Looking Back: No. 2 Provost Company at War—Part 1
In 1985—to help mark the 40th anniversary of the end of Second World War hostilities—the first of a two-part historical article written by Superintendent Henry Christopher Forbes was published in The Quarterly magazine of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Forbes joined No. 1 Provost Company as a RCMP volunteer in 1939 and was later commissioned in the Canadian Provost Corps. He commanded No. 2 Provost Company from March to November 1944 and upon promotion to Major in February 1945 was appointed Assistant Provost Marshal of the 2nd Canadian Division.
The Canadian Military Police Association is gratefully to the Board of Trustees of The Quarterly, which is now published by the RCMP Veterans' Association, for granting permission to republish both parts of this article on the CMPA website. Chris Forbes' piece, which chronicles No. 2 Provost Company at war, is an important part of the written historical record of the Canadian Provost Corps and its modern-day successor, the Military Police Branch of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Below, reprinted with permission, is Part 1 of Forbes' article (originally published in The Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 4, Fall 1985, pp. 20–41). Note: Accompanying images that were not included in the original The Quarterly article are annotated as such in the caption.
Part 2 of this article can be viewed here (originally published in The Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 1, Winter 1986, pp. 8–29).
MILITARY POLICE AT WAR: THE NO. 2 COMPANY CANADIAN
PROVOST CORPS IN ENGLAND AND FRANCE
by Superintendant H. C. Forbes (retired)
Preface and Notes by Dr. William Beahen, Staff Historian [RCMP]
Simply put, the Canadian Provost Corps in the Second World War was a military police unit responsible for traffic control and law enforcement within the Canadian Army. The problem of controlling the movements of large bodies of soldiers and the behaviour of individual soldiers has existed as long as there have been armies. In the British tradition provost officers have performed these duties since at least the time of Henry VIII.* The dispatch of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to Europe in the First World War precipitated the organization of military police in the Canadian service. The organization withered away after the conflict until 1939 when necessity once more dictated its formation.
Immediately after Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939, many Mounted Policemen expressed their desire to enlist in the armed forces. Speaking for the government, Ernest Lapointe, Minister of Justice, and responsible for the RCMP, firmly rejected these offers, maintaining that experienced policemen were needed at home to ensure the security of the nation. He did suggest, however, the organization of a representative unit from the RCMP to carry the name of the Force in overseas service. This led shortly afterwards to the formation No. 1 Canadian Provost Company (RCMP) made up entirely of members of the RCMP, who would carry the cap badge and an armband bearing the name of the Force.
Very quickly, 112 members were selected from the many volunteers from all divisions who wanted to serve in No. 1 Provost Company. Early in November the unit was assembled at “N” Division, Rockcliffe, Ontario, for several weeks training in foot-drill, first aid and motorcycle riding. On December 10, 1939, No. 1 Company sailed to Great Britain as the military police for the First Canadian Infantry Division, the vanguard for Canadian forces to serve overseas. After a winter of training at Aldershot, England, No. 1 saw a brief taste of war operations in May 1940. A small party acted as bodyguard to division commander Major-General A. G. L. McNaughton on a swift reconnaissance trip via destroyer to Dunkirk during the massive evacuation of troops from France. The ship came under heavy attack from the air but escaped without casualty. In June the entire provost company was shipped to Brest, France, with the First Canadian Brigade but was quickly withdrawn when France capitulated to the invaders.
Meanwhile new companies were being formed for the Canadian Provost Corps. In all, 19 companies were organized for overseas service during the war to perform a variety of military police functions from support to each of the five divisions and lines of communication, to operation of military detention camps. In addition, personnel had to be supplied for staff positions, from corps headquarters to Canadian Military Headquarters. In this expansion it was necessary to draw heavily on the resources of No. 1 Company to provide experienced officers and NCOs for the other companies and to fill the more senior staff positions. Struggling with increased duties on the home front RCMP provided a dwindling number of reinforcements to make up this attrition to the complement of No. 1 Company. By late 1942 the Force, with regret, decided to stop sending provost reinforcements and thereafter new soldiers were admitted to the Company through the regular army replacement procedures. So, by the time No. 1 Provost Company saw action in Europe, it was already a mixed Force of former R.C.M. Policemen and soldiers performing military police duties. The percentage of Force members in the company continually dwindled to less than half in Italy in 1944, and when the unit disbanded in October 1945, no Mounted Policemen were among the last of the company.
Commissioner L. H. Nicholson served in the Provost Corps during the war and after. From September 1945 to April 1946, he held the corp’s highest appointment, provost marshal. Commissioner Nicholson was one of the few Mounted Policemen who did not enter the Provost through No. 1 Company. Instead, he had resigned his commission in the Mounted Police in 1941 and joined the Saskatoon Light Infantry. Not until 1943 did he cross over to the Provost Corps as a staff officer. Yet, it was Nicholson who chronicled the work of No. 1 Provost Corps in articles for the RCMP Quarterly in 1946 and 1947 and of provost staff officers in this periodical in 1983.**
In many ways Commissioner Nicholson’s articles are textbook military history. In “Battle Dress Patrol” Part I, Nicholson places the formation of No. 1 Company in the context of the military tradition of the RCMP and the contribution it was expected to make to the Canadian overseas forces. He then precisely describes the organization of the company and details its training and military policing during the three years spent in England waiting to get into action. In Part II Commissioner Nicholson diligently records the progress of the company in the allied campaign in Italy. First Canadian Corps played a prominent part in the initial Allied invasion of Europe of the war, storming the beaches and spearheading attacks at the cost of thousands of lives and many more wounded. From July 1943 to February 1945, Anglo-American armies, including the Canadian Corps, fought northwards through Sicily and Italy against tough, battle-experienced German troops. Commissioner Nicholson explains exactly how No. 1 Provost Company assisted in this advance, primarily through traffic control, a vital function in achieving operational objectives. He recounts how the company learned some hard lessons along the way, about how the job should be done, and took its losses along with the other units. Similarly, in his article “Provost Staff Officers,” the author succinctly details the role of staff within the provost service relating their duties to all aspects of the work from policing Allied troops on leave to escorting royal visits.
