The Kangaroos: Canada’s forgotten regiment

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We, who have seen war, will never stop seeing it. In the silence of the night, we will always hear the screams. So this is our story, for we were soldiers once, and young…..” “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young:” Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway (Random House -1992)

I will call him Jim—though that isn’t his real name. He is elderly now, a reserved gentleman who doesn’t speak much anymore about something that happened over half a century ago when he was a youth born and bred on Canada’s prairies and thrust as a young man into a strange and brutal world four thousand miles from his home, a worrisome world, a world at war.

“Jim” and his pals in the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment are the last living element of a remarkable chapter in our nation’s military history, a chapter which will fade away like the old soldiers that they have become—if something is not done to keep their legacy alive.

For Jim is a Canadian Kangaroo, a proud veteran who served in the only fighting regiment in Canada’s history that was formed, went into battle and was disbanded, without ever setting foot on Canadian soil.

This is his story. And theirs….

The place? Somewhere in Northwest Europe. The time? The summer of 1944.

By the end of July 1944, the Allies had punched their way out from the D Day beachhead at Normandy. The German front they faced was teetering on the verge of total collapse

Accordingly, Harry Crerar, General Officer Commanding 1st Canadian Army (North-West Europe) had instructed Lieutenant General Guy Simonds, commander of II Canadian Corps to plan a major operation to break through the German positions. The plan which unfolded—TOTALIZE- was to be the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy. Taking its name from the area around the town of Falaise, a place in which the German Seventh and Fifth Panzer Armies had become encircled by the advancing Allies, the battle is historically referred to as ‘Falaise Gap’—after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow for their escape. The ensuing combat resulted in the destruction of the bulk of Germany’s forces west of the River Seine and opened the way to Paris and the German border.

TOTALIZE contained two features of marked originality- both required considerable preparation. One was the directed intervention of heavy bombers in a ground battle in darkness. The other was the use of what have since come to be called armoured personnel carriers in what seems to have been their first appearance on the battlefield....

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