Source Foster Stark (revised and updated by A. Brandon Conron, E. Frank Hull, W. Robert Newman, and Sam W. Pawley), A History of the First Hussars Regiment: 1856-1980 (first published 1951, revised edition 1981, n.p.)

Bookmarks Tank memorial on Juno / McCormick's ride / D-Day situation

Go to Tank pictorial / Canadians in Normandy picture file / "Victory Campaign": Normandy landings  / First Hussars in Normandy: Part Two

Map of the First Hussar's advance on D-Day in support of the 7th Brigade, Canadian 3rd Division.

The tank "Anemic," part of A Squadron, First Hussars. Thanks to efforts by Leo Gariepy (then working as a town engineer in Courselles) the tank was pulled from the sea in 1969 and now stands as a memorial on Juno beach. (Photo by Chuck Solomon, 1999)

Memorial plaque on Juno.

 

Guidon of the First Hussars. Emblazoned battle honors are South Africa 1900, Arras 1917, France and Flanders 1915-1918, Vimy 1917, Cambrai 1918, Hindenburg Line, Pursuit to Mons,
Normandy Landing, Le Mesnil-Patry, Faubourg de Vaucelles, Caen, Verrieres Ridge-Tilly La Campagne, Falaise, Calais 1944, The Rhineland, The Lower Maas, Apeldoorn. At the center of the guidon is the First Hussars' motto: Hodie non cras (Today not tomorrow).

D-DAY—OPERATION OVERLORD

At 0730 hours 6th June, 1944, the 6 Cdn. Arm'd. Regt. (1H) in support of the 7 Cdn. Inf. Bde. of the 3 Cdn. Inf. Div. assaulted and overpowered the Hun's beach defences between Courseulles-sur-mer and Bernières-sur-mer and after wiping out enemy resistance moved inland. One troop of "C" Squadron 6 CAR (1H) managed to reach the Caen-Bayeux Railway line, thus becoming the only unit of the allied invasion forces known to reach its final objective on D-Day.

Thus in terse military style was described the D-Day activities of one-third of Canada's invasion force — those men who had dared to storm Festung Europa.

As a result of the 24 hour postponement of D-Day, H-Hour automatically advanced one hour to 0735 hours because of the change of tide level, since it was essential that the first assault craft touch down as soon as possible after maximum low tide.

At approximately 0530 hours the DD squadron commanders, Majs. Duncan and Brooks, received signals from the control craft inquiring about the possibility of launching the DD tanks into the churning, choppy sea. Both replied that it was too rough, and decided to move in to 7000 yards off shore where the sea might be satisfactory. This planned launching position however, was likewise too rough, and at 0640 hours the landing craft headquarters passed the signal that the tanks would not launch but would be taken into shore for a dry landing.

When the LCT's were approximately 3000 yards from shore, the signal was passed indicating that the tanks must not touch down on the beach before 0730 hours. Since the craft were travelling at a speed which would have put them down on the beach at about 0700 hours, they swung about in a wide circle coming back to the same position at 0715 hours. By then a naval task force had moved into position behind the assault craft and was pouring shells into the coastal defences.

At this point the "down doors" bell rang and the DD tanks were ordered to launch. The order took most of the crews by surprise because they were expecting a dry landing in accordance with the most recent orders. It was not learned until later that Maj. Duncan, the senior squadron leader, had decided to launch. As it proved later, the lives of many of our infantry were saved by this decision. Much of the bulky extra DD equipment, occupying so much vital space in the tanks, had been discarded. Consequently some time was lost while the nautical instruments, life-saving apparatus etc. were restored. The sea-sick crews climbed into the tanks and started off in first gear, moving from the rolling, pitching LCT's into the choppy, white-capped sea. The initial impetus carried them away from the LCT's and gave the necessary time to lower propellers and change gears; then the DD tanks headed for the beaches with each crew commander standing on the back deck steering towards those memorized landmarks. Since each squadron's activities on D-Day were quite dissociated from the work of the others, their different tasks will be dealt with separately.

"A" Squadron

"A" Sqn. was unfortunate, or perhaps in the light of later events, fortunate, in that only 10 DD tanks succeeded in launching. After Lieut. H.K. (Kit) Pattison's DD launched from the port craft, the chains holding the door were shot away by enemy fire, preventing the remaining tanks from getting off. Both the starboard and port crafts proceeded to shore where the former landed five tanks. On the unlucky port craft only Sgt. F.B. Kenyon was successful in launching before the LCT blew up on mines. She listed so far to the port side that the remaining three tanks could not get off in the rising tide.

