Sword Beach - D Day - 22nd Dragoons nowwith B Sqn on Juno

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Mikal, Jun 6, 2009.

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  1. This is from the diary of Major (then Captain) H.F. Wheway MC. My copy is from the 22nd Dragpoons Old Comraddes Association although both the handwritten version and a transcript are now available fromthe Imperial Ear Museum in London.


    June 6th, 1944. D DAY
    Reveille 05.00hrs Troops still very sick and much too ill to feel excited. It was quite an effort to get them on their feet, and none desired break¬fast. Dry land dead or alive seemed to be all that mattered.
    0630 hrs. H.M.S. Rodney and accompanying Cruisers, Destroyers and Rocket Ships open fire off French Coast. Some rockets fall short and hit L.C.T.s.

    0700 hrs. We are looking for our gapping places through glasses. Houses on the sea front seem untouched by aircraft bombing and naval shells. There is ominous yellow stillness the whole length of the shore. Enemy coastal batteries now open on us, several L.C.T.s are hit and we pass one destroyer sinking. The L.S.T.s have put down their L.C.A.s and the infantry are heading for the shore in there; The seas are heavy and toss them about like corks. The noise is terrific.

    0710 hrs. The D.D.s are floated, but owing to rough seas one by one they sink. We then realise it will depend on the flails to give the close support fire. We get into our tanks and seal down the hatches.

    0720 hrs. The L.C.T.s go full speed ahead and it is a race for the shore. We land at 07.25 hrs and the impact nearly shoots the tanks through the doors. The flails stream out in 3 feet of water, followed by the A.V.R.E.s. We are met by terrific shell, mortar and 88mm and 75 AP and small arms fire at 300 yds range. The L.C.T. with our C.O. Lt. Col. Cocks, 5th A.R.E., is hit and the bangalores go up. Leading flail on the ship manages to get off, but Cpl Brotherton is killed, and crew wounded of the second, and also Lt. Col. Cocks killed. (Queen, White, Robertson).

    Several tanks are hit as the landing craft doors go down. Mines sighted on top of the wooden beach obstacles. We go as far as possible in the water to be able to use our guns effectively, and then open fire on concrete gun emplacements, houses and dug-in in¬fantry. Tanks are brewing up right and left. We then proceed flailing our gaps, but no mines are encountered so speed up, and get within 50 yds of our gapping places, and open fire right into the slots of gun emplacements. One flail tank strikes a sunken obstacle with a mine on it and the bottom is blown in, Cpl Snowsill's sinks. Lt Robertson's has a direct hit on the flail’s arms , break¬ing them off. Lt Allen has 3 88mm AP straight through into the turret, and all but Cpl Pummall are killed. Wounded and burnt Pummall succeeds in getting into the sea, and is picked up by a L.C.A.

    Cpl Agnew's tank has 3 AP through the engine, and brews up. Tpr Jennings is wounded in getting the hatch undone. An 88 mm AP goes straight into the front of Sgt Cochrane's tank killing the operator Tpr Kemp, and wounding Sgt Cochrane, Tpr Mackinnon. Some flails now start gapping and the East Yorks and the S. Lancs are now streaming up the beach covered by fire from the beach clearing flails. The AVREs follow the flails and the bridging AVREs dropped their bridges, the crews jump out to make them fast and in doing so are killed, or wounded, and the tanks receive direct hits, and are brewed up. German soldiers rush from the houses shouting and firing ,as they come and soon the beach is strewn with the dead and wounded, of our own and enemy troops. The beach clearance flails are now waiting for the 629 R.E.s to assist them in clearing the beach. Capt Wheway and Lt Sadler get out of their tanks and attempt to contact them. Shells and mortars are falling thick and fast, but no one realises the danger of them until Tpr Hogg is killed by his tank. A Lt. of 629 is eventually found and he states he is the only officer left, and their casualties are so heavy they cannot assist us, so clearance flails proceed up the beach and commence gapping defences wherever they can to clear the congestion on the beach.

