Corporal Tank Commander

Ian MacPherson


44th Royal Tank Regiment
Between Caen and Falaise, France

July 1944

Survived the war?
4th Armoured Brigade

A gentleman's memory

Some time in early July we were pushing forward on high open ground between the Odon and the Ome Rivers. We were supposed to have other Units on our right and left flanks, but unfortunately they didn't keep up with us, unbeknownst to us, when we came under heavy tank fire from a wooded area on our right. Several tanks in front of us were hit and caught fire when mine received a hit on the right side, severing the track and going right through the engine sump. Luckily there was no fire. We got out of the tank rather quickly when another tank, a Shermau from our 'C' Sqdn, was coming towards us in reverse. There was no crew in the tank, although we did see that it had received a hit in the turret. I had my driver jump in and I guided him back up to our disabled tank, where we attached a tow cable to it. Then we attached another cable from our disabled tank to thesevered track lying on the ground and drove back to our recovery area, our disabled tank in tow, dragging the broken track behind. It was during this same encounter with the tanks on our right that I lost my close friend Geof O'Shea from a direct hit and his tank ‘brewed up’.

We were soon given a replacement tank, and were transferring our personal and other equipment from our old tank, loading it into the replacement, when we came under machine gun fire. My driver, Geordie, was hit in the head and was dead before he fell to the ground. I had been standing on the engine compartment taking equipment from Geordie, and handing it in to the gunner who was in the turret. When the firing started I had automatically dropped flat across the engine cover. On getting down to see to Geordie I found that there was a line of bullet holes straight along the fixed metal toolbox just below where I had been lying prone. A close call, a little higher and I would have suffered the same fate as Geordie! I was too shocked to attend the brief burial service and was given my first, and only ‘Uppers’ to keep me going. I'll always remember Geordie Thomas, even though we had only been together since Worthing.

About the 14th July we were in a night leaguer when we came under sporadic artillery fire. One shell landed a little too close to where I was and I ended up with some shrapnel in my left hip. Again, not too serious an injury, but enough to put me out of things for a few days, but not enough to send me out of the line. In a letter I wrote home I told them that I had met Ken and he told me that Mac had suffered a shrapnel wound in his hip but was OK. In a subsequent reply from home they said that they were glad I was fine, having interpreted my message correctly. After I rejoined my crew there were tank battles, towns and villages to be cleared, all too numerous to mention and lost in the memory.

Some time during July I recall our Regiment was detached to assist the American Forces just south of the Cherbourg peninsular. All our tanks were loaded onto individual tank transporters and we moved from the British Sector a full day's travel across country very dusty. We took up action stations the next day and supported the U.S. forces to regain some lost ground, and were fortunate enough not to suffer any casualties during this assault. On completion of this task two days later we handed over our positions to a Guards Armoured Regiment and, after a day's rest our tanks were reloaded onto the tank transporters. We traveled all the way back close to our original area adjacent to the Canadians near Carpiquet, where we took up positions guarding the airfield.

The Black Rats

The brigade, now known as the 'Black Rats', was formed in 1939 and fought in the Second World War in the Western Desert Campaign in North Africa. The Black Rats were subsequently involved in the invasion of Sicily and fighting in Italy before taking part in the Battle of Normandy and the advance through Belgium, Holland and into Germany.

Veteran's personal file

44th Royal Tank Regiment

Ian had 'liberated' the typewriter from a Italian ofice and was typing a letter home.
Ian had 'liberated' the typewriter from a Italian ofice and was typing a letter home.
Ian standing in front of a Stuart reconnaisance tank somewhere in Belgium
Ian standing in front of a Stuart reconnaisance tank somewhere in Belgium
  • November 30th 2010
  • Barrie, Ontario, Canada

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