Clearing the Channel Coast was a World War II task undertaken by the First Canadian Army in August 1944, following the Allied Operation Overlord and the break-out and pursuit from Normandy. The Canadian advance took them from Normandy to the Scheldt river in Belgium, en route, they were to capture the Channel ports needed to supply the Allied armies and clear the Germans from the Channel littoral and launch sites for the V-1 missiles. Resistance did occur in most of the Channel ports, designated on 4 September as fortresses by Adolf Hitler, Le Havre, Boulogne and Calais were subjected to full-scale assaults, as a result. A further assault was called off at Dunkirk, freeing resources for the Battle of the Scheldt when the First Canadian Army cleared the mouth of the Scheldt, Dieppe and Ostend were taken without opposition. The Germans were chased out of much of northern France, fighting in the Falaise pocket ended by 22 August 1944 and the First Canadian Army was freed to move north-eastwards up the coast. The I British Corps had started to advance eastwards from the River Dives along the coast on 16 September, reconnaissance had been ordered on 19 August and the authorization for a full advance and pursuit by the Canadians was issued on 23 August. There was significant resistance in the Canadian sector, Adolf Hitler had ordered that most of the Channel ports be established as fortresses and prepared for extended sieges. Since the Allies needed the port facilities to supply their advance, they could not be sealed off, the Germans had established artillery positions capable of shelling Dover, threatening allied shipping and there were launch sites for the V-1 flying bombs bombarding London. The composition of the First Canadian Army varied to meet changing demands but in terms it was composed of the II Canadian Corps. Within these formations, at times, were Czech, Polish, French, Dutch. After Normandy, the Polish and Czech formations were augmented by countrymen who had been conscripted into the German Army, the First Canadian Army had fought several battles in Normandy, resulting in depleted commanders and manpower at all levels. This was particularly serious in the rifle companies. The I British Corps, attached to the First Canadian Army, had the 7th Armoured Division and the 49th Infantry Division, 51st Division, the infantry divisions had not performed satisfactorily in Normandy and had been relegated to defensive positions on the eastern flank of the bridgehead. The 6th Airborne Division had landed in Operation Tonga on D-Day and despite its lack of heavy weapons and it had suffered many casualties and Major-General Richard Gale, had been ordered to harry the German retreat yet conserve its manpower for the rebuilding that was due. The I British Corps advanced along the Channel coast, with the II Canadian Corps on the right, most German divisions had been destroyed or shattered in the Falaise Pocket but divisions deployed east of the Allied bridgehead were largely intact. German troops within the cities were generally second-rate and included some Austrian and other nationalities. The First Canadian Army advance to the Seine was dubbed Operation Paddle and it had been hoped by the Allied commanders that a defeat comparable with the Falaise Pocket could be inflicted on the Germans, by trapping them against the Seine and the sea. To this end, the US Third Army advanced northwards to Elbeuf, across the Second Army line of advance, to cut off the route towards Paris and was a partial success
The Channel coast
British troops cross the River Seine over a Bailey bridge at Vernon, 27 August 1944.