Aubrey Cosens' Victoria Cross at Mooshof

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Operation Blockbuster

    On 26 February 1945, the Canadian 2nd Corps, launched a set-piece attack called 'Blockbuster', designed to break through the last German defensive line west of the Rhine, the "Schlieffen Line" which centered on the Hochwald feature. The first objective of the 2nd Corps attack was to secure the high ground to the south and southeast of Calcar (aka the Calcar - Uedem ridge or TotenHuegel), which was used by the Germans as an advanced zone of resistance for the main Hochwald defence. The Canadians already had gained a foothold on this plateau in the closing days of Op Veritable (see: .http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/47307-veritable-the-canadian-finale-moyland-wood-goch-calcar-road/).

    In the initial assault the 2nd Corps operated with two infantry divisions up: the 2nd Cdn Inf Div on the left had to capture the high ground between Calcar and Neulouisendorf, while on the right the 3rd Cdn Inf Div was to capture the area around Keppeln and the town of Uedem, which formed the Southern anchor of the Totenhuegel position. As soon as the infantry had secured their objectives the 4th Cdn Armoured Division would pass through and exploit forward to the Hochwald.

    The 3rd Cdn Inf Div started the attack on a one Bde front. The leading 8th Cdn Inf Bde, consisting of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, Le Régiment de la Chaudiere and The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment, was to capture Keppeln which then would serve as a jumping off position for an attack on the town of Uedem by the rest of the 3rd Cdn Inf Div. In this operation, which started in the early hours of 26 February 1945, Sergeant Aubrey Cosens of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Mooshof. It was the first Victoria Cross to come to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

    The Canadians were up against paratroopers of the 6th Fallschirmjager Division, who, based on a false sense of superiority, fanatically fought on until the end. The same formation also had been responsible for the defence of Moyland Wood.

    151.jpg
    The headstone of Aubrey Cosens at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Holland
    (Casualty Details)


    P.S. I was able to restore this 'old' thread with courtesy of Pieter F, who made a copy of it for the Dutch STIWOT site.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Assault by 1st Queen's Own Rifles of Canada (8 Cdn Inf Brigade)

    On the night of February 25/26, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada opened the 8th Cdn Inf Bde's attack. The battalion was to secure the ground between Steeg (990455) and Wimmershof (990465). Thereby outflanking Keppeln from the north. The other two battalions of the Bde were to advance on the latter village, which barred an advance on Uedem and was known to be strongly held.

    The first phase of the battalion's attack was made by 'D' Coy, left, and 'C' Coy, right, both with two platoons up. Sergeant Aubrey Cosens was sergeant in No. 16 Platoon, 'D' Coy, which had under command two tanks of the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars), 2nd Cdn Armoured Brigade, with orders to capture the group of farm buildings at Mooshof. The platoon was to cross its startline, which was about half a mile from the objective (near the Ebbenhof), at 0430 hours. Before reaching the startline, it came under heavy enemy shell fire, but the attack went in on time and was pressed home through the darkness in face of intense artillery, mortar and small arms fire.
    On reaching Mooshof, the enemy was found to have prepared positions throughout the area and to have strongpoints in three farm buildings. The platoon attacked these buildings twice but, on each occasion, was beaten back by fanatical enemy resistance.
    The enemy then counterattacked in strength. In the darkness, and aided by his knowledge of the ground, the Germans succeeded in infiltrating into the position which No. 16 Platoon had hastily taken up. In bitter and confused fighting this counterattack was beaten off, but not until the platoon had suffered heavy casualties, including the platoon commander (... text continues in next post).

    feb-25-1945 QOR Canada.jpg

    001%20a.jpg
    1. The startline of the attack of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada lay just beyond the Calcar - Goch road, it stretched between the Ebbenhof on the left and the Gottern Farm on the right. Picture of the area near the Ebbenhof which was the start line of 'D' Coy.

    003%20a.jpg
    2. The Mooshof Farm as seen from the Ebbenhof, the terrain was flat and without cover but for the scattered stone farmhouses around which the enemy had dug in.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Sergeant Cosens at once assumed command of the platoon. To a lesser spirit, the situation would have seemed hopeless as the enemy was obviously present in force, and he was able to find only four survivors of his platoon. In addition one of his two tanks had become separated from the infantry during the fighting and the area was being swept from all sides by intense enemy fire.