When "A's" DD tanks headed for Mike sector of the beach it was immediately apparent to all crew commanders that the screens were in great danger of collapsing as the struts began to bend from the pounding of the giant waves. Most of the commanders called the turret crews from the tanks to stand with them on the decks to support the screen. In addition the size of the waves made steering exceptionally hard. The pressure of a strong tide running from west to east increased this difficulty and kept carrying the DD's to the left towards the pier at the river mouth. The squadron shook itself out, however, and on approaching land crew commanders were able to recognize the positions allotted to them on the beach. Here the waves increased in size and it was doubtful as to whether any DD's would touch down on the beach because all began to ship water in considerable quantities. During the run-in, the tank commanded by Lieut. W.R.C. Little was hit by a rocket ship when a flotilla of these craft rushed in to make an abortive attempt at neutralizing enemy pillboxes on the beach. H.10374 Tpr. G.S. Hawken was killed in the water by machine-gun fire, but all the other crew members of the sunken tank were eventually picked up. Rather ironically this tank named "ANEMIC" was subsequently to become Canada's greatest national war memorial on the beaches of Normandy. [See photo in far right column]

The first "A" Sqn. tanks to touch down on the beach were commanded by Capt. J.W. Powell, Lieut. (Red) Goff, Cpl. H. J. Beverley and Cpl. J. M. Kay. Cpl. Kay was wounded in the stomach by enemy fire while steering his DD to shore. On touching the beach his tank deflated too quickly and was swamped. The rising tide forced the crew to bail out and they were heavily machine-gunned from three sides. Cpl. Kay was killed and Tprs. E.S. Sinclair and J.L. Jackson died of wounds received while trying to swim to safety. Tpr. J.W. Forbes crashed against a post in the water, and sustained a back injury which almost paralyzed him. Cpl. S. Runolfson assisted in removing several men from the sea, helped in bandaging the wounded on the beaches, and then, picking up a rifle, joined the infantry and went inland. For his gallantry during the day he was awarded the MM.

Sgt. Inglis' tank was also swamped on the beaches. Seven DD's succeeded in passing through the hail of shell, mortar fire and small arms fire that the Germans threw out over the water wherever they could see the odd-looking two feet of canvas screen protruding. The tanks moved through the surf carefully avoiding visible under-water obstacles and the mines which the Germans had thoughtfully attached to all posts. When they were in sufficiently shallow water and not likely to be swamped by huge waves the DD's quickly deflated and began to engage pillboxes. The advantages of remaining in the water were three-fold. The sudden appearance of tanks on the beaches in front of their positions had momentarily disorganized German gunners. The pillbox on the extreme right of Mike sector near Nan beach was never manned. The tanks wished to make full use of surprise by knocking out the guns which could destroy them. Any further movement towards the beaches benefited the enemy, giving him time to collect his wits.  In addition, by remaining in the water the tanks presented smaller targets and the deflecting qualities of water gave more protection to the vulnerable lower hull where the armour was thinnest. Lastly, it was to be expected that the beaches would be heavily mined and no crew commander wanted his tank to go up on a mine and be rendered immobile on that fire-swept expanse of sand.

On the extreme left of the area, third troop commanded by Lieut. "Red" Goff pushed over the beach and river to get into the "island" in order to neutralize the first objective, a well camouflaged concrete fort. This gun did deadly work, however, before 3rd troop could destroy it. With one shot it knocked out Cpl. H. A. Pockiluk's tank. The crew attempted to bail out but as they emerged from the tank they were machine-gunned. Thus the whole crew, Cpl. H. A. Pockiluk, L/Cpl. I. A. Lytle, Tprs. H. Osborne, R. F. Moore and W. F. Hackford died on the beaches a few minutes after H-Hour.

 The remaining tanks of 3rd troop "took out" the gun with a vengeance and slaughtered mercilessly the machine gunners who were raking the beaches from the shelter of buildings on the "island." At the same time Capt. J.W. Powell, second-in-command of the squadron was beginning D-Day with that invincible courage and masterful skill in handling tanks which was later to win him both a DSO and MC on the battle-fields of Europe. Landing on the right of 3rd troop, Capt. Powell's tank was fired upon from a concrete fort. An armour piercing shot hit the 75 mm, went about half way through the barrel and glanced off taking a gouge out of the turret. With his master gun useless and hit again by this 50 mm gun, "Jake" managed to reach the beach behind the gun from which position, using his coax, he was able to neutralize its crew.

