Russian medals Frank Dyke received from a surrendering German soldier, France 1944.Frank Dyke
A belt from a German POW. Frank Dyke took it from a soldier captured in the Ardennes forest, Belgium, in 1944. The soldier was forced to hold up his pants so Frank Dyke could control him more easily.Frank Dyke
"There was a Bren gun carrier, which is like a tank with no top on there. And the guy was still at the wheel of it, eh. Been there for 30 days rotting."
… rotting bodies all over the place. And as soon as we started to get out of the landing ship, it hit you. I can almost smell it, the worst smell you, you couldn’t get away from it. It was 5,000 people killed there on D-Day and American, I forget altogether, 15,000 or 20,000. And just as we landed the HMS Rodney, British battleship, with 16 inch guns started firing over our heads, firing 1,000 pound shell at some target in the Caen area. … being shelled like that, 1,000 pound shells going right over your head, seems to create a vacuum. And we didn’t know what was going on, so we went ashore and got up and as soon as you got on the shore, you just, it permeated everything, eh, the smell. Almost enough to knock, you down, it was just an awful, all these people dead, a lot of them were buried, some of them were right close to the, there was a Bren gun carrier [universal carrier, a light armoured tracked vehicle], which is like a tank with no top on there. And the guy was still at the wheel of it, eh. Been there for 30 days rotting. And I thought I’d never get over the smell but as we moved inland, as we got closer to Caen [Normandy, France], that seems, there weren’t that many around lying there rotting, and then there was a distance involved. You see, Caen was supposed to fall, Caen was the capital of Normandy, it was supposed to be taken by Montgomery [Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, commander of all Allied forces during the Battle of Normandy] but he didn’t. He didn’t, he couldn’t figure out where they churned out these diehard troops around there.
And we got away from the smell and so then on the second position we were in, they brought in a new general, General Crocker [General Officer Commanding John Crocker, commander of 1 Corps, British Army, tasked with capturing Caen]. And he, CROCKER and he decided a new approach so the shelling we heard was the first part of the new attack on Caen.
The British sent over RAF bombers, 400 of them I believe, and I sat in my truck watching them come, I could see them come over. And the sky was black with flak, anti-aircraft fire, and these planes were flying lengths and flying almost at treetop level. And they, they dropped 2,000 tons, oh, I forget now, I forget how much. But they came in and dropped all onto, an awful load of bombs on the area surrounding Caen, they didn’t want to butcher Caen more than they had to. And I remember seeing one going down in flames, into the trees like. And then we came into the picture. We had 600 guns firing all night, these kind of shells, 7 inches, 656 guns pounding them. And then on my birthday, Caen fell [9 July 1944, the Germans left the north part of the city; the south was not liberated until 18 July].
The big thing there next is the biggest battle that they had during the war and that was the battle of the Falaise Gap, FALAISE, Gap. There was 80,000 casualties on the German side and we lost, they had three armies out there, their idea, they wanted to separate the, the Canadian/British are over here, the Americans were here. And they wanted the, Hitler wanted to separate the, the British cord here, so they could get down to Antwerp [Belgium], open Antwerp’s shipping, biggest coast, you know what I mean. And the idea behind that particular thing was to try to defeat the allies to the point where they could drive right through to the sea. It didn’t happen. And I can remember one thing, I can remember watching our Typhoons, fighter plane, and the first time they ever used rockets, four on each wing, that was the battle of Falaise. And all these Germans had surrendered, they had no defense and they were pounding them daily, daily, daily.
And when we got through, I said it was like Dante’s inferno. And the smell again. And the Germans used horses to pull their guns and then all these horses were killed, you push them in a big hole, threw gasoline on them and set fire to them. And there was German troops in there too. And that was the biggest battle of the Normandy push. After that, there was nothing left, the Germans surrendered there and they surrendered up in the …