Aftermath

On the 12th of June most of the 1st Hussars were on “Forced Rest” that is they were ordered to spend as much of the day as possible catching up on much needed sleep. However, this could not be said of the men of # 54 LAD under Captain P.C. Neil and the Regimental Technical Staff under Captain W.A. Robinson. Their crews worked feverishly to recover repairable tanks from the battlefield (often under fire) and make repairs to the survivors that had returned. In the week following the battle these hard-working crews were able to recover, repair, and return to service 7 desperately need tanks. Unfortunately, this often required that they remove the bodies of dead crewmen in the process. The men’s moral received a modest boost on the 12th as the Regiment received the first delivery of mail since before leaving England. In addition, news was received that many of the crews feared lost when their tanks were sunk or swamped on D-Day were in fact safe in England. In fact, Lieutenant Bill Little and his crew showed up at the harbour after arranging their own trip from England rather than reporting to the replacement pool as should have been the case. Lieutenant Little was just the first of several Hussar officers to use their initiative this way. Technically “Absent without leave” each officer received a similar lecture on discipline and a formal admonishment from no less a personality then General Crerar the Army Commander. However, this was then followed by a warm handshake. The harbour at Bray was a very grim place located within yards of what became known as the “Crock Park” the grave yard of destroyed tanks and just across the road from the temporary graveyard holding so many Hussars killed the day before.

On the evening of the 12th the Regiment moved to a new harbour at Camille.

The "Crock Park" at Bray was just across the road from a temporary Hussar cemetery


The Regiment spent the next several weeks resting, rebuilding its strength, receiving repaired and replacement vehicles, and integrating new crews. Once again vehicles and veteran crews were split up to form the nucleus of a new B-Squadron and ensure that each squadron had a similar number of “Old hands”. This was when Holy Roller was moved to B-Squadron to become OC’s (Officer Commanding) tank. While in this area Colonel Colwell called his officers together in order to prepare an after-action report. Some topics included the need for time for proper planning and reconnaissance. The need for a safer way to communicate between infantry and tankers. How to deal with the deadly 88mm gun. The most effective use of the Firefly, and the use of a four-tank troop vs three. In the three-tank troop battle had demonstrated that one stationary tank could not effectively provide cover for the other two and as a result the recommendation to move to a four-vehicle troop was put forward.

The two most immediate results of this discussion were the switching of the firefly to the junior call sign in the troop, as the current practice of giving them to the troop leader led to them usually being the most heavily involved in a firefight and thus less able to command and control their troop's actions. The second involved welding of spare track to the front of the tank as a form of additional armour. The welding crew from 54 LAD spent several days scavenging track from knocked out vehicles in the crock park and welding it to the front, sides, and turrets of the Regiment’s tanks. The coming battles around Caen would quickly prove the worth of this expedient measure.

Track links became additional armour


Over the next few days rumours began to circulate through the harbour that the Germans had been shooting prisoners. A patrol by the Queen’s Own Riffles into Le Mesnil Patry the following day found no Germans dead or alive but they did find several Canadian soldiers that appeared to have been executed. The rumours were further substantiated when three of our own, Sergeants Payne, and Johnstone, and Trooper McClean returned to the unit after spending several harrowing days on the run behind German Lines. Payne along with Troopers McClean and Preston were being taken to the rear following interrogation in Le Mesnil-Patry when the soldier guarding them suddenly began shooting. Trooper Preston was shot in the back and went down and Payne was slightly wounded as he began to run. He could not account for the third prisoner Trooper McLean. He managed to get away and spent three days “Playing possum” in a ditch until the Germans withdrew a few hundred yards. Then under cover of darkness he was able to make his way back to allied lines. On the way he met up with Sergeant Johnstone and the returned together. Trooper McLean made his own way back. He gave much the same story as Sergeant Payne with the addition that he saw the Germans take Trooper Preston’s body away with them when they left the area. As might be expected the rumours of German atrocities caused considerable amount of anger and hard feelings among the crews. On the 18th of June exactly 1 week after Le Mesnil-Patry, Padre R.C. Creelman conducted his first Sunday service in France. Sensing the mood of the men his sermon was brief and to the point. Speaking quietly but with great sincerity he told the assembled men “Although the enemy might shoot prisoners in the back the Hussars must not seek revenge by doing likewise” He then added that “He did not wish to be the Padre of a unit that did so.” He ended with the advice that “Playing the game would in the long run, bring fewer casualties.” This sermon widely considered one of his best did much to alleviate the tensions in the Regiment.
















Sergeant E.S. Payne Padre Creelman 18 June 1944


On the 21st the Regiment moved to a new harbour at Columby-Sur-Thaon where they remained until their next action on July 8th. The next several weeks served to demonstrate the remarkable resilience of young soldiers when subjected to the horror that is war. Normal harbour routine was maintained, vehicles and equipment were serviced and maintained, replacement crews were integrated with the old hands, training was refreshed and skills were honed. The veterans worked diligently with the new replacements on their gunnery skills as many of them had not yet even fired the Sherman's 75mm gun. To this end excellent use was made of the 6 Panther tanks knocked out by Lieutenant Henry and Sergeant Boyle on the 9th as range targets.

As the time from the 11th increased the men began to relax and morale improved significantly. Daily information meetings were established by the Intelligence Officer where he used a large map to explain the local situation as well as the overall war. Trucks were laid on to take the men back to Juno beach to swim. Pick up baseball games were organized. Movies were shown in a nearby barn by the Auxiliary Services Supervisor. On 29 June 29th the men were given an the opportunity to take their first hot shower since before leaving England. the effect that this had on morale should not be underestimated. For men living rough under field conditions this ranks right after mail and fresh food.







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