|Title||REPORT ON THE USE OF FLAME THROWERS IN THE OPENING STAGES OF THE CAMPAIGN IN NORMANDY (D to D + 55)|
|Description||Use of flame throwers in opening stages of campaign in Normandy|
The Crocodiles were withdrawn at midnight and set off for Juey only to be sent back immediately to La Belle Espine to be in readiness against possible enemy armoured counter-attack. There they stayed the whole day and were reluctantly released by the Infantry the following evening. The crews had now done 43 hours continuous fighting without rest and they were consequently withdrawn and joined up with their missing Crocodile from the beach. Thus ended the role of 13 Troop, as the vanguard of the Crocodiles.
Meanwhile No. 15 Troop had got its tanks on the road again and on the 14th June was ordered to support 231 Bde. in an attempt to re-capture La Belle Epine and La Senaudiere, which had been re-taken by the Germans. The attack was very hastily planned and the unit was detailed at the last moment to support the Hants, who briefly issued orders that the Crocodiles were "to advance to La Senaudiere as fast as they could, where they would pick up the leading Companies." The Troop shot off at full speed, laying a smoke screen on its left flank to cover its advance. 50 yards from the Crossroads in the village a PZKW.3 was spotted just off the road to the right. The leading Crocodile had passed before he could get his gun round on to it; the second passed almost muzzle to muzzle without seeing the enemy. The PZKW. 3 fired and missed, but the third. Crocodile manage to wing the German tank and it made off. A second German tank was tucked up against the side of a house on the right and luckily could not see the three Crocodiles which were now in the village flaming the houses. One of the trailers, however, protruded across the Crossroads and was holed twice by the Panther without catching fire. The two other tanks then stalked the Panther and put it out of action. Meanwhile the original PZKW. 3 had worked around to the right and fired on one of the Crocodiles. His first shot broke the Crocodile's track, but the return shot "brewed up" the PZKW 3. The Crocodiles then proceeded. to carry out their task of 'flaming‘ the village and were proceeding with this task when a third German tank appeared and blew up one of the Crocodiles. The attack then ended, leaving the village in our hands. A most successful gun and flame action had been fought by the Troop.
So ended the adventures of the two Troops who landed on 'D‘ Day. Force of circumstances had meant that flame had been used on two occasions only, and although the tanks had proven of the greatest value in support of the Infantry there was a danger that several false lessons were learnt from their success in the dual role of gun and flame tank.
Between 22nd and 24th June, the remainder of the landed Regiment in France, 'A' and 'B' Sqdns. concentrating at St. Gabrielle, and ‘C' Sqdn. at Juay, under command of 30 Corps.
On 24th June 'A' Sqdn. was placed under the command of 8 Corps and 'B' Sqdn. allotted to 1 Corps. The Regiment was thus spread along the whole of the Second Army Front.
There then began a series of 'Penny Packet' experiments over which the Regimental Commander could exercise little or no control. 'A' Sqdn. set off under command of 31 Bde. for Operation 'Epsom' , objective La Gaulle, Cheux and the bridges over the Odon. The Sqdn. was split into two, 3 Troop on the right under the command of 7th R.T.R. and 2 Troop on the left under 9th R.T.R. - in both cases the Crocodiles role was to move along with the reserve Tank Sqdn. for use as and when required.
Their first task was in Cheux, where long after the capture of the village, the hedges and ditches still contained many German snipers. The Crocodiles were sent along 'flaming' the hedgerows until all opposition was rounded up or killed.
0n the left the Crocodiles were given the task of helping the 6th R. Scots Fusiliers (44 Bde.) to clear St. Mauvieu, They went through the village 'flaming' the houses one by one, and killing many Germans. The fires they started burnt through the night. One strong-point a large house and court-yard surrounded by walls, shrubs and trees, still held out however, and as there was only room for one tank to get into the court-yard and 'flame' the remaining Crocodiles covered him with gunfire. Several attempts were made to get into the court-yard without success, and it was patent that without infantry and more support, the strong-point could not be cleared. Finally the Wiltshires were moved up and the following morning the Crocodiles attacked with them and captured the strong-point. The one Crocodile which had penetrated the court-yard was still there, but the Commander and crew had been taken prisoner.
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)