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Editor’s Note: General J.A. Dextraze, “J Dex“ to Canada’s post–war army, served as Chief of the Defence Staff from 1972 to 1975 but in 1944 he was a 24–year–old company commander in Les Fusiliers de Mont-Royal (FMR). This account of the action carried out by his company on 1 August 1944 offers a graphic description of the challenges confronting the Canadians during the battles for Verrières Ridge. This attack was conducted in the context of Montgomery’s orders to “keep up the pressure on the Caen area... to make easier the task of the American armies fighting hard on the western flank.“ (27 July 1944)
The church at St. Martin–de–Fontenay had been seized by the enemy in the aftermath of Operation “Spring,“ 25 July 1944. The FMR successes on 31 July allowed 2nd Division to begin the advance of 8/9 August, Operation “Totalize,“ from a secure startline.
Though written in the first person, this report was drafted by Captain Joe Engler, the historical officer assigned to 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. It was his job to collect important documents and records, as well as to conduct interviews with the fighting soldiers which would allow later historical narratives to be accurately written. Engler had the dubious distinction of being the only historical officer to be killed in action when he drove into an ambush on 1 October 1944.
Dextraze, Jacques "The Attack on the Church in St. Martin-de-Fontenay: 31 July–1 August 1944." Canadian Military History 15, 3 (2006)