Discussion in 'All Anniversaries' started by CL1, Dec 15, 2017.
Thanks for the kind words Jim.
21 Army Group: In Br Second Army's 30 Corps area, 6th AB Div enters Bande, where it discovers the bodies of 34 civilians massacred by German troops. Patrols of the AB Div make contact with U.S. VIII Corps. 51st Div takes La Roche-en-Ardenne (the part of the town south of the Ourthe River) and pushes on toward Hives. Heavy enemy shelling on 152 Bde's positions at Ronchamps and Ronchampay. An attack toward Mierchamps SE of La-Roche-en Ardenne reaches the bottom of the valley of the Bronze River. Overall German resistance in front of the Highland Division is stiffening.
In U.S. First Army's VII Corps area, La Roche-en-Ardenne, in 84th Div sector, is cleared of enemy; 4th Cav Gp patrol covers portion E of the Ourthe R. 83d Div secures road junction on Bihain-Lomre road and attacks Petite Langlir and Langlir. In XVIII AB Corps area, 75th Div takes up positions along Salm R that were held by 82d A/B Div. 106th Div assumes control of right of 30th Div zone.
The 51st Highland Division's plan for 11 Jan 45 was for 154 Brigade to seize La Roche by an attack along the main road in the Ourthe valley and then gain a footing on the high ground to the south and southeast of the town. The 154 Bde broke up the operation in three phases: the 1st Black Watch had to capture the town; next, the 7th Black Watch had to pass through and proceed on to the high ground to the south and capture Hives and Lavaux; finally, the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were to pass through La Roche and secure the high ground to the southeast of the town, by seizing the villages of Thimont and Roupage. Tanks of the 1st Northamptonshire Regt were in support. Because of stiffening enemy resistance and the difficult conditions the operation was delayed. La Roche fell to the 1 BW only by 1430 hrs, Hives was seized by the 7 BW well after dark at 2100 hrs and not before a Panther tank that was guarding the village entrance was knocked out by a PIAT. It later transpired that it had been the last serviceable tank of the 2. Panzer Division. Hives yielded 40 POWs. as a result of the delay 7 A&SH were not engaged on that day. By the end of January 11th, progress had been such that the rumbling of the guns of the Third U.S. Army could be heard in the distance.
For more details on the fight for La Roche see: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
Further up the Ourthe valley, cramped in their TCV’s, the men of the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders had been waiting all afternoon, ready to move forward on call. By the time La Roche had been cleared, it was too late for them to continue. Instead they had to spent the night in TCVs or whatever shelter was available along the road. Private A.C. Jenkins was in ‘A’ Company: “We moved off in trucks from Bourdon at 11:30 hrs but were held up and spent the entire day on the road. Tragedy almost intervened when the 3-tonner carrying our platoon skidded off the icy road and landed up on its side. How the thirty men in that truck, with all their equipment on, escaped any injury I shall never understand. It was decided that we could go no further, so we were accommodated in a barn. Much to our relief, as the other troops had to stay on the road, in the cold freezing backs of the trucks, until we realized that the barn had a large hole in the roof through which the snow was gently falling.” Private John McCreery of ‘B’ Company: “We pushed on towards La Roche still motorized. On reaching a position near Jupille, we were told that we would not be going into the attack till the next day. What I can say without hesitation was that we spent the night huddled together in the trucks with the advice: “Get what sleep you can, chaps”. That fellow was the joker of all time. It must rank as one of the most miserable nights of that winter. Packed like sardines, if anyone moved or your hand touched the cold metal of your rifle or the metal of the truck, you received such a start and your half-sleep was over.”
21 Army Group: In Br Second Army's 30 Corps area, 51st Div's attacks S and SE of La Roche-en-Ardenne meet determined enemy resistance. 152 Bde completes capture of Mierchamps.
In U.S. First Army VII Corps area, 2d Armd Div attacks in vicinity of junction of Manhay-Houffalize and Laroche-Salmchâteau roads: CCA takes Chabrehez, continues about a mile S in Bois de Belhez, and reduces strongpoint E of Bois de St Jean; CCB captures Les Tailles and Petite Tailles. On 3d Armd Div right, 83d Armd Rcn Bn drives S through TF Hogan (CCR) at Regne, crosses Langlir R, and clears Bois de Cedrogne E of Manhay-Houffalize road and blocks road there running W from Mont le Ban. TF Hogan moves to Bihain and clears high ground SW of the town. 83d Div completes capture of Petite Langlir and Langlir and gains bridgehead S of Langlir-Ronce R. In XVIII AB Corps' 106th Div sector, bridgehead is established across Amblève R south of Stavelot.