Commissioner Nicholson's work is a worthy addition to the military literature of the Second World War. From the perspective of a trained observer he detaches himself from wartime passions and cooly details the work of an arm of the service usually neglected by military historians. Along the way he does record and mourn the names of fallen comrades, but rarely does he mention names of those who survived and their exploits. I suspect that this approach was dictated by Commissioner Nicholson’s gentlemanly concern not to exalt some if all cannot be praised. Likewise he refrained from mentioning human weakness displayed by soldiers in combat and also criminal acts investigated by the provost. But wartime passions, whether heroic or otherwise, have a place in military literature just as they had a place in war. The lack of this element in Commissioner Nicholson’s articles makes them unexciting, if not uninteresting, to the general reader.
This is not true of the following offering by Superintendent H. C. (Chris) Forbes (retired). In the fall of 1939, Constable Forbes left his Wetaskiwin, Alberta detachment for Ottawa and service in No. 1 Canadian Provost [Company]. He entered military service as a lance corporal and gained advancement until by March 1944 Captain Chris Forbes took over command of No. 2 Provost Company which was composed almost entirely of wartime service soldiers without an RCMP background. Forbes assumed command shortly before the Normandy invasion and led the company through the first difficult months of trial by fire in Northwest Europe. He was then promoted to major and served in staff positions from which he could observe the activities of No. 2 Company. For his war services he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) During this period he kept rough notes in diary fashion and after the war was able to compose a memoir concerning the experiences of that unit.
After arriving in Normandy in July 1944, the primary duty of No. 2 Company was providing provost support for Second Division of the Canadian Army. As it was for No. 1 Company in Italy, much of the time the men were engaged on traffic control. But here the description of this duty is made graphic and gripping by relating how individuals performed under duress. Thus we see men, sometimes tired or sick, trying to keep in motion complicated military manoeuvres with their lives at risk from enemy fire. His accounts of police and security work are also fascinating. Spies using carrier pigeons to send news of troop movements are uncovered. Crimes from armed robberies to rape committed by Canadian soldiers are investigated and the culprits nabbed. Forbes even speaks of the shame felt by the company when two of its members were caught extorting money from the proprietor of a café in Antwerp on the threat of cancelling his license. What may be routine police responsibilities in other circumstances takes on a dimension of danger when armed troops are involved: such as guarding a cave full of beer from battle-weary troops and policing a liberation dance in Holland at which nearly every soldier carried a revolver!
Most histories and memoirs about war, or any other series of events, have a common flaw. They present an orderly reconstruction of what occurred as if it was somehow ordained to have turned out that way. Everyone knows, of course, that this is not true. Life unfolds for each individual as a series of opportunities offering choice and occasions over which we have no control. Chris Forbes retains the sense of this reality in his narrative, so the reader can identify with him and his men being swept along as the Allied armies battled across Europe. They did not know from day to day what lay in store for them and served under almost unrelenting stress of too much work and the danger of death. The author has convinced me that most of these men, despite the obstacles and their personal weaknesses, did their duty well. I found this account of courage and determination believable and edifying.
* See “Provost Staff Officers, Their Origin and Duties” by the late Commr. L. H. Nicholson, O.C., M.B.E., L.L.D., [RCMP Quarterly] Vol. 48 # 2 [Spring 1983], pp. 27-38.
** “Battle Dress Patrol,” Parts 1 and 2 in RCMP Quarterly, Vol. 12 #2, October 1946, and Vol. 12 #3, January 1947.
* See “Provost Staff Officers, Their Origin and Duties” by the late Commr. L. H. Nicholson, O.C., M.B.E., L.L.D., [RCMP Quarterly] Vol. 48 # 2 [Spring 1983], pp. 27-38.
** “Battle Dress Patrol,” Parts 1 and 2 in RCMP Quarterly, Vol. 12 #2, October 1946, and Vol. 12 #3, January 1947.
The History of No. 2 Canadian Provost Company in Northwest Europe
No. 2 Company, Canadian Provost Corps was formed in Canada in 1940 for the purpose of controlling traffic and disciplining the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. They proceeded overseas that year with the Second Division. The following history of their activities takes up the story in June 1942.
In June of 1942 most of the Company were on the Isle of Wight undergoing commando training under Capt. E. H. (Red or Stevie) Stevenson. Lt. P. S. (Pete) Oliver was i/c of the rest of the Company which had been left behind. When the boys came back from the Isle of Wight they were full of frustration.
They had trained hard only to have the operation cancelled at the last moment.
The quartermaster (QM) had been having a bit of difficulty acquiring new battle dress for the Company because the members were not turning in old kit but carrying it around with them. Stevie fixed this by assembling the Company for a move from billets and then carrying out a kit inspection. The coffers of the QM were swelled considerably by what the hoarders’ kit-sacks disgorged!
Shortly after that the Company moved to Earthem, a little village near Chichester in Sussex. There on the morning of August 18, 1942, the Company was broken up into three groups.
Two groups moved off on separate schemes and one group remained behind. Stevie and Pete went with one specially selected group and Regimental Sergeant-Major (R.S.M) Neilsen went with the other group. Unit security was perfect as only Steve and Pete knew what was cookin’. [L/Cpl. J. D.] Noble was sick in bed with flu but he got up and went with Steve and Pete in order to let another chap go on leave. It was just another scheme, so why not.
The R.S.M. and his men returned that same evening. Steve and Pete and their men did not. Early next morning, August 19, 1942, there was considerable air activity heading for the continent, and then the news broke over the radio that a landing in force had been made at Dieppe. Well, so that’s where Steve and Pete and the boys were! Another scheme, eh?
The ones left behind did not have much time to brood over their fate because the Assistant Provost Marshal (A.P.M.), Major J. E. B. Hallett, blew in and ordered them to proceed to Portsmouth and Gosport to handle the traffic for the returning veterans of Dieppe. Points were manned at 1400 hrs. August 20, without relief. Dreadful rumors in regard to the fate of their comrades were freely circulated and an esprit de corps blossomed in those dark days that later became the lifeblood of the Company.
By late afternoon the 20th when all hope had been abandoned for the return of any more ships, the men returned to Earthem and learned the bitter truth. Capt. Stevenson and twelve men had returned out of the original 41. Pete Oliver had been killed on the beach. Nineteen men had been left on the beach, some of them very badly wounded. They were all taken prisoner of war. The balance of the men were in hospital in England.
