NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Planning the counterattack

    The eastern part of The Island, locally known as Over-Betuwe, virtually is my back-yard :) , so I decided to take some pictures of this former battlefield, for a thread on the post-Market-Garden counterattack by II.SS Pz Korps in October 1944.

    After the defeat of the 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem, the Germans desperately tried to oust the British forces from 'The Island', the low polderland between the Waal at Nijmegen and the Neder Rijn at Arnhem. Here a large Allied bridgehead remained after the abortive British attempt to reach the Arnhem bridge and the encircled British airbornes, stretching all the way from Nijmegen to the Nederrijn opposite Oosterbeek and as far west as Opheusden. The German High Command regarded the bridgehead as a severe threat, fearing it might be used as a springboard for future Allied operations to the north which might cut off the 15. Armee in the western part of Holland and imperil the plains of north-western Germany. Only by acting quickly, before the Allied front had settled, the German High Command hoped to retake the Island and remove this menace (1).

    Immediately after the conclusion of the battle for Arnhem, Generalfeldmarschal Walther Model, in command of Heeresgruppe B, therefore received orders to commit the II. SS-Panzer Corps, under Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich, and destroy the opponent between the Neder-Rijn and Waal by armoured attacks from the north and east. Besides 10.SS Pz.Division, already engaged on 'The Island', Bittrich was given the 9. and 116 Pz.Divisions for the counterattack. The fact that the latter formations were brought up from the critical Aachen sector, where the US 1st Army faced the Westwall, underlines the importance attached to this operation. The other armoured formation in the Arnhem area, the 9.SS, already had been earmarked for commitment in the forthcoming counteroffensive in the Ardennes (concrete plans for this operation arose as early as 16th September) and was pulled out of the line for a move to Germany for a rest and refit.

    Obergruppenführer Bittrich had little confidence in a successful outcome of the operation. The low water-logged country of 'The Island', cris-crossed by numerous drainage ditches and canals, in his opinion was anything but favourable for tank warfare. The success of the operation therefore depended largely on the infantry and Bittrich had little faith in the abilities of his inexperienced men for carrying out these offensive operations. A full-fledged infantry was no longer available after the Arnhem battle. Furthermore Bittrich feared the superiority of the Allied air force and artillery. The offensive, according to him, was doomed to fail from the start and would only result in a needless drain of combat power, that would be hard to restore. He, instead, suggested to abandon 'The Island' and build-up a strong defensive line along the dominating north bank of the Neder-Rijn.

    It is not known if Generalfeldmarschall Model endorsed Bittrich's judgment, but his hands were tied. Hitler, in a special Führer Directive issued on 25 Sept 44, over-ambitiously had ordered the destruction of the enemy in the Nijmegen - Arnhem area; the Allies had to be pushed back across the Meuse. Generalfeldmarschall Model therefore ordered Bittrich to prepare for the attack. In the last week of September the Germans frantically started the build up of an assault force south of the Neder-Rijn at Arnhem. Attached the translated OKW-order of 25 Sept in which Hitler ordered offensive operations in the Nijmegen area and other widely seperated sectors on the Western front; in this order he assigned the 9. and 116. Pz Divisions to the operation directed against Nijmegen:

    Führer Order 25 Sept 44 a.jpg Führer Order 25 Sept 44 b.jpg

    Heselbergh conference 28 Sept.jpg
    On 28 September 1944 Generalfeldmarschall Model, of Heeresgruppe B, conferred at the command post of the 9. SS Pz Division, located in Villa Heselbergh at Arnhem, with the commanders who were to conduct the counterattack against the Nijmegen bridgehead. L to R, Generalfeldmarschall Model, Generaloberst Student of the 1st Fallschirm-Armee (behind Model), SS-Obergruppenführer Bittrich, of the II.SS Pz Korps, Major Knaust and SS-Brigadeführer Harmel of the 10. SS Pz Division.

    Villa Heselbergh.jpg
    The Villa Heselbergh that harboured the HQ of 9. SS Pz Division. In September 1944 the SS took the building over from the Feldkommandantur 642 of General-major Kussin, the local military commander, who was killed at Wolfheze on Sept 17th. The Villa Heselbergh no longer exists. It was destroyed in 1945 and a new construction was build on the site after the war. It was located at the Braamweg 1, next to the Apeldoornseweg, on the northern outskirts of Arnhem (courtesy erik12 & Arnhem, Apeldoornseweg 1910-1920 – Oud-Arnhem). Attached a post-war picture of the damaged villa.


    On 27 Sept 44 Heeresgruppe B issued the formal order for the counter-attack to the 1. Fallschirm Armee (Student). Three Army Corps were involved: the II. Fallschirm Korps to the east of Nijmegen/south of the Waal, the II.SS Pz Korps on 'The Island' and the XII.SS Korps. The latter operated from the north bank of the Neder Rijn west of Arnhem and on the south bank near Kesteren/Ochten, i.e. the area where the two rivers Neder Rijn and Waal approach to within a few miles of each other. These three army Corps were to launch coordinated attacks that had to cut off the Allied concentration at Nijmegen by an advance south of the Waal, from Groesbeek to the Maas-Waal Canal (II. Fallschirm Korps) and a converging attack north of the Waal against the Nijmegen bridgehead from the east and west (II. SS Pz and XII. SS Korps respectively).


    For this thread I am much indebted to Horsapassenger, who kindly provided me with copies of War Diaries, and Steve Mac who cooperated by writing some posts on the 50th Division’s counter-attack at Bemmel. Without their valuable assistance, this thread would not have been the same. The same accounts for WW2talk member 'Nijmegen'. He most kindly gave me permission to make use of his aerials and other documents.

    (1) In reality there wasn't much of a threat. After the stalling of “Market-Garden” the Allies (21st Army Group), from September 27th onwards, were focusing on an offensive operation towards the east from Nijmegen, codenamed "Op Gatwick". The "Gatwick"plan revolved around the intent to secure an intact crossing of the Rhine in the area of the north-western fringes of the Ruhr (Wesel), upstream from Nijmegen. “Gatwick” was never implemented, as subsequent events overwhelmed the intent to initiate it. The plan had to be shelved until after the operations to open Antwerp had been “finished” and the enemy had been pushed “back over the Meuse” around Deurne-Venlo. In January 1945, “Gatwick” had become a formal part of Montgomery’s scheme for “Veritable”.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2023
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Arnhem vs Nijmegen bridgehead

    The German hold on the battle area of The Island actually also was a bridgehead. Von Rundstedt, the OBWest, in early October 1944 referred to it as 'Brueckenkopf Arnheim' (Arnhem bridgehead). The German bridgehead was only accessible by the (recaptured) Arnhem bridge and by ferry sites at Huissen (Looveer) and Pannerden (Pannerdensch Veer). The ferry at Huissen had been scuttled by the Dutch ferryman and the one at Pannerden disappeared underwater with tank and all on 19 September, in an attempt to transfer the first Panzer IV of the 10 SS across the river. Afterwards the Germans troops used various make-shift or improvised rafts to cross the river at these ferry sites, including a craft composed of two barges capable of transferring tanks. Soon after the start of the German October assault all of these access points obviously became focal points for the Allied Air.

    Pannerdensch Kanaal.jpg
    German infantry reinforcements are ferried across the Pannerdensch Canal to The Island with storm boats (courtesy BOIC:

    The German bridgehead initially encompassed the villages of Elden, Elst, Huissen and Bemmel as the most important. Elst was lost to them on Sept 25th after several days of bitter street fighting with the 43rd Wessex Div. That same day the village of Bemmel was captured by the 5th East Yorkshires of 69 Bde (50 Division). Next day an attack by the 6th and 7th Green Howards expanded the hold of the 69 Bde on Bemmel; the 7th Green Howards secured the area of Heuvel, while the 6th Green Howards advanced to the area of Baal, both to the north and east of Bemmel. The 6th Green Howards, however, failed to gain Haalderen, a village hard east of Bemmel. To the south of this village, on the bank of the Waal River, lay a number of brickworks. The tall chimneys of these factories were used as enemy observation points (OPs), from where interdictory fire could be directed onto the Nijmegen bridge (see post # 55).

