1st Hussars - June 11th 1944

Discussion in 'Canadian' started by canuck, Oct 24, 2009.

  1. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    On D plus 1 "C" Sqn. moved out of the harbour at first light to support the Regina Rifles into Bretteville 1'Orgueilleuse. In the meantime "A" Sqn.'s nine tanks and "B" Sqn.'s four tanks had been pooled into a composite sqn. under Maj. W. D. Brooks. "C" Sqn. was unable to contact the infantry in Bretteville and had started to return to harbour when they met the composite sqn. on the way to support them. Together the two sqns. passed through Bretteville over the route taken by Lieut. W. F. McCormick on the previous day. They crossed the railway that had been the final objective for D-Day and went on into Norrey-en-Bessin.
    With reports pouring in of a heavy battle on the left flank the First Hussars moved back through no opposition to a new harbour at Secqueville-en- Bessin. It seemed incredible that their sector of the bridgehead could be so quiet. Yet only a few days later the battle to outflank Carpiquet airdrome was to be one of the bloodiest of the whole war. Perhaps the answer to the question on all lips lay in the fact that the first German attacks were further to the left and the German troops on 7 CIB front were being shifted to meet new threats made by the British infantry who landed during the night.
    However, it is certain that the Germans later decided to hold Carpiquet and the vital Caen hinge at all costs. The large Canadian cemeteries in the area bear mute testimony to their determination—and our greater determination to wrest the area away. But June 7th was a quiet day for the Hussars during which the A Echelon moved its dumps to Pierrepont, and the squadrons were busy at that reorganization which never ends either in training or in battle.
    Just before midnight the news reached RHQ that 9 CIB, supported by 27 CAR, were taking a terrific shellacking on the left flank. Because of tank casualties sustained by the hard hitting sister regiment, "C" Sqn. was ordered to take "C" Company, 1st Cdn. Scottish Regt., to their support. After clearing harbour about midnight, Maj. Marks moved his squadron to Bray crossroads and on through Camilly to Cairon, where the tanks became a mobile reserve and counter-attacking force.
    All through the night reports of increasing enemy efforts came streaming into RHQ. The last ones told of that long-awaited event—enemy attack with armour. The battle of the bridgehead had begun in earnest. In this battle, owing to the disposition of Canadian armour, the Fort Garry Horse and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers had perhaps a more active role than the First Hussars in warding off the enemy panzer thrust. In that small bridgehead an attack on another formation immediately jeopardized every group of the assault force and the mental strain was, if anything, greater on those troops who were not being engaged. 3rd Div. was always aggressive even in waiting, and that, more than anything else, eventually saved the situation.
    At first light the composite squadron was sent out to help 7 CIB in its holding role. This was the beginning of several days in which the tanks played an important diversional role which aided in that fight for time when reorganization, re-grouping and building-up were so important. As requests for tank support came in to RHQ, tanks were parceled out by troops and even individually. The tanks rushed to that part of the brigade perimeter where the Germans were attacking, or where an attack was expected, and remained there until the "scare" was over. Then the weary crews returned to RHQ, usually to be rushed off again to another spot where the appearance of tanks was all that was required to boost the ever high morale of the 7th Brigade up to its usual fighting pitch. All this day the Germans kept jamming the wireless and passing deceptive messages about the perilous positions of troops in other sectors. This situation plus the intelligence reports that the Germans were moving four or five Panzer divisions up to the bridgehead made that day and the next two of the most nerve racking times of the war, because all front line troops knew how thin the Canadians were on the ground, weakened as they were by casualties.
    However, every available tank in the First Hussars, including RHQ and the recce troop of light Honeys, was sent up to support the infantry. The recce troop, led by Lieut. W. A. P. Smith, was suddenly confronted by an 88 mm. anti-tank gun beside the road. The sight of this deadly weapon is always sufficient to send shivers up the back of the hardened crew commander of a Sherman, and it was quickly engaged by every tank. The discovery that the gun was not "alive" afforded a good tension-breaking laugh.
    All through the day the tanks, by suddenly appearing here and there along the front, were able to deceive the Germans as to their numbers in the support of 7 CIB. In the light of subsequent knowledge about the tremendous concentration of armour which the Germans had within striking distance of the bridgehead, the importance of these "hide-and-seek" tactics cannot be minimized. They were all part of a well organized form of skilful deception, the precedent for which was set in 1940 when "McNaughton's Travelling Circus" convinced the German high command that there were several times as many Canucks in Great Britain as was really the case.
    On this day the recce tanks won the grateful thanks of the infantry for their zeal in finding and killing snipers. The Cdn. Scottish Regt.'s area was thick with these pests and they became so annoying that the CO called on tanks for assistance. Lieut. W. A. P. Smith took his Honeys to the area and was having a merry time shooting up the nuisances when he himself was sniped through the arm. He returned to RHQ in Secqueville-en-Bessin and passed on all the information he had concerning the location of the remaining snipers, afterwards reporting to the RAP to have his wound dressed. For this and subsequent actions he later received the MC. Two more recce tanks were sent to cover the infantry who used flame-throwers in the extermination process. Altogether over thirty snipers were killed and a few captured.
    That night there was a series of "flaps"—justified ones. The infantry demanded more tanks, and the shifting of armour continued. On the 9th of June the anticipated counter-attack on 7 CIB front began. Enemy tanks were reported at several points on the brigade perimeter and in time they penetrated the battalion positions. They succeeded in overrunning positions held by the Little Black Devils in Putot-en-Bessin. At the same time "C" Sqn. was fighting off a heavy attack on the 1st Cdn. Scottish Regt. front west of Bretteville.
    As on the day before, every available tank was thrown into action to cope with the desperate situation. At times it seemed nip-and-tuck, but in the end the audacity and aggressiveness of Canadian infantry and armour, with excellent artillery support, saved the day. During the afternoon Tpr. A. Chapman, crack gunner in Lieut. G. K. Henry's tank, established a bridgehead record. When six tanks penetrated his position he held his fire until all were visible; then with Tpr. "Sass" Seaman slapping the rounds into the 17 pdr., he fired five times. Five rounds—five Panthers. Before he got to the sixth one another "C" Sqn. tank, commanded by Sgt. Boyle, had accounted for it. In this action Tpr. Chapman's record was made possible by distracting HE fire, provided by other tanks at the crucial moment. The incident happened so quickly that L/Cpl. "Chub" Reeves would not believe it until he saw the burning tanks. Such individual victories during the day boosted the confidence of all the troops and eventually the counter-attacks dwindled out. On this day the Regiment faced its first fuel shortage. By night most of the petrol tanks were just about dry, but the "C" Sqn. diesels were still in operation.
    Brig. H. W. Foster ordered a night attack to restore the situation at Putot and to relieve the badly battered, but still scrapping Winnipegs and the Cdn. Scottish. The Hussars less "C" Sqn. moved up after a terrific volume of softening-up HE was poured into the enemy positions and supported the infantry in a completely successful attack. The Shermans, in addition to their usual role of neutralizing infantry and machine-gun positions, were able to shoot up several mortar positions, making the bridgehead a healthier corner of Europe. The tanks remained on the right flank of the infantry until well after dark to prevent a counterattack. Then they moved back to le Bout Cochard to join a regimental laager.
    As D plus 3 ended the men were in higher spirits than at any time since landing. The fourth night in France found them not only cheerful but also confident that they could take all that the Germans had to offer and repay it in kind. The 54th LAD, under Lieut. P. C. Neil had succeeded in recovering several of the sorely-needed tanks which had become casualties on mines. Due to the effect of salt water on engines and wiring, the tanks which had been swamped on the beaches were never of any use as operational vehicles. Those in reach of bull-dozers were dragged up on the beaches out of the way of craft landing supplies. The tanks recovered from mines were immediately crewed by those who lost their tanks on D-Day. To add to the general feeling of confidence many of those who were believed killed on the first day had been reported safe and the actual casualty list was reduced by more than half.