No. 2 Provost Company now found themselves to be “battle-veterans,” with a good, healthy, personal hate for “Jerry” and an ardent desire to free their comrades from the shackles in the P.O.W. camps. Many awards were handed out for bravery and gallantry at Dieppe but none went to No. 2 Company—possibly the A.P.M. at that time knows why. It is certain that the men who were on the raid were not lacking in bravery, gallantry or devotion to duty. They were superb.
About this time Capt. J. J. (Jack) Platt was sent to the Company to be second in command. Jack was a wizard with paper—a real bumph specialist.
The parcels which arrived from Canada for the men who were taken prisoner, were saved up and after the Company moved into winter billets in the Royal Hotel at Bognor Regis, Sussex, they were auctioned. Members of the Company paid fabulous sums for cigars, chocolates, etc. in order to raise a fund to supply P.O.W. (prisoner of war) parcels to their captured Dieppe comrades. Single cigars sold for £1.10 each and were thrown back in to be re-auctioned. Steve was auctioneer. It was a very moving scene. So started the P.O.W. fund—monies for the comfort of those men who suffered the terror of the beaches and the loneliness and privations of the P.O.W. camps. News eventually got to England from the P.O.W. camps that all the boys were living, with the exception of Lt. Pete Oliver, and that Noble, who had got out of a sick bed to go on the raid, was a camp policeman.
The third of February 1944 found Lt. Gen. Greg Simonds inspecting the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division with 2 Company i/c of traffic control. We were decked out in shiny white web for the first time—an innovation copied from 1st Division.
March 9, 1944, was a big day for 2 Company as the whole Division was assembled on the Five Oaks-Billingshurst Road for inspection by His Majesty the King. Needless to say everything worked smoothly, but it was a long days work for the boys and all were glad when it was finished.
Cpl. “A” was cooking for the Company at that time, having supplanted old Rolt, our previous cook; but of all the army cooks that ever boiled a Brussels sprout or green cabbage Cpl. “A” was the worst. On March 13, 1944, the men drew their meal and refused to eat it. Greg went over to the mess and ate some of the foul food and assured the men that it was edible; but “A” was fired that afternoon. He didn’t even cook supper.
Capt. Jack Platt left the Company on March 21, 1944, to be Deputy Assistant Provost Marshal (D.A.P.M.) at Army HQ. No. 2 Company was taken over by Capt. H. C. (Chris) Forbes. Greg Embury was 2 i/c and Lt. (Silkie) Wilkinson, a former NCO in 2 Company, was the third officer. Spurgeon was throwing the snowballs in his best regimental-sergeant-major manner. Wilkie, unfortunately, was not well and had to go to hospital. He was replaced by Lt. (Andy) Anderson on March 31, 1944.
It was at this time that a very able and energetic NCO decided to ignore Greg Embury’s instructions in regard to posting men on points. His disobedience resulted in his demotion by Maj. Gen. Foulkes on April 10, 1944. That action strengthened Lt. Embury’s and Anderson’s positions in the Company. They were comparatively new to the Company and were handling a lot of NCOs who were old originals. The NCOs smartened up, forthwith. The man demoted left the Company. He later regained his rank with another unit.
Then, Major J. E. B. Hallett, A.P.M., went sick, and Major J. B. (Happy or Hap) Harris became A.P.M. on April 12, 1944. “Happy” was a very popular A.P.M. and a friend of No. 2 Company.
Exercises and Maneuvers
Exercises were the order of the day. April 19, 1944, found the Company comfortably billeted in old Park Barracks at Dover, Kent, with exercise “Last” completed and exercise “Foible” in full swing. Right on “Foible’s” heels came “Kate,” a bridging exercise on the N.E. coast of England. Preparations for “Overlord” were feverishly carried out. There was a D-day keenness within the Company, a feeling that, at last, the waiting was over and that they would soon be knocking down the gates of those prison camps in Germany.
Patrols were carried out in Dover, Folkestone, Canterbury Margate, Ramsgate and Deal. And all equipment checked, renewed if necessary, and packed ready for shipment.
Traffic control was laid on for the divisional church parade in Canterbury Cathedral on May 24, 1944, a most impressive ceremony and service.
D-day, June 6th, 1944, found 2 Provost Company still in the old Park Barracks at Dover, Kent, biting their fingernails, with Dieppe as their only consolation. Sgt. Oakes and his section were under command of 6 Brigade on exercise “Fool,” an anti-paratroop invasion scheme.
Two of our men each had street fights in Folkstone and came out best man in their respective fights. A new spirit of comradeship grew up in the Company. A sign was painted in the Company by Jack Reay which turned out to be very photogenic and was later published in several papers: “Old Soldiers Never Die—They Dig! And Fade Away into a Slit Trench.”
At last the channel waves subsided and the movement orders for 2 Company came through. On July 2, 1944, we took route “A-2" to London, then drove through the blackout and buzz-bombs into a camp where the Company remained overnight. On Monday July 3rd, the Company moved to “E” shed Victoria Docks—in the rain. Three buzz-bombs came down very close to “E” shed during the day, fortunately 2 Company had no casualties. It was a great relief when our ship Ft. Gibraltar was loaded and moved off down the Thames at 2230 hrs. Everyone was packed in like sardines and most of the men moved out on deck.
At 0945 hrs., July 5th, the Gibraltar dropped anchor off Southend where the convoy was assembling: 107 ships in all, escorted by 2 destroyers, 2 corvettes and 1 motor launch. The Ft. Gibraltar weighed anchor at 2100 hrs. and with the commodore aboard, led the convoy. Passing through the Straits of Dover on a smooth sea and under a full moon between midnight and 0200 hrs. July 6, the escorting destroyer knocked a doodle-bug into the sea with one burst of fire. Nice shooting. Good old Navy.
After an uneventful crossing, the Gibraltar dropped anchor off Arromanches, Normandy, France, at 2130 hrs. July 6, 1944. Unloading could not be commenced until morning as there were no LSTs available. Everyone spent a most uncomfortable night in the hold due to overcrowding and stuffiness. No one was allowed to sleep on deck.
France at Last
No. 2 Company went ashore at approximately 1145 hrs. July 7, 1944, on Jig Beach and proceeded inland to a field. Major Cooper A.P.M. 2nd Corps and Capt. Porter of 11 Provost Company visited us—looking for a drink! Mail was delivered to the Company. Six hundred bombers bombed the German positions in Caen that night. What a sight! What destruction!
Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th were spent trying to get used to the heavy artillery fire. Recce [reconnaissance] was also carried out of the Buron-Gruchy fields where three divisions had expanded the beachhead just prior to 2 Company landing. Many dead Germans were to be seen and also some of the division chaps. No. 4 Provost Company were found firmly “in the saddle” and right on top of their job. They were very helpful and cooperative, and assured 2 Company that the beachhead wasn’t too grim. That “lost” feeling began to disappear and self-confidence reasserted itself.
On July 10, 1944, Greg and two sections moved into an orchard near Carpiquet and settled down, minding their own business in spite of the dead horses and dead Jerries lying around. It was a real stinker of a place in more ways than one. It was right under the Jerry infantrymen’s noses and was shelled during the night. Everyone was well dug-in so the group had no casualties. They moved back to the Company in the morning. Accidents were spending valuable men at an alarming rate! Tolofson and Hunter cracked up in the traffic melee and were evacuated. Tolofson tangled with a DUKW or “Duck.” It swung its tail out on a corner and knocked Tolofson off his snortin’ Norton motorcycle.
Sgts. Hares and Sutherland cracked up in a jeep. They visited the forward area, and on whistling back in the dark ran into a shell hole which hadn't been there when they went up to the front. Such is war. Sgt. Wally Hares never got back to the Company. He was later to drop across the Rhine with the para-troopers.
On Tuesday, July 11th, 1944, R.S.M. Spurgeon cracked up. A light armored car wheeled out of a wood right onto the highway and the R.S.M. could not manipulate his Norton around it. Jerry-strafing aircraft yielded a prisoner to the brand new P.O.W. cage during the day, viz. one Andreas Michalec. The cage also collected one emaciated SS Totenkopf German soldier during the day. Greg and Andy worked ceaselessly on the million and one things that had to be done. In fact, Andy worked until 0800 hrs. on the 12th. His men did too!
On July 12th the boys were settling down to their work. Messerschmitt 109F strafing during the day, and bombings during the night were taken for granted. Pointsmen were quickly learning how to get to their traffic control points under shellfire and to dig themselves adequate slit trenches for use during shellfire periods. Points were controlled in the La Villeneuve, Marcelet, Carpiquet, Verson areas. Three more P.O.W.’s in the cage.
Greg and Andy spent the 19th in the Caen area. Beaulieu Prison was reconn[oiter]ed for use as P.O.W. cage and found satisfactory. Caen still a HOT SPOT.
Rain on July 20th, so the Company moved across the Orne River at Caen, in the rain. Sgt. Martin (who literally worked himself to death) established a new P.O.W. cage in Beaulieu Prison, Caen. Company HQ moved ahead of Division HQ to Fleury-au-Prue and got mortared with “moaning minnies.” Gee, they're a nasty piece of work! No casualties, though. Company HQ moved back to Faubrige de Vancelles where Division HQ camped. Lots of prisoners being handled by the P.O.W. cage.
The rain drove the Company into houses, or what was left of them, on the 21st. Sgt. Webb took over from Sgt. Young at Division HQ due to Young kicking up a fuss with the camp commandant over the signing at Division HQ.
On the 22nd an attempt was made to clear the soldiers out of the caves along the bank of the Orne. The caves were full of civilians from Caen living under very unsanitary conditions and an epidemic was feared.
The 23rd of July 1944 brought a blast on the Company ‘cause Oakes did not lay on traffic control for moving the rear echelon of Division HQ. Liaison with 4 Provost Company revealed that 3 Division HQ was under enemy artillery fire. No. 2 Company was surrounded by artillery positions which kept up a continual barrage. What a spot! On top of that a lot of the company were sick with dysentery.
Andy found a civilian car on the 24th for the A.P.M. Hap Harris, but the Sherbrooke Fusiliers (27th Armoured Regiment) came and claimed it. So, no car for Hap yet. No. 2 Company busy sampling French wines and Calvados. Calvados didn’t need much sampling. It was dynamite!
No. 2 Company position was shelled, but luckily, no casualties. Second Division suffering lots of casualties. Many shells fell near Company HO on the 25th. “C” is nerve cracked and he was evacuated to hospital. McKay and Derouin were shelled off their points and forced to leave their bikes. Greg took a crashed RAF pilot back to his base.
The morning of the 26th the boys all streamed down to the QM Stores to look at Cullinan’s truck which was hit the night before. Not much damage was done but a lot of speculation ensued as to what would have happened to Cully if he had been in it.
Troops were kicked out of the caves. The front was at a standstill and 2 Division was busy regrouping. No. 2 Company got a good sleep for a change.
Medals and Dispatches
The 27th of July 1944 found Company HQ busily checking details of stories concerning outstanding bravery and devotion to duty of L/Cpls. Berton and Mabee. They were on point duty when a truck and motorcycle were struck by shellfire. In spite of continued shelling and mortaring they evacuated the wounded by carrying them out as they crawled along the ditch. They returned to their point and cleared away the wreckage. They were each subsequently awarded the Military Medal. At the same time on another point L/Cpl. Russell saw a Toronto Scottish Regiment machine gun post receive a direct hit. He reported it to an ambulance jeep but the driver’s instructions were to wait until shelling and mortaring stopped before going in to pick up casualties. With entire disregard for his own safety Dave Russell commandeered a passing jeep and drove into the enemy fire and evacuated the wounded Toronto Scots. He was later mentioned in dispatches, and Major Walsh got a jeep for Hap Harris—no questions asked.
MacDonnell was busy investigating theft of a Toronto Scottish trailer. Lots of gossip from Division HQ on the Russian officers’ visit to our front.
The 28th brought news of “D” who had been missing since the 26th. He was in hospital suffering from battle shock. Two men were found out-of-bounds in the caves. One got tough and pulled his gun when placed under arrest. He was subdued! Later the gunslinger was court-martialled and received nine months imprisonment for his action.
Lt. Col. Archibald left Division HQ on the 29th but before leaving he thanked Provost Company for its work. No. 8 Provost Company moved the 4th Armored Division into our area. Lots of shelling and mortaring throughout the whole area.
The 30th brought news of the American breakthrough. All civilians were moved out of the caves into Caen—an awful shemozzle.
