OPERATION BLACKCOCK : 1st Commando Bde (Jan 45)

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Sep 22, 2021.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Exploring the MERUM bridgehead (Jan 26th, 1945)

    To No. 45 RM Commandos it was known that "Bell Isle" was occupied, but the precise enemy strength was not known. To find out this information, a small patrol was sent across the Meuse by No. 45 RM Commandos during the night to Jan 26th on what was to be "Operation Bell Isle I". The patrol consisted of Lieutenant Tommy Thomas and three other ranks of 'A' Troop. They set out in the icy night in two small rubber boats near the church of Linne, and paddled as silently as possible across the broad, fast flowing stream. When they were halfway across the river they were fired on by a light MG on the island and withdrew. Thus forced to retire the men could only confirm the previous information that the island was held by an alert enemy, believed to be one platoon in strength.

    January 26th, 1945, again was a very cold day with snow showers. During the day, No. 3 Commando stayed in close contact with the enemy, only a short distance away in his prepared trench system of the 'Maas-Stellung' to the northeast of Linne. No patrols were sent out, but valuable information was obtained from a prisoner taken at some point on the previous day. The POW, a Fallschirmjäger of the 2nd Coy, revealed that the position directly opposite No. 3 Commando, between the river and main road (Rijksweg), was held by the 2nd Coy of the 1st Bn (Matthaeas) of FJ Regt Huebner. Another Coy of the FJ Regiment extended the line eastwards to the woods near the Burghofs farm. The 3rd Coy of the battalion, the POW told, was in position in the Merum area. The factory was occupied by a Coy made up from men of another battalion. The POW said that his Coy had been reduced to a fighting strength of 50 men and now was organized into two platoons of 20 men each. They were manning a forward line of trenches with seven posts of two riflemen, covered by wire and mines, with some 100 - 200 meters behind a second line in which were two MG posts (MG42s). A small Coy reserve was established in the houses further back. For A/T-defense the men had to rely on bazooka's. The POW did not know of A/T- guns or SP's in the area (1).

    Aerial Merum Soda Works.jpg
    An aerial of the German defensive line at Merum The forward trenches and anti-tank ditch behind are clearly visible in the snowy landscape. In the top left corner the Soda Works. Linne is below in the far left corner (photo courtesy: Neil Barber, "Fighting with the Commandos, the recollections of Stan Scott No. 3 Commando").

    At St.Joostbrug, No. 6 Commando, by mid-morning of the 26th, sent 3 Troop across the railway line towards the forest edge of Struik, to conform with the shift in the brigade boundary. The Troop took up liaison with the 2 Devons. By noon No. 6 Commando received a warning order for a patrol of commandos and tanks to be pushed forward across the Linnerheide towards the Hoverenbos Farm NW of St.Odilienberg (2). Two troops of tanks of 'A' Squadron, 5 RTR, who had taken over from 8 Hussars, R.V.'ed at St.Joostbrug with the commandos. One tank Troop was to provide flank cover, while the commandos mounted the tanks of the other Troop, 1 NCO and 6 OR on each tank. The force commander travelled in a light armoured car. The patrol moved off at 14:20 hrs, passed the railway line and drove on towards the eastern edge of the woods near the small cross chapel known as Kruiskapel. Here the commandos dismounted and under cover of the tanks moved forward in bounds over the snow covered fields until they reached the forward edge of the next forest (situated along the 1e Hobbertsweg) without meeting enemy opposition. Here the tanks took up hull down position and covered the commandos in a next bound towards a small feature to the NE of the forest. This manoeuvre was repeated until the commandos reached the wood in square 7685 (NE of Spielmanshof) and the objective of the patrol: the road Linne - Hoverenbol Farm.

