George Mann when he enlisted in 1940. Taken at his family home while he was on leave.George Mann
Mr. Mann in front of the last vehicle that he drove during the war. This truck was also used as an ambulance.George Mann
Far Left: George Mann's Drivers Licence from Newfoundland
Top Left: Pass from Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment
Bottom Left: Identification card with warnings
Top Right: Pass for leave
Bottom Right: Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment badge
George Mann on the Beach of Normandy at the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. Mr. Mann is standing in the same spot that he landed 50 years prior.George Mann
"The hard part for me was that our squadron or the regiment would go out in the morning and I’d fuel up 12 to 15 tanks at night. One night, I only had three come back."
When we went into Normandy, on D-Day, I lost my truck on the beach at Normandy in the sense that we were not the initial wave going into Normandy. We were the second wave of troops going in and the tanks were arranged to float in on their own, the short distance from shore, so as not to alert the Germans that we were coming. At least that’s what I was told.
But the night before the landing, there was a big storm on the English Channel and the waves were fairly high and they were higher than the artificial sides that were on the Sherman tanks. The waves went over and several of the tanks sunk. They were waterproofed to go in only a certain amount of water, but with the waves going into the tanks, they filled the tanks with water and they went down. Not all of them, but several of them.
Our landing craft, when we went in, hit one of these submerged vehicles, at least that’s what we were told, and we could not go into shore as close as we were supposed to. We were sent off the landing craft and we were supposed to go into about three feet of water. Well, I was sitting up to my waist in the cab of the truck when I drove off of the landing craft and went a short distance towards shore and into a shell crater and I was sitting in the water up to my chin. And the beach commander said, sit tight, we’ll pull you out. Well, they pulled the front out from underneath my truck and I had to abandon it there and I went on shore and the beach commander said, well, what are you doing here. I said, I’m coming with you with the regiment. He says, no you’re not, you’re going back out to the landing craft, you’re of no use to anyone. He said, where’s your rifle? I said, it’s in the cab of the truck, underwater. And he said, well, you’d better go back to the landing craft and come back in another truck, which I did later in the afternoon and came in, sitting on the roof of another truck, going into Normandy, on the 6th of June.
By this time, the small arms fire was moved out far enough that the small arms fire was not reaching us, it was artillery shells or bombing. But there was only one or two that landed anywhere near us at that time. In Europe, during the northern Europe battles, I was driving a fuel truck, fueling up the tanks. Met the tanks at a given point at night and we fueled the tanks up at this point. The next day, they’d go out again and we’d go back to the supply depot and replace our fuel, ammo, whatever we were hauling. And then meet the tanks again at night. It was a lot better I think than driving a tank in the sense that you weren’t in actual battle, although it was dangerous enough, sitting on a thousand gallons of diesel fuel or gasoline, it didn’t take much to set it on fire. But you never thought of that. It was all part of the day.
They had to help refuel because we were not equipped with tank trucks like they are today. All the fuel was in five gallon jerry cans and you would have to hand them up to the driver or whoever was on the back of the tank and they’d pour it into the tank and then you’d hand the up another one until they filled up their tank. And then the next morning, as I say, you’d go back and fuel up. I also, on my truck, I carried diesel fuel, I carried fuel for the generating units which was the Napfa gas and oil mix, engine oils and all that. And this all had to be replaced every time you used any of it. I think it was 225 cans of diesel fuel that I carried on the truck. And when you got back to the supply depot, you’d just fill those spaces up and that was it. Sometimes, you didn’t even bother to count them. You knew that there were that many missing, you just filled it up and went back to your unit.
And sometimes, it wasn’t too far back to go but other times, it would be further. There was some that caught on fire. Not so much for my load because it was diesel fuel, it took more to ignite it but the trucks carrying gasoline, gasoline was in metal cans and could cause a spark to bump them together. This could cause a fire. And to my knowledge, in our regiment anyway, there weren’t too many of the truck drivers that were injured by fire like that.
You smoked, not necessarily while you were fueling up the tanks. Some did, but I didn’t. But when you were driving, you smoked. If you were in the cab of the truck, there was no fuel or gasoline in the cab as such. It was all behind you, four or five feet behind you in the box.
The hard part for me was that our squadron or the regiment would go out in the morning and I’d fuel up 12 to 15 tanks at night. One night, I only had three come back. The rest were knocked out. At this point, you didn’t know whether they were injured, killed or prisoners of war. And this was I found a little hard because they were all people I’d been with for some time.