Sunday, 7 November 2010

May 1945 - Journey's End

One disaster clouded the completeness of triumph in Bremen. When "D" Company had reached their objective, Major Bird MC, Lt. Hancock, and a section set off in the company carrier to contact the 51 Highland Division in Huchting. Not far from the Company Headquarters there was a fearful explosion, and it soon became apparent that the carrier had activated the most diabolical of all German mines - the magnetic mine. There were no survivors.

This was the second accident of its kind within the month, and in each case a high percentage of the casualties had been fatal. Major Bird, a gallant leader, who had brought his Company triumphantly through many actions; Lt Hancock, whose unassuming bravery and steadfastness in action had won universal admiration; and L/Cpl McCoy, Rfn McGlennon MM, Rfn Stevens, and others who constituted the very core of "D" Company. The loss of these men in this cruelly wasteful manner stunned and shocked the whole Battalion.

One last tragedy was reported, and all the more tragic because it occurred on May 9th., the day after the official cessation of hostilities.

Major C. R. P. Sweeny, MC, on his way back to Field Marshal Montgomery's headquarters was killed in a motor accident. Major Sweeny had left the Battalion at Meerlo, in January, to become one of the Field Marshal's liaison officers; but although this was five months ago, the memory of him had remained vividly dear to those who know and had fought with him.

The tribute of Field Marshal Montgomery himself is appended elsewhere, and nothing need be added to it. No death could bring more forcefully the truth that war takes away the finest and the best of mankind.

On 13 May, at the special request of the Field Marshal, a burial party of four officers - all of whom had known Major Sweeny personally - twelve men and four buglers, journeyed to Tactical Headquarters, 21 Army Group to assist at the funeral. He was laid at rest on Luneburg Heath near Hamburg.

The great events of early May 1945 found the Battalion resting quietly in Delmenhorst after the exertions of the final battles. The main direction of Second Army was now across the Elbe towards Wismar and Lubeck on the one hand, and Hamburg, Kiel and Copenhagen on the other.

Then came the great news of the surrender of the German Armies in the North to 21 Army Group, and three days later the signature of general surrender at Rheims. We listened slightly dazed to the announcement of these great events - for they happened too swiftly for their significance to be fully realised or understood.

Already we had begun duties of an Army of Occupation. First at Delmenhorst, then at Mettingen near Osnabrück and finally at Gelsenkirchen in the heart of the Ruhr we wrestled with a few of the vast problems with which the Allies have been called upon to deal. These were new problems which could be faced against a background of triumph for the war was over, and the Battalion felt satisfied with the part it had played in winning it.

But in enjoying the laurels of victory, the sacrifice of those who fell must never be forgotten. The Battalion's total casualties in killed, wounded and missing, were 49 Officers and 755 other ranks, which is virtually the complete turnover of a single Battalion.

Fortunately this grim total was spread fairly evenly over the entire campaign and so reinforcements could be absorbed and moulded without the spirit and stamp of the Regiment being lost. It can be truly said that in spite of all, the Battalion maintained unimpaired fighting spirit and its tradition of good cheer.

This story has been mainly concerned with the deeds of the more glamorous part of an Infantry Battalion, the fighting soldiers of the Rifle Companies. It would be unbalanced, however, to close the narrative without reference to the members of Headquarter Company, the Signals, Intelligence, Orderly Room Staff, Regimental Police, and those at "A", "B" and "F" Echelons.

Their work though not spectacular, was vital to the continuity of the Battalion's life and without their high standard of efficiency and service, which was maintained and enhanced as the campaign wore on, many of the Battalions successes would have been jeopardised.

Typical of this standard and spirit was our Quartermaster, Capt. Henniker MBE, who, rich in experience, guided the Battalion tirelessly and faithfully through the tortuous paths of supply under the conditions of active service. He finished the campaign as the only Quartermaster in the Brigade who had seen the campaign from D day to VE day, and as the only officer in the Battalion who had seen both campaigns in North West Europe from beginning to end.

Another character who must be mentioned here is the "Fighting Padre" Fr. J. O'Brien, who landed with the Battalion on D Day and saw the campaign to its close. From the earliest days, he made himself peculiarly a part of the Battalion, and his perennial cheerfulness was the salvation of many a drooping spirit in the difficult days which confronted us.

Soon after VE Day celebrations were complete, it was announced that 3 British Infantry Division would represent the United Nations in Berlin as the British element of the Garrison troops in the capital. It would indeed have been a fitting "end of the road" for a division which had alone in the Second Army, fought as an entity from D day to VE day.

But it was not to be. The scheme was cancelled and the final journey from Recklinghausen to Berlin depicted at Appendix D did not in fact take place.

The story of an Infantry Battalion can afford to finish on a note of eulogy for the Infantry. What better than a passage from Lord Wavell's famous article: "The Infantry man always bears the brunt. His casualties are heavier, and he suffers greater extremes of discomfort and fatigue than the other arms . . . So let us write Infantry with a Capital I; and think of them with the deep admiration they deserve. And let us Infantrymen wear our battledress like our rue, with a difference, and throw a chest in it, for we are the men who win battles and war."

24th to 25th April 1945 - Assault on Kattenturm

On 24 April, at 1000 hrs, the Commanding Officer gave out his orders in the backyard of Bn. HQ. It was a glorious day and the weather, fine for three successive days, seemed to augur well for the night's operation.

It was to be an imposing operation and the machinery for orders was on an appropriate scale. '0' Group in this case consisted of 28 different people, while the operation order produced by the Adjutant, Capt. Hatton, ran to some sixteen pages.

The intention was clear; 2 RUR would, capture Kattenturm and seize the bridge. Zero hour was to be midnight, and companies were to lead exactly as practised, and be ready to move up to a forward assembly area by 2130 hrs. From that point it was the responsibility of the Buffaloes to put us down at the "debuffing point" on the bund.

On landing "C" Company was to clear the bund and establish a firm bridgehead to cover subsequent landings. "A" Company clearing the bund, "D" the main axis for about six or seven hundred yards; and then "B" Company was to pass through and seize the bridge.

Finally "C" Company was to leave its bridgehead advance up the main road for some five hundred yards and consolidate. If the bridge was secured, the main road would be thrown open, our transport would join us, and the whole operation would immeasurably be speeded up.

An impressive number of guns were deployed for this operation. They had started to wage a private war with the Germans for some nights previously, and it was hoped that a normal barrage on this night would efface the sound of the Buffaloes plodding across the floods.

Artillery support could not be as close as usual on account of the infirm timings imposed by the Buffaloes. They were, however, on call, and a preliminary canter by the mediums early in the evening did much to demoralise our foe.

Beside the normal gunner support, a pepper pot had been arranged. This consisted of a hotchpotch of 4,2 Mortars, Machine Guns, and Bofors firing in a ground role, operating against known enemy positions and probable areas of defence. It was to continue incessantly from about 2200 hrs. onwards, and Bosche prisoners were later to remark how disconcerting they had found it.

Finally, a single Bofors gun was detailed to fire three rounds at one minute intervals along the line of the Buffalo route in order to assist them in maintaining direction.

Morning and afternoon were spent in briefing the whole Battalion, and then most people snatched a few hours rest before the rigours of the night, which was certain to be a sleepless one. At last preparations were complete, and at 2100 hrs. the companies marched down to the waiting Buffaloes and climbed aboard.

It was a warm, yet fresh, Spring evening, with a glorious sunset, and the men were whistling and singing in great spirits as this strange convoy moved forward. At a forward assembly area just South of Leeste, we paused for an hour to drink hot tea and a tot of rum before settling down to the business of the night.

Again the note of cheerfulness among all ranks was predominant. Everyone knew that this advance would be the longest that the Buffaloes had ever made, and appreciated the difficulties that faced them.

As zero hour approached an air of rising excitement was visible and tangible in every member of this attack. Never had morale been higher, or the Battalion more certain of its ability to defeat the Bosche and achieve its purpose.

At last the word was passed down the line. Everybody clambered aboard, and a great roar rose up as 47 Buffaloes sprang into life. Just as the convoy was moving off the Brigade Commander, with a clutch of press reporters, arrived, and wished the Battalion good luck and bon voyage.

The barrage had already begun, but now there was a marked crescendo and it seemed certain that the sounds of the Buffaloes were effectively muffled. On our left the "pepper pot" could be seen in action as hundreds and thousands of tracer bullets and young shells winged through the air, lighting the sky in a veritable galaxy of colour and sound.

Overhead the three guiding rounds of Bofors tracer sailed periodically by. They looked mysterious, almost ghostly, and so evidently fired for a specific purpose that we thought that the Bosche might tumble to it, until we realised that the trace was in the base of the round, and so would not be seen by the other side. The sound of the gun firing would have been impossible to pick out among all the noise that was going on.

The convoy moved on past the point just North of Leeste where the Second-in-Command, Major Wheeler, had established his control point for vehicles that were to be ferried over later, and where the Adjutant was in position with the rear link wireless set to Brigade Headquarters.

The column was a memorable sight. The moonlight was so vivid, and the night so luminous that the ugly silhouettes of these monstrous amphibians could be seen at six or seven hundred yards distant. Somehow one could not help but think of H. G. Wells' fantastic conceptions in "Shape of things to come". Yet here were machines, at once more strange and more practical than anything he devised, being used in the year of grace 1945.

The water seemed to emphasise the line of these silhouettes, and the first companies were quite prepared to expect a warm reception as their craft drifted into view.

"C" Company crossed the startline at midnight, "A" and "D" Coys in two parallel, snake like columns at 0020 hrs. The route was expertly taped and lit to the startline, and subsequently the leading Buffaloes dropped off buoy lamps to guide those who followed.

