This narrative is drawn from a post war interview with Trooper Jim Paisley who was the Driver/Mechanic on “Anemic”, the tank belonging to Lieutenant William “Bill” Little the Troop Leader, of # 5 troop A Squadron. The gunner was Trooper Jimmy Spence, Trooper Gord Hawken was the loader/operator, and Trooper Bill Copeland was the co-driver.
A-Squadron’s experience on D- Day was slightly different from that of B-Squadron. When the order that the LCTs would proceed to shore and land the tanks was given, they found that they were too close to shore and ahead of schedule. As a result, at about 2500 yards from shore they made a 360 degree turn to the right and began launching at about 1500 yards. Unfortunately, this maneuver along with the terrible conditions that they encountered on their way to the beach put them behind schedule and caused them to land approximately 7 minutes behind the infantry. The conditions were so bad that in several cases even the drivers were called on deck with the rest of the crew to support the screens. Only the centre two LCTs were able to launch their full load, a total of nine vehicles. On Lieutenant Little’s LCT, his vehicle had just launched when a lucky shot by the Germans destroyed the chains supporting the ramp. This unlucky craft did eventually make its way ashore only to strike a mine as it began to launch for a second time. One more vehicle was able to make it off but the remainder were trapped. The fourth LCT proceeded directly to shore and landed another 5 tanks.
As Anemic made its way ashore conditions were bad, and the vehicle was shipping a lot of water. The bilge pump was working full blast just to keep them afloat. Trooper Paisley was called on deck along with the rest of the crew to help support the screen. Lieut. Little was using all of his strength steering from his position behind the turret. Even so, the wind and current continually pushed them to the left of their original touch down point. All were doing their best to make themselves as small as possible as enemy machine gun fire was intense. As they approached the beach obstacle zone, they thought that they were going to make it, but fate thought otherwise. At that point a Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) charged in behind them, fired its massive salvo of 1000 5-inch high-explosive rockets, and turned back out to sea. In the process, it created a massive bow wave that instantly swamped Anemic. Two of the crew had their Amphibious Tank Escape Apparatus (ATEA) inflated and were able to stay on the surface. The other three went down with the tank, and eventually struggled back to the surface where they managed to inflate their raft. Machine gun fire was intense, and unfortunately, Trooper Gord Hawken was hit and killed. The rest of the crew, fearful of becoming sitting ducks in the bright yellow raft, remained in the water until Trooper Jimmy Spence who could not swim, clambered aboard saying he would “Rather be shot than drown”. Fortunately, by this time the enemy machine gunners had more important things to worry about as they were being heavily engaged by the remainder of A-Squadron and the Infantry of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. After what seemed like hours bobbing up and down in their raft, they were rescued by a small craft, but this was only after Lieutenant Little threatened the captain with his pistol. Apparently, the Order of the Day was to only pick up full crews. Later that evening the crew made a perilous transfer to a LST as both ships crashed together in the rough seas.
This is a link to Trooper Paisley’s interview. It is in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.