    Bridgehead Nijmegen.jpg

    The Allied positions at the end of September 1944 were as follows:
    Allied positions 1 Oct.png

    On 29 September 1944 General Thomas of the 43rd Wessex Division was made responsible for the defence of The Island. The 5th Guards Bde (Guards Arm.Div) and 69th Bde (50 Div.) were placed under his command.

    The II. SS-Pz Korps' plan of attack:
    German plan of attack 2.png

    To ensure proper coordination of the counterattack all German units on The Island were placed under command of Bittrich's II. SS Pz Korps. To allow Bittrich to devote his attention exclusively to the conduct of the upcoming operation, the headquarters of XII.SS Korps assumed command over all German forces along the Neder Rijn west of Arnhem on Sept 27th. The II. Fallschirmjäger Korps was responsible for the line south of the Waal River. The main effort of Bittrich's operation lay with the 9. and 116. Pz Division. On the left (east), the 9. Pz was to attack from a staging area south of Huissen, known as Het Zand and De Hoeve; on the right the 116. Pz operated from Elden. First objective was to recapture Elst, followed by a drive southwards to the Waal River to seize the Nijmegen bridge. The 10. SS Pz Division, so much depleted in strength by that time that the Germans referred to it as KG Frundsberg, was to conduct a holding attack on Bemmel.

    The start of the operation had to be postponed several times, due to difficulties in assembling the 9. and 116. Pz Divisions. Allied bombing and lack of petrol caused considerable delay in the scheduled assembly of troops and equipment of both divisions, which were re-routed by train and road transport from fighting the Americans at Aachen. The II. SS Pz Korps' attack, originally set for Sept 29th, therefore was shifted to the 30th and finally set for October 1st. On the latter date, Heeresgruppe B stipulated, the operation was to commence regardless of preparations being completed. As the target date arrived, the 116. Pz Division still was far from complete. The operation of this formation was therefore postponed until the evening of 1st Oct. Even then, only one Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 116. Pz Division had arrived. Both Panzer Divisions arrived without their organic tank units and had to be patched up by armoured units already present in the area.

    As a result of the problems encountered in assembling the assault formations and Model's insistence to rapidly proceed with the operation, the German counterattack, instead of a well-massed, concerted effort, was frittered away into a series of local counterattacks. From 28 September onwards, the II. Fallschirmjäger Korps launched a series of assaults south of the Waal River against the Allied positions east of Nijmegen. Because of the delays in the preparations of II.SS Pz Korps, this turned to be an isolated affair and soon petered out. Though the XII.SS-Korps carried out some local diversionary attacks across the Neder-Rijn near Doorwerth and Wageningen, the scheduled main attack of this Corps against the western part of the Nijmegen Bridgehead started several days after the main assault of II.SS Pz Korps, because of the late arrival of the 363rd VGD. By that time the II.SS Pz.Korps' attack already had passed its high-water mark. Nevertheless, all attacks were carried out vigorously and where they struck, the British (and Americans) were hard pressed. German artillery and mortar fire were especially heavy and on a scale not experienced since the days of Normandy.

    Map taken from the Military Study of the 10th SS with dispositions of the German Divisions. The 9th and 116th Pz Divs were far from complete when the attack started and had to be patched up with other units, hence they are indicated on the map as KGr. = Kampfgruppe (= composite task force for a specific mission):
    Map 10SS Oct 44.jpg

    Index Map Betuwe.jpg

    The thread follows the sequence of the initial enemy assaults on 1st October, which were delivered in piecemeal fashion, then concentrates on the area west of Arnhem, following the actions through until 6 Oct 44, and ends with the battles around Bemmel (2 - 7 Oct). Below the engagements as described in this thread (numbers correspond with the numbers in the map above):

    1. Counterattack at De Heuvel Oct 1st : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    2. The Irish Guards at Aam 1 & 2 Oct : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    3. Attack on Elst Oct 1st : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    4. The fight for 'De Laar' 1 & 2 Oct : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    5. KG Zander's attack on Driel 3 - 5 Oct : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    6. Isolating the Battlefield, Allied air attacks 2 Oct : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    7. The battle for Bemmel and Haalderen 2 - 7 Oct : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    8. The Arnhem bridge is destroyed 7 Oct : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944

    Annex I : The counterattack through the eyes of OB West : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    Annex II : Foreign Military Study '9th Panzer Division, Oct 1944', MS P-161 : NIJMEGEN BRIDGEHEAD: II.SS Pz Corps' counterattack in October 1944
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 7th Green Howards at Heuvel farm, Oct 1st, 1944

    In early morning of Oct 1st, the 9. Pz Division opened the offensive against the British positions to the north of Bemmel from the area south of Huissen, with an attack against the postions of the 69 Bde (50 Div.) and 5 Guards Bde (Guards Arm.Div) at Heuvel and Aam. Upon arrival the Pz Division took over command of the battlegroups Knaust and Bruhn, ad hoc formations composed of reserve and depot infantry, which previously had engaged the British Airbornes. Since the division's tank units had yet to arrive, a company of heavy Tiger II 's (Königstiger or King Tiger) of the s.Pz.Abteilung 506 was attached. In the waterlogged zone of attack, cut by numerous watercourses, movement of vehicles was restricted to a few small roads and dikes and it soon turned out that the heavy cumbersome Tigers were no real asset. Advanced HQ of the 9.Pz Division was established in the 'Klein Houthuizen' farm, just to the north of Huissen (the farmbuilding no longer exists).

    The buildup of the German assault formations prior to the attack had not gone unnoticed. Movement of tracked vehicles behind the enemy lines was reported all along the British front during the night to 1st October 1944. The first intimation of the enemy scheme, came at 03:10 hours, when a German probing attack was launched by battlegroup Knaust. A combat patrol, estimated at 30 - 40 men, approached the 'Aamsche Bridge' across the small Linge River from the direction of Rijkerswoerd. It probably had to secure the bridge and take out the British strong-point around a fly-over, known as the 'Elster Bridge', across the unfished motorway, connecting Arnhem and Nijmegen. The attackers were driven off by the forward company of the Irish Guards.

    Artist's impression of Tiger II tanks of the 2./s.Pz.Abteilung 506 moving across the Arnhem Bridge into the Betuwe (or The Island) to support the 9. Pz Division at Huissen (courtesy Finale at Arnhem, Holland, 24th September 1944 by David Pentland. -

    Some hours later, the opening blow of the German offensive was delivered further to the east by the 9. Pz Division against the 7th Green Howards, the left hand battalion of 69 Bde (50 Div). The 9. Pz Division had organised itself into two assault groups: Battlegroup Volker on the left, which consisted of the II./Pz.Gren Regt 11; and Battlegroup Reich to the right, formed by the II./Pz.Gren Regt 10. Unfortunately the 9. Pz Division's mission is not clear from the sparse available documents. Most likely Elst was given as a first target, whence the division was to move further south towards Lent and the Nijmegen bridge. It is likely that the left wing of the division (Battlegroup Volker) was to bypass Elst to the east, by way of Ressen. First to strike was the Battlegroup Volker, supported by a company of heavy Tiger II tanks of the s.Pz Abteilung 506. They hit the Green Howards at 'Heuvel'.

    Dawn on October 1st was grey and misty. The 7th Green Howards were in position around Heuvel - a collection of farm buildings and small orchards around a slight elevation in the ground (1 - 1,5 meters), hence called Heuvel (= Hill). Since the CO had been wounded on 30 Sept 1944, Major Morgan F.P. Lloyd was commanding the battalion. The Regimental History of the Green Howards states [Story of the Green Howards by Synge]: "At 5 a.m. on October 1, tanks were heard approaching from the north-west and at 05.30 a.m. the full fury of the German counter-attack struck the Battalion. Preceded by a heavy mortar and artillery barrage, groups of rifle men and Spandau teams loomed up through the early morning mist, and were soon within fifty yards of the forward companies. These were later followed by tanks, twelve of which attacked on the front of 'B' and 'C' Companies. Two of these were knocked out but the remainder succeeded in forcing there way between these two companies. 'C' Company was forced to give ground, thereby exposing 'A' Company, which was left in an isolated position. This was the situation at 7 a.m., and from that hour until they were relieved by the 5th East Yorkshires at 11 p.m. that night, the Green Howards fought company by company, and section by section, against continuous pressure from the enemy on all sides."

