20 August, 1944
Somewhere east of the Dives River, France
Briefing by Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Thorburn to tank commanders of The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment
"Good morning, gentlemen! I trust you've all had a hearty breakfast after a good night's sleep?
(groans from those assembled)
"Very well then. Here is our present situation:
"Yesterday, our troops, along with elements of the 24th Polish Armoured Regiment, advanced along the Dives River and captured the town of Chambois, some eight kilometres south of here. The capture of the town means that we now hold the last bridge, also the last escape route, for the remnants of the German Fifth Panzer Army and Seventh Army stranded on the west bank of the Dives River.
"As of this morning, elements of the First U.S. Army, pushing from the south, have linked up with our troops at Chambois.
(smiles and nods of approval all around)
"This move has effectively trapped more than fifty thousand Germans and some five thousand tanks, guns and trucks in what we are now calling the Falaise Gap.
"Now it's safe to say that the Germans are not going to surrender peacefully. Already, fierce fighting has broken out along the banks of the Dives as the Germans are attempting to break out. What worries HQ, however, is the threat posed by the 2nd SS Panzer Corps, 10 kilometres east of here. Army intelligence fears that the SS troops will try to recapture Chambois in an attempt to re-open the gap to let their armies escape.
"Your job today gentlemen is to prevent this from happening.
"Early this afternoon, you will advance in a south-easterly direction and capture the town of Vimoutiers, which is the key to the success of this operation. Whoever controls the town controls the only road leading to Chambois from the east.
"This mission, as you know, will not be an easy one. You will have to cross hilly and wooded terrain to reach your objective. And no doubt the Germans will have hidden bunkers and machine-gun nests to make the going difficult. Still, it is imperative that you reach your objective and secure both the town and road by nightfall.
"Your crews must be well briefed on today's mission and each man must be made aware of his role in the upcoming battle. It is vital that your men maintain the fighting spirit, as our Corps Commander General Simonds, would say.
"Are there any questions?
"Good. Synchronize watches: it is presently 08:15 hours.