Late on the 11th 51 Highland Division issued its operation instructions for the next day. A final concentrated effort was required to take the last stretch of ground to the Ourthe river (westward branch) and pinch off the enemy retreat. Using the town of La Roche as a sally port, the division was to make a main effort up on to the high ground and cut the German retreat, using the roads emanating from the town to the south and southeast. The 154 Brigade was to strike out from Hives to the south with the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and seize the tiny hamlet of Beaulieu which lay astride the enemy escape route. Simultaneously, 154 Bde was to put in an attack to the southeast, along the main road towards Bertogne, and seize the villages of Ortho and Nisramont, both also astride the escape route. For the latter thrust, the Brigade received the 5th Black Watch as reinforcement. This also was with an eye toward inserting the rest of 153 Brigade (in reserve further north in the valley of the Ourthe) into the line, as soon as a footing had been gained on the high ground. Meanwhile, 152 Brigade was to guard the division’s right flank and probe with strong fighting patrols in the direction of Erneuville and Champlon. Since the Americans in the south also were making good progress, 51 Highland Division ordered his commanders not to advance beyond the line Champlon – Cens – Ortho – Nisramont. From here reconnaissance patrols were to close up to the river line to make contact with the Americans. Mierchamps was seized in a night attack by 5 Seaforth in early morning of 12 Jan; the enemy garrison was completely surprised with about 80 POWs being taken. All other attacks on 12 Jan 45, however, met tenacious opposition from enemy rear guards consisting of small packets of infantry supported by Panther tanks that were buying time for the main body to escape.
For more details on the battle for Lavaux see: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
A picture which is frequently seen in publications about the battle in the Ardennes, but rarely with the correct caption, is this one with a Sherman tank amid burning vehicles. It shows the tank of Sergeant Joe Brown, of Regimental HQ, 144th Regt Royal Armoured Corps, using his tank to push burning and exploding British vehicles off the road in order to make a way for an ambulance convoy taking British wounded to the rear. The date is 12 January 1945 and the location is the main road in the Ourthe River valley just to the north of La Roche-en-Ardenne. The 144 RAC was in support of the 51st HD at the time.(photo IWM).
For more details see: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
In bombed-out La Roche-en-Ardenne men of a Black Watch battalion huddle around a small fire for some warmth. The soldiers suffered severly from the extreme cold.
Lieutenant Chisholm, a platoon leader in ‘D’ Company, 5th Black Watch, recalls: “My company was in battalion reserve and waited on the far side of La Roche, sheltering in doorways from the bitter cold. As was our practice, no greatcoats were worn if attacking and we spent a very cold night waiting for the other companies to take their objectives. Sherman tanks sent up the hill were knocked out or broke down – temperatures were given as minus 18 degrees. At some point and after standing around for twelve hours or more, a Major from HQ of the tanks arrived with a ‘rum ration’. Since his three tanks were all abandoned, I suggested the rum ration would serve my men better than his – to which he agreed and my lads got a little inside warmth!". Among the shivering soldiers of ‘D’ Company, waiting for their turn to move up, was Private Percy Lawton: “(...) we were preparing for an attack, but for some reason we couldn’t move forward and we were waiting outside, with no cover. The snow was very deep and it was intensely cold, something like minus 18 degrees of frost. During the night we had to keep everybody moving, because of the cold. If anybody sat down, you were told that you were to get them up and walk them up and down, not to let anybody sit still. A hot meal was brought up to us and we collected it from our lorries which had brought it up, put it into our mess tins. I remember it was Beef stew. I ate the stew as quickly as I could, because I was cold and hungry. But when I came to the rice pudding which was in my other mess tin, I found that there was already a thin coating of ice on the top of it. It was still quite warm underneath."
12 Jan 45, encounter with US forces of the 84 US Infantry Division who were the part of La Roche situated on the opposite (eastern) bank of the Ourthe River. In the afternoon of the 12th it started snowing heavily. See also: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
Pte. Tom Renouf, of 'A' Coy, 5 Black Watch: "As we approached La Roche the skies began to fill with clouds and soon it began to snow. The snow flakes were very, very large. One member of my section, a wiry Lancastrian called Milligan, was carrying the PIAT bombs. He kept falling behind and I had to tell him to keep up. We entered La Roche from the high ground, the road bounded on our right by cliffs. It was dominated by a ruined medieval castle, but now the town itself was in ruins too. I will never forget the sight of the town. It was completely demolished. All the buildings had been razed to the ground, with just a few chimney stacks sticking out of the rubble. It was in a worse state than any other town I had seen, save for Caen. The Royal Engineers were working in the town center, trying to clear the rubble and open the road. As we moved through the town it was snowing quite hard (with big flakes) and the snow on the ground was getting visibly thicker."
