Henry “Harry” Crerar – Biography – Battle of Normandy

Image : Henry "Harry" Crerar

Henry “Harry” Crerar


Harry Crerar was born on April 28, 1888 in Hamilton, Ontario. A graduate of Upper Canada College and Highfield High School in Hamilton in 1906, he attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario and graduated in 1910. He later worked as an engineer in Hydroelectric Commission of Ontario.

When the First World War broke out, he served in France as a field artillery officer in the 1st Canadian Division and reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel. This experience led him to remain in the army after the armistice of 1918.

The period between the two wars was for Harry Crerar a long series of training courses in staff officer and school visits, mainly in England (especially at the British War School). Imperial Defense College in 1934).

At the beginning of the Second World War, Henry Crerar made several round trips between England and Canada: he first worked in London to plan the reception and training of Canadian forces before the liberation of Europe . Returning for a time to Canada where he was appointed Chief of General Staff until 1941, he went to England again. Commander of the 1st Canadian Corps effective December 23, 1941, he faced the tactical failure of the Dieppe landing, which claimed the lives of 907 Canadians (while no Canadian officer participated in the preparations for the operation Jubilee). This tragic event is an opportunity for the Allies to learn as much as possible in order to better prepare Operation Overlord in Normandy.

Harry Crerar took part in the fighting in Sicily and Italy before returning to England again in March 1944 where he participated in the planning of Operation Overlord at the head of the 1st Canadian Army.

After the landing of his men at Juno Beach, the Battle of Normandy commits and “Harry” Crerar faces the difficult and long Caen siege that ends only at the end of July 1944.

During the Normandy campaign, he commanded the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Canadian divisions as well as the 1st Polish Armored Division, the 49th British Division and the 51st Scottish Division. He then pursued German forces throughout France (liberating notably Dieppe) and then to Holland. Promoted general-in-chief in November 1944, he suffers from dysentery which removes him from his responsibilities of the front for several days.

Harry Crerar left the army in 1946 and became a diplomat in Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and Japan. He died in 1965.


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