6th Btn. H.L.I. April 1945

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by DelBoy, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. DelBoy

    DelBoy Member

    Hello all,

    My grandads brother (see avatar) was Pte. Douglas Black of the 6th Btn. H.L.I.
    He was the youngest of 6 brothers and 2 sisters all in uniform in WW2. Sadly he was the only one to perish in that conflict.

    Rank: Private
    Service No: 14741818
    Date of Death: 05/04/1945
    Age: 19
    Regiment/Service: Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) 6th Bn.
    Grave Reference: 49. B. 16.


    I'm trying to ascertain what the 6th battalion were doing and how he met his death. The family story is that he was shot by a sniper up a tree, but this is all anyone recalls being told. No records or letters exist in the family of his service. There are none of his siblings now to ask any questions of.
    I plan on getting a copy of his Army record, if they'll let me.

    I looked up the battalions history, which is online, and the date in question. The 5th of April has no mention of combat or deaths. However the day before, the 4th, was a costly one.

    (From 6th Btn History)
    "Private Hawkshaw of 12 Platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Rhind who was killed in the counter-attack, had a nerve-racking experience from which he emerged slightly wounded and made his way back to A Company lines arriving there at about 1.15 a.m. on 5th April. This is his story:-

    "We were right forward platoon of B Company. Suddenly a burst of automatic fire wounded Sergeant Buckley. Lieutenant Rhind came up and started firing. I was hit in the arm by a small mortar and lay in the trench. Spruce, my mate, got shot through the temple. All firing stopped. Germans shouted 'Hands up'. I lay doggo in the bottom of the trench. I heard no sounds of people being taken prisoner but quite a lot of our men were wounded and killed.
    When I left at about 0045 I heard no sounds of movement whatever in the vicinity except slight movement in the gully.
    Before the Germans attacked three of them approached us as if to give themselves up but one had a rifle so was fired on. We captured the other two but the man with the rifle got away. I never heard a Spandau on our front. I think they used automatic rifles. The enemy were well up to us before we got any fire to bear on them."

    Sergeant Clarke and fourteen men of B Company also managed to escape and rejoined the Battalion via the Durham Light Infantry on the right. Later it was ascertained that a party of the enemy estimated to be about 100 strong had passed through the lines of the Durham Light Infantry of 131 Brigade and made their way back to Ibbenburen.

    The 4th of April was a bleak day in our history. We lost in this one action no less than three officers and thirty two other ranks, including Company Sergeant Major Miller of D Company, killed while forty four other ranks were wounded including Company Sergeant Major Gately, DCM, of C Company who, at all times, was conspicuous for his utter disregard of danger. On the credit side we took fifty one prisoners including ten wounded and killed at least thirty five."

    So upon looking up 6th btn H.L.I. deaths on CWGC, Lt. Rhind is dated as being killed on the 4th, as per the action described above I suppose, but Douglas Black and two men actually mentioned in the piece: Sgt. Miller and Pte Spruce are listed as being killed the 5th?

    Can I safely assume Douglas was among those killed in the scene described by Hawkshaw, even though dates are blurred, or is it still possible he died in another event the day after?

  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Unfortunately I've only got the 6 HLI war diaries for 1944. Have you considered obtaining a copy covering April 1945? They may contain the answers you are looking for.

  3. DelBoy

    DelBoy Member

    That would be ideal I imagine.

    Having never consulted or seen a regiments war diary, where can they be found? Is it in the TNA, or can they be bought off the shelf?

  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Derek,

    Technically both I guess. You can either visit the National Archives and view/copy the file yourself or pay someone to do it for you. Click on the red link below for further info if getting to the NA is a non-starter for you.

  5. DelBoy

    DelBoy Member

    I acquired the April '45 war diary last year, and it's incredibly detailed.

    There were a great many court martials listed for just that one month, mostly for desertion but also for cowardice.
  6. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    6th Battalion HLI were in the 52 (Lowland) Division and read with pride their valiant service in Western Europe: 6 HLI History 2nd WW.rtf.