    Sgt Turner and Cpl Aird returned to the beach after having successfully made their gaps and flailed their laterals, and small arms and shell fire is still intense, and both Sgt Turner and Cpl Aird are killed by sniper's bullets. After 2 hrs fierce fighting enemy resistance is wiped out, and the lanes are made, and the laterals are clear, and the surviving flails are back on the shore. We gather these between 2 houses where there are numerous weapon trenches and tunnels running under the houses, and on searching these got 20 P.W. s, some from under the tanks.

    H +3 ½
    27th Armd Bde ( 2 Sqns 13/18th, Staffs Yeo, E.R.Y) with Maj Clifford and Capt Barraclough landed, also S.P.s, R.A.M.C., and the Suffolks, Lincolns, R.U.R.s and K.O.S.B.s. The beach is now only 25 yds wide with high tide and the congestion is terrific, and the flail crews were kept busy keeping the lanes clear and directing the landing troops on to the centre line. The whole area is still being heavily shelled and mortared from enemy positions 2 miles inland. By this time the armour is fighting its way forward with the infantry, and at H + 5 the beaches are reasonably clear with the exception of burnt out tanks and wreckage.

    Available flails are gathered together, and proceed with the ERY and flail the assembly area. Only 11 out of 26 flails are fit to go on. We are then warned by Commando's officer that 300yds up the road is an anti-tank gun which has already knocked out 4 AVREs and that his Coy is withdrawing having nearly been wiped out. It is impossible to get tanks into a position to get at this gun because of large minefields and houses. We then forked left through assembly area and contacted Brigadier Prior-Palmer, 27 Armd Bde, to assist in going forward with 13/18th to take over from 6th Airborne on the Ouistreham canal. This was not possible as fierce fighting was taking place round Hermanville. We were told to take up positions and be prepared to fight to the last. Snipers were very active and Spandau bursts from the left flank kept us well under cover.
    As dusk falls we go into close harbour with 1 Coy of Lincolns between us and the enemy on our right flank, the left flank being an unknown quantity. It was not until 5 days later the village on our right was cleared by 51st H.D.

    We hold a check on our casualties and find we have 5 tanks knocked out, 5 missing, and 5 still on the beach under Lt. Mundy, who was still being troubled with snipers and was attempting to get his tanks going again, some having assemblies blown off and some with tracks broken. That night they were heavily bombed by the enemy aircraft and having set up AA posts gave good accounts of themselves. Killed - 9, wounded - 8, missing - 25.

    Enemy guns knocked out 10 x 75 and 88 mm, 2 x 50 mm.

    Gen. Rennie 3rd Brit. Div. Commander congratulated the flails on the magnificent show they had put up and stated that if it had not been for them he doubted if the landing would have succeeded on this strongly held front, which was so vital to the whole operation, being the strongly held left flank.

    Meanwhile the AVREs had distinguished themselves and with ll tanks 79 Sqn succeeded in getting the bridge at Ouistreham. 77 Sqn also successfully battling forward with only 4 tanks left. Their casualties were extremely heavy, somewhere in the region of 70% tanks and 60% personnel; they were extremely brave men.
     
  2. Thank you for posting that, my grandfather landed on Sword beach on D day. That account really shows what they endured.
     
  3. Can't really grasp what they went through.Even when I watch the old film, the absolute hell of it doesn't really come across. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Never to be fortgotten.
     
  4. Very Humbling. Thanks for posting this.
    Ad'
     
  5. Thank you for all the information. Our family always wondered what had happen that day. My uncle was with Lt. Allen when their tank was hit and is buried alongside him and the other two men.
     
  6. squib, a PM sent to you with actual detail.

    I was going to post OC A Sqn's diary from 7th June today but though maybe the bit about your relative ought to be read privately first.
     
  7. Amazing stuff...

    "Lest we forget" indeed.

    Please keep it coming!
     