On August 1, 1944, Cpl. Ourth got the idea that he could get some spare jeeps for the Company from the forward areas. He was given the green light but the recovery boys were doing their jobs too well so no spare jeeps were acquired that way. Marshall’s Caen girl friend came to see him, but the Sgt. Major’s treatment had got Marshall out of the Company’s hair for the time being. The old reliable Company mechanic, Syd Bullock, was busy working on a civilian car for Hap Harris. Hap was using a Company jeep so everyone was on the lookout for an alternative mode of conveyance or the popular A.P.M. Happy Harris. Andy broke up a drunken mob in Caen in the evening.
Load of Grief
The 2nd of August 1944 brought a load of grief to the P.O.W. cage staff in the form of a complaint from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI). The RHLI were the only anti-provost regiment in 2 Division. An RHLI private told his colonel that the Provost staff divided the prisoners property and money amongst themselves and even offered some of the loot to the private. The private said that he refused to take anything. What a story! It caused a lot of flap though, and along written list of instructions for the guidance of the P.O.W. cage staff. Capt. Stornboro and Lt. Henley upheld the integrity of the P.O.W. cage staff and ridiculed the RHLI’s complaint. Greg carried out the investigation. He had to go out to the forward trenches to get statements. A search of the P.O.W. cage staff failed to reveal any loot. Conclusion: Complaint unfounded. God bless those... RHLI. Greg and Andy went over to Caen in the evening to see Giselle Bonchard. Traded Hap’s new Renault car to Col. Johnson D.M.A. commander for a jeep. Everybody happy.
The Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) cook Cpl. Wallace was doing a great job of cooking for the boys. Meals at odd hours were his specialty. He was wonderful. He loved 2 Company and praised the boys on the work they were doing. He was so proud of them that he took down his RCASC flashes and put-up Provost Corps flashes and nobody objected. He was more Provost than the boys themselves, if that could be possible.
Major “Steve” Stevenson came over to visit the boys in action. He must have felt good over the welcome he got. Everyone was pleased to see him.
August 4, 1944, found the Company bumph specialist, Cpl. Lawton, sick with dysentery. Lawton’s school-book French was proving very useful in handling civilian complaints and getting the cushiest billets for the Company HQ—but it did not immunize him from the dreaded dysentery. Everybody had their own little attack and crawled away and felt like dying—and almost did!
The bridge area at Caen was heavily shelled by Jerry. All the boys took to slit trenches. The front appeared to be breaking up. Lots of movement at night. Everyone busy.
The 5th and 6th of August consisted of the usual slugging matches between the opposing artillery forces, but the 7th brought a new stir to the divisional area. Tanks were assembled in dead ground and lined up four abreast in three columns, the columns being about 150 yards apart and one-half a mile long. No. 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade were being carried in tanks of the 2 Canadian Armored Brigade. Andy and his men worked feverishly all day. The attack went in at night with searchlights providing artificial moonlight. Andy and his men on the start line got very heavily shelled and mortared by Jerry when the attack went in. L/Cpl. Hayward was wounded by shrapnel and evacuated. The attack was a great success and morning found our infantry dug in about three miles forward of the positions they left. Andy’s jeep was blown up by shellfire.
On August 8, 1944, R.S.M. Oakes checked the P.O.W. cage which had been moved to Ife and then proceeded to Rocquancourt on the main Falaise road. The crossroads between Rocquancourt and Tilly-la-Compagne was shelled and Oakes picked up Watson and Hall of No. 8 Provost Company and took them to a field dressing station. He did this in spite of incessant German 88[mm] field gun fire. American bombers bombed Vancelles very close to Company HQ. Major Gen. Keller of 3rd Division was wounded. A great loss. Hap Harris got nicked by shrapnel whilst watching the heavy bombers bomb May-Sur-Orne last night.
On August 9, 1944, 2 Company were having lots of trouble trying to keep troops out of the brewery cave. A cave full of beer proved an irresistible attraction to battle-weary troops. Greg and Sgts. Thompson and Webb moved forward to Brettville-Sur-Laize area. At last the front was moving and Caen was being left behind.
On August 10, 1944, Hap Harris arrived at the Company bright and early with routes and timings for No. 8 Reconnaissance Regiment and the Infantry Brigade. Cpl. Barker (who later transferred to the Recce and was killed with them) moved the 8 Recce Regt. from La Villoneuve to Basse. Advance going well. Lots of dead in new area. Company busy reconn[oiter]ing new area. August 11, 1944, Company HQ moved in small packets to a farm near Brettville-Sur-Laize on the Laize river. A beautiful location. Everyone washed the thick white dust off in the cool stream. Traffic was very heavy and all pointsmen were nearly smothered in dust.
During the stay at Brettville-Sur-Laize the Company were critical of the Yankee bombing of our lines at Caen until one morning the RAF came over in daylight and started dropping bombs about one and one-half miles away from Company HQ. They appeared to be short of the enemy lines, an appearance which was confirmed shortly afterwards when a Polish officer and his driver came running down the road from the direction of the bombing. They were stopped and taken into Company HQ. A half-tumbler full of precious gin each helped to steady their nerves a bit, but each successive Lancaster or Halifax bomber brought them to their feet trembling. That was the end of close-support heavy bombing, although no one knew it at the time and everyone dreaded the thought of more raids by any aircraft.
The front moved very quickly during the next few days and the 17th found Sgt. Mitchell and his section in charge of traffic control in the burning and sniper-infested Falaise.
The morning of the 18th revealed Falaise still rocking from an enemy bombing during the night. Sgt. Mitchell and his men were OK but badly shaken. Falaise was HOT—and not only from the many fires burning in it! Civilian refugees were streaming out of town and 2 Company was directing them off the supply routes to the little village of Torps. It appeared that the gap was about to be closed and preparations were made to handle thousands of prisoners, if necessary.
Late one night in the Falaise area when everyone was nearly dead from lack of sleep and every minute the boys’ heads spent on a make-shift pillow was as precious as gold, the phone at Company HQ rang—the message: Send Provost to the small village of “X" near Falaise and ensure that no troops draw water from that area as the Germans have put poison in all the wells and local water supplies.
The local priest was doing his best to tell all troops passing through about the poison, but signs and pickets were urgently needed. So two weary Provost lads were shaken out of a dead sleep and despatched in a jeep with enough signs to post on all water outlets. The village was plastered with “poison” signs. The field Hygiene Section tested the water in the morning to determine what poison Jerry had used, but could find no trace of poison in any of the water. An investigation was then carried out in regard to the false report and it was discovered that the village priest had said that there was poisson in the water, and that he had only been trying to interest the soldiers in the wonderful fishing to be enjoyed in the local waters.