As soon as the anti-tank guns on the beach had been liquidated, the seven DD tanks began to cruise up and down the beach engaging the machine gun nests. At first the fire was so intense that the crew commanders had difficulty in locating the targets, but gradually these were found and neutralized, permitting the infantry to sweep on over the dunes to begin their push inland. In the meantime the port and starboard craft had come in to land their DD's on the beach. The unlucky port craft hit two mines just before beaching. As the craft began to sink quickly an attempt was made to launch the DD's. The second tank, commanded by Sgt. F. B. Kenyon, was successful in reaching the beach but the third, commanded by L/Cpl. Stanfield, although launched, with its screen damaged presumably by enemy fire, sank in about seven feet of water directly in front of the sinking LCT, blocking the other two tanks. Its crew immediately swam ashore to get an AVRE (armoured bull-dozer) to pull it aside in order to save the others. As the LCT settled to the bottom the DD tanks aboard floated in their impromptu dry-dock. Lieut. H. K. Pattison's tank, the next to be disembarked, had its screen badly damaged by the explosion of two mines on the port bow and was swamped in the craft. Although after a great deal of work the sunken DD was dragged out of the way, the LCT was listing so badly that the two tanks of Lieut. Pattison and Sgt. Pitcher were unable to get off until low tide later in the afternoon. Even then, however, considerable difficulty was experienced. Not only did the craft list at a bad angle but because the ramp chains were broken the angle of descent became almost perpendicular. Lieut. Pattison's tank was finally dragged off and Sgt. Pitcher's tank was driven from the LCT under its own power and shortly afterwards rejoined the squadron. Meanwhile the other beached LCT landed all five of its tanks safely, bringing the squadron up to about two-thirds of its full strength. As Lieut. Mills' tank touched down on the beach and deflated it was swamped. He took over Cpl. Hoyle's tank and carried on until his driver Cpl. McLeod arrived with his own tank which had been successfully repaired on the beach.

As the Shermans were finishing their mopping up on the beaches the squadron commander made a recce of a route through which the tanks could get off the dune encircled area. Eventually it was decided that the only possible exit was on the left end of the beach from which a road led up through a cutting in the bank and over a canal where the bridge had been destroyed and on which the engineers had been working. After a waste of much valuable time while an AVRE bridge-laying tank was being installed over the canal, "A" Sqn. swept off the beach and rushed inland to begin its search for the Little Black Devils. Capt. A. M. Fyfe's tank had to be left on the beach because the motor was swamped and the electrical system ruined by heavy seas. He rejoined the squadron the following day with Lieut. H. K. Pattison. Capt. J. W. Powell ran into trouble shortly after leaving the beach when Cpl. Beverley's tank, which he was commanding in exchange for his own, threw a track. It was temporarily repaired by Tech. Adj. Capt. Robinson and LAD Capt. Neil and was soon in action again. Cpl. Beverley had been wounded in the shoulder but he carried on until the following day when he was evacuated. When the DD's contacted the infantry beyond the beach there were only nine of the original nineteen tanks left in action.

It was now realized that the original plan of cooperation with the infantry had gone by the boards and the following disposition took place. The three tanks of 1st Troop under Lieut. H. M. Lees went to support "C" Coy. of the 1st Cdn. Scottish Regt. on the right. This Coy. was under command of the Winnipeg Rifles for the initial assault. Lieut. G. C. (Red) Goff with Sgt. F. B. Kenyon went to "D" Coy. of the "Pegs" on the left. Maj. Brooks and Sgt. Lumley moved off in support of "C" Coy. and were later joined by Capt. Powell and Lieut. Mills.

During the rest of the day the Shermans scurried here and there as the Winnipeg Rifles pressed inland and gave fire support to neutralize enemy positions whenever the "Pegs" were pinned down. No enemy armour or anti-tank guns were encountered after the beaches but the tanks played a role in helping the infantry to clear each successive town as the advance moved on through.

The action was so fast and the excitement such that it is impossible to render any accurate estimate of the casualties inflicted on the enemy that afternoon. But in the brief period on the beaches 4 concrete forts mounting heavy calibre guns were destroyed and over a score of well-sited machine-gun nests were wiped out.