    Since no enemy opposition had been encountered it was decided to sent a small three men recce force, comprised of Lt. Bowles and two NCO's, to the buildings near feature 27, somewhat further to the NE. The tanks and the remainder of the patrol covering them from the edge of the wood and from hull down positions. The patrol got to within 150 yards of the building when an enemy MG opened up fire missing them. Taking cover L/Bmdr Griffin returned fire with a rifle and stated afterwards that he was certain that he got hits through the slit through which the MG had fired. No further fire was heard from the enemy MG. In view of the small numbers of the patrol it was decided to withdraw. The nearest tank opened up on the building from its hull down position. Three direct hits with AP shot were observed and the slit became a hole in the building. An enemy SP or gun opened up on the left flank from Merum causing the MO to withdraw his jeeps that had travelled forward to the edge awaiting possible casualties. At 17:00 hrs the patrol returned without casualties. Civilians at Spielmanshof stated that the bulk of the enemy troops had retired across the Roer, but the encounter at the house learnt that bands of enemy still infested the farms this side of the river. Unfortunately, no enemy identifications had been made.

    Map No 6 Cdo patrol 26 Jan 45.jpg
    Sketch of the fighting patrol conducted by No. 6 Commando together with two Troops of tanks of the 5 RTR. A: point of RV; B: Kruiskapel; C: original objective of patrol; D: enemy occupied farm at feature 27.

    (1) POW interrogation: No. 3 Commando Intelligence summary no. 4, 27 January 1945. This might have been the enemy deserter of the 2nd Coy captured in late afternoon of the 25th mentioned in post #40. Actually, probably unknown to the POW, the dispositions on the enemy side had altered in the meantime. After falling back from Linne to Merum the two companies of the I.Battalion (Matthaeas), that had been defending Linne, during the night to Jan 26th pulled out and rejoined the rest of the battalion which was in position to the east side of the railway (Matthaeas established his HQ in Kasteel Hattem). The defense of the area west of the railway was left to the III./FJ Regiment 22 of Hauptmann Müller (HQ in Herten). This battalion, on Jan 14th, had been attached to Huebner's regiment and since then was in position at Merum, on "Bell Isle" and further downstream along the east bank of the Meuse as far as Herten/Ool. The whereabouts of the II./FJ Regt 24 (Zander) are a bit unclear, though it is believed to have been in the area of Leerop, where Zander established his HQ (info courtesy Hugo Levels/Richard1976).
    (2) Note that St.Odiliënberg was still in enemy hands. Only next day the village, bordering on the Roer River, was cleared by elements of the 22 Armoured Bde.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2021
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Map No. 6 Cdo at St.Joostbrug.jpg
    Sketch of No. 6 Commando's position at St.Joostbrug around mid-morning, Jan 26th. Appendix IV of the unit's War Diary.

    On the 27th a similar recce as on the previous day was carried out. A combined patrol of tanks and commandos followed the same route. This time it consisted of three Troops of tanks from 'A' Sqd, 5 RTR and 3 Troop, No. 6 Commando; a recce in force with the intention of safe-guarding the left flank of the 22 Armoured Bde who were clearing St.Odiliënberg. The weather was cold with snow showers, a situation that did not change until Jan 30th, when it got warner and a slight thaw set in. The patrol set out at 12:30 hrs. Some enemy were shot up, but apart from some shelling and mortaring all objectives were reached and the patrol returned at 17:30 hrs. It had suffered no casualties. Enemy troops strongly held Hemelsberg and heavy MG and mortar fire was opened on the patrol from that area. Standing patrols were observed at the farms of Hoverenbol, Boschberg and Hoosten. Some of these withdrew as the patrol approached. The farm at the 27 feature, engaged the day before, also was occupied by a small standing patrol.

    Over the next period No. 6 Commando carried out recce's on a daily basis into the area around the Spielmanshof. They will not be describes all, but two of them stand out. On the 28th, a patrol from 6 Troop (Capt Leaphard) and three Troops of tanks 'A' Sqn, 5 RTR, surprised a group of 6 enemy soldiers at the southern edge of the wood near Spielmanshof also known as Heide Wood. Four were captured, two made off in the confusion. The POWs were immediately sent to Commando Bde HQ. When the patrol reached the northern edge of Heide Wood it was heavily shelled and suffered three casualties, one commando was killed.(Pte George J. Prior) and two wounded (1).

