Brigadier-General William Denis Whitaker, CM, DSO and Bar

Discussion in 'Canadian' started by canuck, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Another in a series of profiles of some outstanding Canadian regimental commanders.

    Brigadier-General William Denis Whitaker, CM, DSO and Bar, ED, CD, DSc Mil (Hon)

    William Denis Whitaker was born in February 1915 in Calgary, attended Brown and University of Toronto schools in Ontario, and entered RMC in 1933. He began his lifelong passion for sports by joining the RMC football team, of which he was captain in 1936-37. He was also captain of the hockey team in 1937, and was awarded the Prince of Wales Cup for best all-round athlete on graduation. He then played with the Hamilton Tigers, later the Tigercats, and in 1938, was nominated the All-Eastern Quarterback. While overseas, he was a member of the Canadian football team that played against the American team in the Coffee Bowl and the Tea Bowl.

    He joined the Canadian Army at the outbreak of World War II and went overseas with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. His cool, tenacious leadership under heavy fire was an inspiration to his troops and for which he was awarded two Distinguished Service Orders - first as a Captain during the Dieppe Raid in August, 1942, and second as a Lieutenant-Colonel after the Normandy landings, where he led his regiment during the Battle of the Scheldt Estuary and in the Rhineland. He was wounded twice during the war and rose to be Canada's then youngest Brigadier-General. He is an Officer of the Legion of Honour (France), and a Commander, Order of the Crown (Belgium).

    As a Captain in the Dieppe raid on August 19th 1942 he led his 30-man platoon to capture the beachfront casino. His troops stormed the beachfront casino in hand to hand fighting and dashed across the deadly plaza behind it, raked by enemy fire and into the town, before he realized that going any further would be suicide. He pulled his men back to the beach, organized a defense and waited, deluged with shells, mortars and machine gun bullets, until landing craft lifted the survivors to safety for the return trip to their base in England. He received his first Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his skill and courage and initiative during the Dieppe raid.

    Whitaker led the RHLI through notable battles at Woensdrecht and the Goch-Calcar Road.

    In later years, he became an author, writing histories of World War II. His first book, Tug of War, subtitled 'The Canadian Victory That Opened Antwerp', was written with his wife, Shelagh. The book told the story of the Battle of the Scheldt Estuary, and won the J.W. Dafoe book prize in 1984. It was published in several countries and was translated into Flemish. Denis and Shelagh wrote three other books: Rhineland: The Battle to End the War (1989); Dieppe: Tragedy to Triumph (1992) and Victory at Falaise: The Soldiers' Story (2000).


    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020
    TTH, stolpi, bamboo43 and 1 other person like this.

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