No. 2 Company did not get many prisoners from the closing of the gap. Col. Paul, division liaison officer, told the Company on the 17th that the 7th German Army was smashed and that 2nd Division’s next task would be the clearing of the buzz-bomb sites at Calais.
On Sunday morning, August 20, 1944, 2 Company was camped in the beautiful undamaged village of Mourteaux-Couliboeuf. It was a rare treat to get into a fresh green countryside again which had been unravaged by war. Church bells were ringing and the French civilians flocked to thanksgiving services. Their liberation celebrations threatened to disrupt the head-long rush of the Division. Andy spent all morning pulling priority vehicles through a ford while the engineers frantically built a bridge close by.
The 25th found 2 Company near Brionne. All morning Cpl. Russell and L/Cpl. O'Connor were pinned down in Brionne by enemy fire. They finally escaped on foot and brought valuable traffic information out with them. Company HO moved through Brionne on August 25, 1946.
A line-crossing, well-built French girl, approximately 19 years of age, was brought into Company HQ by the forward infantry. They suspected her of espionage. She was wearing a very light blouse and what appeared to be basketball shorts and an old pair of slippers—nothing else. A very revealing attire! After receiving a good wash and hair combing and a few bits and pieces and a dress she proved to be very attractive. R.S.M. Oakes escorted her to the Field Security Section.
On Sunday, September 3rd, the Division held a memorial service at the cemetery and a victory march through Dieppe. The Dieppe veterans of 2 Company were photographed at Pete’s grave and the picture was later published in the Canada Weekly and The Toronto Star Weekly. This necessitated a lot of work for 2 Company who badly needed a breather after the long dash from Falaise.
However, the breather was not forthcoming. At 2100 hrs., September 4th, the Company was notified that in one hour's time the Division would start moving to the Calais area. A hasty breakdown of the route was made, and sections were despatched to certain areas along the way. Each section had to post signs and control its area. Lts. Embury and Anderson were each detailed to control half the route. Lt. Embury took off for the Calais end of the trail. Company HQ moved all night and pulled into a field near Montreuil-Sur-Mer in the morning of the 5th. That night the move was resumed, and a weird move it was. Greg had to change the allotted route due to enemy small arms fire and MacDonell got lost and pegged the wrong route. A complete snafu, but the Division arrived at the place it started out to move to, so no heads fell. It had been a particularly dark night and the heavy rain added to the confusion.
Greg went on a recce in this area and was the first Allied soldier into a fair-sized French village. He drove his jeep over an improvised bridge built by the Maquis underground movement. He was welcomed by the mayor and presented with a bouquet of flowers by a little French girl. Maquis-held Jerries were handed over to him for transfer to the P.O.W. cage. It was a fair do.
L/Cpl. Lasalle quit his job as outrider for Gen. Foulkes. Foulkes and his party were cut off in Ostend by enemy small arms fire. They came out in armoured cars, but as the cars were full, the aide-de-camp ordered Lasalle to ride beside the armoured cars—on the safe side. Lasalle objected on the grounds that his life was very sweet and he could think of no reason why he should present himself as a target for Jerry at an aide-de-camp’s whims.
The next few days were spent chasing up and down the coast from Ostend to near Calais. Dunkerque was given a wide berth. The mayor of a small village near Dunkerque was sent out by the Jerries to negotiate for the evacuation of the civilians. Gen. Foulkes smelled a trap so ordered the mayor to be detained at 2 Company HQ. An artist from the Royal Navy visited 2 Company and made a sketch of the P.O.W. cage with a very famous old chateau in the background. When Company Quartermaster Sgt. Ferguson (Fergie) attempted to move his lorry into the inner keep of the castle it broke through the planking over the moat and dropped onto the stringers underneath. It took a lot of figuring on Fergie's part and a lot of sweat on Cully and Harding and Syd Bullock's part to get out of that one.
The men detailed to control Ostend were very popular, possibly due to their proximity to the Trocadero Cafe. The Trocadero was operated by Jack, a Cockney, and his pretty Belgian wife, Yvette. Nice people. Friendly people. It was in this area that L/Cpl. Mummery moved a brigade through an enemy shelled area by timing the enemy fire. He steadfastly refused to be relieved.
On September 13, 1944, the section controlling traffic for 4CIB (criminal investigations) moved from Bruges to a little village just outside Dunkerque. Their officer commanding phoned 2 Company in the evening and ordered a certain German major to be sent to his caravan. Jake Henley had taken a confession from the major, admitting the killing of French civilians. Andy did the escorting. The German did not attempt to escape, worse luck.
On Friday September 15, 1944, plans were made for a move to the Antwerp area. Again, the Company was dispersed along the entire route with sections responsible for definite areas. 4 Brigade moved over the route on September 16th. On the 17th, Escott broke his ankle on the route at Esquedracques. His loss was keenly felt as he was a very capable and popular NCO.
During the move to Antwerp, airborne troops were dropped at Arnhem, but at least one glider got off its course and landed near a 2 Company pointsman who was on a point near Ghent. The paratroopers piled out bristling with arms and ammunition and dug themselves into an impregnable, defensive position. The pointsman remonstrated with them—but they had their orders and being certain that they had landed on their target, they proceeded about their business in a soldierly-like manner. After a couple of hours in the slit trenches watching 2 Division vehicles rolling towards Antwerp they decided that possibly the pointsman’s story had some merit. They called it a day and proceeded to Ghent to celebrate their hollow victory.
The 20th of September found 2 Division moved into the Antwerp area with Andy and two sections patrolling the city. Harry Pelz was promoted to Sgt. and Fife to Cpl.
The Antwerp battle was a queer one. It was definitely a weird experience. A lot of fighting took place around the eastern and northern suburbs and yet life in the city was very gay. Troops rode trams from their front-line positions into the city where they drank and danced with pretty Belgian girls, and when the party was over they hopped on the trams and rode out to the battle zones again. What a life! Andy and his men were very busy. Unfortunately, five armed holdups were carried out in the city, but 2 Company investigators cleared them all up satisfactorily. Greg arrested three “gunmen” from the Canadian Armored Regiment single-handedly.