Not a single Buffalo was either lost or permanently bogged, even though all of them were severely tested by the almost perpendicular slopes of the Canal. One of the Buffaloes had to tranship its load in midstream, and in Tactical Battalion Headquarters the 22 set wireless link to the Adjutant and to Brigade was for some time marooned 50 yards from the shore. But both were soon recovered and set on their way, thanks to the inspired recovery drill and co-operation of the Buffalo Commanders.

When "C" Company were still 50 yards from the crook of the bund which they were to consolidate as a bridgehead, two red verey lights went up from behind it, and immediately small arms and bazooka fire began to come at the Buffaloes.

They pushed on unflinchingly however, and landed each of the three platoons exactly on the parts of the bank which had been prearranged as the platoon objectives. This was not done without incident.

The left hand platoon under Sjt McAleavy, cleared its objective after an exchange of rifle shots, and collected six prisoners. On the right, the leading section, under Cpl. McMullan, rushed from their Buffaloes to find two 3.7 flak guns just being brought into action against the Buffaloes.

This section promptly disposed of the crew by killing one, wounding five, and capturing eleven others. It was a great start, and a vital one, for if the guns had been allowed to fire, it might have been disastrous for the oncoming Buffaloes. As it was, two guns were now turned and fired against Arsten until the ammunition ran out.

Quite a lot of resistance remained to be mopped up even after "A" and "D" Companies had come into land, and "C" Company in a thorough search of this part of the bund, found many Boche skulking in their slit trenches. Not all of them however.

As the first troops of "A" Company ran ashore, they were greeted by a fusillade of panzerfausts, which burst all round them, wounding several of them, including Sjt. Bonass. This was disconcerting but was not allowed to hinder the advance; a quick rush, a few shots, and the Company's first prisoners were brought in.

"A" Company's advance along the bund now began, and it swiftly became clear that theirs was to be a difficult passage. The enemy was dug in all along the bund, which was only about four yards wide, and he was defending his positions stubbornly with unsparing use of panzerfausts and small arms.

The leading Platoon of "A" Company fought its way along the bund, literally "winkling" the enemy from every position. It was precarious fun, for the Boche kept popping up from the backside of the bund, appearing and firing usually at point blank range.

Rfn Loughran was sniped as he crawled across the bund to deal with one of these posts, but straightaway Rfn. Mellon crawled across and brought him back with bullets whistling all round.

Casualties were sustained in twos and threes but the advance went on.

The opposition was particularly stiff round a large house set back about twenty yards from the bund. It was defended obstinately with spandaus and many panzerfausts, and a fierce fight waged between this knot of opposition and a platoon of "A" Company under Lt Songest. Several NCOs and men, and Lt Songest, were hit, though he was able to retain control until the action ended.

A second platoon was brought forward by the Company Commander, Major Tighe-Wood MC, who was continually forward giving encouragement, and keeping his men cool and steady in these difficult conditions. But this platoon was in fact never deployed, because a gallant rush by Cpl. Lambourne and his section - from Lt Songest's platoon - had carried the position.

The reason for the opposition now became apparent. In the garden of the house was a well concealed 88 mm gun, in perfect working order. Fortunately it had been unable to traverse sufficiently far to the left to trouble the Buffaloes. It was a great success and Cpl Lambourne was subsequently awarded the MM for his supremely courageous performance.

This splendid action of "A" Company broke the back of resistance of Kattenturm. The Company fought magnificently, displaying throughout a determination to crush the enemy and gain their objectives.

Typical of this fighting spirit was the behaviour of Rfn Wilkes, the company runner, who, though hit in the face by the explosion of a panzerfaust, refused to be evacuated until the action was complete; or again that of L/Cpl. Dalton who, when all other NCOs in his platoon had been wounded, took over the duties of platoon Serjeant and carried on in a most able manner.

"A" Company took some 40 prisoners, and besides this, killed and wounded an appreciable number. Booty included the 88 mm gun, three lighter flak guns, and a host of small arms. As against this, their own casualties were one officer and 24 wounded, and most of these were fortunately not serious. "A" Company has much cause to be proud of this achievement.

Meanwhile "C" Company's bridgehead was now the scene of furious activity. Vehicles, anti-tank guns, and men poured out of the Buffaloes and were directed onwards by Capt. Gray who, as Battalion Landing Officer, had come in with "C" Company to search out a landing ground and routes forward for vehicles.

"D" Company had pressed on, simultaneously with "A" Company, but the German defences were without depth, and apart from a few snipers which were cleared without much trouble, "D" Company's advance was unopposed.

Tactical Battalion Headquarters moved up close behind "D" Company and established itself at the Eastern end of the village for the duration of the attack.

"B" Company had landed without incident, and as soon as "D" Company reported their objectives gained, "B" Company was slipped through towards the greatest prize of all, the Kattenturm bridge.

Almost at once they came under fire from the road and a large house to the left. The leading section, under Cpl. Holt, rushed the position and eliminated it, whilst another section dealt swiftly with the house, and soon the advance was resumed.

Lt McCrainor, the leading platoon commander, had been given orders by Major Cummins to push on as fast as he could towards the bridge and to bypass any opposition which was not sufficiently serious to detain him.

At the cross-roads near the bridge they encountered opposition, and were able to do this; and by slipping round the enemy, they seized the bridge before it could be blown, quickly establishing themselves on both sides of it.

Subsequently the enemy on the cross-roads and along the bund, where it went towards the bridge, were liquidated at leisure.

Altogether 4 Officers and 20 or 30 other ranks and one camp follower were discovered in the Company locality; so that had the position been assaulted frontally, serious opposition might have been met. As it was the Sapper reconnaissance party, following close up behind the leading platoon, quickly rendered innocuous the two bombs which were found sunk into the side of the road as a demolition charge; and soon a bulldozer arrived to assist in the clearance of a formidable road block which the retreating Germans had left behind on the bridge.

"B" Company had begun their advance soon after 0330 hrs., and it was just after first light when the great news passed through that the bridge had been won intact. Now "C" Company left the bridgehead area - for the attack on Arsten which 2 Warwicks were launching, had eliminated any threat to it now - moved up to the main road and completed the consolidation of the area and rounded off the Battalion's part of the attack.

5 Officers and 128 other ranks was the final total of prisoners, while an 88 mm and five other smaller flak guns were captured, above all the bridge had been seized intact.

There can be no doubt but that complete surprise had been achieved. One of the German officer prisoners said afterwards that so certain was the Bremen garrison commander that the attack would come up the line of the Brinkum road that the 88 mm gun had been taken off its wheels and given an arc of traverse which was limited to a particularly vulnerable part of the main road.

He thought that the turning manoeuvre which the Battalion had carried out was the finest thing tactically that he had seen done by British troops in the whole campaign, and with the rest of the prisoners, he gazed goggle-eyed at the "Schwim-Panzer" which had traversed what was considered to be impassable country.

The award of the Distinguished Service Order to Lt.-Colonel Drummond was a fitting conclusion to such an enterprise. Since he had taken command, the Battalion's chain of successes had been unbroken, and now the campaign had been wound up in really superb style.

This last operation had been at once the most spectacular and the most difficult that the Battalion had undertaken, and, without doubt, the completeness of the triumph was due largely to his bold plan and resolute leadership.

During the rest of the day, I KOSB and 2 Lincolns passed through to capture a vital cross-roads and a factory without much opposition, and later I KOSB resumed the advance, pushing through Bremen, pausing during the hours of darkness and resuming at first light, to reach the main railway line.

In order to release them to begin this advance we were moved up to the area of the cross-roads for the night, and next morning at 0800 hrs, assisted by a squadron of tanks from 22 Dragoons, we cleared a built up area on the far side of the railway, and completed 9 Brigade's part in the attack on Bremen.

There was virtually no opposition, but again the PW total was well over 100. The battle for Bremen was thenceforward in the hands of 8 Brigade, part of which began to pass through us at about 1300 hrs.

Preparation for the crossing of the Ochtum floods

This was the first occasion on which 2 RUR had been called upon to go into battle in Buffaloes.

As part of a Division which had planned and carried out the initial assault on the Continent, and later had specialised in assault river crossings, we had battle experience of every other type of amphibious craft. Some of us had attended a demonstration of the Buffaloes in February, and obtained some idea of its potentialities. None had actually used it, or assisted in its use.

This lack of knowledge and experience was, however, fully made good by the skill and co-operation of the officers and men of 4 RTR, who manned and controlled the Buffaloes. From them we learned all about the craft.

It could carry either 28 men, or a carrier, or a jeep, or an anti-tank gun, but not a 15 cwt. truck, or any of the more bulky forms of transport. It mounted a 20 mm gun and so, if necessary, it could defend itself effectively.

On the other hand, the armour basis was small, and the craft was reckoned to stop small arms fire and nothing else. The whole construction had been subordinated to the one purpose of producing a vehicle which could swim in deep water and heave its way across waterlogged and boggy ground.

The task which the Buffaloes were now set was well calculated to test them. Bremen, south of the Weser, was protected from attack by the line of the Ochtum canal, the last line of defence before the town.

In itself, it was not a formidable obstacle; but artificial flooding of its banks had submerged the land on either side - particularly the south side of it - to a total distance of about 2000 yards.

The water varied in depth from about four inches to the maximum depth of the Ochtum Canal; so that from the Buffaloes point of view, the pitch was likely to be at the best, uneven, and at the worst sufficiently boggy to bring them to a standstill.

Part of the course selected for the Buffaloes ran across a dummy airfield - now completely waterlogged - which had been bombed by the RAF, and it was felt that immense bomb craters might present some difficulty.

