Operation Amherst: French SAS in Holland, April 1945

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Poli- Marchetti

    The troops of the stick Poli-Marchetti landed at a distance of three kilometers from the planned Drop Zone, in the woods between Norg and Peest. The group gathered quickly, but had difficulties with retrieving the supply containers. Only in the morning the containers were retrieved. A bivouac was set up in a small triangular grove, where the ammunition was stored. The group found itself in the vicinity of a small enemy airfield at Norg, which was guarded by enemy troops.

    Part of the stick, six men led by Lt. Poli-Marchetti went in search of the first target, a V-1 launch installation, which had to be somewhere in the neighborhood. The installation was found but already had been dismantled by the enemy (I here follow the account of Poli-Marchetti as given in the book of Roger Flamand; afaik there were no V-1 ramps that far north in Holland see Vergeltungswaffen.nl - V1 en V2 wapens in Nederland). Upon returning at the bivouac, Lieutenant Poli-Marchetti encountered enemy soldiers. The enemy had discovered the bivouac and enemy detachments, approaching from Peest and Norg, were trying to encircle the place. Attacked from the rear by Poli-Marchetti and his men, the Germans fled in all directions. In the firefight that evolved, the stick - by then eleven men strong - succeeded in keeping the enemy at bay until nightfall. All the time the French paras kept up a constant volume of fire, shooting from behind the cover of their backpacks. Their fire caused numerous victims under the attackers. As darkness fell the French escaped and hid in one of the swampy forests in the area. For seven days they managed to stay of out enemy hands, part of the time assisted by a couple of courageous Dutchmen who provided them with information and some food. During daytime the paras kept their heads low, at night they went out to carry out sabotage acts and lay ambushes. By the time they finally made contact with the ground troops the rations had been used up for a long time. Much emaciated and rattling with hunger they link up on April 14th. Half of the group suffered from dysentery incurred by consuming contaminated water.

    In 1940 the Germans started to built an emergency airfield at Norg, known to them as 'Fliegerhorst Norg' (A. on the map). A nearby dummy airfield was constructed at Donderen (B.). The 'Fliegerhorst Norg' had three grassy tracks in the shape of a capital A and was fully equipped with streets and buildings, including barracks, a telephone exchange and a fire station. Due to ground conditions the 'Fliegerhorst Norg' was not a succes and it was hardly ever used. The place struggled with a high water level, a problem that could not be solved by draining nor by grinding. The soil remained too boggy to be used for airplanes.The airfield most likely was on the target list of the French paras that landed to the northwest of Assen. Anyway, when the French parachutists approached the site in April 1945, the Germans demolished runways and buildings with bombs.

    Hitlerring Peest.jpg
    One of the still visible remnants of the Fliegerhorst Norg is a pond or water basin, dug near the commanders house which served as a water supply in case of fire. It still can be easily recognized from the air. Some say it represents an airplane, while others claim that the excavation has the shape of a swastika. The water basin popularly is known as the 'Hitler Ring'.

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945" - I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen and for the airfield Norg Vliegveld Peest geen succes - Luchtoorlog - Drenthe in de oorlog

    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  2. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Thanks Stolpi.
    I've just found this thread. I'm going to tell some people I know who blame the french for not fighting in WW2. Ignorance leads to prejudice.
    stolpi likes this.
  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    ZONE F Zuidlaren - Gieten

    Map Amherst Zone F Zuidlaren Gieten.jpg

    - The Stirlings with Chalk nos. 1 (stick Laserre) and 2 (stick Bourell) Took off from Rivendale Airfield. They dropped their loads between 23:30 and 23:59 hrs. Besides the usual four supply containers, each plane also carried 9 simulators;
    - The Stirling with Chalk no. 4 (stick Berr) also took off from Rivendale and dropped 15 paras and four containers between 23:30 and 23:59 hrs.

    NB. the sticks that landed to the NE of Assen also ran into difficulties because of the presence of strong enemy detachments and pro-German elements among the civilian population. As elsewhere in Zone F, the hunt the French paras were to start soon turned around. The paras were being hunted down themselves. Most men of the sticks Lasserre, Bourell and Berr ended up as a POW.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Berr - Gieten

    Captain Berr's stick was parachuted on the edge of the village of Gieten and the men gathered in a public garden. They were some three kilometers to the southeast of the intended Drop Zone no. 22, which also was assigned to the stick Gramond. The latter came down further south and joined the SAS forces in the 'Bois de Gieten'. While his men hid in the parc, Captain Berr send out two of his men - Lt Guy Le Borgne and Robert Bonhomme - on reconnaissance.

    Unfortunately for the French Gieten was occupied by a butcher company which operated the local meat factory of Udema and their arrival at the parc had been noticed. A few minutes after the patrol had left, the entire group was attacked and surrounded by enemy soldiers. Back from patrol, Lieutenant Le Borgne tried to intervene and opened fire. In the ensuing confusion the French fled in all directions and tried to escape the trap. While Savournin, Hugounenq and Didailler managed to get away, many of their comrades including Captain Berr, Lieutenant Le Borgne, Yves Boscher, Alain Alibert, Robert Heckmann and a few others were captured.

    The situation was tense. Speaking German, he stemmed from Lorraine, Heckmann tried to parley and calm down the Germans but he was immediately shot by his agitated captors. The rest of the captured SAS men were taken to POW camps in Germany.

