Jack Hall, "Bomb," and the drive into Germany
In 1942, Jack Hall left his family’s orchard at the top of 16th Avenue in Creston to enlist in the Canadian army. He wound up with “B” Company of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, which at that time was converting from an infantry regiment into an armoured unit. Within a short time, Jack was training for his role as gun loader in the Sherman tanks and preparing for the landings on D-Day.
All the tanks assigned to B Company were given names that started with “B.” Jack Hall served in “Bomb.”
- Commander: Sgt Harold Futter (Lt Paul Ayriss / Lt. J.W. Neill / Lt. Walter White / Lt Ernest Mingo)
- Driver: LCpl Rudy Moreault
- Co-Driver: Tpr “Red” Fletcher (Tpr Ken Gerow)
- Gunner: Tpr A.W. Rudolph
- Loader: Trooper Jack W. “Tiny” Hall
“Bomb” rolled off the landing craft at Juno Beach on 6 June 1944, fighting its way through Bernieres-sur-Mer, Authie, and Buron, then going on to the intense fighting at Caen. From there, Operation Totalize broke out of the beachhead and struck towards Falaise. There, on 8 August, the Sherbrookes and a British tank division stopped a fierce German counterattack at Gauemsnil. Between them, the two tank units destroyed five German Tiger tanks, two Panzers, and two self-propelled guns. One of the Tigers, believed destroyed by the Sherbrookes, was that of the SS tank commander Michael Wittman, one of the highest-scoring and most feared German tank commanders of the war.
With the Battle of Normandy won by 25 August 1944, Hall, Bomb, the Sherbrookes, and the rest of the 1st Canadian Army worked to clear the French coast and open up the Channel ports and establish supply lines. The bitter Battle of the Scheldt followed, to secure the area around Antwerp and ensure safe supply lines there.
From November to February, the Sherbrookes endured three months of static fighting, holding the territory that had been gained in the previous months and protecting a bridgehead for Operation Veritable: clear the Reichswald Forest, crack the Siegfried line, then push through the Hochwald Forest and close up the area all the way to the Rhine River.
The offensive began on 8 February 1945. With few routes into the area to be cleared, and those few impeded by flooding, the attack was slower and more costly than expected but at last, on 21 February, it broke through the vaunted Siegfried Line – a series of bunkers, tunnels, and anti-tank ditches that ran from the Netherlands to Switzerland. Although not in reality as impenetrable as it was rumoured to be, the Germans had issued considerable propaganda about it and its breaching, in February 1945, was a significant morale booster: Germany was being pushed back and the end of the war was, finally, in sight.
The Hochwald Forest was a repetition of the fierce fighting at Reichwald, but in early March the Fusiliers reached the Rhine River. There they got creative and turned their tanks into amphibious vehicles: by sealing up all the openings in the tanks and wrapping them with compressed air hoses, they managed to float the tanks across the Rhine!
From there it was opening up supply routes north through Arnhem, throughout western Netherlands, along the coastal belt of Germany, and east to the Elbe River. Fuelled by desperation, German resistance remained fierce through those last weeks of fighting, but Hall and the Bomb pressed on. In a year of operations, from D-Day to VE Day, Bomb travelled 4,000 kilometres, fired 6,000 rounds, survived two enemy shell hits with the crew doing the repairs in the field, and never missed a day of fighting. Although the commander and co-driver were wounded and replaced by other crew members, Jack Hall, Rudy Moreault, and A.W. Rudolph fought with Bomb through its entire career.
They liberated Leeuwarden on 15 April 1945 and were at the border town of Emden when the news crackled over the radio: “Unload, clear guns, the war is over.”