Investigation of friendly fire incident 27 Feb '45

Discussion in 'General' started by Tolbooth, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    In a recent thread regarding a friendly fire incident (HMS Orion etc) there was some discussion about whether such things were investigated and how deeply. The Lothian and Borders Yeomanry were involved in a fairly serious one in Feb '45 during a night attack on the German village of Kirschtroisdorf (just south of Monchengladbach), which seems to have been looked at quite closely.

    No 2 Troop, A Squadron, commanded by Lt P S Newman MC, were badly shoot up by tanks of the US 743d Tank Battalion and lost seven men killed and five wounded.

    Thought the board might be interested in the reports of the investigating officer - I've no idea whether these commonly appear in War Diaries.

    The Lothian's WD begins the story;

    Word just received that A Sqn were engaged in an attack last night and 2Tp (Lt P S Newman MC), as the result of a tragic accident, were badly shot up by the Americans. Seven men, including Sgt McArthur, were killed and five wounded.

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  2. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Testimony of 1st Lt Peter S Newman 285414 1 Lothians & Border Yeomanry, British Liberation Army, taken on 27 Feb 45 at HQ 743d Tk Bn (rear) APO339, by Maj Clarence L Benjamin, Infantry Investigating Officer.

    Witness was first duly sworn and advised of his rights under the 24th Article of War.
    Q: On the night of Feb 26, how would you describe the weather?
    A: Cloudy with the moon shining through the clouds. Visibility was fair.
    Q: How would you describe the terrain?
    A: When we were out of Oberembt it was quite flat with the town of Kirch-Troisdorf clearly visible.
    Q: Was there any other source of illumination other than the moon?
    A: There was a fire in Oberembt and flashes from the shellfire coming down on the objective.
    Q: Were there any fires observed in the town objectives Kl-Troisdorf and/or Kirch-Troisdorf?
    A: I believe that there was a fire burning in the outskirts of Kirch-Troisdorf.
    Q: Did you notice if the fires which were burning materially added to the visibility?
    A: No. It aided in the location of the towns but did not increase visibility.
    Q: In general, what orders did you receive regarding your objective?
    A: At about 1930hrs I received orders from my sqn that I was to join C Coy 743 Tk Bn in the attack on Kirch-Troisdorf. I understood the form to be two pls of C Coy, followed by one pl of TDs with inf riding on each veh and two pls of inf on foot and my tp, consisting of one comd tk (Sherman) and three flails bringing up the rear.
    It was agreed that we move out along the rd to Oberembt 135628, generally North along the rd to Xrds at 132653. The tks and TDs were going to leave the rd and move cross-country in the attack on Kirch-Troisdorf. The tks and TDs left the rd, I continued to move North, paralleling the advance of the tks and TDs.
    I halted, with the head of my column approximately 132654, when I observed the tks and TDs halted on my right and firing tracers into the objective. At this time my order of march was comd tk (Sherman) followed by three flails, each about 10-15yds from the next in column on the rd. I halted at this point at about 2100hrs or after. When I halted, my leading tk was about 30yds North of the Xrds at 132654.
    After I had been halted about 10mins I decided to pull back so that the nose of my tk was at [the] Xrds, so I could move to the NE on the rd toward the objective. We moved slowly in reverse until my veh was in the Xrds when we again halted. Just before I halted I saw a flash from under the right track of my rear tk. I called him on the wireless to ask him what it was but he did not know. I thought at the time that it was a Schumine. I cut my tk engine but some of the others were still running. After we had been halted about another 5mins I saw a hit on my rear tk, as evidenced by a flash and sparks and then a hit on the next to the rear tk.