October 24, 1944, saw the field general court martial of two members of No. 2 Company. Andy was prosecuting officer and presented his case in a very efficient manner as a result of which each was sentenced to five years imprisonment. They had not been with 2 Company very long and when stationed in Antwerp the temptations to make a little on the side were almost overwhelming—at least for them. They had entered a café with a White Brigade volunteer in the evening and warned the proprietor and his wife to fix their blackout. At approximately 2300 hrs. they returned to the same café with the same White Brigade volunteer and found it open in spite of the 2100 hr. closing regulation. They immediately ordered all soldiers and civilians out of the café. Then they ordered the proprietor and his wife to give them 5000 francs or they would have the café license cancelled. They also searched the living quarters and found a few tins of Allied rations and immediately threatened the proprietor with imprisonment if he did not pay up at once. The proprietor produced and gave them 1000 francs and convinced them that that was all the cash that he had on hand. They took the money and left. Bright and early the next morning the proprietor and his wife were in Andy's office with their complaint and unhesitatingly identified the culprits. The whole Company was first shocked, and later ashamed, to find that two of their members had stooped to racketeering.
October 24, 1944. The weather was getting very bad and the days were getting shorter. It was imperative that the Scheldt estuary be cleared quickly so that Allied ships could enter and be unloaded at the huge docks in Antwerp. Everyone was imbued with the urgency of the operation and carried on magnificently in spite of the Jerries’ stubborn resistance and the bitter weather. The P.O.W. cage was sited too far forward actually, but Cpl. Nault could not find suitable accommodation anywhere else. His P.O.W. cage staff actually captured and imprisoned a Jerry night patrol! Andy and his men were very busy with traffic control arrangements for an infantry and armor attack on the isthmus leading to South Beveland. However, it was an ill fated plan, for at dawn, after working all night under shell and mortar fire they found all vehicles stuck in the mud at the side of the dykes. The attack had to be postponed and the plan changed due to the impossible road conditions in that area.
This account of No. 2 Provost Company will continue with the next edition of the RCMP Quarterly, bringing such stories as the “Spies & Pigeons,” “Into Germany,” “Blockbuster,” the “S.I.S.,” a Mardi Gras, and more. [View Part 2 online here]
1. Born on February 20, 1913, at Grand Forks, B.C., Edward H. Stevenson was the son of former NWMP Constable H. J. Stevenson. The younger Stevenson was brought up in Vancouver where he left school early and tried his hand at several trades including carpentry and plumbing. He also got a taste of military life through part-time service in the militia. On June 5, 1934, he joined the Mounted Police and served four years before being discharged on June 6, 1938. Thereafter he worked as a carpenter and served for a time as a Canadian Pacific Railway policeman. At the outbreak of war Stevenson re-engaged in the RCMP, September 14, 1939, and joined No. 1 Provost Company on its formation.
Stevenson achieved rapid success in the Provost Corps and was commissioned as lieutenant in June 1941. He was second in command at No. 1 Company, and after promotion to captain, he commanded No. 2 Company when he was chosen to lead the Provost component on the Dieppe raid. Captain Stevenson held staff positions at the division and corps level in the Canadian Army. He served as assistant provost marshal with the Fourth Armoured Division in France, Belgium and Holland, holding the rank of major. He returned to Canada on leave in December 1944 and was then assigned command and staff posts in this country until he obtained his discharge from the Army on February 8, 1946. For his service Major Stevenson was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.).
Back in the RCMP after the war, Cst. Stevenson was attached to “F” Division, and achieved rapid advancement. On February 15, 1949, he was commissioned as a sub-inspector in “A” Division and made inspector on March 1, 1951. He was transferred to Fairmont Barracks in Vancouver as training officer in 1951 and from 1954 to 1957 he was liaison officer in Washington. He then served as C.I.B. officer in Newfoundland and in 1959 was sent to Depot Division as adjutant. The following year he was promoted superintendent and sent to National Defence College in Kingston. After successfully completing this course, he was appointed senior training officer at Headquarters. He was promoted to chief superintendent on July 1, 1966. Appointment to be director of Organization and Personnel came on August 1, 1967, followed by promotion to assistant commissioner on August 23, 1961. He retired to pension on September 14, 1970.
2. Peter Seddon Oliver joined the RCMP in June 1935 at the age of 22 years. Oliver came from Quebec City and his father George S., had served in the Force from 1882 to 1893 and had attained the rank of staff sergeant.
Cst. Oliver's recruit training was divided between “N” Division Rockcliffe, and “D” Division, Headquarters in Winnipeg. He remained in “D” Division serving in various detachments until 1939 when he applied and was accepted for No. 1 Provost Company. Oliver became a physical training instructor for the company and so impressed his superiors that in 1941 he was sent to an officers’ training unit and in due course was commissioned lieutenant. The young officer then was assigned to No. 2 Provost Company. He was serving as second in command to Capt. Stevenson when the Provost party was sent to Dieppe. Immediately after the action he was listed as missing, believed killed, and his death was confirmed by the German government through the International Red Cross sometime later.
3. John E. B. Hallett also came to the Provost Corps from the RCMP in the initial enlistment. Born on January 29, 1912, in England, Hallett emigrated to Canada with his family at age 12, settling in Prince Edward Island. He studied at agricultural college but had not settled on a career before joining the RCMP on October 28, 1933. Constable Hallett was stationed in succession at several different detachments in Alberta before joining the Provosts in 1939. No doubt putting his militia experience to good use, Hallett was commissioned lieutenant in 1940 and promoted to captain and O.C. of Second Company in 1941. By 1944 he had risen to major and was assistant provost marshal of Second Canadian Division. That year, however, he retired from army service on medical grounds because of a chronic back condition. He returned only briefly to the RCMP and took his discharge time expired on October 27, 1945. Subsequently he did investigative work with other federal agencies and a municipal police force.
4. On August 19, 1942, 5000 Canadian troops staged a raid on the French port of Dieppe and their ranks were decimated by the German garrison. Only 2200 Canadians returned to England: of the rest 900 were dead and 1900 were prisoners of war. Of the original total, 1000 were wounded. However, some lessons were learned which assisted the planning for D-Day.
5. German authorities captured Allied instructions, given to the Dieppe raiders, to tie the hands of any German prisoners captured during the raid. This, on top of a report of this practice in an earlier raid, moved the Germans to reprisal, and the Dieppe prisoners were tied up and later handcuffed for some months. This engendered much bitterness among the Allied troops, particularly the Canadians.
