'The Story Of The Twenty-Third Hussars 1940-1946
Published April 1946.
By the evening of August 5th
it really began to look as though
the Ninth SS Panzer Division had had about enough. They had
made no ground and the only casualties they had inflicted on us that:
day had been from shelling. Our ears were by now very well tuned
to hear any noise that might be an approaching shell and everyone
certainly knew the quickest way into his slit trench. By staying in
our tanks or slit trenches, and by doing the minimum walking in the
open, our casualties could not be greatly increased by shelling alone,
and the enemy appeared to be tired of counter-attacking. It was de-
cided to withdraw 'A' and 'B' Squadrons that night, and to leave 'C
Squadron with a troop from 'W to take over the whole regimental
position and support the "Warwicks. In the darkness the two squa-
drons withdrew to La Barbiere, and the next morning (6th)
there was only
RHQ left to watch 'C' Squadron take up their new positions. All
was quiet until about midday when the unmistakeable crack of an
eighty-eight put everyone on the alert. For the first time the enemy
had worked a Tiger up onto the ridge to our south and, concealed
in the trees, it could not fail to see most of our tanks on the south
side, which had been completely immune from A.P. fire for the last
three days. Luckily we were all covered with cut branches, or it
might have been serious, for it was quite impossible to see where the
Tiger was. It first of all put three shells through a RHQ scout car,
but, although its shots were passing within ten yards of the RHQ
tanks, for some reason the Tiger did not notice them, though every
moment it seemed more certain that they could not fail to be seen
and destroyed eventually. A tank in 'C' Squadron began to fire back,
and must have worried the Tiger, for it turned its attention towards
the other side of the road. Without delay it knocked out a self-propel-
led seventeen-pounder, one of a troop which had been sent to our
support. This SP happened to be surrounded by slit trenches filled
with men of the Warwicks and, seeing that if the ammunition began
to explode it would undoubtedly injure them, Lieut. Robson and an
infantry officer courageously jumped into the burning vehicle and
be^n to throw out the rounds. This very brave action cost them
bodi their lives, for the Tiger, seeing movement on the SP put two
more shells into it, killing them instantly, and depriving the Regi-
ment of a very gallant and popular young officer.
The Tiger evidently was also having difficulty in seeing, and he
either withdrew or ceased fire, for no more was heard from him tor
a while. Regimental Headquarters withdrew and the C Squadron
force was left covering the whole hill.
The Guards, meanwhile, were slowly closing the gap on our left
flank, and were level with Le Beny Bocage. They were unable, how-
ever, to advance any further, because Estry proved to be an exceptio-
nally well-held strong-point. Moreover, their own left flank was
having its share of counter-attacks, and there was no prospect of a
further advance by them for several days yet. On our right the Fifes
and the Herefords had had much the same sort of a battle as we,
with the advantage, however, that we were on their left flank But the
Americans were now well into Brittany, and the speed-and direction
of their advance gave most cheering indications of what might be in
store for the Germans.
On Bas Perrier hill the situation looked quite satisfactory for
complete peace reigned for the early afternoon and everyone began
to think that the worst was over. But, as on so many occasions in Nor-
mandy, the quietest hour was but the prelude to the storm. It burst
upon Bas Perrier hill at four o'clock - a concentrated bombardment
by all the artillery the Germans could muster. The first concentra-
tion of minutes' landed all round the Warwicks' Battalion Headquar-
ters It caused casualties and handicapped the measures which had
to be taken at once to deal with the German counter-attack coming
in from the south. Very soon the rattle of Spandau came closer
through the trees and the same Tiger, which had appeared in the mor-
ning, began to fire again, this time with two or three friends to assist
him. Immediately our artillery swung into action, giving liner support
than ever. It was answered by German guns of all calibres and the
shelling of our positions continued unabated, while our tanks hurled
high-explosive into the trees and tried to destroy the Tigers with their
17-pounders. Soon, however, the leading company of the
Warwicks was driven back, and the enemy closed in to our main posi-
tion. 'C' Squadron were beginning to lose tanks. Captain Phillimore,
having destroyed a Panther, was severely wounded and Corporal
Gilbertson's tank and crew were also victims. Trooper Duck distin-
guished himself by pulling Corporal Gilbertson and his gunner to
safety under heavy fire.
Sergeant Johnson moved his tank
forward into an exposed position, knowing it to be the only means
of dealing with the enemy tanks. He fird, but a Tiger retaliated,
knocking off his tank's track. Sergeant Johnson got out with his crew
and coolly mended it under intense shelling. In the village a company
of Warwicks were in a serious condition, harassed by tank fire, and
Major Hagger sent a troop down to assist them. It was commanded
by Sergeant Smith and, by the time it reached the village, it consisted
of only Sergeant Jackson's tank besides his own. Sergeant Jackson
had just arrived in a replacement Sherman, which was in a hopeless
mechanical condition, and it broke down on the outskirts. Sergeant
Smith continued alone into the village where he gave valuable sup-
port. At one moment he found himself within thirty yards of a Pan-
ther on the other side of a house. Neither could move for fear of
putting himself at the mercy of the other, and, while they remained
still, the house gave protection to each of them. Small arms fire was
hitting his turret and Sergeant Smith had to remain in this unpleasant
predicament until the Panther managed to withdraw. He was then
called back to the Squadron and on his way found Sergeant Jackson,
who had been surrounded by German infantry in a narrow lane in
his immobile tank, but had refused to abandon his now almost useless
machine despite all attacks and although told to do so by the Squa-
dron Leader. Both Sergeants and their crews descended from their
tanks and, although under fire, managed to tow Sergeant Jackson's
back to the hill.
