In Normandy on the 18th of August 1944, Major Currie was
in command of a small mixed force of Canadian tanks, self-propelled
anti-tank guns and infantry which was ordered to cut one of the main
escape routes from the Falaise pocket.
This force was held up by strong enemy resistance in the village of
St. Lambert-sur-Dives, and two tanks
were knocked out by 88 mm. guns. Major Currie immediately entered the
village alone on foot at last light through the enemy outposts to
reconnoiter the German defences and extricate the crews of the disabled
tanks, which he succeeded in doing in spite of heavy mortar fire.
Early the following morning, without any previous artillery
bombardment, Major Currie personally led an attack on the village in the
face of fierce opposition from enemy tanks, guns and infantry, and by
noon had succeeded in seizing and consolidating a position half-way
inside of the village.
During the next 36 hours the Germans hurled one counter-attack after
another against the Canadian force, but so skillfully had Major Currie
organized his defensive position that these attacks were repulsed with
severe casualties to the enemy after heavy fighting.
At dusk on the 20th August the Germans attempted to mount
a final assault on the Canadian positions, but the attacking force was
routed before it could even be deployed. Seven enemy tanks, twelve 88
mm. guns and forty vehicles were destroyed, 300 Germans were killed, 500
wounded and 2,100 captured. Major Currie then promptly ordered an attack
and completed the capture of the village, thus denying the Chambois-Trun
escape route to the remnants of two German armies cut off in the Falaise
Throughout three days and nights of fierce fighting, Major Currie's
gallant conduct and contempt for danger set a magnificent example to all
ranks of the force under his command.
On one occasion he personally directed the fire of his command tank
on to a Tiger tank which had been harassing his position and succeeded
in knocking it out. During another attack, while the guns of his command
tank were taking on other targets at longer ranges, he used a rifle from
the turret to deal with individual snipers who had infiltrated to within
fifty yards of his headquarters. The only time reinforcements were able
to get through to his force, he himself led the forty men forward to
their positions and explained the importance of their task as part of
the defence. When, during the next attack, these new reinforcements
withdrew under the intense fire brought down by the enemy, he personally
collected them and led them forward into position again, where, inspired
by his leadership, they held for the remainder of the battle. His
employment of the artillery support, which became available after his
original attack went in, was typical of his cool calculation of the
risks involved in every situation. At one time, despite the fact that
short rounds were falling within fifteen yards of his own tank, he
ordered fire from medium artillery to continue because of its
devastating effect upon the attacking enemy in his immediate area.
Throughout the operations the casualties to Major Currie's force were
heavy. However, he never considered the possibility of failure or
allowed it to enter the minds of his men. In the words of one of his
non-commissioned officers, "We knew at one stage that it was going
to be a fight to the finish but he was so cool about it, it was
impossible for us to get excited." Since all the officers under his
command were either killed or wounded during the action, Major Currie
virtually had no respite from his duties and in fact obtained only one
hour's sleep during the entire period. Nevertheless he did not permit
his fatigue to become apparent to his troops and throughout the action
took every opportunity to visit weapon pits and other defensive posts to
talk to his men, to advise them as to the best use of their weapons and
to cheer them with words of encouragement. When his force was finally
relieved and he was satisfied that the turnover was complete he fell
asleep on his feet and collapsed.
There can be no doubt that the success of the attack on and stand
against the enemy at St. Lambert-sur-Dives can largely be attributed to
this officer's coolness, inspired leadership and skillful use of the
limited weapons at his disposal.
The courage and devotion to duty shown by Major Currie during a
prolonged period of heavy fighting were outstanding and had a
far-reaching effect on the successful outcome of the battle.