    Just after daylight on the 10th of June the tanks moved to a harbour near Bray. Shortly after lunch a warning order was received for a big attack on June 12th and the CO went to a conference at 2 CAB HQ where Brig. R.A. Wyman issued the preliminary information for the attack. In order to assist a left-hook push by 7 Arm'd. Div, the Regiment with the Queen's Own Rifles and supported by 3rd Div. artillery was to attack around the right flank of Cheux and capture the high ground at Grainville-sur-Odon. The rest of the day was spent in preparation Early in the evening twenty tanks came up to the unit bringing the total strength to seventy-six.
    Lieut. Col. R.J. Colwell reorganized the Regiment forming a new B Squadron under command of Capt. R. H. Harrison, until then second-in- command of "C" Squadron. "B" was to be the assault squadron and was allotted twenty-one tanks for the coming show. The crews were shifted about from one squadron to another and all available experienced men were brought from A Echelon to replace those with little experience who had just come up as reinforcements with the tanks from the armoured delivery squadron (25 Cdn. Armoured Delivery Squadron, Elgin Regiment).
    The first part of the evening was occupied by this balancing up of crews and checking over of tanks and equipment. As darkness came the laager area was bombed by Jerry planes, who dropped anti-personnel bombs but failed to inflict any casualties. After the bombing the tanks moved to Bray, the pushing off area for the attack and the crews bedded down for a few hours sleep before dawn.
    At 0400 hours on Sunday, June 11th, Lieut. Col. R. J. Colwell returned from 2 CAB HQ with the news that the attack was definitely going in and that all crews would have 24 hours to prepare for it. However, at 0800 hours on that bright sunny June Sabbath a countermanding order was received to the effect that the attack must begin on that same day—11th June at 1300 hours.
    Shortly after this news Brig. Wyman arrived at RHQ and a few minutes later the CO of the QOR's. All ranks knew that something big was in the air and the tank crews flew at their jobs, topping up the tanks with petrol, checking guns, stowage, wireless equipment and ammunition. The fitters made last minute necessary repairs. The harbour was a scene of bustling, purposeful activity. Rumours circulated that the Germans were withdrawing and that the Hussars were about to give chase.
    No one knew why the attack was being rushed without the usual "teeing up," but in the morning the officers and men of the Queen's Own Rifles came marching up the dusty road and joined the tankmen in their harbour. The infantry and tank officers then began making what preliminary plans they could, in view of the scanty information available before the orders group.
    Brig. Wyman held his orders group at 1100 hours and Lieut. Col. Colwell held his as soon as he could return to the Regiment, at approximately 1200 hours. This left practically no time for the troop officers to pass the information on to the men before the tanks began to move to the start-line, the Caen-Bayeux railway in front of Bretteville. In many respects, the entire planning of this show had to be sacrificed for speed. There was no time for laying on a divisional artillery plan, which, in the light of later events, might have saved the situation. The first objective after crossing the start-line was the seizing and clearing of le Mesnil-Patry before pushing on around Cheux. No warning was received by the CO or crew commanders that they should be on the lookout for English tanks on the right flank, or that the main purpose of the attack was to help British armour to break through towards Caen. When the tanks lumbered off up the dusty road to Bretteville in the formation ordered—"B", "C", RHQ, and "A" Squadron—it looked as if the show might be a piece of cake. It was a beautiful day.
    The tanks reached Bretteville and continued to the railway line detouring around a Panther which had been knocked out in the middle of the road. At this time information was received that the start-line had been changed to the road running roughly north and south on the outskirts of Norrey-en-Bessin. At Norrey the original plan to skirt the right edge of the town was abandoned because our infantry had mined the sides of the road when Jerry had begun counter-attacking with tanks. This hazard forced the column through a very narrow street to the church, where the sharpness of the angle made it necessary for each tank to back up several times in order to make the corner. Just as "B" Sqn. began to pass through the enemy began to shell and mortar the town very heavily. Realizing that concentrated fire might bring down buildings and obstruct the road, the CO tried to find another route through the town, but his tank hit a mine for the second time. He returned to the corner and continued directing the tanks through the village on foot in spite of enemy shellfire. The delay caused by this bottleneck upset the timing for the attack, but "B" Sqn. crossed the new start-line at 1420 hours with the infantry on the backs of their tanks. Between Norrey and le Mesnil-Patry the enemy brought down heavy machine-gun fire and mortar fire on the tanks forcing the infantry to go to ground. Then the battle began.
    "B" Sqn. moved forward through ground that was literally swarming with German infantry. While these tanks were engaged in mopping up the machine-gun posts and entrenched positions, "C" Sqn. had come through Norrey and deployed to the high ground on the right flank of "B" Sqn. After taking up suitable fire positions it began actively to support "B" Sqn. with fire. For a few minutes all tanks were firing at a terrific rate with devastating effect on the Boche infantry but, since the tanks were ordered to keep pushing, small isolated groups of enemy had to be left for the close-following infantry to clean up.
    "B" Sqn. pushed into le Mesnil-Patry and several troops pressed on through the town. Capt. R. Wildgoose came on the air reporting tanks ahead. Almost simultaneously Maj. A.D'A. Marks reported that they were being fired upon by a large number of anti-tank weapons. This complete change in the picture happened so quickly that the report came through just as "A" Sqn. was moving to reserve positions on the west side of Norrey.
    Suspecting that the unseen tanks on the right might be British, Lieut. Col. Colwell checked with Brigade HQ and was informed that his surmise was true. Since the fire was from the direction where British tanks were presumed to be, the CO ordered both squadrons to hold their fire and fly their recognition flags. At this time he attempted to contact "B" Sqn. again, but was unable to do so; the rear link had gone off the air. Maj. Marks got out of his tank and walked around to ensure that all "C" tanks were flying recognition flags. On returning he reported that, since the fire was increasing and tanks were being hit and brewing up around him, he felt he could not hold the position.
    The CO then took it upon himself to order "C" Sqn. to return fire. This they did and rapidly, but the enemy fire increased in intensity and accuracy as the smoke from the burning Shermans showed. German tanks began to appear as well as Germany infantry. It was evident that Jerry was putting in a full-scale attack. Back at RHQ in Norrey the mortaring and shelling in the town had increased in intensity with many casualties to the Regina Rifles who were holding the town.
    Realizing that "B" Sqn. had in all probability sustained extremely heavy casualties and feeling that the Regiment was in great danger of being out-flanked by enemy armour, the CO ordered the sqns. to withdraw through Norrey and take up the positions which they had earlier held until the enemy withdrew.
    Maj. A.D'A. Marks remained in position until all his remaining tanks had moved off towards Norrey and then followed his squadron into that scene of chaos. The church at the sharp corner had been hit by shellfire and great piles of debris had fallen upon the road. In order to prevent them from getting bottled up in the narrow streets, the leading tanks were ordered to break down a wall and find a new exit cutting through the corner of the town. One quickly made a hole, but a second one made a hole in what proved to be a house and dropped through into the cellar. During this time German armour began to push towards the railway line from le Mesnil-Patry. Sgt. Boyle of "A" Sqn. managed to hit a Panther which moved through a hedge to fire at the withdrawing armour.
    Only two of "B" Sqn.'s twenty-one tanks came back. They had both become casualties owing to mechanical trouble and had begun to retreat before the squadron ran into the ring of steel which had so quickly wiped out all the other tanks. No one knows whether or not any "B" Sqn. tanks were still in action when the CO ordered the withdrawal; if so they must have gone on fighting. Since the rear link had gone off the air, RHQ had no communication with the squadron.
