Operation Kate

This was a Canadian river crossing exercise by Lieutenant General G. G. Simonds’s II Corps in the UK (spring 1944).

This was one of many Allied training exercises undertaken in the UK in the first half of 1944 in preparation for 'Overlord' anbd subsequent operations, and on 11 April the headquarters of Lieutenant General H. D. G. Crerar’s Canadian 1st Army issued the relevant orders to the II Corps for the planning and execution of an exercise employing Major General C. Foulkes’s Canadian 2nd Division in conjunction with specially trained engineers.

The undertaking was designed to practise the planning by an infantry brigade headquarters for a brigade assault over a tidal estuary, with an infantry battalion of the designated brigade carrying out its part in the plan. It was explained that engineer and other limitations precluded assaulting on more than a front of one battalion, but leave was given to Simonds, should he so desire, to exercise two brigade headquarters in planning, and a succession of infantry battalion groups in the assault role.

The resulting ‘Kate’ exercise began on 26 April on the Trent river in the English Midlands, and training was still continuing late in May. Both Brigadier S. Lett’s 4th Brigade and Brigadier W. J. Megill’s 5th Brigade practised the assault and build-up, the battalions crossing the river in assault boats propelled by outboard motors. The engineers erected rafts on the spot and used them to move heavy equipment across the estuary. Amphibious vehicles, including Buffalo tracked carriers, were tested in the course of the training. Similar but less intense training was given to Major General G. Kitching’s Canadian 4th Armoured Division: from a time late in April, the battalions of its infantry brigade (Brigadier J. C. Jefferson’s 10th Brigade) trained with the divisional engineers on the Medway river in Kent on assault boating and bridge crossing. Even before the launch of ‘Overlord’, therefore, the Canadian units likely to be required to make an assault across the Seine river had received considerable specialised training, and the 1st Army’s engineers and other sappers had gained experience into the engineer aspects of such operations.