Chronicled Account of 141st Royal Armoured Corps Crocodile Tanks in Normandy June 1944

On the 6th of June 1944 13th and 15th Troop of the 141st Royal Armoured Corps landed in Normandy at La Riviere and Le Hamel, although only two of their flame-throwing crocodile tanks would make it safely off the beaches that day. A third tank would later be recovered the following day. This troop of 3 crocodiles assisted in the capture of gun batteries, the clearing of towns and hedgerows and also engaged and destroyed several enemy tanks before the remainder of the regiment started arriving on the 22nd of June. Below is a chronicled account of the 141st RAC actions from D-Day to the end of June 1944.

6th June - Landing in Normandy

On the 6th of June 1944 at H+35 15 Troop of C Squadron led by Lieut Davis landed on the beaches of Normandy at Le Hamel losing all 3 of their Crocodile Tanks. One tank sank in the rough sea, the second became stuck in a deep crater on the beach and the third broke its tracks while trying to scale a beach obstacle. During this one man drowned and another was missing.[1,2]

10 minutes later at H+45 13 Troop of C Squadron led by Lieut Sherman landed at La Riviere, one tank was lost while coming ashore, drowned in a deep shell crater but the other 2 made it safely off the beach.[1,2]

The two tanks of 13 Troop were in support of the 7 Green Howards (69th Brigade). First, they needed to pass through La Riviere. Although it was originally planned for the crocodile tanks to flank the village and attack from behind at the request of the Infantry Commander the tanks passed through the village with the infantry. [2]

The two tanks then continued in support of the 7 Green Howards to attack La Marefontaine Batterie at Point 44. The Crocodiles were not required to use their flame as after already being bombed by the RAF and bombarded by the British cruiser HMS Belfast the enemy surrendered after 2 shots of the 75mm and some BESA fire.[1]

Map showing the 141st RAC D-Day landing beaches and La Marefontaine Battery

The rest of the day was spent supporting infantry along the axis Crepon - Villiers Le Sec - Creully helping to capture several hundred prisoners of war using just their BESA machine guns and 75mm guns before moving to harbour for the night 1km south Crepon with a squadron of mine-clearing flail tanks known as Crabs from the Westminster Dragoons.[1,2]

7th June

At dawn on the 7th of June, they were surprised to be greeted with a salvo from a battery of German guns, which was concealed in a wood a few hundred yards to the rear of their leaguer.

Covered by the 75mm guns of the Churchill Crocodiles, the thin-skinned Sherman flail tanks of the Westminster Dragoons withdrew.

An assault was immediately planned, the two crocodiles of 13 Troop would assault the German position with the Westmister Dragoons flail tanks providing fire support. Some Royal Artillery and Royal Corps of Signal personnel including high-ranking officers who were in the woods with the Crocodiles at the time were organised by Lieutenant Sherman to act as infantry armed with grenades to follow the Crocodiles.[2,1,3]

The Crocodiles attacked with their 75mm and BESA guns and for the first time fired 8 shots of flame which caused the German position to immediately raise white flags with 150 prisoners surrendering.[2,1,5]

Later in the day a tank from 15 Troop which had been unable to make it off the beach at Le Hamel on D-Day was recovered and joined 13 Troop. [1]

8th June

The skeleton echelon moved to Sommervieu, while the three Crocodile tanks moved to Brecy where they harboured for 2 days with Westminster Dragoons.[1,4]

11th June

Map showing location of 141st RAC June 11th objectives Le Belle Epine and Saint-Paul-du-Vernay area

Two tanks supported the Hampshires (231 Brigade) to clear a thickly wooded area around St Paul-du-Vernay (7570) down to the main road south of St Paul de Vernay (7569). [4,2]

The infantry had wanted the tanks to stay in the woods for the night, which they objected to and were eventually allowed to return to the 231 Brigade HQ at St Andre.[1,4] As they reached the crossroads just south of Le Paradis (7772) they received an urgent order to jettison their trailers and go to the crossroads (7669) at Le Belle Epine to assist the Devons who were being attacked by enemy armour.[4]

Modern photo of Le Belle Epine crossroads (March 2023)

The Crocodiles jettisoned their trailers and attacked the village of Le Belle Epine at 2210 hrs [2,4] crashing through the village and firing their Besa and 75mm guns into the houses. Killing quite a large number of Germans whose bodies would be discovered the following day. [1]

The attack was successful and the infantry reentered and took possession of the village with the action finishing at 0030 hrs. [4]