    The German garrison of Gieten later that day was directed towards the 'Bois de Gieten', to fight the SAS troops that were reported there. The Germans clashed with a patrol from the stick Appriou and lost two men in the encounter. The French thereupon evaded battle by retreating into the forest. Being inexperienced and reluctant warriors the Germans did not dare to follow and instead lingered at the forest edge.

    The young Pte Robert Heckmann, who was only a couple of weeks from his 18th birthday (born 30 April 1927), was killed after his capture on 8 April 1945. Speaking German he tried to parley with and calm down his captors (photo courtesy Boersma). Below: Robert Heckmann is commemorated by a recent monument, unveiled in 2020, near Gieten where he was killed (photo courtesy War Monuments).

    Monument Heckmann.jpg

    Story courtesy of Bienvenue
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Sticks Laserre & Bourrel Zuidlaren


    A.= Hovenkamp Farm; B. = Target bridge over Hunze River; C. = Psychiatric Asylum Dennenoord

    The men of the stick Lasserre were parachuted in a wooded area, slightly southeast of the planned Drop Zone no.21. After regrouping, the stick Lasserre tried to move to the northeast, probably aiming for the bridge over the nearby Hunze River. Many residents have witnessed this move. The French had to bypass Zuidlaren, giving the place a wide berth because of a military barracks on the south side of the village. The area, however, was lousy with German troops and the French paras were soon discovered. Chased by the enemy, the stick took refuge in a small fir wood. On 9 April, the stick reached the Hovenkamp farm on the Lageweg (now Lageweg 19) , two kilometers south-east of Zuidlaren where they took refuge in the barn.

    Unfortunately for the French the farm belonged to the pro-German Hovenkamp, who immediately sent his son-in-law Harm Prins, a notorious NSB'er and an active `hunter` of people in hiding, towards the Army barracks in Zuidlaren to warn the Germans. Harm Prins informed the garrison commander of the presence of the French paras. A large detachment of well armed German soldiers were immediately sent to the Hovenkamp farm. They were supported by a truck mounted with a four barreled Flak gun. Shrapnel of this gun can still be seen in the farm. A firefight evolved, in which the backside of the farm was completely destroyed. Outnumbered and outgunned the French paras lost the fight. Five of them, led by Lieutenant Laserre, managed to shoot a way out and escaped via a treewall in the direction of the Anner Veen.

    One French para, Paul Duquesne, was killed at the farm. A German officer ordered him to surrender and drop the grenade he held in his hand. Paul Duquesne refused and threw it in the middle of the Germans, killing and wounding a number of them. He was mown down by a burst of machine gun fire and, though wounded, finished of by a pistolshot. By refusing to surrender the 25-year old soldier probably made good the escape of his comrades. Unfortunately these ultimately were chased down by the Germans and all were taken POW, but for Lieutenant Lassere who managed to get away.

    The group of prisoners from the Hovenkamp farm was loaded into a lorry on the Brink in Zuidlaren and brought to Assen. They then were transferred to a prison camp in Milag, between Bremen and Hamburg.

    Zuidlaren 3.jpg
    The former Hovenkamp farm at the Lageweg south of Zuidlaren as it appears today. View to the north towards Zuidlaren.

    Zuidlaren 2.jpg
    Jeep at the Hovenkamp farm (courtesy Pen & Dagger)

    Opel Blitz Vierling Flak.jpg
    Opel Blitz mounted with a Vierling Flak. A unit equipped with five of these Vierling AA-guns was stationed at Zuidlaren. One of these, mounted on a truck, was turned against the paras at the Hovenkamp farm. Pieces of shrapnel from the 2-cm shells were recently discovered inside the barn. On April 12th civilians reported to the Canadian ground forces that the five Flak pieces had departed for Assen and the enemy had abandoned Zuidlaren, next day the village was liberated by the Canadians.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Zuidlaren 4.jpg Duquesne Zuidlaren 2.jpg
    Left: In April 2017 a monument was erected opposite the Hovenkamp farm to commemorate the fallen Paul Duquesne who was killed during the battle for this farm (Photo courtesy Herdenkingsmonument voor Paul Duquesne - Zuidlaren - TracesOfWar.nl). Right: Picture of the Paul Duquesne. By refusing to surrender this 25-year old soldier probably made good the escape of some of his comrades.

    Zuidlaren 1.jpg
    On the base of the monument all names of the members of the sticks Laserre and Bourell are listed.

    For the exact location see: Herdenkingsmonument voor Paul Duquesne - Zuidlaren - TracesOfWar.nl
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Bourrel Zuidlaren

    The stick Bourrel was dropped around midnight and landed to the northeast of the planned DZ, a few kilometers from Zuidlaren, to the east of the main road to Gieten. The stick was widely scattered and it took Louis Bourrel a long time to gather his men. Only by 09:30 hrs in the morning all men had gathered. One man, Pte Georges Guérinet, was missing.

    It looked as if Bourrel did not exactly know where he was and after a short reconnaissance, he moved the stick in full daylight southwards along the main road. En route Bourrel and Maury entered farms to get information from the residents about enemy positions and numbers in the area. This was not without risk as there were some untrustworthy elements living in the vicinity. Before long, betrayed by a farmer, the SAS were attacked by an enemy detachment that arrived in several trucks from the direction of Zuidlaren. The French were completely cornered and after a firefight of about twenty minutes, had to give up. There was nowhere to escape and the whole stick was captured.

