Sword Beach - 22 Dragoons - A Squadron

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  1. This is from the diary of Major Peter Clifford (nee Haggie) who was OC A Squadron until after Operation Goodwood. Original kindly supplied by his son Rollo Clifford. His diary has details for the actual landing for the beaches but is focused on his follow wave of which he was a part.

    I have witheld some parts of the diary. I hope those whoahve followed the original thread covering Tim Wheway's diary and the B Sqn info will find this useful.

    Officers serving with Combined Squadrons on 25/5/44.

    Major P.F.S. Clifford (i/c all Floggers)
    Captain T. Barraclough 2i/c A
    Captain R.A. Garrett Tech Adjt A
    Lt. D. Robertson 1 Tp A
    Lt. C. Mundy 2 Tp A
    Lt. D. Knapp 3 Tp A
    Lt. P. Sadler 4 Tp A
    Lt. J. Allen 3 Tp C
    Lt. V. Boal 4 Tp C
    Captain H.F. Wheway C Sqn
    Major B.A. Wallace A Sqn WD
    Captain C. Beaumont 2i/c WD
    Lt. R. Bullock 2 Tp WD
    Lt. W. Hall 4 Tp WD

    38 (Flail) Sherman V
    2 Cruiser Sherman Sqdn HQ

    Thursday May 25 1944
    Ech (Webster, T Cowe, Jackson, Sharples, Newbold) already in T7. Squadron moved into final concentration areas.
    Sqdn HQ (AJAX) to Staffs Yeomanry at Wykehurst Pk. (PC and TB).
    2 and 4 Tps WD already in Wykhurst Pk. BW joining them. RAG took ACHILLES, ½ track and Sherman ARV to A2 Gosport area.
    SSM took jeep to A1 also Gosport area.
    1,2,3,4 A and 3,4 C were already at Browndown A19 under command 77 and 79 Sqdns ARE.
    77 Sqdn Major K. Fergusson.
    79 Sqdn Major J. Hanson.
    AJAX a bit lame on nearside track – cracking plates. Waterproofing peeled a bit around rear chute. V. hot day.
    Visited crews in morning. G.O.C. (Gen. Sir P. Hobart) walked round and spoke to the officers and soldiers.
    C.O. came down and we swapped frequencies for D+1 reference.
    Soldiers in good heart but some looked a little tired. Been working very hard and the job about done. Two or three quiet days in the sun will help a lot.
    Cfn Harding (Welder LAD) has done tremendous work. Likewise all LAD under S/Sgt Orchard.

    Friday May 26 1944
    Camps “sealed” 0200hrs this morning.
    Wire (token) and a super abundance of sentries and checking of identity everywhere.
    Attended Brigade Cmdrs Briefing (Brigadier Smith [Berkshire Regt] cmdg 185 Bde) 0930-1730. All details tied up on plan last heard in Scotland first week in March.
    AJAX checked over and resealed where waterproofing had pealed.
    BW reported a lot of play and overheating in drive to rotor on his own Crab. Rang up 30AB and asked for a replacement at once.
    All WD Crabs dipped in fresh water and passed test.
    AJAX tomorrow.

    AJAX crew:-
    P.C. Cmdr
    T.B. Hull Hull Gunner
    Sgt Beckett W/Operator
    L/Cpl Scott Gunner
    Cpl Gillie Driver

    Saturday 27[SUP]th[/SUP] May 1944
    C.O. of KSLI (Lt. Col. Morris) briefed Sqdn and Coy Comdrs – B.W. came with me. Two sessions a.m. at KSLI HQ and again at 185 Bde Model Room at 1700. Photos and models first class.
    AJAX dipped – slight leak where original proofing came unstuck. Cracked more plates on 7 mile run to dip. Hope all these troubles now mean will be 100% on Der Tag.
    A wonderful day – perfect June weather.
    T.W. rang up – said all was well. Tpr Bernard, 2 Tp, absent.

    Sunday 28[SUP]th[/SUP] May 1944
    C.O. (Lt. Col J. Eadie D.S.O.) briefed all Tk Comdrs. Gave all crews a first class talk before starting on the briefing.
    Briefing most of the day.
    AJAX track back. T.B. having scrounged a number of new links.
    Another wonderful day.
    B.W’s replacement Crab arrived on transporter at about 1600hrs.
    Wonder if we are carrying too many spare chains?
    Tanks right down on front bogies – query nose heavy coming off LCT?