6. Superintendent H. Christopher Forbes is the author of this memoir, in which he refers to himself in the third person.
Like several others who served in the Provosts in wartime, Supt. Forbes had a full and distinguished career in the police and military. Born on November 19, 1909, at Lacombe, Alberta, Forbes joined the RCMP on November 16, 1932. Because of the expansion of provincial contract policing that year, the Force took on more recruits than Depot could handle and Cst. Forbes trained at Fairmont barracks in Vancouver and he saw his first service in “E” Division. In March 1935, Forbes returned to Alberta where he served on several detachments before the war. In 1939 Cst. Forbes received a Commissioner’s Commendation for his arrest of three thieves in a hostile environment.
(The wartime career of Chris Forbes is as outlined in the preface and amplified in the next.)
Upon his return to the Force, Forbes rapidly advanced through the non-commissioned ranks while in charge of High River detachment, Alberta. In July 1947 Sergeant Forbes was invested as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) for his war services, and in 1948 he was commissioned a sub-inspector. Thereafter he held a number of commands: officer commanding sub-division at Yorkton, Sask.; Fredericton, N.B.; London, Ontario; Swift Current, Sask.; and Edmonton, Alberta. Forbes was promoted to inspector and superintendent, and for almost three years was officer commanding Depot Division. On June 12, 1968, Supt. Forbes retired and is presently living in Kelowna, B.C. [He subsequently passed away in Kelowna on 12 June 1999]
7. Born on September 16, 1908, at Charleton, Ontario, John Blair Harris grew up in that province until 1925 when his family moved to Saskatchewan. There, after finishing school, he helped his father on the farm at Goodwater until he engaged in the Force on November 18, 1931. After training Constable Harris was transferred to eastern Ontario where he served at several detachments until 1937 when he was placed in charge of the detachment at St. Regis, P.Q. Also in 1937, Cst. Harris travelled to Great Britain as part of the 35-man RCMP contingent sent to the Coronation of King George VI.
When war broke out Cst. Harris volunteered for service in No. 1 Provost Company. Harris did very well in the military, rising through the ranks to a commission on November 15, 1941. He served as instructor in the Provost Corps training Depot, and then commanded No. 4 Provost Company. Following this he again won promotion and filled staff posts at Canadian Army Headquarters and Second Canadian Corps. On April 12, 1944, Major Harris became assistant provost marshal of Second Division and remained there through the campaign until January 1945. Shortly thereafter he returned home to Canada on rotational leave and did not return to Europe before the war’s end. His military record included a mention in dispatches.
J. B. Harris returned to the Force in June 1945 and won rapid promotion being commissioned sub-inspector on March 22, 1946, and promoted inspector on June 1, 1948. He served at Ottawa, North Battleford, Winnipeg and Aklavik until 1950. On November 13, 1950, he took command of the Nelson, B.C. Sub-Division at the time of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor troubles. Subsequently he commanded sub-divisions at Calgary and Kamloops and was promoted superintendent, October 2, 1957. Supt. Harris retired to pension on February 28, 1965.
8. Nickname for a V-1, rocket-propelled, flying bomb.
9. Landing craft designated Landing Ship, Tank (LST).
10. Norman Cooper joined the RCMP on November 7, 1933. Born in England in 1908 Cooper emigrated to Canada at age 20 and joined the Windsor City Police, after being here one year. He served four years six months with that force before joining the RCMP. After training at Regina, he served at “F” Division detachments, Calder and Regina Town Station. At the latter place he was commended for his plainclothes and undercover investigations. In August 1938 Cst. Cooper was transferred to “H” Division where he performed detective duty at Halifax. He volunteered for service in the Provost Corps at the outbreak of war and quickly established a reputation for outstanding ability. Promotion and increased responsibilities quickly followed. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1941 and he rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel by the end of the war. He served in a variety of administrative and command posts including service in the field. For his contribution he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, an Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau (Dutch decoration) and was mentioned in dispatches.
Cst. Cooper returned briefly to the Force after the war but purchased his discharge in 1946 to try other ventures. Then in 1955, while occupying the post of governor of the provincial gaol at Parry Sound, Ontario, he applied and was accepted to re-join the RCMP. He served in Toronto first as an investigator, then was posted to Headquarters and was promoted corporal in 1958. He was, however, plagued with health problems and he was invalided to pension in 1964. Norman Cooper died on January 5, 1967.
11. DUKW was a 2 ½ ton amphibious truck.
12. 2nd Canadian Corps crossed the Orme River at Caen capturing German positions opposite in an operation which took place July 18-21. The fighting was very fierce and casualties were high on both sides. Second Division alone suffered 1149 casualties including 254 dead.
13. The Sherbrooke Fusiliers no doubt had priority because they were then engaged in a major attack on German positions by Canadian Corps. On July 25, 1944, the Canadians suffered about 1500 casualties including 450 dead. Next to Dieppe, this was the most costly day for Canada in the entire war.
14. On July 25th, the American armies to the west broke through German defences in a critical success which would bring victory in Normandy. The breakthrough was made possible by the holding attacks staged at Caen by Canadian and British troops which tied down a powerful enemy force.
15. Canadian troops were racing forward to Falaise to try to meet other Allied forces and surround the German army in Normandy. A loose encirclement was achieved from which many German soldiers escaped. However, their units were smashed, their equipment abandoned, destroyed or captured, and tens of thousands were killed, wounded or made prisoner. Since D-Day the Germans had suffered about 460,000 casualties vs. 206,000 for the Allies.
16. British troops had a tenuous hold on the city of Antwerp. This port had an enormous capacity to handle shipping and its operation was vital to the re-supply of Allied armies. Unfortunately, it lay inland on the Scheldt River and before it could be used by Allied vessels parts of the city and much adjacent ground held by German troops had to be cleared. Thus, from mid-September to November 10th, the Canadian army fought through the West Scheldt South Beveland Peninsula to Walchern and forced the German surrender. The battle was fought under what Field Marshal Montgomery termed “the most appalling conditions of ground.” Much of the land was reclaimed from the sea by dykes which the Germans used to their great advantage to flood the land and to conceal themselves. When 2nd Division was withdrawn from the battle on November 3rd, it had [suffered] 3,650 casualties in just over a month.