How a Tank Commander Confronted Death in the Battle of Normandy | History Hit

How a Tank Commander Confronted Death in the Battle of Normandy

History Hit Podcast with Captain David Render

02 Jun 2019
HISTORYHIT.TV A new online only channel for history lovers

This article is an edited transcript of Tank Commander with Captain David Render available on History Hit TV.

Captain David Render was a nineteen-year-old second lieutenant fresh from Sandhurst when he was sent to France to join a veteran armoured unit that had already spent years fighting with the Desert Rats in North Africa. Joining the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry five days after the D-Day landings, the combat-hardened men he was sent to command did not expect him to last long.
Listen Now

I was still 4 months off being 21 when the war was over. So they said, “you can go to Japan now and do the landing on Japan”.

I thought, “well I won’t come back from that, but never mind”, because we never expected to survive.

The fear

You might ask me “were you afraid?”, and the answer is no. How did we stand it? The answer is we got numb to it.

You might ask me “were you afraid?” The answer is no.

I liken it to when they made the M1. I can remember people saying, “I’m not going up that motorway. It’s jolly dangerous.”

Documentary covering events of June 6 1944 from the airborne drops of the early morning through to the German fightback of the late afternoon.
Watch Now
Now you don’t think about going on the M1. It was the same for us. It was the same attitude we adopted.

We knew we were going to get killed, although I didn’t think it would be me – I thought it would be the other bloke really. In principle, we got numbed to it.

It was just accepting the situation. We would live by the day.

The length of time

One of the big problems was that it went on for so long. If you look at the reason why the French have been kind to us and given us a medal, it is because they worked it out.

I did 89 days of fighting in France. Not continuous, because they would try to give us 10 days in action and 5 days off, although we did not always get that.

If you were a prisoner of war – I’m not decrying people who are prisoners of war or in concentration camps – a lot of them had a reasonable expectation. They were going to wake up in the morning. We didn’t.

The crew of a Sherman tank named ‘Akilla’ of 1st Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, 8th Armoured Brigade, after having destroyed five German tanks in a day, Rauray, Normandy, 30 June 1944.

I can take you to gravestones in Bayeux, where the Royal Armoured Corps was the overall holding place for the tanks. They had the Royal Tank Regiment, the Derbyshire Yeomanry, and all the rest.

You were in the Royal Armoured Corps, then you were sent off to an individual unit. Then you’d have a different cat badge. But the original one is on the gravestones of three chaps who we knew in Bayer who were in our tanks.

In this poignant interview, D-Day veteran Frederick Bates recalls what it was like for the young men who stormed the Normandy beaches and remembers those who were left behind.
Watch Now
Why have they got those original badges up? The answer is because they were reinforcements who came in to take the place of fellows who were killed in the tank yesterday.

These boys had not done a day’s fighting when they were killed.

They got in the tank at 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, and by midday they were dead, for the simple reason that the lorries that came up with fuel, ammo, cat badges and so on don’t come up until nighttime. So these boys had not done a day’s fighting when they were killed.


When we did the medal presentation in the French Embassy the other week, a lot of people said “I’d only had 25 minutes of war in France”. That was their war.

Can you imagine what it is like going day after day, after day, after day, after month, after month? We were absolutely knackered by the end of it.

Sherman tanks and troops from 5th (Scots) Parachute Battalion, 2nd Parachute Brigade, during operations against members of ELAS in Athens, 18 December 1944. Credit: Imperial War Museum / Commons.

Then it was not the end because we had to do Belgium. We had a think called Ghillie in Belgium, which was horrendous.

They made a terrific fuss of us. I don’t deserve it – I’m only one of thousands. I only had a little front to deal with.

Then we had Holland. I gave a talk to the Dutch, who got me over there. I did 6 talks in 5 days for them, because it was the anniversary of their liberation.

They made a terrific fuss of us. I don’t deserve it – I’m only one of thousands. I only had a little front to deal with.

The Lancaster Bomber is one of the most iconic aircraft of World War Two. It entered service in early 1941 and went on to be Britain’s main heavy bomber aircraft during the War, serving predominantly on night-time bombing raids of German-occupied Europe. Its effectiveness ensured that the Lancaster proved central to the successful Allied bombing strategy from 1942 onwards.
Watch Now

Tags: Battle of Normandy Podcast Transcript

History Hit Podcast with Captain David Render