12th - 13th June Le Belle Epine

After the action at Le Belle Epine shortly after midnight, the tanks went north to refuel and harbour at Juaye-Mondaye but in the middle of refuelling, they were recalled to the crossroads at Le Belle Epine (7669) due to the possibility of an enemy counterattack with armour.[4,2]

They remained on patrol all day in that area putting the trailers back on in the afternoon but with no action.[4]

Later that night Lieut Sherman and the crews of 13 Troop were relieved by Lieut Davies and the crews of 15 Troop who continued to patrol this area during the 13th of June. [1,4,2]

14 June - The 3 Crocodiles attack on La Senaudiere

The Germans had recaptured Le Belle Epine and La Senaudiere. A counterattack was staged with 231 Brigade. Lt Davies was ordered to support the Hamps on the left against La Senaudiere (782689). Almost immediately being called forward to meet the C.O. a little way inside Berniers Bocage, where his battalion was being heavily sniped.[8]

In the confusion of hurriedly shouted orders, Davies was left with the impression that he was required to advance to La Senaudiere “the next village”, where he would meet up with the leading companies. As it would transpire these leading companies were still in Berniers Bocage. [8]

15 Troop set off at full speed along the road from Berniers Bocage to La Senaudiere laying a smoke screen on the whole length of the advance.[2,8]

Annotaed map describing 141st Royal Armoured Corps 14th June 1944 attack on La Senaudiere

When 50 yards from the crossroads in the leading tank, Lt Davies spotted a Pz Kw III (Panzer 3) just off the road to the right. They were travelling too fast to be able to traverse the turret in time, as was the second tank which passed the Panzer 3 almost muzzle to muzzle. The Panzer fired at the second tank but missed, the third crocodile managed to wing the Panzer tank which then made off. [2,8]

Annotated (March 2023) photo of crossroads from 141st Royal Armoured Corps attack on La Senaudiere

The tanks continued their advance with Lt Davies tank leading the way crossing the crossroads while engaging the windows of a house on the corner with BESA fire failing to see a Panther tucked up against the side of a house on their right. All three tanks crossed the crossroads with Cpl Gates tailing tanks trailer protruding onto the crossroads. [8]

The Panther opened fire on the protruding trailer holing it twice without it catching fire. Now aware of the Panther’s presence two of the crocodiles jumped into action and put it out of action, this was the regiment's first tank kill in Normandy. [2,8]

While this was taking place the Panzer 3 had worked its way around to the right and with its first shot severed Cpl Gates’ track. Sgt Hills immediately returned fire brewing up the Panzer. [2,8]

Lt Davies and Sgt Hills Crocodiles then proceeded to flame the village when a third German tank appeared firing from no more than 200 yards with its 75mm gun penetrating the front plate to the right of the vision port of Cpl Gates’ tank brewing it up along with the trailer. [2,3,8]

With the attack on La Senaudiere ending the Crocodiles of Davies and Sgt Hills were released back to Sommervieu. The 141st RAC casualties from the attack on La Senaudiere were one crocodile and trailer, one killed, two missing (believed killed) and two wounded. [1,8]

4805944 Trooper N. Harris Killed in action
Now buried at Hottot-les-Bagues war cemetery
6295255 Trooper J. Andrews Wounded
6295341 Corporal F. Gates Wounded
6292681 Trooper B. Fowler Missing
Now commemorated at the Bayeux Memorial.
14329530 Trooper K. Hennells Prisoner of War

Photo of the grave of Trooper N. Harris

Photo of Trooper B. Fowler's name engraved on the wall of the missing, Bayeux Memorial

Captain H.C.D. Barber who had landed at Le Hamel on D-Day H+120 received a regimental mention for his bravery on the 14th after going forward on foot after Cpl Gates’ tank had been knocked out. Locating wounded crew members, then bringing up the medical officer and stretcher-bearers to evacuate the casualties.[6]

22nd and 23rd June - HQ, A Squadron and B Squadron land in France

On the 22nd and 23rd of June, the HQ, A and B squadrons landed in France and concentrated at St Gabriel [1]

24th - Remainder of C Squadron Arrive

On the 24th of June, the remainder of C Squadron arrived and harboured at Sommervieu

A Squadron was detached to 8th Corps under the command of 31st Tank Brigade.

B Squadron was detached to 1st Corps under the command of 27th Armoured Brigade.