At approximately 1630 hours the sqn. was joined by Col. Colwell with the RHQ tanks and two 17 pdrs. from "C" Sqn., those of Sgt. Doherty and Cpl. Boyle. The latter were given to Lieut. Mills to reform 2nd Troop. Darkness found the sqn. on the high ground southwest of Pierrepont, and RHQ moved to a harbour area on the outskirts of the town. Although badly in need of petrol the tanks had to remain with the infantry. For the night 1st Troop moved out to the right front with their coy. of the Cdn. Scottish Regt., 2nd Troop moved to the left front to a position of observation and fire. Third Troop remained with sqn. HQ which was centrally located in order to give covering fire to the two forward troops.

All spent the night with the infantry in a perpetual stand-to for the expected enemy counter-attacks. It was not for several days, however, that Jerry made his determined effort to prevent 3 Cdn. Div. from seizing its objectives and launched his abortive attempt to kick the Canucks back into the sea.

"B" Squadron

Although "B" Sqn. like "A" Sqn. was taken completely by surprise by the sudden decision to launch the DD's, all the tanks got off safely. Almost immediately Lieut. Bruce Deans reported engine trouble and was forced to abandon his tank. During the long gruelling trip in to shore the other two tanks of his troop, commanded by Sgt. J. M. Bailey and his troop corporal, likewise became casualties when their screen collapsed from the buffeting of the waves. Maj. Duncan led his squadron tanks in line until they were about 2000 yards off shore. There they began to deploy as the crew commanders singled out their first objectives on the beach. About 200 yards off shore Maj. Duncan's screen was hit and his DD began to sink. The survivors of this crew were later picked up by an LCT and taken back to England. Although at first it was believed that all the crew were safe, Tpr. R.E. Tofflemire had drowned. 

A very descriptive story of D-Day was told by P.1109 Sgt. Leo Gariepy.

"After launching we found it impossible to maintain correct formation in the rough sea and each DD made for its appointed place on the beach. At about 3000 yards I looked about and saw Maj. Duncan about 30 yds. to my starboard and the rest of the DD's behind us. The port aft strut broke and the crew had to wedge a fire extinguisher between the screen and the hull. We had been showered with small arms fire but suddenly I saw two pillars to the right near Maj. Duncan's tank, the first shell fire we had received on the way in. I looked ahead again and when I turned around once more the major's tank had disappeared. There were only four heads in the water. I looked quickly about and saw the other DD's about 200 yards behind me. Then I made for the beach. As soon as we touched down, I crawled inside the tank since the bullets were clipping the water all around. I closed one half of the hatch and kept my head out of the open half looking for mines and underwater obstacles. When I felt safe I deflated and engaged a pillbox on my immediate front. I fired five rounds of HE then advanced 50 yds. through the water and fired five more of AP at a distance of perhaps 150 yds. from the target. Except for small arms there was no other fire. I began to engage the MG nests dotting the dunes back of the beach, which were playing merry hell along the water line. Finally I got my tank in hull down position by the pillbox and looked around for the squadron. At this time the AVRE's were rumbling up to begin filling in anti-tank ditches immediately in front.

"Lieut. McLeod led the way off the beach, but he had so much difficulty that I waited until the engineers had improved the road. When I eventually got into Courseulles-sur-mer I could not find the other two tanks of the troop so I proceeded to Block 13 according to our pre-arranged plan. As the end of the road was mined I returned to the market place where I found 3rd Troop with Capt. Smuck, now the acting squadron leader. I contacted the OC of "B" Company, Regina Rifles, who guided me to the platoon where I found my troop leader Lieut. McLeod.

"We quickly organized with the infantry and proceeded to the MT park where the strongest enemy resistance seemed to be located. The park was surrounded by a white chalk wall about seven feet high and eighteen inches thick. I made a break in the wall so that I could spray the park with my Browning. This had no apparent effect, so I decided to knock down the wall and go in. Lieut. McLeod broke a hole in the wall, but was unable to get through. I made a hole, threw smoke into the park and went through the breach. I moved around the park sweeping the ground with .30 fire and using HE on some sandbag fortifications. As soon as I used the HE the enemy began to appear on all sides and about thirty surrendered. We proceeded with the infantry to the end of the road and took advantage of the lull to get rid of our DD equipment.

