15th / 19th Hussars in Assche / Asse

Discussion in '1940' started by BrianM59, Apr 12, 2015.

  1. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    (These Posts split from post #563 on the markings & Insignia thread. ~A)

    You'd have thought the war diary would mention if they'd had to ditch a non-running tank and leave it behind in Louvain (Löwen/Leuven) - but the actions involving 15/19 Hussars took place less than 50 km away and the German captioning the photograph may have got it wrong. Soldiers did pass these photographs out amongst each other - the people who had the photos weren't always the ones who took them or were in the action depicted either.
    Rich Payne likes this.
  2. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    My Dad was a Lance Corporal in 4th Troop A Squadron of the 15th/19th and fought in the Battle of Assche May 18 1940. He is currently 93 years old and living in Market Drayton England. In his account of the battle that he recounted to me back in 1994 he mentioned his troop had only 2 tanks at the time instead of 3. He recounted that the third tank had been abandoned after getting stuck in a ditch after leaving Brussels.

    According to his account of the battle his troop was the first to enter Assche. His tank was knocked out after a hit to the right front of his tank by German anti tank guns. His driver was killed and the commander was wounded and later died of his wounds. The other tank of his troop, commanded by Lord Clifton (Peter Bligh), lost a track while attempting to turn and was abandoned by the crew.

    I'm attempting to research the battle and obtain some detail of the events in Assche. I've looked at the regimental war diaries and history but little is mentioned of events in Assche. I've also tried contacting Ascania a local historical society in Assche who supposedly have more details and photos but as yet have not heard anything back yet.

    If anyone has any suggestions of other sources of info or photos I'd be greatly appreciative.
  3. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Welcome to the forum. It's fascinating that you have a connection with a survivor of that battle. Did your Father get home, or was he captured ?

    I've posted pretty well everything that I have on this thread. Jan (Rewdco) has posted a thread on a Flemish forum and he's tidied everything up and linked it to modern streetviews (He's quite good at that sort of thing)


    If you need help with translations, just ask.

    One of the aspects that holds us back is the lack of markings on 15/19th Hussar's armour at that time. Has your father been able to look at any of the images posted ? It would be wonderful if he could identify any of the tanks.

    Do you have the names of his driver and tank commander ?

    I've been intending to have a proper look around Asse for some time. If you are planning a visit there, please let me know (it's about an hour away for me).

  4. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Hi Rich, thanks very much for the prompt reply. Yes I've seen the stuff on Jan (Rewdco) post and email that to my Dad. I've been wondering much the same, if he could identify his own tank. I'll let you know if he ids any of the tanks.

    His crew members were Troop Joseph Blake, the driver, and Sgt George Mackenzie the commander in training. Trooper Blake is buried in Asse Communal Cemetery with 6 others of 15th/19th along with A Squadron Commander Major Colin Cokayne-Firth. Sgt Mackenzie who died a couple of days after the battle of his wounds is buried in Diest Communal Cemetery.

    My Dad was also wounded was captured in Assche and was a POW in Poland for the rest of the war.

    In my Dads account of events he indicated he and Sgt Mackenzie shot the lock off a house door near their knocked out burning tank and made their way through the house (past a frightened family) and into a back garden and then over a brick wall to a parkland area (?) where they sough aide at a bishops residence? I wonder if this was Sint Martinuskerk Church. If this is the case it might be possible to determine his tank from Jans post and excellent maps.

    He also mentioned after he was captured that he was marched past a dead dispatch rider from FHQ A Squadron in the road, probably the photo on Jans post.

    I will post his full account of events in my next post.

    I'd love to eventually visit Assche (Asse) in the future but am not as close as you. I'm currently living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

    I also have tried to contact Jef Vermeiren who I have read is a local expert on the battle. I'll let you know if I hear further from him.

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  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Steve, Calgary eh ? I just assumed U.K. I left Blighty to move closer to the battlefields of N.W. Europe, whether this may be declared a co-incidence or not depends on whether my wife is party to the conversation...

    Could I borrow your Dad for a weekend ? I'll happily get him to Asse for a tour ! :)

    We really should try to tie his memories in with the photographic evidence that has now become available. As little as ten years ago, few of these photos had been seen by anyone other than the original owners. I look forward to seeing your transcription of his account.

    In the meantime, although I can't promise to pop in on the way home from work, if there is anything that you need looking at in Asse, I'll certainly make time for it. It's only just off the Brussels ring and I pass that way quite often.