    Joe Brown.
  7. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Derek,

    I worked with Pieter (Handle 'stolpi') on the 'Nijmegen Bridgehead' thread and wrote much of the commentary about the 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry's introduction to battle in NW Europe in early October 1944, the capture of Haalderen.

    I agree that their War Diaries are incredibly detailed; and this is what I said about them on another recent thread. The link therein will lead you into the aforementioned 'Nijmegen Bridgehead' thread.
    For the purpose of the attack on and capture of Haalderen, the 6th Bn was attached to 151st Infantry Brigade - 6th, 8th and 9th Bns Durham Light Infantry - of 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

    The 50th (Northumbrian) Division was the most experienced and battle hardened British Infantry Division, and would be sent home as a Training Cadre around 1 December 1944, Monty saying that it had done enough. However, the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry, of 151st Infantry Brigade, stayed on, transferring to the 131st Infantry Brigade, 7th Armoured Division (The Desert Rats). It is the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry that is referred to in your first message #1 (above).

    I have the battalion history of the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry and will revert later with any excerpts that refer to the incident mentioned in the 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry's battalion history; and which you quote at message #1.


    stolpi likes this.
  8. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello again, Derek,

    The 52nd (Lowland) Division was still involved in the fighting for Ibbenburen on the 5 April, but I don't have any infomation if the 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry was spcifically involved.

    ‘The Gateshead Gurkhas – A History Of The 9th Battalion The Durham Light Infantry 1859-1967’ (Moses), provides a good description of the terrain in which the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry and the 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry were fighting on the 4 and 5 April 1945 and of their opposition. I thought it worthwhile adding to your thread.

    The 7th Armoured Division was to cross the River Ems at Mesum and the Dortmund-Ems Canal at Riesenbeck via Bridgeheads held by the 11th Armoured Division. However, there was delay in the advance due to severe fighting in this valley Bridgehead, which the enemy held onto fanatically. The 159th Infantry Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, had suffered a lot of casualties holding onto it and which at one point was so severely threatened that the 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment, also of the 131st Infantry Brigade, 7th Armoured Division, had been sent forward to counter-attack and drive off the enemy.

    The Germans still held much of the high ground and were covering the valley gap through the hills to Ibbenburen.

    The 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry moved off towards the crossing at 4 pm on the 3 April 1945, with ‘C’ Company accompanied by the Recce Troop of the 5th Dragoon Guards in the van. They had to clear enemy out of woods on the western side of the road and got involved in a heavy fire fight further down the road, before consolidating for the night.

    In fact, this same day, elements of the 7th Armoured Division had outflanked this area, broken through another Bridgehead at Halen and seized a bridge intact further east over the Ems-Weser Canal. The 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry was being pulled out from the fighting for Ibbenburen so that it could catch-up with the rest of 7th Armoured Division, which would soon be about 30 miles further east and advancing on Diepholz.

    The battalion War Diary entry for 12 noon on this day states:

    The Training Schools mentioned, although plural, is likely the singular Bergen-Hanover Cadet Training School. There is also some ‘trading’ in the narrative between whether Ibbenburen is a town or a village and possibly if the water obstacle is a river or a stream.

    There is no mention of 100 Germans crossing back to their lines through those of the Durham Light Infantry and although it is possible, I think it unlikely.

    The 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry lost:

    3 and 4 April – 8 ORs Killed, 18 ORs Wounded.
    5 April – 4 ORs wounded.

    NB. Any part of a quote in square brackets has been added by me to aid understanding.


  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Was there on my bicycle holidays last Summer:

    Approaching the Teutoburgerwald from the south near Bad Ibburg. This natural steep rising barrier stretches from west to east across the relatively flat countryside of the Münsterland.

    Dortmund-Ems Canal at the bend just south-east of Riesenbeck (view to the north-west). The rising ground in the back is the Teutoburgerwald.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2016
  10. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Great photographs, Pieter.

    From the 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry battalion history (posted by Joe Brown at message #6): 6 HLI History 2nd WW.rtf. The handover of its positions at Ibbenburen by 'B' Company, 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry to 'C' Company, 6th Bn Highland Light Infantry.


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