Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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Cott Tiger
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Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by Cott Tiger » Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:15 am

It recently transpired that my wife’s great uncle died (aged 22) on the first day of Operation Goodwood in Northern France on the 18th July 1944.

He was a Trooper in ‘B’ squadron of the 23rd Hussars (Sherman Tanks), 29th Armoured Brigade, 11th Armoured Division.

I know the basic outline of what happen on the first day of Goodwood, but was wondering if anybody can point me to any specific details (online preferably, but anything at all would be appreciated) regarding the actions of the 23rd Hussars that day.

Until yesterday, my wife’s family only knew that he died in his tank in Northern France. They had no other information at all. In the last 24 hours I have already found out his date of death and discovered that he died on the first day of Operation Goodwoood when the 23rd Hussars were heavily engaged in battle.

I would also be very interested in finding out about any other engagements his Regiment was involved in prior to his death. I believe, for example, that the 23rd Hussars were used heavily in the battle for Hill 112.

In my research so far, I have discovered that he would probably have been engaged against 12-SS Hitlerjugend (Hill 112) and also 1-SS Leibstandarte (Goodwood), but any further information on this would also be welcomed.

If I can, I would like to establish where exactly his tank was hit on the 18th and which formation he was engaging at the time. I’m not sure how ambitious this is ,but my father-in-law and my wife’s Grandma (it was her brother) are very interested to learn some more details.

Any info would be much appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

André
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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by Tom Houlihan » Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:34 am

I can't offer any help, André, but I will offer moral support!

That sounds like an ambitious but very laudable bit of research. Best of luck with it!

Why do I have a feeling Google's about to get hit with a flurry of searches themed on the 23rd Hussars?

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by Rich » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:31 am

Cott Tiger wrote:I would also be very interested in finding out about any other engagements his Regiment was involved in prior to his death. I believe, for example, that the 23rd Hussars were used heavily in the battle for Hill 112.
André
Hi André,

I would suggest you contact the Tank Museum, Bovington. They have copies of all the relevent unit war diaries at hand and can provide a scanned copy for a fee. Looking at their list, Reference W2D1 is the 23rd Hussars War Diary for 1.1.1941-21.1.1946, consisting of 72 pages for 18 pounds. To order go to http://www.tankmuseum.co.uk/shoporder.html

David Fletcher there can also be most helpful and may be able to direct you to futher lines of inquiry. The Museum's email address is [email protected]

Unfortunately I don't find an 29th Armoured Brigade nor an 11th Armoured Division War Diary entry in their list, so any additional details from those formations would have to come from The National Archives (formerly the Public Records Office) at Kew. I have quite a bit from 11th Armoured Division (WO 171/456), but their records are a bit of a mess and the actual War Diary entries for July are telegraphic in the extreme. Unfortunately the daily SITREP for 20 July is also not illuminating and there was little narrative of the battle written at the time. I do have some shots I took of the 29th Armoured Brigade War Diary two years ago as well, July is in WO 171/627, but I was concentrating on August at the time and did not copy that month, sorry. :(

Hope that helps a bit.

Cheers!

Rich

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by Cott Tiger » Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:33 am

Rixh,

Many thanks for your very useful information. I'll definately follow that up.

Cheers,

André
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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by michael kenny » Sat Nov 15, 2008 7:05 am

23rd Hussars were stuck in the corridor west of Cagny for most of 18/7/44. They had 25 KIA of which 2 were Officers.
2 of the dead were victims of 'short' bombing (by the USAAF) before they left the start lines.
Headquarters of 11th AD were bombed late on the night of 18/19th and this caused 'severe' casualties among the bailed-out crewmen who were concentrated around the HQ. These bombing victims are even said to equal the number of casualties suffered in the tank assault.
I do not know any source detailed enough to give you the actual tank he served in or its fate but if you have any photos or documentation with a 'T' number visible it would be a start. The troop number would also help. Normaly relatives would recieve a letter from an Officer in the Regiment and this usualy fleshes out the story.

