16th December 1944 Battle of the Bulge begins

Discussion in 'All Anniversaries' started by CL1, Dec 15, 2017.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    British at the Battle of the Bulge
    On 16th December, at 5.30 a.m. on a cold and foggy morning, from Monschau to Echternach, began the Battle of the Ardennes, also known as “The Battle of the Bulge” or “The von Rundstedt Offensive”.

    On 19th December, General Eisenhower decided, with the agreement of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to temporarily redistribute command responsibilities within his ground forces. The units deployed to the north of the line Givet-Prüm would be placed under command of Field-Marshal Montgomery, Commander of the 21st Army Group, and the units deployed in the south were to be commanded by General Bradley, Commander of the 12th US Army Group. From the very next day, the Field-Marshal ordered the British XXX Corps, commanded by General Horrocks, to leave Holland, to swing towards the combat zone, to occupy defensive positions between Givet and Maastricht, and to prevent the Germans from crossing the River Meuse.

    On 22nd December, the 51st Highland Division, the 53rd Welsh Division, the 29th and 33rd Armoured Brigades took-up their respective positions, the 43rd Wessex Division being held in reserve. Due to bad weather conditions which did not permit the drop of the 6th Airborne Division, the British Paras were rushed by boat and truck to the Ardennes, and were ordered to take up defensive positions between Dinant and Marche-en-Famenne, at the tip of the German offensive.

    On 24th December, early in the morning and not far from Dinant, the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, supported by US tanks and the Royal Air Force, crossed the River Meuse and stopped an armoured column of the 2. Panzer. It was the first encounter between British and German troops in the Battle of the Ardennes. The German Army was never to cross the River Meuse and the tactical objective was no longer Antwerp and its port but Bastogne.

    It’s Christmas ! But there is no respite. On all fronts the fighting is conducted with the same relentless fury.

    Battalions of the 6th Airborne Division, supported by tanks of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry Regiment and the 23rd Hussars, were the first to become involved in the counter-offensive. After three days and nights of tough fighting and heavy losses, the men of the 13th Lancashire Battalion The Parachute Regiment liberated the village of Bure. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion occupied Rochefort and later, in its advance, was to discover with horror the bodies of 34 civilians murdered by the Germans on Christmas Eve in Bande near Nassogne.

    It was on 4th January that the 53rd Welsh Division, supported by tanks of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment and the 144th R.A.C. Regiment, launched its attack between Marche-en-Famenne and Hotton. But its advance was to be slowed by the rough terrain, the woods, the snow and the ice cold weather.

    On 8th January in snow-storm and bitter cold, the 51st Highland Division, with the support of tanks of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment, relieved the exhausted Welsh units. On the same day, becoming aware of the advance of the British and American units and the impossibility of crossing the River Meuse, the German High Command ordered its generals to withdraw their troops from the salient and to retreat eastwards while conducting rearguard actions.

    On 11th January, preceded by armoured reconnaissance vehicles of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry Regiment, and supported by tanks of the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment, the 1st Battalion Black Watch entered the town of La Roche-en-Ardenne, devastated by successive allied bombings. The following day, a reconnaissance unit of the 84th US Infantry Division entered in turn the town and linked-up with the Scotsmen.

    Despite the snow, the cold, the landmines and the roadblocks, as well as German defensive actions, the British troops continued their advance and hampered the withdrawal plans of the German troops, trying to escape from the pincer movement of the Allied armies.

    On 16th January, having achieved all his objectives in the Ardennes, Field-Marshal Montgomery decided to withdraw the British XXX Corps and to move to the Netherlands in order to prepare for the battle for the Rhineland, with crossing of the River Rhine.

    By 28th January, the German Army was finally pushed back to its initial positions on 16 December 44, beyond the Siegfried Line. This marked not only the end of the Battle of the Ardennes but also the end of the invasion and occupation of our regions.

    Their share of the Battle of the Ardennes being done, none of the British service men who were in the Ardennes will ever forget the bad weather conditions, the rough terrain and the fierce fighting nor the 325 comrades left behind who lie forever in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Hotton. The youngest were hardly 18 years of age. They went, they fought, they died.

    The British in the Battle of the Ardennes
    stolpi, ozzy16 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  2. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member

    Whatever happened to the manpower shortage discussion? Obviously it was tabled (in the American definition of the term) due to the extreme circumstances of the events of the day, but was it ever laid out and addressed?
    CL1 likes this.
  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    A scale modeler who does some research posted this recently about the battle between 3Rtr and American against the Germans around Celles. There are a few "then and now" pictures etc:

    Celles 1944
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    17thDYRCH, CL1 and Chris C like this.
  6. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  8. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

  9. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Allied commanders dismissed intelligence from the British ULTRA codebreakers that large numbers of German troops and equipment were being pulled from the fight with Russia and amassing along the Western front. The assumption, soon proven wrong, was that the Nazis were simply bracing their defenses for the coming Allied push into Germany. No one thought that Hitler would have the gall to attempt a counterstrike with a German army already decimated by months of heavy fighting on two fronts.

    ozzy16, Chris C and Tricky Dicky like this.
  10. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    • Theatre: North West Europe
    • Dates: 16 December 1944 to 23 January 1945
    • Location: Belgium and Luxembourg
    • Outcome: An abortive offensive, weakening and diverting German forces. The battle was fought in extreme conditions: winter storms and snow limited air support and hindered ground operations.

