- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Victor Hyams
- Location of story:
- North Africa
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 December 2004
During the Second World War I served with the 16/5th Lancers and the 44th Royal Tank Regiment. Are you able to advise where I can obtain a copy of the history of these two regiments during the Second World War? I would be very grateful if you can help.
On page eleven of your book you describe how the 16th/5th Lancers were relieved by the 1st American Army so that they could be re-equipped and trained with Sherman tanks. Up to that time we had been fighting with Valentine and Crusader tanks which were no match against the German armour.
Having been involved in this action I can advise you what happened.
The very day we arrived at the place where the Sherman tanks had been concentrated, awaiting us, which was many miles from the Kasserine Pass, we were informed that the German army had broken through the American forces and that we must return immediately to try and hold the line. A volunteer force was arranged to take the Sherman tanks into action without any training on them. I was one of those volunteers and acted as front gunner.
The situation was quite desperate as all the equipment was strange to us. We had never handled high explosive shells before or used browning machine guns. It was decided that we would only use armour piercing shells and the browning machine guns.
The two Squadrons which were formed with the Shermans were named X and Y. Our journey back to the Kasserine Pass was made on tracks and took many hours without sleep as time was of the essence.
As we approached the foothills we came upon a group of American soldiers who at first took us to be German but were relieved and delighted when they found that we were, in fact, British.
Further into the Atlas mountains it was decided that we should test our weapons for the first time, in order that we would be prepared when we went into action. You can imagine the tremendous noise that 30 tanks made firing 75mm armour piercing shells and browning machine guns made with the sound echoing off the surrounding mountains.
When we arrived at the Kasserine Pass we took up defensive positions and watched whilst long lines of American troops passed through our position in disarray. Lorries mixed up with armoured vehicles. It was quite a spectacle. I felt sorry for the American soldiers who had been thrust into battle without any previous experience of warfare and particularly going up against Rommel`s battle hardened troops.
As luck would have it Rommel had broken-off the offensive giving us some breathing space.
I recall one incident that took place soon after we arrived at the Kasserine Pass. We had stopped to assess the situation and I took the opportunity to brew-up some tea for the crew. While I was doing this I was approached by an American soldier who asked where my officers were. Somewhat suspicious, I asked him who he was and he replied he was General Bradley in command of the American Army. I took him to meet with the officer of my regiment. I listened to the conversation and heard General Bradley say that his division had been annihilated. It was only then that I realised the full gravity of the situation.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.