Finally all the flooded fields were intersected with cattle fences, and it was feared that if too much wire became caught up in the sprockets of the Buffaloes they might be unable to continue.

The uncertain conditions of the ground was one of the problems set to Captain Harris, the Buffalo Squadron Leader, and his men. The question of navigation was another.

The task of leaving a start line, crossing 2000 yards of water and arriving at a pre-arranged "debuffing" point was no mean one.

They were fortunate in having as landmarks, half way across the course, the large square buildings of the dummy airfields which on a light night could be picked out from seven or sight hundred yards distant. But even then the canal itself had to be crossed, and the "debuffing point", though considerably closer had still to be found.

It was not surprising that 4 RTR, who had driven the Highland Division across the Rhine, and the Canadians across the Ijssel, reckoned this to be the most difficult task that they had yet been called upon to undertake.

The axis for the Brigade attack was the main road running North from Brinkum, crossing the Ochtum by the bridge at Kattenturm, and so on into Bremen.

The village of Kattenturm lay astride, though mainly to the East, of the main road, and its Southern side was demarcated by the tortuous line of an embankment or bund, which also marked the Northern extent of the floods.

The bund ran away Eastwards from the bridge along the Canal as far as the most Eastern extremity of Kattenturm, finally reached Arsten, 2000 yards East of Kattenturm, while the canal trickled away towards the South East.

The water was however, right up against the bund even at the right angular hook in the bund which had been selected as the "debuffing" point, so that the Buffaloes had to drive to the bund and then back up against it in order that men and vehicles could both land dry.

Information about the enemy was extremely scanty, and was based more upon supposition and deduction than on reliable evidence. The vital thing was that the Bosche had not yet blown the Kattenturm bridge, though it was supposed to be prepared for demolition with a charge consisting of two heavy bombs. Therefore it was probable that he would have something deployed on the South side of the bridge, even though patrols from 8 Brigade had been to within 200 yards of the Bridge without discovering anyone.

On the bank itself air photographs revealed diggings, and the strength of the garrison was reckoned at a company. Most of it was thought to be covering the main axis, which, thanks to the flood, was literally the only roadway into Bremen in that sector and would inevitably be the focal defensive point.

Of German artillery nothing was known, except that it was not thought to be very considerable.

With this background, preparations for the battle began in earnest. The night 24/23 April was fixed for the attack, and as we first heard that we were to carry it out on the morning of the 22nd, there was, for a change, sufficient time allowed for every preparation to be conceived and organised.

In the afternoon 22nd. April the Commanding Officer and Second-in-Command visited an observation post in Leeste a mile South East of Brinkum and Brinkum itself. An excellent view of the expanse of floods, of the main road, and of the dummy airfield, was obtained, but Kattenturm and the bridge was obscured by trees, and even the "debuffing point" - the crook in the bund - was difficult to pick out.

Next morning, company and platoon commanders set off from Barrien and completed the same tour. Meanwhile the Commanding Officer and Second-in-Command were evolving, with Capt. Harris the Buffalo Squadron Leader, a loading schedule for men and vehicles into the Buffaloes.

A squadron of 47 Buffaloes was available for us, and this absorbed the whole fighting strength of the Battalion at a stroke. All that would remain to be taken across after the first run would be some carriers and a few jeeps.

The craft were allotted to companies, and the same afternoon each company practised loading on to its own craft, its men, its carrier, and its jeep. Each Buffalo had its number printed in large figures upon the front, back, and sides, and by the end of the practice every man knew exactly the number of his craft, its position in the column, and in most cases he had not been slow to meet the crew that was to motor him across the floods.

On the same day, the GOC 3rd. British Infantry Division spoke to all officers of the Brigade Group in Barrien, and outlined the higher plan or the capture of Bremen.

On the right 52 Lowland Division was to attack Bremen North of the Weser at the same time as 3 British Infantry Division was attacking on the South side. On our immediate right, 185 Infantry Brigade was attacking simultaneously along the axis Dreye - Arsten - Habenhausen.

2 KSLI was to attack Dreye at 2300 hrs. followed by 2 Warwicks attacking Arsten in Buffaloes at 0200 hrs - some two hours after our own attack had begun - along a track which in its initial stages, ran almost parallel to our own.

On the left, 51 Highland Division were launching a "Chinese Attack" on the railway North of Huchting, in the direction of Bremen. Sounds of tanks and gun preparations were to make it appear that the advance which had cut the railway line some three or four days earlier was now being resumed.

18th April - Approach to Bremen

Bremen was to be defended; of that there could be no doubt. The civilian element, headed by the Burgomaster who desired to play with surrender to the British was summarily dealt with by SS troops, and General Becker, a reliable non-collaborator, was made garrison commander.

Henceforth progress towards the town could only be made after serious fighting. Not until British troops entered the heart of the town did resistance collapse, and then it became merged in the mass surrenders which became the mode across the whole of 21 Army Group front.

From Harpstedt, we had originally been cast for an attack upon Delmenhorst. But on the evening before it was due to be carried out, we were suddenly switched further East to attack the approaches to Bremen from a more Southerly direction.

On the 17 April we moved to a concentration area just North of Barrien. On 18th. 2 Lincolns opened the Brigade attack by clearing the village of Stuhr. They fought long and well, starting at first light, battling throughout the day, and not completing their task until the first few hours of daylight the next day.

On the evening of 18th. 2 RUR was ordered to move up behind the Lincolns for the night, prior to passing through them at first light the following day to capture Moordyke 1500 yards further Northwest.

One rather unexpected incident took place as "B" Company reached its company locality. The ground had been traversed but not apparently searched by the Lincolns for when a section under Cpl. Holt approached some burnt out houses in the locality, it found altogether 15 Germans under an Officer shuffling around the buildings and in the ditches.

Almost without firing a shot, Cpl. Holt rounded them up and brought them in as PW. 85 troops, they had been lying up quietly for British troops had been passing and re-passing the buildings for two or three hours, and they might have been proposing to cause havoc under cover of darkness. Careful searching and prompt action, however, prevented this from taking place.

The attack began at 0700 hrs. the next morning, after the Battalion had consumed an early breakfast at 0545. "D" Company under Major Bird MC with two troops of tanks, an FOO, a section of MGs and an RE recce party, comprised the advance guard.

Initially, progress was unhindered, but as the built up area was reached, sniping began, battle was joined, and casualties were inflicted on both sides. Progress was slowed up to the speed at which each separate house could be cleared.

SS troops were encountered both in the houses and dug into the bank of the railway which ran across "D" Company's front. In a manoeuvre to drive them out Sjt. Cochrane, commanding a platoon, was hit, and so was a stretcher bearer who went forward to assist him.

It was a strong position, for SS troops were lining a long communication trench which was also covered by a building occupied by their comrades. Finally to break it, Major Bird MC organised a frontal assault by Lt McCarthy's platoon, while the other two platoons, held up on either flank of this position, covered the attack by fire which was intensified by the BESA and solid shot of two troops of tanks.

At a given signal their fire suddenly stopped and the assaulting troops went in. A dozen Germans were killed or wounded, and the rest surrendered, through not before their officer had continued to fire a spandau in spite of everything, and he had to be liquidated by a final rush from Lt McCarthy's platoon.

Prisoners began to flow in at a steady rate, and when the main cross-roads of Moordyke - "D" Company's objective - was reached, Major Bird had already sent back 50. "A" Company now passed through along the road which branched off left towards a crosstracks 300 yards further on.

On reaching it, the leading platoon came under fire from immediately to their front. They at once returned the fire, and Major Tighe-Wood MC, commanding "A" Company, worked a second platoon with a troop of tanks round the right flank.

The Germans were now discovered to be lining a bank facing "A" Company's left, so that this latest move caught them in the rear, and the flanking platoon began to roll them up systematically.

The clearing operation took the Company well forward of its original objective, and actually traversed the second bound of the attack that I KOSB were to put in that evening.

By 1300 hrs. the Battalion was firmly on all its objectives. 94 PW had been taken, and 3 X 20 mm flak guns, and the usual host of LMGs, Bazookas, Schmeissers and Lugers captured or destroyed.

We remained in our positions while the rest of the Brigade passed through us to complete this phase by the capture of Huchting.

On 21st. the Battalion was relieved by a Battalion of 51 Highland Division, and came back to Barrien to prepare for the direct assault upon Bremen in Buffaloes.

7th to 13th April 1945 - Diepholz

After being engaged in such bitter fighting while everywhere else the enemy had crumbled before momentous advances, it was a relief to experience a change ourselves.

While we had been battling, the Third American Army had pushed deep into the Thuringian Hills, the Ninth American Army had reached Magdeburg, and British troops were well on their way to the Elbe.

To the West of the Weser 7 Armoured Division had made a complete breakthrough towards Bremen from the South, and it seemed once more that nothing could prevent the fall of the town.

3 British Infantry Division, whose presence in Lingen had been rendered superfluous by the advance of 53 Division from Rheine, was now despatched along the axis of 7 Armoured Division with orders to take over the ground won, and hold it against infiltration by the large number of German Troops whose line of escape Eastwards across the Weser was rapidly being cut off.

Overnight our horizons were broadened and orientations were transformed. On the evening of 7th April the Battalion had expected an order to press forward the attack South of Lingen.

On the morning of the 8th. advance parties had, set off in the opposite direction, and after a long journey had come to rest in Diepholz, nearly 100 miles distant by road.

Here we took over from a Battalion of 52 Division who were about to leave Diepholz to move nearer the Weser. The Battalion arrived at 0400 hrs. on 8th. April, having travelled in convoy through the best part of the night.

