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Matt Guymer's Recollections, Part 2: Bocage Countryicon for Recommended story

by WMCSVActionDesk

Contributed by 
WMCSVActionDesk
People in story: 
Major Matthew Guymer MBE and many others
Location of story: 
Normandy
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4887868
Contributed on: 
09 August 2005

C and D Sqdns had been in action, carrying out dangerous patrols during that first push to Villers bocage on 12th and 13th June. The patrols included the areas of Briquessard, La Paumerie, Livre, Cahagnes, Tilly sur Seulles, and the deathly village of St Germain d'Ectot.

This proved to have been a busy time for everyone. The enemy put in a counter attack; and our advance was halted. Everyone had a hard time and had many casualties and by the evening the enemy had caused 7th Armd Dev to contract into a defensive box nicknamed the 'Island'. 5th RHA firing over open gun sights using classical defensive fire halted the enemy counter attack, which they called off and so saved those in the box. On the 14th the regiment was once more in the thick of it and it was decided to pull 7th Amd Div back to Briquesard. Later during the night 'D' Sqdn was sent to Gueron near Bayeux. On the way Mr Newton's DAC (3TpLdr) ran over an MP and wrecked his M/C, he wasn't hurt but he swore a lot. Mostly because he could not reach his kit strapped to the underside of his bike. The next morning the Guns finally caught up with our Sqdns.

The names of the towns and villages fought in during those early days particularly St Germain d'Ectot will not be forgotten because of the casualties we sustained and the new bitter experience we learned patrolling in Bocage country.

I listened intently to the horrifying stories of close bocage country warfare, of troops who expended every single round of their small arms ammunition in a morning and of enemy snipers and artillery who 'didn't play fair when your only weapon to fight back with was a shovel'.

After a short break the regiment was soon back in action again but this time each Sqdn had the support of its gun troop, which was a morale booster as well as a bonus. I was bloodied during the time we were sent to the area in and around Cahagnes and Tilly Sur Seulles for the battle when we finally took Villers Bocage. On the way the guns proved themselves and most definitely earned their keep by causing many enemy casualties.

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sue Russell of the BBC on behalf of Major Matthew Guymer MBE and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Further recollections from Major Guymer can be found here:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Recce Troop 1st RTR

Posted on: 16 October 2005 by Trooper_KB

It was June 1944,a very hot summers day in Normandy.I was 19 years old,in a Stuart light reconnaisance tank which had a crew of four. Our mission was to find out the enemies strength and to capture a prisoner.We pulled into a small copse of trees for cover. Across the open field was another small clump of trees and we noticed movement there. The wireless operator and the driver stayed by the tank while the tank commander and me {the lap gunner} set off on foot crouching double alongside the hedge around the field to get closer to the German position. We had gone about 100 yards when bullets whistled around our ears and a shell exploded behind us.We looked back towards our tank and saw the other two crew members lying on the ground. Under intense mortar and machine gun fire we helped them into the tank and I drove it back to base where they were treated for shrapnel wounds and sent to field hospital. A few days afterwards we had two replacement crew members, and this time I was acting as wireless operator. The following day we were sent to Villers Bocage region. The tank took cover behind a row of trees on the crest of a ridge with views across the valley to the enemy positions on the ridge opposite. I was told to stay in wireless contact with HQ.The tank commander, the driver and the lap gunner, set out on foot to assess the German defences. They had covered about 50 yards along the edge of the field when I heard the scream of a high calibre shell and a cloud of earth and dust enveloped my crew. I took off the headphones and ran towards them as high explosive shells were bursting all around us.The tank commander came crawling very slowly towards me out of the dust and smoke and I helped him back to the tank and propped him up against the tank track then ran back for the other two. Sadly, they were lifeless with jagged shrapnel holes into their chests and heads. I ran back to the commander,his tank suit was full of holes and he was in great pain, so I gave him a cpsule hypodermic of morphine which we carried in our first aid kit. A sergeant major from another squandron came to help and took him back to HQ. Sadly the officer died soon after from his wounds. I was ordered to stay with the tank and see to the burial of the other two crew members. I took the shovel off the tank and as I began digging their graves the Germans shelled us again and I had to wait until dark to bury them and then drive the tank back to base.Again I was fortunate to survive. A few days later three more crew replacements arrived to bring the tank into operation again and I was back as lap gunner. We were assigned a "seek,find,and capture" mission and probed the German lines, but without success, so we went back to rejoin our troop. As the tank pulled up it was hit by an armour-piercing high-explosive shell and I blacked out. When I came to,I looked about me and saw a gaping hole in the side of the tank where the wireless operator had been sitting.All that was left of him was one arm laying on the ammunition boxes behind my head.I was amazed how white the bone was.The tank commander's legs were dangling behind my seat and his body had been blown onto my hatch and so I had to climb out through the turret opening. The driver was slumped over his steering sticks and was very still and his head was bleeding . I got to the ground still concussed and in a confused state from the effects of the blast in such a confined space as a tank.Enemy shells were exploding all around and with the remainder of our tanks roaring across the field the noise was deafening. Happily the driver climbed out as he had also suvived the explosion, and we both returned to active service after a couple of days rest. Again I had been in the right position in the tank. With no replacement tank available, I saw the war out in a two man Daimler scout car with Cpl.Nuttal, a desert rat from Clitheroe,Lancs.

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