Hill 195, Falaise Gap

Location: The Western Front France, South of Caen - North of Falaise

Map: Operation Totalize
Hill 195 is the highest piece of land on the road from Caen to Falaise. In August 1944, the Canadian Army in Normandy, France was advancing down this road as a part of Operation Totalize. Naturally, Hill 195 was identified as vital ground and an attack was to be organized to take it.

Hill 195: Worthington Force

The capture of Hill 195 was delegated to Worthington force which consisted of The 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Regiment) and three companies of The Algonquin Regiment.

The task force set out before first light on 09 August 1944 and was supposed to keep on its axis of advance aided by tracer fire from antiaircraft guns firing on fixed lines and by the use of radio. These were techniques developed by the British 8th Army for use in the trackless wastes of the Libyan desert. They were to prove much less useful in the very different terrain of northern France. Soon after leaving their start line, the fog of war descended on Worthington Force and they were hopelessly lost in their mad dash to reach their objective before first light.

At 0800 hours (8:00 AM) on 09 August 1944, they radioed that they were on their objective. In reality they were 6 kilometres east of HILL 195 and had blundered through a gap in the lines only to find themselves  surrounded on three sides by powerful enemy forces. It did not take the Germans very long to react. Soon Worthington Force was under heavy mortar, antitank and tank fire. A force of German Panther and Tiger tanks attacked them from the south. By 0830 hours (8:30 AM), they radioed that they were under heavy attack and requested artillery support. The artillery fire was provided but fell 6 kilometres away near Hill 195. When brigade HQ radioed at 0900 hours (9:00 AM) to see how effective the artillery support had been, there was no reply.

It was a disaster of the highest order. The BCRs had lost 47 of 52 tanks and had 112 men killed or wounded and 34 taken prisoner. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Worthington, was among the killed. The Algonquins had 128 killed and wounded and 45 taken prisoner. Their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Art Hay (formerly second in command of the Argylls), was severely wounded.

By mid morning it was apparent that Worthington Force was in trouble and a relief group was organized. This force consisted of The 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Governor General's Foot Guards), the last uncommitted Algonquin company, a troop of antitank guns, a troop of FLAIL tanks and a platoon of Vickers machine guns. It headed off toward Hill 195 at 1500 hours (3:00pm) and was soon stopped cold by German fire losing 14 tanks. By this point it was finally clear that Worthington Force was nowhere near Hill 195.

Hill 195: The Argyll Attack

By 10 August 1944, the Argylls were in the village of Langannerie just a few kilometres north of Hill 195. The order came down from brigade HQ that the Argylls were to take the hill that night. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Stewart, chose an unorthodox plan. Following a well-reconnoitred route, the battalion would set off single file through the dark, slip through German lines and silently occupy the hill before the Germans knew they were there.

The Argylls crossed the start line at 0001 hours (12:01 am) on 11 August 1944 and were on Hill 195 by 0430 hours (4:30 am) following a circuitous route to the east and northeast of the hill. Most of the surprised German garrison of about 50 were taken prisoner without a shot being fired. The hill was taken without a single Canadian casualty. "C" and "D" companies dug in on the forward slope; "A" and "B" companies dug in on the reverse slope.

In the half-hour of darkness before dawn, the Argylls worked madly (assisted by their German prisoners) to consolidate their position. It was soon discovered that one foot down in the soil was an impenetrable layer of chalk. The Argylls were to hold the hill from some very shallow trenches. Vehicles towing 6 pounder and 17 pounder antitank guns made their way through the dark to link up and support the unit before first light.

At first light, the Germans (surrounding Hill195 on three sides) reacted immediately. Soon heavy mortar fire was falling on the Argylls. A German counter attack on the "A" Company position failed and 27 German prisoners were taken. 

The tanks of The 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Canadian Grenadier Guards) were supposed to pass through the Argylls and exploit the breach in the German lines. The ferocity of the German counter attacks stopped these efforts cold. At noon, the tanks of The 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Governor Generals Foot Guards) were sent forward to assist in the battle and would remain in the fight for the remainder of the day.   

In the afternoon, heavy artillery and air support was made available to the Argylls and the Germans suffered many casualties as a result. The last German counter attack was beaten off at 1930 hours (7:30 PM). At 2100 hours (9:00 PM), the Argylls were relieved by The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders. The Argylls had lost seven killed and 24 wounded holding the hill.

Noted military author and historian Lieutenant Colonel JA English has called the battle at HILL 195 the most impressive single action executed in Operation Totalize.

Last updated on Sep 14, 2006 22:00. Page viewed 23479 times.