Veteran Stories:
Fred J. Bragnalo

Army

  • Fred Bragnalo in his Canadian Army Uniform, October 24, 1944. Mr. Bragnalo served with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the "Little Black Devils."

    Fred J. Bragnalo
  • Newspaper clipping reporting that Fred Bragnalo was injured overseas. It ran in the local paper on October 24, 1944.

    Fred J. Bragnalo
  • Weapon [Mauser C96] confiscated by Fred Bragnalo from the German commander of Fort Nieulay on September 7, 1944, when it was taken by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. The capture of this Fort opened the way towards the capture of Calais.

    Fred J. Bragnalo
  • Map of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles' advance on Moyland Wood.

    Fred J. Bragnalo
  • Revisiting Fort Nieulay, Calais, France, in 1994.

    Fred J. Bragnalo
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"During our drive, the R.W.R. was ordered to take Fort Nieulay, which was laying in the line of our advance."

Transcript

My name is Fred Bragnalo, ex-Sergeant of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 7th Brigade, 3rd Div. I'd just like to talk a little bit about the liberation of Calais. After the Falaise Gap, the 3rd Div. was cleaning up the coastal batteries that were still bombing England when the 7th Brigade was called off in order to advance and take the coastal port of Calais. During our drive, the R.W.R. was ordered to take Fort Nieulay, which was laying in the line of our advance. D and B Company were given the initial assignment, but had to withdraw after coming under devastating fire. A Company with No. 7 Platoon in the lead advanced through the ditch on the right side of the road. Under small covering fire and continued bombardment, Lt. Embury and Sgt. Mouflier ordered me (at the time, I was a Corporal and a Section Leader) to make my way to the gate and blow it open with a banglor torpedo. With riflemen King, Anderson and Haywood, we ran across the road under small cover. We reached the gate and found it partly destroyed and hanging at an angle, apparently from a direct hit from our 'typhies' [Typhoon fighter planes]. At this time our 'wasps' (flamethrowers, that is) reached in and sprayed the inner walls of the compound. Immediately, we followed the wasps into the fort, and the remainder of 7 Platoon and A Company completed the assault and captured one hundred and eighty-two prisoners. (?) and Anderson were both wounded during this assault. Haywood and I ran for the garrison headquarters, caught the German commander Colonel Schraider by surprise, and he quickly surrendered to me with his faithful dog at his side. I relieved him of his Mauser pistol, along with the armband and flag. Then the company settled in the fort bunkers, which the enemy counter-attacked with heavy artillery fire. An escaping Jew by the name of John Wolpe ran into our lines and subsequently convinced an additional twenty German troops to surrender. John Wolpe became very helpful to us as an interpreter in subsequent encounters until he was wounded and evacuated. With the capture of Fort Nieulay, the door to Calais was now open. After a twenty-four hour truce to allow the civilians to evacuate, the full-scale assault on Calais was avoided, as Major General (?) convinced the German Commander (?) to surrender with seventy-five hundred prisoners. Our 7th Brigade casualties were approximately three hundred, of which seventy were from the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.
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