    When the 1st troop of "A" Sqn. under Lieut. H. M. Lees, and "C" Sqn.'s remaining tanks reached the railway Maj. F.E. White quickly organized them into a road-block in front of Bretteville to cover the infantry and prevent enemy Panzers from breaking through. While waiting for this attack Lieut. C.A. Mills and Sgt. H. Bishop crawled back up to shell-swept Norrey to make sure that no documents had been left in the CO's tank. The CO remained in Norrey until about 5 o'clock when it seemed that the enemy counter-attack had fizzled out. Infantry from Le Régiment de Chaudière and a squadron of tanks from the Fort Garry Horse were rushed up and dug in at Bray as a precaution against an attack by the German formation, which had been identified during the afternoon as the 12th SS Panzer Div. Then the Hussar tanks moved to laager in a field near Camilly.
    Passing through Bretteville the RHQ tanks picked up Tprs. Moreau and Cooper. Tpr. Moreau, barefooted and hatless, just as he had been in action, guided Maj. F. E. White to a field dressing station in Bretteville to which Hussar wounded had been evacuated. Back at the laager, after the tanks had been camouflaged and the men had eaten, the assessment of the day's battle began. The picture was not pretty. At first it seemed that well over one hundred Hussars were missing.
    It is still impossible to complete the story of this action. Even the survivors of "B" Sqn., who later got back through the lines, were unable to throw much light on the day. Normally a crew commander is so busy handling his tank, conforming to the movement of other tanks, acknowledging wireless messages, giving fire-orders to his gunner and always watching for new targets that he does not see what goes on outside his own sector. Thus it was only by a piece-meal process that any picture could be built up. It appeared that "B" Sqn. had broken through the first enemy defences and was successful in supporting the infantry to the first objective—le Mesnil-Patry. Then it bumped into a ring of Panzers and anti-tank weapons, which, being in concealed positions, held their fire until the tanks got well into range. When Jerry took the lid off, the action was so fast and furious that Hussar crews, who were left alive after the first few minutes, had bailed out of their knocked out tanks and dropped to the ground thick with German infantry and infested with snipers. At this stage in the action the tanks were virtually without infantry support because the QOR's, game to the end, had sustained terrific casualties. That regiment, like the Hussars, will remember June 11th as a black day, not only because it cost almost a complete company—96 men—but also because it was such an unequal show, in which many brave men died accomplishing what at first glance seemed to be nothing.
    However, when the survivors began to tally up the damage done to the enemy, it was found that fourteen tanks had been knocked out—this despite the fact that these tanks had been well camouflaged and fought a purely defensive battle in the first part of the afternoon. In addition many anti-tank guns had been destroyed. It is impossible to estimate the numbers of German infantry killed. When a two division attack went in a few days later to clear the same high ground as the Hussars had attacked with one company of infantry, over 2400 German dead were found in the fields and ditches.
    Later it was established that an SS Panzer Corps was forming up behind the high ground around Granville-sur-Odon. The expected attack of the 12 SS Panzer Div. on the 12th of June in an effort to roll 7 CIB down to the water never took place and the Hussars were given credit for throwing the orthodox Germans off balance by their audacious assault in the face of such odds.
    Some believe that the attack on le Mesnil-Patry coincided with the Panzer Div attack. The terrific concentration of shellfire, so characteristic of the softening-up before an attack, fell on Norrey too quickly to be a mere harassing greeting of the tanks. In addition, both infantry and tank survivors have told stories of meeting infantry who were obviously coming in to attack just when our assault began. Tanks were also encountered in numbers far superior to the requirements on that small, easily defended sector. At any rate, whatever the story may be, June 11th was the most costly day in the history of the First Hussars, as the number killed, although far less than first believed, was almost one third of all their casualties in Europe.
    None of "B" Squadron's officers returned and only one survived the day Capt. R.H. (Harry) Harrison, squadron leader for the brief 24 hours of the reconstituted "B" Squadron's existence was taken prisoner while wounded, escaped, was recaptured and eventually turned up in a POW camp along with about 15 men. It was hoped that many of those posted "missing" might one day return. However, all the officers have been officially listed as "killed in action." In addition to those well known and loved Hussar officers, Capt. John Smuck, Capt. Dick Wildgoose and Lieuts. Freddie Seaman, Hal Mills and Bruce Deans, three other officers, who had been with the Regiment for less than 24 hours lost their lives in the fray. Lieuts. Dunn, Harwood, and Martin were among the reinforcements who arrived the evening before the battle. It is an exceptionally sad quirk of fate for an officer to arrive at a regiment just a few hours before he must lead his men into a battle where he is called upon to lay down his life and thus depart again before he knows his men and before they have assessed him. However, the fact that more experienced men are willing to go into battle under young officers of less experience indicates the high standards of Canada s wartime officer corps.
    Only three of "B" Squadron's NCO's, Sgts. Gariepy and Cristy and Cpl. Simpson, with a handful of men returned on June 11th. During the next week however, others continued to come back to the Regiment after working their way through the German lines. From these survivors have come stories of valour and self-sacrifice which prove once again that war in all its horror often brings out the finest in men. Some of the exploits of the First Hussars on June 11th will always be remembered. The examples in heroism set by the squadron commanders on that day were more than closely followed by the men. Maj. Marks' bravery in walking around to ensure that recognition flags were flying before he would risk firing on friendly tanks, and his later refusal to leave the battlefield until all his squadron had withdrawn, won him the unqualified praise of his men. Capt. R. H. Harrison, when last seen, was throwing hand grenades into Jerry trenches after having been wounded and "shot out" of his tank. It was with the greatest pleasure that the Regiment heard some two months later that the plucky, hard fighting "Harry" was safe.
    Lieut. W. F. (Bill) McCormick was wounded when 88 mm's scored hits on his tank "Cataraqui" killing Tpr. L. D. Magee and W. W. Millar, gunner and loader respectively. Tpr. E. Moreau bailed out of the tank bootless, and with Tpr. A. Cooper and Cpl. J. S. Simmons dragged their heavy-set troop officer over a mile under intensive enemy fire [Note: McCormick lost his right leg]. Sgt. W. E. (Foo) Simmons, a brother of Cpl. Simmons, collected his crew together after his tank was hit and began to head them back to safety. Suddenly he saw a Panther traversing its turret preparatory to firing at them. Shouting at his men to scatter he ran towards the Panther to draw its fire and was never seen again. Thus two brothers who came overseas with the Hussars distinguished themselves on the battle-field with unselfish heroism.
    Tpr. A. Chapman, the gunner in Lieut. G. K. Henry's "Firefly" scored three more "kills," guaranteeing him the position of top-ranking Panther killer in the bridgehead. The fact that RHQ had knocked out enemy armour that afternoon gave a brighter face to the situation when the tired, sweat-stained, dusty tankers sat down to drink some of Padre Creelman's tea while waiting for dinner. The padre, busy all afternoon assisting the MO Capt. Alf Conley in rendering first aid to the wounded, had a brew of tea ready when the tanks got back. He gave moving words of encouragement to those who were suffering the numbness which accompanies the loss of friends in action.
    A month afterwards over 80 Hussars were posted as missing or killed. Later, when the names of those taken prisoner at le Mesnil-Patry were released, it was possible to compile a list of casualties. During the interval the commanding officer and the padre, as well as all other ranks of the First Hussars, chafed under their inability to give any definite answer to the queries of next-of-kin. Perhaps those who received an unsatisfactory reply to such a letter now understand that with all the Officers and most of the NCO's of "B" Squadron missing, normal answers could not be given.
    Many times after this action Padre Creelman, with characteristic disregard for his personal safety, returned to this, as to many later battle-grounds, risking his life with each step through the mined countryside as he searched every bit of cover for clues which might answer these questions. Six Hussars are still listed as missing. Eight Officers and forty-seven other ranks are listed officially as dead.
    The following day Lieut. Gen. G.G. Simonds, GOC 2 Cdn. Corps, stated: "While the battle yesterday seemed futile, it actually put a Panzer Div. attack on skids, thereby saving 7 CIB from being cut off and in the broader picture it helped 7 British Armoured Division to advance on our right flank."

