Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project/Lawrence Levy)
"The dreaded 12th SS Panzer Division were in front of us near the Carpiquet Airport in the city of Caen."
My name is Lawrence Levy, they call me Larry. I was born on 7 September 1924 in Toronto. They took a ship, the RMS Mauretania, over to Liverpool, England, to be sent to artillery units in England. I arrived in Crawley, south of London, to become part of the new 2nd Survey Regiment [Royal Canadian Artillery] that was being formed at that time and they put me in as C Troop, B Battery to train in sound ranging to locate enemy gun positions, tanks and their locations. We stayed at a beautiful castle in Crawley, England, Sir Malcolm Campbell’s castle, that was donated to us during that time. We trained until 1944, the 2nd Survey Regiment, with the folks down in England and we got ready to enter the English Channel. So we decided at that time, or they decided, to send us to London on the Thames on Liberty ships [American cargo ships], so we can go into the landing in France. We did not land on D-Day; we landed 30 days after D-Day and we became part of the 2nd [Canadian] Corps, of the 2nd Survey Regiment. At that time, another short period of time, most of the Canadians were several miles in, but they were shelling and bombing the beaches and we landed in Bény-sur-Mer. Our first few days in action, we suffered our first casualties, Gunner McDonald and Moyer. [We were] constantly being shelled and attacked by artillery and planes, and continued bombardment. We then got involved, moved in closer to the locations; and facing the Canadian front ̶ the dreaded 12th SS [Schutzstaffel] Panzer Division [Hitlerjugend] were in front of us near the Carpiquet Airport in the city of Caen. As we heard later, the 12th SS, commanded by Kurt Meyer, took no Canadian prisoners. They captured 124 that were executed, most of them at the Abbaye d’Ardenne, just north of Caen. Several notes: the Germans had a powerful artillery gun, the 88 [anti-tank, anti-aircraft gun] located on Tiger tanks [Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausführung E] and [had] other highly effective velocity guns which could not be detected. C Battery sound ranging set up a command post and operation as perimeter leading up to the main road of the well-fortified city. Our men, one five man crew consists of two sergeants, two signalers. I was a signaler at that time and a driver deployed in the trenches for the purpose of locating the gun positions. And we were right beside the front lines with the [1st Battalion] Royal Winnipeg Rifles [Royal Canadian Infantry] dug in beside us. The area was continually bombarded by enemy aircraft. In a short period of time, Muncie was killed, our driver; Kay and Sergeant Hadrick were wounded severely. During this time, C Troop collected 47 enemy gun locations. It was quite interesting, but that was a difficult time going into action the first time. After a short period of time, we moved several miles in and we began to cover our positions; and we kept on moving as we went further into southern France. Just for a respite, I just have a little short story. A new signaler came up and he decided to walk into the No Man’s Land to get into a liquor store. He came back with Calvados [French apple brandy] and whatnot. I thought it was a good idea: I’d do the same thing. As soon as I decided to do it the next day, the Germans opened up with machine gunfire and I finally crawled back to my position, never to try that again. Thousands of airplanes bombed Caen and virtually destroyed the city into rubble. My memory of the location was to harden us with battlefield experience, along with some guys: Kay, Salski, Coté, Muncie, Hatcherd and Johnny Gale, Sid Patterson and Sergeant Lewis. We continued to cross the Orne River and on 21 July, our regiment moved into Cormelles. We continued to get heavy fire at that location. We kept moving slowly until our new location. We kept onto Verrières Ridge. I would set up our location at an old tip, which is observation post, and we set up our positions right by the railway track, ahead of all the other troops and it must have been about 300 or 400,000 troops getting ready to attack. At that particular time, there was Allied troops, Canadian, British and Polish infantry, building up the next phase. Unfortunately, we were bombed by the United States air force that knocked our position and we sustained heavy casualties, but [lost] none of the equipment. I was lucky to be not wounded or killed. We were lucky that we witnessed the bombing and destruction of our troops. The push from Caen opened up towards the Falaise into tank country. During the [move] the regiment scattered. We were attached to the 2nd and 3rd [Canadian] Division, although our sections were used briefly because of the slow advance towards Falaise. Our next phase was [Operation] Totalize, the secret name of the new allied forces’ continued drive into the south of France. At that particular time again, we came in contact with Kurt Meyer’s 12th SS. I was next to the location in a wooded area and we were dug in. Thirty Polish tanks moved in for an attack on the Germans’ position. The Germans opened up immediately with their 88, and knocked out every tank and every gun. Several [tanks] were on fire. Our group’s reaction was to try to save as many as possible ̶ no other troops were in that area. We attempted to open up the hatch, but found destruction and death complete, with many soldiers burned because they could not open up [the hatch]; the hatch was sealed. The Poles died instantly. We moved on through to Tilly-la-Campagne, south to Haut Mesnil. We were bombed again by the RAF [Royal Air Force]. Fortunately again, we were in deep tunnels and caverns. The Canadians, British and Polish suffered heavy casualties, many in our regiment. I was lucky to survive. The following day, the Cameron Highlanders [of Ottawa] broke into Falaise and we finally destroyed the city. The 12th SS Gerhard [Bremer] ordered his troops to withdraw, but the order failed to reach 60 SS Grenadier Germans [who were] holed up and they were wiped out. The Battle of Falaise was won, encircling the German troops at the Falaise Gap …
Book a Speaker
The Memory Project is a volunteer speakers bureau that arranges for veterans and Canadian Forces members to share their stories of military service at school and community events across the country.
Request a Memory Project speaker at thememoryproject.com/book-a-speaker.