    Not daunted and determined to carry on with the attack notwithstanding the odds, Sergeant Cosens organized his four men in a covering fire position and himself ran across twenty-five yards of open, flat, bullet-swept ground to his one available tank. Here, with magnificent contempt of the very great danger, he took up an exposed position on the tank, sitting in front of the turret and, with great daring, calmly directed the fire of the tank against enemy positions which had been pinpointed in the previous fighting or which disclosed themselves by their fire.

    Once again, the enemy counter-attacked savagely in force. Remaining on the tank and completely disregarding the enemy's superiority in numbers and the withering fire, Sergeant Aubrey Cosens led and inspired the defence. He plunged the tank, in the blackness, into the middle of the attackers. His bold tactics resulted in the complete disorganization of the enemy force, which broke and fled after sustaining many casualties.

    cosens-a.jpg

    Turning promptly and with great courage to the offensive, and notwithstanding the sustained enemy fire from all directions and the obvious risks in the darkness from concealed enemy posts and from snipers, Sergeant Cosens determined to clear the three buildings. To do so, he ordered his four men to follow the tank on which he was riding. He ordered the tank to ram the first building a one-storey farmhouse and, when it had done so, aided by the covering fire of his men, he entered the buidling entirely alone, killed several of the defenders, and took the rest prisoner.

    Sergeant Cosens then pressed relentlessely on and directed the tank, under continuous heavy fire, towards the second building. En route, he saw in the flash of shell fire, the body of one of his comrades who had been killed in one of the first abortive attacks on his position, lying in the path of the tank. Calmly he halted the tank and removed the body. Continuing, he had the tank fire into this building and then he entered it alone to find that the occupants had fled.

    With splendid persistence, he then advanced to the third building which was a two-storey farmhouse and strongly held by the enemy. Under cover from the tank and from his little band of four men, he again made a one-man entry into this building and personally killed or captured its occupants.

    The hard core of the German resistance in the immediate area was thus broken. Sergeant Cosens promptly gave his small force orders for the consolidation of the position and started off to report to his company commander. He had not travelled twenty-five feet when he was shot through the head by an enemy sniper. He died almost instantly. The German force in the Mooshof area had by this time been so completely battered and dispirited, however, that there was no further counter-attack against this position. The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada was able to pass through to its next objective and the other attacks were able to proceed according to plan.

    (Text taken from: Valour in the Victory Campaign, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Galantry Decorations 1945, by T. Robert Fowler, p. 51 and onwards).

    An artist's impression of the Mooshof action:
    03250-2.jpg


    009%20a.jpg

    011%20aa.jpg

    battered%20wall%20Mooshof.jpg

    Cosens' action was not restricted to the Mooshof farm alone, but also included the capture of a group of farmhouses hard north of Mooshof. These farmhouses, completely rebuild after the war, are visible on the right hand side of this picture.

    Cosens action.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Colonel Charles Stacey "The Victory Campaign":

    On the 3rd Division's front The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada were having a difficult time. The mile or so of open slope up which the battalion had to advance was dotted with several farmsteads whose buildings were fiercely defended by German paratroopers. At first the sodden ground ruled out direct tank support, and at 4:40 a.m. Lt.-Col. S. M. Lett sent his two assaulting companies across the start line alone. Hard fighting developed on the left, where "D" Company found the hamlet of Mooshof strongly held. The enemy had converted three farm buildings into strongpoints, and from these the leading platoon was twice driven back by sustained fire. A German counterattack was beaten off in bitter, confused fighting at a cost of many casualties, including the platoon officer.

    In this emergency Sergeant Aubrey Cosens took command of the other survivors of his platoon, only four in number. Through the thick of the enemy fire which was sweeping the area from all sides he ran twenty-five yards across an open space to a tank of the 1st Hussars which had now come up in support. Seating himself in front of the turret he calmly directed the gunner's fire against the German positions, and then broke up a second counter-attack by plunging the tank into the midst of the startled paratroopers. Next, taking the offensive, he reorganized his little group and, still crouched on top of the Sherman, ordered the driver to ram the first of the three buildings. While his men gave covering fire he went inside, killed several of the defenders and captured the rest. When he entered the second house he found that the occupants had not awaited his coming. Covered by the tank's fire he then crossed the road alone to clear the third strongpoint-a two-story building held by several Germans. "We followed him from building to building gathering the prisoners", one of his comrades later reported. Having thus broken the hard core of resistance in Mooshof, Cosens gave orders for consolidating the position, and set off to report to his company commander. On the way he was killed by a sniper's bullet. This very gallant non-commissioned officer had himself killed at least twenty of the enemy and captured as many more, and had gained an objective vital to the success of the 8th Brigade's operations. The Victoria Cross posthumously awarded to him was the first to come to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