"Forty-five minutes later, with the infantry, our two tanks moved on to Reviers where we were joined by the rest of the sqn. The crews got together for a chat—there was no definite news about the missing tanks and crews. Until this time we had encountered no tanks or anti-tank guns, but Lieut. Seaman's tank hit a mine and the driver was injured. After a hasty O Gp. Capt. Smuck sent the three troops (9 tanks) out as a scouting party to make a reconnaissance of the high ground behind Pierrepont. We were moving along a road when suddenly I saw the troop leader's and troop Cpl's. tank go up in flames. (Lieut. McLeod and Cpl. Pike). Just then I saw an 88 mm gun beside the road ahead. I reversed at full speed, then halted and gave a quick fire order and tossed two rounds of HE at the gun. I saw two other tanks burning in the wheat field and a third one that had been hit. I reported that we had just lost five tanks and the CO of the squadron advised me to withdraw to Reviers, so I quickly returned to Pierrepont and made arrangements for the evacuation of the casualties. That evening we rallied, but after an hour were ordered to withdraw because we had overrun our lines. We moved back to Pierrepont, and as an air-raid was in progress we took cover in an orchard and resumed our journey when it finished. On our way back we were challenged by a German sentry and took him prisoner."

"B" Sqn., like "A" Sqn., experienced heavy casualties in tanks being swamped on the beaches. Had the original H-hour (0635) been unchanged these casualties would presumably have been avoided. When the tanks deflated and the crews were suddenly absorbed in the heat of battle, the quick stealthy rise of the tide soon brought waves over the top of the tanks. Since all DD tanks at that time were multibanks (Shermans powered by five Chrysler petrol engines) the water killed some or all of the engines in a short time.

A very graphic description of the launching and arrival on the beaches is told by B.19502 Tpr. A.O. Dodds, who was the loader operator in the tank commanded by "B" Sqn.'s battle captain—Dick Wildgoose. Capt. Wildgoose, along with Sgt. R. T. Pelkey, Tprs. G.D. Huckell and F.S. Meadows, was later killed on the fateful day of June 11th.

"After launching we had difficulty in getting our propellers down, but finally got under way. I reported '29 delivered,' meaning that 19 tanks, or the whole squadron had launched. On the way in Tpr. Meadows and Sgt. Pelkey stood with Capt. Wildgoose on the outside of the tank to support the front struts which were threatening to break. Water kept coming over the screen and several times it seemed certain that it would collapse. However, we finally touched down and as we moved in through the surf, heavy splashes appeared on the water and everyone got inside the tank. Capt. Wildgoose gave the order to 'break struts and deflate' and then the command 'action.' At this time the tank was about 50 yds. from a round pillbox on the beach mounting a 75 mm gun and so carefully disguised that it looked like a house.  

"The gun was firing at us, but could not hit us because of its limited traverse—we were at an angle inaccessible to it. Sgt. Pelkey and the gunner blasted the pillbox with HE and AP. The driver, Tpr. Huckell, asked permission to move forward, as there was water coming into the engine compartment and several banks had cut out. Even as he spoke another wave crashed over the tank bringing the water up to the ankles of the turret crew. Huckell, deafened temporarily by the gun, did not realize that his motor had been killed by the water. Realizing that the tank had been swamped and was immobile Capt. Wildgoose ordered Sgt. Pelkey to engage targets until the crew could get out. As the electrical trigger had stopped functioning when the water came in, Sgt. Pelkey, using the mechanical one, fired about 25 rounds of 75 mm and some co-ax. Finally Huckell and Meadows called from the driver's compartment to say that they were up to their necks in water and would have to get out. Then the whole crew reached the back deck of the swamped tank. We inflated the dinghy and boarded it on the back deck since machine-gun bullets were clipping the water all round and we were not too anxious to get away from the protection of the tank.

"As the tide rose higher we cast off and drifted to the left, using land paddles to avoid mines. After attempting to hail two LCT's and managing to avoid being run down by an AVRE we finally beached and got to the shelter of some dunes out of the way of the infantry. Having no tank we spent the whole day on the beaches helping to bandage the wounded infantry. After the tanks and infantry moved inland, we walked down the beaches where we met two more "B" Sqn. crews whose tanks had been lost. These crews were commanded by Sgt. J. M. Bailey and Lieut. B. Deans. Later in the day we were joined by Tpr. Dixon from Maj. Duncan's crew and Lieut. H. A. Mills' crew. About 1500 hours two ME 109's dropped bombs on our beach and strafed another beach further away. From midday on the beach was heavily pounded by artillery fire, but we managed to keep safely out of the way. At 2100 hours Lieut. Deans gathered the party and marched us to an assembly area." 