Diepholz was a splendid reward for the labour of Lingen. Vigilance had to be maintained as rigorously as before, but accomodation was excellent, and the town itself was clean and cheerful.

Advance parties, who had travelled by day, had already seen the quality of this beautiful Westphalian countryside, with its hills and valleys and great rolling stretches of green, florescent country, and Diepholz itself was quite in sympathy with it. Indeed the BBC and the Press had already established their forward Headquarters in its heart.

The whole Battalion was positioned in Diepholz except "B" Company which was holding a little village called Jakobskrubber, some 3 miles further lip the axis. The threat to either place from the ground was never very substantial, but from the air it was considerable.

In the evening the Luftwaffe used to appear with marked regularity, and on one occasion its bombs completely demolished the houses adjacent to Bn. HQ. But the battle was by no means one-sided. Small arms were shot off with great spirit whenever this skeleton air force appeared, and "B" Company were able to signal a kill before we left Diepholz. It was the first German aircraft which the Battalion had directly shot down in this campaign.

There were other moments of interest in Diepholz. Several successful patrols were undertaken by a force of arms from "S" Company under Capt. Gray. One of these was towards Löhne when 17 prisoners were taken without a shot being fired, Lt Daniels, our Dutch Interpreter, rang up the doctor in Löhne, asking him to come to visit his ailing child, and gained the information that the Germans had withdrawn from Löhne.

Next day, when "D" Company had moved out of Diepholz to positions around this farm, the German doctor in charge of a military hospital in Löhne presented himself to "D" Company Commander, Major Bird MC, and stated that if we didn't shoot he would "Surrender Löhne fightless"

The reply he got was "Surrender Löhne 'fightless' and we won't shoot." This was done, and the town was later donated to 52 Division Recce, who had been fighting their way towards Löhne from the South.

While we were in Diepholz we heard that our doctor, Capt. Wright, was to be promoted Company Commander of a Field Ambulance, and was to leave us for a post in 43 Division. "Doc" Wright had been in France with the Battalion in 1940, and had remained with it until this date without a break, throughout this long period he had been a pillar of strength, and a model medical officer, for it mattered little to him whether he dispensed his cures in the peace and stability of his RAP, in England, or beneath a continuous rain of shells in action.

The Battalion rejoiced at his promotion, but it was with heavy hearts that we watched him take his leave. His place was taken by Capt. Williams, who joined us from 9th. Field Ambulance.

On April 12 we moved on forty miles to Harpstedt. Again we were holding ground which had been overrun by the armour, but here the enemy was more serious and purposeful.

The Battalion was in position in Harpstedt by 1330 hrs. 13 April, and straightaway was ordered to send forward patrols along the three main roads running North East, North, and North west out of Harpstedt with the object of making contact and discovering the whereabouts of the enemy.

These patrols were remarkable, both for the distance they covered and the information they brought back. On the right, a patrol from 'D' Company under Lt Campbell, reached a road junction some 5000 yards North East of Harpstedt, just outside the village of Kirschseelte.

At this point they captured a small enemy standing patrol who were responsible for covering the approaches to Kirchseelte. They discovered the information that their unit was two Companies strong in Kirschseelte.

On the left, a patrol from "A" Company, under Lt Songest, reached a point about 1000 yards South of Horstedt, a little village 5000 yards North west of Harpstedt. From civilian sources he obtained the information that Horstedt was held by a company, and that there were mines along the road leading to the place.

Just as he was questioning the civilians, six SP guns opened fire on Harpstedt from only 400 yards away, and he was able to pinpoint them accurately. Later the same day these were taken on by a battery of medium guns.

The third patrol, driving Northwards along the main Harpstedt - Delmenhorst road, was not so fortunate. Accompanied by a detachment of carriers and infantry engineers, the patrol of 14 men, under Lt Harris, reached a point half a mile South of the village of Gr. Ippener, and some 5000 yards north of Harpstedt.

Here they had a brisk skirmish with a few Germans who fired at them from the edge of a wood. One of the enemy was shot dead, and another was wounded but escaped through the wood. Not satisfied with this achievement, Lt Harris decided to move further forward on foot, leaving the carriers at the edge of the wood.

Two hundred yards further on a disastrous explosion obscured the patrol from the carriers, and it was at once apparent that some form of prepared charge had been activated. The patrol commander was killed with seven of his men, three were missing, one of whom was subsequently discovered to have been taken prisoner. Two others were wounded but managed to get back to the waiting carriers.

The situation was now grave, for the explosion was the signal for intense machine gun and Mortar fire from the enemy straight down the road, so that approach to the scene of the explosion was virtually impossible. The carriers waited for some time, and then withdrew with some difficulty.

This disaster, falling so suddenly and so unexpectedly upon the Battalion, was a severe blow. The loss of virtually a complete patrol, and a gallant leader, was not easy to accept. But the value of its work must not be forgotten.

It had located definitely a number of positions which had added up to company strength defending Gr. Ippener, and this information, when added to the other two patrols contributed much to a sound appreciation of the dispositions of the enemy covering Delmenhorst.

It did a lot to modify the exuberance of the plans for the capture of the town, which if executed without this information might have involved heavy losses.

6th to 7th April 1945 - Battle in Lingen

On April 6th., 2 RUR was given the task of passing through 2 Warwick at first light in Lingen to clear a sector of the town which lay astride one of the main routes out of it.

The intention was to consolidate a vital cross-roads on the outskirts of the town. This would allow the Guards Armoured Division, scheduled to cross the bridge over the canal at 0800 hrs, the same morning, to pass through and exploit our success.

In all, the distance to be traversed was about 1500 yards, 2 Warwicks were based upon the line of the Lingen railway, with one company forward of it across a subsidiary road which was to be the start line. The main road ran East from the railway out of Lingen, and at this cross-roads met a subsidiary road running out of South Lingen in a North Easterly direction. This road was to be the scene of bitter fighting when the attack began.

Little was known about the enemy as, after a counter attack by German infantry and SF guns had been made against 2 Warwick on the day before our attack, contact had been virtually lost.

The Boche was known, however, not to have quitted the town, and was expected to defend all main routes out of it. A patrol from 2 Warwick knew that a house only a short distance from their forward troops, along the main axis, was occupied by the enemy.

The plan was as follows. "C" Company was to capture the vital cross-roads by pushing, not down the main road, but in a right flanking direction, coming up to the road junction along the secondary road. The chief opposition was expected on the main axis, and it was hoped by this bold plan to cut their line of withdrawal.

Once "C" Company was established, "A" Company were to advance straight up the main road, clearing the houses and driving the enemy against the firm bed of resistance provided by "C" Company on the road junction. Subsequently "D" Company was to pass through "C" Company to consolidate forward and right, and "B" Company was to clear any houses that "C" Company had left unsearched in their advance to the cross-roads.

The Commanding Officer's orders to Capt. Barry, in command of "C" Company, were simple and direct. It was to get on to the cross-roads by a circuitous route, straightaway, without clearing more houses than was necessary to get forward rapidly. In support, Capt. Barry had a troop of Sherman tanks, and three Crocodiles, and his Company was to "marry up in the market square and move forward in pre-arranged order.

Lt Purcell's platoon led the way, and his advance was, in the initial stages, without incident. When he was about 300 yards from the Company objective, however, shots were fired from a house on the right hand side of the road about 100 yards up.

The leading section went to ground and, under cover of its fire Lt Purcell immediately pushed the next section around the back of the houses on the left side of the road, in order to maintain the momentum of the advance.

This apparently sufficed because by the time this reached a point level with the shooting, all was quiet; so they pushed on. No further trouble was experienced by this platoon until the leading section reached the cross-roads, when vicious machine gun fire came from a house on the South side of the main road about 75 yards away.

The first section was pinned down not only by this fire, but by some sniping from a house 50 yards down the main road beyond the cross-roads.

So too was the second section, attempting to approach the house directly from the south. Cpl Watkin in a fearless and gallant rush for the house was unfortunately killed, and casualties were inflicted upon his section.

Meanwhile the third section had come up, and was also pinned down by the withering MG firing from this house.

At this point Lt Purcell signalled to Capt. Barry, and explained the situation in full when he came up. They were just deciding upon a plan for the use of a second platoon with Crocodiles, when five or six men were observed moving by leaps and bounds from the house which was holding out so stubbornly.

They were furiously engaged by the rear section of Lt. Purcell's platoon and with particular skill and devotion by Rfn Scott, who accounted for at least three of them. But two managed to infiltrate to Platoon HQ and, before being killed, one succeeded in shooting Capt. Barry, mortally wounding him.

The situation was now serious. The forward platoon was thoroughly pinned down to the ground, which was dominated by houses which had not been searched. The enemy might have been anywhere, even in the houses along the company axis of advance; and where he had been located he apparently was in sufficient strength to undertake aggressive action.

Moreover, if the general plan was to be successful, it was imperative that "C" Company should win their objective, and win it quickly, and this they seemed still far from doing.

Such was the situation when Capt. Alexander, second-in-command of "C" Company, took over command. Spending a few quick minutes with the forward platoon to get acquainted with what had happened, he then turned back to Company Headquarters to unleash the Crocodiles against these fanatically defended buildings.

But bad luck was to play its part. In attempting to manoeuvre into position, the flame-throwers left the road and immediately sank into a soft and boggy stretch of ground and were unable to move.

Undeterred by this disaster, Capt. Alexander formed up his second platoon, under Lt Fairman, for an attack on the house under cover of an AP shoot from one Sherman 17 pdr.

Here again, bad luck appeared to dog his efforts. The first shots from the Sherman, unknown to the gunner, touched upon the branches of a tree which overhung the bank, and burst amongst the platoon causing casualties and some demoralisation. This platoon quickly reorganised and moved forward, but it too was pinned down by fire from a house close by the other.

