The Final Battle

Hitlerjugend's 1st Operations Officer, SS-Obersturmführer Meitzel first discovered the Canadian threat while attempting to make contact with Kampfgruppe Waldmüller. Meitzel reported to SS-Obersturmbannführer Wünsche who quickly set about organizing a counter-attack with his Panthers and Tigers. Meitzel returned to Point 140 and was eventually captured and spent the remainder of the day in the Canadian position.

Two of Wünche's Tigers took up well camouflaged positions in a small wood slightly uphill, and west of the Canadians. The first Tiger was sited at 0800 hrs and between 0808 hrs and 0841 hrs, Worthington Force radioed 4th Armoured Brigade that it had made contact with the enemy and had lost ten tanks. The fire was returned, and a task force from 'B' Squadron moved out to secure the high ground. Five of the tanks of that small force were knocked out with heavy crew losses. The rest of the task force withdrew into the relative safety of the defensive perimeter.

At about that time, two tanks of 'A' Squadron, which had been coming on as a reserve in the rear together with 'D' Company of the Algonquins, reached the main force, after knocking out a Tiger and an anti-tank gun enroute. They were the only tanks of the squadron to arrive, bringing with them the information that the remainder of the battle group was cut off from the main force by enemy armour and anti-tank guns.

The Tigers, together with three other tanks, were able to hold their own until Sturmbannführer Jürgensen's Panthers were able to wheel around to the eastern flank.

The Canadians requested artillery support and at 0848 hrs, 4th Armoured Brigade asked for the location of the opposition. Worthington Force replied that it was the same as it had been two hours previously, approximately 500 yards southeast. The artillery fire went to Point 195 as requested. Brigade's inquiry at 0907 hrs regarding the artillery's effectiveness went unanswered. There would be no further communication with Worthington Force.

The Canadians were brought under continuous artillery, mortar, and tank fire, as the Germans scrambled to eliminate the breach of their defensive lines. A member of the task force described the effect of the persistent heavy fire:

"The whole area shakes with blast, 88's fire from all angles. The air is streaked with tracer, smoke rises, tanks brew, crews bale out. Orders are shouted over the wireless, crew commanders straining their eyes through binoculars." (7.)

By mid-morning, Worthington Force was under attack from three sides, yet the general concensus was that they would be able to hold the position until reinforcements arrived.

"The enemy fire...increased in intensity as the morning wore on. It came in from all directions, but chiefly from the south and east flanks. By 1030 hours, half of our tanks were in flames; the remainder found it difficult to locate and reply to enemy fire. No targets were offered to the infantry, so we just kept our heads down and took a bad beating from enemy shells and mortar fire which would explode in the hedges and trees above, sending shrapnel showers into the slits." (8.)

The 4th Armoured Brigade HQ had been hastily organizing followup forces to move on Point 195 to give Worthington Force assistance. At 0914 hrs, and again at 1000 hrs, Brigade ordered the Governor General's Foot Guards to concentrate at Gaumesnil and move to support Worthington Force. There would be further delays until Lieutenant-Colonel M. J. Scott, commanding the GGFGs, could organize the relief force. At 1430 hrs, he finally moved to the attack. His battle group included the tanks of the GGFGs, 'A' Company of the Algonquins, a medium machine-gun platoon, a troop from the 96th Anti-Tank Battery, a troop of flail tanks, and the remaining 3-inch mortars of the Algonquins. They would fight throughout the day, ultimately being stopped by a strong anti-tank gun screen in Quesney Wood. The regimental history related that the GGFGs lost 26 tanks, half their strength, in the attempt to support Worthington.

Meanwhile, back on Point 140, Lt.-Col. Hay was critically wounded in the late morning hours. Half-tracks loaded with wounded made a successful run to the Polish lines at approximately 1100 hrs. Unfortunately, they were unable to shed any light on the actual location of Worthington Force. In the early afternoon hours, Worthington ordered his last eight undamaged tanks to break out from the field. They were successful in reaching the Polish lines, but their crews were also unable to assist in accurately identifying the location of the Canadian position.

British Typhoons initially mistook the isolated Canadian battle group for the enemy and began to rocket and strafe the field. Major Monk of the Algonquins later related that:

"(his soldiers)....quickly got out (their) recognition signals and burned yellow smoke. The planes rocked their wings in acknowledgement. They returned at half-hour intervals all day long, rocketing and strafing the enemy around us. They were heartily cheered many times." (9.)

The Typhoons proved to be a valuable asset to the surviving Canadians in driving off repeated German counter-attacks throughout the day.

"About 1400 hrs...approximately 1,000 yards away, we could see the enemy infantry forming up preparing to attack. The enemy systematically laced the whole of our area with shell, mortar and 88mm. fire. It would begin at one end of the field and sweep the length of it and back. Later we saw more enemy mustering....However, the Typhoons arrived back and strafed the enemy who were caught in the open and suffered heavily. Between the Typhoons, the fire from our one remaining tank, and our Brens, no enemy got within 600 yards." (10.)

During the course of the battle, tanks of the 1st Polish Armoured Regiment were sited some two miles north of the field but they were unable to reach the Canadian position. By

1730 hrs, the Poles had been forced to withdraw, having sustained 24 casualties after losing 22 tanks.

At the end of the afternoon, there were few tanks left in action in Worthington Field.

"...In fact most of them were burning furiously, many with their dead crews still in them. The exploding ammunition in the burning tanks added to the noise and danger. Our mortar detachments were out of action. The field was a mass of shell holes. The trees and shrubs were cut to pieces from shrapnel. The smell of burning human flesh, the odor of exploding H.E. mingled to make most of us nauseated. The continuous crash of exploding shells and mortar bombs began to have its effect, first among the wounded and then the rest of us began to get 'battle-wacky'. We had run out of morphine and bandages. Many of the wounded men were delirious, shouting and screaming - jumping out of their slits, having to be pulled forcibly to cover again. Things looked pretty grim." (11.)

At approximately 1800 hrs, Lt.-Col. Worthington held a conference with his four remaining officers. Another counter-attack was launched by the Germans and the four remaining tanks still in action took on the advancing infantry and successfully pinned them down. The counter-attack was renewed, led by a mixed force of Tiger and Panther tanks. Worthington was killed by a mortar round at approximately 1830 hrs. The remaining tanks continued to engage the enemy until they were either knocked out or ran out of ammunition. At approximately 2100 hrs, the survivors managed to slip away in small groups as the Germans formed up for yet another attack. The enemy was said to have been within 50 yards of the position when the last of the Canadians left.

While accompanying some of his Canadian captors attempting the breakout, Obersturmführer Meitzel convinced them that their greatest chance of survival lay in surrendering to German troops, thus ending his day of captivity.

During the course of the advance and the ensuing battle, the British Columbia Regiment lost 47 tanks and suffered 112 casualties. Forty officers and other ranks were killed or died of wounds and 34 were made prisoners. The Algonquins, for the period 9th/10thAug44, suffered 128 casualties of which 45 officers and other ranks were killed or died of wounds, and 45 were made prisoners.

Point 195 was eventually taken by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, virtually uncontested on the night of 9th/10thAug44.

Lt.-Col. Worthington had shown great daring and dash in his night advance through the German 89th Infantry positions. A combination of factors ultimately led to the destruction of his battle group. Most notably was the error in direction, but loss of communication and the fact that this was their first battle also contributed to their eventual misfortune. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division was often criticized for a lack of offensive drive during the push to Falaise. The experience of Worthington Force illustrates the perils that can befall those who are tasked with missions that ultimately prove too daring in nature.

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© Chris Johnson, 1997