Cinderella on the left

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National Film Board's "Canada At War" series - PART 10 - "Cinderella On The Left"

Narrator:

To the Germans, it was the V 1; to the English, the “doodle-bug”, or buzz bomb. Driven by a jet engine that cut out when fuel was gone, it was controlled by gyro, travelled four hundred miles an hour, and carried a ton of explosives.

The first flying bomb came in June 1944, and eight thousand more of them followed.

In September, the Canadian army was fighting up the coast of France towards the Pas de Calais. It was from here that the V 1 was launched. If the Canadian advance could continue it would over-run the launching sites and England would be out of range.

While the army fought towards the source, the air force intercepted in the sky. Engines boosted, weight reduced, only the fastest fighter planes could match the V 1's speed. A single Canadian squadron shot down eighty-two of them.

The German held fast to his nest of launching sites, but the Canadians kept closing in.

On September 7th the Pas de Calais was cleared, and the buzz bomb was seldom seen again over England.

The V 1 bases were in Canadian hands, but the Gerrnans were ready with one last secret weapon.

V 2 - the 13½ ton rocket. It climbed seventy miles above the earth and descended at 3,600 miles an hour. They would come until the closing days, but they were too few and too late.

The Canadians scarcely paused as they moved swiftly north on the left flank of the Allied armies.

They were in Belgium now, and the British - to their right - had reached the capital.

Brussels to the British, Paris to the French and the Americans, but no great cities stood in the path of the Canadians. The plugged along through towns and villages and some called them “the Cinderella Army”.

They were passing now close to the battleground of their fathers thirty years before, to the fields of Flanders, and Vimy Ridge.

Harry Crear had been a Major then, and now he was the General, and he had a job for his army.

The great Allied problem was supply. They needed ports, the Canadians moved toward Boulogne. Six hundred and ninety bombers opened the battle.

On the outskirts of Boulogne, Canadian spotters signalled to the British, waiting on the Dover coast behind fifteen inch guns. Under this cover, the Canadians fought their way into the port.

Boulogne fell after six days. Brigadier “Rocky” Rockinghan could report nearly ten thousand Germans were prisoners.

Among the captured was the commandant of Boulogne, little Lieut. General Ferdinand Heim. He had destroyed much of the port facilities before surrendering. In addition to the little General, the Canadians had taken the tallest man in the German army, and the great guns of Boulogne

The war had been long. The High Command decided on a dramatic strike. While ground troops advanced steadily, Montgomery would drop a British airborne division over the lower Rhine, and seize a bridgehead at Arnhem.

Montgomery had hoped to lay a "carpet of airborne troops" for the advancing armies. The enemy was too strong. The bridgehead was cut to pieces. With it went hope for victory in 44.

Supply was now the single over-riding problem. Eisenhower needed ports desperately, and they were being denied.

One port had been captured intact. It had the facilities to handle supplies for all the Allied armies, but no ships came into Antwerp.

Between Antwerp and the sea was the Scheldt Estuary, and along this 50 mile channel six German divisions had orders to fight to the death.

Canadians correspondents began their record of a fierce and filthy battle. On October 6th, the struggle for the Scheldt would begin. The first vital phase fell to the Canadian Third Division. They must clear the south bank - the Broskens Pocket. The first attack would be launched across "the Leopold Canal”. The flamethrowers helped beat back the enemy and the Canadians jumped the canal.

With this pressure in the south, a second prong struck down from the north.

After seven water-logged days in the stinking swamp, General Dan Spry’s 3rd Division had destroyed the German forces on the south bank of the Scheldt.

To clear the north bank, the Fourth Canadian Division would fight to Bergen Op Zoom, while the Second Division struck out towards the sea.

This was the “fetid polder” country - earth reclaimed from the sea. In the muck of this drowned land, a man was never dry. They moved gingerly. The German had stuffed the soggy earth with mines. Death could come from below - or above.

South Beveland, at a price, had been won.

One last enemy stronghold stood between Antwerp and the sea. Walcheron lay behind a great dike. If that dike was breached, it would flood.

The sea rolled in. The Dutch adapted to their tragedy with courage. Freedom might soon follow.

The Germans drove the cattle to the higher land. They must have food for the siege, and so must the Dutch.

Walcheron was to be attacked on three sides. The British would strike from the sea, and across the Scheldt. During these amphibious assaults, the Canadians and British would storm the narrow causeway and maintain pressure from the east.

The commandos crossing the Scheldt were covered by Canadian artillery.

The landings at Flushing were not difficult, but the force coming into Westkappelle from the sea had a furious fight.

The beachheads were secured, a foothold had been seized across the causeway, and the end was in sight.

For a month the Canadians had fought and ate and slept in water. Even under fire they would often stay in the open and take their chances. If a man was wounded in a fox-hole, he could drown.

“We will never surrender”, the Germans had said.

Forty-one thousand Germans were prisoners and the Battle of the Scheldt was over. It had lasted a month and two days. Six thousand Canadians were dead or wounded. The estuary was clear. The Dutchmen who lived in this strange sea-land were helped to begin their life again.

On November 28th, the first convoy arrived. Allied supplies could now move up from the sea to Antwerp. It was a ceremonial occasion, and somebody had forgotten to invite the Canadians to the party. But a great port was open, and a great supply problem was solved.

The exhausted survivors of the Scheldt tried to forget all about it.

Across the British Channel, a different kind of war.

It was being fought by some proud Canadian pirates who worked a night shift out of Felixstowe. Their had to be almost instinctive, and their preparations were meticulous. They fought in blackness, at close quarters and at furious speeds. Their battleground was the English Channel; their ship, the Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB).

The MTB was only seventy-one feet long, and it could move at forth-one knots.

These were the hunters, and the hunted.

The German counterpart was the E-Boat.

If they survived the night they knew they had not lost. But often they did not know if they had won, until dawn.

The German strength was draining away.

December in Berlin. Preparations for an astounding stroke. Hitler will take the offensive and drive into the Ardennes forest towards Antwerp. December 16, is the German D-Day. This was the Battle of the Bulge. The attack caught the incredulous Allies off guard.

In nine days the Germans had driven a wedge fifty miles into the Allied lines. But by Christmas Day the Americans had recovered. The last German offensive of the war was beaten back. The Canadians had stood ready for a breakthrough on their own front. Now they returned to their winter watch on the Maas.

Soldier:

To the fighting men, and boys of all the Canadian forces, Christmas time has come. The Canadians brought Christmas to the children wherever they were found. The war had stolen their childhood. The Canadians gave them back a moment of magic.

In return, the children reminded the men that there was another life - a life which did not have to do with death.

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