Lt Col Donald Grant “Don” Worthington

Lt Col Donald Grant “Don” Worthington

Birth
Death 9 Aug 1944 (aged 30–31)
Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France
Burial Cintheaux, Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France
Plot XIX. F. 1.
Memorial ID 56158235 · View Source
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Donald Grant Worthington, born in 1913, to Ada Matilda (Marshall) and Dr. George H. Worthington, a Vancouver druggist, physician and alderman. Donald attended high school at the University School in Victoria and studied pharmacy, as did his younger brother, Jack, at the University of British Columbia. Their intention was to run the family business, Cut Rate Drug Stores.*1

Donald joined the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own Regiment) in 1934 and from 1936 to 1938 was the regiment's adjutant. He commanded a rifle company and later a Vital Point Guard when the regiment was called to service 26 August 1939 and details of the regiment were put on active service under 'The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles), CASF (Details) 1 September 1939 with the duty to protect the west coast. As the regiment was not one of the original ones employed in Europe, Donald was assigned to Military District 11 headquartered in Vancouver as a general staff officer whose duties included mobilizing the Canadian army.*1

By June 1940 the B.C.R. was assigned to the Canadian Infantry Division and Donald returned to the regiment as adjutant.*1 The regiment began training in Camp Nanaimo 1 October 1940 and by 7 November was converted to armour. The details were disbanded 31 December 1940; the regiment was mobilized for active service 24 May 1940 and designated the 1st Battalion, The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles), ‘CASF' and was assigned to the 4th Canadian Infantry Division.*3 The regiment trained in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region and guarded the Welland Canal. It was while they were in the Niagara Region that Donald was promoted to Major and given command first of a rifle company and later an armoured squadron.*1

During November 1941, the regiment trained at Debert, N. S.; the N.C.O's and senior officers attended training schools. Leaving for England with the advance party, Major Worthington trained with the regiment and took tactical courses at the British Royal Armoured Corps School where his ability was recognized.*1

26 January 1942, the regiment became The 28th Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Regiment), CAC, CASF. The men and officers embarked 21 August 1942 for Britain and Elstead, Surrey where they trained on tanks and took part in exercises with the whole Canadian Corps.*3

Don served and gained battle experience with the British army as a squadron commander and second-in-command of The 2nd Lothian and Borders Horse Yeomanry that fought in Tunisia in early 1943. Returning to the BCR in April, he attended Canadian Military Headquarters Senior Officers' School from May to July 1943. Here, too, his ability was noted and Donald was not only promoted to captain but was second-in-command of the regiment.*1

27 August 1943, the newly-promoted Lieutenant-Colonel Worthington, became regimental commander charged with preparing the men for battle.*1. Training first begun on Canadian-made Ram tanks was continued on the M4 Sherman tanks in October.*2

The BCR landed in France as part of the 4th Armoured Brigade, 4th Canadian Armoured Division 23 July 1944.*3 In Normandy, Canadian and British troops had met stiff opposition from Panzer Divisions including two SS Divisions with 75 and 88 mm guns and heavy Tiger tanks holding high positions.

The Canadian force of which The BCR was a part and the 1st Polish Armoured Division, were engaged in Operation Totalize that was to take the high ground north of Falaise, collapsing German defences and cutting off their retreat.*5 Because of the well-positioned German forces, it was decided the operation should be done under the cover of darkness with light coming from searchlights on clouds and tracers fired from Bofor guns.*2

The operation began at 12:26 8 August 1944 with heavy bombardment by the U. S. 8th Air force. They hit Bretteville-sur-Laize, St-Sylvain and Hautmesnil, but missed their fourth target (Gouvix), hitting instead Canadian and Polish troops and causing 350 casualties, including 65 deaths. As a result, Polish troops had serious difficulties.*6. The 10th Canadian Infantry, led by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada were able to take Cintheaux and Hautmesnil. According to the Argyll's regimental book infantry units fared better than the armoured brigades in the fighting around Hautmesnil.*4 After establishing themselves in Bretteville, the British Columbia Regiment tanks and the Algonquin Regiment armored carriers were to take Point 195.