    After interrogation at the Zuidlaren PC, the French prisoners were taken to Groningen. On April 10th, all the prisoners were transferred by train to a prison camp near Bremen, Germany, which was reached on April 13th.

    Only one member of the stick - George Guérinet - escaped imprisonment. Guérinet had sprained his ankle during the landing and was taken care of by a local resistance man, Arnold van Weringh. Van Weringh lived and worked as head of technical service at the nearby mental hospital of Dennenoord. Though the asylum was teeming with Germans in the last days of war, because the Nazis used the site as a hospital for wounded soldiers, Van Weringh smuggled the injured Guérinet inside. Here he remained in hiding, right under de nose of the enemy, until the Allied ground forces reached Zuidlaren on April 13th.

    Zuidlaren Brink.jpg
    On April 13th, when Canadian ground forces liberated Zuidlaren, George Guérinet put on his uniform, which he had exchanged for civvies, and was filmed at the mental hospital at Zuidlaren. Guérinet was one of the few SAS men who landed at Zuidlaren to escape capture. Next to him on the left, dangerously swaying his Stengun, Arnold van Weringh, who had helped him hiding at the mental hospital. An unknown Canadian Officer is standing on the other side. See for moving images below from 08:38 onwards:

    Story courtesy of http://fflsas.org/index.php?option=com_fflsas_user&view=event_show&eventid=41&lang=FR
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2nd Cdn Inf Division's Canadian advance towards Assen and Groningen 11 - 13 April, 1945

    2nd Cdn Inf Div Beilen - Assen.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    6 Cdn Inf Bde crosses the Oranje Canal, 11-12 April 45

    Led by Camerons of C., 6 Cdn Inf Bde got to Balkbrug shortly after the 5th Cdn Inf Bde had entered the place and from there the columns swung to the north while the recce squadrons raced ahead. With fair promise of a break-through, Brigadier Allard urged the Camerons of C. to go all out past Kerkenbosch (1154) on to Terhorst (1772), a small village south of Beilen (1874). The general plan for the operation was to carry the marching troops in TCV's until the forward elements contacted the enemy, then attack on a battalion frontage with the battalions leapfrogging. From positions at Terhorst, Lt-Col A.A. Kennedy sent out his patrols to reconnoiter the bridgesite over the Linthorst Homan Canal (1773), which lay across the line of advance. (W.D. Camerons of C., 11 Apr ,45). At the canal enemy resistance was encountered. An enemy force of about 100 men was defending the north side of the canal, including the village of Beilen. Meanwhile both Fus M.R. and S. Sask R. had closed up to the center line and by 2200 hours were bivouacked along the main road west of Terhorst and around Spier (1469) where elements of the French S.A.S. were contacted and given assistance in rounding up prisoners and collecting their wounded. Out on the flanks 8 Cdn Recce Regt had its scout cars probing the enemy's local line of resistance. The French paras had been unable to forestall the demolition of the bridges around Beilen and now the Canadians faced the task of conducting an assault crossing over both the Linthorst Homan Canal, to the south of Beilen, and the Oranje Kanaal, to the north of the village. The immediate problem was the capture of Beilen so that the canal south of it could be bridged, thus allowing the advance to continue. In order to do this Brigadier Allard's plan called for Les Fus M.R. to establish the initial bridgehead west of the village and push east to seize the place. Once this was accomplished It-Col V. Stott would lead the S. Sask R. through to form up on either side of the center line and hold the base from which Camerons of C. were to thrust out for Hijken (1678). (2nd Cdn Inf Div Ops Log, op.cit, 12 Apr 45, serial 3548; also W.Ds. 6 Cdn Inf Bde and units, 11 Apr 45).

    csm_beilen-bb.jpg csm_beilen aa.jpg
    April 12th, Canadian infantry of the Les Fusiliers Mont Royal and some of the two hundred Fallschirmjäger POWs who were captured at Beilen. The POWs belonged to the replacement and training battalion of the 6. FJ Division. The attack of the Les Fus M.R. from the direction of Brunstinge fell in the rear of the enemy defense and took them completely by surprise, but they nevertheless put up a strong resistance (photos courtesy: Beilen)

    During the night 11/12 April, at 02:00 hrs, Les Fus M.R.assaulted across the canal and, having gained complete surprise, captured Beilen, but not without a sharp fight. The enemy had occupied the buildings covering the approaches to the village and there he met our men with machine guns and bazookas. It took the added support of the flame throwing Wasps to shift them out, but even then house- to-house fighting went on for well over two hours before the opposition was overcome. Some two hundred prisoners were taken by the French Canadians in the vicinity of Beilen some of these belonged to a replacement and training battalion of the 6. FJ Div, while at least 70 were members of a Einheit Jung, consisting of three companies of approximately 100 - 120 men composed at Groningen of stragglers from the front (W.D., Fus M.R. 12 Apr 45). At 14:00 hrs, immediately after Beilen had been cleared, the men of No. 2 Platoon, 11th Cdn Field Coy RCE, started construction of a bridge at Beilen. The bridge was finished at 16:00 hrs. While Les Fus MR fought for the possession of Beilen, the S. Sask R. passed through and proceeded up the main axis to the next canal south of Halerbrug (1877), but here the bridge was found demolished. S. Sask R. at once set about finding another crossing place, this time about 4000 yards to the east (2277) in the area of Zwiggelter Veld (2277) where "A" and "B" Coys began crossing in assault boats at 0730 hours. Within 90 minutes all its companies were safely over the water barrier against very light opposition and took 54 POWs belonging to a pioneer training battalion of the 6. FJ Division (W.Ds., H.Q. 6 Cdn Inf Bde, S. Sask R., 12 Apr 45; 2 Cdn Inf Div Ops Log, Apr 1945. 12 Apr, serial 3552).