The battle continued unabated, and despite all efforts by ourselves,
the Warwicks, and the artillery, whose guns were nearly red. hot by
now, the enemy began to creep round the left flank. As darkness was
falling they reached the top of the hill and began to 'bazooka' the
tanks. The fact that this serious situation was overcome was due very
largely to the bravery of Lieut. Bishop, commanding the left hand
troop, who was quite unshakeable and whose coolness put fresh heart
into the Warwicks. When light failed, the tanks drew back into a
close leaguer with the infantry in order to beat off a night attack..
Shortly before this Lieut. Treanor, who had Just joined the Regiment,
The Germans did not continue their onslaught after dark and
when dawn (7th) came
we were able to re-occupy most of our positions.
Sporadic and half-hearted attacks were launched during the morning,
but in nothing like the strength of the previous day. When patrols
were able to go into the woods in front of our position the reason for
this was obvious, for the slaughter was found to have been terrific.
We knew later that the last counter-attack was made by the newly
arrived Tenth SS Panzer Division, whose orders had been to take
our ndge and that of the Fife and Forfar whatever the cost. But the
cost had been too high and that badly mauled formation never fought
again until much later when, with its equally battered brother the
Ninth SS, it was launched against Arnhem.
'C Squadron and the 'B' Squadron troop were relieved at midday,
having fought a magnificent battle. Particular praise is due to Maior
Hagger, whose first big engagement as a Squadron Leader it was, and
whose determination and coolness had been a great factor in the
holding of Bas Perrier on August 6th. His leadership undoubtedly
had a most excellent effect on the hard-pressed Warwicks.
The Regiment re-assembled at La Barbiere and began to reform
for the next battle. All ranks were able to look back on a week of
great achievements. For rather less casualties than at Caen, the Regi-
ment had inflicted heavy damage on the enemy and had advanced a
substantial distance. They had withstood every kind of assault and
had given far more than they got. Moreover, everyone felt that the
enemy could not withstand such treatment for long and that some day
soon we should be advancing into France with the Americans, leavinc.
the battered slopes of Bas Perrier ridge many miles behind.
During the week of August 1st to 7th, the advance to Chenedolle
and the battle on the hill cost the Regiment the following casualties :-
Killed 2 officers
19 other ranks
Wounded 6 officers
47 other ranks
War Diary 23rd Hussars
0700 Regt in posn high ground S River Souleuve. B Sqn patrols towards BENY BOCAGE. 3 RTR pass through
1400 (6742) Move to BENY BOCAGE. Harbour there. 1 OR KIA, 4 wounded. 6 Shermans received. 2 Shermans 1 Stuart struck off.
0500 (7135) Advance 23 H leading with 8 RB on route. BEAULIEU-LE DESERT-PRESLES
100 2 a/c's destroyed LA INHHARDIERE
1500 B Sqn made contact CHENODELLE and held up. A Sqn attacked by Panthers EAST of LE BAS PERRIER
2000 (T 7233) Regt moves tp posn S of LE BAS PERIERE with 8 RB in support. 3 OR's KIA, Majot WATT, 2/Lt GUNYON and 9 OR's wounded.
In posn LE BAS PERIER Heavy shell fire and mortaring
1400 8 RB relieved by 2 Warwicks. 4 OR's KIA, 12 OR's wounded
LE BAS PERIER. 3 OR's KIA, 5 OR's wounded 4 OR's missing
0300 A and B Sqns withdrew to harbour LA BARBIERE 6938
1500 RHQ move to LA BARBIERE
1600 Enemy begin to counter-attack LE BAS PERRIER posn. Beaten off by C Sqn and 2 Warwicks. Estimated enemy strength-1 Bn.
Lt. ROBSON and 3 OR's KIA Capt. PHILLIMORE, 2/Lt.TREANOR, Capt. CROUCH and 9 OR's wounded. 2 OR's missing.
1500 C Sqn harbour LA BARBIERE. Capt. TAYLOR and 7 OR's wounded.
LA BARBIERE 6 Sherman V, 3 Sherman Vc 1 3 Ton lorry 5 Half tracks received.
4 sc cars, 1 3ton lorry 4 half tracks 12 Sherman V 3 Sherman Vc struck off. 1 OR killed
LA BARBIERE 1 Sc car, 6 Sherman V, 3 Sherman Vc, 1 3 ton lorry, 1 M/c reseived
5 Sherman V struck off.
30 Corps Op "KITTEN"
1700 (695376) Break harbour and move to MONTCHAMP Peace time march
1900 (744407) Arrive harbour area
Dead on August 6th
Lt P J W Robson
Lt P M Treanor (descibed as wounded above, must have DOW)
Trooper S Beazley
Trooper C Danks
Trooper A R Harrison
The book says it was C Squadron and 5 crew means it must have been a Sherman. The only other tank used by 23rd Hussars was a Stuart with a crew of 4.
The actions in August were during Operation Bluecoat