The first half of 1944 was a very busy time for the Regiment as they completed their preparations for the invasion. While A & B squadrons were busy “Boating” at the shore, (completing the open water component of their DD Training) the rest of the Regiment conducted intensive training to become proficient in waterproofing the vehicles, loading and unloading of LCTs, and most importantly, gunnery on the new Sherman tanks that began to arrive in increasing numbers. In conjunction with the range work the crews received detailed lectures on German tanks and their armour and emphasis now was switched from simply hitting the target to hitting it in the exact spot where the round would be most effective. Colonel Colwell’s mantra throughout this training was, “Hit with the first round and hit again”.
On 16 January in another indication that the invasion might be near, the men were told to take their 7-day leave immediately as the time might not be available later in the year.
The first half of February was taken up with combined arms training in which each Hussar squadron practised with the infantry battalion they were expected to support during the actual invasion. In military terminology this training was “Strictly solid”, i.e., it was not a “Cooked up demonstration” but instead focused on each side gaining a clear appreciation of the other’s capabilities and limitations. The training culminated in a series of “Live fire” attacks where each company of infantry was supported by a squadron of tanks. Here the infantry would indicate targets for the tanks with tracers which in turn inundated them with 75mm high explosive rounds. On the 19th of February A & B Squadrons, having completed their basic training on the DD tanks, were off to Shangri-la. This was the code name for the 2nd Armoured Brigade Duplex Drive training facility at Fawley Wood, (Stanswood Bay Hards) just south of Southampton on the Solent. Here they would continue to hone their skills in preparation for a series of full-scale pre-invasion exercises.
On February 28, the Regiment was inspected by General Montgomery who would ultimately command all of the troops assaulting the beaches on D-Day. The inspection was notable for two reasons. First, it was carried out with the men “at ease”, which as he said later was done so that the soldiers and he could get a good look at each other. Second, following the inspection, he had the assembled troops break ranks and gather around his jeep, where, in a brief speech, he complimented the troops on their “Fine appearance” and stressed the importance of “Mental confidence between a general and the troops under his command”. This he said “Could only be achieved by the general and his troops seeing and knowing each other before going into battle”. The inspection ended with the soldiers giving the General three rousing cheers.
General Montgomery addressing troops prior to the invasion