"B" Sqn.'s landing was not so fiercely contested as "A" Sqn.'s. The beach was shorter and did not have as many guns about it. However, the machine-guns were perhaps a greater threat since they were concealed in the houses of Courseulles, which came right down to the beach. Sgt. A.G. Smith and Tpr. A. L.B. Brown were cut down by MG fire and killed as they were attempting to find exits from the beach. On leaving the beaches "B" Sqn.'s tanks helped the Regina Rifles to clear the town of Courseulles-sur-mer and then supported them through lighter opposition into Reviers, which was taken and quickly consolidated. This area was heavily mined. Lieut. Seaman's tank went up on a mine and his driver was injured.

After an Orders Group with the infantry it was decided that three troops of tanks would move behind Pierrepont and make a recce of the high ground. The troops moved off and for a considerable period encountered no opposition. Suddenly near Fontaine-Henry an anti-tank gun was seen on the left flank. Since the gun was not pointed at the tanks, they moved on keeping it covered. This gun, later discovered to be a dummy, had absorbed the attention of the crew commanders and suddenly an 88 mm, concealed beside the road, opened fire and succeeded in knocking out five tanks before Sgt. Gariepy could neutralize it. Lieut C.M. McLeod was wounded, but his crew were unhurt. Lieut. Pease' tank was less fortunate, and he, along with Tpr. H.H.M. Lismore, Cpl. P.F. Newton and Tpr. C.J. McAndrew, was killed. Only the co-driver, Tpr. Wilkes, escaped alive. In Cpl. Shire's tank Tprs. E.J. Annis and W. Feschuk were killed and in the tank commanded by Cpl. R. Pike, Tpr. C. F. Homuth was killed.

With only four tanks left Sgt. Gariepy withdrew to Reviers. That night the squadron advanced once more with infantry, but were ordered to return to Reviers again. After dusk the tanks made their way to a regimental harbour near Pierrepont.

During the actual landing operations two 17 pdr. Shermans, commanded by Lieut. F.L. Irving and Sgt. Lamb, were to engage and destroy specific forts from their LCT. The scheme was carried out according to plan, but while proceeding inland Lieut. Irving was killed when his tank was hit by a 50 mm. The tank, however, was repaired by the unit fitters and put back into action two days later.

"C" Squadron

"C" Sqn., commanded by Maj. A.D'A. Marks, and RHQ made a landing at H plus 45 minutes 0820 hours on the Mike sector of the beach, but to the left of "A's" DD's. At this time "A" Sqn. was still waiting for the scissors bridge to be put into position to enable it to leave the beach. Lieut. Col. R.J. Colwell and Maj. F. E. White walked the length of the beach endeavouring to find a satisfactory exit. Meanwhile the engineers began to clear away the obstacles which denied access to the previously planned exit. Although most of the opposition had been cleared at this time, the beach was by no means quiet. Occasionally enemy machine-guns chattered out their message of death and the hidden snipers on the high ground inland were steadily adding to their deadly score.

Traffic was beginning to pile up on the beaches and the resultant melees were a heyday for isolated groups of Germans who still carried on their doomed fight. As they became increasingly active when the engineers began to clear the exits, the tanks, although still on the beaches, supported some infantry in a hastily organized and successful attempt to clear the snipers who were dug in on the crest of a hill behind the beaches.

In the meantime some of the tanks had discovered another place to get off the beach through a cutting in the embankment some 200 yds. left of the specified exit. The tanks paused momentarily at the top of the embankment to neutralize entrenched infantry there and then pressed on across 1000 yds. of heavily mined open ground to a canal. On reaching the bridge over this tank obstacle Battle Capt. "Brandy" Conron dismounted from his tank to remove the barbed wire obstacle and inspect the bridge while machine-gun fire clipped the ground all about him. Finding that it was not strong enough to carry tanks, he climbed up on the back deck of leading troop officer Lieut. McCormick's tank to pass this information. While standing there Capt. Conron was wounded in both legs by a mortar bomb.

At this stage the tanks decided to return to the beach to try the original exit. By then the engineers had made that route possible, and after Lieut. "Rip" Gordon had charged a knocked-out armoured car and pushed the burning vehicle out of the way with his tank, "C" Sqn. was able to pass over tanks which had been driven into the water to form a make-shift bridge and to gain the road. They swept on inland to "marry up" with the infantry of the 1st Cdn. Scottish Regt. who were to keep wedging in between the Reginas and Winnipegs. By this time the infantry were well inland and finding them was no easy task.