    By this time I was started up and pulled out to my right in a large circle to seek cover. I observed that my second tk was following me. I at first thought of pulling into my objective to get cover but decided it was too far and sought shelter on the North side of the first tk which was hit, placing the damaged tk between myself and the source of the fire. My tk was facing generally in the direction of the source of fire and just as I got into posn my second tk, which had been following me, was hit twice and immediately thereafter my tk was hit and I gave the order to bale out.
    Q: After you baled out of your tk, where did you and the other crew members take shelter?
    A: The crews were all around my tk. Immediately after I baled out there appeared to be a respite from the fire and I tried to get the crews together and under my comd. Then all hell let loose and my rear tk took fire and later exploded. I then told the chaps to scatter away from the tks and it was suggested to me by one of my crew that they were American tks.
    For the first time I saw a line of tks some 300-400yds in my rear and I then decided the best thing I could do was to get them to stop firing and get some medics for my wounded men. I crawled some 50yds and started running toward the firing tks. I first met some doughs and then contacted Lt Ubbes and asked him to cease firing and radio for medical aid. He took action and the firing ceased immediately.
    Q: What medical aid, if any, was received?
    A: I ran back down the tk column to try to find some medical aid but could find none. I contacted my sqn ldr, however, and he put through another wireless call. I then returned to my damaged tks and aided in administering first aid. In the meantime the tks had moved on and my sqn ldr came over to me while his tks were passing. As no medical aid had returned, I asked for a tk to get my wounded back and a flail came over. I loaded one man on the back and then a first aid jeep arrived.
    Q: Did you have any means of communication with the American tks?
    A: I had an American set installed in the right sponson by the co-dvr's seat which was on the C Coy channel. I could hear them but, although I had called up, they had not answered me. I tried two or three times to call but got no answer. When my rear tk was hit I called up to see if C Coy were in the town but received no reply. I was in communication with my sqn ldr and tps by my turret set. To contact C Coy I had to call my forward operator on the inter-phone and he would then try to get through to the American tks.
    Q: Did you have an opportunity to check your radio communication with C Coy prior to the start of the operation?
    A: No. I told the CO I would like a netting call before we moved off but my own tks did not arrive (from another part of the town) in the column until it was just moving off.
    Q: In what direction were you moving at the time the Americans shot at you?
    A: I was stationary, headed almost due North.
    Q: What direction had you moved just prior to the first shot fired at you?
    A: In reverse, in the southerly direction for about 30-40yds.
    Q: In what direction were your guns pointed at this time?
    A: To the North and East toward the objective.
    Q: When the firing ceased, from your posn near the American tks, could you identify your damaged tks as Shermans?
    A: I would not like to commit myself to a definite statement.
    Q: When you had crawled away from your damaged tks and started running across country to stop the firing, could you identify the type of tks that were firing?
    A: Not at first, not until I was some 150-200yds away.
    Q: Were there any flares being dropped or being fired at the time?
    A: No.
    Q: Is there anything further that you would care to add that might assist in clarifying this action?
    A: I feel that the evidence has been clearly covered. The story is accurate as far as I know.

