The World at War

Biography

General Henry Duncan Graham Crerar

Timeline

1888 Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
1965 Died

Narrative

General Crerar graduated from the Royal Military College in 1910 with a commission in the field artillery but resigned a short time later. He returned to the army at the outbreak of WW1 served in France and Belgium and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the end of that conflict. Crerar remained in the army between the world wars serving first as Director of Military Operations and later as Commandant of the Royal Military College.
     Crerar, now a general, began WW2 as head of the Canadian planning staff in Britain and oversaw the initial build up of forces under General McNaughton. He was promoted to Lieutenant General and returned to Canada in July 1940 to assume the post of Chief of the General Staff. Crerar accepted a voluntary reduction in rank in order to head the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division when it left for Britain in November 1940 but upon arrival he was transferred to staff position. He returned the field in February 1944 as commander of 2nd corps headquarters in Italy but returned to England in march to begin preparations for the Normandy landings. Crerar landed in Normandy on July 23, 1944 taking over from General Simonds as commander on the Caen front. Crerar began the second phase of Operation Totalize which finally ended German resistance in the Falaise pocket in mid-August. Crerarís 1st Canadian Army was then directed to seize the channel ports of Le Harve, Boulogne and Calais which it accomplished but with heavy casualties. Towards the end of the disastrous Arnhem campaign Montgomery gave the Canadians orders to clear German forces from the Scheldt estuary. Crerar was evacuated to England for treatment of an illness and General Simonds assumed command of the operation. Crerar returned to the front a short time later but left Simonds in command as the laterís controversial plan for wresting control of Walchern Island from the Germans was proving a success. The estuary was finally cleared with the help of the British and Americans and Crerar resumed command on Novemeber 9th. Crerarís final campaign began on February 8, 1945. The 1st Canadian Army launched an assault from the Nijmegen bridgehead in Holland and broke through the Seigfried Line on the 27th overcoming bad weather, poor fighting terrain and fierce German resistance which finally ended with the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands to General Montgomery on May 5th. Crerar returned to Canada in July 1945 and retired the next year.

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