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by michael kenny » Sat Nov 15, 2008 4:15 pm

Total tank losses for the day were 21 75mm Shermans and 5 Firefly tanks

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by michael kenny » Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:13 am

Captain Blackman was in charge of 'B' Squadron. At 14;07 they reported 4 Shermans lost and it seems most of the 1st Troop 'B' Squadron were hit at around 14:30.
The best widely available book on Goodwood is 'Operation Goodwood' by Ian Daglish

http://www.amazon.com/Goodwood-Over-Bat ... 1844151530

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by reg morton » Tue Jan 13, 2009 11:13 am

hello Andr'e, my uncle,trooper kenneth walter Lane was killed in action on july 18th 1944 during operation goodwood, he also was B squadron 23rd hussars, his nick name was lofty and was a tank driver operating sherman tanks, i am writing to ask you if you have any photograps of the 23rd hussars in particular B squadron, i do not have any photos of my uncle ken, i have visited his grave in ranville war grave cemetary on several occasions,its nice to know that there is someone else who has B squadron,23rd hussars connections, best wishes, reg morton

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by willgray04 » Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:37 am

I note that you mention Captain Blackman. I was in his troop at Hill 112. Major Wigan was the Squadron Leader. If I knew the name who this enquiry is referred to. I cant find the name of his uncle. I was also present when 4th Troop was decemated by Americas or Canadian Air craft. Bill Gray

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by willgray04 » Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:40 am

I know I am trifle late, but this site is new to me. I answered a query by letter many years ago to Lofty Lane's nephew. He never had the curtesy to answer it. Will Gray

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by reg morton » Wed Apr 08, 2009 1:15 pm

hi willy, i only started to ask about lofty lane during november 2008.i am one of lofty lanes nephews, it may have been my aunties son who contacted you some years ago,but it was not me i can assure you, i was on active service in iraq2003 ,when you see the bombs drop and bullets fly it brings home what it must have been like in normandy,my war was messy but nothing like that in normandy and holland,i have visited kens grave in ranville,and hope to visit again on the 18th july and go to places where ken would have been, i am keen to find out anything about B squadron,best wishes, REG MORTON

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by willgray04 » Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:17 am

Hi Ken, I knew your uncle very well, I was about tweny yards away from his tank, If the damn turret hadnt of been pointing forward he may have escaped, Everyone in the tank was Killed. I think the nephew I referred to lived in the Nottingham area. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. I was not prepared to tell him on paper what really happened, Bill G

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by willgray04 » Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:27 am

Hi Ken, I am still going through my photo albums. I remember one being taken so I may have it tucked away somewhere. In the mean time I am sending you two stories

• B A L E O U T

“Bale Out!” Those two small words have a chilling meaning to any member of a tank crew. It reminded Bill of the day he was driving his Sherman tank along the main road leading out of Eindhoven in Holland. The weather was bloody awful, the rain was hissing down, I was closed down and was driving by periscope. Owing to the rain I was unable manoeuvre my tank around a blazing and exploding tank. The occupants of this unfortunate were all dead. To get a clear understanding of what action I should take I opened lid of my compartment and stood up tp get a clearer picture. To pass this tank I had to get off the road and make use of open land. However with the incessant rain it was impossible to make headway and those that tried it were soon bogged down. I began nudging the stricken tank out of the way to enable me to pass.
The regiment had been ordered to make its way to Arnem where many of the Allied Airborne Regiments were fighting a hard battle that was supposed to end the war before Christmas 1944.