    I have read the above statement and find it to be a true and accurate account.

    (sgd) Peter S Newman 285414
    1st Lt, A Sqn 1Lothians BLA

    Subscribed and sworn to before me this .... day of Feb 1945
    (sgd) Clarence L Benjamin
    Maj, Inf Investigating Offr

  3. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Testimony of Cpl Robert R McKay 7930314, 2Tp A Sqn 1 Lothians & Border Yeomanry, British Liberation Army, taken on 27 Feb 45 at HQ 743d Tk Bn (Rear), APO339, by Maj Clarence L Benjamin, Infantry Investigating Officer.

    Witness was first duly sworn and advised of his rights under the 24th Article of War.
    Q: How would you describe the weather on night of 26 Feb 45?
    A: The weather was overcast with the moon behind the clouds. Visibility was 300yds.
    Q: Was there any other illumination in the area, other than the moon?
    A: There were fires in the village of Kirch-Troisdorf 143657.
    Q: What was your posn at the time you were hit?
    A: 132652.
    Q: What orders had you received?
    A: The orders that I received were that there were ten American tks or tk destroyers ahead of me 200yds.
    Q: What was your objective?
    A: My objective was Kirch-Troisdorf 143657.
    Q: What orders had you received regarding the presence of enemy armour?
    A: No information regarding enemy armour.
    Q: What information did you have regarding employment of adjacent friendly armour in the operation?
    A: There were other American troops, including armour, moving along the road 129630 to 133653 to their objective Kl Troisdorf 136662.
    Q: What orders had you received regarding your zone of operations?
    A: We were to move North along the road 135628 to vicinity 132647 and wait at this location while the tk destroyers, which were ahead of us, moved cross-country generally NE toward the objective Kirch-Troisdorf. If they hit mines we were to be called up. If the terrain was unsuitable for cross-country operation the armour was to have moved along the road to the point 152653 and thence NE along the road on the objective.
    Q: Which plan was actually followed, cross-country or road movement?
    A: Cross-country.
    Q: Did you observe the American armour which was ahead of you move cross-country to their objective?
    A: No, because I could not see that far up the British column, in as much as I was in the third British veh. When the vehs ahead of me stopped, I stopped.
    Q: Did you actually see any of the tks hit - if so, describe the action?
    A: The fire seemed to come from approx 131646. I had observed no troops or vehs in the location from which the fire seemed to come. I saw one, and possibly two, of the tks hit and neither of these burned. Later, however, a tk behind me was hit and burned. Later on a fourth one was hit. The first shot was definitely a ranging shot. The second shot was a hit on the rear tk. Then there was a series of shots which caught the rear tk and possibly my own tk. Meanwhile the first and second tried to make a getaway. They went in zig-zag formation and eventually returned to the scene of the first and second tks and immediately the third tk got a direct hit and blew up. The fourth tk got hit also.
    Q: Did you have any means of communication with the American tks?
    A: The British Sherman, which was in the head of the column, had a wireless which was in contact with my coy ldr who was travelling with the column on our left (the column that fired on us).
    Q: Do you know whether the wireless in your leading Sherman was netted directly to the American vehs?
    A: I don't know.
    Q: What use was made of available communications?
    A: I don't know.
    Q: Did you know it was the Americans that were shooting at you?
    A: No, not at first, but after we had evacuated our tks and taken cover some 20yds from the tks we could observe in the distance a number of armd vehs which could not be identified as to type, either American or German, but from the number we concluded that they must be friendly.
    Q: How far ahead could you see at the time of the shooting?
    A: To the NE toward Kirch-Troisdorf I could see approx 500yds. Toward the SW, the direction from which the fire was coming, I could see less than 300yds, the difference in visibility being due to the fires which were burning in Kirch-Troisdorf.
    Q: Were there any casualties in your tk?
    A: One is missing, believed dead, and two are wounded.
    Q: How were the wounded evacuated?
    A: I made a getaway and went back to Oberembt 129628 and obtained a jeep and went back to get the wounded. I made one trip in the jeep, carrying two men. One man was evacuated on the back of a tk which came from the direction from which the firing came, after it was contacted personally by Lt Newman.
    Q: Were you moving when you were hit?
    A: No, all British tks were halted at the time the firing started.
    Q: Approx what time did the action take place?
    A: About 2130hrs.
    Q: What is your posn in the crew?
    A: Crew Commander.
    Q: Had any German armour been seen or suspected in the immediate area?
    A: We were informed that there might be one or two Tigers around.
    Q: Were there any flares being dropped or fired in the area during this action?
    A: No.
    Q: Do you know the posn of the inf at the time you were being fired on?
    A: Not exactly, but we believed that the inf were near their objective.
    Q: In summary, how many vehs were destroyed?
    A: One flail tk burned, one flail and one Sherman known to be damaged and one flail believed damaged. Due to the intensity of the fire and need of med aid, I did not inspect the vehs to determine their status.

    I have read the above testimony and find it to be a true and accurate account.

    (sgd) Robert R McKay 7930314
    Cpl, 2Tp 1 Lothians BLA

    Subscribed and sworn to before me this ... day of Feb 1945.

    (sgd) Clarence L Benjamin
    Maj, Inf Investigating Offr

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  4. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Testimony of 2Lt Francis J Sweeney 01015603, Pl Offr 2Pl Coy B 743d Tk Bn, taken on 27 Feb 45 at HQ 743d Tk Bn (Rear), APO359, by Maj Clarence L Benjamin, Infantry Investigating Officer.

    Witness was first duly sworn and advised of his rights under the 24th Article of War.

