C-Squadron was well behind B-Squadron as it passed through Norrey and was further hampered by heavy mortar and artillery fire and the narrow streets. As they deployed on the start line all they could see in front of them was a field of burning Shermans with no enemy in sight. As might be expected when presented with such a horrific sight the lead elements paused. Twice the Squadron commander ordered the advance to continue but no one moved. Knowing that B-Squadron must be in a desperate situation the commanding officer called for volunteers to advance and as one the entire Squadron began to move off. Angered by the sight in front of them they took a heavy toll on the SS infantry as they passed through the wheat field.
Major D'Arcy Marks Officer Commanding C-Squadron
Due to the placement of the ammunition racks early Shermans often caught fire when hit
At 15:55 Captain Wildgoose fighting his way through the village of Le Mesnil-Patry with the remnants of B-Squadron and D-Company of The Queen’s Own Rifles announced over the radio that the village had been taken. However, within a few minutes he reported German armour was counter attacking. This was his final message. He was not heard from again. At almost the same time C-Squadron reported taking heavy antitank fire from their right flank. The Regimental Commanding Officer Colonel Colwell knowing that the British were supposed to be attacking on that flank suspected that this might in fact be friendly fire and ordered both Squadrons not to return fire and to fly the Allied recognition flags. He then requested the British to cease fire which had to be passed by radio up through 2nd Brigade and 3rd Division to the 2nd Army. The C-Squadron commander Major Marks in an act of incredible bravery got out of his vehicle to personally brief all crew commanders and ensure that each tank was flying the proper recognition flag. The incoming fire did not cease but increased in intensity and accuracy with many tanks being hit and “brewing up” (Violently burning). As enemy tanks began to appear out of the smoke it became clear that a full scale counter attack was underway. At this point Colonel Colwell ordered both Squadrons to return fire and withdraw back through the town of Norrey and regroup. B-Squadron did not respond. Major Marks remained on the battlefield engaging the oncoming Germans until all of his surviving tanks had withdrawn.
A Sherman Firefly flying the Allied recognition flag.
The withdrawal was not with out incident. The German artillery had knocked down many walls in Norrey-en-Bessin blocking most of the roads and the Sherman of Lieutenant Bill “Rip” Gordon managed to block the remaining road when his driver attempted to take the 90 degree turn at top speed and rolled the 32-ton tank onto its side. Track marks can still be seen on the side of the building that the tank hit. Ordered to knock down walls in order to get through the village one tank attempting to drive through a house promptly found itself in the basement. The Germans did not let up on the withdrawing squadron and Lieutenant Bill McCormick watched the tanks on either side of him go up in flames before his tank was also hit. Seeing the German tank off to his right he frantically ordered the gunner, trooper Len Magee, to engage but he was too late and the next German round went through the turret severely wounding him in the legs and killing his gunner and the loader, trooper W.W. Millar. McCormick woke up to find himself on the ground with several other survivors. Corporal Simmons, trooper “Frenchie” Moreau, and trooper Alf Cooper. Knowing that his legs were useless he ordered the others to leave him but they would not. Dressing his wounds as well as they could they set off crawling through the waist high grain. At some point Moreau and Simmons got detached from the group and only Cooper was left dragging the much larger McCormick all the time under continuous mortar and small arms fire. McCormick was wounded again this time by a bullet but Trooper Cooper continued to drag him for more than a mile before they finally made it back to the Canadian lines. Both men survived the war but Lieutenant McCormick lost his right leg.*
Sgt. Pitcher's tank covered in rubble withdraws. A Reconnaissance Troop Stuart in Norrey.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank White (Post War)
As the remains of C-Squadron (9 tanks) withdrew through Norrey the Regimental 2ic (2nd in Command) Major Frank White in Holy Roller, collected them and along with a troop from A-Squadron organized a blocking position along the Caen Bayeux railway embankment to cover the withdrawal of the Regiment and await the inevitable German counter attack. The attack never came and after dark when it became apparent that no more survivors were coming back the Regiment withdrew to a Harbour at Bray. Unfortunately Bray also served as a collecting point for thanks recovered from the battlefield and as a temporary cemetery for those lost that day. The next day after the tired crews had an opportunity to get some much needed rest the Regiment moved again to a new harbour near Camille It was here in the days to come that the true extent of the disaster became known. B-Squadron, reconstituted only the day before, had ceased to exist. In material terms the Regiment lost 50 tanks that afternoon although 13 were later recovered and repaired. However, tanks could be easily replaced. By far the greatest losses and the ones felt most acutely were the brave young men, whether they were veterans who had landed on D-Day 5 days previously, or raw replacements in combat for the first time and had in many cases less than 24 hours with the Regiment. The 1st Hussars lost 7 officers, 6 non commissioned officers, and 32 men that day. Of this number at least 7 were murdered and 6 others are still listed as “missing” In addition 1 officer and one NCO were wounded. Finally, 1 officer and 2 troopers were captured. It seems that these three were lucky as it appears that some Germans were not taking prisoners that day. D-Company of The Queen’s Own Riffles lost 87 men killed or wounded, with 11 taken prisoner out of a total strength of 120. Of those taken prisoner 6 were later murdered.
* Bill McCormick's story is recounted in the book HOLDING JUNO By Mark Zuehlke Published in 2005 by Douglas and McIntyre Ltd. pg 338-340