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“A cooks tour”

The information for the following is drawn primarily from a note prepared in 2004 by Captain

Andy Fyfe describing his recollections of his activities on June 6 1944.

Capt. Andrew "Andy" Fyfe

Captain Fyfe was the first off of LCT 7010. He described his tank as a Canvas boat with a 34-ton Keel. As his vehicle entered the water, he remembers barely avoiding the flailing ramp extensions designed to guide the tracks into the water at the correct angle to avoid swamping the tank. As soon as it started away from the landing craft the vehicle began to sway wildly from side to side and it was almost impossible to maintain course. Standing on a platform behind the turret he found himself using all of his strength on the manual tiller to steer a weaving course, first into the wind and sea and then with them in order to maintain his direction. The force of the waves caused the steel rails supporting the canvas to bulge inwards and some of the struts supporting them to collapse “with a sound like rifle shots”. To make matters worse the tank took on a pendulum motion bobbing up and down into the waves. This allowed the oncoming waves to break over the top of the screen and flow into the tank. The radio and intercom were shorted out and the Bilge pump was overloaded. At about 500 yards from shore Captain Fyfe knew they were under machine gun fire as he noticed jets of water penetrating the bow canvas. At this point he was certain that they were not going to make it ashore but as he said “The entire crew were too busy trying to keep the tank afloat to worry about anything else”.

The tank did make it to shore but only just barely. As soon as the tracks touched down and they began to move up the beach the engines died. Unable to proceed and with his driver and co-driver in water up to their chins he ordered the screen lowered and his gunner to engage targets for as long as possible. In preparation for D-Day holes had been cut into the turret basket to allow the driver and co-driver an alternate means of escape. They now made use of these and the turret designed for only three men became quite cozy. Using manual controls Captain Fyfe’s gunner was able to destroy two enemy targets with only three rounds. The first was a machine gun position. The second was a concrete bunker about 250 yards away. The first round stripped away their camouflage covering and the second went right through the gun port igniting a massive secondary explosion. Following two successive misfires due to wet ammunition and with the tide rising about a foot every 12 minutes the crew abandoned ship. As they were deploying their raft two landing craft with infantry and one with flail tanks passed close by. One of the infantry craft hit a mine with terrible effect while the other two made it ashore.

After some time in the life raft Captain Fyfe managed to flag down a LCT as it withdrew from the beach. When his crew was aboard Fyfe went up to the bridge to thank the captain for picking them up and was taken somewhat aback when the captain, a very young Sub Lieutenant replied, “Oh, I didn’t care about you guys, I really wanted that dinghy!” Apparently, his craft had hit a mine on the way to the beach. Transferred to a troopship off shore Captain Fyfe was informed that as “Survivors of the sea” they would be taken back to England and sent to a reinforcement pool. That prospect had no appeal at all to him and convinced that he could locate the Regiment he and his crew boarded a landing craft about to land a company of infantry. This trip ashore was uneventful however, they were now tankers without a tank and on an enemy shore without weapons as theirs had been lost when they had abandoned their tank. At the top of the dunes Captain Fyfe spotted the disabled LCT 341 beached with 2 stranded tanks on board. These belonged to Lieutenant H.K. Pattison and Sergeant Pitcher of # 4 Troop. Leaving his crew to dig in he proceeded to commandeer the sergeant’s vehicle and set off with Lieutenant Pattison inland through the town of Graye-sur-Mer to find the regiment.

Lieutenant H.K. "Kit Pattison

Leaving the town, they took a right fork, and proceeded South through apparently empty countryside. However, their advance was not completely uneventful, the wheat fields on either side of the road contained a few enemy stragglers and occasionally one stood up and fired bursts at them. On their way they passed a group of about 20 red-faced and sweating Germans, trotting towards the beach, herded along by a small Royal Winnipeg rifleman, astride the most “sway backed old horse” Fyfe had ever seen. With a Sten in one hand and a bottle in the other, and a grin from ear to ear, he urged them along with occasional shots fired in the air. At dusk as they were leaving the town of Cruelly, they had a close call when they were engaged by German anti-tank gun. Throwing out a smoke screen they withdrew back into the village where they spent a tense night. The next morning Captain Fyfe spotted the rest of the Regiment about a mile and a half away and as he noted in his notes “So ended our Cook’s tour of ten miles in the Normandy countryside”.

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