    Capt. H.L. Smuck
    Capt. R. Wildgoose
    Lieut. B.M. Deans
    Lieut. L.S.J. Dunn
    Lieut. C.E. Harwood
    Lieut. W.J. Martin
    Lieut. H.A. Mills
    Lieut. R.F. Seaman
    A.58823 Tpr. Anderson, R.G.
    A.385 Sgt. Bailey, J.M.
    K.50993 Tpr. Beaton, L.D.
    A.183 Sgt. Berneche, L.A.
    A.609 Tpr. Bowes, A.D.
    A.725 Tpr. Brown, A.E.
    B.19536 Cpl. Brown, G.
    A.57462 Tpr. Charron, A.A.
    C.100975 Tpr. Cybulski, A.J.
    K.37843 Tpr. Davenport, F.C.
    L.36995 Tpr. Dumont, J.D.
    B.50070 Cpl. Gagnon, W.R.
    B.135342 Tpr. Hancock, A.R.H.
    L.36130 Tpr. Harvey, W.M.
    H.195115 Tpr. Huckell, G.D.
    B.134694 Tpr. Hutchings, E.J.T.
    B.143748 Tpr. Jensen, N.M.
    B.143905 Tpr. Kellner, R.P.
    B.61517 L/Cpl. Keown, B.E.
    B.61940 Tpr. La Franiere, R.
    D.131465 Tpr. LeClaire, J.A.M.
    G.4756 Tpr. LeGassick, D.M.
    B.134793 Tpr. Logan, L.H.
    A.57902 Tpr. Loucks, W.D.
    B.19538 Tpr. MacKay, M.H.
    C.38261 Tpr. Magee, L.D.
    H.195169 Tpr. Meadows, F.S.
    B.50048 Tpr. Millar, W.W.W.
    K.68917 Tpr. Mitchell, A.W.
    K.16485 Tpr. Moorhouse, H.B.
    A.475 Tpr. Mugford, W.J.
    K.51934 Tpr. Nation, J.W.
    B.19597 L/Cpl. Nichol, G.I.
    K.49142 Tpr. Ogden, R.H.
    B.61599 Tpr. Pedlar, K.O.
    A.314 Sgt. Pelkey, R.T.
    A.362 Cpl. Pike, R.C.
    B.61456 Tpr. Preston, L.I.
    B.49509 Tpr. Sears, W. G.
    L.154029 Tpr. Scriven, G.H.
    B.61485 Tpr. Silversberg, F.
    K.49142 Sgt. Simmons, W.E.
    A.733 Tpr. Slumskie, W.D.
    A.711 Tpr. Smith, F. W.
    B.61474 Tpr. Snedden, A.A.
    B.19507 Tpr. Sutton, L.F.
    U.2022 Tpr. Swinimer, C.W.
    M.36497 Tpr. Timpe, G.O.
    H.1614 Tpr. Undershill, G.H.L.
    G.52799 Tpr. Vincent, N.E.
    A.36 Sgt. Waite, F.R.
    F.45957 Tpr. Weatherbee, D.P.
    A.62068 Tpr. Yarrow, W.
  2. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Good info..nice to be reminded of the canadian battles. I attended a lecture last year in local museum by a LT. at the time from 8th british hussars in action around same time..I have never been more on the edge of a seat in my life. Your post reminded me of this. Excellent.
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Account of personal experiences in action on Sun 11 Jun 44
    by Trooper A.O. Dodds, 6 Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars)