    7 Gr Howards Den Heuvel.png
    Situation Map for 1 Oct 45. On 30 September 1944, just prior to the enemy counter-attack, the 5th East Yorks at Bemmel were relieved by the 6th Bn HLI and moved into a reserve position. The 6th HLI, part of the 52nd Lowland Division, was temporarily attached to the 69 Bde (50 Div); it was the first frontline experience of the battalion.

    For his handling of the 7th Green Howards during the day, Major Morgan F.P. Lloyd, acting CO, received an immediate DSO:
    award 6 Lloyd.png award 6a Lloyd.png
    CSM Patrick Murphy of 'C' Coy, 7th Green Howards, accounted for an enemy tank which was threatening his Coy's position. He received a MM for his actions:
    award 25 Murphy.png
    Lieutenant D.G. Thorne of the 55th Field Regiment R.A.received a M.C. for his actions in support of 'B' Coy 7th Green Howards:
    41482111.jpg 14820406.jpg
    Driver John William Oliver of the 186 Field Ambulance RAMC during 1st Oct made numerous dangerous trips to the R.A.P. in order to evacuate the wounded and received a MM for this:
    award 35 Oliver.png

    The Green Howards bravely stood their ground. In the afternoon, the Brigade Commander decided to call forward his reserve battalion, the 5th East Yorks, which took up position NW of Bemmel. In addition a further troop of tanks was sent in support of the Green Howards. Major Lloyd personally directed them against a dangerous enemy infiltration in the 'D' Coy area, at Vergert. At 1800 hours 5 East Yorks, with a squadron of 13/18 Hussars and supported by 124 Field Regiment, advanced to the relief of the hard pressed 7th Bn Green Howards. The East Yorks received information that the 7th Green Howards were unlikely to hold out long enough for them to arrive in time, and began to dig in short of the Green Howard's positions. Then, as a result of the weight of fire put down by 124 Field Regiment and 43 Division, the position eased, and the Green Howards reported that the position could be held provided the 5th East Yorks came up immediately. At 2300 hours the relieve was completed. The enemy attack was repelled. Though 'B' Coy, 7th Green Howards had held its ground, the East Yorks abandoned the Heuvel area because of the proximity of the enemy. Heuvel remained no man's land (see # 9 of this thread for a report of 5 East Yorks). The 69 Bde, not without reason, proudly reported "the 7th Green Howards fought a magnificent all day battle against repeated enemy attacks, the right fwd Company being overrun in the early afternoon and infiltration having taken place between the fwd and rear Companies during the evening". The German assault had foundered with heavy losses. One of the companies of the battlegroup Volker (7./Pz.Gren.Rgt 11) at the end of the day only had 11 men left out of the original 120 with which it started in the morning.

    The 50 Div's intell report of 2 October gives further proof of the gallant stand of 69 Bde: "Having failed yesterday to make any appreciable progress in the heavy attacks delivered in the area north-east of Bemmel, the enemy today faltered in his efforts, and although an attack was delivered during the night and two again this morning, it is clear that yesterday's attack was to be the enemy's main effort and that its complete failure has forced the enemy to reconsider his plan of the attack on the Nijmegen Bridge and to regroup and reorganise his forces for a further attack."

    Map of the 9. Pz Division's attacks on 1st Oct & map of the area between Elst & Huissen:
    9th Pz Div attacks 1st Oct.jpg

    Heuvel area map.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 69 Bde SITREP of October 2nd, 1944, gives a detailed account of the attack against the 7th Green Howards positions (Courtesy of Michael O'Neill, who put a link to the War Diary on the forum http://www.ww2talk.c...ept-1944-a.html) :


    The 7th Green Howards were pretty well cut up after the day of fighting. According to the War Diary casualties for the day were 8 killed, 29 wounded and 14 missing - 8 of the latter turned out to be taken prisoner. Eventually casualties for 1 October were :poppy::

    011 NIXG H 14584786 7TH BN 01/10/1944 GREEN HOWARDS (YORKSHIRE REGIMENT)
    013 SMITH, HTL 14327993 01/10/1944 ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS (Attd. GREEN HOWARDS)

    Two more soldiers died of wounds several days after the battle and were buried at Jonkersbosch War Cemetery :poppy::

    Today, six of the Green Howard casualties are still missing, their names are engraved on the Groesbeek Memorial Wall at the Canadian War Cemetery at Groesbeek:
    Pvt Asworth, Dixon Lynn - age 23
    Cpl Bentley, George Rowland - age 24
    Pvt Midworth, John Arthur -age 24
    Pvt Moon, Henry -age 21
    Pvt Pybus, John William -age 32
    Pvt Wareing, James - age 33

    The 6th Green Howards had one man missing in action on 1 October :poppy::

    Since the rest of the 6th Green Howards was in reserve around Ressen, he probably was a member of 'B' Company, which was attached to the 7th Green Howards and was in position to the north of Bemmel. His name also is listed on the Groesbeek Memorial.

    Aerial of Heuvel.png
    Aerial of the Heuvel area with courtesy of Nijmegen. To mount the attack on the GreenHowards' positions around the 'De Heuvel' farm the German armour probably crossed the Linge/Wetering Canal by the 'Karbrug' bridge, which is visible to the center right at the top of the aerial.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2022
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Heuvel area today

    Heuvel 1.png
    'Heuvel' as seen from Vergert - the area where 'D'Coy was in position. The farm is build on a slight rise in the ground, which is known as 'Heuvel' - The Hill. 'B' Coy of the Green Howards was in position around the farm. On this side of the farm buildings, to the left of the road, was an orchard where no. 11 Platoon, the right hand platoon of 'B' Company, had taken up position (see contemporary map below). The paved road is the Heuvelsche straat. Most of the orchards nowadays are gone.

    Heuvel 2.png
    View 'up-hill' from the roadside south of the Heuvel Farm. To the left the Chapel "Onze Lieve Vrouw van de Bloeiende Betuwe" (Our Lady of the blooming Betuwe).

    Heuvel 3.png
    Chapel "Onze Lieve Vrouw van de Bloeiende Betuwe". This small chapel was build in 1946 and is dedicated to the battle that raged in this area. Probably not as well known as the tradition at Menin Gate at Ypres, but every week since it was built fresh flowers are placed in the chapel . See also: Memorial Chapel Bemmel - Bemmel -

    Betuwe bloei 1.jpg
    Although the number of orchards has drastically decreased, the Betuwe is wrapped in a white robe of blossom each springtime; an event that even now-a-days attracts day tourists from all over the country.

    Heuvel 4.png
    View to the northwest from Heuvel towards Arnhem, which is visible in the distance. Also visible are the modern motorway between Arnhem - Nijmegen and the small Linge River.

    Heuvel 6.png
    Heuvel from the German perpective. The narrow road leading from the bridge over the Linge River to Heuvel, the farm is visible at the end of the road. 'B' Company's positions were around the farm, while 'D' Company was in position at Vergert, to the right. Along this small road and through the orchard, which was to the left of the road, German Tiger tanks and SP guns of the 506 s.Pz.Abteilung approached the British position at the Heuvel farm. Two of the Tiger tanks ended up in the ditches alongside this road and were abandoned - see pictures in post #7.

    Heuvel 5.png
    The small Linge River - partly canalized in this area, hence Wetering Canal - almost bi-sects the Betuwe. The German attacks had to cross this water-obstacle. This picture was taken from the small bridge hard north of 'Heuvel' - view to the west towards the modern motorway. The Aamsche bridge, which gave access to Aam was in the back-ground; to the left, in the far distance, the church-tower of Elst is visible. The tower dominates much of the landscape and was used by the British as an artillery OP.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    A contemporary map of the Heuvel area shows that, in contrast to now, the area was covered with orchards, which gave the ground a broken character, even though it is deadflat. The Betuwe was (and part of it still is) the fruit barn of Holland.