    The weather remained cold with snow showers. On the 30th another patrol, investigating Heide Wood, became involved in a heavy firefight inside the forest. The leading section was surrounded and two officers were killed, Capt. Leaphard (the Troop CO) and Lt. Hugo, and two men were wounded. Due to the trees the tanks were unable to assist in the fighting. The patrol returned at 18:00 hrs. In general it was noticed that the enemy was building up his strength in the forest north of the lateral road through the Heide Wood, more and more trenches and dug-outs were encountered here, and he was heavily shelling the southern end of the forest and its approaches. The approaches to Spielmanshof were now heavily mined or in the process of being mined. Two Dingo's of 'A' Sqn were lost on mines during the action on the 30th, killing Capt. J.C. Messent of the Recce Troop.

    Map FJ Regt Huebner Maas-Stellung.jpg
    Sketch of the positions of FJ Regt Huebner with attached battalion of Mueller in the Maas-Stellung or Merum bridgehead south of Roermond. Combat patrols of the commandos and 5 RTR scoured the area daily.

    (1) A German deserter reported from Spielmanshof on the 28th. He belonged to the 5 Coy, II./FJ Regt 24 (Zander). He gave the following information: 5 Coy strength (incl HQ) was 35 men. Coy HQ in house 776873. Bn HQ at LEEROP; Regt HQ (Huebner) at Castle SCHONDWEIN (? must be HATTEM). 8 Coy, 11 Coy also at LEEROP. 1 A/Tk gun and 2 Para Tp guns in LEEROP.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    "Operation Bell Isle II" - The Plan

    In the morning of Jan 27th Lt.Col. Gray was told that the Divisional Commander (7 Armoured Div) required information about the enemy forces in the Merum area. No. 45 RM Commandos was given this task which would mean landing on Bell Isle and pass over the Meuse again on to the mainland.

    The plan for the operation was as follows. Enemy positions believed of platoon strength had been located near the lock at the west end of the Island. First 'D' Troop (Major R.H.W. Kirby) was to assault Bell Isle and capture it. This phase of the operation was to be carried out in silence, without artillery support if possible, in order that the raid on Merum could be commenced without the enemy there being already on the alert. 'E' Troop (Capt. Beadle) was to form a firm base this side of the river to cover the crossing and also provide a sub-section, commanded by Lt. Tate, to establish a small bridgehead on Bell Isle to protect the boat parties and subsequent crossings. 'D' Troop would then land and attack and destroy all the enemy in the area of the lock. They were to hold this area until ordered to withdraw. In the second phase of the operation, 'B' Troop (Capt J.E. Day) was to move across Bell Isle, pass over the Meuse again and then carry out the raid on the area of the Drift Farm near Merum to obtain information about enemy strength and dispositions and capture a prisoner. To assist in the interrogation task a small detachment of two men and Captain J. Griffiths of 3 Troop, No. 10 (Inter Allied) Commando, was attached. The boat parties for the river crossing were provided by 1 Troop Engineers Commando RM, and were commanded by Sergeant-Major Morse.

    At the same time as the main assault was taking place, a sub-section commanded by Lieutenant T. Thomas, from 'A' Troop, was to raid the eastern part of the island, called 'Anchor Island', a name that probably derived from the barges that were anchored in the river cove on that part of the island. They were to clear all enemy on 'Anchor Island' and after that retreat to the firm base area.

    Support came from three Field Regts, two Medium Regts and the heavy weapons of No. 45 Royal Marines and a detachment of MMGs from No. 6 Commando.

    Snow suits were supplied for the raiding and assault parties, sledges were hastily constructed by the Engineer Troop (attached to Brigade) for the raiding party to haul the boats across Bell Isle: all those taking part were fully occupied in rehearsing and briefing for the operation. The assault party was to cross at 21:30 hrs (H-hours); the raiding party was to complete its task and return to Bell Isle by 07:00 hours on the 28th.

