At last we had been fully equipped and trained, and were now the Guards Armoured Devision, and rearing to go into battle, with all our new supplies of Tanks, Planes fighters ,bombers, and gliders, we could now face our enemies on at least equal terms.
Eventually the great day arrived, and after what seemed to be eternity on board ship we landed in Normandy. What a site, the sea appeared to be covered in ships of every kind, the air full of patrolling aircraft all R.A.F., Vehicles, Soldiers, and stores of all description pouring into that small area of a bridgehead. What a contrast to Dunkirk, we could now claim to be a professional Army.
Disgorged from a landing craft, and creeping slowly through the surf, disaster, the darn truck conked out. We had been warned that if this happened the self starter was not to be used, nothing for it but jump out and swing the starting handle. The advise was good and the truck started quite easily.
I remember thinking at this point we were lucky to be an armoured division, not for us that first blood chilling dash up the beach, we were to be used as break out troops to push forward and enlarge the bridgehead,
The small fields of the Bocage Country proved extremely difficult for tanks, and it seemed a long time before the final advance. Then one night, dug in and waiting for orders near Caen, the barrage started. This was our first experience of really heavy and prolonged shelling .. Hundreds of artillery shells screaming overhead , I thought of the Soldiers in WW1 who not only had this noise but also had to contend with the same amount of shelling from the other side. The noise was so great that it was impossible to carry out a conversation, so head down curled up in my slit trench , safely dreaming of my Cup and Saucer Tree, and soon asleep.
Awakened at dawn by the cessation of shelling, which had continued all night, the silence could almost be touched. Then the steady drone of aeroplanes. Bombers hundreds of them, as wave after wave passed overhead. Then the crunch of bombs as they relieved themselves of their deadly loads.
So this was Montgomery meant when he said “I’ll move when I am ready”
The advance was slow, the roads and villages almost completely destroyed, hampering movement, and incredibly German soldiers crept out of the rubble, still full of fight and using their weapons to good effect. Eventually objectives were reached and that particular battle won.
I was often asked how it was that I could sleep peacefully with all that noise going on, and as usual I could not tell them that I was able to climb into my Cup and Saucer tree and completely feel safe. Guardsman did not approve of Warrant officers being eccentric, Officers Yes and they sometimes were.
After several battles and skirmishes , slowly advancing into Calvados Country which still proved difficult we finished with the battle for the village of Mochamp, where suffering from lack of reinforcements we were to loose many more Officers and men.
The attack proceeded, and we went in without tanks, which were being held up by blocked roads, and even before reaching the start line we suffered casualties. Our request for Artillery fire was refused again. After some heavy fighting the centre of the village was reached, and the enemy appeared to be retreating, a strategic move, as a massive counter attack took place supported by Tiger Tanks, cutting the company in two. A withdrawal was ordered, and completed with great difficulty.
Casualties that day were heavy in my company “The Prince of Wales Company” were 37 men and officers killed or wounded, the rest of the battalion suffered similar numbers.
In just one weeks fighting we had lost almost half of our Company.