My Regiment was one of the tank regiments chosen to pursue the enemy in order that they could break through strangle hold held by the Boche,. Our opposition consisted of ground troops and it was believed that the opposition had an 88 mm somewhere. Owing to regular bombardments the German crew must have moved further back
My colonel was a little firebrand he was a resolute and stood about 5’ 6” in height. He having been ordered by the General to make more headway in order assist the Airborne Regiments who were having a tough time.
The weather was awful, the fields were sodden and none of the tanks were able to deploy other than from the main road. Being the leading tank I was in dire straits. The crew was aware of our predicament so there was a feeling of dread amongst us, so out came the cigarettes. My co-driver little Joe was a brewery employee. He wasn’t very big but he and I had been brewed up before and he had just recently returned to Regiment after a short period in hospital because of burns.
My commander was an ex cavalry Sergeant. He was what we called an old plodder. The wireless operator had been expecting to be chosen for Officer Training. His Brother was Major in the Indian Army. God help the poor buggers who would have ome under his command. However he was an excellent wireless operater. Our gunner was a Londoner and was employed as a telegram deliver. He told me that he was glad to get away from the job as he was known as the doom and gloom deliverer.
We were all in the same boat and it was touch and go where we would come out of this alive. I was still driving stood up and at times firing my revolver at the fleeing Germans who were probably as frightened as we were. “Push on, Push On.” I heard the Colonel telling the Squadron Leader. The sergeant called him “Blood and Guts.” I knew the position we were in and I had no intention of having my blood. Guts I had plenty of and we were on the main road heading towards Arnem where there was no escape. Still if it wasn’t us it would have been someone else.

I was the most experienced in the art of tank warfare. I might have been a little keen but he had survived many months in battle wearing a suit of armour in the shape of a Sherman Tank all the way from the D.Day landings. Having survived two bale-outs from this type of tank that was so vulnerable I actually gave it the name of Ronson, ‘one strike and it lights’. Although being keen and at times openly very scared, I was always ultra careful and generally because of his experience, i was the first to spot anything that might be dangerous and would take the necessary action to save his fellow crew members.

Rain, rain and some more poured out of the heavens. They had been on the go since the early hours of the morning and to be honest their nerves were on edge because they were on a tight rope sort of road and two of their tanks had already been knocked out previous to them taking over leading tank. I didn’t smoke but I grabbed one from Joe who had just lit a cigarette. The Sergeant had his binoculars to his eyes and was complaining bitterly that they were useless because of the rain. Now if the commander could not see, what chance had l who was now peering through the periscope? Once again I opened his overhead hatch cover and stood up. From then with a more limited view I began to realize how near we were to the enemy infantry that were lurking in the fields. I was amazed to see them at either side of my tank. In fact they were so near I was nearly able to hit them over the head with my revolver.

The other three tanks of the troop were following behind and they were shooting off with their machine guns. I new they had very little to worry about because all they had to do was to follow in my my tracks and pray to god that it was their turn to take over leading tank; Even my commander was glad that his tank was on the road and the fleeing Germans could do no harm to him and his crew. After all, they were only poor bloody infantry were running like hell to try to stop being run over or shot down by the follow up tanks. In fact there was times when they used my tank to prevent each of them being shot.
So believing that everything was now plain sailing, the troop officer ordered my commander to push on. It was probable that the Squadron Leader had received a kick in the arse by the colone; to speed up his orders had been passed down the line.

I was a little wary of the order because we were now approaching a cross road. Being a straight road and having no room for avoidance, I was certain that there had to be an anti tank gun or a tank somewhere around. “Oh God!” I exclaimed. There it was: I had momentary view of a red-hot shot hurtling down the middle of the road probably at twice the speed of sound. From its position it was certain that my tank would be hit. Having no time to avoid being hit; I supposed that my crew had also seen the red projectile. Like me I was was terrified. Instinctively I pulled on the left tiller in an effort to try and deflect the approaching red-hot piece of metal. Suddenly there was one terrific explosion; a shower of sparks, smoke and dust that clouded my eyes as I screamed, “Bale out!”

Instinctively I shot out of seat and was through the open hatch without touching the sides however nearly breaking my neck by the headphone plug snapped from its socket inside the tank I dived from the top of the tank into the road and rolled over into the dyke alongside. What a predicament, only two or three minutes ago I had been taking pot shots at the enemy. Now I was alone in a water filled dyke. After having shed my suit of armour I was now at the at the mercy of the enemy infantry.

