22nd Dragoons tanks in Normandy (plus a few Westminster Dragoons ones...)

Discussion in 'RAC & RTR' started by Michel Sabarly, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. Crab No.86 (Cpl Rains) of 3 Troop, 'C' Squadron, 22nd Dragoons [Edit: this is incorrect, see my post # 8 below. The correct identity is:]
    Crab No.86 (Sjt Birch) of 3 Troop, 'C' Squadron, Westminster Dragoons

    at Jerusalem Crossroads (actually, Le Douet de Chouain), 13th June 1944, filmed by Sjt Ginger (A70 43-4):
    No.86 Crab 22D Cpl Rains T148150 - A70 43-4 - 1944-06-13 - Ginger - 01.34.jpg

    The Registration Number T148150 is readable as No.86 crosses the D6 and continues Northeast towards Condé-sur-Seulles:
    No.86 Crab 22D Cpl Rains T148150 - A70 43-4 - 1944-06-13 - Ginger - 01.35.jpg

    Then comes Crab No.88 (L sjt Johnson) Cpl Rider, also of 3Tp C Sqn:
    No.88 Crab 22D L sjt Johnson - A70 43-4 - 1944-06-13 - Ginger - 01.44.jpg

    By Sjt Ginger's side was Sjt Midgley who took photo B5444:
    B5444 - 13 Jun 44 [Midgley].jpg
    THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944. © IWM (B 5444) IWM Non Commercial License

    Matching the location:
    Le Douet de Chouin aka Jerusalem Crossroads.jpg

    Sgt Midgley took at least one other photo (B5422) at this crossroads, already ill-famed after the 7th June rocket attack by Thunderbolts which wiped out two half-troops of the Inns of Court. Wrecks of Inns of Court vehicles are visible of this photo as well as on the film:
    [​IMG]

    [Edit: now back to the topic of 22 Dragoons tanks:]

    Warning: The above tanks have nothing to do with what follows, apart from their turret number!

    Like (apparently) all Crabs of 'C' Squadron 22 Dragoons, No.88 (L Sjt JOHNSON) was named after an aircraft type, in this case 'BLENHEIM', and its WD number was T148141, as can be seen on this still from film A70 85-3 by Sgt Wilkes, shot on 17 Jul 44 just East of Pegasus Bridge (EUSTON 1):
    No.88 Crab 22D 'BLENHEIM' T148141 L sjt Johnson - A70 85-3 - 1944-07-18 - Wilkes - 02.54.jpg

    'BLENHEIM' also appears on A70 92-1 filmed on 20 Jul by Sgt Collins. The dark patch below the name is possibly the tank's blanked out D Day call sign '3H':
    No.88 Crab 22D 'BLENHEIM' - A70 92-1 - 1944-07-20 - Collins - 01.10.jpg

    Michel
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
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  2. Also on A70 92-1 by Sgt Collins, around 01:31 appears another 22 Dgns Crab: this is No.92 (Lt Boal, Tp Ldr 4Tp C Sqn) named 'MARTLET':
    No.92 Crab 22D 'MARTLET' - A70 92-1 - 1944-07-20 - Collins - 01.31.jpg

    This Crab also shows up on A70 85-8 filmed on 17 Jul by Sgt Smales, although the turret number is (even) more tricky to make out:
    No.92 Crab 22D - A70 85-8 - 1944-07-17 - Smales - 01.52.jpg
    No.92 Crab 22D - A70 85-8 - 1944-07-17 - Smales - 02.00.jpg

    The latter frame above enables us to identify (finally!) the Crab shot on 18 Jul by Sgt Christie (B7496):
    B7496 - 18 Jul 44 [Christie].jpg
    THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944. © IWM (B 7496) IWM Non Commercial License

    which is none other than 'our' No.92 'MARTLET' T2285xx:
    No.92 Crab 22D ID.jpg

    Michel
     
  3. Again on film A70 85-3 shot on 17 Jul 44 by Sgt Wilkes, around 00:35 comes a Crab named 'HAZARD', therefore probably from B Sqn 22 Dgns which had at least two other Crabs named after minesweepers of the Halcyon Class ('HUSSAR' and 'SCOTT'):
    Crab 22D 'HAZARD' A70 85-3 - 1944-07-17 - Wilkes - 0.34.jpg