    Monday 29[SUP]th[/SUP] May 1944
    Weather 100%
    Left Wykehurst 0800 to visit all camps, give them Monty’s message and see if there was anything to tie up.
    Found everyone in huge heart and rested and as ready as anyone can be. R.A.G. a little lonely as the sole member of his section of the Camp A2.
    Called at Petworth both ways and found masses of paper as usual.
    Got back to Wykehurst about 2200 just before WD briefing ended.
    S.V.H. rang up 2300 and is coming down tomorrow.
    T.B. received 14 letters!

    Tuesday 30[SUP]th[/SUP] May 1944
    Weather 100% too soon?
    AJAX completely ready – WD replacement almost so.
    Quiet morning doing this and that.
    Div Comdr (Maj. Gen. Rennie) visited camp (C.O. out at Petworth).
    S.V.H. arrived for lunch.
    Brig. and [illegible initials?] and full of cheer as usual with a super fitted jeep (à la Hine).
    At 6hrs notice about 1500hrs.
    Liable to move at 2000 (or 1130 tomorrow) for J2 (marshall).
    Air circus between 1130 and 1200 this morning – odd to see Ju88 again.
    Rum ration arrived.

    Wednesday 31[SUP]st[/SUP] May 1944
    Moved into Craftloads at 11300 – to move to J2 today.
    Very impressive array of armour.
    Weather cooler and a little cloudy – thunder about.
    Spent a quiet afternoon and did an attempt at a sleep but loud hailer made this almost impossible.
    Orders to move at 0750 tomorrow – at last.

    Thursday 1[SUP]st[/SUP] June 1944
    Reveille 0445.
    [illegible] checked craft loads 0700.
    Moved South 0800 – to J.2. (Steyning Pk). Misty and slight drizzle and everyone a bit cold.
    Overcast may be a bullcast stroke on the met side but suspect just an English June coupled with any move (exercise or war).
    Arrived J2 about 1015. Harboured in Craft loads.
    Started Stage 2 W/proofing at 1400hrs.
    AJAX and all flails just about finished by 2000.
    Everyone in tents and quite a good camp. Very generous slit trenches, washing arrangements rather crowded but food quite good.
    Fine evening.
    No information of move to Hards by 2200 so unlikely to be tomorrow but everything set if it comes suddenly.
    Personally feel little additional expectancy over this – everything seems to be going very smoothly. Probably as a result of the last two exercises Leapyear and Fabius.
    PM told “amphibious operations of peculiar complexity” made a masterly statement of fact that obviously wasn’t understood by the “Open 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Front Now” gentry.
    Little to do but wait now and the Camp seems well organized for this with a cinema and theatre, NAAFI and an Officers Club in the House. Tank park is a walk of about a mile which is good exercise when one can’t wait to catch the 3 tonner taxi.

    Friday 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] June 1944
    Craft Cmdrs conference daily at 0900hrs. At this got orders to move tomorrow to “hards” about 1400hrs.
    Weather brightening up with a hot afternoon. Maybe it will hold and cause no delays.
    We are supposed to embark D-2 so that makes “D” Day Monday 5[SUP]th[/SUP] June – I wonder?
    Stowed AJAX’s turret very carefully. – T.B. busy in his Hull Gunners seat.
    Stage 2 w/proofing completed by 1300hrs, except for sealing up petrol cock which must be done on the craft after filling up by the hards.
    Had M/C slung on N/S rear of turret – query when to blow Cordtex with 4 galls of petrol perched over the explosive?
    Wrote letters in afternoon – crew had ½ day. Slept in sun and walked up to Tank park and back. Plenty of rest here but more than a week would be irksome.
    A very cheery evening with singing coming from all quarters. Not at all what the Germans would understand: one hears that they think the nervous tension of waiting for “Der Tag” is getting us down: we must be very irritating people to fight and get beaten by.
    Spent quiet evening drinking draught Bass with C.O. and Sqdn Leaders Staffs Yeo and watching a cricket net on the lwn of the house (in Lord Chichesters place).
    Fortresses flying home in a wild sky but no rain tonight and generally weather looks about right – not too good too early.

    Saturday 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] June 1944
    We move at 1445 – drew 48hrs landing rations plus some bully and fags which is a bit extra.
    Little to do but stow gear and standby.
    Moved at ten to three which gave a Rupert Brooke [illegible] to the show!
    Uneventful journey except for a lot of marshalling and checking – AJAX cracked a plate on o/side track: we shall have to leave it.
    Filled right up with petrol about 2 miles from hards.
    Arrived 10 mins early.
    Had a good load over (LCT 320) “Porpoises” T.B. doing it all without me being necessary at “long stop”. Whole craft loaded in 20 mins.
    Orders to sail 0800hrs 4[SUP]th[/SUP].
    Put to sea at 1900 to swing compass. Tanks chocked and chained as a SW wind outside and a choppy sea.
    Newhaven always was a shocking crossing.
    Turned round and put in again 1920 as sea too rough to make compass swing possible according to matelots.
    Tied up in 4 banks alongside jetty, fixed camouflage nets over all and prepared meal.
    Flails went on well and WDs deserve some credit as this is their first trip on a L.C.T. (which only gives 3 inches clearance to a Flail at the door end).
    Slight drizzle coming in but clouds high and a little sun about 2015hrs. Wind SW.

