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Stories from The Buffs

"The great moment had arrived when these new and fearsome weapons were to be first used in earnest in their true role as, with Flails firing in support, Lieutenant Shearman bore down on the German guns, flame roaring to his front. This was more than the enemy could stand; white flags went up in all directions and 150 willing prisoners surrendered themselves."

Historical Record of the Buffs 1919-1948

Tank Museum photo No. 1469/D/5
Tank Museum photo No. 1469/D/5

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At full speed 15 Troop shot off on its 1 ½ mile mission to La Sebaudiere, laying a colossal smoke screen on the left flank for the whole length of the advance. Fifty yards from the crossroads Davies spotted a Panzer III just off the road on the right. So fast was he travelling however that before he had trained his gun properly on the Mark III his second tank was already in the way. He had literally passed it almost muzzle to muzzle. The Mark III did in fact fire and missed completely. Behind Davies his other tanks had already trained on it and between them they managed to wing it before it made off.

By now Davies was busily engaging a window in a house across the junction and as he crossed over the cross-roads he failed to see a Panther tucked up against the side of a house on his right. Nor strangely enough could the Panther have seen him, because all three tanks were now across the cross-roads without a shot fired and only Corporal Gates' trailer protruded onto the cross-roads itself. The Panther holed the trailer twice but it did not burn.

But both Corporal Gates and Sergeant Hills were now aware of the Panther's presence and in no time put it out of action. This was the Regiment's first tank kill and was followed immediately by another. The winged Panzer III had worked round on the right and with one shot severed Corporal Gates' track. That was the end of the Mark III - Sergeant Hills saw to that. Davies and Hills now finished their job of setting on fire their portion of the village. But Corporal Gates had unfortunately had his run of luck.

Yet another tank appeared, penetrated his front plate and brewed up the Crocodile. This was our first casualty and cost us one Crocodile, one killed, two missing believed killed and two wounded.

Captain Harry Bailey, 141 Regiment Royal Armoured Corps

Tank Museum photo No. 4493/E/3
Tank Museum photo No. 4493/E/3

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General Bradley asked for some Crocodiles. B Squadron 141 RAC was selected and the tanks covered 400 miles on transporters. Their task was the reduction of Fort Montbarey, an old casemated fort strengthened by earth and surrounded by a moat, forty feet wide and fifteen deep.

A troop of Crocodiles led the infantry in their attack, covered by the Squadron's gun tanks and self-propelled guns, while mortars put down smoke. The second Crocodile struck a 300 pound shell which blew it up; the driver was killed and the crew wounded.

Meanwhile Lieutenant Ward advanced, crossed all obstacles and started burning up machine and anti-tank gun positions and snipers. This put the infantry through the first two lines by which time the Crocodiles had exhausted every drop of fuel, every round of 75mm and 20 belts of Besa ammunition.

The Crocodiles at Brest from The Story of 79th Armoured Division.

Tank Museum photo No. 4735/D/2
Tank Museum photo No. 4735/D/2

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