    Have you seen, by the way the published photos of Cockayne-Frith crossing the Belgian border at Herseaux on 10th May ?
  6. rewdco

    rewdco Senior Member

    Hello Steve,

    Welcome on this forum! And what a very interesting story!

    I wonder if this could have been the third tank...?


    If I remember well there's something about this battle on a local history website of Assche. I'll have a look and see if I can find it back...

  7. rewdco

    rewdco Senior Member

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  8. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Hi Rich and Jan, thanks so much for your posts. I spoke to my Dad on the phone this morning and asked for more info to id his tank. He didn't recall any special markings just the white rectangles and triangles. He couldn't remember the numbers on the tank. He said his tank didn't have a name on the front and as far as he could remember did not use tree branches for camo. He said his tank had the turret facing to the rear when it was hit (they didn't expect Germans to be in Assche) and that it had been hit in the left side near the engine and that it had caught fire and burned. This description seems to fit a couple of Jans photos. There is one where two German soldiers are looking into the drivers compartment of what appears to be a burned out tank with a rear facing turret with damage to the right front. Could be my Dads?

    He also mentioned that Lt. Lord Cliftons tank was about 50-100 yards ahead of his tank when it tried to turn and lost a track just before my Dads tank was hit.

    I have a bunch more info to share but have to grab some supper will post more in about an hour.

  9. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Hi Rich, I'll be phoning my Dad again tomorrow and mention the possible visit to Assche. A trip to Assche might trigger a few old memories and there might not be many survivors of the battle still with us. He was 18 in May 1940 and is now 93.

    Further to an id on his tank he mentioned going into a parkland area where he sought help at a Bishops residence. After looking at a google earth image of Assche I noticed a parkland area just west of Stationsstraat road, (where most of the tank photos were taken, including the one with the two German soldiers), called Waalborrepark that had a couple of large houses . This might be the area and further confirm we have the right tank. But I might be stretching things a little.

    With regard to your looking at anything in Assche sometime in the future I would be interested to know if Ascania (the local histoical society) had anything on the battle.

    Cheers Steve
  10. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Hi Jan thanks for the links. I had not seen the one with Captain Taylors diary, very interesting. I had seen the one with the German war diaries. The number of British tank losses quoted seemed a bit high though. I checked the 15th/19th regimental history and war diaries and noted each squadron had 6 troops and an FHQ. FHQ had two tanks and 1 bren gun carrier and the 6 troops were comprised of 2 tank troops of 3 Vickers Mk VI and 4 troops of 3 bren gun carriers. So 8 tanks and 13 carriers per squadron. According to the regimental war diaries, A Squadron FHQ, 3rd Troop, 4th Troop and 5th Troop were in Assche, so 7 tanks (4th Troop had only 2 tanks) and 13 carriers were knocked out in the town. 6th Troop, TSM Tipping, 3 bren carriers was shot up at Wolfergem (only one wounded guy made it back) TSM Tipping is buried in Molleum Community Cemetery and has a unique grave stone with his picture and 2nd Troop Lt. Courage, 3 bren carriers did not enter Assche and linked up with C Squadron. I'm not aware of any other units that were in Assche at that time. So tank and carrier losses in Assche seem quite a bit lower than that quoted the German war diaries site(forum).

    Thanks for the tank in the ditch photo was there any indication on the back of the photo of where it was taken? Could be the 3rd tank of 4th Troop A Squadron.

    Thanks Again Steve
  11. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Contact me if you would like an updated version of my Dad's account of the battle.
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  12. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Whoops my 07:11 post should read

    According to the regimental war diaries, A Squadron FHQ, 3rd Troop, 4th Troop and 5th Troop were in Assche, so 7 tanks (4th Troop had only 2 tanks) and 4 (not 13) carriers were knocked out in the town.
  13. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Thanks for posting that - very interesting.
  14. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Fascinating stuff Steve. I really think that we might be able to make a start on identifying the individual abandoned vehicles. Does your Dad recall who 'Horsa' belonged to ?

    I've got to mow the lawn now, but I'll comment further later on.

  15. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Rich, sorry but I spoke to my Dad this morning and he did not know who Horsa belonged to. He did say the tank that he saw being driven by a German soldier after he was captured was Lt Lord Clifton's. I guess the Germans were easily able to reattach the tank treat that Clifton lost when trying to turn on Stationsstraat road. His tank might be one of the two tanks in the Assche lumber yard photo being serviced by Germans.