    I am writing this at the request of my Sqn [Squadron] Leader for information it may give to him and others re missing persons and tactical and technical data. I do not intend any criticism nor yet any excuses for what had happened. It will also me observed that I knew nothing of the situation, saw little of the action, and was quite unnerved and exhausted when I left my tank, so the useful information I brought back was practically nil.

    I had been left with no tank on D Day and saw no more tank work til Fri 9 JUN, when I was put in a crew consisting of Trooper HUCKELL driver - Trooper TIMPNEY, co driver - Sergeant JOHNSTONE, gunner - and Captain RH HARRISON crew commander. Our tank was a Sherman 4A2 diesel with armour plating on some of the ammo racks. As Op [Observation Post] for Capt Harrison I was Sqn Control Op and spent most of Fri netting the sqn tanks on the Sqn frequency and on a flick to RHQ [Regiment Headquarters] frequency. There were 21 tanks altogether on the netting. Five troops of three each with six in HQF [Headquarters Frequency], two of HQF tanks were on the RHQ freq, and on flick to the Sqn. Many of the Ops were green reinforcements, most of them were new to me. The netting was quite troublesome. I had further trouble on Sat morning when I checked the net, I did not make a list of the ops names as is customary. We had moved Sat night and most of us had had only an hour's sleep.