    Sunday 4[SUP]th[/SUP] June 1944
    0630hrs. Blowing from West and spray breaking over sea wall.
    Standing by at 0800hrs til 1100hrs. When Ops postponed for 24hrs.
    Fire, Abandon Ship and general drill tied up before lunch.
    Sunny in afternoon and slept on deck til new compo packs arrived in Ducks and unloaded on me!
    Everyone taken to J2 in T.C.Vs for a hot meal and bath. Herded about like valuable cattle! Hot meal alright but water ran cold. Did some washing of extremities and socks.
    Counted 200+ Fortresses going out about 1900hrs.
    Glass still falling – hear we hope to go again at 0800hrs tomorrow. Looks worse than last night but maybe the tail end of depression.
    Lots of Craft running sing-songs on the Craft loudhailers – the trip to J2 and back has done us good but no mail.
    D Day now Tues 6[SUP]th[/SUP] June.

    Monday 5[SUP]th[/SUP] June 1944
    Fine clear morning with fresh Westerly wind.
    Moved out of harbour 0915hrs.
    Anchored after compass swing at 1100hrs. But choppy.
    Maps issued 1200hrs.
    Moved 1230hrs – Op on.
    Overcast and some wind.
    H Hour 0725hrs tomorrow.
    Steered southerly course into sea on starboard quarter – rolled a bit and some sickness – OK myself, maybe the pills took!
    Turned West for meeting point (1445hrs) off I.o.W. Convoy looking rather a brave show – each craft with its balloon.
    Brigadier in [illegible] wished us luck on loudhailer just before [illegible]
    England out of sight by 1430hrs.

    1930hrs. Due to turn South soon. Fighter cover good, mostly Typhoons, Lightnings and Spits.
    Sea not so rough but still head on and a lot of spray over doors.
    Clouds higher and a little more promising.

    2015hrs. Lighthouse on [illegible] – arrive point I.o.W. just visible on Starboard beam.
    Turning South and headed for La France!

    2100hrs. 15 Destroyers, 4 Cruisers, 2 Battleships cross our bow!

    Tuesday 6[SUP]th[/SUP] June 1944
    Sea a little calmer throughout night but rougher than any “exercise sea” – sky like November.
    Never happens as one pictures it: (blue sky and a glassy sea).
    No Luftwaffe up to 0800.
    Listened to Forces programme at 0800hrs – hear that Boche report the airborne landings and landing craft off Le Havre – Diversion?
    0730hrs. Heard R/L 13/18 report ashore – opposition slight – A/T pbs at back of beach. Holding thumbs for all of them most of all A and C. Slight opposition will (or should) just put their tails over their backs! They were right up before.
    0830hrs. Approaching our lowering position.
    RN around and RAF smoke screens. Battleships engaging shore targets spasmodically.
    News given on loudhailer by Captain as it comes through from Force Comdr.
    Amazingly quiet – expected string air attacks, maybe before we land.
    0845hrs. Could see French Coast (Le Havre area?) – gun flashes – Church Trouville (?)
    L.C.As launched from parent ships. Our flotilla swing into line and went half ahead. At least 2 Landing Craft go up – like young volcano (ammo & petrol) moved into shore very slowly and feel it would be more comforting at 30 knots!
    Seal down 10 mins before touchdown and gun up engines.
    1028hrs. Touch down opposite right exit – awful congestion on beach and takes an hour and a half to get onto the main road. Saw Donald Robertson and Victor Boal. Hear they (A & C) have been knocked about by mortar fire and other gunnery, 88mm position in concrete.
    Very vague news generally as no-one knows much more than their immediate picture. They seem to have done their stuff jolly well.
    Snipers in Lion-sur-Mer and Hermanville. Pick up DRK + 2. Moved to assembly area S. of Hermanville. Two tanks knocked out by SP gun 800yds to West. Gun destroyed or forced to move.
    Moved fwd with occasional halts whilst A/T guns had to be cleared up. Mortar fire and shellfire spasmodic. Reached position just West of Beuville – heard enemy armour moving up North from Caen.
    C.O. formed Sqdns up to meet them. Warned us they would probably work round with the sun and attack out of it from the West.
    Exactly what they did.
    S Yeo had 6 SP 105mm (and mine!) as additional firepower.
    Engaged armour from about 5pm till nearly 10pm. About 9 German tanks knocked out and 3 or 4 blew up at about 1500yds. We had 2 tanks damaged and 1 SP hit but not out of action.
    Note inserted: Airborne landings – 2030hrs. 3 near me.
    Previous to this action we managed to silence a mortar at 1500yds which had just hi the tank beside me. Observation of position very difficult but Scott (gunner) put an H.E. right over where I thought it was and no more shelling. TB had a squirt too with the hull Browning.
    German armour definitely got a bloody nose and he withdrew westwards. We moved into leaguer at 11300pm in the open ½ mile West of Beuville.
    Lots of flak and banging all night but had two hours sleep. Up at 0400hrs to get orders.

