After many trials the D.D tanks or swimming tanks, they were now called, were
to carry out the assault on the beaches.
On D.Day this secret design put a strain and responsibility on the officers and men of the regiment. They could not talk to anyone; each man had to sign the Official Secrets Act.
When the tracks of the tank came into contact with the shore, in approximately 5ft of water, the commander gave the order to the driver to break the struts. This was done by a hydraulic plunger, the screen would fall to the deck as air was released from the pillows, and it then became a fighting tank.
Each man had to under go training with deep sea Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus. This was a very important part of training but many were not happy with this type of Apparatus, never the less everyone was brought up to the final stage.
Once accomplished we found it an experience never to be forgotten. A water tank, which cut down only the driver's compartment and a turret, was placed at the bottom of a 30ft well.
The crew dressed in tank overalls took their places with Davis S.E.A. adjusted at the ready. Hatches pulled down and shut. At a signal, 3000 gallons of water per minute was poured on top of the crew until the tank was full, the apparatus had to be fitted to each member, the tank commander, opened the hatch - then the crew would surface if using the apparatus correctly.
This training was very hard especially if the tank sank in sea exercises.
For the next two years, the regiment was engaged in heavy training at WICKHAM. Here we met for the first time the D.D Sherman tank that was to be used on D-Day. Then to Linney Head firing range, and on to Gosport for Navy training for DESA - we got used to the navy language, port your helm, starboard, port etc.
SCOTLAND, the next stop was Fort George; no one in the regiment will ever forget this place. In the winter it was not the cosiest place to be! Names like Crab, Crown and Anchor were names of exercises that gave us an insight to what lay ahead.
On one exercise at MURRAY FIRTH, we were launched into deep water off shore,
The wind was strong, then a snowstorm. In the DD tank my crew let out more air into the D SEA bag and gripped their mouth piece tighter, if we were to go down they would be ready. The sea became rough, two tanks were swamped, one man drowned. We lost 5 tanks, but for the Davis Escape Apparatus we would have lost far more men. The important lesson we learnt (as the tank ran down the ramp into the water), was only a few seconds for the driver to engage the propeller, so that the tank could move away from the Landing Craft. This was to prevent the ramp hitting the tank and breaking the screen as the craft moved up and down with the swell. Once the tank was in the water it could not get back onto the landing craft, so this was the only way to go, head for the shore.
Heavy sea and sudden swells made things very difficult; these were gruelling days of trial and error.
How memories flash through ones brain, suddenly I was aware of my crew looking at me. The expression on their faces…what now! Is this it?