    Map of operations of the 6 Cdn Inf Bde of April 12th, 1945. The Canadians had to fight their own way across the Linthorst Homan Canal to the south of Beilen and the Oranje Kanaal to the north of it. Unfortunately the French paras who were dropped in and around Beilen had been unable to forestall the demolition of the bridges.

    Lt-Col Stott now decided to expand his bridgehead westwards towards the original main axis with all possible speed. The enemy had aroused himself however and before our troops could move forward some heavy support from the guns and mortars became necessary. As the hours passed, and the infantrymen gained ground steadily, the engineers built a bridge (225773) at the crossing site. This was completed at about 1700 hours by which time "B", "C" and "D" Coys had, after some hard fighting, reached their respective objectives. "B" now held a firm position astride the railway a thousand yards north of Halerbrug (1873), "C" Coy was around the main road junction (2178) in Werklust (2178), while "D" Coy, which had swung directly left from the crossing place, had followed the enemy's northern bank to settle finally in Halerbrug itself (W.D., S. Sask R., 12 Apr 45; W.D. HQ 6 Cdn Inf Bde, Apr 1945, Appx 5 Int Log 12, serials 100, 103). This Iast manoeuvre was assisted largely by the fact that the medium machineguns of Tor. Scot R. (M.G.) had been supporting the infantry from positions on the south bank of the Canal (Ibid. Serials 60, 72, 75, 82, 93, 95). The Germans lost about 27 men KIA.

    WD 6 Cdn Bde.jpg
    Fragment from the War Diary of the 6 Cdn Inf Bde for 12 April 1945

    Oranjekanaal 1.jpg
    April 12, 1945, Infantry of the South Saskatchewans cross the Oranjekanaal in assault boats.

    Oranjekanaal 3.jpg
    On the far bank of the canal a shallow bridgehead is formed.

    Oranjekanaal 2.jpg Oranjekanaal 4.jpg
    April 12, 1945, soldiers of Major Geo Stiles, "D" Coy, South Saskatchewan Regiment, approach the demolished Halerbrug along the north bank of the Oranje Kanaal.

    Halerbrug 2.jpg
    From behind a hedgerow the South Saskatchewans open up on the enemy defenders for the final assault on the bridges. The Railway bridge is visible in the background. Artillery and 4.2 inch mortar concentrations, called in by Major Stiles, preceded the final assault.

    Oranje Canal.jpg

    SASKR Hooghalen.jpg Oranjekanaal 5.jpg
    Canadian soldiers move across the main road at Halerbrug. A sharp fight broke out and eventually two Wasps were needed to break the enemy resistance. A good number of POWs were taken and a greater number of dead were counted. The Saskatchewans suffered 11 casualties, including one KIA.

    Now that S. Sask R. was established across the obstacle, Les Fus M.R. were instructed to hold Beilen, while the Camerons of C. (having also entered Beilen from the south) proceeded northwards to take over the village of Hijken (1678) from the men of Tor. Scot R. (M.G.) who had seized the place earlier in the day. This take-over was completed by 2150 hours (W.D.s, HQ 6 Cdn Inf Bde, Camerons of C. Tor Scot R. (M.G.), 12 Apr 45). The day had been marked by scattered opposition and a series of delays caused mainly by blown bridges, yet despite all this the pace of the advance had not slackened to any extent. The build-up of the formations and units which were detailed to pass on through went on unhindered and by mid-afternoon 12 April Brigadier Cabeldu's 4 Cdn Inf Bde was concentrated near Westerbork (2473)." (W.D., H.Q. 4 Cdn Inf Bde and units, 12 Apr 45). At the same time, on either flank and well ahead of the main body, 8 Cdn Recce Regt and 1 Cnd Armd C. Regt felt out the routes. On the right Lt-Col B.M. Alway's scout Cars had contacted the Poles east of Westerbork, while on the left the amoured cars (Staghounds) had crossed the Assen-Meppel canal and surged on north-west to cut the main road to Steenwijk, a left jab which produced an unpleasant shock for the enemy. (W.Ds., 8 Cdn Recce Regt; 1 Cdn Armd C. Regt, 11-12 Apr 45; also History of The Royal Canadian Dragoons, p. 164-165-166; also 2nd Cdn Inf Div Ops Log as above, 12 Apr 45, Serials 3634, 3641, 3644).

    The South Saskatchewan Regiment, R.C.I.C lost three men during the fight for the crossing at Beilen and the Oranje Kanaal at Halerbrug:
    1. BELLS, Lieutenant, ROBERT WILLIAM, April 11, 1945, Age 26, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY III. B. 14.
    2. KIBZEY, Private, JOHN, April 12, 1945, Age 21, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. H. 13.
    3. McKEE, Private, JOHN, April 11, 1945 Age 29, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. H. 14.

