|Title||4/7 Dragoon Guards: extract from "The First and the Last," 1944 May, June|
|Description||Extract from "The First and the Last," telling the story of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards in the invasion of Normandy.|
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The S.S. were picked Nazis, the
best and most fanatical troops,
Panzer Grenadiers were the motorised infantry of a Panzer Division. Also picked troops and very good.
was absolutely ideal for defence and when it was resolutely defended, as it was by SS and Panzer Grenadiers, one German machine-gunner and a couple of snipers could prevent an entire Battalion moving the hundred yards between one hedge and the next until they were either killed by a direct hit (and as it was usually impossible to spot them, this was unlikely),or they were physically dug out of their hiding places in a hand to hand fight.
In conditions such as these, not only were the odds high against the attacker, and casualties both for tanks and infantry high in proportion, but also it was extremely difficult for a tank to watch its om infantry, even when it was moving with them. In this attack on Cristot, therefore, where the tanks led the infantry, it was no time at all before the two had got separated and were dealt with individually by the enemy.
Spandau - the normal German machine gun. Very accurate. Tremendously high rate of fire.
"B" Squadron who were in front had no infantry with them to deal with snipers and help knock out anti-tank guns; the infantry behind them found themselves held up by Spandaus in the hedges, which did not open up until the tanks had passed. They could not call on "B" Squadron for assistance and so had to rely on the reserve Squadron, "C", to help them forward.
12 S.S. Panzer Division
Alone by themselves in the orchards, "B" Squadron pushed forward towards their objective and one by one their tanks were knocked out by guns which, for the most part, they never saw. The crews who baled out were cither shot or captured by the German infantry nearby, and they finished the day with only two tanks of the nine they had started with, and the infantry still only on the edge of the objective. The infantry casualties too had been so heavy that they were unable to consolidate, and in the evening both tanks and infantry withdrew once more to Point 103.
A number of wounded men had been left behind on the battlefield and in the evening the Second-in-Command in his tank and the Medical Officer in his half-track went back to collect them, loaded up with wounded infantrymen, despite opposition, and brought them back to safety. The Medical Officer was quite impervious to danger, and irrespective of whether the wounded were friend or foe was interested only in giving them treatment and evacuating them to safety.
As this bitter day drew to a close, the enemy launched yet another counter-attack on Point 103. For a time the situation was extremely tense. The tanks on the forward edge opened fire and then had to withdraw slightly under cover of smoke. The flashes of their guns mingled with the tracer of enemy shells which were flying everywhere. An ammunition truck and an SP gun were hit and caught fire. About four Tigers actually reached the position and for a short while pandemonium reigned, but at length they were driven off and we remained in position.
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)