    Capt. John Day, the 'B' Troop CO, recalls: "The Meuse was 120 yards wide and running at six knots. To cross the river we had only a limited number of assault boats which were made of canvas and could be folded flat. They were ungainly craft, capable of carrying ten men, and had to be propelled by paddles. Because of the strong flow of the river the boats required a full load of paddlers to get them across to Bell Isle and could not be brought back with just a couple of boatmen. It was therefore decided to get a rope across the river in order to bring near empty boats back and establish a ferry service. This proved to be a major weakness in the plan. To asist 'B' Troop in getting their boats across Bell Isle for their second river crossing the RM engineers made sledges on which we could pull the boats. We were also issued with snow suits".

    Map Operation Bell Isle - the plan.jpg

    Operation Bell Isle - The force.jpg
    Operation Bell Isle II - the force (taken from the WD of 1st Cdo Bde: 45 RM Commando, Operation Order No. 1, 27 Jan 45)

    Aerial Linne and Anchor Island.jpg
    Aerial of Linne and the apex of Bell Isle, with the large cove, formed by sand pits, where a number of barges were anchored. The commandos called this part of the island 'Anchor Island'.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member


    Snow suits.jpg
    For the assault on Bell Isle and the raid on Merum the Commandos were supplied with snow suits. Unfortunately the night of the operation was bright with full moonlight refelcting on the snow which gave scant protection.

    Assault boats canvas.jpg
    Another weakness of the plan plan of attack was formed by the assault boats which had canvas screens and had to be paddled across the fast flowing river. Picture of soldiers of the 51st Highland Division handling assault boats across a narrow canal during Operation Ascot in Nov 1944. The afterglow of a Crocodile's beam of fire is visible on the other side of the canal (courtesy of Operatie Mallard november 1944 | Gemeente Nederweert)
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2021
  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    "Operation Bell Isle II" - The Action

    In early evening of the 27th, at 19:00 o'clock, the men that were to take part in the operation, divided into Firm Base, First Bridgehead, Assault and Boat Parties 'rendez-vous'ed' with Tac HQ in the area of Weerd. The move to the river bank started at 20:00 o'clock. The first to move were the Firm Base and Boat Parties, followed after 15 minutes by the First Bridgehead Party. The Assault Party set off towards the river another 15 minutes later, at 20:30 o'clock. By 21:15 o'clock all men had reached the river without incidents and were ready to start the operation. Lt. Col. Gray and set up his Tac HQ near the river. From now on all subsequent moves would be as ordered by him.

    Below the integral Report of the fighting patrol on the island:

    Operation Bell Isle - The action 1.jpg
    Operation Bell Isle - The action 2.jpg
    Operation Bell Isle - The action 3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Attached to the War Diary of 1st Cdo Bde is this Operation Log which gives, almost minute-by-minute, the messages sent by Tac HQ 45 RM Cdo during the operation.

    Operation Bell Isle - The action 5 Op Log.jpg

    At 21:15 hours 'E' Troop reports that the firm base has been established, one hour later 'D' Troop starts to crossing. At 22:29 hours the battle on the island commences for real and the MMGs and gunners join in with supporting fire. At 22:35 the MMGs open fire on set task 15 or point 734878 (the Lock site). At 22:54 PM things seem to be going well, when it is reported that the assault party is approaching the lock complex. But then, at 23:19 hours, enemy MMG fire increases with fire coming from the NW as well as the NE part of the island. At 23:48 hours it is obvious that 'D' Troop has met strong opposition and has suffered a lot of casualties (1). With the element of surprise lost and 'D' Troop in serious trouble, Phase II of the operation is cancelled at 00:08 hours (Jan 28th). The enemy artillery starts to respond and finds the range, since Tac HQ, which is established near the crossing point, reports 12 rounds falling in the area between 00:05 - 00:10 hours and two more shells five minutes later. No. 3 Commando at the same time reported enemy shelling of Linne: "Firing right, left and center - as a result of [the action of] 45. The 'Bossche' are dropping them all over the village". The situation then becomes obscure. Walking wounded from 'D' Troop are coming back to the beachhead. Tac HQ is out of touch with 'D' Troop. The MMGs and artillery continue to fire in support. By 01:18 hours it is clear that casualties are high. By 02:00 hours the last men have been evacuated from the island.

