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The Beachhead Pt. 1

The first night in Normandy was tense and the battered Hussars got very little sleep as they worked long into the night to prepare for the expected German Counter attacks. In fact, one such attack by the German 21st Panzer division had already occurred late in the afternoon and had reached the beach between the Canadians on Juno and the British on Sword beaches causing some concern. The Regiment regrouped that night combining the 9 remaining tanks from A Squadron with the 4 survivors of B squadron to form a composite squadron under Major Brooks. The echelon, advancing in their unarmoured trucks loaded with needed fuel and ammunition passed through a heavy German air-raid and were a welcome sight as they entered the harbour well after dark.

For the most part June 7th was a quiet day for the 7th Infantry Brigade and the 1st Hussars and both Squadrons advanced with the infantry to Norrey-en-Bessin which was to have been the final objective for D-Day. Although this advance was without incident German counter attacks threatened the left flank of the beachhead causing the Hussars to withdraw a short distance to a new harbour with C Squadron being dispatched along with elements of the Canadian Scottish Regiment to take up defensive positions covering that flank. The morning of the 8th of June saw the Germans counter attack in force all along the 7th Brigade front. C-Squadron supporting the Canadian Scottish was engaged by armour, artillery, and machine guns but held. On the centre and right flanks all available tanks of the composite squadron, Regimental Headquarters, and the Reconnaissance Troop were continually called upon to rush to various locations on the perimeter in response to attacks or to counter the suspected buildup of enemy forces. As soon as the immediate situation was resolved in one area they would be called upon to respond to another. Compounding the difficulties that day was the fact that the Germans had captured the Brigade radio frequencies and were continually jamming the radios or sending false reports.

One of the notable actions on the 8th was carried out by Lieutenant William Angus Paul “Gus” Smith commanding the Reconnaissance Troop of Stewart light tanks. Receiving information that sniper activity in the vicinity was becoming a severe nuisance and hampering the activities of the Canadian Scottish Regiment Smith was sent off to deal with the problem. Arriving at the location he immediately set about identifying and eliminating the many enemy positions. As a result, he became the focus of enemy attention taking a severe hit in the arm and having a second bullet pass through his helmet without further injury. Despite his injury he pressed home his attack until he had accurately identified the enemy positions and approximate number. Returning to the Regimental Headquarters suffering severe pain and shock he refused treatment until he had passed detailed information on the enemy positions. His report resulted in two additional Stewarts being dispatched to cover an infantry assault which finally eliminated the problem resulting in more than 30 enemy casualties or prisoners. For his action that day Lieutenant Smith received the Military Cross.

The final action for the Hussars that day involved the recapture of Putot-en-Bessin. Earlier that day in heavy fighting the Germans had managed to retake the town and as a result threaten the right flank of the beachhead. Acknowledging the seriousness of the situation the 7th Brigade commander ordered an immediate counterattack. The Hussars under the command of Major Frank White the 2ic in Holy Roller supported the attack from the right flank with every available Sherman. As it turned out the major German strong points were on the left flank of the attack and the Hussars were often called upon to engage these positions over the heads of the infantry. Accurate fire at essentially point blank range resulted in the elimination of several enemy machine gun and mortar positions. Following the battle the Hussars remained covering the flank until well after dark before withdrawing once again into the Harbour.

Providing close support

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