I knew how they felt, my heart was beating faster, I thought, looking at
their young faces. I am only 22 years old - who wants these strips. We all felt
the same - so, with a nod of the head to my driver, "don't stall the engine,
foot down hard Fred". To my wireless operator "signal is 2 Charlie . Don't
forget the Germans over there are more scared than we are as they don't know
what's going to hit them, but we do. Suddenly tension was released and they were
Then came the word 'mount up' - everyone climbed into their tank, head set on, each one taking their place in the tank until the ramp dropped. Then only the crew commander could see. I could see flashes from shells exploding on the beach. Overhead the sound of shells and rockets, the navy were giving the Germans hell - destroyers laying smoke screens…then down goes the ramp and for the first time the crew could see. We could see a house on fire, smoke billowing into the sky, overhead spitfires were diving on German strong points. Further in land bombers dropping their loads of bombs.
Our aim was to land on sword beach, capture the village of HERMANVILLE-SUR-MER then to attack two of the German strong points, code names MORRIS and HILLMAN.
Before leaving England, Sgt HAYCARTH and myself had studied maps and photos. Two tanks were to nose our way through the orchard on the left of MORRIS, this we did with no opposition, and from this point we could see into the back of the strong hold. I told my gunner to place 2 HE shots into the steel doors, also we could see back where C Squadron, with the SUFFOLK regiment, were making a frontal attack. But the infantry were being held up and loosing men because in front of MORRIS the ground was heavily mined. We reported signals of our position, but we were told to come back and take up position left of the squadron. It did not take long to overrun Morris once the mines were cleared.
Next object was HILLMAN. This proved to be a harder job. On one attack tanks were to make a sweep over open ground, left of HILLMAN Sgt Haycarth, Sgt Smith , myself and two other tanks moved off at full speed …500 yards and the Germans opened fire. My tank was hit twice, no one was hurt, but the noise of the shells made one grip their teeth. Sgt Haygarth's tank was hit and the driver badly wounded, wireless out of order, Sgt Haygarth giving orders for another driver to take over as all tanks turned back to head for cover. One other tank was hit, Commander Collins loosing a leg. In all 4 tanks had been hit, 2 out of action, 3 of us made a further attack and were successful and later that afternoon HILLMAN was taken, It had been a very hard afternoon, adrenaline was running high. The commanders was getting Germans out of the trenches by throwing hand grenades from the torrets while other tanks moved round the far side at full speed to cut off the retreating enemy.
By 6oclock both the strongholds were in our hands. After the infantry had dug in we were ordered to retire to a small orchard, where our echelon were waiting to fill us up with petrol and ammo. While all this was going on, between 7.30 and 8 o'clock we watched Dakotas dropping supplies to the 6th airborne. Coloured parachutes filled the sky. By 8 O'clock we had moved back to HILLMAN to take up a 'turret down' position behind a ridge, as we expected a counter attack by the 21st Panther div. They had been reported to be in the area, we waited 4 hours by 12 o'clock we were pulled back to a wood near COLLEVILLE. Here we had food and an hour's sleep. At first light we were back in position near MORRIS.