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D - Day B Squadron Part 4

Lieutenant Charles M. McLeod and Sgt Leo Gariepy

The following account of B squadron’s actions on D-Day is drawn from statements made by Lieutenant Charles M. McLeod, call sign 23, and Sergeant Gariepy, call sign 23 A, as recorded in the Regimental War Diary.

Lieutenant Charles McLeod call sign 23

Sergeant Leo Gariepy call sign 23 A

The night had been cold and windy. No one was sea sick, but most of the troops had not slept and were quite tense. The crews had been told that due to the conditions the decision had been made not to launch the tanks and they had begun to dismantle the nautical equipment such as the compass, the Crew Commander’s hold fast and in some cases, even the Crew Commander’s steering tiller. It came as a complete surprise when at about 4000 yards the “Down ramp” alarm bells rang and the order to launch was given. As soon as it had launched Sergeant Gariepy’s tank began to roll and pitch violently. Although all five vehicles from his landing craft launched, he found it was impossible to maintain formation and Sergeant Gariepy made directly for shore. There was very little fire for most of the trip and as he looked around his tank, he found that he was about even with Major Duncan’s tank with the remainder of the squadron some distance behind. At this point they began to take fire. Two of the air pillars were hit and burst and the right rear strut on his screen broke with quick action by his crew jamming a fire extinguisher between the screen and the hull to save the vehicle. When he was able to look around again the Squadron leader’s vehicle had vanished. Reaching the beach his driver had to avoid numerous mines and obstacles near the waterline before he could deflate his screen and begin engaging a pillbox to his immediate front. Five rounds of high explosive followed by five more of armour piercing appeared to do the job as his vehicle received no return fire. Checking to see that the route was clear for the Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) which was just coming in and would span the anti-tank ditch to his front he took up a hull down position near the pillbox and began engaging the machine gun positions that were making life miserable for the infantry along the water’s edge. Taking stock of his position he was able to recognize his troop leader and troop corporal’s tanks on his right and five other vehicles to his left.

Approximately 45 minutes after landing the beach was secure, the anti-tank ditch had been breached, and the troop began to move into Courseulles to meet up with the infantry. In the town they were directed to the MT park which seemed to be a centre of resistance. Surrounded by a 7-foot wall some 18 inches thick this position turned out to be the German headquarters for the town. The wall was breached by Sergeant Gariepy who swept the interior with machine gun fire which had no apparent effect on the defenders. The decision was made to enter the park. The troop leader Lieutenant McLeod widened the breach, but his tank got hung up as he tried to cross though. Sergeant Gariepy moved alongside threw in smoke grenades and proceeded to clear the area with machine gun and high explosive fire, in the process, taking some 30 prisoners.

Sgt. Gariepy's tank in Courseulles his prisoners and a model of the town's defences found in the Headquarters

Following a brief reorganization with the infantry during which the crews removed much of the DD equipment from their tanks. They escorted the infantry into Reviers against surprisingly light opposition. Here they joined the what remained of the Squadron at that time. At this time there is some confusion how many tanks that amounted to. According to Lieutenant McLeod it would be 8, two Headquarters tanks under the command of Captain Smuck, his troop (#3) and #1 Troop commanded by Lieutenant Pease. This figure seems to work with B Squadrons' count of 4 surviving vehicles at the end of the day when you take into account the loses that would happen in the next few minutes and the late arrival of Trooper Soroke's vehicle from the beach.

Captain Smuck and Lieutenant Pease

From Reviers, B Squadron was sent forward to scout the high ground in between the villages of Pierrepont and Fontaine Henry the next objective. Lieutenant McLeod and Three troop was on the right, First troop was on the left with Headquarters force covering the rear. During this advance the squadron came under heavy mortar fire from a wood to their front. With all guns firing High Explosives the advance continued until suddenly Sergeant Gariepy saw his troop leader’s tank get hit by two Armour Piercing rounds in quick succession. The first round knocked the turret out of commission; the second round wounded Lieutenant McLeod in the face partially blinding him, and set the tank on fire. Ordering the crew to bail out, Lieutenant McLeod reentered the burning tank when it was found that the turret was in a position that blocked the escape of the driver and co-driver. With the traverse gears inoperative, Lieutenant McLeod was able to manhandle the turret into a position that allowed his crewmen to escape through the turret. In the meantime, the German gunners accounted for four more B Squadron vehicles before succumbing to fire from Sergeant Gariepy’s tank. The surviving vehicles retired to Reviers where they made preparations to continue the advance. Fortunately, no further action materialized and that night after dark the 4 surviving tanks of B Squadron along with their bone-tired crews entered the Regimental harbour at Pierrpont approximately 12 kilometres inland.

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