes and thus flood a large part of
the country below sea level provided the Allies did not attack his forces
in western Holland.)
Operation “Cleanser” got under way early on 15 April when the 8th
Hussars and the British Columbia Dragoons advanced on the
villages of Deelen and Terlet, much of the way through heavy woods.
That afternoon the Strathconas pressed on toward Otterloo,
hampered by close country, halting at last light just east of the town.
In the meantime 11th Brigade, supported by ‘A’ and ‘B’
Squadrons of the Horse Guards, was brought forward to clear out enemy which had
been bypassed by the armoured brigade.
Unfortunately, while passing through Arnhem Lieutenant John Clarke
was crushed between two tanks and killed.
“There was little work for the tanks”, noted the wartime history,
but that evening in Terlet a German 88mm SP
gun fired on a ‘B’ Squadron tank, wounding Major Bud Baker,
Lieutenant Ormord and three others.
Very early the next morning, 16 April, the Strathconas moved on to
There were several short, sharp, pitched battles before they got
through the village, but once beyond they pushed on at top speed to
Barneveld, where they encountered increasingly
On the right, the BCD
got as far as the southern outskirts of Voorthuizen before being
Meanwhile, ‘C’ Squadron moved to Otterloo with the Irish
Regiment to carry out a thorough clearing of the town and the woods to
the north east.
In the early afternoon, ‘A’ Squadron, carrying a company
of Perths on their back decks, cleared the high ground north-east of the village of
Lunteren, 10 kilometres west of Otterloo.
Later that day, ‘B’ Squadron advanced with the Cape Breton
Highlanders to a feature east of Barneveld so as to be in position
for an assault early the next morning.
The entire operation appeared to be progressing much as expected,
and during the day General Hoffmeister's 5th Division
headquarters moved into Otterloo.
As with all rapid, narrow thrusts into enemy-held territory, pockets of enemy
troops of varying size remained on all sides of the division.
Three kilometres northeast of Otterloo, for example, it
was known that there was still a sizeable German garrison in a barracks
on the south side of a place known as Haarskamp.
A patrol consisting of a platoon of the
and a troop of tanks had
attempted to clear the town during the afternoon, but found it too
During that small action, a Mark IV tank fired on the Horse Guards tanks and hit one of them,
but apparently because of the welded track no damage was done.
The commanding officer of the Irish Regiment decided to mount a
deliberate attack on this position early next morning, employing
his ‘C’ Company and three tank troops, and he gave his orders at 2000 hours.
An infantry platoon and Fourth Troop were sent to a wood on the north side of
Otterloo as a standing patrol.
At 2330 hours, Major Crosbie gathered the ‘C’ Squadron officers
at his headquarters, an old village church, to go over details of the plan
for the morning attack.
He was still giving orders when the proceedings were interrupted
by loud shouting and bursts of small-arms fire just outside the church.
It was soon determined that a strong enemy patrol had infiltrated into
the town, and that even more Germans were on their way down the main road.
Thus began a night of confusion and great gallantry.
As the squadron officers were cut off in the church, the tank troops were
led the whole night by sergeants and corporals, and they did
a magnificent job.
Somewhere between 600 and 900 Germans, remnants of a variety of units trying
to escape from the Canadian attack on Apeldoorn, poured into Otterloo.
It was a chaotic scene, Germans and Canadians mixed up in the dark.
Fairly early on the Irish asked that a tank drive up and down the streets to intimidate
The wartime history relates:
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 Germans were closely intermingled, the tank was ordered
not to fire, but simply moved up and down, with Germans running beside it
shouting “Canadians Surrender, Canadians Surrender”.
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.
Two members of First Troop received gallantry awards for their conduct that night.
Corporal Herbert Dixon Stitt was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal,
the only one won by a member of the Regiment during the war.
His citation reads in part:
Corporal Stitt was ordered to patrol up and down the main road ... and to clear the enemy
who by this time commanded the road.
As his tank moved out on to the road it was immediately engaged by
and bazooka fire.
One bazooka bomb scored a direct hit on the turret ring and completely
destroyed the traverse mechanism.
Although the enemy were only ten yards away, Corporal Stitt immediately
climbed out of his turret and traversed the gun onto the enemy by pulling
it around by hand.
During the ensuing three hours of darkness, Corporal Stitt continued to attack the
enemy up and down the road, closing with them to point blank range.
Throughout this period, he calmly remained on the outside of his tank, constantly
exposed to enemy fire, pulling the tank guns onto the enemy by hand and engaging
them with grenades and pistol.
Lance Corporal Donald Archibald Spence, a gunner in the troop leader's tank
in First Troop, took command of his crew in the officer's absence and got the
tank into action.
Spence received an immediate award of a Military Medal.
His bravery is described in the citation for the decoration:
His tank was surrounded by enemy calling upon the crew to surrender.
He replied with grenades and succeeded in driving the enemy off.
For the next three hours he continued to attack the enemy wherever he could
find them, always at ranges of from ten to fifteen yards.
So keen was he to press home his attack that on several occasions he took his tank
through heavy bazooka and machine gun fire right into the enemy, crushing them
beneath his tracks.
Although he had no previous experience as a crew commander, and had
received no direct orders, Lance Corporal Spence's initiative
and aggressiveness were responsible for preventing any further
infiltration into the village from the eastern end. ...
His courageous leadership was an inspiration to those he
Squadron Sergeant Major William Cyril Clarkson also received the
Military Medal, in part for his absolute devotion to duty under
dangerous and difficult conditions throughout the campaign,
but in part also for his conduct at Otterloo that night.
An excerpt from his citation reads:
The enemy counter-attack had met with initial success and the situation
was fast becoming critical.
It became apparent that the existing supply of ammunition would
Squadron Sergeant-Major Clarkson immediately volunteered
to take a lorry back to replenish the supply.
Having just arrived on his normal nightly trip, he was fully aware that the route to the
rear had been cut by German infantry.
He personally drove and ordered other personnel in the vehicle to fire
into the dug-in positions on both sides of the road.
He succeeded in reaching the regimental echelon and
returned with the badly needed ammunition, enabling the squadron
to remain in action for the remainder of the night.
But for the Sergeant-Major's determined action, the defensive
operation would have been seriously prejudiced.
As an historical footnote to this battle, not far away from the fighting by the
Irish Regiment and the ‘C’ Squadron tanks, the main headquarters
of 5th Armoured Division also came under heavy attack, although it is
very unlikely the Germans had any idea what was there.
took part in the close-in fighting in the early stages of the enemy infiltration,
but knowing that he had a responsibility to maintain command of the whole
division, he locked himself inside his armoured command vehicle until
the enemy had been driven off.
The situation had changed significantly by first light, in large measure because
of the superb leadership of Major Crosbie during the counter-attack
and the subsequent operation to clear the Germans from the village.
The mopping up turned into an absolute rout for the Germans when the Irish brought in
their Badger flame-throwers, fitted on a Ram chassis.
Those Germans that were not burned to death fled in terror, only to be shot up by
‘C’ Squadron tanks.
There were nearly a hundred German dead when it was over, and several hundred
For his inspired leadership, Major Crosbie was awarded the
Distinguished Service Order.
The Regiment suffered a great tragedy that morning when Corporal Herb Stitt
was unfortunately killed when he was run over by a truck while sleeping
beside his tank.
The Distinguished Conduct Medal he so greatly deserved had to be
a posthumous award.