OUR SURVIVING VETERAN
ABOUT HOLY ROLLER
HOLY ROLLER is the only tank of the 1st Hussars and one of only two Canadian Army Sherman tanks to have survived the entire campaign in North West Europe from D-Day, June 6, 1944 to the end of the war in Europe on May 5, 1945. During that time the 1st Hussars lost 346 tanks but HOLY ROLLER survived. It is a monument of national significance.
The HOLY ROLLER landed with the 1st Hussars at Juno Beach. The 1st Hussars participated in the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland sacrificing their lives to free innocent people who lived under Nazi occupation.
The 1st Hussars who served during the campaign in North West Europe and their descendants have deep roots in our community. By donating to the HOLY ROLLER Memorial Preservation Project, we honour those men and women who sacrificed so much so we can enjoy Canada's rights, freedoms and standard of living today.
START OF WAR
FOR HOLY ROLLER
76 years ago, at 0415 AM, 5 June 1944, General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of all Allied forces taking part in Operation Overlord, gave the word to launch the invasion of North West Europe.
Within hours ships of all sizes began to move across the English Channel, slow moving ships went first, faster ships departed later so they could all arrive off the coast of France at the allotted time they were needed according to plan. The Airborne forces would depart England later that evening.
The 1st Hussars taking part in the assault were aboard 12 Landing Craft Tank (LCT). Both A and B Squadrons were in four LCT each. Each LCT loaded with 5 Duplex Drive (DD) tanks, the Squadron Headquarter LCTs only had four tanks each. Their job was to swim ashore and land ahead of the infantry and engage the many bunkers in NAN GREEN and MIKE RED sectors of Juno Beach. Regimental Headquarters and C Squadron followed in three LCTs, they would land directly on the beach. Also, two Sherman Fireflies, with larger guns travelled in their own LCT. Their role was to engage an Anti-tank bunker on the beach that could wreak havoc on the landing tanks in B Squadron’s landing area.
All of the LCTs departed Southampton at 1100 hrs on 5 June and arrived off the coast of France 6 June sometime shortly after 0500hrs. A Squadron landed behind the Royal Winnipeg Rifles at 0755hrs. B Squadron landed ahead of the Regina Rifles in NAN GREEN Sector at 0758hrs. C Squadron and Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) landed at 0820hrs. Their appointment with destiny and history forever remembered.
OUR SURVIVING VETERAN
The HOLY ROLLER was one of those tanks. It landed at 0820hrs on 6 June along with the rest of the RHQ tanks. Maj Frank White, commanding. At this point in the landing, due to the exit being blocked the Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Colonel Colwell) and the Second-in-Command (Maj White), dismounted and walked the beach trying to find an exit. Eventually, the exit was fixed and the Regiment was able to move off the beach. Shortly after moving off the beach the Commanding Officer's tank was disabled by a land mine so he took over command of the HOLY ROLLER for the remainder of the day. The HOLY ROLLER advanced 7 miles inland on D-Day before developing a fuel leak, which required a quick repair by the hard-working mechanics at Number 54 Light Aid Detachment (LAD). Thus began the HOLY ROLLER's time in Europe.
Sept 1939 to May 1940
The 1st Hussars were called to Active Service on Sept. 1, 1939. It was among the first Armoured units called to active service. The 1st Hussars under the command of Lieutenant Colonel AC Spencer were designated the reconnaissance regiment for the First Canadian Division. The Regiment expanded quickly but the army did not have the resources to meet the demands for equipment and there were serious shortages of the most basic essentials such as boots and blankets. Accommodations for the new recruits consisted of World War I vintage tents pitched on the Grounds of Wolseley Barracks. Despite these initial difficulties morale was high and the young civilians quickly began learning the basics of a soldier’s life, such as drill, and the care and maintenance of their personal equipment.
On 15 October after an increasingly inclement and uncomfortable fall in their tents where many recruits came down with pneumonia the regiment moved into the same buildings at the Western Fairgrounds it had occupied in World War 1. These new quarters although spartan were both dry and heated. They also had a dining area, library and a recreation area.
On 14 November the Regiment was reorganized and renamed. The 1st Hussars provided the Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Squadron, and C Squadron, of the newly created 1st Divisional Cavalry Regiment (Canadian Active Service Force). The remaining Squadrons were 1 each from the Royal Canadian Dragoons and Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians)
In March 1940 the regiment was re-named again. This time the First Canadian Cavalry Regiment (mechanized) (Canadian Active Service Force). However mechanized did not mean “Armoured” At that point the entire armoured strength of the Canadian Army consisted of less than 30 diminutive Carden-Loyd machinegun carriers and Vickers Mk VIB light tanks. While these tanks were in service with the British Army, they were barely worthy of the name.
On 24 May 1940 the regiment paraded through London from Queens Park to the train station in a pelting rain, enroute to the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicles Training Centre in Camp Borden Ontario. Here they were met with a hot meal in the pouring rain and once again were issued tents and straw filled mattresses as no fixed accommodations were available.