21 Army Group: In Br Second Army area, 30 Corps Ardennes, 51st Div reaches line Journal - Erneuville - Ortho - Hubermont south and southeast from Laroche. Beaulieu is taken in night attack by 7 A&SH. 1 BW seizes Erneuville in the afternoon without opposition. SE of La Roche-en-Ardenne enemy resistance near Fme Du Vivier is overcome after nightfall. 5 BW pushes on to Buisonville and Hubermont against moderate enemy resistance, the 5/7 Gordons seizes Ortho without meeting enemy opposition. Attack of 1 Gordons towards Nisramont is postponed until evening because of heavy enemy shelling and presence of enemy tanks (Panther) at Nisramont.
In U.S. First Army area, VII Corps pushes steadily toward Houffalize. On right flank, 4th Cav Gp and 84th Div clear several towns and villages. CCA, 2d Armd Div, reaches positions about 1½ miles N of Wibrin; CCB advances in Bois de Cedrogne to points 5-6 miles due N of Houffalize. 3d Armd Div's CCR cuts Sommerain-Cherain road at its junction with road to Mont le Ban and contains Mont le Ban while CCB takes Lomre. After clearing passage through woods S of Langlir for 3d Armd Div, 83d Div mops up and regroups. XVIII AB Corps opens offensive, employing 106th Div on right and 30th on left. 106th Div, with 424th Inf on right and 517th Para Inf on left, attacks SE from junction of Amblève and Salm Rivers toward La Neuville-Coulee-Logbiermé-Houvegnez line, reaching positions near Henumont. 30th Div drives S from Malmédy area toward Amblève R, gaining positions near Hédomont, in Houyire woods, and in Thirimont area.
On 13 January, after two days and nights of continuous fighting, the 51st Highland Division finally cut the enemy avenue of retreat: the road running from Champlon - Ortho - Nisramont towards the east. However, the bag was almost empty. As ever, the Germans proved to be masters in the art of withdrawal. Benefiting from terrain and weather they had held the Highland Division at bay long enough for most of their forces to escape across the Ourthe. South of La Roche - at Hives but also at the Fme Du Vivier - the enemy armoured rearguards fought a clever delaying action with small groups of infantry backed-up by Panther tanks. In the heavily compartimented terrain, where there was virtually no room to out-manoeuvre the enemy defences, the Panther had proven itself the enemy’s chief asset, especially when protected by an infantry screen and in a concealed position. Its powerfull 75-mm high velocity gun was deadly accurate and could knock out a Sherman from a distance of 2000 yards with ease. Its sloped frontal armor was so tough that most Allied guns could not deal effectively with it. Since the deep overcast had prevented the use of air support, not a single tactical plane could interfere at any time during these days, only patient infantry attacks could force the enemy back. At Nisramont enemy tanks, it later turned out to be a group of at least six Panther tanks, still held the 153 Bde at bay during day time on the 13th. They knocked out three of the supporting Shermans of the 144 Regt RAC and a 17-pdr SP-gun near Hubermont. 1 Gordons postponed the attack on the village until after dark and entered it at about 2000 hrs without encountering enemy opposition.The enemy tanks and infantry had escaped to the east, using the winding road down into the Ourthe valley where they had build an improvised bridge across the river.
For details of the night attack by the 7 Argylls on Beaulieu see: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
For Ortho and 5/7 Gordons see: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
Apologies stolpi! I've got out of sync again!!
Short 6th Airborne story, from post war edition of "Pegasus"
Kind regards, always,
While we are temporarily out of sync, I'll add my own unrelated bit.
I really wish I could recall his name but years ago, on the CBS news magazine program 60 Minutes, I watched an interview with the CEO of a large U.S. corporation. It was purely a business related subject but during the course of the interview the journalist called attention to and inquired about the meaning of the framed print hanging on the office wall.
It simply said - DECEMBER 20, 1944.
By way of explanation the CEO said that on that date he was an 18 year old infantryman, huddled in a frozen foxhole in -20F weather in a forest in the Ardennes. He stayed in that hole for 2 full days while his Company was continuously shelled. Most of his unit was killed, wounded or missing. While terrified and frozen in that position he vowed that should he be fortunate enough to survive, nothing in his life could ever be worse than what he was experiencing. So, after the war, he had that date printed and framed. Over the next 40+ years, whenever he faced trials, tribulations or problems, all he had to do was look at the print and remember. Needless to say, that made all his civilian issues seem trivial by comparison and he used that motivation to overcome challenges and succeed in business.