C Squadron was already detached to 30 Corps.[1]

25th June

C Squadron moved to Juay-Monday

A Squadron moved to the assembly area south of Cully to take part in operation EPSOM. Troops 1,2 and 3 under Major RL Cooper under command 7th Royal Tank with 46th Brigade.

Troops 4 and 5 under Captain Strachan under command 9th Royal Tanks with 44 Bde La Gaulle (921679),Wood (928679),Saint Mauvieu (630686). Crocodiles were to follow the advance to be called in as required.

Both parties of A Sqn moved to FUPs areas 894713 and 920715 for the night.

26th June

A Squadron in Cheux

In the advance to Cheux the Crocodiles of Troops 1, 2 and 3 under Major Cooper were attached to the 7 Royal Tank Regiment. They did not employ their flame but did engage a few enemy Panthers. [1,8]

Sgt Wheatcroft’s tank was holed three times in the engine by 88mm rendering the tank inoperable but with no injury to the crew. He ordered the crew to vacate the tank in case of fire while he remained onboard. [1,8]

A Squadron in Saint Mauvieu

4 and 5 Troops under Capt GH Strachen were employed in support of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF) to clear up Saint Mauvieu. They went through the village flaming the houses one by one killing many Germans with the fires they started burning through the night.[2] The operation was successful except for one strong point at 933687. A large house and courtyard surrounded by walls, shrubs and trees. As there was only room for one tank to proceed into the courtyard the remaining tanks covered them with gunfire. [1,2,3]

WW2 map and modern aerial image showing the location of the strongpoint at Manvieu

It was while trying to gain access to the courtyard that Lieut Harvey’s tank shed its track, despite repeated attempts the crew were unable to be recovered due to infantry casualties. The following morning when a fresh attack was launched with a company of the Wiltshires. The tank was found to be empty and the crew were presumed to have been taken prisoner. [1]

During the operation, another tank lost its track and its driver Lance Corporal D Rogers who is now buried at Bayeux war cemetery was killed by a sniper[1] and one tank overturned. [1] All three tanks were later recovered.

A photo of the grave of Lance Corporal D. Rogers, who was killed by a sniper

The casualties for the day were

6284912 Lance Corporal D. Rogers Killed in action
7963323 Trooper R. Cordock Wounded
258150 Lieut N.E. Harvey Missing
6295350 Lance Corporal C. Golding. Missing
6296100 Corporal R. Hodges Missing
6299030 Trooper H. Peck Missing
14397949 Trooper G. Pepper Missing

Very little is known about the fate of Lieut Harvey and the crew of his tank that shed its track while attacking the German strong point. They were all presumed to have been taken prisoner. But with the exception of Trooper Pepper there is no known documentation that records them as prisoners of war so it is believed that the remainder of the crew had been killed after their capture. They remain missing to this day and their names are now on inscribed on the wall of the missing at the Bayeux War Cemetery.

27th June

8 Troop of B Squadron under Lieut RC Brooke in support of E.Yorks attacked the forward edge of the wood at Chateau Le Landel 032736. Seeing his other two tanks going too far forward Lt RC Brooke made a dash himself for the correct objective but was knocked out by a 75mm anti-tank gun from 20 yards range. Lieut Brooks and gunner Trooper H Dady were killed. Subsequently, another crew member was killed by mortar fire in the regimental aid post (RAP).[1]

A photo of the grave of R.C. Brooke

A photo of the grave of Trooper H.H.E Dady

Raymond Charles Brooke (Service Number: 264509) and Hector Herbert Edward Dady (14361828) are buried now at La Delivrande War Cemetery, Douvres, Normandy.

Documents attached to the 141st RAC war diary list Trooper Bernard Woodcock (Service Number: 1433077) as being missing but he was also killed in action on the 27th and is now buried at Hermanville War Cemetery.


  1. WO 171/877 141st Royal Armoured Corps June 1944 War Diary
  2. SUPP 15/37 Report on the use of flame throwers in the opening stages of the campaign in Normandy (D to D + 55)
  3. WO 171/877 Return of Crocodile Actions From D-Day to D + 40
  4. WO 171/877 Report on Crocodiles
  5. SUPP 15/16: Analysis of operational use of Churchill Crocodile flame throwers in NW Europe, June-October 1944
  6. WO 171/877 Regimental Mentions
  7. WO 171/877 Casualties in the Regiment since D-Day
  8. In All Innocence, Captain Harry Bailey
  9. WO 171/1303 7th Green Howards June 1944 War Diary