    Q: On the night of Feb 26, what was the weather like?
    A: The sky was overcast. The moon was not visible.
    Q: How would you describe the terrain?
    A; It was almost level with a slight rise.
    Q: Was there any illumination in the area, other than that from the moon behind the clouds?
    A: None was observed.
    Q: What orders had you received regarding your objective?
    A: My objective was Kl Troisdorf 136662 along route generally North from Oberembt to Pt 132635, hence generally North along a very poor road to about 131646, then cross-country to Kl Troisdorf. We were informed that C Coy was on our right, moving upon objective Kirch-Troisdorf 144657.
    Q: What were you told regarding enemy armour in the area?
    A: We had no information about enemy armour.
    Q: Did you know that there were any British vehs in the C Coy task force?
    A: No.
    Q: Did you have any British vehs in your task force?
    A: Yes, I think we had four.
    Q: Did you have any means of communication with them?
    A: Not that I know of. During daytime operations we had to use army[sic. 'arm'?] and hand signals.
    Q: Discuss in detail the events leading up to your detection of armour and the subsequent actions which were taken?
    A: We travelled out of Oberembt along the road which was previously planned until we reached a point approximately 1,200yds from the objective.
    Here we called for an arty preparation on the objective. At a point about 135647 I called Capt Miller on the radio and asked for the pre-arranged arty. Capt Miller told me that C Coy had already used the preparation on Kirch-Troisdorf. Capt Miller advised me to wait where I was, to see if he could get another concentration to put on my objective. We were halted at this time with our engines cut.
    Being in the lead tk I searched the terrain toward my objective to see what could be observed. I observed a dimly seen object which resembled a tk, so I called on the pl ldr, Lt Cope of I Coy 117 Inf, who was riding on my veh, to see if he could detect whether it was a tk or not. He said he wasn't quite sure. At this time I heard the sound of a tk engine and the dark object started to move towards me. I told the column to back up and said 'I think this may be a Tiger tk'.
    Then I alerted my gunner to load the gun and lay in on it, using a hyper velocity round of armour piercing ammunition. I then traversed my gunner on the target and told him to fire. I estimated the range was about 300-400yds. He fired and the round bounced off said object. Knowing that this shell has a very high penetrating quality it was natural for me to assume that it was a Tiger tk. I then fired a few more rounds at the said object, which also bounced off. Then I alerted the rest of the outfit that it must be a Tiger tk.
    I called Lt Ubbes and asked for the TDs to come up. I do not know whether they actually came up and fired or not. I believe a total of about five of our vehs were firing.
    Q: Did you actually see any of the tks hit?
    A: I actually saw one tk hit and it was near my front. We then backed up and deployed and firing continued. One tk was observed burning. Another was behind it but it was not burning. Another was to the right but not burning. During the time we were firing, some of the objects were moving and the one that caught on fire seemed to be coming toward me.
    Q: What caused you to cease firing?
    A: Another of the crew of the tks that were hit came over to one of our tks and told us that they were friendly tks. It was announced over our radio that it was a friendly veh and firing ceased immediately.
    Q: What ammunition was fired?
    A: 76AP, 76 Hyper velocity and 75AP.
    Q: At what range?
    A: About 300-400yds when I first fired and then we moved back. I do not know what the range was then.
    Q: How many rounds did you fire?
    A: My tk fired six. I do not know the total number of rounds fired by the other tks.
    Q: Do you have any knowledge of the number of casualties?
    A: No.
    Q: Do you have any knowledge of how the casualties were evacuated?
    A: No.
    Q: At what time did this action take place?
    A: Some time between 9 and 10 [sic. '2100 and 2200hrs'?], however that is just a guess.
    Q: Had any German armour been seen or suspected in the area?
    A: Earlier in the day three tks and one T2 of C Coy had been destroyed near Oberembt by heavy armour. Oberembt was the town from which we jumped off for our objective.
    Q: Did you know of the presence of British tks with C Coy?
    A: No sir.
    Q: Did you make any special effort to identify those at which you shot?
    A: Yes sir, the object which I fired at came from the direction of my objective. Therefore it was presumed it must be hostile.
    Q: Were there any flares being dropped from the air or being fired during the action?
    A: No.
    Q: After one of the tks caught fire did the light resulting from the fire reveal the type of veh?
    A: No sir.
    Q: Did you have any inf with you at the time?
    A: Yes sir, we had about a coy of inf riding on our vehs.

    I have read the above testimony and find it to be a true and accurate account.

    (sgd) Francis J Sweeney, 01015603
    2Lt, Coy B 743d Tk Bn

    Subscribed and sworn to before me this 27th day of Feb 1945.

    (sgd) Clarence L Benjamin
    Maj, Inf Investigating Offr
  5. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Hopefully one or two of you will find that interesting - apologies for the length !

    I have a feeling that this might go some way to explaining my Father's attitude to the US Army - he had respect for the indivual American soldier but was rather dismissive of the US military as a whole.
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  6. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Hello John,

    what a document.
    Just looked at Kirchtroisdorf of today. part of Bedburg now.
    There might be local historians being able and interested to search around the scene in these days.
    What do you think?

  7. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Glad you like it Stefan.

    It probably could do with more researching - I haven't tried translating the map refs given to find out the exact place (but of course there's no Gooogle streetview for Germany).