    Cherry orchard near Huis de Karbrug
    Karbrug Orchard.png

    Another cherry orchard at Aam.
    Aam Orchard.png

    sPz_Abt 506Tiger II.jpg Camouflaged Pz Elden aa.jpg
    Left: Around Huissen and Elden, the jump off positions of the German attack, the orchards were even more abundant, which afforded the Germans, operating under Allied-dominated skies, desperately needed concealment. Tiger II tanks of the s.Pz Abteilung 506 (506th Heavy Tank Battalion) under cover in an orchard in the Autumn of 1944. The shot probably was taken near Aachen but nevertheless gives a good impression of the circumstances on the Island (with courtesy of 506.htm); Right: a heavily camouflaged German tank in an orchard near Elden. Note the piles of fallen apples on the ground, they were not harvested that autumn; the stench of rotten apples must have been considerable (courtesy: Beeldbank (Gelders Archief) - Gelders Archief)

    A post-war picture taken from the 'Karbrug' bridge of the destroyed 'Huis de Karbrug' farm. The German armour crossed the Linge/Wetering Canal by the 'Karbrug' bridge to mount the attack on the Green Howards' positions around the 'Heuvel' farm.

    Karbrug 1.jpg
    The Karbrug in the main road between Huissen and Bemmel still exists and has recently been provided with a memorial plaque in three languages (Dutch, English and German)
    Karbrug 2.jpg
    English text:
    Karbrug 3.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    'B' Company, 7th Green Howards, versus Tiger II's at Heuvel

    Attached a handwritten account of the day's fighting as seen by Major J.Hunter, CO of 'B' Coy, 7th Green Howards. His company, as one of the forward companies of the Battalion, bore the brunt of the attack. It is filed as an annex to the War Diary of the 7th Green Howards (courtesy of Michael O'Neil). The old 'D' Coy position mentioned at the beginning of the account, where a standing patrol was established, was located in the orchard north of Heuvel farm, at 739698. Also note that, according to the account, 'B' Coy at the start of the day had a mere 60 men (!). At 1045 hrs 'B' Coy reported that it was pinned down by four Tiger II tanks, which had closed in on the position. By 1145 all companies of the 7th Green Howards were in close contact with the enemy.

    WO_171_1303_0176.jpg WO_171_1303_0177.jpg WO_171_1303_0178.jpg

    The positions of the German tanks in the 'B' Company area as indicated in Major Hunter's account. The tanks most likely attacked across the Karbrug, next to Huis de Karbrug, as this bridge was strong enough to carry the heavy weight of the Tigers. Some of the tanks moved across-country through the orchards toward the Heuvel farm. Seriously hampered by the boggy ground, the tanks remained in these positions for the rest of the day, until they started to pull out at 1800 hours. They were spotted by Lt.De LasCasas of No. 1 Squadron, 2nd Irish Guards. His troop of Shermans was hidden in the orchard at Vergert (see the excerpt of the Regt History of the Irish Guards - p. 522, post # 11 below). On the first day of the attack the heavy Tiger tanks did not prove to be very effective. Some eight tanks were lost on the first day; two were knocked out by the British, the rest bogged down in the mud or broke down with mechanical failure and were later retrieved. For this reason the 2./506 was withdrawn from the Island on 3 October.

    Tiger 203.jpg
    The Tiger tank which had been situated on the road at 738696 hit one of the British Mk IV mines as it was pulling out and heeled over into the ditch. The tank, number 203, belonged to the 2./506. The picture of the ditched Tiger was taken by members of the 101st Airborne Division, who later occupied the area. Two of the ponderous King Tigers of the s.Pz.Abteilung were KO'd in the attack on Heuvel on Oct 1st. The reports on German tank losses are a bit confusing, the total for the day, according to 69 Bde, was seven tanks, all Panthers or Tigers and 1 SP gun. The problem is I only found phototgraphs of two knocked out Tiger tanks. I wonder if anyone could help out (other pictures, or aerials of the area showing the knocked out tanks would be very helpful).

    Tiger II demolished.jpg
    WW2talk member Sol pointed out this picture to me, which he took from Marcel Zwarts' "German Armored Units At Arnhem, September 1944". The caption in this book reads: "The first Tiger II was destroyed by five PIAT hits. Around 10:30 on 1 October, a soldier from the 11th Platoon disabled it with a PIAT. This occurred about 70 meters north of Heuvel farm and close to number 03, shown in the top photo. It would seem that after being hit, the tank, which was fitted with a Henschel turret, was blown up because little of it remains intact (...)". This is not the same Tiger as the no.203, as I previously assumed. The tank is ditched on the other side of the road and has its gun-barrel still intact, whereas the 203's is broken. Typical for the s.Pz.Abteilung 506 was that the company digit was painted on the left, the other on the right of the 'Balkenkreuz'. The 2./506 had red numbers with a white outline.

    TigerII  s_Pz_Abt 506.jpg

    Moving Tiger II at Saumur:

    Other attachments (courtesy of "Kroniek van de Bevrijding 1944 - 1945, the war time diary of Chaplain Van der Voort of Bemmel"):

    Heuvel sketch.png
    1) Situation map of the Heuvel area giving the positions of the buildings as of 1945.

    Tiger II at Heuvel 3.png
    2) Another shot of the ditched Tiger II no. 203 at the Heuvel farm. A German field grave is visible in front of it. The destroyed barn in the background nowadays is the location of the Chapel next to the Heuvel farm. To the right the remnants of the orchard occupied by B Co/7th Green Howards.

    Heuvel 7.png
    3) Desolation of the battlefield. The remains of one of the many fallen German soldiers in the Heuvel area. Even in the summer of 1945 many corpses were still left unburied, because of the danger of mines. The German casualties in the Bemmel area were collected on the municipal cemetery of Bemmel, where they got a temporary grave. In 1957 they were re-interred at the German Military Cemetery at IJsselstein. The number of German burials at the Bemmel cemetery eventually reached 300.

    4) Small footpath leading up to the damaged three cottages at Heuvel. The houses were completely destroyed in the British counter-attack later that week. Note the overgrown state of the ground. Many mines and explosives were still hidden in the tall grass. Today the cottages have gone (see post # 33).

    Heuvel 8.png
    5) Knocked out F.O.O. carrier attached to the 1st Dorsets near the Heuvel Farm.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2022
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 10. SS supports the attack from the east, Oct 1st, 44

    In the afternoon of October 1st, the two battle groups that constituted the 10. SS Pz Division, the SS Pz Grenadier regiments 21 and 22, launched an attack against the British right flank at Bemmel from the area of Baal - Haalderen. That of the Pz Gren Regt 22 on Bemmel was supported by tanks. The attack struck the positions of the 6th HLI, which had taken over from the 5th East Yorks the previous day and experienced its first day in the frontline. The 69 Bde SITREP of 2 Oct [see above, post # 7] states: "1525 hrs 6 HLI reported that fwd coys were being attacked by inf and tks (.) one tk overturned and wrecked by A Tk fire and attack was repulsed by 1620 hrs though small numbers of inf continued to attempt to infiltrate between leading coys and had to be mopped up".

    An hour later a more serious situation developed as a German attack hit A and C coys of the 7th Green Howards [SS Pz Gren Regt 21 from Baal?]: "at 1720 hrs under cover of a smoke screen at 743690 a further enemy attack was launched against A and C coys and fwd coys were isolated (.) At 1800 5 E Yorks moved fwd to counterattack and restore position as of first light (.) Meanwhile posn with 7 Green Howards was growing more serious (.) heavy arty conc by div arty and 124 Fd Regt was put down to immediate front of 7 Green Howards fwd coys and on north flank (.) This conc was very succesful and fell in area of enemy main conc (.) Enemy remaining commenced to withdraw and situation in fwd coys of 7 Green Howards improved". According to Harmel, in his combat report of the 10. SS Pz Div, the Pz Gren Regt 21 succeeded "in pushing forward as far as the road north out of Bemmel and repulsing all immediately launched enemy counterattacks at Houtakker". Harmel errs, Houtakker remained in British hands, but the SS infantry most likely captured the crossroads hard NE of the road fork called Laatste Stuiver, on the seam between A and C Coys.

    In late afternoon the sky cleared sufficiently for the Allied air to intervene and immediately Typhoons swooped down from the sky chasing enemy tanks and infantry among the orchards. They also targeted the ferry site at Pannerden and enemy artillery positions to the east side of the river.