    From Mooshof the two reserve companies of the Queen's Own fought grimly forward towards the battalion's final objectives about Steeg and Wemmershof, north of Keppeln. Intervening strongpoints were reduced with the aid of Wasps. By the time they reached their final goals the armour of the 4th Division had passed through the two villages, but the stubborn enemy had still to be driven from the cellars. The enemy fought on with fanatical determination; there was no ready surrender; positions had to be taken with grenades and the bayonet. By five o'clock all was secure, and Phase One of "BLOCKBUSTER" was over. The day's fighting had cost the battalion 37 killed and 64 wounded. On the 27th the battalion completed clearing the area. When this was done their total of prisoners was approximately 300, practically all of whom were paratroops.


    Schematic of the attack by the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
    [​IMG]


    An excerpt of the regimental history of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada:

    Canada 064a.jpg Canada 065a.jpg Canada 066a.jpg Canada 068a.jpg Canada 070a.jpg Canada 071a.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    A contemporary map of the area:

    Map%20Mooshof%20a.png

    Mooshof action.jpg
    Map of platoon actions (Courtesy Canuck)

    Fragment from the War Diary of the QOR (courtesy: War Diaries 1945)

    Feb 26 1945 – ROLAND, GERMANY 932514

    0400 “D” and “B” Coys cross S.L. “D” Coy advances to objective QUEER, where they are counter attacked savagely by enemy paratroops from objective OLD. Enemy attack was unsuccessful. “D” Coy reports that they have no platoon commanders left.

    0845 Tanks report that CHICKEN is clear of enemy. “A” Coy on objective OLD at present, ask for fire on targets, 3311, 3313, 3314.

    0850 “B” Coy moving to area “OLD”, having trouble from enemy snipers. Sunray asks “A” Coy if they can support friends on right with fire.

    0925 M10’s firing on “A” Coy position. Fighting in the darkness was very vicious, and also confusing.

    0930 Our M10’s leave to support Bn on our right flank.

    1445 “D” Coy reported at ROOSTER. All coys to stand fast on ROOSTER and OLD until further instructions are received. During the attack enemy mortar and arty fire was very intense, and owing to darkness, house clearing was very difficult. Two Stretcher Bearers from “C” Coy were taken prisoner, and were not released for four hrs. Until a friendly tank forced their captors to relinquish hold on them. Bn received approx 100 casualties in the action but left in its wake, fields littered with German dead. No. Of PW taken was very hard to estimate owing to speed of attack but must have been at least 300, including many paratroops. Coys dug in present positions, 50 percent stand to all night.


    pics of Ebbenhof
    Ebbenhof 2.jpg

    Göttern
    Götternhof a.jpg

    and Mooshof (as seen from point 39 on the above map between the Göttern and Ebbenhof farms)
    Mooshof.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The area beyond the Mooshof:

    005%20a.jpg
    Wimmershof, the objective of 'B' Coy, Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, was taken at mid-afternoon.

    006%20a.jpg
    Another view of Wimmershof taken from the Mooshof farm. On the right the small church tower of Keppeln is visible in the distance.

    The battalion's casualties on 26/27 February 1945, according to Geoff's Search Machine, amounted to 34 men killed in action:

