On the morning of 11th June 1944 St Pierre was heavily shelled. As "C" Squadron were moving up a 105mm shell fell directly on Regimental Headquarters. The acting Colonel, Major M.H. Laycock, MC, was killed, together with Capt. G. A. Jones, the Adjutant, and Lt. A. L. Head, the Intelligence Officer. Capt. P.J.D. McCraith, MC, and Sgt. Towers were wounded. A plaque records the farmyard were this disaster occured. Shortly afterwards Major Stanley Christopherson, MC, assumed command of the regiment.
On Sunday, 10th September 1944, the Regiment was ordered to send a squadron to support 151 Brigade who had a bridgehead over the Albert Canal south of Gheel. In the evening the remainer of the regiment crossed the canal. It took two more days to clear the town which was held by fanatical German parachutists. These were the bitterest three days of fighting since D-Day. Our casualties in men were the worst since we had landed on the continent; our casualties in tanks were the worst since Wadi Zem-Zem in the desert. Two officers and 21 men were killed; eleven tanks destroyed and two more damaged. Without a doubt, if "B" and "C" Squadrons had not fought back so aggressively, the bridgehead would have been lost. The men who died are remembered on a memorial in the main square, in front of the town hall.
Bayeux was liberated on the morning of 7th June 1944, the day after D-Day, (D+1) by the Sherwood Rangers and the Essex Regiment. On the south side of the town a German machine-gun post in a house was giving some trouble, so the house was brewed up and it burned merrily. Shortly afterwards the Bayeux Brigade arrived, resplendent in shining steel helmets. There were no further incidents here, however many other towns in Normandy were very badly damaged. It was the first town in France to be recaptured by the Allies.
The regiment fought its last major battle of the Normandy campaign at Berjou on 16th August 1944. The "B" Squadron tanks crossed the River Noireau at first light and climbed up the far side of the valley. The advance was restricted to a steep winding road, heavily wooded on both sides. Our tanks were continually sniped at and bazookaed but by the time we reached the top we had destroyed seven enemy machine-gun nests. Seven of our tanks were damaged by bazooka fire. Lt. Galvin was killed and Lt. Perry wounded. Cpl. A. Brooks was lying wounded by his knocked out tank and Sgt. G. Saunders MM was killed by mortaring when he climbed out of his tank to rescue Cpl. Brooks. Saunders was one of our veterans, a brave and highly experienced man and his death was a sad loss. Sgt. W. Sleep, another fine veteran, was killed. Cpl. Stuart was severeely wounded. Our journey up this short road had cost us six experienced crew commanders.
The local community organised by M Jean-François Brisset, a local schoolmaster, and M Romain Bon the founder and curator of the local war museum have erected a memorial to them, which has been added to the war memorial outside the church. The regiment was awarded the battle honour of 'Noireau Crossing' for its actions that day.
The National Liberation Museum is well worth visiting. It covers three main themes: The occupation period; the battles in Holland; and the consequences of war. The Dome of Remembrance contains a Roll of Honour, with 150.000 names of all those allied soldiers who were killed between D-Day 6-6-1944 and VE-Day 8-5-1945 in the battle for the freedom of Europe. The Sherman M4A1 tank outside the museum is painted in the colours of the Sherwood Rangers (curtesy of TEi Ltd of Wakefield, Yorkshire) and bears a plaque in memory of the 288 Sherwood Rangers killed during World War II.
On the 27th August 1944 the 8th Arnoured Brigade crossed the Seine in support of 43rd (Wessex) Division using pontoon bridges at Vernon, since the road bridge had been destroyed by RAF bombing. "A" and "C" Squadrons went across to support the infantry in the bridgehead. Major H.M.S. Gold, MC returned from 'liberating' Paris somewhat the worse for a surfeit of champagne. The infantry had a more difficult time, as you can read here.