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Flail tales…

Tank Museum photo No. 2121/A/4
Tank Museum photo No. 2121/A/4

I was Troop Leader of 3 Troop, A Squadron (Westminster Dragoons). We were sent to collect our five Shermans from the Milner Safe Company in Liverpool, who had converted them to flails: we were amused, after seeing them being tested by factory staff in full view of several hundred other workers on the Trading Estate, to have to sheet our Flails down fully when we left on the transporters because they were still on the SECRET list as far as the War Office was concerned.
Captain David Squirrell.

Tank Museum photo No 2121/D/1
Tank Museum photo No 2121/D/1

We left Leiston in Suffolk on transporters and unloaded in Petworth Park amongst the greatest organised chaos yet seen. We found ourselves attached to a squadron of 13th/18th Hussars. There we spent most of our time lying on our backs waterproofing, apart from a parade for the King's inspection.

There was a Squadron Order Group where I realised how unfirmly we were attached to the 13th/18th and we were given orders for a move on transporters all the way back to Tilbury. The following day there was another O Group to say that they had lost the transporters and we would go on our tracks. When asked where there would be a Petrol Point the 13th/18th Squadron Leader told me firmly that I would not need one. Tilbury was well within the range of a Sherman: they knew about such things.

They didn't. We ran out of petrol at various places around the North Circular Road, one driver managing to do so at the end of his own road. My tank got as far as the edge of Epping Forest where, because we were so secret, we crossed the pavement to the shelter of the trees, only to be followed by a man who said he had been fitting flails to Shermans at Currans of Cardiff! He was followed by a Council foreman who was very cross about his pavement. A month later he sent me a bill for a couple of hundred pounds for repairs.
Lieutenant D F Ingram.

Tank Museum photo No. 2121/C/6
Tank Museum photo No. 2121/C/6

At a briefing we were shown photographs and models of the beaches in France where we were to land on D-Day and informed that A Squadron's role was to land on Queen White beach on 'H' Hour plus 3, and support the Staffordshire Yeomanry and infantry of 3rd Division in an attempt to 'rush' Caen.

In a large marquee we were issued with stiff new 'anti-gas' battledress and strange-looking French francs, and later joined by a Military Police Lance Corporal whose motorcycle was to be strapped to the turret of our tank for the landing. At this time, also, we were ordered to paint a large white star on the roof of the turret and a number on the side. On two occasions we were taken out of the park to attend parades. First to receive a 'pep' talk from General Montgomery and then to be reviewed by the King and Queen and the two young princesses. A highly polished Crab was part of the display of specialised armour drawn up at one end of the field. "I would like to see it working" said His Majesty lugubriously "but I don't suppose it will".

With the waterproofing completed we took the tanks to a nearby army base where we drove, in turn, into a large concrete ditch containing several feet of water. Here we waited anxiously for a few minutes, listening for sounds of water gushing in through overlooked holes. However everything turned out well and we drove back to our assembly point pleased with our work.
Trooper W H Jennings.

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