    Sketch of the positions around Bemmel
    Positions around Bemmel - Den Heuvel.png

    Fragment of the War Diary of the HLI:
    P1360063 a.jpg

    A newspaper article re the 6th HLI snipers action at Bemmel & thumbnail Medal Group of Sgt Millar including the MM he later earned for his actions at Ibbenbühren, Germany (courtesy Mark Abbot):

    HLI snipers on the mark.jpg


    Losses for the 6th HLI had been comparatively light. On October 1st the battalion had two men killed, both rest at the Oosterbeek War Cemetery :poppy::

    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 5th East Yorks take over at Heuvel, Oct 1st, 44

    In the afternoon of 1st Oct, 1944, the 5th East Yorks took up a reserve position behind the hard pressed 7th Green Howards. Later that afternoon, at about 1630 hours, the East Yorks were ordered to relieve the 7th Green Howards, which, though severely attacked by enemy tanks, infantry and subjected to heavy shellfire, had held off all attempts to dislodge them from Heuvel. At 1800 hours the battalion supported by a squadron of the 13/18 Hussars advanced to the relief of the Green Howards. At 2300 hours the relieve was completed. The Green Howards were safely extricated, but Heuvel was not occupied again because of the proximity of the enemy. The area remained a no man's land, though the enemy was known to be close by.

    Report of the 5th East Yorks "Operations in the Nijmegen Bridgehead, 24 Sept - 2 Oct 1944", courtesy of Amberdog:
    Pg%201.jpg Pg%202.jpg Pg%203.jpg Pg%204.jpg Pg%205.jpg Pg%206.jpg
    The report errs in dates. AFAIK 5 East Yorks were relieved by 6 HLI at Bemmel on 30 September 1944 and moved back into a reserve position south of the Ouden Hof farm. The battalion then relieved 7 Green Howards in late afternoon/evening of October 1st. In the afternoon of Oct 2nd the East Yorks in turn were relieved by elements of the 1st Hampshire and 2nd Devons (231 Bde) and moved back into quarters at Nijmegen. Besides that, the information seems OK. Below: map of the positions occupied by the 5th East Yorks on Oct 1st,1944. Note that the area around Heuvel Farm was lost, as well as the crossroads of the Kruisstraat/Karweg, this also applied to the orchards in between, along the Heuvelsestraat, which also were occupied by the Germans.

    East Yorks 1st Oct 44.png

    Over the next few days the orchards at Vergert remained a trouble-spot. Enemy troops established themselves in the orchards and houses just north of the road and constantly used these as a sallyport to infiltrate the British positions in this area.

    Thumbnail: When 'C' Company on the morning of 2 Oct suffered casualties from severe shelling at Vergert and almost all of the Company officers became casualties, RSM Frederick Gibson accompanied by the Bn snipers were send forward to bolster the defence. RSM Gibson immediately organized an attack against the infiltrated enemy. For his actions he was awarded the MC.
    award 5 Gibson.png

    A search on Geoff's search machine reveals that the 5th East Yorks had the following casualties for Oct 2nd, 1944. They all rest at the Oosterbeek War Cemetery :poppy::
    001 INMAN FB 14351954 5TH BN 01/10/1944 - - 02/10/1944 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
    002 NICHOLSON E 3133353 5TH BN 01/10/1944 - - 02/10/1944 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
    003 WOOLLEN BM 14660397 5TH BN 02/10/1944 EAST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Baal area today

    The area around Baal has changed significantly since WWII. It is described by the History of the 50th Division as "not easy country in which to fight, for it is very enclosed - not unlike that of Hottot, only flatter and intersected with many wide and deep ditches". Most of the original landscape however has gone, many orchards no longer exist; the land is sacrificed to the ceaseless building drive of Bemmel and split up by new roads and a recently built railway line.

    Baal view from the northwest with a small part of the NW orchard along the 'Kruisstraat' (now Baalsestraat) still standing. The German attack, launched in late afternoon of 1st October, came from the direction of Baal. The orchard and Baal were held by the 10th SS Pz Division.

    View from Baal to the west, towards Bemmel. The farm house is indicated on the map in post # 9 as Mariendaal.

    The only orchard I could find at Baal is the one along the Baalsestraat. It gives an impression of the closeness of the ground in those days. Today - which is a Sunday - this orchard is 'gesloten' (closed).

    To the northwest of Baal just across the modern railroad the old crossroads of the Kruisstraat with the Karstraat still exists (nowadays Dikkelsestraat - Heuvelsestraat). It lay at the junction of 'A' and 'C' companies of the 7th Green Howards. 'A' Coy was situated around the 'Laatste Stuiver' road fork which has disappeared, but was just across the modern railwayline. This is the spot where the attack of the 10.SS in late afternoon of October 1st penetrated between the company positions. To the left the new railroad (gray noise barrier), beyond it is Bemmel.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Irish Guards at Aam (Oct 1st, 1944)

    To the left of the 7th Green Howards, the 3rd Bn Irish Guards was also struck by the counterattack of the 9. Pz Division on the morning of October 1st. The Irish Guards had taken up position at Aam - a hamlet hard east of Elst, described by the Irish Guards history as "an undistinguished and uninviting group of farms and brick houses on a rough road two miles to the east of the main road to Arnhem". The battalion had taken over Aam from the 1st Bn Welsh Guards on 28 September. The Irish Guards' companies occupied positions on and around the high embankment of an unfinished motorway which was to connect Arnhem with Nijmegen (the course of which is marked by the green line on the map). The position was backed up by tanks of no. 2 Squadron, 2nd Bn Irish Guards. It was the assault of Battlegroup Reich, the right wing formation of the 9. Pz, composed of infantry of the 10. Pz.Gren.Regt., that hit the British positions to the east of the unfinished motorway.

    As with the Green Howards at Heuvel, the German counterattack at Aam was repulsed with heavy losses for the attacker by the evening of October 1st. For a detailed account of the events around Aam, see the attached excerpt of the Regimental History of the 3rd Irish Guards:

    001a.jpg 002a.jpg 003a.jpg 004a.jpg 005a.jpg 006a.jpg 007a.jpg 008a.jpg 009a.jpg 010a.jpg 011a.jpg

    Posities Aam 1.png
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Aam area today

    The high embankment leading to the bridge over the motorway, also known as "Elster bridge". No. 1 Coy was in position on and around the embankment. The position was reinforced by 17-pdr guns. Picture taken from the Lingestraat with a view to the southeast. The Linge Wetering Canal is in the forefront.

    Elster Bridge.jpg
    The "Elster Bridge" as seen from the motorway (courtesy of street view). The concrete bridge structure dates from 1941. View to the south towards Nijmegen. The second passover in the distance is the bridge in the Breedlersestraat at Aam. To the left of the motorway, just beyond the "Elster bridge" and barely visible through the trees, are the contours of the first farm building of "Het Nieuwslag", where no.4 Coy was in position. A knocked out Panther tank was abandoned under the bridge. It later was used by the Germans as a listening post. Unfortunately, thusfar I did not find any pictures of knocked out tanks around Aam.

    Standing on the embankment and looking back to the south towards the positions of no.1 Coy Irish Guards, which were located astride the embankment and in and around the farm house and orchard. To the right the latest expansion of Elst is threatening the area.

    Same position as of the previous picture, now looking west towards the main road running north out of Elst towards Armhem. The trees on the right mark the course of the Linge or Wetering Canal. Contact patrols of the 4 Somerset Light Infantry failed to make contact with the Guards at Aam, owing to enemy infiltration into this area.

    Stonk Hall.jpg
    Aam: The 'Tillenhof' farm, the site of the Bn HQ of the Irish Guards, nick-named "Stonk Hall" (courtesy of Street View). The farm building that housed the headquarters was rebuild after the war. At the time this picture was taken it was abandoned and in decay.

    The farm house recently has been incorporated into a Garden center. The roofless old barn is inside the green-house and serves as the restaurant - excellent coffee.

    Across the motorway, the farmhouses of Het Nieuwslag were defended by No.4 Coy of the Irish Guards. Picture taken with a view to the north; the trees in the background mark the Linge Wetering Canal.

    Picture taken of the area of no. 3 Coy along the Breedlersestraat. View to the northeast. This area formed the 'gap' between No. 3 Coy of the 3rd Irish Guards and the left-hand Company of the 7th Green Howards ('D' Coy) at Vergert. The Vergert area is marked by the trees in the centre background. The row of trees in the left background mark the Linge Wetering Canal. The enemy infantry attacked Aam over the flat, coverless ground between the Linge Wetering and The Breedlersestraat, which is visible to the right (the car with headlights).