It wss surprising I could hear the engine still turning over and the tank was still moving forward. It didn’t move far and after it had stopped moving it beginning to burn profusely as the ammunition began to explode. Il had seen the gunner, operator and the commander bale out. Where was little Joe? Apparently, his hatch cover had jammed by the impact of the shell hitting the tank. However as I had planned, I made sure that there wasa hammer handy to break loose the floor escape hatch. I can just imagine he having escaped a blazing tank on a previous occasion to have had the foresight to use the hammer left for such a circumstance as this. Even in the dangerous circumstances as I was at that moment overcome with emotion when I saw him lying on the ground at the rear of the tank. At that moment even being frightened out of my skin was so glad we had remained on the road. It was fortunate they were on a tar macadam road. If they had been deployed in one of the nearby fields there would have been no way of opening the hatch.

I could hear the commander shouting, he must have been wounded. I stood up there was a whine of a shot that hit the soil in front of him. It must have just missed his head by an inch. “That was a near one!” I said with a shudder. God must have been with me as I ducked down, and made a dash across the road where he found the commander lying in the dyke. He was bleeding from his face and eyes. He had been blinded.
I was pleased to see little Joe who was there with his revolver at the ready. I had unfortunately left mine in the burning tank so took the commander’s and told him to follow and Joe would keep him in line.
The other tanks were about two hundred yards away and the artillery was pounding the crossroads with one hell of a stonk with high explosive shells. l was too busy to worry about that I was promising myself I was going to survive. I was crawling along the dyke to get rid of a German who was in their way but he didn’t wait for me; he legged it across the open field with a hail of gunfire after him. I never fancied his prospect of living with amount of gun fire imposed on him. I wonder?

The Sergeant I dragged along the dyke with help of Joe until he was taken off my hands by the medics and was never to see any more battle experience. I never saw him again until many years later at one of the re-unions when he expressed his thanks for looking after him. Two of my crew were missing and I blagged a hand grenade off one of the infantry men and set out to look for them.
I crawled down the dyke and I was surprised to see Ken and Tom walking up the middle of the road. They were slightly bomb happy but weren’t we all.
Even after that near fatal ‘Bale Out’ I with Joe, Ken and Tom spent a couple of days being examined by the doctor who declared us fit and the Squadron Leader promptly fitted me up with another tank, a new Commander and I was transferred to another troop.
The war had to go on. I never did get to Arnem the road was so treacherous and well covered with anti tank guns causing the regiment to have a bad day and lose another ten tanks. Well that’s war, one never knew when it was one’s turn to die.




• Written by W.F.Gray

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by willgray04 » Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:49 am

Hi Ken, Your Uncle Lofty as called him, was tall gangling lad. He was probley about the same age as I was. He was the driver of a 17 pounder, His commander Sgt. Titch Occonnel, operator Len Hiscock. A nice quiet lad and a brilliant cartoonist another called Slack. They had a direct hit by an 88mm and ere all killed. Lofty could have been alive today except that he was trapped. He was an exceptionall brave fellow and I understand he put his revolver to his head. It was one awful and terrorfying day for me and many others. We lost so many good men that day. I was lucky and you being an ex soldier will know the problems, I couldn.t tell the other nephew the awful truth. I left my phone number. He was a great soldier. Will G

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Re: Operation Goodwood / 23rd Hussars

Post by willgray04 » Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:11 am

[quote][/quo

I T WAS NEARLY CURTAINS

I was a tank driver for five years during the 2nd World War and for some reason I was never promoted until after the war ended. I often wondered why. During my service I had driven Corporals, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains, Majors and Colonels so I must have been capable and well thought of. Whilst making my debut as a temporary driver to the Squadron Leader I took the opportunity to speak to him.

I queried the reason why I was never given promotion and he told me. “Because I don’t want to lose you; if I did promote you, you will have to be transferred to another Regiment. So if you want to leave the Regiment I can soon promote you. So what do you wish me to do?”

I was a little taken back with the reasons he gave me. I asked,
“Will I ever get promotion whilst I am with this regiment?”
“Only if an opening occurs within the Squadron.”

He went on to explain why he wanted me to stay in the regiment.
“Good Tank Drivers and Tank Commanders are the two most important men in the regiment. A driver is unique and must get on with the crew. To me he is the most important man in the crew. I am a Tank Commander as well as a Squadron Leader so I depend on my driver a lot. He can see pitfalls long before I can.”