Notwithstanding these reverses, Capt. Alexander determined to reach his objective. He now pushed his third platoon Northwards to the main road, ordering it to work along towards the cross-roads on the right hand side, clearing all the houses up to the Company objective.

Covering fire was provided by the Shermans and the other two platoons, and this time Capt. Alexander's plan was blessed with success. Houses were cleared, some 25 prisoners taken, and this third platoon under Lt Harris was able to establish itself well beyond the company objective.

"A" Company, who had already begun the advance along the main axis, now proceeded merrily on their way. The success of their house clearing was now ensured due to the stop which "C" Company had built across the German's line of withdrawal.

Prisoners began to dribble back to Battalion HQ. The objectives were soon made and consolidated. Then a patrol under Lt Songest was sent forward to contact "C" Company.

Working his way forward about 200 yards he suddenly came under fire from a party of Germans in some houses close to those which had been troubling "C" Company. In taking cover some casualties were sustained, so without further hesitation Lt Songest decided to attack.

Under cover of a smoke grenade and covering fire from the patrol, he advanced with a small party under intense small arms fire, threw a grenade through a small aperture and, forcing open the door, compelled the enemy to surrender.

Casualties were sustained and Lt Songest, was himself grazed in the neck by a bullet. But 60 prisoners were tumbled out of these houses, and this finally cleared the way through to "C" Company.

While this was going on, "D" Company was passing through "C" Company to reach their objective without opposition. The Commanding Officer was now ordered to send one Company to occupy a triangle of roads on the Battalion's right flank, some 600 yards due south of "D" Company's new position.

"B" Company under Major Cummins with one troop of Shermans, was accordingly directed to this task. The position was quickly reached and consolidated, and only when a small patrol was sent to investigate a house in front of the forward position did the trouble begin.

As the patrol approached the house, a spandau opened fire from the edge of a large wood which extended a great distance behind the house. This caused casualties, among whom was L/Cpl. Glover, the patrol commander, but in spite of his wounds he retained control, extricated his men, and explained coherently and accurately on his return the position of the gun before being evacuated.

The reserve platoon was now brought up with two Shermans, and while these gave covering fire, an assault was put in with great dash by Lt McCrainor's platoon killing one, wounding two and capturing one German, putting two others to flight.

Patrolling forward a little further, this platoon was fired on, and two more spandaus were encountered, though fortunately the wood now hindered their field of fire. Just as an attack on these positions was being prepared, information was received from Brigade that the wood was probably held in considerable strength; a substantial part of 7 Para Division was believed to be in it.

The Commanding Officer gave orders that the engagement would be broken off and the company would pull back to its original position. Subsequent information from POWs revealed that when the tanks moved up to begin the attack on the two spandaus the enemy, who were indeed in fair strength, withdrew, although it seems probable that they returned some time later before finally evacuating during the night. At any rate they took no further action against our troops.

This phase of Lingen had produced bitter, lethal fighting. These fanatical Germans asked no quarter and received none. Hand to hand fighting in which our men - stimulated by unexpected resistance - got to close grips with the enemy, took place and the bodies of the Germans lying within a few yards of our own wounded and dead grimly testified to the fierceness and severity of the fighting.

We lost a brave leader in Captain Barry, and several soldiers that day. But "C" Company could be proud of the fighting spirit it had displayed and none was later surprised to hear that Capt. Alexander, who had led them to success, received the immediate award of the Military Cross for his part in the operation.

The Guards Armoured Division were by now streaming through our positions along both the main roads which ran away from "C" Company's cross-roads. But a few miles further down they were held up by the usual chain of mines, demolitions and craters.

185 Brigade were now brought forward again to take over the perimeter defence of East Lingen releasing 9 Brigade to initiate a second attack South from Lingen in order to open up a second axis running East to west across the River Ems and canal five miles further South.

2 RUR was relieved at 1800 hrs. by 2 Warwick, and by 2000 had returned once more to the centre of the town for a night in concentration. At 0700 hrs. we had been ordered to pass through the Lincolns who were covering the Southern approaches to Lingen, and secure some high ground 1500 yards further on the South side of an excavated canal.

The day had begun for most people at 0400 hrs. and had been occupied with a tiring battle which had lasted several hours with a move at the end of it. Now it was well past midnight before orders and preparations for the next day were complete, and at approximately 0400 hrs. people were required to be up in readiness for the day's work. It was indeed a testing routine.

The latest information about the enemy was disclosed at a Brigade O Group held at the forbidding hour of 0400 hrs. 7 April. Patrols from the Lincolns had closely investigated the wood in which it was thought that large numbers of 7 Para Division were lurking, and had found nothing but abandoned equipment; they heard absolutely no sound of foreign occupation. Later a civilian was brought in who said that during the night the enemy had pulled back from these positions in an Easterly direction. The advance of 53 Welsh Division North East from Rheine had made this move probable, and it seemed likely that 7 Para Div. had now been switched from the South to cover the Eastern exits from Lingen.

This was later proved to be the case. The Battalion moved forward on to its objective without meeting any opposition whatever. Seeing the position as the Germans must have held it one could not but be grateful that they had decided to withdraw. The forcing of the dried up canal against determined opposition would have been a formidable and costly operation. But the five stragglers who were picked up proved that their commanders had weighed threat to their rear against the strength of the position and found the latter wanting. So the chase was handed over to I KOSB, who during the rest of the day dealt voraciously with a few hundred Flak troops who had remained behind.

3rd to 4th April 1945 - Approach to Lingen

We rested for some little time near Bocholt, while armour broke out of the Rhine bridgeheads. Each day red arrows leapt further and faster across the map, and our own surroundings became more and more peaceful.

Information was somewhat clouded by security blackout, but between the lines of official communiqués we could detect the beginnings of the thrusts towards the Weser along its entire length, and the encirclement of the Ruhr.

More immediately, our own Corps was now driving along a centre line which was ambitiously directed at Bremen and Hamburg, and at that time it was difficult to see why these two ports should not be carried on the crest of the wave. We did not expect, did not want, to be left behind this forward surge, for it looked like the end, and no one was more anxious to speed its coming than ourselves.

We were summoned to move again on April 3rd. and for two days we followed along the axis of the Guards Armoured Division. The Corps role was to secure the left flank of Second Army's advance from the threat of any German forces in Northern Holland. So we found ourselves defending strategic points on the Corps axis, for a few hours here, and a day there.

The route took us back into Holland for about thirty miles, and we gazed here upon country, the fresh and fertile character of which did much to restore our faith in Holland after months spent along the more desolate and dreary stretches of the Meuse.

It was indeed springtime, and while by day we could enjoy the lushness of a beautiful countryside, at the end of the day our contact with a newly liberated people could be renewed without the fetters of fraternisation decrees which life in Germany imposed.

Groenlo, then Enschede, received us with wild enthusiasm, and it was with some feelings of regret that the Battalion finally left this country behind, and crossed the border once again on the road to Lingen.

3 British Infantry Division had been warned that if at any point the advance of the armour was seriously held up it would have to attach and clear the way for the advance to be resumed.

Lingen was geographically the obvious place for such a stand. It lay on the East side, not only of the River Ems, but of the canal which linked the Ruhr industries with the North sea port of Emden, so that both river obstacles had to be crossed before the town itself could be reached.

The Guards, after being thwarted at one bridge by a matter of seconds captured another across the first obstacle, about one mile north of Lingen, and on 4th. April 2 KSLI of our own division forced a crossing of the second obstacle against light opposition. The other two Battalions of 185 Infantry Brigade now swung Southwards and entered the town.

But Lingen, later proved to be a bastion of Nazi doctrine, was not to give in so easily. There were several Officer Cadet Training Units in the District, and these contributed a fanatical type towards, the defence of the town. Gradually resistance crystallized and concentrated, so that soon every street, every house, had to be thoroughly combed and cleansed. Not a single Brigade, but the complete Division, had to be deployed to clear the town.

2 RUR's first part in this attack was to relieve 2 KSLI of their bridgehead over the Ems canal, releasing them to be employed in clearing part of the town. It was not a comfortable assignment for the Class 40 bridge was under constant shellfire, and approaching it was, at best, a chancy business.

Several vehicles were destroyed, including a Jeep and a 15 cwt. belonging to the Battalion. But we had not to stay there for long. Plans were being changed rapidly and a 1800 hrs. the Battalion was ordered to move down into the heart of Lingen, and prepare to launch an attack through the foremost position of 185 Infantry Brigade at first light the following day.

By 2130 hrs the Battalion was concentrated around the main square of Lingen, and before the light failed the Commanding Officer, and commanders of the leading companies had been able to obtain a swift and not very enlightening glimpse of the ground that was to be traversed next day.

29th March 1945 - Crossing of the River Aa

During that night 1 KOSB passed through the Battalion and occupied Werth, and early next day 2 Lincolns took up the running towards the high ground East of Bocholt. Hard by a stream named on the map River Aa, their forward elements came under fire from the further bank, and subsequent probing gave the impression that the Aa was held and would need to be forced.

Of all the many actions that this Battalion has fought, none can have been so bleak in prospect and yet so successful in outcome as the forcing of the River Aa.

At 1700 hrs. on the evening of 29th. March, the Commanding Officer was ordered to carry out an assault river crossing five miles away, with midnight as zero hour.

We were to cross on the left hand side of the Main Brigade Axis, and no one had yet set foot on our own side of the river, for the Lincolns had come under fire from enemy on the right hand side. Thus not only was nothing known about the enemy on the far bank but it was by no means certain that the ground on this side of the river was clear of them.