    Nieuwslag from the east as seen by the infantry of the KG Reich, 9. Pz Division. The attackers suffered very heavy losses. Forced to assault the British positions at Aam across open country the enemy infantry presented a perfect target for the British artillery, mortars and machineguns. The location of the barn, which understandably had such a magnetic effect on the German infantry during the second attack on Oct 2, was near the tree in the center of the photograph. The church tower of Elst is clearly visible.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Second attack on Aam (2 Oct 44)

    During the night of 1/2 Oct 1944, the Germans maintained their pressure and in early morning of October 2nd, a renewed assault hit the Irish Guards positions. This time the attackers used the unfinished causeway as their axis of advance (green line on the map).

    Fragment of the War Diary of the 3rd Irish Guards - courtesy of Horsapassenger.
    DSC03075a.jpg DSC03106a.jpg DSC03107a.jpg

    Below a sketch of the operations at Aam on 2 October 1944. Please note that No.2 Coy had switched position with No.1 Coy on the evening of 1st October. That same evening, one Company of the 1st Welsh Guards had been sent forward to reinforce the 3rd Irish Guards' defence and had taken up position North of the Bn HQ. The coordinates of the Coy position, given in the War Diary of the 3rd Irish Guards, are IMO too far north - on the enemy side of the Linge-Wetering Canal - which seems highly unlikely to me. I have positioned the company between the Bn HQ and the Aamsche Pad. Another Welsh Guards Company moved up to reinforce the position at Aam during the morning of 2nd October. This one took up position NW of the Bn HQ.

    Situation Oct 2nd, 1944 b.png

    In this second attack on Aam, the German infantry was supported by eight tanks - reportedly Mk V Panthers. The 9.Pz Division at the time had 45 Panthers in its II.Pz Regt 33, of which 24 were serviceable, the rest being under repair. However, there are indications that none of the 9.Pz Division's Panther companies reached the battlefield in time. The 5. and 6. Companies (together only 7 Panthers) reached Emmerich on October 1st and next day were deployed near Westervoort to the east of the Nederrijn. The 8. Company was deployed in an artillery role near Pannerden, also to the east of the river (locally known as Pannerdens Canal). The whereabouts of the 7. Company are unknown, but the Pz Regt 33 did not report any tank losses during this period. The only armour of the the 9. Pz Division that was engaged on the Island, was that of the Pz.Jg Abt 50, but this unit only arrived on the night of 2/3 October [source: Tim Haasler, History of the Panzerbrigade 105]. The Panthers deployed at Aam, therefore most likely belonged to another unit, which one, however, is unknown.

    Edit: After reading the German combat report of the II.-SS Pz Korps, I got the impression that the German unit that conducted the night attack at Aamsche bridge, formed part of the 156. Pz.Gren.Regt (116. Pz Div). The 156. Pz.Gren.Regt was assigned the task of protecting the right wing of a renewed effort of the 9. Pz Division against Nieuwslag and Aam, by taking out the enemy strong-point at the Aamsche Bridge. The 116. Pz Division was supported by Panther tanks of the 9. SS Pz Division. But the issue is still not settled. KG Knaust also possessed tanks, among which Panther, and therefore is another likely candidate.

    KO's Panther.jpg
    Some of the tanks engaged at Aam were knocked out. Though the location of this picture is unknown - probably not even taken in this area - the landscape is very similar to the polderland of The Island and it demonstrates how low lying water-logged terrain is unsuitable for tank operations (courtesy: Krueger Horst ).

    Aerial of Aam. The highway under construction is clearly visible. (Courtesy of Nijmegen)

    Aireal of the Aam area.png

    Just as at the Heuvel farm, the area of Aam once was covered with many small orchards. These allowed the British to take up concealed defensive positions. Today most orchards have disappeared, only on the west side of the highway there still remain some. Attached two photographs of the orchards along the Aamsepad, where no. 2 Coy was positioned.
    027a.jpg 028a.jpg

    Noisy Panther driving at MilTracks Holland:
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2022
  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    KO'd Panther.png
    A knocked out Panther near Elst ? (exact location unknown).

    The casualties of the Irish Guards suffered during the two-days-operation were :poppy::

    001 BOGGIS BJ 14664830 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    002 CARRUTHERS J 2722126 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    003 CONNOR J 2723341 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    004 DOYLE WJ 14441956 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    005 FORRY J 2724354 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    006 FOX RO 2722593 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    007 FRAIN AF 2719622 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    008 GILHAM LJ 14679953 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    009 GRAYSTON CW 2721896 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    010 GREEN E 2722509 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    011 HOLMES R 14673282 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    012 KENNY ERN 2723969 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    013 MARLER CHJ 2722006 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    014 MATHER T 2723405 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    015 MAXWELL WA 14678822 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    016 MILLERS J 2722057 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    017 PERRY J 2717309 3RD BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    018 THORNLEY JC 2723262 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    019 TOWERS JF 2724368 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    020 VARLEY R 2616031 3RD BN 01/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS

    Two more Irish Guardsmen died of wounds shortly after the battle and were laid to rest at the Jonkersbosch War Cemetery at Nijmegen :poppy::
    021 SAMPEY T 2720546 3RD BN 03/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    022 WATTS AJ 2720212 3RD BN 04/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS

    Losses of the 2nd Bn Irish Guards (armoured Bn) were :poppy::
    001 HOLLAND DC 2723771 2ND BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS
    002 WALKER EA 2722995 2ND BN 02/10/1944 IRISH GUARDS

    During the same period the 1st Welsh Guards suffered the following casualties :poppy::
    001 BEYNON F 2734301 1ST BN 03/10/1944 WELSH GUARDS
    002 HARVEY JA 14335554 1ST BN 02/10/1944 WELSH GUARDS
    003 KIRBY LL 2739233 1ST BN 03/10/1944 WELSH GUARDS
    004 WHITE FW 2735564- 02/10/1944 WELSH GUARDS

    In the Summer of 2013, as part of what is now the 'fast bike path' between Arnhem and Nijmegen, a new cycle bridge has been constructed over the Linge near the old site of the Aamsche Bridge and has been baptised "Irish Guardsbridge". Two small rememberance panels placed next to the bridge, one in Dutch the other in English, tell the story of the battle that raged at Aam:



    The two panels & view of the old site of the Aamsche Bridge, which lay further to the east in line with the Aamsestraat:
    040a.jpg 039a.jpg 042a.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 116.Pz Division hits 129 Bde, 43 Wessex Division, at Elst (Oct 1st, 1944)

    According to the original plan of attack, the 116. Panzer Division, the right hand formation of the II.SS Pz Korps, also was to open the attack before dawn on October 1st. Such was the delay in the assembly of this division, that the attack had to be postponed till the evening. Even then, only one Panzer Grenadier Regiment had reached the battlefield to the south and southwest of Elden - the Pz.Gren.Regt 156, also known as Regimentsgruppe Grollmann, after its CO Major Grollmann. The 116. Panzer Division's mission was to attack astride the railway line Arnhem-Nijmegen and capture the area to the west of Elst.

    The 116. Panzer Division, which established its Tac HQ in the 'Meijnerswijk' brickworks, on the south bank of the Neder Rijn, on 30 September, took under command the Battlegroup Harzer ("Sperrverband Harzer"), holding the high railway embankement to the west of Elden. Though the main attack was postponed, the front in this area remained not inactive. By mid-morning of Oct 1st, 50 sailors of the 5 Coy of 14 Schiffstam Abteilung, which formed part of the Battlegroup Harzer, ventured across the railway embankement near the railroad bridge over the Neder-Rijn. According to the day's Intell Sumary of 43 Wessex Div "[they] were seen off with some ease by our infantry and tanks". The War Diary of the neighboring 5th Dorsets states that at least 22 Germans were killed and 5 taken POW. Was this unhappy lot not informed of the postponement of the operation of the 116. Panzer division? See for some further background of the Schiffstam Abteilung: Defending Arnhem © 2006

    By the evening the two battalions of the Regimentsgruppe Grollmann were ready and launched an attack with Snodenhoek, the area to the north-west of Elst, as their immediate objective. The II./156, which had formed up near Rijkerswoerd, was to strike first to the left of the Arnhem - Elst road (also known as the Griftdijk). It was to be followed shortly after by the I./156, which was to advance on the right and gain a passage over the railroad level crossing near the De Laar farm. Since the Panzer Division had arrived without its own tanks, five Tiger II tanks of the s.Pz Abteilung 506 an four Panthers of the 9th SS Pz. Div were attached in support. The II./156 hit the British defenses along the Linge-Wetering Canal hard north of Elst, a position held by the 4th Somerset Light Infantry; the I./156 struck the 5th Wiltshires at the level crossing.

