West Novas in World War II
West Novas in World War II
West Novas in World War II
West Novas in World War II
West Novas in World War II

A Brief History of the West Nova Scotia Regiment

The West Nova Scotia Regiment (WNSR) is one of the oldest Army Reserve Regiments in Canada. The Regiment was formed in 1936 from both the 69th Annapolis Regiment (1717), and the 75th Lunenburg Regiment (1870). Both regiments descended from the 40th Regiment of Foot, the Prince of Wales Volunteers, which was raised on the 23rd of August 1717 at Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, NS.

The West NS Regt also perpetuates the 112th and 219th Battalions of Infantry, Canadian Expeditionary Force, which were formed for service in World War I.  When World War II broke out the West NS Regt was mobilized as an active service force battalion on 1 September 1939 with the statement in the Regimental War Diary, "The unit had been ordered to mobilize. The unit has been designated for the C.A.S.F."  A second battalion of the Regiment was then recruited for home defense.

In September, 1939 the Regiment had no transport at all, four Lewis guns, and a large shortage of rifles and boots. What equipment was available was 1918 vintage. When the War broke out at least 1600 men tried to enlist. The CQSM of A company, C.F. Whynacht, came up with an unorthodox method of issue: The first man enlisted in the morning got a cap, the next man a tunic, the next a pair of trousers, and so on.

The active service battalion left from Halifax, disembarked at Gourock, Scotland and immediately entrained for Aldershot, England just after Christmas in 1939. It was at this time that the Regiment was presented with a Nova Scotia flag by the Premier of Nova Scotia, Angus L. MacDonald.

On June 15, 1943 The Regiment embarked on the Polish liner 'Batory' at Gourock, Scotland, in the first part of 'Operation Husky', the invasion of Sicily. The soldiers were issued tropical kit which they thought was a security ploy. On June 28 the convoy headed for the open sea and the Mediterranean.

On July 10, 1943 the Regiment landed in Sicily. They were completely ashore by 5 P.M. that day. On July 17, while moving forward to flank a position that the Carleton and York Regiment were attacking, they came under German mortar fire. The Regiment was under sporadic mortar and machine gun fire all day, and sustained its first casualty on active service, L/Cpl J.H. Warren of D Company.

The advance continued, and the Regiment went into action by moving in an encircling action to the east of Valguarnera, cutting Highway #117 and the German's line of retreat. They dug in and held out despite German demands for surrender. The advance continued and the Regiment fought in Adrano, Catenanuova, and Centripe. Sicily was in Allied hands by August 7.

Next came the invasion of the Italian mainland. The Allies crossed the straits of Messina and at 0630 hrs on September 3, A Company landed at 'Fox Amber', the first Allied soldiers to invade the continent of Europe.

In September, a combined arms Battle Group was formed with the West Novas providing the core. The Group was codenamed "Boforce" after LCol Bogart the Commanding Officer. In sixty hours Boforce advanced 75 miles from Villapiana up highway #92 to Potenza, where the Germans had decided to make a serious stand, but were denied this by the rapid advance. For the Canadian Army at that time this was a somewhat innovative approach and it's remarkable achievements were a direct reflection of it's dash and daring.

Other important battles that the Regiment fought in Italy were the Gully (on the approach to Ortona) and the breaking of the Hitler Line:

A, B, and C Coys totalling 160 all ranks with three tanks in support attacked the enemy strong points area 317128 and north. This was a sharp brisk encounter, which had as its objective flushing the enemy from area of bridge to enable R 22e R who had a clear field of fire on this to 'mow them down' so to speak. Some enemy were flushed and accounted for by the R 22e R, but this was found to be a strongly defended position (approx 1 Bn) and the Bn after suffering approx 22% casualties withdrew to its former position. Four officers wounded, one officer killed.

The Hitler line was an elaborate defensive position that had been in preparation since December 1942 as a second line of defence behind the Gustav Line. The original plan was a two-brigade attack on the left of the line, the 2nd Canadian Brigade on the right and the 3rd Canadian Brigade on the left. The 2nd Brigade's attack was not successful and General Vokes delayed the attack by 3rd Brigade until it became apparent that 2nd Brigade was not going to succeed. An initial breach by the Carleton and York Regiment was made and with support from a tank squadron of the Three Rivers Regiment, the West NS Regt launched its assault.

A and B companies lead the assault, with C and D close behind. They "leaned on the barrage" in front of them which caused some casualties, but it was worth the risk as they surprised the 3rd Battalion of the 361st Panzer Grenadier Regiment, and pushed through them. They then set up a position northeast of Pontecorvo, where they held despite repeated counterattacks against them.

The Regiment continued to fight in Italy until February 9, 1945, when LCol Hiltz received orders informing him that the 1st Canadian Corps would be transferred from Italy to Northwest Europe. The Regiment moved to Marseilles by sea and arrived in Germany on April 4. On the April 13 they were committed to a breakout of a bridgehead on the Ijssel River in Holland.

The Regiment continued it's advance into Holland and fought until April when it was realized that the last few days of the war had become a 'Phoney War' where the Regiment was not allowed to fire on the Enemy. The Germans surrender was effective 8 A.M. on May 5, 1945. Unfortunately, three hours prior to this an enemy patrol attacked D company and the Regiment suffered its last casualty on active service, Private G.S. Wamell.

The Regiment stayed in Holland for four more months and then left for Canada from Portsmouth on September 24, 1945. They arrived in Canada on October 1st, where The Premier of Nova Scotia, Angus L MacDonald, presented the Regiment with a new Nova Scotia flag to replace the one he had given them in England.

Stretching from Sicily to Holland, there are 352 graves of West Novas who paid the final sacrifice during the War. Added to this were 1084 wounded and missing.

The West Nova Scotia Regiment has remained an active unit of the Army Reserve since World War II. WNSR soldiers have served tours in countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, the Middle East, and more recently in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe. Soldiers have continued to participate in unit training both in Aldershot and Gagetown, and individually or in small groups across Canada, the united States and Great Britain.