17 Field Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery 37 Battery-60 Battery-76 Battery:

25 pounders

Unit No.74

 

3 March 1945: At 03.00hrs moved trough Antwerp to an area near Den Bosch (Brabant). Everyone was billeted in farmhouses and accomodation was very limited. The change from Belgium was very specialy noticeable in language difficulties, it being impossible to understand the Dutch.

 

28 March 1945: The FOO and reps joined their respective infantry units and the following day the guns moved and went into action on the `Island` between Nijmegen and Arnhem. The Regiment was greatly spread out much to the delight of the batteries, RHQ being far, far away. Some of the guns pits and all command posts had eletric lights, something not even thought of in a rest area in Italy. There was little activity aside from the occasional buzz bomb in the area. The OPs were able to do considerable shooting since observation was excellent and there was plenty on ammunition.

 

2 April 1945: Operation `Quick Anger` was succesfully carried out. Many fire plans were prepared but not called for. Later a smoke screen was laid down to conceal this movement but it largely succeeded only in blindings the OPs. In order ro participate in the fire plan for 49 (WR) Division assault on Arnhem the Regiment moved to the area of Elst.

 

12 April 1945: A diversionary fire plan was fired on the west of Arnhem and the enemy thinking this was the real thing laid down an intense stonk of shells, mortars and rockets. As a result there was little enemy shelling of the actual crossing South/East of Arnhem.

 

15 April 1945: The whole 5 Canadian Armoured Division was to concentrate in Arnhem that night and make an armoured breakthrough at first light. The Regiment immediately climbed on wheels and started rolling at 17.15hrs. The reps and FOOs left to join their respective infantry battalions and the unit finally arrived across the river in wee hours of the morning. After some wandering around in the pitch black the advance parties were found and the guns put in action.

 

16 April 1945: The Regiment joined in the chase and moved up going into action at an old Jerry barracks. From here the Air OP did a shoot on what he described as enemy concentrating  for a counter attack. This was succesfully dispersed with several Mike targets and the Regiment moved on a battery at a time to Otterloo (Gelderland). The regimental recce party reached Otterloo at aproxx 14.00hrs and found that the town had been cleared, but the woods in the outskirts were still being mopped up. The first battery was deployed by 16.40hrs RHQ and the other two batteries not arriving until 19.00hrs.

 