    4SLI Elst.png
    Map of the counter-attack by Regimentsgruppe Grollmann against the positions of the 4th Somerset Light Infantry on the northern outskirts of Elst. The positions of 'A' and 'B' Company of the 4th Somerset Light Infantry at Elst are indicated. 'C' Company, initially in battalion reserve, later on the 2nd moved up to the level crossing of the main road and railway at the northern end of Elst. The whereabouts of 'D' Coy are unknown, according to the attached History of the 4th SLI it occupied the right hand side of the battalion position; the War Diary of the 4 SLI gives no further data, nor do the Situation Reports of 129 Bde and 43rd Wessex Division. In the course of October 1st, 'C' Company of the 4th Wiltshires, the Bde's reserve battalion, with Carriers and Mortars attached, was ordered to fill the gap between the 4th Somersets and the 5th Wiltshires by occupying the area near De Perk..

    Elst railway crossing.jpg
    A post-war picture of the railway crossing at Elst, where 'C' Coy of the Somersets took up a reserve position on Oct 2nd; view to the north towards Arnhem (courtesy FRITS THORS LEGT LAATSTE MAANDEN VAN DE OORLOG VAST in Beeld en Geluid Version: 0.28)

    Rijksweg Noord Elst spoorwegovergang.jpg
    Same railway crossing different angel

    See also this presentation on You Tube which features the area to the north of Elst and De Laar:

    In December 2019, during a recent road re-construction near the railway overpass, a number of explosives were found and defused; see: Gevonden explosieven - Spoorkruisingen Elst-Noord
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2023 at 12:18 PM
  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Rijkerswoerd Farm still exists, though nowadays it's situated on the edge of the southern suburbs of Arnhem. Like the farm at Heuvel it is build on a slight rise in the ground. Though shallow it made the difference between dry and wet feet in ancient times, when there were no dykes or they were more brittle than nowadays. The Tac HQ of Grollmann's 156 Pz Gren Regt was established at Rijkerswoerd.

    The area over which the II./156 had to advance, as seen from the Linge-Wetering Canal. View to the north. The southern suburbs of Arnhem reach as far as the tree line in the far background. To the right the small road leading up to Rijkerswoerd, known as Rijkerswoerdse Zeeg; indicated as 'track' on the map below. This same area was covered by the direct fire of a section of MMG's of the 4 SLI positioned in the orchard of the farm building near the bridge (see sketch below).

    The area where the main road from Arnhem to Elst crosses the Linge-Wetering Canal is also known as 'Oude Tol' (Old Toll), after a tollhouse dating from the 18th Century, when the Griftdijk was part of a small barge canal that connected Nijmegen with Arnhem. This area was held by two companies of the 4th Somerset Light Infantry on either side of the road. The bridge is visible between the trees. The car in the background is heading for Elst along the main road.

    Linge bridge Elst.jpg
    The road bridge across the Linge - Wetering Canal at the 'Oude Tol'. View to the east.

    A close-up of the road bridge across the Linge - Wetering Canal at the 'Oude Tol'. The British defenses were concentrated on the far, or southern, bank of the Canal. No. 18 Platoon had established defensive positions in and around the farmhouse on the opposite (southern) side of the Canal. See sketch below.

    SLI De Oude Tol.png
    Sketch of the defensive position of No. 18 Platoon of the 4 SLI at the bridge over the Linge Wetering Canal (taken from the British Army Review April 1998, courtesy of Pen and Dagger). Though No.18 Platoon, as part of 'D' Coy, took over the position after the German attacks had subsided, I guess that the setup of the defensive positions would not much changed, those of the heavy support weapons probably remained unchanged.

    Next to the road bridge is the railway bridge across the Linge-Wetering Canal. Picture looking east, the road bridge is visible in the background behind the railway bridge.

    Wetering Canal Elst.jpg
    War-time view of the area between the road and the railway bridge (background). The railway to the right leads to Arnhem. The site of the shattered buildings in the foreground is the same as the one occupied by the white buildings on the previous picture. Note that the Linge/Wetering Canal at the time consisted of two parallel water channels. In the picture, near the railway bridge, British pioneers are busy building a wooden walkway across both channels (courtesy Regt History of the 1st Dorsets)

    Looking north from the railway bridge towards Arnhem. The wooded area to the left of the railway line was held by 'C' Company of the 4th Wiltshires, which had moved into the gap between the 4th Somersets and the 5th Wiltshires. For a couple of days the railway served as front line. Only the tracks seperated the British from the Germans, until, on 3 October, a small party of 'C' Company, led by the Coy CO, Major Robbins, launched a dawn attack across the railway tracks and expelled the Germans from their positions. 33 POW's were taken in this action, those Germans that didn't surrender were killed. For his part in this action Major Robbins earned a MC (see thumbnail).

    award 14 Robbins.png
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2022
  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Excerpt of the Regimental History of the 4th SLI:
    sli00a.jpg sli01a.jpg sli02a.jpg

    The German attack on the position of the 4th Somerset Light Infantry was a complete failure. Though the II./156 reached the houses opposite the 'Oude Tol', it was repulsed with heavy losses. On the night of 2/3 October a renewed effort was launched, but again the German infantry were unable to carry the British position. On Oct 3rd, the War Diary of the 4th SLI mentions at 1900 hours: "enemy strongpoint at the bridge destroyed by shell fire". Next day, October 4th, 'A' Coy of the 4th SLI counterattacked the area to the north of the canal and drove the Germans back to point 9.5, halfway between de 'Oude Tol' and 'De Gouden Klomp'. 'A' Coy took 37 POWs in this attack.

    However, losses among the British infantry also were severe. Not in the least caused by heavy artillery and mortar fire, which was reported as 'intense' throughout the German counterattack. The 4th Somerset Light Infantry had 105 casualties during the first 5 days of October 1944, of these 20 were KIA.

    A search on Geoff's search machine reveals the following casualties :poppy::

    001 ASHLEY WK 14423903 4TH BN 02/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    005 DAVIS OHF 5674945 4TH BN 04/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    006 FLOWER GE 5669259 4TH BN 04/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    007 GILES FW 5671583 4TH BN 03/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    008 GILES RG 14704172 4TH BN 02/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    009 GINGELL HW 5340734 4TH BN 01/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    010 GUEST JH 14433884 4TH BN 03/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    011 LAND WE 5673123 4TH BN 04/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    012 MARSHALL JB 14228427 4TH BN 04/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    013 MARTIN G 5667306 4TH BN 05/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    014 MEAD HW 5350507 4TH BN 02/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    015 MILLER JJ 14698485 4TH BN 05/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    016 PLANK LR 14721394 4TH BN 05/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    017 STUART DR 217367 4TH BN 01/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    018 TURK HS 5673218 4TH BN 02/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    020 WILLIAMS JJ 14436610 4TH BN 04/10/1944 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY

    This picture of German officers, making preparations for the attack by the Pz Gren Regt 156, was taken on October 1st, 1944. They are Oberstleutnant Grollmann, CO of the Pz Gren Rgt 156 (with the map under his arm), Hauptmann Voigt, Adjudant of the Pz Gren Rgt 156 (right), Oberleutnant Holthoff (in the centre) and to the left an Observation Officer of Waffen-SS Nebelwerfer-unit, SS-Werfer Abt.102/502 under Nickmann, an artillery unit of II.SS Pz Corps. The Nebelwerfer were in position near Elden. The shot was probably taken in one of the orchards around Elden. The officers are preparing for the attack later in the day.

