Lt.- Col. Desmond Gerald Crofton – WW11 Leopold Canal

The Bronze Lion (Dutch: Bronzen Leeuw) is a high Royal Dutch award, intended for servicemen who have shown extreme bravery and leadership in battle favouring The Netherlands; in some special cases it can however be awarded to Dutch or foreign civilians.


Period: Second World War (1939-1945)
Rank: Lieutenant-Colonel
Unit:
1st Battalion The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (1st Battalion The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division)

Awarded – Bronzen Leeuw (The Bronze Lion) on December 8th 1945

“Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Gerald Crofton commanded the 1st Battalion Canadian Scottish Regiment on the crossing of the Leopold Canal from Belgium into Holland. Flame throwers were used aggressively and extensively for the first time by the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade in this operation and Lieutenant-Colonel Crofton was quick to apply their superiority to this difficult task. Although as Commanding Officer he was ordered not to cross this canal and get personally embroiled in the fight he was continually as far forward directing the battle as permitted. During five days of fierce fighting Colonel Crofton’s Headquarters was under frequent heavy artillery fire, nevertheless his coolness and example to his men inspired all ranks. On moving Battalion Headquarters forward after the bridgehead had been established, a particularly fierce concentration landed in their area. Lieutenant-Colonel Crofton continued fearlessly, disregarding this fire, to control his men and direct the battle.
During the operation for the clearance of the Bresken’s pocket in Holland this officer was again in command of the Battalion in the final phases. The Battalion supporting arms were used extensively, anti-tank guns were used against pillboxes and heavy 3” Mortar concentrations brought down on enemy defenses under Colonel Crofton’s direction. By these means and siting of Battalion Headquarters well forward the morale of the fighting troops Colonel Crofton personally went forward to receive the surrender of the German Commander.
The Battalion under Colonel Crofton took its full share of patrolling and gathering of information in the Nijmegen Salient from November to early February. The Commanding Officer by his personal interest and aggressive spirit in junior leader’s patrols successfully kept morale at a high level.
Lieutenant-Colonel Crofton prepared and briefed the Battalion for its role in the big push of 8 February 1945. This operation “Veritable” was extremely difficult being chiefly water borne, nevertheless all subunits got away successfully. During the night 8/9 February 1945 Battalion Headquarters (TAC) had no information from forward elements so Colonel Crofton went forward to investigate. At approximately 0400 hours the Colonel’s party had reached the town of Niel and made no contact with our companies. Realizing that daylight approached he decided to move into shelter of a group of buildings with his staff. On reaching these buildings enemy fire poured on his small party wounding the Commanding Officer, Intelligence Officer and several of the staff. Although seriously wounded Colonel Crofon continued in his endeavours to reach his men and to control his small party. Unfortunately his wounds were so severe that he had to drag himself to the shelter of a small building instructing the others to gain our own lines. Lieutenant-Colonel Crofton remained seriously wounded in this exposed position for twelve hours when he was finally evacuated by our Medical Officer. Throughout these actions in Holland Lieutenant-Colonel Crofton’s fearless leadership, gallantry and devotion to duty were an inspiration to all ranks and in no small measure influenced the tide of battle. His splendid part in the liberation of Holland was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Canadian Army and of the Regiment he so faithfully commanded.”

Details:
Royal Decree no. 2 of 8 December, 1945.
London and Canadian Gazette of 22 December, 1945.
Bronzen Leeuw (BL)

The Bronze Lion (Dutch: Bronzen Leeuw) is a high Royal Dutch award, intended for servicemen who have shown extreme bravery and leadership in battle favouring The Netherlands; in some special cases it can however be awarded to Dutch or foreign civilians.

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