Finally, complete ignorance prevailed about the Aa itself. None could say whether it was a fluent river or a babbling brook, and whilst one man suggested storm boats, another was fearful that assault boats would be grounded as soon as they hit the water.

"C" Company under Capt. Beavan, was immediately despatched to clear the area and secure the startline. An exhaustive search of houses and farms produced four prisoners, who, tired of war and all the irritations of retreat, had decided to wait behind for our arrival.

Most valuable was the discovery of two civilians who spoke English, and who gave us details of the River Aa. It was about 10 metres wide and knee deep, with steep banks which would take assault boats without difficulty. This was much needed information, and it was confirmed in far greater detail by an excellent patrol under Lt Harris, who actually paddled across River Aa in his determination to procure a complete picture of the river. At no time did he hear a sound of enemy movement on the other bank.

Soon, representatives from the Carrier and Infantry Engineer Platoons, supervised by Capt. Baudains, were down by the river searching out routes and clearing them of mines, and at the same time members of the Intelligence section taped out a startline some 200 yards back from the river.

Between 2200 and 2300 hours the assault boats were brought down on carriers along the tracks that had been cleared, and laid down against the tape. This arduous labour was undertaken by the Anti-tank Platoon and a Platoon of "C" Company, under the control of Capt. Gray.

Zero Hour had been put forward from midnight to 0100 hrs. to allow one more vital hour for preparations.

The plan was now for "A" and "D" Companies to initiate the assault, with "A" Company on the right going straight through to objectives just this side of the second stream about 700 yards beyond the first - while "D" Company consolidated a limited bridgehead which could pay particular attention to the exposed left flank.

"B" Company was then to cross on the left flank and pass through "D" Company to an area some 400 yards beyond, and in the third flight "C" Company with Tactical Bn. HQ. protected by Carrier Platoon, would cross to fill the gap behind "A" Company.

Excitement soon began. "A" Company crossed without incident and formed up on the river side of a steep embankment. Then, advancing across it, they discovered to their amazement that the Hun was dug into the further side of the embankment, and several prisoners were straight away "winkled out".

Swift progress was then made swift enough to catch two horse drawn trucks of a German support company slinking away to more peaceful surroundings. They were at once engaged, two of the crew falling into our hands wounded, and two others captured intact with their cargo of three mortars and a considerable quantity of ammunition.

On the left "D" Company crossed and established themselves quickly into a tight bridgehead. Soon, however, shooting began on the left flank when a sizeable patrol - interpreted at first as a counter attack came scurrying into our positions. It was "seen off" with remarkable spirit and "élan" by Sjt Cochrane who, with his men, succeeded in capturing the entire patrol.

Sniping from isolated enemy posts went on after. This, and two of our men, including a Sergeant, were hit while still on the home side of the river. One of these snipers was swiftly and effectively dealt with by Capt. Baudains, MM, whose Carrier Platoon was providing protection for the Battalion's left flank with six Bren Guns. Grabbing a 2" Mortar he put down six bombs all around the sniper, so demoralising him that he fell an easy prey to "D" Company on the farther bank.

Strangest of all, perhaps, were the adventures of "B" Company. The forward platoon, under Sjt Tipper, reached its objective without difficulty, and immediately cleared some houses of 12 to 15 Germans. The platoon then dug in.

Suddenly a German CSM emerged from the lee of a building, approached one of the riflemen who was digging in and began to march him off covering him with a pistol. Two shadowy figures were espied by the opposite end of the platoon and Rfn. Hayes, dissatisfied with the answer given to his challenge by the German, opened fire and killed him with a Bren. The other rifleman was thus saved from captivity and, though wounded, fortunately was not too seriously so.

Later on, still in darkness, another patrol bumped into this same platoon, and lost one wounded and one PW. No further effective pursuit could be carried out since at this time one of our own patrols was expected in from examining some foot bridges on a further stream.

The prisoners produced were extraordinary, both in themselves and the way they were captured. Perhaps the most distinguished was a tall, fair haired youth, who claimed to have lunched with the Fuhrer in Bocholt on the previous day!

Prisoners tumbled out of the oddest places. Major Bird MC, going round the platoons ventured to criticise one of the slit trenches dug into the river bank. On being informed that it was a German dug-out he examined it more closely, and found it contained two German soldiers, whom he promptly flushed out. Other prisoners were taken by OC "A" Company, the RAP Serjeant, and the Commanding Officer himself.

The final count was 55 PW; four wounded PW; two killed, and a substantial amount of equipment captured. As against this total, our own casualties were six wounded not an unsatisfactory balance.

Afterwards - as if to round off the success of the attack - we heard that Sjt Cochrane had won a Military Medal for this part in the attack.

27th March 1945 - Crossing the Rhine

For two days after the crossing by 51 Highland Division, we remained in our positions, though now of course we were relieved of our operational commitments.

We basked peacefully in the sun, and the hardier spirits bathed in the river. But on the 27th. this rest was rudely disturbed, for at 1600 hrs. the Battalion was ordered to cross the river by the bridge at Rees immediately, to relieve a Battalion of 51 Highland Division that night.

This caused some concern at first because some days before the assault the bulk of the Battalion transport had been ordered back to St Anthonis, on the West side of the Meuse, in order to clear the roads for the assaulting troops, and it had not yet rejoined us. We moved however, without further ado, although the transport did not join us until much later.

We crossed the Rhine on the class 40 bridge into Rees, and once over, spent some time in sorting ourselves out of the shambles of destruction and traffic that we found there.

Eventually we came to Groin, a little village two miles North East of Rees, where we relieved the 5th. Seaforths, releasing them to continue the advance further North next day.

Groin lay on the right flank of the 51st. Highland Division, whose main thrust had been directly North from Rees, and none knew what effect this threat had had upon any enemy in Haldern opposite Groin. Equally, no one knew now far forward 15 Scottish Division had reached from their crossing of the Rhine South of Rees, or what effect if any, their thrust had had upon Haldern.

Next morning two patrols set out to find out the answers to these problems. Capt. Baudains with a patrol from his Carrier platoon probed well into the town, while further North a patrol from "B" Company under Lt McCart pushed almost to the main road running North out of Haldern.

These two excellent patrols reported the town clear and Lt McCart brought back three straggling paratroopers who confirmed that their unit had pulled out of Haldern the previous night. They also said that extensive mine laying had been undertaken by the Germans before their departure.

Meanwhile a massive two battalion night attack on Haldern, supported by six field regiments had been planned, but it was swiftly abandoned when the information of the patrols was known. 9 British Infantry Brigade, with 2 RUR leading, was now to move forward as fast as it could along the axis Haldern - Werth high ground just west of Bocholt.

We started at 1700 hrs. and by 2000 hrs. the same evening were on our objectives, five miles higher up the axis. No contact had been made with the enemy, but Reigel mines had been extensively laid in the road, so that essential vehicles were compelled to make detours into the fields, and finally had to be left behind until a way could be cleared.

The Infantry Engineer Platoon under Sjt Genovese pulled at least 200 mines from the road that night, and the Sappers, later, were to pull many more.

Off the road great work was done by Capt. Baudains with members of the Carrier and Anti-tank platoons in constructing a class IX bridge over a little stream which was preventing the passage of vehicles over the cross country route. Our losses in men and vehicles were nil that night, though next morning a carrier and a 15 cwt. were blown up on two mines concealed in the verges.

March 1945 - Watch on the Rhine

At Winnekendonk we presided for several days over the liquidation of the Wesel pocket, being held for the most part at 12 hours notice to assist in clearing it up. Looking at a map it was not difficult to see the resemblance between the Wesel pocket and the Wanssum pocket.

Both positions were comparatively easy to defend, each being surrounded on three sides by a great river and a broad tributary, and in both cases supporting artillery and anti-tank guns could be brought up close behind these water obstacles and employed with devastating effect.

But times had changed, and the German now found himself unable to afford the luxury of a pocket; every available man was needed to hold the line of the Rhine itself. On the night of 8/9 March, he withdrew from the West bank.

3 British Infantry Division's new role was now made known. It was to take up positions along the Rhine from Rees to Emmerich and hold them with two very definite purposes. First, no enemy was to be permitted to set foot upon our shore, and if any party succeeded momentarily in doing this it was to be wiped out.

Secondly, everything possible was to be done by way of observation during the day to build up a clear picture of the enemy's dispositions on the far bank.

The Battalion was allotted a front of approximately 3,000 yards. North East of Calcar and South West of Rees. Rees stands at the head of a right angular bend in the river, and downstream past the town, the river runs due West for about 4,000 yards and then swings sharply North again towards Emmerich. This Westerly stretch along which the Battalion took its stand was obviously to be of immense importance.

Although the utmost security about forthcoming operations was maintained, it did not require excessive imagination to realise that this was the ideal site for a assault crossing of the river, and the perfect springboard for the capture of Rees which was the focal point of four first class reads.

On our own side the roads leading towards the river from the main Calcar - Xanten lateral were in excellent condition, and there were useful tracks which led down from a tarmac lateral road some five hundred yards back from and parallel with the river, to the river itself. Finally, limiting the German's view of our own side of the river was a band or bank which ran the whole way along the river and represented the high water mark of the river in flood; although there were breaches in it at various points, it was well suited to conceal large scale movement of troops and supplies.

The scope and extent of the preparations that soon began left no doubt in the minds of all ranks that this was definitely one of the sites for the assault, and spurred them on to carry out the Battalion's commitments to the utmost of their ability.

Tremendous effort was demanded and found. By night on the river bank five standing patrols at four hundred yard intervals along the water's edge were found by the Battalion, and behind them, three Companies were forward, alert and prepared for any emergency.

