By the middle of August 1944, the German Seventh Army was in full retreat in
Normandy. It was close to being totally encircled by the allied armies and
captured whole. It was a disaster with as much gravity as the huge defeat at
Stalingrad a year and a half before. The British and Canadians were closing in
from the north while the Americans were closing in from the west and south. Only
a small opening near the town of Falaise remained for the Germans to retreat
through. It would come to be known as the Falaise Gap.
The Germans were being mercilessly pummelled by allied artillery and air power. Losses were enormous and units were involved in a confused race to get through the gap before it was closed by Canadian and Polish forces.
On 18 August 1944, "B" Company of the Argylls was placed under command of "C" Squadron of The South Alberta Regiment (SAR) which was commanded by Major Dave Currie. This composite group was tasked to close the road running through St. Lambert-sur-Dives which was the main German escape route between the towns of Chambois and Trun.
In the early morning of 19 August 1944, "B" Company and "C" Squadron attacked St. Lambert and cleared half of the town and consolidated in the centre having insufficient troops to clear the rest. The fighting was vicious with German tanks being destroyed at close range with grenades and PIATs. Company Sergeant Major George Mitchell and Private MR Holmes distinguished themselves by rescuing the driver of a burning SAR tank while under fire. The Argylls suffered 6 wounded that day. "C" Company of the Argylls joined the force in St. Lambert at 1900 hours (7:00 PM).
On the 20th of August 1944, heavy counter attacks were beaten off as the desperate Germans attempted to force their way past the Canadians. Thousands of Germans were trying to flee down the road through St. Lambert. Major Ivan Martin, Officer Commanding "B" Company went forward on foot alone twice to call down artillery fire on German self propelled guns. He was killed later in the day. After the battle, he was awarded an American Distinguished Service Cross.
The fighting was confused and desperate and lasted all through the day. The Argylls lost 3 killed and 13 wounded.
By 21 August 1944, most of the heavy fighting was over and the town was finally cleared of enemy resistance. The roads leading to ST. LAMBERT were clogged with destroyed vehicles and abandoned equipment. Private McAllister of "B" Company won acclaim by single handedly taking 150 prisoners. The 21st would see 5 Argylls killed and 2 more wounded.
Within the town itself, 300 Germans had been killed, 500 wounded and 2100 taken prisoner. Seven tanks, twelve 88mm guns and 40 other vehicles were destroyed. Major Dave Currie of the SARs would win a Victoria Cross for his leadership at St. Lambert.
By the end of the action, "B" and "C" companies had only 70 men between them. They would be amalgamated on 22 August 1944 under the command of Major Alex Logie, son of Major General WA Logie who had been first Commanding Officer of the Argylls in 1903. Lieutenant General Guy Simmonds, Commander of 2nd Canadian Corp, came forward to inspect the town. He had to get out of his staff car and walk as the piles of wreckage made the road impassable.
The battle at St. Lambert-sur-Dives was a significant victory for Canada, the Argylls and the SARs. Less than 200 Canadians held off attacks by literally thousands of Germans for three days and played a major role in closing the Falaise Gap which signalled the defeat and destruction of the German Seventh Army.
|The Canadian Battle of Normandy Foundation announces the official opening of its battlefield-viewing area at St. Lambert-sur-Dives in Normandy. The site which overlooks the village where Major David Currie of the South Alberta Regiment won the Victoria Cross in the battle to close the "Falaise Gap"|
|The church of Saint-Lambert-sur-Dives. The condition of this small church was in bad shape. We were not allowed to enter the church. Usualy our guide tells the story of this village in 1944 in the church, but this time he had to tell his story outside of the church.|
|On August 19, a German Tiger tank occupied the town intersection facing north holding open one of three escape routes for the defeated and surrounded German army in Normandy. As the Germans fled eastward along the road and neighboring fields and orchards the Allied airforce incessantly bombed and strafed. Canadian artillery added to the inferno. With the road from the north as its axis of advance B Company of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Canadian infantry) and C Squadron of the South Albert regiment (armored) took six hours to fight their way to the intersection and knocked out the Tiger tank. Canadian Commander Major David Currie (awarded the Victoria Cross) renewed the artillery fire to further help close the escape route successfully. The town was pulverized, the roadways were littered with hundreds of abandoned and destroyed vehicles and equipment. Hundreds of horses and thousands of German soldiers lay dead within the limits of this photograph.|