    Just checked and the men killed that night are buried in Venray War Cemetery in the Netherlands. They were;

    Trooper EATOUGH, Albert Henry, 7941524, aged 30
    Serjeant McARTHUR, Alexander Ian, 7930308, 24
    Trooper SHEPERD, Colin Rowland, 14407466, 20
    Trooper SMITH, Alan, 14332417, 20
    Trooper WARDROPE, John Maxwell, 14505943, 26
    Troooper WEEKS, Herbert Alfred, 1431066, 20
    Corporal WIGGLESWORTH, Percival Gill, 7919755, 37
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  8. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    I will contact the Mayor of Bedburg. He might be of help finding a local historian. These guys are typically very helpful and eager.
    I am presently researching another case and this man even contacted a link in UK.
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  9. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    Tolbooth's list of men:-

    Trooper EATOUGH, Albert Henry, 7941524


    Serjeant McARTHUR, Alexander Ian, 7930308


    Trooper SHEPHERD, Colin Rowland, 14407466


    Trooper SMITH, Alan, 14332417


    Trooper WARDROPE, John Maxwell


    Troooper WEEKS, Herbert Alfred


    Corporal WIGGLESWORTH, Percival Gill

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  10. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Rob, that's bl**dy brilliant! Thank you
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  11. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    Some general shots I took. Not my best efforts.







    Attached Files:

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  12. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    From the 743rd Tank Battlaion S-3 Journal History (believe these are equivalent to the British War Diaries).
    Entry for 26th Feb 45;

    "B" Co. resupplied and maintenanced during the day. At 1900 hours the company moved to OBEREMBT wihch had been secured by "A" and "C" Cos, and moved out again almost immediately in a night attack on TROISDORF. The 2nd platoon had 4 vehicle, the 1st had 3, and the 3rd had 2. A squadron of British flail tanks also operated with us on this attack. At about 2100, the column halted about 900 to 1000 yards to call for a pre-arranged artillery concentration. While waiting, tank movement was noticed on the left. No one but enemy was known to be in that direction so the lead tank fired at the movement. The warning was issued to the rest of the column which immediately deployed and preceded to knock out 4 tanks. These tanks were later learned to be the British flail tanks which cut across our column through a tactical error. The column then pushed on toward the objective."

    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
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  13. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Oddly the 743 Tk Bn had suffered their own friendly fire incident back in July '44. I found this reference on an American Veterans website;

    In 2014, a veteran of the 743rd Tank Battalion Cpl. Eston Collins told his story of Lt. General McNair’s death

    "On July 25th, the 743rd lined up to get ready for the big push. “Our battalion was among those bombed by friendly aircraft which dropped their bombs short of the intended targets.” Sometimes planes would drop explosives too soon and allied troops were bombed. The infantry was known to open fire at the planes during such incidences. On this day, ‘we were sitting on top of our tank watching planes with binoculars. The sky was just full of them. I told an ole boy sitting beside me ‘I’m glad that it’s not us they’re going after.’ In a few minutes, three-star General McNair’s command car came within ten feet of us. We saluted as he passed on the road. He was about sixty feet away from us when the planes open up the bomb bay doors and released their bombs. We jumped in our tanks like a bunch of rats in a hole, but General McNair got killed. There were a lot of the infantry boys that didn’t have anywhere to go."
  14. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    This map will be of great help as soon as I have had a reply from the local historian.
    I have now been in touch with the Bedburg Archivist.

    His first comment was: "I had no idea the Brits were there as well."
    He always believed they were further north, like the US forces may be?

    I will send him the link to this thread.

    And he promised to talk to the Mayor of Bedburg.
    Do you think the families of the poor soldiers would like to visit the sight of the fatal friendly fire and meet up with the Archivist and the Mayor one day.

  15. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Good news from the Archivist.
    He talked to a number of senior locals and continues to do so and hopes to find some having witnessed the incident.
    I will talk to him again early next year.
  16. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Bumping thread ....75th anniversary today
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  17. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Spoke to the local Archivist Uwe Debcik today. He did not find any locals remembering the indecent until now, but is happy to show anyone around the area visiting Bedburg. Tel. no. +49-(0) 2772 402- 103 Uwe understands some English
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  18. graeme

    graeme Senior Member

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  19. Chris Dunham

    Chris Dunham New Member

    I'm new to the forum and have been researching the death of my uncle, Sgt Alexander Ian McArthur of the 1st Lothians and Border Horse.

    I came across this thread dealing with the friendly fire incident of 27 Feb 1945 in which my uncle was killed. I found the excerpts from the enquiry quite interesting to read. There is reference to the War Diaries and I'm wondering if anyone has access or can share excerpts from the WDs dealing with this particular incident.

    I visited the Venray Cemetary in 2019 to honour my Uncle and his fellow companions who died so tragically that evening.
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  20. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Welcome to the forum Chris.

    I've got the war diaries and will sort something out for you at the weekend.
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