During the day five O.Ps were manned from dawn to dusk so that every part of the Battalion front was covered from several angles, every detail of enemy movement on the far bank was religiously catalogued, and by the end of our residence, we had obtained a shrewd idea of how the enemy was disposed on the far bank.

On only one occasion did the Hun tread upon the soil of our Battalion area, and then not for long. The night of 21 March was as black as Erebus: visibility was nil. At about 0200 hours one of the river bank patrols from 'A' Company, under Lt P. Haley, heard sounds of splashing and attempts to disembark from a boat.

They moved at once towards the place and opened a withering fire in the direction of the sounds. It was returned by the NCO in charge of the German patrol, but only for a short time. Coming upon the patrol, Lt Haley took prisoner one of the Germans, and later a search revealed the body of the NCO riddled with bullets.

The third member, for the prisoner revealed that there were three, was presumed by our own men, and by the prisoner himself, to have been drowned when he attempted to climb back into the beat. He could not swim and the craft had capsized in the course of the fight.

There was little recreation for most of the Battalion in these circumstances of a 24 hours day's vigil. Yet in spite of it we still managed to honour and venerate St Patrick, if not with traditional ceremony, at least with festive good fare. Geese, turkey, and pigs alike bowed their heads passively in observation of this perennially great occasion, and a moderate supply of beer and wines did something to compensate for the unbroken watch which the tactical situation impelled us to maintain.

Each day, the plan for the crossing of the Rhine became more clear to us as we watched the preparations that were being made, and throughout, we found it interesting to speculate upon how close we had come to carrying out the assault crossing ourselves.

When the Division was resting between Malines and Louvain, it had been earmarked for the crossing at the point where 15 Scottish Division eventually crossed. At that time the great assault through the Reichwald Forest had been launched, and it was designed to coincide with a similar attack by the Ninth U.S. Army across the River Roer towards Cologne.

But on the eve of this attack the Germans shattered the Roer dams, and held up the American thrust for 18 days, and so were able to switch extra divisions to the Reichwald front against the Second Army.

3 British Infantry Division which had to that date been husbanded for the crossing of the Rhine, was now committed near Goch and Weeze, relieving 15 Scottish Division who had borne the brunt of these German reinforcements, and who were now with drawn to Tilburg for refitting and training to force the Rhine.

The "build up" for the operation conveyed the impression that no effort or expense was being spared to make this operation a success. Overnight, the whole Battalion area became carpeted with guns and rocket of every known calibre, and extensive ammunition dumps everywhere sprang into existence.

The roads became heavily signed with notices showing points of embarkation, beach assembly areas, tank tracks, PW cages, and a host of other things, so that it soon bore a strong resemblance to the Normandy beachhead.

At the same time reconnaissances of the river bank were being made nightly by Sappers, frequently under the escort of our patrols, and daily from our O.Ps by practically every officer from Lieut.-General Sir Miles Dempsey, KGB, DSO, MC, himself to the most insignificant subaltern in the assaulting Division - many specialist RA, RE, RASC, RAOC, REME, each with his own problem to solve all visited the O.Ps in unbroken succession.

Much of the visibility was obscured during the day by an artificial smoke screen which veiled the enormity of the preparations that were being made. It hovered over the forward companies the whole day long, and its sickly, choking smell made living conditions almost impossible.

The assault came, above all as a tremendous relief to the afflicted troops.
The night of the 24/25 was the opening of the attack, and that afternoon all companies were fully informed of the plan, and a message from Field Marshal Montgomery was read out. Soon after this, the much heralded barrage began.

From 1700 to 2100 hours the roar of gunfire continued without a break, and at 2100 hours, the moment of assault, it was stepped up to a veritable furore. Thousands of guns, from British Naval pieces to 4.2 Mortars and 25 pounders, drummed out an inspiring challenge which must have struck fear into the heart of the most steely foe.

Most impressive of all were the multi-barrelled rockets or "mattresses", terrifying machines, each of which in half a minute unleashed 360 rockets, every one burning its way through the air with a screech that as frightening to hear.

All through the night, the pace was kept up, and although preparations had been made for enemy counter-battery, little was seen or heard of it and we were thankful to report next morning that no casualties had been sustained.

27th February to 2nd March 1945 - Operation Veritable

The attack began on 27th February. 2 Lincolns passed through us followed by the KOSB, both Battalions being directed onto objectives intermediate to the main one which was the Udem - Weeze road.

Our own attack began at 1000 hrs with 'D' Company right and 'A' Company left. The support was magnificent: a barrage of colossal intensity crept forward in front of our advancing troops, and what that left uncompleted was well looked after by the Churchills of the Scots Guards, whose support with Besas and tank guns was so close and effective that the German heads were kept down until we were right on them.

The Germans were completely demoralised and many fell into our hands. Some were youngsters of sixteen who threw off their belts and equipment in disgust when taken, some were old men, and here and there were tough paratroopers.

The advance went forward in impressive line - 'A' Company, then 'C' Company on the left, 'D' in the centre, and the KOSB on the right. 'D' Company alone claimed 80 prisoners, while in 'C' Company tremendous strides forward were made by Lt Purcell, who, at the head of his platoon, captured several posts with inspiring dash and enthusiasm, and took a large number of prisoners.

One batch of them was ignominiously hauled from the cellar of a house and two further groups of ten each were taken as the platoon pressed forward to its final objective.

The official count of prisoners for this action was 140, but this is only the figure for those who were passed back through our Intelligence Section. Many others, in the heat of the battle, were passed on to the nearest unit and were put down to ultra-Battalion sources.

There was a sudden alarm from 'D' Company whilst consolidation was taking place. OC 'D' Company, Major Bird, MC, had already seen two SP guns making off just as he arrived on the objective. The Piat at Once went into action but unfortunately the range was too great, and 'D' Company had the painful experience of looking on while the SPs faded away in their own time.

Soon after this two enemy tanks counterattacked 'D' Company's positions, but a call for defensive fire produced a prompt and effective response from our excellent gunner Major Nicholson, RA, and henceforward nothing untoward occurred to interrupt digging and the brewing of tea.

The Battalion had not however escaped unscathed from this operation. Lt Hogan, the Infantry Engineer Platoon Commander, was severely wounded in the leg whilst making a reconnaissance of a schu minefield under shellfire before the attack.

Major Murphy fell victim to a light shell wound after the attack, and though not seriously hurt he was evacuated. Command of 'C' Company then consisting of two Officers, one Sergeant and fifty Other Ranks, devolved upon Captain DM Barry.

Altogether casualties for this operation - most of which were sustained in shelling before the attack began - were 2 Officer and 64 Other Ranks. On the more cheerful side, Lt Purcell was later awarded the M.C. for his part in this operation.

The battle was not without its unusual features. The weather was on the whole wet and miserable, and the tracks through the wood - at best poor - had for the most part been rendered impassable.

No vehicle dared to move before a thorough reconnaissance had been made of the route, and so the more unusual vehicles of the military establishment began to make their appearance TAG Battalion HQ for instance contained two Kangaroos, two Weasels, and a light tank.

With this motley collection it was frequently impossible to follow the Brigade axis, and attempts to find a route round the road were so successful that at one stage the group emerged well in front of the line of advance.

Later came a second anomaly when on the objective the problem of evacuating prisoners became so acute that the Commanding Officer himself escorted a batch of fifteen back towards Battalion HQ.

This action rounded off the month and our part of the operation Veritable was concluded in the first few days of March. 185 Brigade passed through us on 1st March and attacked Kervenheim, and even before this was cleared 9 Brigade was ordered to thrust again, leaving Kervenheim on our left flank, towards some woods about two miles South of Kervenheim, and from there push forward to capture Winnekendonk, four miles South of Kervenheim.

Early in the attack it became clear that with the exception of a few snipers the enemy had pulled back to a small perimeter defence of Winnekendonk. Thus only 2 Lincolns, who where charged with the capture of Winnekendonk, encountered organised resistance, and this they overcame with a determination and completeness that we were coming to recognise as characteristic of them.

2 RUR had two phases of this attack to undertake. Our first was to capture and clear the woods South of Kervenheim, and the second, after the Lincolns had taken Winnekendonk, to move up and consolidate the Winnekendonk - Wesel road, thus finally clearing the way for the armour to pass through.

In both these attacks we were again very fully and ably supported by the tanks of the Scots Guards, and by about seven Field Regiments. But apart from a few snipers beyond the objective of our first attack, the main opposition came, paradoxically, from our own troops.

During the first attack, Typhoons gave us such uncomfortably close support that the Commanding Officer was forced to halt the leading Companies advancing towards the objective.

Again, just before the second attack, a patrol sent forward to contact the forward Companies of 1 KOSB, through whom we had to pass, was shot up by an overzealous sentry, wounding two of our men.

Finally during the last attack, a fully articulated gunner programme including some seven Field Regiments, produced not a few "shorts"; luckily they inflicted no casualties.

Beyond the final objectives of the first attack, some brisk skirmishes with the enemy were however reported. 'B' Company at once sent out patrols which quickly located enemy positions, albeit at some cost.

One under Lt Phillips, pushed forward and found the enemy in a large house down the road. In front of this house Lt Phillips silenced a spandau which had opened fire on a second patrol under Sjt Cartwright. This patrol was less fortunate: it became pinned down by Machine Gun and rifle fire from several directions. Rfn Connor, a keen and excellent young soldier was wounded in the head by a bullet. He was carried back about a hundred yards to cover by Cpl Lawlor, but died before anything could be done about his wound.

