Crab No.85, Westminster Dragoons

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Michel Sabarly, Apr 21, 2018.

  1. I just posted this image on another thread here: M4 loss EPSOM/Hill 112, but think it is preferable to split the two subjects:
    No.85 Crab WD [3 Tp C Sqn] T148041 wreck W cas - GW E018418.jpg

    This is a Sherman V Crab Mk.I Flail tank T148041 from the Westminster Dragoons (see the AoS 53). From its turret number '85' it should be the Troop Leader's tank in 3 Tp, C Sqn. It may be the one disabled on 30th July 1944:

    From The Westminster Dragoons in North West Europe
    June 1944 - May 1945
    pages 20-21 [my highlights in bold]

    C Squadron

    After moving fom JUAYE MONDAYE the Squadron was placed in support of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division. For the attack the Squadron was divided into two halves. The right half was allotted to 56 Infantry Brigade and consisted of No. 3 Troop and later No. 1 Troop. The left half consisted of No. 2 Troop and was allotted to 231 Infantry Brigade. No. 1 Troop was in reserve for the first few hours of the attack. Nos. 2 and 3 Troops were each in turn divided into halves.
    Lt. Hubble commanded half of No. 2 Troop and Lt. Robinson the other half. The halves of No. 3 Troop were commanded by Lt. Bright and Lt. MacKichan. Major Sutton commanded the right half, and Captain McMillan the left half.
    By the evening of the 29th July Lts. Bright and MacKichan had each joined battalions of 56 Infantry Brigade and Lts. Hubble and Robinson were together with a Squadron of the 13/18 Hussars.
    After much study of maps and air photographs by candlelight all was set for the next day.

    Lt. MacKichan with the right forward battalion of 56 Infantry Brigade was to flail a track for carriers and other infantry vehicles up to the present front line. This was successfully carried out, and Lt. MacKichan was then asked by the Infantry to engage a Spandau machine-gun that was holding them up. He went up a track ahead of the infantry to do this but after advancing some fifty yards his tank struck a mine. He tried to reverse but promptly struck another mine, and the combined effect of these two mines cracked the bottom of the tank, wrecked the tracks and made it immovable. Attempting to bale out the crew were promptly engaged by Spandau fire from close range. The infantry were still twenty-five yards behind and unable to advance. The enemy were about twenty-five yards in front. The tank was stranded in no-mans-land.
    Thus began an ordeal that lasted for five and a half hours. Lt. MacKichan and his crew used their 75mm gun and then Browning machine-gun, Sjt. Birch and Cpl. Savory in their tanks attempted to come forward to the relief of the knocked out tank but were unsuccessful. Any attempt by infantry to approach the tank was promptly stopped by close range enemy fire, but eventually an attack was successful and Lt. MacKichan and his crew were relieved.

    This is much better (and more realistic) than the final scene in the movie Fury!

    I think this might be the tank because a cracked bottom would normally be a cause for a tank to be written off. Numbering of tanks in the W Dgns would also normally have the 3Tp Ldr in No.85.

    However, not being in possession of the War Diary, I have no formal proof that Lt MacKichan was indeed leading 3 Tp at that time, with Lt Bright probably attached for the assault to provide an officer to lead the other half-troop.

    Tolbooth, stolpi, Chris C and 2 others like this.
  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    I do have the July war diary but it contains no details at all for 30 Jul 44 - simply stating that accounts by Sqn would be supplied later but unfortunately they are not there.

    The Field Return for officers on 5 Aug, on the other hand, records Lt. I.D.S. MacKichan as a 1st Reinf. and Lt D.C. Bright as "surplus".

    In early July, however, Lt MacKichan is recorded as a Tp Ldr, so perhaps he was rested after his experience on 30 Jul.


    Chris C likes this.
  3. Thanks for this information Tom!

    Do you have the Tank Museum's transcription of the War Diary, or TNA's copies? Because sometimes appendices are present at TNA while not on the Tank Museum's version (I suppose that the reverse might also be true).

  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    I've got June, July and August from the TNA's copy. Do they have a regimental museum?


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