  8. If anyone has any more information, just post it on the site. The more we know, the more we understand what they all went through.
     
  9. Thanks for the post Mikal.

    Do you have anything about B Sqn? I have a friend at work who's uncle was in 'Revenge' of B Sqn.
     
  10. I don't have any B Sqn vehicles names on record.

    I have some info on B Sqn but Ian Hammerton's autobiography "Achtung! Minen!" is probably your best bet. if you can't get a copy easily, Ian still has some for sale direct.

    When funds permit I'm dropping an advert in The Times to hopefully contact the families of various officers who I believe have records and photos available.

    A and C Sqns have proved rather easy due to circumstance and I have been kindly loaned various documents for transcription and publication as I see fit. I have yet to gain records of A Sqn after July 1944 since the OC at the time was medevac'd to the UK due to wounds going bad from Op. Goodwood.

    I have C Sqn Ops Diary and Int diaries to December 1944 along with Bde Int. summaries for July to December 1944 thanks to Mrs Shuter via Rollo Clifford.

    Every time I think I have found what's possible more surfaces which is excellent.
     
  11. B Sqn activity from the official war diary. This is available in full from The National Archives or from The Tank Museum without many of the appendices.

    B SQUADRON
    0730 3rd and 4th Troop B Sqn (Lieut. W. Shaw and Lieut. Burbridge) touch down on Nan Sector, the latter in some six feet of water. Enemy opposition so far not very great apart from small arms fire and a few shells. All tanks reach shore safely and begin sweeping their allotted lanes.

    0800 3rd Troop B Sqn finish sweeping their two lanes and, having crossed the A.Tk ditch over which 2 fascines had been laid, rally at first lateral road.

    0805 1st Troop B Sqn (Lieut. I. Hammerton) touches down and begins flailing two lanes each with two tanks, the fifth tank giving fire support.

    0815 4th Troop B Sqn has now swept its lanes having encountered an assortment of Belgian Box and German Teller mines and also wire which tended to interfere with the motion of the rotor.

    0820 2nd Troop B Sqn touches down on Mike Sector. Rotor of one tank is blown off on craft just before touching down. An error of navigation on the part of the navy made this troop touch down on Mike 2 instead of Mike 1 and in consequence the lanes were swept on this beach. M.G. opposition is engaged by tank without rotor.

    0830 2nd Troop B Sqn passes through sand-dunes and on sweeping a further lane through a minefield two tanks become casualties due to foundering on mines. Mortar fire in this sector is still very heavy and is engaged by these tanks immobilised in the minefield.

    0840 One 75mm which has been the source of considerable annoyance is knocked out by one of 2nd Troop B Sqn tanks at 900 yds range.

    0855 1st Troop B Sqn finishes its allotted tasks (i.e. sweeping two lanes) and reports to 8 Beach Gp HQ for the allotment of any further tasks.

    0900 Troop Leader 2nd Troop B Sqn (Lieut. M.G. Barraclough) ditches his tank in attempting to cross a bridge on sand-dunes. Only two tanks (one without a rotor) remain in this Troop.

    0930 4th Troop B Sqn having now cleared its allotted sector on the beach as well as the initial lanes moves off along first lateral road. Owing to density of traffic movement becomes impossible and the troop pulls off the road into a garden to do some necessary maintenance on rotors and chains.

    2nd Troop B Sqn is still engaging the enemy mortar fire and snipers in its sector.

    1025 One tank of 2nd Troop, the only remaining one capable of flailing is sent to Love Sector to clear a lane which has so far not been completed.

    The remainder dismounted assisting R.Es to fill water-logged ditch with rubble to make it passable for traffic.

    1135 3rd Troop B Sqn has so far found no trace of 2 Cdn Armd Bde HQ under whose command they are now supposed to be. Arrives at Sqn RV and Troop Leader sets off on his own to look for this Bde HQ.

    1225 4th Troop B Sqn leaves Bernieres Sur Mer with tanks of 2 Cdn Armd Bde to RV with 9 Inf Bde.