    He also corrected me and indicated the third tank of this troop had been abandoned after leaving Leuven and not Brussels after it had gone into a ditch and couldn't be pulled out. So the abandoned tank picture with the surrounding German soldiers could be an A Squadron 4th Troop tank.

    I have seen the published photos of Cockayne-Frith crossing the Belgian border at Herseaux on 10th May and have it in my collection. None of the Assche tank photos seem to have the same markings. I'll recheck them.

  16. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM New Member

    Hi. New member, first post. Member battleofassche contacted me on another website. I am ex-15/19H between 1975 and 1982. I cannot claim to be an expert, more simply passionate (I started to read the personal account of 18 May 40 in post 573, but the events described always hurt me. I'll read it properly later when I can do it justice. Grateful thanks to the author.

    I have nothing first-hand to add: all I know comes from the official history (by Maj Courage), The Light Dragoons (Allan Mallinson) and (very little) from Osprey's history.

    I'll reply separately to battleofassche via his original contact, but if I may, I'd like to post a few comments regarding the thread in general here.

    As has been mentioned, 15/19H were brigaded with 5DG immediately prior to fan/fertiliser interface. 2 Armd Recce Bde had no proper HQ setup and on 18 May, next to no contact with the units. A "no retreat without my personal authority" order was given and not countermanded until it was far, far to late to countermand. 15/19H were left, 5DG right.

    The Plan was that the Belgians, retreating from the border once their neutrality was violated, would conform on 15/19H left. The road marking the boundary was exclusive to 15/19H, ie, they were excluded. It was designated to the Belgians. So that as 15/19H withdrew, the obvious route was denied them. The Germans exploited the open flank down this road and thrust with repeated right hooks while 15/19H were not allowed. Further, supporting artillery were not allowed to fire into the "Belgian" zone because it was out of their arc.

    This confusion and lack of higher command essentially threw 15/19H to the wolves and the slaughter was inevitable.

    Enough said.

    I have speed-read the thread. Some comments as I recall having read.


    Confusion over HORSA being a 15/19H or a 5DG tank. At the end of the day to paraphrase Mallinson from memory, "15/19H had ceased to exist as a regiment." If memory serves, the remnants became a composite squadron. They were attached to 5DG. This may explain why apparently a 15/19H tank was found where it ought to have been 5DG.


    Reference Covenanters. There is a picture of 15/19H paraded with Covenanters in iirc 1942 in Mallinson. Apparently this was a published picture and captioned as being due for shipment to our Russian allies, but Mallinson posits this this tank was so dire that none ever left the UK to face combat. Given his connections, I shan't argue.


    I am sure there was more I wanted to say, but I've been interrupted. I'll leave it there.

  17. battleofassche

    battleofassche Well-Known Member

    Rich and Jan, I received some email from Ascania (local historical society in Assche) along with some scanned pictures from their archives recently. Some I had seen before maybe Mei 1940 by Peter Taghon or one of Jans posts, not sure. You guys are the experts. I'll try cleaning them up a bit and posting in my gallery when I get a chance if there is any interest. Seems Jef Vermeiren,, a local Assche expert on the battle, passed away a few years ago.
  18. rewdco

    rewdco Senior Member

    Hello Steve,

    Yes, I'd love to see these pictures!
    Please let me know if there's anything I can do here (I live about 100 km from Assche)...

    A note for the moderators: would it be a good idea to move these Assche postings to a dedicated thread? In that case I could add all the pictures etc that I posted on the (Flemish) ABL forum and translate my (Flemish) comments in English... Just a thought... :)

  19. rewdco

    rewdco Senior Member

    OK, thank you very much Adam to move these Assche related posts to a new thread! You're a super moderator! :)

    My initial idea was to copy – paste my (Flemish) ABL forum posts to this forum, and just translate the Flemish text into English. But then I realised that Lance Corporal Pearce’s account of what happened that day in Assche is so detailed, that “my” pictures can easily be used to illustrate his story! So that’s what I did: I copied the story that Steve posted in a previous thread, and added the appropriate pictures:

    Could this be the third tank I wonder?

  20. rewdco

    rewdco Senior Member

    Apart from the fact that Horsa lost its right track (and not its left track, as per L/Cpl Pearce’s account), I’m pretty sure that this must have been Lt. Lord Clifton’s tank. See situation scetch below:





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