|REPORT ON THE USE OF FLAME THROWERS IN THE OPENING STAGES OF THE CAMPAIGN IN NORMANDY (D to D + 55)
|Use of flame throwers in opening stages of campaign in Normandy
On 'D' Day two Troops of Crocodiles landed with the Second Army in France They were No. 15 Troop of 'C' Sqdn. (Lt. Davis),and No. 13 Troop of 'C' Sqdn. (Lt. Sherman). Since that day the Regt. has covered the Bridgehead from the right boundary of the Second Army to Troarn. It has fought 43 actions, worked with every British and Canadian Division within the Bridgehead and participated in every operation since June 25th. The operations have been increasingly successful and the services of the Regt. are increasingly in demand. They have therefore been widely dispersed and used in small numbers. Errors in handling and in the tactical use of flame have been made, but are becoming less frequent as formation learn by experience (and casualties). The full value of Crocodiles can however only be fully realized when there are more of them, and they are employed in larger numbers.
At H + 35 on ‘D' Day, the first 3 Crocodiles (15 Troop) landed at Le Hammel. That is to say they debouched from their L.C.T's but they all became casualties in a few minutes. One sank in the rough sea; one became stuck in a deep crater on the beach and the third collapsed with broken tracks in attempting to scale a beach obstacle.
Meanwhile at La Riviere No. 13 Troop had better luck and managed to get 2 Crocodiles safely ashore but the third foundered in a deep crater in the sea. The net result was that of the 6 Crocodiles which it had been planned to place ashore with the leading troops, only 2 landed fit for action.
No. 13 Troop was in support of the 7th. Green Howards (69th Bde.) The plan was that the Infantry would make their way through the village of La Riviere, whilst the Crocodiles did a right flank manoeuvre and attacked from behind. The Infantry Commander however at the last moment requested the Crocodiles to go through the village with the Infantry. This was really a gun tanks job, but Lt. Sherman agreed, and in the vicinity of the village fired his first shots in anger, two rounds of 75 mm. and a few bursts of Besa; the target, a German gun crew, surrendered - 12 in all. A good start, Thereafter the 2 Crocodiles led the way, bearing sometimes up to as many as 40 Infantry on their backs They passed through Crepon and eventually reached Tierceville Crossroads, the leading troops in the Second Army, until at this point they were overtaken by a Sherman unit. They moved on to Creully where they manned the western approaches to the town as gun tanks in hull-down positions, against a threatened Panzer attack.
When released by the Infantry the Crocodiles returned to Creully, and with a Squadron of the Westminster Dragoons moved into Leaguer just south Of Crepon. The following morning at dawn they were astonished to be greeted by a salve from a wood a few hundred yards in rear of their leaguer which, unknown to anybody, contained a Battery of German guns. The Westminster Dragoons in their thin-skinned flail tanks withdrew, covered by the 75 mm's of the crocodiles. During the night a large number of our guns and transport vehicles had accumulated in the plain below quite unaware of the target they were presenting to the Boche's guns. An assault was planned immediately and some Artillery and Royal Corps of Signals personnel who were in the wood with the Crocodiles were organized by Lt. Sherman to act as Infantry and follow the Crocodiles. The Westminsters supplied fire support from their 2 flail tanks and the attack went in. The Crocodiles fired Some 8 shots of flame and the German position immediately became white with flags. 150 prisoners came out and surrendered. This was the baptism of the flame thrower - and a most successful one.
0n the 11th June, the two Crocodiles moved southwards to support the Hampshires (213 Bde.) in an attack on the woods around St. Paul du Vernon. This they achieved with success, but on the way back orders were received from 231 Brigade to jettison trailers and make a counter-attack on La Belle Epine. By the time they reached the village it was getting dark but nevertheless, the attack went in and the tanks crashed through the village plugging the houses on either side with 75 mm. and Besa, killing quite a large number of Germans, whose bodies were discovered there next day. A gun action with Crocodile Tanks
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