There is nothing glorious about war. It is a desperate, nasty, brutal, business, and good people die. On June 6th 1944, and for the next eleven months, the soldiers of the 1st Hussars fought bravely and sacrificed much to free Europe from the scourge that was Nazism and to ensure the freedoms we enjoy to this day. As with all of the earlier instalments in this blog, and those that will follow, the primary source will be the Regimental War Diary and two published histories of the 1st Hussars. However, in addition, and specifically in regards to the D-Day landings and the events of that day, I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Lieutenant Colonel Allan Finney who has conducted significant original research into the 1st Hussars actions on D-Day and their first weeks in France.
It is well known that D-Day originally set for June 5th was postponed by one day due to bad weather. However, in order to be in place at dawn on June 6th the ships carrying the 1st Hussars began moving towards their forming up point at 11 AM on June 5th. By 6 PM the convoy was assembled and set out on a long and very rough crossing to Normandy. By the time they arrived off Juno beach the next morning the general consensus among the Hussars was that “They didn’t care whether they were torpedoed, bombed, mined, or shot as long as they might soon set foot on dry land”. H-Hour was set for 07:35 at the point of maximum low tide. At 05:30 a conference was held to determine the feasibility of launching the DDs in the current sea state. Both Squadron commanders agreed that it was not possible and the decision was made to move into 7000 yards and check again. Once again conditions were considered too rough and the decision was made to take the tanks directly to shore for a dry landing. However, a few minutes later as the crews were in the process of stripping the nautical equipment from their tanks the order was reversed and the squadrons began launching at approximately 4000 yards. The story of the landings and the fight inland will be covered separately.
The 1st Hussars taking part in the assault were aboard 12 Landing Craft Tanks (LCT). A and B Squadrons were in four LCTs each. Three of the LCTs were loaded with 5 Duplex Drive (DD) tanks, while the Squadron Headquarter LCTs only held four tanks each. Their job was to swim ashore land ahead of the infantry and engage the many bunkers and machine gun positions Juno Beach. Regimental Headquarters and C Squadron followed in three LCTs. They would land directly on the beach once it had been secured. In addition, two Sherman Fireflies, with larger more powerful 17 pounder guns travelled in their own LCT just ahead of B Squadron. Their mission was to engage a large anti-tank bunker at the mouth of the Seulles river on the extreme West end of NAN GREEN. This story will be covered later as well.