    Lt.Col Gray, still keen to clarify the situation and complete the initial task of capturing a prisoner and, ordered an officer led patrol back to the island. Major Beadle of 'E' Troop and six of his men, with Capt. Griffith of No.10 (Inter Alled) Commando moved back across the Meuse at 04:00 hours. They landed without interruptions and paid their first visit to the old bridgehead where they found five dead enemy soldiers. The journey was not in vain, one of the bodies was that of an artillery officer containing a map giving invaluable information of the enemy dispositions in the area southwest of Roermond. Most important of all, a prisoner was taken, a German corporal. Major Beadle's party was able to return safely having been able to achieve part of the original mission.

    Operation Bell Isle - The action 4 Map Log.jpg
    Map of Bell Isle: the numbers on the map are the plotted coordinates, they correspond with the numbers of the messages in the Operation Log above. E.g.15 is the location of Tac HQ as given in message 15. of the Operation Log.

    Anchor Island Dec 44.jpg
    Aerial of Anchor Island taken in December 1944 showing part of the island flooded by the high waters of the Meuse. Most of the island was barren except for some rows of poplar trees. The moored barges are clearly visible as is the house mentioned in the Op Log messages # 4 and # 5. The Drift Farm, which was the target of the second phase of the commando operation, is visible at the top; part of Linne is visible at the bottom right (photo courtesy Roermond frontstad.)

    Operation Bell Isle - 6 POW report.jpg
    The only POW taken in the engagement, a Cpl Fredirick Moser, belonged to a platoon of the 10.Coy of III./FJ Regt 22 (Mueller). He gave a detailed description of enemy dispositions and routine on the island. The enemy had concentrated his defense on the western part of the island near the sluice where three sections each with a MG had taken up position in the long tree line. There were only some lone standing posts to the east. The POW statement is attached as an annex to the War Diary. One of the bodies that was found during the night was of a killed artillery officer containing a map and documents with valuable information on enemy positions. The documents were sent up the chain of command, unfortunately there is no trace of them in the War Diaries of the commando units.

    (1) The wounded and other survivors of 'D' Troop that made it back gave their account of what had happened. Near the lock at the western end of Bell Isle was a long line of trees where the enemy positions were known to be. 'D' Troop was approaching this area cautiously, but the enemy had presumably been able to see them silhouetted against the barren landscape in the bright moonlight, and had skillfully laid an ambush at very close quarters from which only a few 'D' Troop men were to survive unscathed although, as was learned later, they were able to inflict as many casualties on the enemy in what can be only described as violent hand-to-hand battle. An attempt by the enemy to make their success absolute and cut-off the remainder of the Troop from the bridgehead was checked by covering fire of 'E' Troop from the south bank.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Crossing point today

    Crossing point Linne.jpg
    Standing on the bank of the Meuse near the approximate location of Tac HQ 45 RM Cdo. The church spire of Linne is visible above the trees in the background. Our guide Richard1976 (left) points out the crossing site which was a bit further down the bank near the small bushes.

    Osen Island 3 Bell Isle II.jpg
    A picture of the crossing site: view to the Northeast across Bell Isle. The white tower in the distance is located at Herten on the far bank of the Meuse well beyond the island. Bell Isle has changed a lot since the war and most of it has been excavated for gravel and sand extraction. Anchor Island on the other hand has been partly filled up. At the time the island was not so barren as it is nowadays, there were several rows of poplar trees as are shown on the aerial in the above post.

    Osen Island 2 Bell Isle II.jpg
    Picture taken at the same location, now looking west towards the large weir in the Meuse. The lock complex is beyond the row of trees.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    "Operation Bell Isle II" - The Aftermath

    As dawn approached it was about time to pull back altogether from the banks of the Meuse. But when the men were preparing to return to the unit positions, one of the parties collecting the boats suddenly heard a shout from a man standing on the opposite bank. He said he was Sergeant Fenwick, one of 'D' Troops NCO's and that he had another wounded man with him. A party from 'B' Troop under Captain Day crossed the river and were met by Sergeant Fenwick, who guided hem to where the wounded man, Marine Hannah, was lying. Hannah was badly wounded and unable to move. However he was picked up and slowly carried back to the boat. As he was being lifted down the steep bank, a machine gun opened fire on the party. But they managed to get down the bank and into the boat. As soon as the boat left the cover of the bank the machine gun opened fire again, fortunately causing no casualties.