    The Fusiliers Mont Royal lost the following men:
    1. VALIQUET, Sergeant, JEAN LOUIS, April 12, 1945, Age 32, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 7.
    2. BEAUSOLEIL, Private, ALBERT, April 12, 1945, Age 24, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 4.

    One soldier of the Toronto Scottish was killed on the 12th:
    1. ROSS, Private, ROY, April 12, 1945 HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 3.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2020
  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The capture of Assen by 4 Cdn Inf Bde, 12/13 Apr 45

    By 1600 on April 12th the 4 Cdn Inf Bde took over the lead. Brigadier Cabeldu's first objective was the town of Assen (2189). For the approach march Essex Scot was placed in the lead. At the same time R. Regt C. and R.H.L.I. were ordered to follow up along the main road Halerbrug - Assen and to be prepared to support the attack. It was during this move up that "D" Coy R.H.L.I. was temporarily detailed and assigned the novel role of guardians over a concentration camp (2480), which 8 Cdn Recce Regt had overrun some 4000 yards east of Hooghalen (1981). (Ibid, Serials 3643, 3647; also W.D.s, H.Q. 4 Cdn Inf Bde and units, Apr 45). First resistance was met at Hooghalen. The enemy was operating in small bazooka teams which would appear along the heavily mined road, release their deadly missiles at our vehicles, and then retire during the commotion which followed. It became a slow but costy journey.

    Dead Panzerfaust.jpg
    Not all of the small enemy teams along the road managed to get off a shot at the Canadian tanks. The lifeless body of a German Luftwaffe soldier lies on the roadside. Next to him a Panzerfaust which has not been fired.

    The supporting squadron of 10 Cdn Armd Regt lost two tanks and the Essex a jeep and several carriers. Late in the afternoon Brigadier Cabeldu ordered R.H.L.I. to relieve Lt-Col Pangman's battalion at Hooghalen. Essex Scot was urged to press on following the main axis while R. Regt C. swung to the right in a wide hook calculated to take the defences of Assen from the right and rear. (2 Cdn Inf Div ops Log, April 1945, serial 3668, also W.D.s, H.Q. 4 Cdn Inf Bde and units, 12 Apr 45; also 10 Cdn Armd Regt, 12 Apr 1945)

    Sherman Fort Garry Horse Hooghalen a.png
    Picture of one of the knocked out Sherman tanks of the Fort Garry Horse at Hooghalen. One of the tank crew, Cpl W.J. MacDonald, was killed, several other crew-members were wounded. Cpl MacDonald was buried in a temporary field grave next to his tank, together with five other fallen Canadian soldiers who were killed on that and the subsequent day at Assen. They now all rest at the Canadian War Cemetery at Holten.

    Fort Garry Horse 001a.jpg
    The same Sherman tank now-a-days is displayed at the memorial of the 10th Cdn Armoured Regiment (Fort Garry Horse) at Doetinchem, a small town situated some 20 miles to the east of Arnhem (see also VERITABLE 1945: the Canadian finale (Moyland Wood & Goch-Calcar road))

    At Hooghalen a monument is commemorated to the six fallen Canadians: Monument Canadese Militairen Hooghalen - Hooghalen - TracesOfWar.nl

    A running fight continued all the way up to the southern outskirts of Assen, the enemy using his weapons skilfully at each obstacle. By carefully co-ordinated manoeuvers, however Lt-Col Pangman secured a foothold on the edge of the town and began clearing the woods on his flanks. Meanwhile the "Royals", in Kangaroos, swept forward to the east of Assen, where 8 Cdn Recce Regt had reported little opposition. (W.D, H.Q. 4 Cdn Inf Bde, 12 Apr 45). During the night brigade headquarters found it difficult to keep in contact with the right hook. Communications were bad and added to this many of the vehicles (including 12 Kangaroos) broke down or became mired along the marshy roads. Nevertheless the column worked its way past Amen (2483) and on to Rolde (2788). At Rolde Lt-Col R.B. Lendrum stopped a while, while reconnaissance groups went out to explore to routes north and west of the town (Ibid, 13 Apr 45). Leaving one company to hold Rolde, "A" Coy was sent on to seize Loon (2491). Here the enemy fired on the column but to no avail, the leading vehicles crashed on into the village with Browings blazing. It provided a spectacular sight, the Kangaroos going in at 30 miles an hour with all guns in action. Opposition crumbled rapidly and the infantry scrambled out to consolidate. (Ibid)

    There now occurred an incident which was to have considerable influence on the situation. West of the village of Loon (2091) there is a bridge (2391) across the Noord-Willems canal (this canal is the main water route leading north from Assen). This structure was fortunately seized intact enabling a force to cut the main axis at Peelo (2191), while another struck south towards Assen itself. It was at the main-road bridge north of the town that our troops and the enemy made a dramatic encounter, for as the Canadians appeared the Germans were about to blow up the bridge. In a short but heated action the enemy's engineers were "cut down" and only just in time, some of the enemy troops being killed at the switches they were about to throw. After the sappers had been killed Lt. Amstrong of the 2nd Field Coy RCE removed the firing leads from the canal bridge by swimming under the bridge, while covering fire was given by the infantry and a tank. The bridge was thus saved and R. Regt C. entered the town to mop up (Ibid, 13 Apr 45; also R. Regt C., 13 Apr 1945). By this time Essex-Scot was also well into the built-up section of the town and between them the two infantry battalions netted a profitable dividend of 600 prisoners. It had been a good example of simple tactics; the German force completely surprised and beaten and many of the enemy whose task it had been to withdraw and fight other delaying actions, were out of the war (W.D., H.Q. 4 Cdn Inf Bde, 13 Apr 45).

