Eric Harden VC - Brachterbeek and Nederweert

Discussion in 'WW2 Battlefields Today' started by Jonathan Ball, Feb 22, 2019.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    A few photos from last weekend following the Eric Harden VC action with 45 Royal Marine Commando in Brachterbeek on 23 January 1945.

    No.6 Commando had led the way in to the nearby town of Maasbracht and in falling out to secure the town let 45 RM Commando assume the vanguard in the push towards Brachterbeek. In the lead was a section from 'A' Troop under Lt. Robert Cory who later described the push forward as an 'advance to contact'. As the Commando pushed through Brachterbeek into open country they found the village to be eerily quiet and deserted, so quiet in fact that Bryan Samain, the I.O of 45 Commando later said "it was difficult to believe that somewhere before us an alert, hard fighting enemy lay in wait, determined to give battle"

    Cory's section then stepped aside on Stationsweg and allowed through the section led by Lt. Tommy Thomas MC to take the lead down the road pictured to the left on the photo below. Cory's section moved to the right of the road to advance across the field you can to see towards the railway station buildings in the distance.

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    Neil Patrick was sent as a runner by OC, A Troop, Captain Dudley Coventry to deliver a message to Thomas to be on the lookout for friendly troops from the 7th Armoured Recce Regiment coming from their right. Patrick caught up with Thomas roughly were the lamp post is on the road above to deliver the message when, according to Patrick "Thomas's reaction to my message was to whip his rifle to his shoulder and shoot a person emerging from the station buildings. I reminded him of my message, to which he replied: 'The man is wearing black equipment'; He was right...the man was a German soldier wearing black equipment on top of a white snow suit.

    Neil Patrick said that Thomas's shot acted like a starting gun to hostilities. Under covering fire from the section Bren gun Thomas urged his men to close up to the buildings for cover. To his right, in the field on the photo below, Robert Cory's section were exposed with little or no cover from the firing in front of them and from fire coming from their left front and from a windmill in their left rear.

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    The only cover in the field on the photo above was in the form of a couple of Potato clamps. Those closest to them managed to crawl for cover but the rest of Cory's section were pinned down in the field and casualties started to mount. In the midst of the shooting however the men noticed a figure moving among them, quite calmly and going from man to man. It was L-Cpl H.E 'Doc' Harden RAMC attd. 45 RM Commando. He emerged from the farmhouse that Coventry quickly established as Troop HQ and through a 'gap in the hedge' went out at least three times with a couple of volunteers, Johnny Haville and Dickie Mason to bring the wounded in by stretcher. The photo below is the view from the garden today out on to the field by that same 'gap in the hedge' that has been maintained in lasting tribute to Eric Harden.

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    Harden was coming under increasing fire whilst he was out there. The photo below is from the direction of the windmill which was to Harden's far left rear, some 700 metres away. You can see the farmhouse top right and Harden was moving from it right to left.

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    To the left of the windmill and firing at Cory's troop in the field was a German position in a small 'milk factory'. The Machine gun fire was coming from here left to right on the photo below.

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    It's estimated that Harden went out at least three times to tend to the wounded. Some accounts suggest it was more than three. However, it was on the third return journey bringing in Marine Fred Wales that Eric Harden, at the rear end of the stretcher carrying Wales was shot and killed instantly. In the photo below you can see the memorial which is at the exact spot he was killed and the gap in the hedge and therefore safety just beyond it.

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    The nearby bridge was also named in honour of Eric Harden. The now-converted Windmill, at the time occupied by one of the German Machine Guns was later engaged by a Cromwell from 1/RTR. The sails blown away by a HE round were never replaced.

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    Eric Harden and some of the other lads from 45 Commando killed in the fight for Maasbracht, Brachterbeek and Linne are buried at Nederweert CWGC cemetery. The street leading to it is named after Henry Eric Harden VC.

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  2. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    Lance Corporal Eric Harden V.C. (seated) A Troop 45 R.M. Commando
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    © IWM (H 39038)
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  3. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Some extra items. The Telegrams that Maud, Eric's widow received on the death of her husband and the news that he was to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

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    Finally, a letter from Derek Mills-Roberts.

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  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    On this day 75 years ago.

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    Richard1976 and stolpi like this.
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, Victoria Cross Medals, 1857-2007
    Name: Henry Eric Harden
    Birth Date: 23 Feb 1912
    Birth Place: Northfleet, Kent
    Death Date: 23 Jan 1945
    Death Place: Near Brachterbeek, Holland
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    TD
     

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