Sergeant W. W. Grimshaw
Unit : No.1 MMG Troop, Headquarters Squadron, 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment.
My Regiment, the 6 AARR [Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment], moved from our quarters in Larkhill into tents on the aerodrome at Tarrant Rushton in Oxfordshire. We waited and prepared for D-day and finally received our allowance of BAFVs, various escape kits, including condoms, and our final briefing before we handed our surplus kit into stores.
I was the Troop Sgt of No 1 MG [Machine Gun] Troop in HQ Sqn. I was a Vickers MG instructor and I had trained most of the men of the two troops of MGs with the assistance of SSM Dunne. The Troop consisted of 4 Vickers MMGs [Medium Machine Guns], a range finder, 4 Jeeps, 4 x 125 cc M/Cycles [Motorcycles] and 20 men. We were in the 2nd Echelon of gliders which meant we were loaded and ready to go at 1200 hrs. We were finally coupled up to our tow and joined the circuit for take-off and became airborne a few minutes later.
Away we went and about one hour later, we were told to prepare for action. We took up crash positions and a few minutes later felt the glider hit by small arms fire several times. Our Horsa glider seemed to stop suddenly as our pilot cast off and then banked to the left, swooped, did a tight turn and we landed. We had landed on our skids because we had previously jettisoned our wheels and struts as part of the DZ [Drop Zone] plan. We quickly dismantled the tail of the glider and got our vehicles out of the body and loaded up the Jeeps. I rode a James M/Cycle and led the way to the edge of the DZ, dodging the mortar bombs which had started to fall on the DZ and the odd bursts of MG fire.
As we reached the shelter of the woods, I saw one of the Regiment's DZ party who explained Col Barker's circus was off and to RV [Rendezvous] at the sawmills above Ranville in the woods. We cut through the woods until we met the main road and stopped for a quick "shuftie". I decided it would be quicker to get across the front of the woods by going down the main road.
We came across a Jeep with four dead gunners and saw they had caught a direct hit from one of the mortar bombs. Further along the road we met some A/B [Airborne] medics who had some German medics working with them. I gave them the location of the bombed Jeep and the party went off to inspect the Jeep. Further along the road we met an A/B MP [Military Policeman] who warned us that "the circus was off and that the area was lousy with SS Panzer troops, two divisions in fact, 12 SS Panzer and 21 Panzer Divs". They were there on training. We had been informed there were only Home Guard troops in the area.
We drove through the woods and finally met up with the rest of my troop with the Trp Cpl [Troop Corporal] and two pilots. We made for the high ground. I was then ordered to put out my guns as local protection and within a few minutes engaged two six-wheeled armoured cars. After a few minutes firing they retired down the hill, followed by one of B Sqn [Squadron] recce troops. Our neighbours turned out to be the 1st Canadian Para Regt, and I quickly liaised with them to make sure we did not receive any "friendly" missiles.
A perimeter was being mapped out and after a few hours, I went on a recce to a new position with one of the Para Bns, the 12th I think, plus one of the Independent Para companies. I had to select two front line positions and one to cover the rear in case the position was over-run because the Paras were a little thin on the ground and we had to hold this particular front. For three days we were in these positions receiving all the crap they could throw at us, when my troop was relieved by our 2nd MG Troop who were in reserve in the brickworks at Ranville. The reserve troop were often called upon to give supporting fire on many targets by use of maps and compass. We found out that an OSS Div were on our front and were prime targets, ready to desert when darkness had fallen. We therefore had guides out, ready to escort any deserters back into our lines.
We used to have a "Hate Hitler" 30 mins daily when we fired all our weapons on our front, and receiving a similar load of HE [High explosive] back in return. It was during one of these days that I was wounded and back-loaded to England. We carried out our 3 days on, 3 days off until 18 August. We were then relieved by RM [Royal Marine] commandos who took over our positions. They were a little sad when I explained as we moved out that the Vickers went with us. It turned out the A/B Div were about to chase the enemy down the Caborg Sea Road, but I was beginning to feel unwell and I was told to make my own way to a casualty clearing station. I ended up in England with a busted eardrum and spent some time in Rotherham Hospital.
Thanks to Nancy Langmaid, Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment Historian, for granting permission for this account to be published on the site.
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