Sgt. A. Power's tank was among the first to reach the infantry. He was given a royal welcome, because at the time of his arrival several platoons were pinned down by machine gun fire and the infantry cheered at the sight of their old pals in the "iron coffins" rolling up the dusty roads. Sgt. Powers quickly did his job of clearing the opposition and the infantry pushed on through lighter fire into La Fresne Camilly and Camilly. One tank went up on a mine but no casualties were incurred. Tprs. W.B. Griffin and W.B. Evans were wounded when a mortar bomb landed near the jeep in which they were manning the wireless.

As in the case of the other two squadrons, no enemy tanks were encountered in the push inland and the Shermans had a picnic steadily taking out machine-gun nests and entrenched positions whenever the infantry bogged down. The tanks scurried back and forth working madly behind and on the flanks of the infantry so that the advance pushed on very swiftly. The troop commanded by Lieut. W. F. (Bill) McCormick failed to contact the infantry but kept going, returning an hour and a half later after a 10 mile ramble inland through Bretteville and almost into Carpiquet. By crossing the Caen-Bayeux railway line the troop became somewhat fortuitously "the only unit of the allied invasion forces known to reach its final objective on D-Day." The incident was the cause of humorous accusations that Bill had planned a dash to Paris, but the lucky venture raised the morale of the men considerably. The fact that no opposition had been encountered ensured that there was ample time for consolidation of all gains before the heavy counter-attack which all invaders on enemy soil must hourly expect. "C" Sqn. continued to support the infantry until darkness set in. At that time the Cdn. Scottish Regt. were firmly entrenched. Then when all tanks were summoned back to regimental harbour "C" Sqn. left its positions and moved to Pierrepont.

Regimental Picture

In view of the losses in DD tanks due to the unsuitable weather the First Hussars ended D-Day with a considerably smaller number of tanks than was desirable for their first night in Europe. The beach defences had been stronger than had been anticipated, especially in heavy caliber guns. The losses to these guns were surprisingly small, presumably due to the quick engaging and accurate fire of the DD tanks on the beaches. The necessity of slow tedious mopping up on the beaches and the inability of the tanks to get off the beaches until the engineers had cleared the obstacles from the exits seriously upset the timing of the assault. This delay undoubtedly slowed down the advance because the infantry without tank support were constantly pinned down by murderous crossfire from well-sited MG nests. In addition the infantry continually had to anticipate Jerry counter-attacking heavily with armour in an attempt to kick them back on the beaches. However, the eventual appearance of the tanks with their capability of needling out the MG posts raised the morale of the infantry and speeded the advance, so that by nightfall Phase II had been completed and Brig. H. W. Foster's 7th Brigade was firmly astride the line running through Fontaine-Henry, Pierrepont and St. Gabriel.

On this day the action was so fast and intense that the tactical picture is hard to visualize. Although opposition grew steadily less as the units penetrated inland, there was the element of uncertainty, and "organized confusion," which prevented any rapid exploitation of success. The infantry pushed on aggressively and the tanks supported them to their objectives and remained until the position was consolidated. Then the advance moved on. It was a combination of orthodox fighting coupled with sheer audacity and daring in the most unorthodox phase of warfare—establishing a bridgehead.

Although the evening of D-Day did not see 7 CIB astride its final objective (the Caen-Bayeaux railway), the advance had been remarkably successful. As the crews were topping up their tanks with petrol and replenishing their ammunition before settling down for a well-earned rest, they, along with every other soldier in the little bridgehead, were wondering when the counter-attack would begin. The afternoon had seemed to be overcast with that brooding restlessness so characteristic of the lull before the storm. After all reports came in it was established that, in addition to the uncounted heavy losses inflicted on German infantry, the Hussars had accounted for eight deadly 88 mm guns and approximately the same number of smaller anti-tank guns as well as for numberless German staff cars and light armoured vehicles. The casualties had been light but it always seems that the first deaths among men who have lived together and trained together for so long are remembered with greater clarity and sorrow than later ones.

