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Normandy

Len landed with the Canadians at Normandy on D+3 , possibly with the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division. The allied code name for the beach was Juno. He landed in his BG Carrier along with other lightly armoured vehicles. The Canadian units were mainly infantry, the Bren carrier would have provided some light armour, a mobile machine gun platform and operated as reconnaissance vehicle. As they approached the beaches the landing ship doors were lowered and the vehicle engines started, southendready for the landing. They could see the buildings and the enemy on the hills. They feared that they would hit mines on the beaches, but of course the mines had been cleared on the previous days.

The BG carrier was unmodified, some carriers that landed had been modified so that they could ‘float’ and ‘swim’ to the beach, Lens was a standard model, hence could only cope in shallow waters and would have sunk in deep water.

The landing craft that dropped Len and his vehicle on the beach could carry two or three vehicles and had a drop down door at the front that acted as a ramp when lowered into shallow water or onto the beach itself.

Lens big worry was landing in water that was to deep, not surprising since he couldn’t swim, but fortunately although he did have to drive off the landing craft into water, it was shallow and very little got into the vehicle.
The distance from the landing craft to the beach was about 100 yards. Len held his breath and was the first off the landing craft into the shallow water, his NCO shouting at him “Go on, get going, get going”. Following behind were some Canadian armoured personnel carriers that quickly came up on either side of Lens Bren carrier, thus offering some protection from German small arms fire. Len kept his head down and kept the engine going, driving at full speed up the steep slope of the beach. The beach was sandy with stones and pebbles at the top. So much noise was created by the Bren carriers engine, tracks and other vehicles, that Len wasn’t sure if any small arms fire hit the vehicle as he drove up the beach.

Military Police

At the top of the sloping beach they came to a little rough ground and then onto a road, where the British Red Cap military police were giving directions. The Red Caps were apparently under occasional enemy fire and wore armoured vests that offered some protection against small arms fire. The military police were part of a tremendous effort to manage and control the beaches; the whole operation was carefully coordinated.

Normandy landingThe Red Caps would shout and swear at the drivers to get the vehicles moving and off the beach.
On board the Bren carrier Len had an NCO (believed to be a sergeant Turner) who sat along side him and had two gunners at the rear. The second gunner was a spare just in case the first got killed. Near the road at the top of the beach were some houses, still occupied by Germans who fired down on them with small arms weapons. Fortunately the Bren Carrier had thick enough armour and Len, the driver, was well protected as long as he kept his head down.

The Bren Carrier could not protect its occupants from anti-tank rounds but it easily coped with bullets and similar light rounds.

The Push Inland

The Germans had been left in the houses and allied troops moved inland, treating the Germans in the houses as a minor inconvenience. The Red Caps moved allied troops on, deeper into French territory, their initial destination was to be the town of Amiens, North East of Paris, however they had a lot of hard fighting before they could reach it. Lens units were moving forward with the 51st Highlanders and Canadian Infantry, they progressed deeper into enemy territory until they got held up at Falaise.

They were dug in for a number of days before they could get out of the situation. Fortunately heavy allied bombing saved them and Len appreciated this change in fortune, especially when compared to his experiences at Dunkirk when the RAF appeared to be less supportive. Of course this time they had American bombers to help them as well as British bombers. The Falaise Gap had been closed and many German troops were killed or surrendered. A few days later Len and his unit closed up with other units from other regiments. From then on they found it easier to push forward. The troops were not down hearted they were a little scared but they wanted to move on and ‘get it over with’.

 

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