War Diary: 141st Royal Armoured Corps

Month and year: July 1944

The July 1944 war diary for B Squadron of the 141st Royal Armoured Corps covering their actions based in Normandy. Mentions operation Ottawa and Charnwood.

National Archive Reference: WO 171/877

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Page 1 of 3
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
052802) 9272) 1 - 3 July On 1 Jul 44 'B' Sqn moved up from CRESSERONS 052802 to BRETTEVILLE L'ORGUEILLEUSE 9272 for Operation "OTTAWA" under
command of 2 Canadian Armd Bde in sp of 9 Canadian Inf Bde - objective CARPIQUET and AERODROME 9667. At 0600 hrs
3 Jul the Sqn moved up to the S.L. (track running N.E. from 945688) in reserve for use as required, but divided and
allotted to the North Shore Regiment, The Regiment de la Chaudiere, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles. 6 Tp (Lt.Henderson)
with one tank started the ball rolling by flaming two underground defences for the Regiment de la Chaudiere, a small
action with no casualties. Next 9 Tp (Lt Sanders) with two tanks well and truly flamed a pillbox for the Royal Winnipeg
Rifles using HE and Besa full tilt as well, and sublimely ignorant of an enemy 88mm reposing behind the hanger
in which the pillbox was situated. As the infantry did not come in the results were not known but at least it was
a lovely sight. On the left 7 Tp (Lt. Beck) then went into action flaming trenches and dugouts in the Quarry at 966701.
Lieut Beck unfortunately went right in to the Quarry and could not extricate his tank. An A.P. shot pierced
the link and set the trailer on fire, whereupon the crew were evacuated from the tank by another tank from the Tp.
Casualties: One Offr (Lieut Beck) and a gunner badly burned. At this point the real fun started. A large number of
Germans, overlooked by our infantry in the advance, sprang into life from their trenches and attempted to climb on the
tanks and trailers. An hectic session ensued under the auspices of Capt Ryle with 7, 6 and 10 Tps called in one by
one to assist. The Germans were so close that the turrets could not be rotated quickly enough. Nevertheless Besa
fire accounted for about twenty five of these, and a round of 95mm H.E. fired from the infuriated Capt Ryle at 10 yds
range when his Besa jammed most definitely accounted for two more. Capt Ryle appealed strongly for infantry, one
coy would have seen the whole posn cleared up, but none were available. As it was the posn remained as a nuisance
German pocket for some time after the fall of CARPIQUET village., The salient feature from our point of view in the
whole of the day's fighting was the absence of a close tie-up with infantry, the non-availability of infantry and
thus lack of positive dividends from the use of flame.
927707 052882 3 Jul. 4 Jul. The Sqn harboured the night at NORRY EN BASSIN 927707 and was released next morning from the Operation, returning to
CRESSERONS at 052802 but not for long.
052802 052802 6 Jul. 7 Jul. On 6 Jul 44 10 Tp (Lt Mason) under Lt. Moss moved to 962732 ready for Operation "CHARNWOOD" (objective - CAEN) under
3 British Div - the immediate objective in this sector being LEBISY 0471. On the next day the remainder of the Sqn
moved out to its various assignments on Operation "CHARNWOOD". 6 Tp (Lt. Henderson) moved under Capt Ryle to an
assembly area between VIEUX CAIRON and LES BUISSONS 984743 in sp of 7 Cdn Bde. 8 Tp (Lt. Beechey) under Capt Dean
moved to ANISY 0175 in support of 176 Bde. 9 Tp ( Lt. Sander) under Major Spearpoint moved to ANISY 0175 in sp of 197
Bde. In every case the Crocodiles were to be in reserve in case required. The Squadron thus found itself in the
impossible situation of being split up over four bridges on three divisional fronts (3 British, 59 Div, 3 Canadian).
The tactical and administrative drawbacks of this piecemeal allocation were to be proved next day.
8 Jul Operation "CHARNWOOD" 6 & 10 Tps were not called upon during the day and were ultimately released to CRESSERONS
having done nothing when they might have been utilised in the central sector. Early in the morning 8 Tp had moved to a
Page 2 of 3
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
F.U.P. at 0774, 9 tp to VILLONS LES BUISSONS. Early in the morning the S.Staffs took heavy casualties from a very
strong trench system about 300 - 400 yds running west of LA BIJUDE 027734 and south of CAMBES 0176. It was seriously
suggested (and agreed to by Comd of a Sqn of 13/18 Hussars of which 8 Tp were under Comd) that the posn be attacked by
8 Tp alone supported by sixteen infantry personnel. The wiser counsels of Capt Dean fortunately prevailed. He pointed
out that the posn demanded at least an infantry battalion and that the enemy anti-tank situation was most dubious.
Above all that to put the Crocodiles in without adequate infantry to kill the enemy and occupy the ground was merely
to risk the Crocodiles to no purpose whatsoever. It was an assertion of a very sound and necessary axiom "To infantry,
no show" and his contention was most strongly supported by O.C. 141 RAC - Lieut-Col H. Waddell who happened to arrive.
By late evening a plan was finally knocked out with the NORFOLKS and 13/18 HUSSARS, and meantime attempts were made by
Major Spearpoint to have 9 Tp released from 197 Bde to assist in the action.
The action itself fell in to two phases. 8 Tp crossed the Start Line (East of Rly Line at 023737) sp by the fire of
13/18 Hussars. Almost immediately Cpl Hischier lost a bogey assembly from a German "Bazooka" and was then penetrated
by a 75mm through the flame gun ball mounting. The tank brewed up with two killed and three badly burned. Right
from the start Lt. Beechey could only get unignited shots from his gun and shortly afterwards had his gearbox compartment
penetrated by a 75mm which almost completely dislocated his steering. Nevertheless, moving in wide circles, he
