I was reading a shortened version of this account in 'Hitler's last General' page 164. The five survivors were named as above with the additional information that this atrocity was also witnessed by 'Lt D A James and Rifleman W.R.LeBarr'. The testimony of these two were included in TS26/856 pp164-185. This was the prosecution file collected with evidence against the 12th HJ for war crimes in Normandy. The are a number of discrepancies between their evidence and the account above. Firstly stating that Lt D A James was a witness was erroneous, he had only heard the story from one of the survivors (Mc Lean) while they were POWs together, he was not there himself at the time. He has details that don't match the story above but as he is only a hear-say witness, there is no point in looking into his evidence further IMO.David Thompson wrote:From a post by John McGillivray in the MLU (Maple Leaf Up) Forum back in 2005 at:
http://www.mapleleafup.org/forums/showt ... 428&page=3
citing to Howard Margolian’s book “Conduct Unbecoming” (pp. 90-94):
.....Halted at a road junction less than a mile northeast of the village of Fontenay-le-Pesnel, the prisoners were diverted in a westerly direction into a grassy area adjacent to a grainfield. After going another fifty yards or so, they were ordered to sit down, facing east. Ominously, the prisoners were bunched together in several rows, with the stretcher cases placed in the middle. While the Canadians sat and waited in anxious silence, the Germans deployed menacingly around them.
The prisoners' stay in the field must have seemed like an eternity. In fact, only three or four minutes had passed before the last half-track in the convoy peeled off the highway and headed for the spot where the prisoners were sitting. Dressed in khaki camouflage uniforms and armed with machine pistols, several SS troopers jumped out of the vehicle and approached the sergeant in charge. A brief conversation ensued, after which the NCO ordered all but two of his men over to the vehicle. There one of the new arrivals exchanged the escorts' rifles for machine pistols, while another man pulled clips from a haversack and passed them around. Armed to the teeth, the men from the half-track and the original escorts advanced together towards the prisoners. The impromptu execution squad was joined by the two remaining escorts, who had retained their rifles.
As the SS men closed in on them, even the most optimistic of the Canadians now realized what was about to happen. Any lingering hopes were dashed when Lieutenant Barker, who was in the front row and who would surely face the first salvo, calmly advised, 'Whoever is left after they fire the first round, go to the left [i.e., north].' At a distance of about thirty yards, the Germans stopped. One of them taunted his intended victims, saying in heavily accented English, 'Now you die.' At that moment, the executioners opened fire. Hit by the initial burst, the men in front were mowed down where they sat. Many were killed instantly. Others were only wounded and lay writhing in agony on the ground. In the middle rows, pandemonium erupted. As bullets thudded into flesh and soil around them, those who had not yet been hit scrambled in desperation. Shouts, curses, and heart-rending screams filled the night air.
Only those prisoners who had been sitting in the back row had any chance of survival. By advancing in a straight line and neglecting to cordon the area, the Germans had left an escape route open. Acting on instinct, several men made a break for it. Gunners Weldon Clark and Thomas Grant of the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment ran off together. Clark made his getaway into the adjacent grainfield, but Grant was cut down after having run only a few yards. Corporal McLean and Private Ferris of the Winnipegs also ran in tandem. McLean was hit, but both men reached the adjacent field, where they took cover amid the standing crops. Corporals George Brown and Robert Scott and Privates Gordon Lewis and John MacDougall, also of the Winnipegs, followed McLean's and Ferris's example, but all were struck down by the Germans' second salvo. Of these men, only Private MacDougall, who was wounded in the leg, was able to make good his getaway.
The most hair-raising escape of all was that contrived by Private Arthur Desjarlais of the Winnipegs' 15 Platoon. Sitting in the back row, Desjarlais actually froze when the Germans fired their first burst. Failure to hit the dirt when bullets are flying around is usually a prescription for disaster. Yet somehow the upright rifleman was not touched. Suddenly realizing the extent of his predicament, Desjarlais got onto his belly and slowly crawled towards the grainfield. Their attention diverted by the chaotic scene in front of them, the SS thugs never noticed him, and Desjarlais was able to slip away.
Of the forty prisoners who found themselves in the Germans' gun sights on the fateful night of 8 June, only five - Corporal McLean and Privates Ferris, MacDougall, and Desjarlais of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, along with Gunner Clark of the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment - lived to tell about it. ........ Hampered by false leads, Canadian war crimes investigators never were able to establish with certainty even the units involved, much less the individuals. ....... Indeed, the machine gunning of the thirty-five prisoners near the village of Fontenay-le-Pesnel on the night of 8 June ranks as the single worst battlefield atrocity perpetrated against Canadians in the country's military history. So dastardly was this crime that some have since labelled it the 'Canadian Malmedy,' after the strikingly similar and much more famous (or infamous) massacre of American troops during the Nazis' last-ditch Ardennes offensive.”
The other named man (LeBarr) was not part of this group but had already earlier escaped from capture, he was hiding nearby and gave a lengthy statement of what he saw. He maintained that there were only 17-20 Canadian POWs and not 40 and he made no mention of a truck arriving into the field. He also maintains that the shooting only started as Mc Lean and his comrade fled, but from the account above it would seem that the Canadians were expecting to be shot and its more probable that the shooting was not in response to the break away but was going to happen anyway.
There was no other statements about this shooting in the file - only a document stating that the bodies of these men had not been found by the time the report was made. I presume that the testimonies of some of the other 5 survivors were subsequently collected as there is so much additional information in the above account. Can someone cite the evidence/documents from 'Conduct unbecoming' for this atrocity. There may be information contained in that evidence that has since come to light which may help to pinpoint the perpetrators.