    In the morning we were told we were moving at 1100 hrs Sun 11 JUN. The attack which had originally been planned for 12 JUN had been put fwd unexpectedly by high command. This left not time for briefing the crew and only a little time for the officers to get in the picture. I was under the impression it would be a quiet HE [High Explosive] shoot with the Artillery. I was netted to an Artillery Officer's set before we moved, his code sign was to be "Old Abel". We moved off and later I saw we had picked up some infantry, the Queen's Own Rifles. There was much delay during which the air was jammed by some one asking for SUN-RAY (Capt Harrison, who was out of his tank where we halted to take on the infantry.) One other tank continually asked to be renetted, he had time to net a dozen sets by that time so I finally told him to 'lock up and shut up'. He was o.k. at the time and so were the rest of the stations. Finally we got moving again. I saw a knocked-out tank across a road as we approached a town, Capt Harrison gave orders to speed up the attack. I could hear Jerry machine guns going. From the wireless messages no one could locate it. Our own tank fired HE and co-ax [co-axial machine-gun] at some hay stacks and other points - hedges etc. Our B set communication with the RL [Regiment Liaison] was good. He asked for our position several times in relation to code words, 'strawberry' and 'raspberry'. I presumed the RL to be quite near our own tank and wondered why he couldn't give RHQ our position himself without troubling Capt Harrison. However I did not know the scheme of the show and had not time to see the map at all.

    After a short time our own tank was in a field of stuff like red clover - I saw many Jerries myself through the periscope and we were now firing much co-ax and HE as we moved into an orchard. The enemy infantry were apparently quite thick here. In a very short time we fired nearly half our Browning ammo - the rack behind the co-driver was emptied and so was the one on the left of the driver. We fired HE into dugouts at times having to back the tank up to get sufficient depression for the 75 gun. We ran out of HE in the turret twice and the capt ordered us to let him have an AP [Armour Piercing] down dugouts' - not 15 yds away. The co-driver handed me up the ammo behind his seat, I reached it myself from the rack on the left of the driver, having some difficulty in doing so; during all this I had to hold my hand on the co-ax as the cover would not stay down by itself. Once I fired the co-ax myself as I saw a Jerry in front of us and the gunner did not see him. I also fired the co-ax to finish a belt if it was within ten rounds of the end. Often the co-ax became so hot it fired by itself.

    [missing page]

    During all this action Capt Harrison had thrown all our grenades out; at time he leaned half out of the turret in doing this. As nearly as I remember he threw 12-36 grenades and 11 of the 77 smoke. After the 36s were gone I kept the smoke grenades ready to give to him and had the last 77 in my pocket when I bailed out later. We got a message on the 'B' set saying someone reported enemy tanks in their sector. I could not ask this myself at the time and I do not know whether or not the Capt did or if he even heard it. I took care of the B set until the action started, although Capt Harrison answered some of the calls himself too, we had been getting messages on A too. During a pause the Capt tried to identify the tanks near him asking on e to move so he would know who was who. I concluded that HQF was all near us, there were no tactical signs on the tanks (B1 - B2 - etc.,)

    It was shortly after this that Capt Harrison was hit; he bled all down the side of his head but did not appear to be badly wounded for at the time his head was practically inside the turret. I felt for a field dressing in my front pocket and Sjt Johnstone the gnr, said "speed up Huckell follow the tank in front until I order differently". He then turned as though he intended to trade places with the Capt, but Capt Harrison took hold of his mike again and resumed crew command. We moved ahead a few hundred feet.

    I was kneeling on the floor rearranging the ammo when the tank was struck. The driver's hatch was knocked off and the 75 knocked out, the breech shook violently and went downwards. Sjt Johnstone said 'Bail out' and the Capt gave one hesitant look skywards and then both were gone. I never was the Capt again and he is still missing now*. I did not see Sjt Johnstone for several days, he is with us now and will be writing his account of what had happened. Not relishing the idea of jumping out of the turret in enemy machine gun fire, I said 'get the escape hatch off' and handed Timps the co-driver a hammer from the gunner's kit. When we got it off the tank appeared to be rolling backwards and Huckell turned to put it out of gear; at this point something hit the tracks twice in quick succession and sparks appeared in the escape hatch. I went out the turret top with all the speed I could, dropped to the ground, and ran about twenty yds into some bushes. I did not see or hear any more of Huckell until he was found dead beside the tank several days later.

