tanks

Aug

28

1944

Over the Seine and “push on”

Sherman tanks crossing a pontoon bridge over the River Seine at Vernon, 28 August 1944.

The first few yards were not too bad, but then, as the pontoons sagged under the weight of the tanks, water sloshed over the tracks so that the roadway in front temporarily disappeared from view. It was a nightmare drive and it was with huge relief that we found ourselves safely on dry land on the opposite bank of the river at Vernonnet, a small, pleasant riverside settlement, now completely deserted.

Aug

23

1944

Normandy: the British breakout begins

Cromwell OP tanks and Humber scout cars of 5th RHA, 7th Armoured Division, climb the hill into Lisieux, 23 August 1944. On the right is a Royal Artillery battery commander's half-track of 51st Highland Division, and in the centre a wounded Highlander shot by a sniper is carried to safety.

This was the real thing. This was the Breakthrough. We saw the remains of a retreating army. Burnt-out vehicles that the RAF had caught, abandoned vehicles that had broken down, derelict vehicles that had run out of petrol, dead horses, broken wagons, scattered kit and equipment.

Aug

20

1944

Polish armour holds SS counter-attack at Mont-Ormel

German units destroyed by Polish division near Chambois - somewhere along the road Chambois - Vimoutiers, near "Maczuga" ("Mace") - in the area called "Psie Pole" ("Dog's Field"):

Nevertheless the attack was soon renewed. Our losses mounted constantly…. but now I could not believe my eyes: the Boches were advancing towards us singing, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”! We let them come to within 50 yards, then we mowed down their ranks…. More waves followed…. When the fifth came we were out of ammunition. The Poles charged them with the bayonet!

Aug

8

1944

A tank attack into the bocage

The crew of a Sherman tank of 7th Armoured Division pose with a German swastika flag captured near Roucamps, 8 August 1944

During this period Captain Jamieson was wounded in the right eye and left forearm but when his wounds were dressed he refused to be evacuated. By this time all the other officers had become casualties so Captain Jamieson reorganised his Company, regardless of personal safety, walking amongst his men in full view of the enemy, as there was no cover. After several hours of bitter and confused fighting, the last Germans were driven from the Company position.

Jul

16

1944

The bloody battle for Hill 112

A Sherman tank advances during operations in the Odon valley, west of Caen, 16 July 1944.

If single German infantrymen can pop in and out of ditches within fifty yards of our tank, single German infantrymen may be crawling through the hedges alongside us or through the long grass behind us. And some of those infantrymen carry the notorious Panzerfaust, a simple, throwaway bomb-projector, known to us as a Bazooka and looking something like an outsize bassoon, an innocuous-looking instrument but one which, at fifty yards range, can blow our turret to smithereens.

Jul

12

1944

Sherman tanks move up to the line in Italy

Sherman tank of 26th Armoured Brigade, 6th Armoured Division, Arezzo, 16 July 1944.

I reported back to our RHQ and it was arranged that I should take a half-Squadron, i.e. two Troops of tanks, my own and a support tank, making a total force of eight, and move up forward and to go and deal with this. We moved up to about 800-1,000 yards behind the infantry positions and I moved further forward still and got Lance-Corporal Shapcott, my gunner, to range on the target. He was a damn good gunner and, after having bracketed it, his fourth or fifth shot appeared to be a direct hit and when he repeated his aim I said, “that’s it.” (The Sherman 75mm was extraordinarily accurate and one could put a round through the window or down through the door of a ’casa’ at a good range – something the 25-pdrs couldn’t do).

Jul

10

1944

9th Royal Tank Regiment – Death at Maltot

Churchill tanks of A and B Squadrons, 43rd Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, 33rd Brigade in line abreast wait to move off as squadron leaders and tank commanders discuss operations in the foreground.

My face became swollen and very tight making it difficult to see and the skin of my left hand hung down in black strips from an arm which was bloodless and white. Lieutenant Shep Douglas, my troop leader, crawled along the field. “Who are you” he said, not recognising one of his own troop to whom he had given orders earlier that morning. I followed him across the field of rape, crouched low because we could hear gunfire, to a gap in the hedgerow where infantry were in position.

Jul

9

1944

The ‘Culin hedge cutter’ on the Normandy battlefield

Our tanks could help but little. Each, attempting to penetrate a hedgerow, was forced to climb almost vertically, thus exposing the unprotected belly of the tank and rendering it easy prey to any type of armour-piercing bullet. Equally exasperating was the fact that, with the tank snout thrust skyward, it was impossible to bring guns to bear upon the enemy; crews were helpless to defend themselves or to destroy the German.

Jul

7

1944

T-34s attack Panzers cornered in the Russian forest

Soviet infantry advance alongside T-34 tanks in the summer of 1944.

Shells were either striking sparks from the steel hulls of the armoured vehicles, or they were ploughing up the earth near the tracks. Enemy machine guns were spraying the battlefield with a multi—layered deluge of lead, so intense that our foot soldiers couldn’t even move forward in a belly—crawl, and were forced to advance exclusively within the tracks of the tanks and self-propelled guns, sheltered by their hulls.

Jun

30

1944

RAF heavy bombers support Royal Tank Regiment

Avro Lancasters carpet bomb a road junction near Villers Bocage, Normandy, France through which the 2nd and 9th SS Panzer Divisions were expected to move to carry out an attack on the junction of the British and American armies. The daylight attack, by 266 aircraft of Nos. 3, 4 and 8 Groups, was carried out at 4,000 feet to ensure that the target indicators dropped by the Pathfinders were seen and 1,100 tons of bombs were dropped with great accuracy.

Must have been hundreds of planes, but all over in about 10 minutes. Seemed to be very little Jerry AA and didn’t see a single plane destroyed. Shortly afterwards, a huge black cloud ascended and gradually spread towardsus. Within an hour, we were literally in a fog: air became noticeably cooler and daylight partially obliterated, visibility about 200 yards.