    BBC - History - World Wars: Battle of the Bulge
    SDP likes this.
  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    The Malmedy massacre was a war crime committed by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper (part of the 1st SS Panzer Division), a German combat unit led by Joachim Peiper, at Baugnez crossroads near Malmedy, Belgium, on December 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. According to numerous eyewitness accounts, 84 American prisoners of war were massacred by their German captors: the prisoners were assembled in a field and shot with machine guns.

    The term Malmedy massacre also applies generally to the series of massacres committed by the same unit on the same day and following days, which were the subject of the Malmedy massacre trial, part of the Dachau Trials of 1946. The trials were the focus of some controversy.

    Malmedy massacre - Wikipedia
  12. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  13. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    17thDYRCH, stolpi and ozzy16 like this.
  14. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    stolpi likes this.
  15. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    stolpi and Chris C like this.
  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Brits in the Ardennes

    When the German offensive began the Second British Army was engaged along the line of the River Meuse north of Maastricht, but headquarters of Horrock's 30 Corps was in reserve at Boxtel preparing for operation "Veritable", the Rhineland offensive, which was scheduled to start in early January 1945. In preparation of this operation British divisions had already been or were in the process of being pulled out of the line to rest and refit. General Dempsey, in command of the British Second Army, wrote after the war: “My diary tells me that on 17 December I ordered 12 Corps to get the Guards Armoured Division out of the line and assembled with the 8th Armoured Brigade; that on 18 December I ordered 12 Corps to move 43rd Division and 34th Armoured Brigade to the area of Hasselt – Bree, and that 53rd Division were already in reserve in the Turnhout area. This gave me a free reserve of three divisions and two armoured brigades. Headquarters of 30 Corps were also available. Although it was not in my province to send fighting formations into the American sector without previous arrangements with them, and although it was not until the night of 19/20 December that the Supreme Commander placed command of the battle “north of the break” under the Commander-in-Chief of the 21st Army Group, General Montgomery telephoned me at 1700 hours 19 December and gave me the ‘all clear’ to get positioned in the rear of the American Armies.”

    So even before Montgomery received formal command of all troops north of the Bulge, on Dec 19th, he already had set in motion the redeployment of Horrock's 30 Corps by ordering it to take up a reserve position to the west of the Meuse, in the area between Brussels and Liège, providing the Allied front with the necessary depth or, as Montgomery termed it, to act as his ‘Long Stop’.

    The deployment of 30 Corps took about 48 hours and was completed by 21 December. The 30 Corps HQ moved to Hasselt in Belgium. It took under command the Guards Armoured Division, the 43rd Wessex and the 53rd Welsh Division. The 29th Armoured Brigade, alerted from training grounds near Ypres, was guarding the Meuse bridges between Namur and Givet. Montgomery also alerted the 6th Airborne Division to move at once to the Continent. The arrival of this formation, which was resting and refitting at its base camps in Britain, would necessarily take some time, since it was to travel by ship and road transport to the Ardennes; first elements of the Airborne Division arrived on 26 December 1944 near the Meuse.

    The 51st Highland Division also was involved in the move south, but was placed under command of the Ninth US Army, to act as a reserve in the Maastricht area. On Christmas Day, in response to a renewed enemy threat along the main Bastogne - Liège road, the Highland Division was shifted to the First US Army and hurriedly moved to the area immediately south of Liège, to protect the city which was a vital communication and logistical hub for the Americans.

    30 Corps Ardennes.jpg

    From 27 December 1944 onwards, considerable regrouping took place on the northern flank of the enemy salient in the Ardennes, when 30 Corps moved across the Meuse towards the Ardennes, to relieve the VII U.S. Corps at the tip of the enemy salient. This move enabled First US Army to concentrate its forces for the main drive which would be conducted east of the Ourthe, towards Houffalize. By Jan 1st, 1945, the 53rd Welsh Division (supported by 33rd Arm Bde) had taken over the defense of the line running from the Ourthe river to Aye, hard west of Marche. The 6th Airborne Division (supported by 29th Arm Bde) was in position from Aye to Rochefort, thence to Tellin and Givet. Ready to support the main attack of the First US Army which would be launched on the 3rd of Jan, 1945.

