Following their introduction to the vehicle and the theory of operations, the crews began their individual training, which took place in the calm confines of Fritton Decoy. This entailed preparing for disembarkation, entering the water from prepared launching ramps, maneuvering through the water using the driver’s quadrant and the commander’s tiller, exiting the water, lowering the screen and clearing for action. The main difference between the operation of the Valentine, and the later Sherman DD, other than size, was the fact that while in the water the turret had to be traversed to the rear to fit the gun within the screen. This required a few extra seconds for the vehicle to get into action which was recognised as less than optimal and was corrected in the Sherman.
Near the end of the first week the crews were gathered around one of the tanks to hear a speech by a rather unimpressive older officer with the rank pips of a Major General. The immediate impression of the “old soldiers” was “Here we go again”another “Brass Hat” is going to bore us with another speech full of platitudes. Their attitude changed quickly as they were introduced to Major General Percy Hobart, the officer commanding the 79 Armoured Division that was responsible for their current training. Speaking plainly, he let the men know that as a result of their “outstanding record and reputation” they were one of two regiments from the Canadian Armoured Corps specifically selected for this specialized training, and that they were to play a major role in the coming invasion of Europe. He made it clear that they would soon have “the high honour of being at the very tip of the spear and be among the first of the assaulting troops to touch down on the enemy shore”. The effect on the men was galvanizing. It was clear that the Regiment was about to play an important role in the coming invasion and were being given the equipment and training to carry it out. Always a proudly competitive unit the men approached their remaining time at A Wing with an enhanced sense of esprit de corps.
Major General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE, CB, DSO, MC
Following individual training the Regiment moved on to maneuvering their vehicles in various formations by troop and squadron paying particular attention to having all vehicles maintain position and arrive at a particular point at a specific time. This training was conducted both day and night using four launching ramps built to simulate the actual launching ramps of the Landing Craft Tanks (LCT).
Simulated Landing Craft Tank launching ramp
The final exercise of the Regiment at A wing saw A Squadron leading the Regimental Head Quarters and B Squadron up Fritton Decoy in three columns of line ahead in perfect formation with parade ground precision and returning to the start point by executing a perfect countermarch. For those that do not know, a counter march, is a complicated maneuver by which troops marching in three columns change direction by 180 degrees. The process may be seen by following this URL https://youtu.be/pzM1ta8FqUI Now imagine executing this with a bunch of lumbering tanks come boats.
Once again, the Regiment received high praise for the way the men conducted and applied themselves and for maintaining an ‘Unusually’ high standard of maintenance especially given that they had seen their first Valentine only 2 weeks previous. By the end of the two weeks the regiment was first to become 100% qualified on the underwater escape apparatus, had a 0-accident record, and had managed to cut the time required to launch 5 tanks from the landing craft from 15 to 5 minutes.