|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.|
- 4 -
but orders still had to be issued from R.H.Q. In pages and pages of "loading tables", every man and every vehicle had to be accounted for and allotted to a particular vessel of the Invasion Fleet, and both the military parties and the naval craft had to be at a certain quay in a certain port at a certain time. It was comparable to suspending all rail traffic in the British Isles, then re-writing Bradshaw and expecting the whole system to start running in perfect order on New Year's Day. The incredible thing was that it did.
"A" Squadron and R.H.Q. left Hursley early on the morning of June 3rd on the way to the docks at Southampton. All the vehicles in the camp had been parked in "craft-loads, so that all the vehicles that were to go on any one craft were in a bunch together, and moved down to the docks in the right order, requiring no further reorganisation. There were some delays with loading at the docks, but eventually everyone got off in good order.
Unlike the earlier exercises we had done, the landing craft did not only contain tanks, but each craft had a little bit of everything, so that if one craft was sunk there would be no shortage of any particular vehicle. Thus on these landing craft which were built to take six tanks, we had a tremendous conglomeration of tanks, carriers, anti-aircraft guns and tanks, Sapper trucks and lorries, and bull-dozers; in facy, everything but the kitchen sink. Conditions were very over-crowded, and there was no room to do anything much but eat and sleep.
We remained in the Solent all that day and were due to sail at noon the next day. D Day was to have been June 5th, but as the world now knows, the weather was so bad that it had to be postponed 24 hours. At midday on the 5th we sailed down the Solent and out past the Needles. The sea was pretty rough, and the flat- bottomed landing craft especially made heavy weather of it.
All troops had, however, been issued with Hyoscine tablets, which were of great assistance in preventing sea-sickness. The important thing about them is that they must be taken about half an hour in advance; it is no use taking one when you feel sick, because this just makes it worse; but if you give the pill a chance it produces a slight coma effect, which is rather pleasant, and has quite a settling influence on the stomach.
Past the Needles our fleet hove to for a few hours while all the vessels were organised, and then we set sail for France. It was a relief to get going again, because tossing about on the swell was even more unpleasant than ploughing through it. It was some consolation to us to know that if the Tirpitz and the Prinz Eugen suddenly turned up, we had a complete fleet on either flank - the Americans on our right, and the Candians on our left - which they would have to plough through before they reached us.
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)