    Sweeping the area to the east of Assen the 8 Cdn Recce Regt linked up with the Poles at Westdorp by late afternoon. Just short of the bridge at Westdorp 'C' Sqn contacted a group of French paras. In the meantime RHQ of the 8th Recce was swamped with prisoners and still people dropped in from all sides to tell where Germans were hiding. The problem was so acute that the French paras with their Jeeps were called upon to assist the Recce men in rounding them up. In the afternoon, at about 16:00 hrs, they took care of an enemy detachment of 70 men to the SE of Grolloo (at MR 295815). All told the Cdn Recce Regt added another 250 POWs to the Divisional cage that day. On the left flank, patrols of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde made contact with French paras of the sticks Boiteux and Lagèze in the afternoon. At Bovensmilde contact was made with Lieutenant Raillard who already held the village with his men.

    Hooghalen- Assen 12 April.jpg

    When Brigadier Cabeldu and his intelligence officer drove into Assen, liberation festivities were already under way: "The population literally were crazy with happiness over their liberation. Crowds cheered every vehicle. Women danced in the town parks and threw flowers to the passing troops. Those of the Bde bent on the more serious business of clearing the town had difficulty to keep a mind on the job in such surroundings. Those among the civilian population who had "backed the wrong horse" were now called on to pay their debts of dishonour, and members of the underground set about rounding up the collaborators and herding them off to gaol. (Ibid)

    April 13, 1945, German POWs are marched away towards the Canadian POWs cages through the streets of Assen. April 13th, 1945, fell on a Friday! No luck for the Germans.

    Pictures the Canadians entering Assen:

    and: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neFVkytsMXg

    Jeep 1.jpg
    French SAS Jeeps assisted the 8 Cdn Recce Regiment in clearing the area to the southeast of Assen, which yielded large numbers of POWs. A number of 11 Jeeps had been driven to Prendergast's Tac HQ at Coevorden and these were manned by the returning SAS teams. It is known that part of the stick Cochin volunteered for this job; as did men of the sticks Edme and Betbèze. A SAS Jeep team consisted of four men. Note the German helmet on the side of the Jeep … and the clogs. This picture was taken at Rolde on April 12th.

    Canadian fallen of the 4th Cdn Inf Bde for 12 and 13 April were:

    1. ATKINS, Private, EDWARD ROBERT, April 12, 1945, Age 29, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERYI. B. 8. Highland Light Infantry of Canada, R.C.I.C.
    2. DESCHAINE, Private, GORDON CLAYTON, April 12, 1945, Age 27, BROOKWOOD MILITARY CEMETERY 51. F. 9. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    3. SCHWEITZER, Private, EMERSON FRANKLIN, April 13, 1945, Age 30, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY V. A. 7. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    4. CHAMBERS, Private, ALLAN LLOYD, April 13, 1945, (-), HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 13. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    5. ALLES, Private, CRAIG MCLEAN, April 12, 1945, Age 22, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY V. A. 3. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    6. CARSON, Corporal, HOWARD, April 13, 1945, Age 24, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 12. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    7. CHEVALIER, Private, VINCENT J., April 13, 1945, Age 22, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 9. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    8. CLARK, Private, LLOYD FREDERICK, April 13, 1945, Age 24, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY X. E. 13. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    9. HERTZBERGER, Private, DAVID N., April 13, 1945, Age 21, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY X. E. 15. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    10. HUGHES, Private, ALBERT, April 13, 1945, Age 35, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY X. E. 14. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    11. PROUSE, Private, CHARLES, April 13, 1945, (-), HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY X. E. 12. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    12. BRADSHAW, Corporal, GEORGE, April 12, 1945, (-), HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. H. 12. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    13. THIBEAULT, Private, JOHN JAMES, April 12, 1945, (-), HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 2. Essex Scottish Regiment, R.C.I.C.
    14. WEBSTER, Private, DOUGLAS, April 13, 1945, Age 19, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY III. A. 10. Royal Regiment of Canada, R.C.I.C.
    15. YURKIW, Private, JOSEPH, April 13, 1945, (-), HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 8. Royal Regiment of Canada, R.C.I.C.
    16. CHITTENDEN, Private, JACK DAVID, April 13, 1945, Age 23, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY XII. C. 16. Royal Regiment of Canada, R.C.I.C.
    17. PARFINUK, Private, ALEXANDER, April 13, 1945, Age 21, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY XII. C. 15. Royal Regiment of Canada, R.C.I.C.