    Captain Day remembers: "The machine gunner had obviously seen the boat and continued to fire at us but his aim was high. The paddlers were working furiously except for Ogle who was sitting motionless in front of me. I commented harshly on his lack of activity to be met with the rather aggrieved response "I can't Sir, I've been hit in both arms". The German machine gunner was still persistent but there was no retaliatory activity from our friends. I yelled at Peter Riley, invoking the deity, and urged him in no uncertain manner to provide some covering fire. The 'B' Troop Brens opened up and under their protection we landed safely on our side of the Maas. By this time the current had taken us well past the Commando position and there was no-one to greet us as we scrambled ashore. Fortunately we were able to find a gate which we used as a makeshift stretcher for Hannah and we made our way back to to the Commando, accompanied by long range machine-gun fire whistling harmlessly over our heads."

    The unhappy operation had cost the commandos 13 ORs wounded and 3 officers and 14 ORs missing. Almost half of the men committed in the operation. Most of the casualties were from 'D' Troop. With the assistance of Lt. Griffith of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando an effort was made to persuade the enemy to hand over the wounded. These efforts failed, but the enemy allowed the commandos to search and recover the dead under cover of the Red Cross. In the morning of the 28th, around 10:15 hours, the commandos returned to the island to recover their fallen comrades (1). Next day there was another truce in the afternoon, during which the bodies of 1 officer and 5 ORs were evacuated from the island (2). These truces made it possible to establish that Lieutenant Winston and 9 other ranks were killed and that the remainder previously reported missing were in enemy hands: Major Kirby, who was hit in the arm and ankle by German bullets, and carried to the factory at Merum, Lieutenant Alvey, his subaltern, and five other men (3). During the evacuation of the dead it was discovered that at least 20 Germans had been killed during the action.

    Operation Bell Isle - Casualty report.jpg
    The casualty report which was compiled immediately after the operation. It mentions 12 wounded and 17 missing in action. The exact number of casualties (KIA & WIA & MIA) only became clear after several days as the commandos were allowed to recover their fallen comrades from the island. The casualty report is appended to the Combat report on "Operation Bell Island II" from the War Diary of No. 45. RM Commando (Courtesy DannyM)

    Linne Meuse Island.jpg
    Post-war (?) picture of Bell Island taken from the book "A Short History of the 7th Armoured Division". To the right a moored dredger. There are cows grazing on the other side.

    Bell Island Sluice complex.jpg
    The sluice complex at the western end of Bell Isle was heavily contested for nearly three month, from early December 1944 until mid-February 1945. The complex was heavily damaged as a result (photo courtesy Hugo Levels).

    Bell Island Sluice complex 2.jpg
    The same spot today. The drawbridge and the original buildings have disappeared.

    (1) War Diary No. 3 Commando, entrance 28th Jan 45. A No.3 Cdo OP reported at 0930 hours: "4 men march across island from left to right. 2 identified as Cdo POW. Vansihed below river bank at 753872 appeared on other side of river and walked twd. MERUM".
    (2) War Diary No. 3 Commando, entrance 29th Jan 45; "14:00 Truce continues. Negotiations succeed. Curious sight to see crowd on either bank of river shouting to each other". Over the next few days short truces and negotiations followed in which it was attempted to persuade the Fallschirmjäger to give up the hopeless position on the island, but these efforts were to no avail.
    (3) WW2talk member Richard1976 has established that the following commandos fell during the operation on Bell Isle on the night to the 28th:

    1. Duchan, John Joseph, Cpl DUCHAN, John Joseph | ͏
    2. Laing, James Hardie, Cpl LAING, James Hardie | ͏
    3. McNulty, Herbert, LCpl MCNULTY, Herbert | ͏
    4. Mosley, Claude, Mne MOSLEY, Claude | ͏
    5. Purvis, William, Mne PURVIS, William | ͏
    6. Sweet, Dennis Percy, Mne SWEET, Dennis Percy | ͏
    7. Symes, Robert Leonard, Mne SYMES, Robert Leonard | ͏
    8. Timmins, John Robert, Mne TIMMINS, John Robert | ͏
    9. Wild, Frank, Mne WILD, Frank | ͏
    10. Winston, Peter Stanley, Lt WINSTON, Peter Stanley | ͏
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1st Commando Brigade - the end (28 Jan - 18 Feb 45)

    On 30 Jan 45 thaw set in with a vengeance, warm weather and rain made the snow disappear in a few days and turned the roads into slush. The 1st Commando Bde stayed in the line for another three weeks overlooking the Meuse and the small Merum bridgehead. During this period there was little activity, except for the usual patrols and intermittent shell fire.

    On 6 Feb 45, the 46 RM Commando joined the Brigade which let to an alteration of positions. The sector of 1 Commando Bde shifted further eastward, with No. 6 Commando moving to the area of Aan den Berg/Montfort and taking over the positions of 2 Devons (7 Armoured Div), No. 45 RM Commando handed over its positions on the banks of the Meuse in the De Villa area to 46 RM Commandos and in turn took over the position of No. 6 Commando astride the main road at St.Joostbrug. No. 3 Commando moved to the area immediately east of the railway and actively patrolled the area up to the Heide Woods together with elements of No. 45 RM Commando.

    The commandos contended themselves with local patrolling. Propaganda broadcasts, reinforced by artillery concentrations, were conducted against the island. This eventually had some effect, probably also because nature lend a hand. Due to the thaw, the island slowly submerged and every day the situation for the enemy became more miserable. In some places the Germans literally were flooded out of their trenches. However, permission to pull out from the island was denied. The CO of III./FJ Regt 22, Major Müller was even forbidden by his commander, Oberstleutnant Huebner, to talk about the subject. On 8 Feb 45, 11 wretched enemy soldiers, mostly NCOs, crossed the Meuse to surrender to No. 46 RM Commandos. At some point the situation even for Huebner became untenable. Because the water level was expected to rise even further, he finally gave permission on 10 Feb 45 to abandon the island.

    aflossing Cdos 18 febr door US.jpg
    On Feb 18th, 45, 1st Commando Brigade handed over its positions the 8th US Armored Div. These pictures were taken at Aan Den Berg (Montfort) and show members of No. 3 Commando with US soldiers of the 58th Armored Infantry Battalion, 8th US Armored Div (courtesy Richard1976).

    thumbnail_Overname 8AD (1).jpg

    The 7 Armoured Div, and with it 1st Commando Bde, came under command of US XVI Corps. On Feb 19th, 45, in anticipation of the launching of 'Operation Grenade' by Ninth US Army, American formations took over the sector. The 1st Commando Bd handed over its position to Combat Command R of the 8th US Armored Division and proceeded to Schilberg where it stayed overnight. Next day the Commando Brigade moved to Venraij and took up defensive positions on the west bank of the Meuse. The Brigade was now under command of British 8 Corps. By the end of February No. 45 RM and No. 6 Commando moved to Gennep and were attached to the 52nd Lowland Division. Both units were engaged in the final phase of 'Op Veritable', clearing the east bank of the Meuse from the area of Afferden south to the village of Well, which fell on March 3rd. To assist in the operation No. 46 RM Commando carried out an assault crossing of the Meuse at Wanssum and cleared Knikkerdorp, a small hamlet just to the south of Well. There was no hard fighting, the enemy had already left the area by the time the commandos reached the villages.

    At Well exercises in river crossing assaults with amphibious vehicles (Buffalos & Weasels) were started on the Meuse, preparing the commando units for the next major operation: the Rhine Crossing at Wesel.