A Echelon

In any story of war there is an inevitable tendency to devote most of the attention to the exploits of the deserving "F" echelon—the fighting troops—and an equal tendency to minimize the hard, tiring work of the echelons which maintain these troops in battle. In normal conditions in the field the latter work is certainly not so dangerous, but it is infinitely more monotonous, going on steadily day after day whether the unit is in action or not. Very often the echelon is understaffed when men who have had tank experience are called to replace battle casualties. Yet in a bridgehead, every inch of which can be reached by shellfire, supply personnel become "front line troops." In their "soft" vehicles they must move up roads choked with all the confused traffic of war to carry rations, petrol, ammunition and spare crews to the tanks. These roads are continually swept with deadly accurate shell-fire and subject to bombing and strafing by enemy aircraft.

Thus movement on roads becomes a matter of chance. When a convoy moves up and comes back safely the drivers say "we were lucky—this time," and they pat their Fords or Chevs with as much affection as a tankman slaps his tank at the end of another day through which it has carried him safely. A-l Echelon under Capt. H.R. Herbert landed at H plus 4 when the beach was just beginning to writhe from the steady impact of Jerry's shells. He moved his small convoy, one motorcycle, one jeep, one scout-car and five trucks, inland carrying the Regiment's first-line reserve of "necessities of war." In the afternoon, at about 1630 hours, Maj. E. M. Harding landed with another group. The echelon's final party harboured near Banville and in the dark during the heavy German air-raid the trucks were trying to locate the tanks in the indescribable chaos which was the bridgehead on the first night.

ROLL OF HONOUR OF FIRST HUSSARS KILLED IN ACTION ON D-DAY

Lieut. E.L. Pease

Lieut. F.L. Irving

B.133979 Tpr. Annis, E.J.        

L.101439 Tpr. Brown, A.L.B.    

B.61215 Tpr. Feschuk, W.        

B.50820 Tpr. Hackford, T.W.F.  

H.103747 Tpr. Hawken, G.S.     

A.409 Tpr. Homuth, C.E.

A.579 Tpr. Jackson, J.L.

L.49550 Cpl. Kay, J.M.

B 61227 Tpr. Lismore, H.H.M.

B.58791 L/Cpl. Lytle, I.A.

L.54615 Tpr. McAndrew, C.J.

L.36499 Tpr. Moore, R.F.

B.61600 Cpl. Newton, P.E.

B.102525 Tpr. Osborne, H.

A.604 Cpl. Pockiluk, H.A.

L.54814 Tpr. Sinclair, E.S.

A.734 Sgt. Smith, A.G.

B.62947 Tpr. Taylor, A.H.

A.68153 Tpr. Tofflemire, R.E.

Epitaph for D-Day

As the day of the great allied assault on the fortress of Europe came to a close, the Hussars were licking their wounds on the soil of France where many of their fathers had fought in World War I. That night it was impossible to know how many casualties had been sustained during the day in the fluid, semi-organized bridgehead. At first it was feared that the casualties had been heavier than they were, but as crews from drowned, swamped, mined and knocked out tanks came up to the harbour the general picture gradually began to unfold. Many days later news came to the Regiment concerning the rescue of several survivors from the water.

To those Hussars who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy there could be no finer epitaph than the following words of Lieut. Col. John Meldram, commanding officer of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, whose Little Black Devils landed with "A" Sqn., First Hussars. To those who participated in the assault and survived the great day these words will corroborate the certainty all ranks felt that the First Hussars had accomplished all that was possible and had lived up to their motto--"Hodie non Cras." (“Today not Tomorrow”)

"In the assault on the beach defences of Mike sector, "A" Squadron, First Hussars, commanded by Maj. Dudley Brooks, made possible the overwhelming of the defences. It will be recalled that the pre-assault bombardment had been either ineffective or non-existent and had it not been for the gallantry, determination, dash and skillful use of firepower on the part of Maj. Brooks and his squadron it is conceivable that this battalion's casualties and those of "C" Company, 1st Cdn. Scottish Regt., though very grievous, would have been much heavier.

"Time and time again throughout D-Day without thought for their own personal safety or state of fatigue, the squadrons of the 6 Cdn. Arm'd Regt. came to the assistance of this and the other battalions of 7 CIB. In paying high tribute to their gallantry and skill it is regretted that the heat and speed of action prevented recognition and consequent comment on the actions of troop commanders and individual crew commanders. It is stated without hesitation, however, that no higher degree of courage or calculated daring could be displayed than that shown by every commander and sub-unit of the gallant First Hussars."

For Part Two, click > here <.