Just before midnight 8 August, a meeting of officers of the Grenadier Guards and the BCR learned they would lead the attack. Don, upset with the way plans were being changed and many "principals of war were being violated thought they would need luck if they were to bring it off". At 1:30 he informed his officers and those of the Algonquins of the new plan, trying to remain positive.*5

Advancing in their first battle with few landmarks, they were to cross the highway at "MR, 300 yards to the south of where they were situated, pass through the Lake Superiors, recross the highway and attack Hill 195 from the southeast just before daylight." They were expecting few German formations to be defending the site. At 2:30 9 August, they went south of Lorguichon, under constant machine gun fire. By 4:00 they had reached Cintheaux where "C" Squadron stopped the machine gun fire and again took care of gun fire around the church at Cauvicourt.*5

They turned southeast of Cintheaux, encountering more resistance, especially in the quarry area south of Hautmesnil and Bretteville-le-Rabet where, although American bombers had hit the area the previous day, there were still four 88 mm guns and 6 anti-aircraft guns at the north edge of Bretteville.*5

It was at this point they went off course as they moved forward in the dark, vehicular dust, low-lying fog and, lacking identifiable landmarks, they turned right on Le Chemin Haussé du Guillaume, not the Caen-Falaise highway they thought they were on. They had moved directly across the German front built around an anti-tank line with twenty-two 88-mm. guns that opened fire leaving the field with the devastation of casualties, wounded and dead, destroyed and burning tanks.*4

Just before 6:50 they arrived at the hill and Donald reported to 4th Canadian Army headquarters they had arrived at their objective and found no enemy.*6 They were 6 km north east of their objective, having gone through the last major German defence line before Falaise. Having surprise on their side, they had moved east to avoid German fire through fields filled with bomb craters.

They were 2000 metres east of Estrées-la-Compagne near Point 111, not realizing they were lost, with no re-enforcements, protection or support. The hill was also where Germans intended to set up defences.*5

Major J. H. Carson of "B" Squadron, behind the rest of the force realized their error and sent Number 2 troop to correct the objective until he received the order to advance to high ground. The two lead companies, the Algonquins and BCR, caught up to Carson's squadron. Number 10 Platoon reported Estrées was not occupied, found the tanks and "C" Company had disappeared over the hill. Those at Pt. 111 realized Number 10 Platoon was missing.

Lt. Clare Dutcher, commander of the Algonquins #10 Platoon had changed course, destroyed a German gun position, two 88 mm guns and 10 motorcycles and all but five Germans in less than 15 minutes.*5

"A" Squadron of the BCR failed to make it to Hill 111 as they had been annihilated at first light. Lt. John Stock of "B" Squadron had 17 Sherman tanks destroyed. The remaining tanks joined "D" Company.

The Algonquins had tried to help, but came under heavy fire and were forced to withdraw to a hill overlooking Bretteville-Le-Rabet. The Lake Superiors cleared the town while Major Sterling of "D" Squadron was order to St-Hilaire Farm and was joined by the remainder of the battalion.

Hill 111 was a rectangular field approximately 300 and 100 yards. It was protected to the south by woods, to the west by hedge, to the north thin tall trees and to the east stubble fields. The Worthington force had broken through the German holding line of Kurt Meyer and his 12th SS Hitler Youth Panzer Division. The Germans only became aware how far the Canadians had advanced when a lead tank of the BCR fired on a SS vehicle.

The Worthington group had 31 Sherman tanks and 1 light recce tank. He had "C" Company on the southeast and southwest edge of the wood, "B" Company on the north and 3 inch mortars on the southwest corner of the woods while "D" Company was to cover the Northwest and southwest edge of the woods, but they didn't arrive. The infantry tried to dig in, but found it difficult with the gravelly soil. With four sides defended, Donald had made a "Fortress" *5

9 August 1944, while fighting off German attacks and waiting for help, Donald ordered the injured, including several officers, be placed on carriers to make a dash for safety. The half-track vehicles with their red crosses displayed were fired upon as they left the area.

Donald and the rest of his group defended and waited for re-enforcements that never arrived even though they had been in touch with the Polish army, supply links and headquarters. Messages were never passed on while headquarters wondered where the unit was as they concentrated on their supposed position, Hill 195. RAF Typhoons that strafed the enemy and returned to do so time and again failed to report where the group was, even though they weren't close to any other Allied troops.

Donald sent the remaining 8 tanks to link up with the Polish Army. Seven made it, but even though they notified headquarters, messages weren't passed on to Major-General Kitching or Brigadier Booth.*5 Had contact been made and re-enforcements arrived, the German front north of Falaise may have collapsed.