    German infantry moving in for the attack. The terrain to the south and southeast of Elden offered very little cover. The infantry therefore often made use of the small drainage ditches for the advance.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2022
  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The fight for the 'De Laar', 1&2 Oct, 44

    The I. Battalion of the 156. Pz.Gren.Regt., the right-hand assault formation of Regimentsgruppe Grollmann, struck the positions of the 5th Wiltshires near the railroad level crossing at the township of 'De Laar'. The attack of this battalion was timed to start somewhat later than the attack of the II./156. Under cover of darkness the 1st and 3rd Companies of the I./156 surprised the British and did gain some ground to the west of the railway line, overruning part of the 5th Wiltshire's positions and reaching the first farm complex beyond the railroad tracks - aka 'De Middelste Laar' - defended by 'D' Coy. The remnants of 'D' Coy fell back to the positions of 'B' around the last farm of the township, called 'De Achterste Laar'. That was as far as the Germans got, the 5th Wiltshires counterattacked and by 0930 hours next morning, October 2nd, after a night of fierce fighting had restored their positions up to the railway crossing.

    De Laar Nmegen.jpg
    Aerial photo of the township of De Laar, which consisted of three main farms 1. the De Achterste Laar, 2. the De Middelste Laar and 3. the De Voorste Laar (courtesy of Nijmegen). The first enemy onslaught on 1 Oct 44 penetrated across the railway line, as far as the farm of De Middelste Laar (2.) occupied by 'D' Coy. The remnants of 'D' Coy fell back on the farm building of De Achterste Laar (3.) held by 'B' Coy. A British counterattack, launched from De Achterste Laar, drove the enemy back behind the railway crossing before dawn on 2 Oct 44.

    The farm building of 'De Achterste Laar' before the war. The farm building that housed the 'B' Coy command post was completely destroyed during the October battle. The Coy CO, Major E.R. Norris, was badly wounded at his command post.

    Though the attempt to drive the British back to Nijmegen had failed on 1st October, Heeresgruppe B insisted on a continuation of the offensive. The commanders on the ground however realized that, given the poor ground conditions and the strength of the enemy, further attempts to force a breakthrough in this area were pointless. Tanks could give little practical help, as they found cross-country movement in this flat, waterlogged terrain, virtually impossible. Without the close support of armour the German infantry felt unable to overcome the British opposition.

    Or as General Harmel, CO of the 10.SS wrote after the war:
    German morale was at a low ebb. During daytime of October 2nd, three enemy deserters from the 1st Company, 156. Pz.Gren.Regt came over the railway embankement near the De Laar farm, and revealed that another attack was to be carried out that evening. They told their interrogators that their Coy commander had refused to take further responsibilty for another assault, and had been sacked. The renewed attack by the I./156 in the evening of October 2nd did gain a foothold at the level crossing but was halted by heavy defensive fires. Next day, Oct 3rd, a counterattack of 'B' and 'D' Coys, both by now combined under command of Capt. C.J. Rudd, threw the enemy back behind the railroad by early afternoon. Rudd consolidated his position along the railroad line and held on, despite heavy enemy shellfire.

    German casualties were severe. The 156. Pz.Gren.Regt, by the evening of October 2nd, reported 23 men killed and over 100 wounded. But the actual number was much higher. According to the War Diary of the 129 Bde, when the 5th Wiltshires on Oct 3rd retook their position at the level crossing, they brought in about 80 POWs of the 1st, 3rd and 6th Companies and over 50 enemy dead were counted in that area alone. According to the 43rd Div Intelligence Summary of 4 October 1944, both battalions of the 156. Pz.Gren.Regt, each consisting of four companies, each 120 men (1) strong at the outset of the attack, now as a result of POW statements were considered to have suffered 50% casualties, in particular the 1st and 3rd Companies of the I./156 were hard hit. The latter was wiped out according to German sources.

    Excerpt from the War Diary of the 5th Bn The Wilthire Regiment (courtesy of Horsapassenger):
    DSC06074a.jpg DSC06075a.jpg

    British losses also were considerable. Especially hard hit were 'D' and 'B' Coys of the 5th Wiltshires defending the level crossing and the farm buildings of De Laar. What was left of both units was amalgamated into one company, commanded by Captain Rudd, 2nd i/c of 'A' Coy; Major E.R. Norris, the 'B' Coy CO, was wounded. Captain Rudd led a successful counterattack which cleared the enemy from the level crossing. He was awarded a bar to his MC for this action which yielded nearly 80 POWs.
    award 2 Rudd.png

    The artillery played a major part in beating back the enemy attacks. For his role Capt. David G. Hadow, OP Offr. of the 94th Field Regt RA in support of 'D'Coy, 5th Wiltshires, received a MC:
    award 3 Haddow.png award 3a Haddow.png

    On the night of 3/4 October the depleted 5th battalion was relieved by it's sister battalion, the 4th Bn The Wiltshire Regiment, until then held in 129 Bde reserve. During the first three days of October 1944, the 5th Wiltshires lost 24 men KIA.

    Thumbnails: an excerpt of the Regt. History of the 5th Bn Wiltshire Regiment
    026a.jpg 027a.jpg 028a.jpg 029a.jpg 030a.jpg 031a.jpg

    (1) The strength is probably overrated; full company strength, especially of the Panzer Grenadier units, lay between 80 - 100 men, in that stage of the war the strength fluctuated more around 80.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2023
  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The township of De Laar today

    De Laar close up.png
    Aerial photo of the flooded township of De Laar taken on 23 Feb 1945. Visible are the farm buildings of De Achterste Laar (No. 1), De Middelste Laar (No. 2), the railway guardhouse at the level crossing (No.3), and the big gap in the railway embankment, caused by the detonation of an ammunition train in Sept 44 (No.4). You can also see how the railway rises in the run-up to the railway bridge; the front part is under water, while beyond the railway level crossing a railway embankment becomes visible.

    The 'De Gouden Klomp' farm on the main road Arnhem-Elst nowadays is the Restaurant 'De Klomp' (The clog). The small road leading up to the level crossing, aka De Laarstraat, runs behind the building from right to left.

    Level Crossing De Laar.jpg Level Crossing De Laar a.jpg
    Left: Picture of the battered railway guard's house at the 'De Laar' level crossing. The house, a few yards to the enemy side of the railway, harboured the O.P. of the Intelligence section of the 5th Wiltshires and the artillery F.O.O. From this location Pvt Ron Garner and Capt David Hadow directed the artillery with devastating effect on to the attacking enemy infantry. Right: View of the level-crossing from the south; the railway guards house is the building on the right. Note the dugouts between the double track, covered with doors and other material scrounged by the infantry from the nearby farm buildings to make living conditions a bit more comfortable. In the far background the dominating ground north of the Nederrijn is visible (photo courtesy Beeldmateriaal).

    The railway level crossing has been turned into an underpass, bicycles only! View to the east towards the Gouden Klomp. The old Railway guards house has long since gone; it was situated to the left on the other side of the railway line.

    View to the south across the railway line from the same spot. The road connecting Arnhem to Elst is running in the background, marked by the tree-line.

    De Laar Railway.jpg
    The railway connecting Arnhem with Nijmegen, near the railway crossing in De Laar

    All of the original farm buildings of De Laar have been torn down. The second one, De Achterste Laar, occupied by 'B' Coy was located near the site of the Wiltshire Monument. Next to it the newly build Buitenplaats. The area now is lying on the edge of the most recently built suburb of Arnhem called 'Schuytgraaf'.

    The Wiltshire monument marks the spot of the old farmbuilding of 'De Achterste Laar' and is dedicated to the fallen of the 4th and 5th battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment during the battles in September and October 1944

    Looking along the railway line towards Elst. The whole area was dominated by the church tower of Elst, which was used to good effect as an artillery OP by the 94th Field Regiment of the 43rd Wessex Division.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2023 at 11:09 AM
  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    There are little to none images of the British fighting men on the Island. This one was taken somewhere else in southern Holland, but gives an impression of the fighting in the flat countryside (Copyright IWM B-11652).

    The fire of the British artillery, ably directed by the FOOs, time and again broke up the German assaults. Several OP Officers distinguished themselves during the October counterattacks and received an award (Copyright IWM B11197).
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016
    Paul Reed likes this.

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