    Crab 22D 'HAZARD' A70 85-3 - 1944-07-17 - Wilkes - 0.36.jpg

    Michel
     
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  4. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Hi Michel,
    MARTLET looks like T2285 03, 23, 33, 83 or 93. There is a definite top letter curve / loop on the 5th number.
    I might have found a few more. These are from British Pathe 1987.09
    download (2).jpg download (3).jpg
    Cheers

    Kevin
     
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  5. Agreed! The 6th number seems to have a straight top, and a gap at the top right side, so this might be a 5, possibly a 6.

    Michel
     
  6. HDArchives film 264 (https:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NFS_Ni0YwM) includes a very short sequence showing a Crab in front of a ruined house. Because the sequence is shot on D Day in Bernières-sur-Mer, this must be a Crab of 22nd Dragoons. Unfortunately only the front end of the tank is shown, with the first two letters of what must be its name, and immediately below, part of a painting probably illustrating the name:
    264 - 02.02.07 - Crab.jpg

    A similar name/painting combination, at the same location on the hull side, was used on 'HELLCAT' (C Sqn 22 Dgns):
    Crab 'HELLCAT' C Sqn 22 Dgns.jpg

    I don't know about you, but I find it absolutely maddening to have such fascinating images cut right where it starts to become interesting, when a slight motion of the camera (to the right in this case) would reveal so much more than a stupid fixed plan! What a waste of good film to have dozens of identical images instead of a nice panoramic view! :mad::rolleyes:

    Anyway, we can try and find out more, using what we do have.

    On the assumption that most, it not all, 22 Dragoon tanks were named after a Royal Navy ship (usually a minesweeper) in B Squadron, or aircraft types in C squadron, and also assuming that the second letter is a 'H', I think we can rule out C Squadron (although it landed 1 & 2 Tps plus possibly the two remaining tanks of 3 & 4 Tps late on D Day on JUNO) because the only WW2 aircraft name starting with 'CH...' I could find was the Chesapeake, whereas the picture seems to depict an animal, more precisely the rear end of some quadruped. The name CHESAPEAKE would also be longer than the complete picture of the animal.

    Looking at the list of RN ships whose name start with a 'C' here:
    List of ship names of the Royal Navy (C) - Wikipedia

    the candidate that would best fit, in my opinion, is HMS CHAMOIS (J28), a "Lend-Lease Catherine-class minesweeper launched in 1942 and damaged by a mine in 1944."

    Here is therefore what the complete picture might look like (that is, in a much nicer way than my kindergarten-like sketch, naturally):
    264 - 02.02.07 - Crab - Notes.jpg

    Any other suggestion welcome!

    Michel
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2018
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  7. Back to the first post, Sjt Midgley did take at least one more photo of Crabs on 13 June 1944, but the unit and location are not identified in the IWM caption. This is B5445:
    B5445 - 13 Jun 44 [Midgley].jpg
    THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944. © IWM (B 5445) IWM Non Commercial License

    He briefly appears on the film (A70 43-4 around 01:48) shot by his companion Sjt Ginger:
    A70 43-4 - 1944-06-13 - Ginger - 01.48 - Sjt Migdley right.jpg

    It would seem logical that the location and unit in B5445 should be the same as in B5444, also by Sjt Midgley on 13 Jun, but we must beware of the sometimes erratic numbering of negatives by the IWM, and of the fact that Sjt Midgley might have moved quite a bit between the two photos. However, another photo shot at the same Le Douet de Chouain aka Jerusalem Crossroads by Sjt Laing on 25 June 1944 provides us with the connection (B5897):
    B5897 - 25 Jun 44 [Laing].jpg
    THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE NORMANDY CAMPAIGN 1944. © IWM (B 5897) IWM Non Commercial License

    B5445 vs B5897 - Notes.jpg
    Therefore, and although no marking is visible on the Crabs in B5445, we can safely conclude that it does show more Crabs of 22 Dgns the Westminster Dragoons on their way to Condé-sur-Seulles.