    From the brush heaps I peered through a hedge only to see a German about fifty yds away, he had a rifle and looked ready for anything. I ducked back into the brush, moved a few feet and lay down, three shots went overt me none really close. Looking in the other direction, I saw two of our fellows beside one of our tanks which was burning. I ran the fifteen yds to them and crouched beside them; one was Timps who had come out of the escape hatch and an officer whom I did not know. He was wounded in the left shoulder apparently by one or two bullets; but appeared able to crawl. About fifty yds down the road was another of our tanks also burning, all three of us crawled down to it. At the other tank parked close to the hedge were Tprs Loucks, Silverburg and Hancock, of Capt Smuck's crew. Hancock appeared to be o.k., Loucks was burned about the neck, head and hands and appeared to be dazed. Silverburg's clothes were still burning but we quickly extinguished the fire. Two or three Germans appeared in the field about 100 yds or so away, on the edge of an old orchard. About 40 or 50 yds down the road was another of our tanks still burning. We all began crawling down the road towards it. There were some Cdns kit on the road. Bren guns but no mags. I got two grenades and the Officer one. I contemplated a Verey pistol but did not take it, as I thought it would not be much good. Of all six of us, Timps was the only one with a hat of any kind, and his was a beret, and the Officer had the only arm - a pistol. As we neared the tank, Hancock went on by it running half crouched down the road.

    I never saw him again; he was found dead a few days later. As the Officer and I moved under the tank we could hear Germans coming out of the field through the hedge and on to the tank, all shouting and gibbering. I looked back up the road and saw a Jerry beside the tank we had left. He was stooping down trying to figure out what was under the tank where we were - or so it appeared. I saw no more of Loucks or Silverburg, whether they left the tank with the rest of us, I don't know but when I looked back I could not see them. Loucks has since been found dead, Silverburg is missing. Both were in bad shape, but capable of moving without assistance.

    The tank we were under was burning, some Germans were on top of the tank. I threw a grenade from the front of the tank so as to land it in the hedge alongside the tank, the shouting stopped for a moment and then resumed. Then the Officer lay on his back at the rear of the tank pulling the pin from his grenade cost him a great deal of pain and effort with his wounded shoulder, but he got it out and threw the grenade in the same manner as I threw mine only from the rear of the tank, the shouting stopped again, and for a moment all we heard was rounds popping off inside the tank. But then the shouting resumed and a Jerry started coming towards us. The Officer took his pistol and said to me 'Give yourself up kid' - I said 'No' and through the hedge I crawled and ran down the road and through another hedge to my right. I saw no more of B Sqn that day. The Officer I mentioned was blonde with a moustache, about 5'10" and quite husky; there was no time to talk about names so I don't know yet who he was.

    In going through the hedge into a pasture field I saw a German not forty yards away with a carbine, I did a half left and dived into some brush, and burrowed under like a rabbit. Several shots went by me, I stopped and lay flat, more shots came into the brush ticking off leaves a few feet from me as the Jerry fired where he thought I should be. Since I was quite out of breath for the moment and my watch said 1700 hrs, I decided to lay up until dark.

    There were Jerries quite close, I could hear them talking and shouting and one was groaning as though wounded. After a few moments, one began an awful clamour shouting to some of the others who were near the road. He repeated the word 'Englander' several times. I figured he had spied me in the brush and either had no weapon or thought I was dead and was calling the others overt to where I was. Raising up I could see I had crawled almost to the edge of the brush and something told me to get going and I got. A few more shots rang out but did not come close. I went through several hedges, pastures etc., keeping to cover as best as I could but at time running across open stretches.

    I remembered the tiny compass I had saved from my emergency pack, which broke open after its immersion in the sea on D Day and by its aid I headed due North. I crossed one more road where there was a Jerry about 100 yds up and to my left. He saw me as I stepped out but I crossed quickly and jumped up the bank on the other side and through the hedge. This was a very sticky moment, the hedge was thick and I could not get through it very quickly, but I must have been out of sight of him because both shots went by. He was the last Jerry I saw.

    I ran and walked quite a bit further trying to identify my position in relation to the enemy by the sound of the confused machine gun fire. Two Arty smoke shells fell in front of me coming from my right. I passed the blackened ruins of a plane in a grain field and saw three civilians in the distance who stared when I raised my hand and kept going. I passed a three ton lorry (Cdn) loaded with anti-tank mines. There was a pile of mines beside it as if it had been half unloaded, and it was burning fiercely with flames going twenty feet into the air.

    I now turned to my right past a field in which there were several dead cows and came to a road and a level crossing over a railway. To my left there was an overhead bridge and a sign on the railway said 71 in large letters. I continued up the road where I saw much British equipment but nobody seemed to be around. I started to turn down a road to the right but heard heavy footsteps in the distance, and decided to keep going on the main road. I passed a dead Jerry laying the middle of the road. Finally I saw a civilian working in a garden, after a struggle with the French language I got a drink of water from him, and washed my face also.

    At last I came to some burned Shermans on the left of the road where there were three good tanks also, apparently on defensive duty. They all three traversed their turrets but I waved my paybook and handkerchief as I approached. I came close to one and spoke to the crew commander (he would not expose himself at all, just showing the top of his head) who directed me to some Canadians in a field near by, I walked over through a belt of anti-tank mines and into an orchard where there was a group of 3 Div anti-tank people. They fed me some duck dinner and the Officer tried to find the location of 6 CAR [Canadian Armoured Regiment] by Slidex over the wireless but he failed. They gave me a steel helmet to wear and after an hour or so put me in a jeep going to their Bde HQ [Brigade Headquarters]. Here I was turned over to a Winnipeg Rifles Captain who in turn sent me to the CO [Commanding Officer] of the 27 CAR who was in a scout car enroute to where he thought the 6 CAR were. As they moved on that night I had no idea where they were, but we finally came to the 10 CAR area. Their Medical Officer and orderlies gave some supper they also loaned me a blanket and anti-gas cape and I dug myself a shallow trench and slept in it all night. Next day the 10 CAR Regiment Sergeant Major dropped me off at the 6 CAR Echelon at PIEREPORT. As near as I could figure from a map I had started walking from a point South-East of Le MESNIL PATRY and crossed the railway at the Station North of NORREY EN BESSIN.
    Signed AO Dodds

    Department of National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage. 141.4A 6013
  5. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    I received a PM from a relative of Trooper Wilbert Gordon Sears, whose name appears above in the list of June 11th casualties. He is buried in Bayeux Cemetery

    Canadian Trooper B/49509 1st Hussars R.C.A.C. 06/06/1944 Age: 26 Pan. 19 Col. 2.