    Buffalo Meuse.jpg
    (Photo Courtesy 2)
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Monuments in the area:

    1st Commando Brigade memorial Linne

    On the inside wall of churchyard of Linne a memorial plaque to the 1st Commando Briagde commemorates all the members of the Brigade fallen during the actions at Maasbracht, Brachterbeek and Linne in January and February 1945.

    Commando memorial Linne.jpg

    Eric Harden Bridge at the Linnermolen

    The rebuilt bridge across the Montforterbeek at the Linner Molen after the war was named Eric Harden bridge and a bronze plaque attached to the side of the bridge commemorated the action of Harden. In 1965 the bronze plaque, in a low act, was stolen and had to be replaced by a stone plaque.
    Harden Brug 3.jpg
    Picture of the original bronze plaque at the bridge over the Montforterbeek. The damaged Linnermolen is visible in the background.

    harden brug 1.jpg
    The stone plaque today. This is a second version, the original stone plaque had to be replaced because it had weathered over the years. In 2009, when the bridge was renovated, two black granite plaques were placed on either side of the bridge, one in English and one in Dutch. Lieutenant Corey and Julie Harden were present at the unveiling

    Harden Brug 2.jpg Eric Harden bridge view toward Brachterbeek

    Eric Harden VC memorial

    Along the Stationsstraat near the Vossen Farm initially a modest memorial commemorated the action of Eric Harden. Later a granite plaque was added to this location.

    VC memorial 1.JPG

    VC Harden monument.jpg
    The original small cross and information plaque (only in Dutch) are moved to either side of the granite stone.

    The Linner Lock complex - The 'Lock Force' monument

    On the western bank of the Meuse at the sluice is a plaque commemorating the units that fought from December 1944 until February 1945 at this site. Total losses for the period concerned were 25 KIA, 30 WIA and 12 MIA.

    Lock force 1 plaque.jpg
    Although 1st Commando Brigade, No. 46 Royal Marine Commando and even No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando are listed, No. 45 Royal Marine Commando, which had the largest share of the losses incurred, strangely enough is missing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
  11. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    Hi,
    The War Diary for January 1945 is in ADM 202/83 (ADM 202/83 - 45 Commando - formerly 5th Royal Marine Division. - 1945 Jan.-Mar. May-Dec.).

    DEFE 2/51 (DEFE 2/51 – No 45 (RM) Commando - 1943 Sept 27-1946 Mar 19) is the War Diary with January 1945 missing.

    Sometimes it is worth looking at all of the documents at Kew with the same title. Depending on who assembled the document at the time they can have different pages that may contain that piece of information that you are looking for in them.

    This thread contains more information about the operation than the War Diary.

    Regards

    Danny
     
  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Thanks Danny for sharing the War Diary. Received it this morning in the email! Much appreciated
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
    Bayonet Productions likes this.
  13. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    That photo IWM A 28399 has been reversed, you can tell as their berets are the wrong way around & the bolt of the No4 rifle is on the wrong side.
    I've flipped it to correct the image.

    large_000000 flipped.jpg
     
  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Photo courtesy MWI
     
  15. Richard1976

    Richard1976 Junior Member

    This monument is initially a dedication to the units involved in guarding the lock, known as the "Lock Force". The "Lock Force" was situated in the houses on the western bank of the lock from December 6th, 1944 when 4 RWF cleared the houses from German occupation until February 25th, 1945 when Osen/Belle island was finally cleared. The top seven units up to and including the US 291th Infantry Regiment (75th Infantry Division), mentioned on the monument were all involved in guarding the lock in that period. When No46 RM Cdo was part of the "Lock Force" it was no part of the 1st Cdo Bde, but attached to the 6th Airborne Division.

    The below two units mentioned on the monument, 1st Cdo Bde and No10 Inter Allied Cdo, never took part in this "Lock Force" and I therefore pressume they are only chosen because of their involvement on the island, which included No45 RM Cdo.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2021
  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Hi Richard, thank you for the addition ... which does mean that I have been too harsh in my judgement. I have edited the post.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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