continued to give fire support and direct his Tp Sgt. Shortly afterwards the Sgts pressure failed and he came out of
action. Tp crown everything the infantry had not followed up the attack, at this moment 9 Tp(Lt.Sander) tardily released
from its Bde, appeared. Without any knowledge of the ground or plan the tp rushed in to action. The flaming
was magnificient - never before had such a colossal "rod" appeared as that which now issued forth from Lt.Sanders tk.
HE and Besa liberally applied also helped and this time the infantry went on and through the enemy posn.
Shortly afterwards Capt Dean recovered Lt Beechey's tank and set out on foot with Sgt Rowe who volunteered to accompany
him, to investigate Cpl Hischier's trailer. Except for the light from three burning tanks which necessitated them
crawling it was now completely dark. Then, on answering a call from a wounded man, Capt Dean released an 's' mine and
died shortly afterwards. In this wuy the Regt lost perhaps its most popular officer - the bright, impurtable,
fantastically humorous L.O. John Dean. For the first and last time Nippy Chips was "off net. Before he died Sgt Rowe
first attempted to lift him then went back and brought up the tank. As the crew dismounted however the silhouetted tk
brought down such a hail of mortars that Sgt Rowe decided to take it back and try another effort on foot. Lt.Beechey
now took charge of the party and set off once again, and then he too making his way towards a wounded soldier stepped
on a mine and received severe leg injuries. No.R.A.P. could be found nearby but he himself, carried on a tank,
directed the crew with great fortitude to a R.A.P. some miles back. He died next day, a brave officer. If it accomplished
nothing more this unfortunate episode showed how vital it was from an admin point of view not to split up a
Sqn into small fragments because we cannot rely on the inf to be able always to deal with our casualties.
Transcription note: Diary reads "south of CAMBES 0176" believe this should be 0174
052802 Released from Operation "CHARNWOOD" the Sqn moved back to CRESSERONS 052802 where it remained from 9 Jul to 16 Jul.
During this period Capt Shearman joined 'B' Sqn from 'C' Sqn.
Page 3 of 3
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
1472 16 Jul. On 16 Jul 'B' Sqn under comd 51 Highland Division for Operation and moved to the area 1472 (sheet 7/F2). Their
object was to support the 5 Seaforths and capture the triangle S.E. of ESCOVILLE X Rds 136706, 140708, 140702. This
was the first case of an individual Sqn effort and as such proved a great success.
The original plan was as follows. Lieut R.Moss (Recce Offr) was to lead from the harbour to the orchard at 136709 where
the troops were to fan out right and left. Right - 6 Tp (Lt.Henderson) supported by 9. Tp (Lt.Sander), Left - 7 Tp
(Lt.Barrow) supported by 10 Tp(Lt.Mason). Both were to deal with the X-rds and support 'A' & 'C' Coys on to these
objectives. They would support 'B' & 'D' Coys, which were to come through on to the apex of the triangle. Owing to
trailer troubles in 6 Tp slight amendments had to be made to the plan - 9 Tp took over from 6 Tp and 6 Tp later came
up in support of 9 Tp.
At H-60 on 17 Jul the Sqn moved off through the wood at 1371 (H hour was at 0745 hrs) and began the advance with the
inf at H plus 20. By H plus 23 the first PW had been taken. On the right the advance went according to plan and 9 Tp
(Lieut P.C.F.Sander) with its customary elan (flame, HE and Besa ad Germanic Nauseam) supported the inf on to the
first objective, a hedgerow 200 yds beyond the road. On the left 7 Tp (Lieut Barrow) went too far forward and missed
the X-Rds, 10 Tp came in to fill the breach under Sgt Pipkin(Lt Moss's tank was bogged). Unfortunately he must have
mistaken his objective for in spite of Lt Mason's orders he proceeded over the X-Rds 400 yds beyond the inf. Here his
tank was hit and burned up where it was impossible to recover it. Both he and his operator were killed apparently in
baling out, and the other three are missing. Sgt Vernon's tank (10 Tp) was next penetrated in the top right hand side
corner of the turret by some species of projectile about 50mm calibre and he himself was killed in baling out by mortar
fire. The advance continued with right 9 tp and left 7 tp. 9 Tp carried on with their support right up to the apex of
the triangle and did very stout work in clearing snipers from the woods and timber yard in the area. Meanwhile 7 Tp
continued to give magificient Besa support to the inf and later cleared the road running East from 146708, During the
second half of the battle a tank driver was killed by mortar fire whilst out of his tank. During this phase too, 6 Tp
which had so far been supporting 9 Tp, gave direct assistance to the inf in mopping up.
The whole operation was a great success and the Sqn was personally congratulated and thanked by G.O.C. 1 Corps. Total
Casualties: Tanks - 1 Z, 1 X Personnel - 3 killed, 3 missing, 2 wounded.
Unfortunately the Sqn could not then obtain its release, although it was not subsequently used, and was kept at
134724 (Sheet 7/F2) for ten days. Here it was some few hundred yards away from the enemy and subject to incessant
mortar and arty fire. For some time its luck held but the outcome was a foregone conclusion, On 26 Jul 8.lcm mortars
accounted for seven wounded, including the Sqn Comdr - Major Spearpoint, Lt.Henderson and five. Once more heavy
casualties had been sustained - not in battle but by being kept too far forward when not required. Events had borne out
commonsense and the next day Capt Ryle secured from 1 Corps release of the Sqn back to Cresserons. As a consequence of
this Capt Ryle became Major and took over Comd of the Sqn. The remainder of the month was spent at Cresserons, indulging
in their well kept secret of the delights of Lion sur Mer.