One other Rifleman was wounded in the leg but was brought in by Sjt Cartwright to cover afforded by a fold in the ground. It was a tricky position, and finally artillery and tanks were called up to extricate the patrol.

A third patrol from 'B' Company under Lt McCainor cleared a large house which overlooked the left flank of the Company position. One German was discovered and swiftly bolted: he was fired upon, but, though winged, made good his escape.

Some enemy shelling and mortaring had, as always, to be endured however in spite of the virtual absence of ground opposition. After consolidation of the woods South of Kervenheim, it was quite heavy. Lt Purcell and an officer who had joined us in Thildonk, 2/Lt Macintyre, both being lightly wounded and evacuated.

But by comparison with the Lincolns we escaped lightly, and our second attack completed 9 Brigade's part in the advance towards the Rhine. Soon afterwards Guards Armoured Division, delayed some hours by demolitions, passed through us and in a few days all that was left to the Boche West of the River Rhine was the "Wesel" pocket.

During this period of January and February several noteworthy events have to be placed on record. In February we heard that Lt.-Colonel Harris, who had left us at the end of the year to go to the Far East, had been awarded the D.S.O. It was fitting reward and recognition of the immense service he had rendered to the Battalion from D Day up to the end of the year.

In the same list was the award of an M.C. to RSM Flaming, [Fleming?tn] a tribute to his ubiquity and courage under shellfire, and devotion to duty under the most harassing conditions. We had hoped to see him back with us again, but the wound sustained at Troarn gave him a permanent 'B' grading.

His place was taken by CSM Lutton, who came to Battalion Headquarters from "B' Company to assume the rank. Finally the return of Major Cummins to the Battalion after an absence of two years must be mentioned. He was well known to the older members of the Battalion, and after a short period assumed command of 'B' Company with Captain Gaffikin as his second-in-command.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

21st to 27th February - Goch in Germany

Rumours of a move were circulating on the 21st February. By this time the offensive launched through the Reichwald by the Canadian First Army was making progress despite appalling weather conditions, and by the 20th, Goch and Cleve were both taken.

On the 22nd we were ordered to send reconnaissance parties to Tilburg with a view to moving the Battalion on the following day. But whilst pondering upon the significance of that move we heard it was cancelled. Instead we had now to relieve a Brigade of 15 Scottish Division a few miles South East of Goch and continue the advance in its place.

So the instructional courses broke up, training schemes were abruptly terminated, lorries and trucks were loaded and the journey began. Louvain, Diest, Bourg Leopold, Helmond, St Anthonis, over the engineering wonder constructed by the Sappers across the Meuse - to that date the second largest Bailey Bridge in the world - and finally across the frontier into Germany, marked by massed 25 pounders in action on either side of the road.

This was the route which carried the Battalion across two countries and into a third on a single day. As darkness was falling, the ruins of Goch slid gradually into view and we saw for the first time the fate of a German town which had received the concentrated attention of the RAF.

The main body had left the Louvain area soon after 0900 hrs, preceded by the Commanding Officer and advance parties, and reached the final destination shortly before midnight straightaway taking over from a battalion of the Gordons.

The area was dismal and unattractive, in a thick wood centred upon a monument of gloom called Schloss Calbeck. It was a rude and sudden change from our happy surroundings in Belgium, but at least we had the comfort of a shell-less night - the first that the Schloss had known for some time - and were able to become acclimatised to warlike conditions more gradually.

During the night a patrol went out to establish contact with I KOSB on the left flank and another under Lt Beavan went forward and reported the wood directly to the front of the Battalion position clear of enemy; whereat 'C' Company moved up and dug positions in it.

Early next morning the honour of drawing first blood on German soil fell to 'A' Company; ironically enough the victim was a pig.

Later the higher plan for the resumption of the offensive was disclosed. While on the left the Canadians attacked Udem, and on the right 53rd Division attacked Weeze, 3rd Division was to clear some five miles of wooded area stretching from the outskirts of Goch towards Kervenheim.

9 Brigade were allotted the stretch which extended as far as the Udem - Weeze road, the consolidation of which was to be final task of 2 RUR.

On the day before the attack 2 RUR was ordered to secure the Brigade start line and prevent enemy infiltration across it. The start line was a track running across the front and about 200 yards forward of our positions which constituted the Brigade axis of advance.

A patrol from the Carrier Platoon under Captain Baudains, MM, was sent out to make a reconnaissance of the start line. Moving cautiously along the track he came upon the bodies of three men of a British tank unit lying on the track. He crawled forward to them, and looking up for a moment from examining them, he caught a glimpse of a German steel helmet peeping over the top of a bank not thirty yards away from him.

Throwing himself flat and crawling back to his men, Captain Baudains immediately organised an attack on this position. Covered by 2" mortar fire, he put in a quick flanking movement and finally charging with three Bren groups firing from the hip, flushed out two very timid members of the Master Race.

They proved to be most valuable because on being marched away down the track, they indicated with shaking fingers and terrified shouts of "Minen, Minen", that the track was mined.

Details of the number and depth of these mines were duly extracted by our Dutch Interpreter, Lt Daniels, and the information passed back. It was a difficult situation. By now it was dark, and clearing mines of unknown species by night was a highly undesirable occupation. But it was decided that since this track was the Brigade centre line, it must be cleared at all costs before the attack went in at dawn.

Accordingly Lt Hogan and some sappers were despatched to clear it. When they reached the area and started to work on the field, heavy mortaring began and caused Lt Hogan to be badly wounded on a mine.

Eventually the party was forced to abandon this impossible task and when the attack began next day, the forward troops had to bypass this place by going through the wood.

One other patrol was carried out that night. A sapper officer and a tank officer wanted to examine a bridge beyond the stretch of wood which was on the far side of the minefield. Cpl Wallace and three men of the Carrier Platoon conducted them, and the whole party had an adventurous patrol.

To begin with Cpl Wallace mistook the route, and marched the party straight through the minefield without mishap. Soon after this the patrol came under a sudden burst of machine gun fire which forced them to "freeze" for some time. Working forward again a verey light was fired at them at point blank range, again the party was compelled to lie up.

Notwithstanding this opposition, Cpl Wallace pushed forward reaching the bridge and a level crossing three hundred yards beyond, thus not only satisfying the sapper and tank officer but bringing back valuable information about the enemy.

Shelling and mortaring were severe that night and 'C' Company suffered most heavily. So low lying was the ground that all trenches of more than two feet deep filled up with water. Yet continuous shelling impelled the men to get themselves below ground.

It was miserable indeed and 'C' Company lost at least 15 wounded. Casualties were such that 'C' Company had to be reorganised into two platoons. Finally Major Murphy asked the Commanding Officer for permission to move forward beyond the mined stretch of track and dig in at the furthest edge of the wood. It was given.

6th to 21st February - Thildonk in Belgium

On February 6th having handed over the position to a battalion of the H. L, I. we began to move.

A few days previously we had been visited by 8 Corps Commander - Lt General Barker, CB, CBE, DSO, MC, and the acting Divisional Commander Major General Galloway, CBE, DSO, MC. Both had toured the Battalion area and wished us well during the coming period of rest and revival in the back areas. But neither can have guessed at the difficulty involved in drawing out.

The sudden thaw and the heavy loads imposed upon them, had caused the roads to break up altogether. Overnight impassable craters appeared in the road and generally bogged two or three vehicles at once, effectively blocking the road for several hours.

We spent most of 6th February dragging ourselves clear of the forward areas and not until 1930 hrs were we lined up in TCVs on the Horst-Venray road, with the whole Battalion transport complete, except for a few hopelessly bogged stragglers, and ready to move. Even then our troubles were not at an end.

The Venray - Deurne road was now proclaimed impassable, and after being held up for three hours in Venray we then diverted ten miles before reaching Deurne to continue our journey. We finally reached our destination at 1300 hrs on 7th February.

The new Battalion area lay astride the main road from Louvain to Malines. 'A' 'B' and 'D' Companies were stretched out along the road itself, 'C' Company some half a mile from the main road on the West side, while Battalion Headquarters, 'S' Company and A and B Echelons were established in Thildonk, a peaceful little Belgian village about a mile to the Fast of the main road.

Accommodation proved to be the best that the Battalion as a whole had found since the campaign began. Most of the men were in private billets, and, assisted by the overwhelming hospitality of the Belgian people, they were not slow to relax and enjoy it.

Not since the days of Hacqueville near the Seine had we lived so remote from the battlefield, or been so delighted with the spectacle of a normal, happy, friendly community.

From most points of view, it was a vast improvement upon Haqueville. Billets were substituted for barns and farmhouses, and when the delights of the billet were temporarily exhausted, Brussels, Malines and Louvain all lay within twenty miles. Two most successful Regimental Dances were held at Malines at which it was a pleasure to see local units of WAAF and ATS well represented.

Once more the Battalion Pipers, under Pipe Major Doyle were able to renew the success and popularity they had enjoyed previously in Belgium. Daily parties of sixty visited Brussels, while rest clubs, cinemas, and ENSA shows attracted many to Louvain. Perhaps the supreme pleasure was one that could be experienced on the spot - the facility to drop into a cafe at any time, and drink a pint of beer.

For the Battalion as a whole this rest was tremendously beneficial. A winter of static warfare had inevitably induced a staleness and blunted the keen edge of high morale and first class state of training.

Thildonk was a complete answer to this state of affairs. Much valuable physical and weapon training was undertaken, cadre courses for Junior and Senior NCOs were put in hand, and although when the time came to move, by no means all training schemes had reached fruition, yet the Commanding Officer was satisfied that the best possible use had been made of the time at our disposal and that the Battalion when called upon to fight again would do so with renewed vigour and resolution.