A classic case of taking a positive from a negative.
Back to you Stolpi.
Although not adding to the story I note that at Message No. 65, the three British troops appear to be carrying (right to left as seen): an M1 Thompson, an M3 ‘Grease Gun’ and M1 Thompson without stock and a very long curved magazine.
I have never seen a Brit carrying an M3 before, nor a Thompson anywhere with a long curved magazine.
This Forum is awesome; we continue to learn.
Thanks for posting Pieter!
Steve - They were Signal Corps men. It might be that the weapons were borrowed from the Americans, for a very much staged picture.
In the picture at Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div the soldier in front carries a German Sturmgewehr 44 (assault rifle).
(now I'm out of sync - have been a bit busy yesterday)
Link up with the Americans 14 January
21 Army Group: Br Second Army area, 30 Corps' mission is accomplished. The 51st Div links up with VIII U.S, Corps along the R line of the Ourthe south of La Roche-en-Ardenne.
In U.S. First Army's VII Corps area, 84th Div gains its final objectives, taking Nadrin, Filly, Petite Mormont, and Grande Mormont; 4th Cav Gp patrol makes visual contact with U.S. Third Army patrol. 2d Armd Div seizes Wibrin, Cheveoumont, Wilogne, and Dinez. 3d Armd Div takes Mont le Ban and Baclain. 83d Div clears Honvelez and high ground near Bovigny. In XVIII AB Corps' 106th Div sector, 517th Para Inf clears Henumont and continues S; 424th Inf secures Coulee and Logbiermé. Some elements of 30th Div attack toward Hédomont and Thirimont, night 13-14, and take Hédomont before dawn; other elements clear Villers and Ligneuville and gain bridgeheads across Amblève R at these points.
The 51st Highland Division had almost accomplished its mission. What remained was to secure the Ourthe River line and make contact with the Third U.S. Army. On the evening of January 13th, division instructed the brigades to maintain local patrols during the night and to actively mop up their respective areas at dawn the following morning and to ensure that no enemy would be left this side of the river. The assignment to close up to the river went to the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry. The Derbyshires were to make contact with the Americans by means of patrols. At first light on the 14th, a reconnaissance patrol had to move forward from the 154th Brigade front to the villages of Wympont and Ortheuville, while other patrols were to recce forward from the 153 Brigade’s area to the bridge south of Warempage. Eagerly awaiting news of the link-up, the division ordered that if contact was made, “[it] at once be reported to this HQ”. During the afternoon of the 13th the Derbyshire Yeomanry moved up a squadron each to Lavaux and Ortho.
1. Link up by 'C' Sqn 2nd Derbyshire (14.0830)
News of a first contact with the Americans came from 154 Brigade. A small reconnaissance patrol of ‘C’ Squadron of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, consisting of two armoured cars, accompanied by the squadron leader, Major A. Langley-Smith, in his jeep, moved south from Erneuville at 0800 hrs. Half an hour later, passing through Tenneville, the patrol made contact with the Americans at Ortheuville - who turned out to be men of the 347th Regiment of the 87th U.S. Infantry Division. After exchanging information with the U.S. regimental commander, the patrol returned to their own lines by way of Wyompont and Cens – where two enemy stragglers of the Panzer Lehr were taken prisoner.
Trooper R. Titterton of ‘C’ Squadron: “We proceeded on a contact patrol down to the river line of the Ourthe. All went well until we came back along the road, approaching the front line defences of the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders who were dug in, in front of a wood. Seeing us approach from enemy territory they took us for Germans. They let the leading car, Sergeant George Powell’s one, get within a hundred yards of them and plonked a PIAT bomb right through the front. The driver Ben Hampshire was severely wounded while the operator/gunner Jimmy Birch was wounded in the arm. Only George escaped unhurt, though he was deaf for two days. There must have been a slip up somewhere in communications for the Argylls should have been warned that we would be approaching their positions from the enemy side. The car was still drivable, but it was tricky with the brakes and lights shot away.”