    Michel
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
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  8. An erratum and a mea culpa (a definitely classier way to say "I made a blatant beginner's blunder" and "please excuse my abysmal dumbness") to my opening post above:

    When sorting some photos recently I stumbled upon this photo of a Sherman Crab:
    No.88 Crab WD [WHJ Sale] - NAM 100207.jpg
    Source: British Sherman Flail tanks, 1944 | Online Collection | National Army Museum, London

    The AoS Serial '53' is sufficiently clear to identify its unit as the Westminster Dragoons, and is of the same style as seen on other photos of vehicles from the same unit.

    Although the second digit of the turret number is not quite clear (maybe '5'), the first one is definitely an '8', of a peculiar shape strikingly similar to that on Crab No.88 in IWM photo B5444 as posted in the opening post, and reposted here for easier comparison:
    B5444 - 13 Jun 44 [Midgley].jpg
    THE BRITISH ARMY IN NORMANDY 1944. © IWM (B 5444) IWM Non Commercial License

    I had identified this Crab No.88 as being L sjt Johnson's, of 3 Tp C Sqn 22 Dragoons, whose turret number was indeed 88 and which had broken its flail jib in attempting to breach through a wall on D Day.

    The problem is, how come a tank from Westminster Dragoons could have markings so similar to another from 22 Dragoons? A whole bunch of possibilities then sprang to my puzzled mind in as many attempts to explain away this disturbing likeness, none of them completely impossible, but none too probable either.

    Then, looking again at the other photos and films shot at Jerusalem Crossroads that day, another detail caught my eye: on photo B5445 (see my last post #7 above), the 79 Armd Div emblem is on the right side of the tank (and thus the AoS marking is on the left, but not legible on the photo), something that may be seen on many (but not all) photos showing vehicles from the Westminster Dragoons, but never on any photo of 22 Dragoons vehicles! This of course is no definite proof, because not all 22 Dragoons vehicles have been photographed, but constitutes a very strong hint that these Crabs are not from 22 Dragoons as I initially thought.

    The final straw came from the IWM caption of film A70 43-4 which mentions "Sherman Crab flail tanks belonging to the Westminster Dragoons 'C' Squadron".

    Checking the Westminster Dragoons War Diary for D Day, it all falls into place:
    "2. The three right hand craft contained "X Breaching Sqn" consisting of 7 Crabs and 10 AVRE's, commanded by Major SPM.Sutton. The 7 Crabs consisted of HQ Crab, 5 3 Tp Crabs and 1 4 Tp Crab attached to 3 Tp."
    (...)
    No.3 Team.
    (...)
    Course of Events.
    Came off craft into 4' 6" of water and did a wade of 100 yards. Both flails crossed the beach sucessfully but both were hit in the rotor by the 88 mm at La Rivière as they were about to enter the beach minefield."


    The turret numbers 86 and 88 of the two jibless Crabs in A70 43-4 are perfectly compatible with Crabs of 3 Tp, C Sqn, which probably means that No.86 is Sjt BIRCH's, while No.88 is Cpl RIDER's, who were the two Crab commanders in No.3 Team, "X" Breaching Squadron (LTIN 2414).

    Now that the question of the actual unit of these two Crabs seems settled, how could I have made such a gross mistake in the first place? Well, this looks like a typical case of the basic error of finding one possible, or even likely, match (Sjt Johnson's tank turret number was '88' and his jib had been broken, which both matched the photo) and sticking with it without exploring the other possibilities. This is all the more unforgivable as the IWM caption warranted at least a check of its possibly being correct, but I simply ignored it because it did not suit my initial explanation (with the weak excuse that all IWM captions are not always totally accurate...).

    Now to edit my erroneous posts above...

    Michel
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
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  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    There, but for the grace of god, go any of us...
     
  10. BunnyBurrell

    BunnyBurrell Member

    George Nutburn gave these to his son just before he passed away in March. They were passed to the RBL in Lowestoft. IMG_0462.JPG IMG_0463.JPG IMG_0464.JPG
     

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