His explanation made me think. I wanted promotion but I never wanted to leave the regiment so I made my mind up that I was going to be a driver as long as they needed me.

I joined this regiment in the early forties and what a Fred Carno mob it was. Some of the men had literally been lifted off the street and issued with a broomstick for a rifle. That’s how bad it was in those days. None of them knew how to form threes properly. I was one of the nucleuses of troopers that had been transferred to make up the deficit of experienced men. Some sergeants and corporals were also transferred to teach them to be wireless operators and gunners. In a short time some of these men were able to read the Morse code quicker than their instructors.

Most of the instructors were ex-cavalry and some of them had not long parted with their horses and mules. What knowledge they had of Tank Warfare was absolutely nil. In time the wheat from the chaff had been sorted and that included all ranks. It was then decided that we had the raw fibre needed to make a fine regiment.

I was allocated to a troop headed by a rugby playing and ambitious lieutenant, a nutty troop sergeant, a corporal who used to bray his balls on the table and another corporal who was a right @#%. The latter was a promotion seeker and to tell you the truth at that time he was a better commander than the nutty sergeant but even so he was still a complete @#%. My crew mates were forever changing; occasionally they were weeded out and sent to other troops where they settled down and accordingly ever thankful to be rid of the nutty Troop Sergeant. No one treated him with as much contempt as I did, but the officer thought the sun shone out of his arse so like me he was here to stay.

Month after month, year after year we trained on all makes of tanks such as Matildas, Valentines, Cromwell’s and Crusaders. When we arrived in Yorkshire the Regiment was supplied with the American tank known as the Sherman. I was given the job of testing them which meant three months away from Regiment. I had to drive a hundred mile or so each day; on the road one day and over land the next. It was supposed to be somewhat similar to the terrain of France. I was glad to say in its favour, the Sherman needed very little maintenance and they were better armed than most of the British tanks.

D.Day arrived and soon after landing we were locked in battle with the enemy in France. Not having been in action before, I found it exhilarating and exciting. I remember telling my Mum when I was on embarkation leave. “I’m alright I have a suit of armour.” It was true; but believe me it was no good when we came up against the German tanks. A German Tiger tank came out of a French church yard. We were on the ball and hoping for our first kill, our gunner hit it with a 75mm armour piercing shell. Would you believe it? It just bounced off it.

Then lazily the German Panzer blasted off at us with 88mm. It hit the Honey tank that was alongside. The same shell that demolished the Honey continued it journey and broke the track of my tank. Now we were a sitting duck. Then bang we were hit again and with minutes we were enveloped in a ball of fire. Fortunately we all escaped without injury. The Co-driver a nervous lad went a little bomb happy and from that day I never saw him again. I had never smoked in my life but I am afraid that was the day I took to the dreaded weed. My nerves were on edge like a few more of us. Because that same German Tank sent five of our tanks to the scrap yard and some of our men to an early grave before it was disposed of by a RAF Typhoons. There was never much left after the petrol tanks and shells began to explode and to think that this was our first baptism of fire.

I swore to myself that I was going to survive this war and I promised my crew members that I would never put their lives in jeopardy. From that day I became a truculent soldier and I was forever arguing with the nutty sergeant. I admit he had guts, he was like a small General Patton, our crew was not lacking in guts either but I was going to make sure he never got our blood by stuoidness.

The Germans had plenty of chances, after all we were brewed up three times and it was pure luck we all except me escaped without injury except for the last brew up My injury was an injured arm so consequently I was off driving for at least three weeks.

Consequently my position in the crew was taken over by a friend of mine. He was an ex infantryman who had been transferred to the Regiment and this was his first drive. Naturally the crew thought I would have been back as their driver. However I was called upon to act as the Squadron Leaders driver. This was a cushy number as far was I was concerned. Being a troop Sergeant’s driver you were generally leading tank and alwaysthe first to meet the enemy.