    001 BELL GA B/157584 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    002 BROWN RA L/91715 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    003 CALBERT HC B/116330 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    004 CHADBOLT DD - - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    005 CHAMBERS JJ - 1ST BN 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    006 CLYNE HB B/64183 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    007 COSENS A B/46495 1ST BN 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    008 CROCKER A B/117972 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    009 CROSS GM B/149901 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    010 DEARNESS WA B/36737 1ST BN 27/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    011 DYSON RI B/44572 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    012 FIDGE JM B/145438 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    013 FRASER EW G/53534 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    014 GRANT ELN - - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    015 KACHAFANAS W B/162294 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    016 KEITH WC B/159825 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    017 KLACZA J B/103245 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    018 LAWSON R B/124032 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    019 LLOYD MP F/7471 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    020 MESSING EJE B/63407 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    021 PATTERSON ESJ B/36812 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    022 POCOCK DCB B/157996 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    023 RAGEN A - - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    024 REID DW B/157100 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    025 RIELLY AR B/145134 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    026 SERERES JA B/157668 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    027 STEFFLER JH A/104737 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    028 THORELL OH K/46678 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    029 TUTTLE CC K/76048 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    030 WATSON CW B/157616 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    031 WHEELER JC B/149466 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    032 WILSON HW B/131997 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    033 WILSON RC K/15645 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    034 WOODLEY NV B/9251 - 26/02/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016
  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    While discussing the Mooshof action with WW2Talk member Pen&Dagger, he showed me a couple of German 81mm ammo-boxes he found at the farm back in 2005. Someone had just dug up a complete 81mm mortar and the ammo-boxes were still lying piled up inside a derelict boat in the farmyard. The presence of a mortar demonstrates how much the farmsteads were transformed into tiny fortresses with trenches, machineguns and even mortars.

    During the shelling the German paratroopers would shelter in the cellars of the buildings. As soon as the shelling stopped, they would dash outside and fight from the trenches dug around the farmsteads. The trick for the attacking Canadians was to follow up their own artillery barrage as closely as possible, so as to surprise the enemy infantry before they could man their defensive positions.

    DSC03801.JPG
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    In my 'old' topic I also posted the official recommendation for the VC and the accompanying documents. Would anyone, who made copies of these, please post them here again.

    Edit: found them! see post #12
     
  10. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Thank you Owen - The Mooshof farmstead is undergoing a thorough renovation. Attached some pics of my latest visit to the farm, on April 28th, 2013, together with WW2talk member Diemer and his friend. The outlook of the building has changed with the modern sunpanels on the roof. I'm glad I took the pictures of the building in post #3, when I first visited the farm together with 17th DYRCH in May 2012, just prior to the start of the renovations, .

    The plaque still is attached to the side wall.

    025a.jpg 027a.jpg 026 a.jpg
     
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Recommendation & supporting statements

    Recommendation

    Recommendation.png Recommendation 2.png Recommendation 3.png Recommendation 4.png Recommendation 5.png Recommendation 6.png

    Witness statements

    Sgt C.R. Robertson 6th Cdn Arm Regt (1st Hussars):
    Anderson statement.png

    Rfm G.E. Dosser, 1st QOR of C:
    Dosser statement.png

    Cpl H.F. Gough, 1st QOR of C:
    Gough statement.png

    Statement of CO 8 Cdn Inf Bde, Brigadier Roberts:
    Brig Roberts statement.png
     
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The official Citation

    Citiation 2.png Citation 1.png

    Mooshof in Holland?

    In the official Citation the location of Cosens' action was erroneously indicated as 'In Holland', an addition of the War Office. In 1963 this error was investigated, it remains however unknown if the words 'In Holland' were subsequently removed.

    Correction 1.png Correction 2.png
     
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  14. jimintoronto

    jimintoronto Junior Member

    Yesterday, I was at the Regimental Museum of the Queens Own Rifles, located at Casa Loma, here in Toronto. I've been there many times before, and I volunteer as a guide, a few times each summer.

    The museum occupies six rooms on the third floor of the castle, and each one covers a particular era of the QOR's history, starting with its early years in the 1860's through both World Wars, Korea, UN and NATO assignments, and of course individual members who served in Afghanistan.

    One of the display cases contains the photos and a brief biography, for all of the QOR members that have been awarded the Victoria Cross, over the years. For one unit to have so many VC winners is amazing. Seven of them.

    Here is a link to their names .

    http://www.google.ca/search?q=operation+manna&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=D9PaUZjtDIqErgGRi4GQCw&sqi=2&ved=0CD8QsAQ&biw=1331&bih=714

    Jim B
    Toronto.
     
  15. Holger

    Holger Junior Member

    Good Evening ,

    my Name is Holger I live in Dinslaken and i took some new Photos from the Mooshof Area yesterday.


    Holger
     
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  16. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    Welcome! Would love to see your photos.
     
  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Jim B - thanks for your addition, but the link is not correct.
     
  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Holger - interesting, but I do not see any of your pictures :( .
     
  19. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    This was Mooshof Farm last week. The memorial plaque is gone and building work still going on.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Paul,
    I visited the area with Stolpi in May 2012.
    Any idea as to the location of the plaque?

    Cheers
    Randy
     

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