    Two members of the 8th Recce Regt (14th Canadian Hussars, R.C.A.C) lost their lives during this period:

    1. SAUNDERS, Lance Corporal, HOWARD L., April 12, 1945, Age 26, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY IX. E. 1. 14th Canadian Hussars, R.C.A.C.
    2. ANTON, Trooper, LEE, April 12, 1945, (-), HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY III. B. 10. 14th Canadian Hussars, R.C.A.C.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
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  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The approaches to Groningen, 13 April 1945

    With Assen in hands and a bridge over the Noord Willemsvaart captured intact, the road to Groningen now lay open and Brigadier Cabeldu decided to bring the R.H.L.I. forward to take the lead. By 1100 hours 13 Apr, Lt-Col H.C. Arrell had his fighting companies in Assen, but it was 12:15 hours before the forward elements were able to get clear of the cheering populace. The situation looked promising; on the left flank, "B" Sqn of the Royal Canadian Dragoons was "beating up" everything in sight and gathering in large numbers of prisoners; on the right the divisional reconnaissance cars were applying increasing pressure, while in the center of the broad stretch of concrete road to Vries (2298) and Groningen the light infantrymen formed up to resume the journey north. (W.Ds., R.H.L.I., 8 Cdn Recce Regt, 1 Cdn Armd C. Regt, 13 Apr 45)

    Within one hour R.H.L.I. was in Vries and, resistance being negligible, the troops pressed on to the main highway junction at Yde (2202), aka 'De Punt'. Here a secondary road split off which led over the village of Eelde to Groningen, while the main road continued a more easterly course across the Noord-Willems Canal to Haren and Groningen. At this point, the Hamilton unit was ordered to follow the western route through Eelde (2105) past the Paterswolder Lake (2108) and into the south-western corner of the city of Groningen. The brigade commander had carefully appreciated the possibilties of each line of advance, and decided that the left route presented fewer natural obstacles than the eastern route beyond the Noord-Willems Canal. Besides, the bridge over the canal had been demolished by the enemy at the very last moment and on that flank 8 Cdn Recce Regt was making quite good progress against scattered opposition (W.D., HQ. 4 Cdn Inf Bde and units, 13 Apr 1945; also 2 Cdn Inf Div Ops Log, 13 Apr 45, serial 3924)

    Along this western route R.H.L.I. met only slight opposition, and by 1600 hours tanks of 10 Cdn Armd Regt reported the the leading troops were about to enter the city of Groningen.

    April 13, 1945, Infantry of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry on top of tanks of the Fort Garry Horse advance along the main road from Assen to Groningen.

    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Vries Groningen.jpg
    Advance to Groningen by the 4th Cdn Inf Bde on 13 April 1945

    Approaching the junction in the main road near Yde, known as De Punt, the Canadians ran into enemy opposition. The German garrison of Airport Eelde, surprised by the swiftness of the Canadian advance, made a belated attempt to flee to the east with all of its car park. At De Punt the German vehicle column ran into the Canadians. In the firefight that evolved the entire motley collection of enemy vehicles was destroyed and many Germans taken POW.
    16988733730_bb87fd9035.jpg De Punt.jpg

    The small Eelde Airport located between the junction at De Punt and the village of Eelde. It was here that the 5th Cdn Armoured Division held its big Victory Parade on 23 May 1945. The road leading north up to Groningen is visible to the right.

    12285003235_6fb85290cf_z.jpg 12285003295_93f9049161_z.jpg

    See also:

    For a sequel of the Canadian operations, the Battle for Groningen see: Tour of Northeast Holland
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The end of Amherst: Coevorden & Nijmegen

    The link up with the stick of Poli-Marchetti near Norg on April 14th, effectively marked the end of 'Op Amherst'. The French para units that were relieved by the Canadian ground forces did not linger long with the front line troops, but were immediately sent back to the rear. The French paras were supposed to gather at Coevorden, where Col. Prendergast had established a forward Special Forces Tac HQ. However some also were directly transferred towards Nijmegen by the Canadians, which complicated the task of Prendergast.

    Amherst Tac HQ Prendergast P26.jpg
    Message from Prendergast of April 14th, which illustrates the trouble he had in getting his strength figures straight (Ops Log Main SAS HQ, serial 361).

    Brigadier Calvert visited Prendergast at Coevorden in late afternoon of 12 April. That day Calvert had met with 'Q' at 1st Cdn Army to discuss the evacuation of the French paras. Calvert was anxious to get his men back to England without delay. From Coevorden the paras had to be transported overland to Nijmegen, where they would be airlifted back to England. Special Forces Tac HQ at Coevorden was closed down on April 17th. However the evacuation did no go as planned. There had been many delays in the return of the French troops and when the French rear party departed Coevorden on April 20th, there were still 300 French SAS waiting in Nijmegen for a return flight to England. For some reason all available Dakotas, scheduled for the evacuation of the French, had been requisitioned by SHAEF. Somehow, after some talking back and forth, the Dakota's were made available again on the 21st. The last of the French troops were flown back to England on 25 April 1945.


    2nd Cdn Inf Div HQ instruction for the evacuation of French paratroops. Note the misspelling of Op Amherst.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Coevorden Legrand.jpg Coevorden Stick Corta.jpg
    French SAS paras assembled at Coevorden. Left: Two paras of the Stick Legrand in front of a Bren carrier. Right: Men of the Stick Corta. The war would be over in a couple of days says the subscription (photos courtesy Boersma & André Jans).

    Amherst Tac HQ Prendergast P29.jpg
    Situation Report of April 14th by Col. Prendergast on estimated casualties in both French Parachute Battalions (Ops Log Main SAS HQ, serial 364)

    Retourvlucht Engeland Varnier.jpg
    Members of the stick Varnier near Nijmegen: a last picture before the return flight to the UK (photo courtesy Boersma). By 21 April the majority of the French were back in the UK, 14 days after their take off from England.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Well that's it, I guess; this thread was an attempt to aggregate all available information on Operation Amherst - which I found almost as fragmented and scattered as the operation was itself.