There are no images of the actual encounter of 'C' Sqn, 2nd Derbyshires, with the American troops but later in the day the whole scene was staged near Marche-en-Famenne with some real Americans (!) who were guarding a nearby depot
See also (from 01:45 onwards):
2. Link up at Champlon 5 Camerons (about 14.1130)
Yet another encounter with American troops occurred at the village of Champlon, in the sector of 152 Brigade. The Scout Platoon of the 5th Bn Queens Own Cameron Highlanders for some days had been actively patrolling the area to the south of Ronchamps, as far as the line Champlon - Ramont. Lance Sergeant Leslie L. Toogood, leading the scout section, remembers the operations: “We did patrol all around and checked the houses for booby-traps. The civilians we encountered stayed in their cellars, most of them old people, who were more scared of us than for the departed enemy. We tried to comfort them a bit by giving the men cigarettes and the ladies sweets. It was very sad to see the fear created by war on these elderly people. Most of the evening was spent on patrolling around and checking the houses. It simply was too cold to lay down and we just ‘cat-napped’. Just after dawn stand-to, 13 January, I reported to the Battalion HQ, Colonel Lang gave us orders to patrol to the Champlon crossroads area, where we had to contact a SAS officer. Everything looked alike in the snow bound countryside. The snow was very deep and it was only possible to walk along the roads, which to some extent had been cleared of snow by the departing foe. On our way to Champlon we came upon a road block, consisting of some blown up trees across the road and booby traps. We did not meet the Officer at the crossroads. It took us the rest of the day to check the roads and woods. We did not enter Champlon itself. We set out again early next morning, 14 January, heading for Champlon. On our way we encountered the SAS officer. He and his sergeant were escorted back, whilst four of our section carried on to the crossroads to set up an OP (observation post) to cover our back before the rest of us searched Champlon. This was necessary because by the fresh marks in the snow we noticed that enemy armoured cars had passed on the road. Fortunately we discovered that the enemy had departed from the village. We then spotted a section of infantry working its way towards the village from the direction of Tenneville. Our first thought was they were Germans. We were more than a little relieved when they turned out to be American troops. We immediately were taken to their Intelligence Officer, who was given all details of the area patrolled and the location of our Battalion HQ. We were given coffee and food before returning to our lines. By the time we got back news of our contact had already been received over the wireless. Our CO, Col. Lang, rewarded us with a belated Christmas leave, five days in Brussels.”
According to the War Diary of the 5th Camerons, the information that a patrol of the 5th Camerons had linked-up with the Americans “caused great excitement, since this was the first encounter with American troops”. In fact, the encounter at Champlon was not the first one of that day, if we go for the other official documents - the entrances in the Division War Diary and the available Situation Reports for the 14th. The first contact with the Americans was established by ‘C’ Squadron, 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, at 0830 hrs, at Ortheuville; the link-up at the bridge near Warempage, according to the reports, occurred at 1155 hrs, which apparently beats the link-up at Champlon, which, according to the 51st HD Situation Report of 14.2030, took place at 1200 hrs. The Situation Report however gives a map reference which is near Ramont, within the American lines; probably the location of the American Battalion HQ where Lance-Sergeant Toogood and his companions were given coffee and food before returning to their own lines. The actual encounter of the British and American patrol at Champlon therefore must have taken place some time previously, say about a half to one hour earlier, which makes it the second meeting between British and American troops. Whatever the case, the link-up at Champlon received most of the attention in the press. One ‘A’ Company ‘patrol’ was photographed by a movie tone news man, and another party under the second-in-command, Major Munro and his Dutch liaison officer, had the pleasure of making a recording for the B.B.C. Major Melville and Captain Lee took the first vehicle through to a forward American Company Headquarters.
Another staged encounter at Barrière de Champlon the big crossroads to the west of the village of Champlon. The actual encounter according to Sgt Toogood took place in the village. The British soldiers for this special occasion were dressed in white snow-suits which look suspiciously clean. Snow suits had hardly been available during the previous days of battle (Photo © IWM B 13690), See also: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
For moving images see (from 02:51 onwards):
3. Link up 'B' Sqn 2 Derbyshire Yeomanry (14.11.55)
The story of the third link up with members of the 17 US Airborne is described here: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div
This link up is the only one that was genuinely captured on a photo taken by one of the veterans who was present at the spot:
1st and 3rd US Army link up at Houffalize
On 16 Jan 45 the 1st 3rd US Armies linked up near the bombed out town of Houffalize Belgium: 334th Infantry Regiment 84th Division 1st Army met with the 41st Armored cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 11th Armored Division to complete 'pincer' movement. Again the bag was empty, most of the enemy troops had escaped to the east.
Picture of the devastated town of Houffalize, which like La Roche-en-Ardennes huddles in the deep gorge of the Ourthe River (Photo courtesy Houffalize, Belgium, January/February, 1945)
January 18, 1945
The Bulge is Reduced to a Slight Curve
The bulge caused by the German advance has been reduced to a slight curve in the front lines.
[January 18, 1945], HQ Twelfth Army Group situation map.
Separate names with a comma.