    1330 The remaining Flail tank of 2nd troop B Sqn, now in Love Sector is hit by an anti-tank gun and put out of action.

    1600 2nd Troop B Sqn leaves Sqn RV and meets with Bde Comd 9 Cdn Inf Bde in beny Sur Mer who informs them that they are under his command as from now.

    Progress of 4th Troop B Sqn is very slow due to extensive minefields and they have only reached a position just North of Beny Sur Mer.

    1610 3rd Troop joins in column of 9 Inf Bde in the advance on Capriquet (7F/1 6997)

    1930 4th Troop goes into harbour at x rds N.E. of Villous Les Buissons (7F/1 0075). The extent of the advance having been approximately two miles. B Sqn HQ could not be located.

    2330 1st Troop B Sqn having been released by 8 Beach Gp HQ now goes into harbour with 4th Troop which they had previously contacted. 2nd Troop remain in their location on the beach with their tanks.

    Casualties to personnel - 1 O.R. wounded
    Casualties to tanks - 2 write offs
    5 Y or Z casualties

    Troops were late ashore due to navigation problems by those handling the landingcraft.

    2 Troop activity is also described in the book "Blowing Our Bridges" by Tony Younger. Mike Barraclough went on to become CO of 4th/7th. He died a few years ago.
     
  12. Cpl Agnew took over command of Cpl Aird's flail + crew. A short account of what he did is in "The Forgotten Voices of D Day".
     
  13. There is a very poigniant group of three graves in Ranville Cemetery on the about half left from the entrance.

    They are sited close together and visitors are curious about why they are they buried together. Its three soldiers from 22nd Westminster Dragoons. I usually explained to anyone who asked me that they were probab;ly killed in the same incident, if its aircrew or a tank crew it may mean that their remains have been mixed ina communal grave.

    Then I picked up an excellent book from the cafe Gondree called Achtung Minen! by Ian Hammerton about his experiences as a troop commander in 22nd Westminster Dragoons. Then I found out who the crew were. The Cpl tank commander had been Hammerton's gunner and the driver had been his co-driver. All killed on the night of 8th Aug in Op Totalise, and the book had a photo of the troop, and their lknoked out tank.

    I can recommend Achtung Minen because it follows the story to VE day.
     
  14. There is a very poigniant group of three graves in Ranville Cemetery on the about half left from the entrance.

    They are sited close together and visitors are curious about why they are they buried together. Its three soldiers from 22nd Westminster Dragoons. I usually explained to anyone who asked me that they were probab;ly killed in the same incident, if its aircrew or a tank crew it may mean that their remains have been mixed ina communal grave.

    Then I picked up an excellent book from the cafe Gondree called Achtung Minen! by Ian Hammerton about his experiences as a troop commander in 22nd Westminster Dragoons. Then I found out who the crew were. The Cpl tank commander had been Hammerton's gunner and the driver had been his co-driver. All killed on the night of 8th Aug in Op Totalise, and the book had a photo of the troop, and their lknoked out tank.

    I can recommend Achtung Minen because it follows the story to VE day.
     
  15. There is a very poigniant group of three graves in Ranville Cemetery on the about half left from the entrance.

    They are sited close together and visitors are curious about why they are they buried together. Its three soldiers from 22nd Westminster Dragoons. I usually explained to anyone who asked me that they were probab;ly killed in the same incident, if its aircrew or a tank crew it may mean that their remains have been mixed ina communal grave.

    Then I picked up an excellent book from the cafe Gondree called Achtung Minen! by Ian Hammerton about his experiences as a troop commander in 22nd Westminster Dragoons. Then I found out who the crew were. The Cpl tank commander had been Hammerton's gunner and the driver had been his co-driver. All killed on the night of 8th Aug in Op Totalise, and the book had a photo of the troop, and their lknoked out tank.

    I can recommend Achtung Minen because it follows the story to VE day.