As it happened my old troop were held in reserve that day. It was usual that if the leading tanks were held up by the enemy the reserve troop’s duty to try and to out maneuver the enemy and attack them; So it would be either a right or left maneuver. Our nutty sergeant was unfortunate and took the wrong one A Tiger tank caught them unawares and they were subjected to a direct hit in the offside region. How they all escaped the vicious explosion with their lives, God only knows. The gunner lost one of his legs, the operator severe burns, the co-driver my long time friend, shrapnel and burns. The Commander suffered shrapnel and burns and the driver a badly damaged leg. Only one of the crew returned later that year to carry on in action was the co-driver. I just shook by head in disbelief. It could have been me lying in hospital. With one unlucky move all my crew had been decimated.

A few weeks later and after the battle for the Ardennes, I was transferred to another troop and allocated to drive the troop sergeant once again. This was no nutty sergeant. This one had spent a couple of years in the Western desert, he was cool and calculating. He admitted that he was not too experienced with close combat fighting but he certainly impressed me and it was the first time I felt I had a first class soldier leading us into battle.

Our troop officer had just been posted to the Regiment and was as green as grass and had never seen a shot fired in anger. He was a neat and tidy sort of a man. I think he modeled himself on Rommel. If he had properly learned the basics of Map Reading I would have forgiven him for cleaning his calf length boots too often. Still he had to learn and like the crews of the four tanks only six or seven men had battle experience. I copped another inexperienced co-driver. The operator was a Cambridge graduate and the gunner a postman. They were cool and like us all a little bomb happy.

Our new tanks were the Comet. They were first class and the driver and co-driver were incapable of being trapped with the turret or gun hanging over them. What a difference to the Sherman I shudder to think how many drivers and co-drivers were trapped and were burned to death. I can still hear their screams; After the war I had a letter from a nephew of one of these drivers. How could I tell him how his uncle had died? My crew and I were only twenty yards away and were powerless to help. What could I tell him? Not one of the crew of that tank survived. He was a soldier and this was war.

After the battles in the Ardennes we followed the Americans over the River Weser and now we were fighting on German soil. It felt a lot different, there were no jubilant crowds waving at you. White flags were plenty and though at times that didn’t mean they were surrendering. When passing through a village named Tecklenburg despite it displaying a white flags an anti tank gun was fired at the leading tank. The commander a small man who could just poke his head inches out of the turret. The shot hit took the turret ring off and commander’s helmet. I spoke to him later that afternoon and he declared that he would have the Mayor’s balls. Whether he did, I was never told. We were in a hurry to get this war over.

Two or three days later we were halted and informed that there was a 24 hour truce and we had to remain where we were. I later learned that a camp full of Jewish prisoners was nearby. This was the notorious camp called Belsen. We were actually the first tank to reach the white ribbon that stretched across the road. Somehow I thought this was a ruse and it allowed many high ranking officers to escape. On passing through the village I often wondered how the villagers could deny knowledge of its presence. I could see and smell the emaciated prisoners clinging to the wire fence as we passed through.

Still we had a lot more miles to cover and now the race was on to beat the Russians who were making better progress than we were. On reaching the Baltic Sea we were able to sink a submarine and capture a boat full of political prisoners before they were destined to be drowned by the Germans who had planned to scuttle the boat.

It was on that day I first saw my first German jet airplane. Now once again we were on our way and now the prisoners were being captured in their thousands. It was two days before the war was ended and we were sailing down a long road without a care in the world because we knew the end of the war was nigh. Still ever watchful I suddenly saw the red hot shot from a distant tank or an anti tank gun. It was heading for my tank and instinctively I pulled on my left hand tiller. Fortunately the Comet tank reaction was a lot quicker than the Sherman and the shot bounced off the right hand side leaving a three fort gouge in the extra armour and then the shell flew away. The co-driver looked at me and said, “That had our name on it,” Maybe it did but of all the tanks I had driven the Comet was the fastest and the best for taking immediate action.

We had been lucky five friends of ours in another squadron were killed on the next day when the war ended. .

Even today the co-driver tells his friends that I saved his life
That’s how it was nearly curtains.

Written by W.F.Gray













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