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The story of the brief existence of a Canadian field (S.P.) battery that operated for 25 days as part of 6 Airborne Div Arty forms an interesting supplement to the account of the Parachute Battalion's activities. Prior to D-Day the artillery of 6 Airborne Div regularly consisted of one light regiment of 75 mm pack howitzers - 53 (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Light Regt B.A. TO supplement this 1 Brit Corps had formed an ad hoc battery of twelve 95 mm. Centaur S.P. equipments. This unit, designated X Armoured Bty R.A., proved especially useful for counter mortar tasks during June and July. At the beginning of August the British found it necessary to withdraw the personnel of the unit for employment as reinforcements elsewhere, and as the continued existence of the battery was considered an operational necessity, the G.O.C.-in-C. First Cdn Army approved the formation of a temporary Canadian unit to man the equipments (W.D., G.S., S.D., H.Q., First Cdn Army, Aug 44, Appx 60.)

47. The 1st Centaur Battery R.C.4. was formed on 6 Aug, under the command of Maj. D. M. Cooper, R.C.A. The battery comprised a Headquarters and three troops, each troop manning one Sherman O.P. tank and four 95 mm. S.P. Centaurs. The Centaur tank was heavily armed, mounting a Q.F., 95 mm. Tank Howitzer, Mk. 1, and two 7.92 mm. Besa machine-guns. Twin Vickers G.O. machine-guns gave anti-aircraft protection, and auxiliary weapons carried included a Thompson and a Sten machine carbine, a smoke bomb thrower and rear smoke emitters, and an assortment of grenades of various sizes.

48. R.C.A. personnel to bring 1 Cdn Centaur Bty to strength were posted from 12 C.B.R. Bn, and on 14 Aug the Canadian battery completed taking over from X Armoured Bty R.A. in the RANVILLE area. A British officer (Capt. E. J. Leapard, R.A.) who had been with the guns since D Day, remained on attachment to the Canadian unit as Battery Captain, together with 15 R.A. Sigs personnel, and one R.E.M.E. fitter (gun). A few days were spent in getting the gun crews thoroughly familiar with their new jobs, ready to carry out the role of 6 Airborne Div rty, which was:

(1) Maximum harassing fire on the enemy's administrative machinery.

(2) Vigorous and immediate retaliatory fire.
(17.D., 1 Centaur Bty, R.C.A., 10 Aug 44.)

49. On 17 Aug the guns of the battery came into action near BREVILLE, as Operation "PADDLE" began. For this operation 1 Cdn Centaur Bty, under control of 53 (W.Y.) Light Regt R.A. was in support of 6 Airlanding Bde. Three days later the Canadian battery, left on the west side of the DIVES River when the Airlanding Brigade went forward, came under command of 1 Belgian Bty, and on 21 Aug moved to VARAVILLE in support of Royal Netherlands Bde (ibid: 20 Aug 44).

50. The River DIVES was crossed on 22 Aug, and that afternoon the Canadian guns went into action again at a point (441094) south of DEAUVILLE, using an O.P. established in one of the town's hotels. Steering and brake trouble had left five Centaurs stranded along the road, and two of the unit's three Shermans had been put out of action by mines. Next day the battery, leaving Belgian command, moved to the LA HAIE TONDUE rendezvous (see para. 30) and on the afternoon of 24 Aug crossed

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion in France (6 June - 6 September 1944)

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