Sunday, 7 November 2010

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 communiqu├ęs 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.

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