17 April 1945: Started with a bang at 00.01hrs with 76 Battery sentries reporting that enemy were moving south down the road between E and F Troops. Fire was opnened on them and RHQ informed. This was passed to all batteries,the IrRC and HQ RCA. All troops immediately stood to and weapons slits were manned for local defence.  Lt J.H.Stone, the CPO of 76 battery, kept reporting the situation to RHQ Command Post on the R-T. 76 reported that they must have help but would bang on as long they could. Lt J.H.Stone reported that he thought they could hold out if they could have a couple of tanks and they were requested repeatedly but to no avail. When 76 battery Command Post was first surrounded Gunner R.Bouchard E-46592. took a white scout car in an attempt to get through to the IrRC for assitance put his foot on the floor and drove down the road with SA fire bouncing off his vehicle at point blank range. He was successful in reaching Battalion HQ where he reported the situation. Lt J.H.Stone then called for fire on a mortar at about 200yards from his CP. 60 Battery brought down fire in that area and silenced the mortar, firing ranges of from 1000 to 750yards, 37 and 60 batteries harassed the roads running North and North-East out of Otterloo and 2-11 Medium Battery of 3 Medium Regiment RA harassed the concentration camp on the main road running North. 37 Battery were soon firing over open sights and attempting to defend themselves. C and D companies of the Ir RC were close to C and D troops but the Battery Command Post was off by itself. A momentary ray of hope was experienced when 37 Battery reported they heard our tanks but it turned out to be the troop of the GGHGs retiring to the town. BSM E.R. Loyd of 76 Battery managed to fight his way out of 76 Battery Command Post to RHQ. where he reported the situation in detail. He then proceeded to Ir RC Tactical HQ and asked for one tank. The Battalion Commander agreed and they found a Sergeant willing to go but the GGHG officer refused permission. Major D.L.Gordon at RHQ Command Post had taken complete charge of the situation and was systematicaly dividing  every report of the number of enemy in the area by 100. By this time the 76 Battery Command Post was forced to evacuate and fall back on E.Troop since their house was on fire and their wireless set smahes by enemy fire. Lt J.H. Stone immediately put their wireless on the Regimental net and re-established communications with RHQ. Captain L.S.Hand then fought his way out of E.Troop Command Post and arrived at RHQ reporting that they were almost out of SA ammunition and wanting some to take back, However, he was unable to get the ammo up to 76 Battery since RHQ was now completely cut off from E Troop and burning vehicles had the area lit up like day. F Troop had withdrawn from their troop Command Post and were dug in around their guns holding their fire until they had something to shoot at. Lt A.M.Ross did a hang up job of controlling his troop and managing to keep moving from gun pit to gun pit. All their guns were knocked out by machine gun fire but they stayed there fighting with their small arms, throughout the entie night and killed 5 enemy on the actual position, wounded four more and took 22 prisoners. The postion was surrounded for over 6,5 hours, under mortar fire and with an occasional round from our own guns falling in the area. The drivers from this troop who were some 500 yards in the rear defended their vehicles until all nine were wounded and then fell back into the IrRC area. 37 Battery, who at this point were firing fuze (222 airburst) with the setting at .2 and finding it very effective, reported an SP about 300 yards away and `Tank alert`was ordered and the guns hauled out of the pits so as to able to engage. The gunners had then little or no protection from mortar of SA fire but held on anyhow. Sergeant L.T.Mutcheson and the remainder of 37 Battery signal exchange crew were in a house about 300 yards north of their Battery Command Post and did not even awake until 04.30hrs!. Shortly after that they heard Jerry force the civilians to tell what room they were in but managed to shoot their way out and succesfully rejoin the Battery. Two amusing incidents, amushed looked at in retrospect, happened about this time, first, the 4 Canadian Anti Tank Regiment, who had a party just south across the road from RHQ complained to HQ RCA that the 17 Field Regiment was firing SA into their area and would they please stop. They evidently were not in the picture as to what was happening at all. The other thing was a result of the Medium Battery firing at such ranges as 2700. They were barely cleaning the houses and trees at that range with their shells when the inevitable happened. The one tall building in Otterlo was the church tower but it was much too dark for the gunners to see it and after reporting `shot`on one of their numerous targets they had to report they had removed the church tower. 76 Battery finally ran out of SA ammunition and were ordered to fall back to RHQ where the ammunition was re-alloted and the defences strenghtened by the men from Battery HQ and E Troop of 76 Battery. The enemy came within 50 yards of RHQ but did not penetrate the position. RHQ and HQ 4 Anti Tank Regiment were now cutt off from the other units in town and the enemy went right trought onto the medium guns and the Divisional HQ but were stopped at borh places. Special mention must be given to the Medium gunners who having turned in their tommy guns on leaving Italy had not yet received their sten guns. They fought the enemy with their bare hands until they captured enough SA to shoot back. One patrol got through to 60 Battery area, but after a sharp clash with SA and grenades they were wiped out after causing some casualties. Sergeant E.A.Knight dealth with the first jerry by throttling him whilr onr of his gun crew clubbed him with a rifle. Two men of B Troop were wounded by mortar fire but were evacuated by Lt G.F.F. Reynolds down `snipers alley` in a jeep. Once 37 Battery had began firing over open sights to defend themselves all targets were given to 60 Battery who began to run short of ammunition. However the drivers and ammunition numbers drove their vehicles on to the position and dumped ammunition while under SA and machine gun fire. As daylight began to filter through, the intensity of the enemy fire began to increase though the enemy by this timwe was not organized enough to put in a proper attack but was trying to infiltrate by sections. Major D.L.Gordon kept reiterating that we should stay and hold the position although all our SA ammo was running dangerously low. Just as everyone was down to his last magazine or less a group of Churchills and AVRE´s roared up the road from the East with all guns blazing. Three of four of the men of E Troop had missed RHQ when they retired from their position and had contacted an assault squadron RE. They moved up at first light with all guns blazing since they were unable to find out the location of our positions, This was unfortunate as several casualties resulted but necessary under the circumstances. After exchanging a few shots with the GGHGs the situation was clarified and they both put in a co-ordinated attacks with flam-throwers up to the two roads along which Jerry had dug in. The jerries flushed out and mowed down st a great old rate and rare indeed was the man who did not heave a huge sigh of relief. Thing then quietened down considerably but with quite a lot of sniping coming from the woods. At 08.45hrs the tanks and infantry started to clean up the woods and houses. Lt A.M Ross and F Troop had not bothered to wait however, and had cleared their own troop area and were busily engaged in having a wash and getting breakfast ready. BHQ and E Troop of 76 Battery had breakfast at RHQ and once thier area was reported clear they returned to their position. The MO Captain D.F.Marcelus was kept pretty busy in the morning their being 20 wounded in the Regiment with numerous prisoners wounded. The total casualties suffered were 3 killed and 20 wounded, 3 guns knocked out by Machinegun fire, 7 vehicles, 3 trailers and 1 motorcycle set on fire. The units claims of casualties inflicited on the enemy, which can never be verified in total, although they include only those who were actually seen, include 31 killed, 9 wounded and 127 prisoners.

The Regiment received three awards:

Lieutenant A.M. Ross Military Cross

Sergeant E.A.Knight a Distinguished Conduct Medal

Gunner R.bouchard a Military Medal.

 

18 April 1945: The Regiment moved complete through Barnveld, by-passing Nijkerk and continued towards Ermelo, going into action for a short while enroute and without firing moving on to spend the night at Ermelo. The forward troops had occupied Harderwijk.

 

21 April 1945: The Regiment moved to Leeuwarden area in support of the 11 Canadian Infantry Brigade who were in a holding role on the coast. The batteries were extremely scattered in order to secure a maximum coverage of the wide front.

 

25 April 1945: Fraternization continued with 37 Battery being the most succesful when "their" town of Franeker (Friesland) threw a dance for them. The Regiment moved on up to Wagenborgen and were joined the next day by 60 Battery. A great deal of firing was done from this position both in support of the Westminster Regiment. Captain J.F.W.Tennant even engaged a boat in the Eems Estuary sending down such corrections NW 1000 and SE 2000!. Enemy artilery was numerous and active but the gun area received only light shelling on one day losing 3 vehicles.

 

1 May 1945: Captain Pyper was still with C.Company The Irish Regiment in the town of Heveskes (groningen) when his OP was hit and his operator killed and the two remaining members of the party were wounded.

 

9 May 1945: RHQ and 76 Battery now moved to a rest area in Winschoten, 60 Battery occupied a position near Woldendorp in a coastal defence role and 37 Battery toop up position in Germany.

 

10 May 1945  37 and 60 Batteries rejoined the rest of the Regiment in Winschoten being billetted in a high school. The unit moved to the airport at Eelde the day before an inspection where the whole 5 CAD was lined up in a hollow square.

Major (then Lieutenant) D.Weir in England before boarding to Italy
He was one of the Officers whom in 1945 wrote the Regimental History
37 Battery on parade in Belgium, Major Weir leading