A photograph taken 9 August showed a path north of Cintheaux to south east of Estrées-la-Compagne where their vehicles had been destroyed. From the Argyll Regimental book it was noted that in advancing, the Worthington force went slightly off course, directly across the German front built around an anti-tank line, including twenty-two 88-mm. guns that opened fire leaving the devastated fields littered with casualties, wounded and dead, destroyed and burning tanks. The British Columbia Regiment lost most of its tanks and Lieutenant-Colonel D. G. Worthington was killed when an 88-mm. shell hit his tank turret.*4

Donald's death more probably occurred at 17:30 hours as he was with the Algonquin mortar platoon dealing with a German counterattack when a mortar bomb landed at his feet, killing him instantly.*5 Figures vary as to their losses. Tanks lost were either 47 or 48 of their 52. The number of casualties also varied. One figure suggested there were 133 casualties*2 and another that there were 112 casualties, 45 killed or died of wounds, 38 wounded and 45 taken prisoner.*5

At the request of Dr. and Mrs. Worthington, their sons Colonel Donald Grant Worthington and Captain Jack Worthington killed just nine days later, were buried side by side*1 in the Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetery. The cemetery is located 14 km. south of Caen, close to Cintheaux, the very land over which Canadian troops had advanced in their battle to Falaise.*6 There are 2958 men buried in the cemetery, the majority Canadian and 87 unidentified.

Major General George Kitching, commander of The 4th Canadian Armoured Division thought Donald Worthington to be one of the most outstanding regimental commanders in the army brigade. He was the youngest commander, "full of energy and quick to seize an opportunity."*5

His courage and determination to hold the hill with some benefit of aerial support, no artillery support and lack of re-enforcements; his considered order to remove the wounded to safety while the opportunity was still available and having penetrated deeply into German defence lines west of Falaise proved Donald Worthington worthy of all accolades accorded him.

Mentioned in Dispatches, he was also awarded the Croix-de-Guerre avec Palme given by France to military units whose men performed heroic deeds in combat.*8

Today on Highway D131, direction Maizières*7 there is a Worthington Force Memorial that reads:

IN MEMORIUM
TO THE SOLDIERS OF THE 28TH CANADIAN
ARMOURED REGIMENT (THE BRITISH
COLUMBIA REGIMENT CAC AND THE
ALGONQUIN REGIMENT WHO, ON THE 9
AUGUST 1944 IN THE SURROUNDING AREA OF
HILL 140 GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR FREEDOM.
GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN

In 1956 a mountain located in the Palliser River Valley on the British Columbia/Alberta border,*2 was named for Lieutenant-Colonel Donald Grant Worthington, commander of The 28th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Regiment). Mount Worthington at 2972 metres is a fitting tribute to a strong and valient leader.


*1 Global Bird Photos Collection - The Worthington Brothers by Colonel (rtd) Keith D. Maxwell, OMM, CD –
*2 Wikipedia – The B. C. Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own
*3 The National Defence and Canadian Forces Volume 3 Part 1 Armour, Artillery, Field and Engineer Regiments - Armour Regiments – The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own
*4 The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's) 1928-1953. Compiled by officers of the regiment.
*5 Lost in Normandy. The Odyssey of the Worthington Force, 9 August, 1944. Mike Bechthold from Canadian Military History, Volume 19 November 2, spring 2010. PP 5-24.
*6 Art Bridge, WW 2 veteran of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) of Canada who was on Hill 195, the hill that Donald Worthington was assigned to take.
*7 Breakthrough to Falaise: Mistakes On The Road To Success: Army Part 105 by Terry Copp, Legion Magazine March 31, 2013.
*8 Wikipedia.

Shirley Tort






Family Members


Inscription

LIEUTENANT COLONEL
D. G. WORTHINGTON
BRITISH COLUMBIA REGIMENT
9TH AUGUST 1944.

Gravesite Details Lieutenant Colonel, 28th Armd. Regiment, British Columbia Regiment, R.C.A.C. Age Unknown

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  • Maintained by: Shirley Tort
  • Originally Created by: War Graves
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 56158235
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lt Col Donald Grant “Don” Worthington (1913–9 Aug 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 56158235, citing Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, Cintheaux, Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France ; Maintained by Shirley Tort (contributor 47942188) .