A Sherman tank of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment, Caen, France, 11 July 1944. Jim Jones was the loader/wireless operator in a M4 Sherman Tank, C Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusiliers.Credit: Lieut. Michael M. Dean / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-162583 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
Personnel with Sherman tank "Bomb" of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment, which landed in France on D-Day and continued in action through to V-E Day. Zutphen, Netherlands, 8 June 1945. Jim Jones was the loader/wireless operator in a M4 Sherman Tank, C Squadron, Sherbrooke Fusiliers and served from D-Day to the end of the war.Credit: Capt. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-188671 Restrictions on use: Nil Copyright: Expired
"I loved my tank. I loved it. It was home for me."
I was in there one day, I was doing fatigues, I was cleaning the barracks and I had walked into this same officer that I had trouble with in Edinburgh [Scotland]. And in a very communicative way he said, “How the devil are you?” and words to that effect, and I said, “Awful, I said, I’ve never been so discouraged in my whole life.” And he said, “What’s the matter?” And I said, “I didn’t join the army to do fatigues, I could have done that at home.” And I said, “I’ve been stuck on this and there’s nowhere else for me to go, that’s all you can find for me to do, I joined the army to ride in the tank.” And so he asked me about what sort of training I’d had and I told him I’d had a wireless course and I thought I’d done well in it but nothing further. So anyway, to make it short, the next day, I was lance corporal in his tank.
We knew that, we even knew who we were going to be with. The Sherbrooke Fusiliers was one of three regiments in the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. And we were assigned to the 9th [Canadian] Infantry Brigade for fighting purposes and things like that, training. And we got along fine with them, fine, yeah. They were nice people. In particular, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders were assigned to the Sherbrooke Fusiliers and the other two regiments and their brigade were with our other two [armoured regiments], the Fort Garry Horse and the 1st Hussars and that’s the way we fought for D-Day anyway and we trained with them.
I landed in France as a corporal but I did not land with the regiment. I wasn’t the only one, they had to do 30 of these, you know, for the group. And the idea was that we were going to be in the D-Day landing late in the day and actually, we were for replacement tanks to replace the ones that had been knocked out on D-Day. And so they would still have some tanks to fight with, they had to have these come in. Really amazing how everything had been organized to this point.
So all of a sudden, the barrage starts, the start of the battle. We were going to push off down the Caen-Falaise road, to start the action down the road. And which we did but when the barrage started, it started right on the start line. In other words, where we standing and the poor infantry, without any protection at all, and they were getting these shells coming in on them, well, we did what we could to stop that happening and one guy had crawled underneath our tank and he was hammering on the bottom and we have a trapdoor, you know, that you can get out that way if you have to. So we got it opened up and he came in and joined us. And then we closed it up again and things recovered and the guys, the infantry started pushing down the road and it going into houses and throwing grenades around and stuff like that. Or shooting them up with machine guns.
We didn’t run into any tanks but it wasn’t very far, maybe around Ifs [France], we ground to a halt, we couldn’t go any further, the Germans had us. So we had to stop. And then that started on the Caen-Falaise road, trying to battle down that thing, it was awful. And every day they tried new infantry regiments and always with some tanks and they’d go out, you’d get beaten up on. It was discouraging. We were on the road there, C Squadron, and we got knocked out. We were trying to get down that road, we got knocked out. And the tank was immobilized, it hit part of the track so we couldn’t move, so Spattern, who was our lieutenant, ordered to evacuate the tank and I was thinking, “I wonder what I’m going to get when I get my nose out of this tank, I wonder what I’m going to hit? Am I going to have machine gun or small arms like rifles or shooting at me or,” so I got out on the side and the shell had knocked us out was on the opposite side and I got ungrounded and I started running directly away from it.
And every so on zoom. And they had missiles would go flying past me and after what seemed like a long time but it was really seconds I think, “Well, that’s machine gun fire or small arms, that’s armour-piercing.” They were shooting at our tank, trying to burn it up and they were missing and they were coming right over close to me and I didn’t want to get hit by an armour-piercing round. So hard right, and I don’t know where the other guys had gotten to, I couldn’t see any of them, I was alone. Anyway, hard right, I kept on running and so all this missile stuff, it faded out, there was nothing more being, so I slowed down and I started to worry about, am I going to run into a bunch of Canadian soldiers guarding their position here? But I didn’t, I didn’t run into any. So that was the front that I just escaped from.
I loved my tank. I loved it. It was home for me. And I could get in there and I could sit in my place and I could turn the radio on and I could tune in the BBC and I could get all the latest news and all the latest music and that sort of stuff. And I could turn on the dome lights and I could read, I could write letters home. And I could feel safe too. Although I was usually the only one that did this but of course, I had control of the radio. And so I was really the only one that could use it. So anyway, that’s what I would do. And then I would compare the situation, I was there, with the PBI, the poor bloody infantry who had to dig a hole in the ground and get into it and if it rained, it rained them, well, it rained on us in the tanks as well, there was all sorts of apertures and seams where rain could come in. But still, it was a whole lot better than being there. And lonely, you know, at least I had friends around me. And so I really loved my tank.