    For a transcription of the official 30 Corps report see: German attack in the Ardennes: Operation by 30 Corps

    30 Corps Ardennes 2.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2020
    17thDYRCH, SDP and CL1 like this.
  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Picture taken on Jan 1st, 1945, by the US Army Signal Corps. The official captions reads as follows: "Ice on roads make it impossible to navigate this heavy British artillery on it's way to the front. Soldiers lay bundles of faggots on road to make a runway for vehicles"

    At the same time tanks of 33 Armoured Brigade (in support of 53rd Welsh Div) also experienced great difficulty with the icy roads in the Ardennes (see at 00:32):

    See for battles near Dinant: Celles 1944
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
    CL1 and SDP like this.
  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Reducing the Bulge - Counteroffensive First US Army (under 21st Army Group)

    While the German offensive had ground to a halt by the end of December 1944, they still controlled a dangerous salient in the Allied line. Patton's Third Army in the south, centered around Bastogne, would attack north, Montgomery's forces in the north would strike south, the two forces planned to meet in the center at Houffalize. The main attack in the north by First US Army started on Jan 3rd, 1945. The British 30 Corps, with 6 AB Division and 53 Welsh Division under command, assisted the American First Army by operating on the American right, to the west of the Ourthe River, and was tasked with clearing the enemy from the apex of the enemy salient.


    3 January
    21 Army Group: In Br Second Army area, Br 30 Corps, 6th AB Division attacks the enemy bridgehead over the River Lomme, S of Rochefort, and clears Wavreile. Heavy fighting at Bure.

    U.S. First Army starts counteroffensive to reduce enemy's Ardennes salient from N. VII Corps attacks SE toward Houffalize with 2d Armd Div followed by 84th Div on right, and 3d Armd Div followed by 83d Div on left. 2d Armd Div gains Trinal, Magoster, positions in Bois de Tave, Freineux, Le Batty, and positions near Belle Haie. 3d Armd Div takes Malempré and Floret and from latter continues SE on Lierneux road to Groumont Creek. 75th Div, after attack passes through its line, continues mopping up S of Sadzot. In XVIII AB Corps area, 82d A/B Div, in conjunction with VII Corps' attack, thrusts SE, improving positions. As a diversion, 30th Div pushes small forces S of Malmédy and then withdraws them as planned.

    30 Corps Ardennes aa.jpg
    30 Corps for logistical purposes remained under command of 2nd British Army. The British divisions had a tough time due to the difficult terrain, the arctic weather conditions and stubborn enemy opposition. They were confronted by the Panzer Divisions of Von Manteuffel's Fifth Pz Army (the 58. later replaced by 47. Pz Korps made up of the 116., 9. and 2. Panzer Divisions). Though diminished in strength, these were still opponents to be reckoned with, especially in a terrain that favoured the defender. The 6th AB Division ran into difficulty at Bure. After four days of bitter fighting in and around Bure the Airbornes had to give up the village and took up a defensive position. The Welsh Division started operations on Jan 4th, 1945 but also met dogged enemy resistance.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2022
    CL1 and SDP like this.
  19. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Some good photos on this Twitter account. These are photos from Bastogne of a supply air drop. The next tweet has colour photos from one of the aircraft involved in the drop.

    WWII Pictures on Twitter
    17thDYRCH, CL1, stolpi and 1 other person like this.
  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    4 January 1945

    21 Army Group: In Br Second Army area, 30 Corps opens offensive W of the Ourthe R, protecting U.S. First Army right. From the Marche - Hotton road, 53d Div drives S abreast the U.S. VII Corps. Champlon-en-Famenne is captured. The Welsh advance into the forest south of the line Verdenne - Marenne - Ménil. They gain the forest edge opposite Waharday. An attempt to seize the village is repulsed. Strong enemy roadblock at Hamoul blocks Welsh advance down the main road in the Ourthe River Valley. 6th A/B Div continues to meet determined opposition at Bure, S of Rochefort.

    In U.S. First Army's VII Corps area, 2d Armd Div captures Beffe, contains counterattacks near Devantave, seizes Lamorménil, and reaches edge of Odeigne. 3d Armd Div takes Baneux, Jevigne, and Lansival and gains bridgehead at Groumont Creek. In XVIII AB Corps area, 82d A/B Div advances its line to include Heirlot, Odrimont, wooded heights N and NE of Abrefontaine, St Jacques, Bergeval, and Mont de Fosse; on extreme left patrols push to the Salm.

    Welsh Div 4 Jan 45.jpg
    Under a heavy cloud full with snow, the 53rd Welsh Division attacked with two brigades abreast. On the left the 158 Bde, with 2nd Monmouth attached, kicked off at 08:00 hrs and advanced into the forested hill mass south of the main road Marche - Hotton; on the right the 71 Bde attacked to the southeast of Marche and seized the small settlement of Champlon-en-Famenne. Tank support was provided by the 33rd Arm Bde (1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry - 71st Bde; and 144th Regt RAC - 158 Bde). The 160 Bde (-) was held in reserve near Hotton - awaiting the capture of Rendeux-Bas in the valley of the Ourthe. Enemy resistance inside the woods came from a series of outposts of the 116.Pz Division. The Panzer Division had turned the villages south of the forest - such as Hamoul, Waharday, Chéoux and Grimbiémont - into defensive strongpoints backed up by tanks and SPs. To the southwest of Marche-en-Famenne elements of the 9. Pz Division were identified. During the day the 53 Welsh took 97 POWs.

    large_000000 (2).jpg
    Infantry of the 2nd Monmouthshire Regiment, 53rd (Welsh) Division, in the snow near Hotton, 4 January 1945 - © IWM (B 13395)
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2021
    Harry Ree, Chris C and CL1 like this.

Share This Page