- Contributed by
- Huxlow Science College
- People in story:
- Reg of Northampton
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 July 2005
At the time of this happening my regiment was stationed in 'Maida Barracks- Aldershot In the weeks prior to D-Day (6th June 1944) we had been equipped with a final issue of 'Cromwell Tanks’ which we had been busily waterproofing in case of a wet landing. In my own case we actually landed in about 5 feet of water, well below our prepared 13 feet.
On June 6th we were entertained by watching the planes and gliders going over to Normandy and this is where my story starts to take shape. During the day we were assembled in the gymnasium to see a 'Sand-table' set out of the expected area of where we would eventually land. This turned out to be 'Juno' beach which on D-Day was a Canadian beach. Our landing was expected on 'D' 5 but owing to bad weather but we eventually landed during the night of June 16th (D-Day + 10).
We were being given lectures by our officer on what appeared to be the progress of the invasion still assuming we (my regiment) would land on D5 BUT!! things were not going according to plan.
It appeared that while the American Paras were doing well, one of the American Beaches was in trouble. So it was decided the 3 beaches 'British, Canadian and French' should convince the Germans that the real ‘Breakout’ was to come from that area 'the left flank'. At the same time the Germans had to be convinced the allies were successfully doing this. They appeared to be doing a good job, if you speak to any of our fighting troops in ‘Bocages’, and this is how my story starts to unfold!!
My Regiment was the Heavy Armoured Recce Regiment for the 11th Armoured division, equipped with ‘Cruiser’ tanks. All our training had been of fluid movement and we were told to expect that owing to the change of circumstances we could (in fact would) operate on a restricted amount of movement. To illustrate this he took us outside of the gym and waving his arms over the area of the playing fields (which covered quite a large area) said you may expect to stay in area of that size for several days!
Being in a tank that could have a top speed of 50 miles an hour in a restricted area what he was indicating would mean we’d spend a lot of time sitting about. He explained that what we must not do was to get demoralized thinking something was wrong.
In fact it was the new plan but try telling that to our ‘American friends’ who were ‘Bleeding For’.
Now during this period of restricted movement we passed several times over several days through an area of small fields and orchards. In one corner was a disabled German mark — 4 tank with one of the crew hanging down outside of the turret with his feet hooked inside. The first time of seeing it, it appeared to me that it must have happened recently. At the time we were having some glorious hot weather and I became fascinated every time we passed by. The German’s body was slowly filling up with gasses. His clothing was becoming too tight and his hands and his head appeared to becoming too large for his neck and wrists. Inevitably the time came when something had to give and although I wasn’t there when it occurred I did realise by now what would happen. Passing by later I saw his head and hands lying on the floor beside the tank, his uniform now hanging down like an empty sack. More than anything else I had already seen and things I would see in the future it brought home to me the horror and disgust of War.
Being a tank man myself and knowing how proud we felt, I had to visualize this German tank man as a once a proud man and I knew by now his pockets would have contained items like my own. Apart from service documents he would have photos of his family, of his mother, sweetheart, wife and their last letters from home.
This was no way for a human being to have to end his life BUT maybe he was still proud to have done his duty.
From Reg (your vet.)
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