    In the circumstances of that moment, with the Germans as disorganized as they were, it is difficult to make a precise assessment of Operation Amherst. The headquarters of the 1st British Airborne Corps, which had the 1st SAS Brigade under command, considered that the effect on enemy morale was "considerable"; "numerous troops who were badly needed for defense against advancing ground forces had to be deployed over a very wide area against these French regiments". Calvert in his report, on the other hand, pointed out that the enemy was less 'surrender-minded' than had been expected. The enemy morale was still fairly high, especially that of the Fallschirmjäger trainees. The Amherst operation did not prompt the expected collapse of the enemy resistance.

    I leave the final analysis of the operation to the experts; as far as I can see, it met with varying success. In the south (Zone A) the operation had little impact, only a small number of paras was dropped and Canadian Recce troops were already operating in the area or close by. Most of the bridges in this area had already been blown and the paras were unable to secure the Lichtmis bridge. The operations in the centre (Zone B and C), around Beilen, Spier, Westerbork and Schoonloo were partially successful. The operations here must have been very alarming to the enemy and must have caused a lot of confusion. The raid on Westerbork, which knocked out the local commander and his command post, in that respect was certainly the icing on the cake. Yet, the French were unable to forestall the demolition of the bridges across the Oranjekanaal making the Canadian ground troops on the central axis to have to fight for the canal crossings on April 12th. The actions around the Bois de Gieten (Zone D) and near Diever, Appelscha and Smilde (Zone E) were the most successful of Operation Amherst, with several bridges captured, some major traffic arteries interdicted and a lot of damage done, unfortunately for the French both areas were somewhat peripheral to the main advance of the ground troops. The captured bridges at Smilde and Appelscha were not used for the advance - due to the improvised crossing at Dieverbrug. The French operations around Assen and Zuidlaren (Zone F) fell short of expectations. The SAS units admittently tied down part of the German forces for a while, but accomplished little else. Several - if not most - sticks were eliminated even before they could make a start with their operations.

    The French were certainly handicapped by the absence of the SAS Jeeps without them they had no means to range far and wide in harassing the enemy and they missed a certain amount of firepower. Brigadier Calvert, the SAS commander, stated after the war: "I did want, if possible, to have jeeps dropped. I considered that besides the material effect these jeeps would have against the enemy, they would have a big morale and confusion effect in appearing amongst the enemy, who might think that they were the advance parties of our ground elements already arrived. Both Bn commanders have later stated that these jeeps would have been of great value (…)".

    The armoured Jeeps probably would have given the French SAS more punch and flexibility in their operations (courtesy British Commando Knife)

    Foremost, there is no question that the French paras were keen fighters, despite all difficulties and hazards they went about their task with great enthusiasm and audacity and fought on with great dedication - even when the odds were against them - thus contributing to the Liberation of this part of Holland and they therefore deserve our deepest respect.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  16. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    Another great thread. Well done Sir.
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  17. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Yes, brilliant. What a story.
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Map taken from Van Hilten, "Van Capitulatie tot Capitulatie, 1940 - 1945", Leiden 1949, depicting the military situation on approximately April 10th, 1945 (I added the 1st Polsh Arm Division). Note the ever widening gap between the 25. Armee which became bottled up in western Holland and the 1.FJ Armee which was driven back into NW Germany. With the 25. Armee a force of about 130.000 men was isolated in western Holland. A fact for which General Blaskowitz had already warned on 28 March 45, a few days before the disbandement of his Heeresgruppe H. Blaskowitz suggested, in order to preserve the integrity of the German front, to retreat his entire command to North West Germany, anchoring on a new defensive line that ran from the River Weser to the North Sea coast. This meant that the Heeresgruppe (25.Armee) had to abandon western Holland. Otherwise, Blaskowitz pointed out, it might easily be cut off and isolated in Holland, rendering it useless to the defense of the Reich. Predictably, the immediate and rigid reaction of the OKW was that a retreat under no circumstances was allowed.

    In the first week of April the Germans made frantic attempts to plug the gap between the 25. Armee and the 1. FJ Armee, by defending the waterways that lay across the path of advance of the Canadians, from south to north respectively the Twente Kanaal, Schipbeek, Overijssels Zijkanaal and Vecht. As a last resort they turned Meppel into a fortified town and tried to establish a defensive line along the Hoogeveensche Vaart running east from Meppel to Hoogeveen and further on in the direction of Emmen.

    schets 36 Sit 10 April 45.jpg

    Leger = Army
    Legerkorps (or L.K.) = Army Corps
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Had a few days off this week … due to bad weather had plenty of time to plough through the Canadian War Diaries on Canadian Heritage for references on Op Amherst.

    I'm happy to say that I struck rich, especially the First Cdn Army Ops Log of April 1945 yielded a lot of messages. I've inserted the most relevant into the thread.

    Still wonder if there might be more; does anyone know if there are SAS files held at the NA?
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019
  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Operation Amherst remembered 6 april 2019

    This weekend the start of Operation Amherst is remembered in NE Holland with a daytime (!) paradrop near Dieverbrug of about 50 paratroopers from different countries. This time there was 'only' one wounded who landed in a tree.


    Parachutist Operatie Amherst gewond na mislukte landing bij Dieverbrug


    Photo and article courtesy André Jans
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
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