    However, both the Canadian government website and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records list his death as being June 6, 1944. I know the Hussars had 21 fatal casualties on the 6th but I can't determine if he is one of those.
    Can anyone assist in determining which date is correct? The family is interested in knowing.
  6. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    I received a PM from a relative of Trooper Wilbert Gordon Sears, whose name appears above in the list of June 11th casualties. He is buried in Bayeux Cemetery

    Canadian Trooper B/49509 1st Hussars R.C.A.C. 06/06/1944 Age: 26 Pan. 19 Col. 2.

    However, both the Canadian government website and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records list his death as being June 6, 1944. I know the Hussars had 21 fatal casualties on the 6th but I can't determine if he is one of those.
    Can anyone assist in determining which date is correct? The family is interested in knowing.

    This website also lists him on the 6th:
    Memorial: Trooper Wilbert Gordon Sears - Canada at War

    Juno Beach - Honour Roll

    might be some help over here:


    post 23, 3rd picture shows the ROH for DDay, Mr. Sears isn't there...

    or maybe someone can have a peek at the ROH in the museum.. First Hussars Official Web Site

    is this him ?

    Photo Collection - Veterans Affairs Canada
  7. biddybump

    biddybump Junior Member

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I have indeed seen all those posts, and yes that photo is him. I am just trying to puzzle out how to decide which is correct. I know he is not buried at Bayeux - only on the memorial - as he had "no known grave". Sounds like it is the 1st Hussars history book which is correct??
  8. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I have indeed seen all those posts, and yes that photo is him. I am just trying to puzzle out how to decide which is correct. I know he is not buried at Bayeux - only on the memorial - as he had "no known grave". Sounds like it is the 1st Hussars history book which is correct??

    It is a book written very much after the war, in 1981.


    post #3, the member has a copy of the book, or you can probably order it online.

    In your case, I would rather try to find the 'war diary' as it was being written directly in 1944.

    An example of this is here:

    post #27

    If it was me, I would call the museum and see if they have the original war diaries from 1944; they may have other documents that can also help. Then arrange a trip to go have a peek.

    Hope you find what you are looking for. :)
  9. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    I took a look over the regimental history and Trooper Sears, W. G. B49509 is listed twice as having been killed on June 11th, 1944. He is listed once at the end of the chapter that covers June 11th and again in the Honour Roll at the end of the book. He is not mentioned directly in the June 11th chapter, though.
  10. biddybump

    biddybump Junior Member

    Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions. I began searching for the answer, not only for our family, but for our local Legion which is putting together a memorial book. There is no-one left in our family who was an adult at the time - couldn't answer their questions. Because of you people and this website I already have information to contribute. Can't thank you enough!
  11. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    BiddyBump (Victoria) was too modest to post the results of her own inquiries but she did indeed solve the mystery. Trooper Wilbert Gordon Sears was killed on June 11th at Le Mesnil Patry.
    Her "Uncle Gord" was in one of those tanks that swam ashore on D-Day but he survived that day. All the 1st Hussars fatal casualties on June 6th were recovered and ultimately laid to rest at Beny-sur-Mer.

    The 1st Hussars Museum in London, ON was able to confirm that Gordon Sears was "was killed in an orchard on the southeast edge of Le Mesnil-Patry where six Hussars tanks were destroyed by the German defenders."

    In fact, the war memorial in Le Mesnil-Patry lists his name.


    At Le Mesnil-Patry, his tank took a hit and brewed up. Victoria's uncle (one that came back) said that nobody should ever have to die that way. He cried when he said that, and he wouldn't talk about it any more than saying they couldn't get Gord out of the tank. No one knows if he was actually there, or if he just knew what had happened. The family has always known that uncle Gord had died in the tank - just not when.

    Another relative who had been with the 21st armoured regiment (Governor General's Foot Guards) commented that Gordon must have been the driver as the crew had a few seconds to get out if the tank was hit, but the driver could be trapped, especially if the turret couldn't be swung over. A reasonable assumption given that Gordon Sears worked as a truck driver, when he could get work (Depression), before he enlisted.

    The Hussars museum also advised Victoria that the Germans buried the Canadian dead on June 11th and that Padre Creelman (1st Hussars) had looked many times but never found the graves. She supposed that there may not have been much to bury, for those who were in brewed-up tanks.

    My hat is off to Victoria for perservering and finally solving the riddle.
  12. Combover

    Combover Guest

    Another slight riddle, why is Trooper Clayton Perry not listed as missing, since he was?
  13. Combover

    Combover Guest

    Just answered my own question. Tpr Clayton Perry was listed among those killed, which is odd because he should have been listed as missing. CWGC do have the date of his death at 11th June 1944, but that should be revised to 17th June 1944 if Canadian Court of Inquiry papers are believed.
    canuck likes this.

Share This Page