Preparations for D Day

Ashridge Park had been home for the 11th Hussars during the first 5 months of 1944. It was here that they made their preparations for the invasion of Europe, D-Day.

Drafts of re-enforcements arrived to the regiment, and amongst the changes was the handover of commanding officer from Lieut Col Trevor Smail to Lieut Col Bill Wainman. A new squadron was also formed, taking the Regiment from three to four with this addition of D Squadron.

As part of the re-organisation, the 11th Hussars departed the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats), much to their disappointment and moved to 30 Corps as Corps troops. This was due to General Montgomery wanting his armoured car units to be easily available to any part of the much wider Corps front, rather than being held back by a Division when they may be needed elsewhere.

New equipment was also received, and this included the new American Staghound armoured car[1] and the Humber scout car[2]. The Staghound had been intended to replace the Daimler with squadron and regimental Headquarters. They proved some unpopular with the Regiment however, that the Humber was used in its place as much as possible.

Although specialised training was in full swing ready for D-Day, the regiment continued to host VIPs to Ashridge, including General Eisenhower, General Montgomery and HRH the Duke of Gloucester to name but a few.

As May 1944 drew to a close, the 11th Hussars began the task of waterproofing the vehicles ready for the seaborne landing in Normandy, a task they had already mastered in the Mediterranean. This time however, it had to be done perfectly as each vehicle had to be capable of the 4 foot depth of water they would be wading in at.

The 11th Hussars could now boast a strength of over 50 Officers, 700 men and 245 vehicles.

28 May 1944 – Orders were received that all ranks of the Regiment were to be confined to camp.

3 June 1944 – At 0330 Regimental HQ Squadron, along with C and D Squadrons departed for a closely guarded embarkation camp at Wanstead Flats. A and B Squadrons remained at Ashbridge, and the Regiment would next be re-united in France.

5 – 6 June 1944 – HQ, C and D Squadrons spend the days loading vehicles and equipment onto the troop ship Bradford City at Millwall Dock. At 2300 on the 6 June 1944 the ship along with the first half of the 11th Hussars set sail to the mouth of the Thames.

7 June 1944 – The Bradford City spent the day anchored at the mouth of the Thames with an eagerly waiting group of Cherrypickers on board.

8 June 1944 – The Bradford City set sail for France.

9 June 1944 – At 0700 the Bradford City and 11th Hussars found themselves just offshore of JUNO beach around Courseulles-Sur-Mer.

[1] The Staghound was a large vehicle, 8 feet wide and with a crew of 5. It was armed with 37mm gun and a .30 Browning Machine-gun.

[2] The Humber was a much smaller vehicle with a crew of 3. Although it gave less protection and less firepower than the Staghound, it was much faster and more maneuverable.