TANK ESCAPE APPARATUS FOR AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS.
the more interesting developments was the provision of escape equipment
for the crews of amphibious tanks which played an important part in the
invasion of Europe. The buoyancy of these machines was by no means
excessive, and, even without being under fire, casualties had occurred
and caused loss of life among the crews. The problem here was not only
to produce some escape apparatus sufficiently light and small to be worn
continuously at te ‘ready’by the tank crews, and to be able to pass
through the narrow hatches, but which could be produced in great numbers
at very short notice. The Amphibious Tank Escape Apparatus (A.T.E.A.)
which was produced was a very small version of the Davis Submerged
Escape Apparatus (D.S.E.A.) and embodied its special patented feature.
It was charged initially with oxygen from cylinders fitted in the tank
landing craft. The charge held in the bag was sufficient for a few
minutes breathing, and gave enough buoyancy to maintain a fully-equipped
man on the surface. Additional underwater life was given by the fitting
of a D.S.E.A oxylet cylinder which could be broken quickly to recharge
the bag. In the heavy weather of D-Day, many lives were saved by this
The Davis Submerged
Escape Apparatus as 'B' and 'C' Squadron crew members know, was issued
as a means of escape from DD tanks.
The Amphibious Tank Apparatus - ATEA, later replaced the DSEA. For
information on these two pieces of equipment the book 'Deep Diving and
Submarine Operations. A Manual for Deep Sea Divers and Compressed Air
Workers' by Sir Robert H Davis formally Principal and Managing Director
of Siebe, Gorman & Company Ltd., Cwmbran, Gwent is very helpful.
The DSEA contained a steel cylinder in the breathing bag with 56 litres
of oxygen compressed to 1200 atmospheres and a canister with a chemical
for the absorption of the wearers exhaled carbonic acid gas (CO2). The
control valve on the cylinder when opened admits oxygen to the breathing
bag and charges it to a pressure equal to that of the surrounding water
at whatever depth the apparatus is being used. The wearer is thus able
to breathe in a normal manner.
There is a means also of connecting the apparatus up to an oxygen source
in the submarine if so required. A third source is provided by two small
steel capsules in the breathing bag of oxygen, called 'Oxylets' with
break-off necks. There is also an emergency buoyancy bag in addition to
the main breathing bag and a speed-retarding vane. This is an apron
coiled on the underside of the breathing bag and its purpose is for the
wearer to unfold it and hold it out in a horizontal position to retard
the ascent to the surface. The ATEA was a development of the DSEA to
obtain an escape apparatus sufficiently light and small to be worn
continuously at the 'ready' by tank crews and to be able to pass through
The ATEA was a small version of the DSEA. The description in the book
says it was charged initially with oxygen from cylinders in the tank
landing craft and also fitted with an 'Oxylet'. The book also comments
that in the heavy weather of D-Day, many lives were saved by the
apparatus. Luckily 'B' and 'C' Squadrons did not swim in. There are two
illustrations of the ATEA worn by a tank crew member in his 'Best BD'
with a RTR badge on his beret and a DD tank with the screen up. George
Varley has sent in a copy of 'DD Tanks: the Fort Garry Horse - Report on
the Employment of DD tanks in the Assault' dated 21st June 1944 which is
an appendix to the FGH War Diary.
The FGH was put off near the beach but the 1 Hussars were launched much
further out and because of heavy seas landed short of tanks because of
foundering. The report includes the comment that 'the ATEA Life Saving
Eqpt was excellent'.
Going in on D-Day and what happened to us after.
Stan Fish Seneco
Pais was let off the
LCT first when we were about 2 ½ miles out and infantry boats were
circling about. Sailor Kenyon was to go next, but before he did,
Paisley’s tank was swamped by a large wave on top of rough water from
the rocket ship. Everyone came up, but G. Hawkins was hit (there was
blood on the water), but I don’t know by what and he went down. The LCT
crew decided to go in farther before they let Sailor off, but we hit a
mine or something which blew a big hole in the LCT and tore our screen
(Stanfield’s tank), but Sailor was able to get off. Talking between
Stanfield and Harry Pritchard, of 4th troop, who was behind us, it was
decided that we should get off and let Pritchard off as his screen was
okay. We went off and Harry managed to leave the LCT.
We were in the
water, which was about six inches above the turret. We were standing on
the back watching the show when Nichols exclaimed, “I forgot to turn the
radio off!! and down he goes, head first and shuts it off. When he got
back up and caught his breath, he thought that was kind of nuts.
Then O.E. Smith
and I tried to open the dinghy, which we managed to do. He jumped in
and I tried to as well, but the waves took it so fast that I ended up
swimming for my life. I took my pistol out of my holster and put it in
my jacket – why, I don’t know. I was a few yards away from the tank and
Stanfield was hollering, ‘Throw your money back, Fish, throw your money
back. (I had won a few issued new franks previously). I was having a
tough time staying afloat and was just about ready to give up when my
ATEA came floating out with Fishy written all over it and I grabbed it.
A team of horses couldn’t have pulled it away from me. Then, after a
few minutes, Johnny Pearson came out in another dinghy from another LCT
that had been blown up and pulled me in. When the tide went out in the
afternoon, we were able to walk to shore.
When we were in
the harbour on the 12th, someone said an officer had his head blown off
and Jack Sobey asked if it broke his glasses?
On Christmas Eve,
1944 we had to pack up and leave Moek through Nijmegen. We went across
the bridge, turned left on the dyke and went to a village or town across
the river from Arnhem. While there, Rookie caught a goose, plucked it
and was going to roast it, but before he could, we were called to pull a
tank out, so he decided to leave it with Dave Christiani to cook. Dave
was all for that. We were gone about two hours or better and Rookie
was thinking about roast goose the whole time. When we got back,
Christiani had opened a can of Derv (diesel fuel) and roasted the goose
over it and it was as black as the ace of spades. We had a helluva time
holding Rookie. He was going to shoot Christiani and all Dave kept
saying in his slow drawl was, ‘You wouldn ‘t shoot me lad, would you?’
He didn’t, but it was awfully close. Christiani ate the goose, but no
one else did.