    Wednesday 7[SUP]th[/SUP] June 1944
    A Sqdn stayed under command 185 for support onto Start/[illegible].
    Remainder moved North to high ground South of Hermanville where best placed to engage armour. Arrived there about 0600hrs.
    At 0800hrs Flails ordered to Bde Reserve Area just on East edge of Hermanville.
    Short sharp bomber attack soon after arrival. At least 4 down in few seconds but cloud cover gave them some chance.
    Air cover ground.
    “No atheists in Foxholes!”
    Spent morning sorting out casualties.

    Situation at 1200hrs.
    Killed 4* }
    Wounded 5 } A & C
    Missing 50 }

    Sgt Turner
    Cpl Aird
    Tpr Kemp
    Tpr Hogg

    Wounded 3 W.D.

    Vehicles Fit - 4
    Without Flail - 2
    May get on road - 7
    13 out of 26 in A/C

    Fit - 9
    May get on road - 2
    11 out of 12 in W.D.

    Tim Wheway has done a magnificent job – earned at least an M.C. Victor Boal and his gunner (Gillard) put an 88mm out on the beaches. Gun in concrete and 4 rounds of H.E. into slit destroyed it.
    Victors tank hit as he was leaving craft – he engaged at once and destroyed it. But for this action we’d undoubtedly have lost many more chaps as all casualties were from 88s.
    Pat Sadler showed a lot of dash and guts getting into the town and clearing up on his own initiative.
    David Knapp did well and put in a tremendous amount of work eventually coming on and joining me. Full of fight and [words illegible]
    Donald Robertson had rotten luck in having all his commanders casualties, Turner and Aird killed and Brotherton missing. Brotherton never got off the craft which was hit and the bangalores went up – Col. Cocks A.R.E. reported killed (awful loss). Craft reported to have put to sea again with Brotherton still aboard having requested a tow off.
    No sign of Charles Mundy yet (time inserted here 1700hrs) but hear he and his Tp are alright.
    John Allen’s tank hit on water coming ashore and set on fire! Crew(?) bailed out and machine gunned in water. John missing and likewise his crew. Rumour that he and others evacuated UK last night but no confirmation. Pray that its true.
    Spent afternoon assessing damage and trying to recrew but pretty impossible until all likely to return come in. 50 missing is too many to sort out on spec. Snipers in village. Blowing up houses.

    Situation at 1700hrs.

    2/A Wounded.
    (Arm) CRS Scott
    (Shock) CRS Bailey
    (Leg o/a) CRS Carruthers
    (Toe) Wormald

    4/C Killed. Kemp
    CRS Sgt Cochrane
    CRS McKinnon
    CRS Jennings

    3/C Missing.
    Lt. Allen
    L/Cpl James
    L/Cpl Pummell
    Tpr Thomas 03
    Tpr McShand

    3/A Killed. Tpr Hogg
    (mortar [illegible])

    1/A Killed. Sgt Turner
    Cpl Aird
    (both snipers)

    Missing. Cpl Brotherton

    4/A O.K. Gravenor

    Killed - 4
    Missing - 1 Officer/9 Ors
    Wounded - 6 Ors

    WD 3 Ors wounded.

    Pz Div made threat from East towards Canal – airborne reported breakthrough of 20 Tigers at Ranville. 13/18 dispatched and Inf turned up to support and meet the threat. We took over defence of Hermanville.
    4 Tp to East/S, WD (Tp 4) to North, 1 Tp (DJ and Cpl Agnew) to West.
    After wettish morning with lots of cloud had a fine afternoon and evening.
    Flails rather out of a job now expect for last ditch work – expect the situation will be a bit “fluid” for several days yet but we made fairly good progress today and the Canadians got onto the Caen line and our chaps on towards the high ground overlooking Caen.
    Threat to East contained.
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