Rhine Crossing: unsung heroes

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Peter Halsall, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Hi,

    Perhaps some kind soul could point me in the right direction with any or all of the 3 questions below. Any assistance would be most appreciated.

    This tale concerns my uncle, John 'Jack' Halsall, 6th KOSB, 'D' Company. Service No 14762599.

    Jack was WIA in a wood near Hamminkeln on 26th March 1945. He was then taken to a barn along with other wounded men, but in a counter-attack the barn was attacked by Germans. A bazooka was fired into the barn, setting it ablaze. Jack, unable to move due to his injured leg and morphine was trapped. Fortunately, two heroes, Lance Corporal J Brooks and Private Rudkin carried him out of the barn along with a number of other wounded soldiers before the Germans arrived. Rudkin was captured and a number of the wounded still in the barn perished. These two had saved his life, hence my interest. Rudkin was rescued by the British later in the day.

    The extracts below are taken from the Battalion History by J R P Baggaley. His book includes a list of those receiving honours and includes a Military Medal for 3602585 Lance-Corporal J Brooks. I am assuming it is the same man for now.

    The London Gazette entry for Brooks adds the detail that he was from Stockport but little else.

    The War Diaries, unsurprisingly, do not include fine detail of this episode.

    I am hoping to establish some or all of the following details:

    1. Confirmation that L-C Brooks actually received his Military Medal for his action in saving these men, and any detailed account of how he won it. I have made some amateurish attempts to locate local newspaper reports and failed.

    2. A long shot, but given the geographical detail in the account from Baggaley's book below, is there any way of identifying the farm / barn where the incident took place?

    3. Ditto the wood in which he was wounded? Unlikely I know.

    The story according to Baggaley:

    The objective was to seize a bridge over the river Issel, west of Dingden.

    Their planned route took them via a crossroads where the Wesel road crossed the road between Mehr and Hamminkeln, instead they took a detour on a track through the Diersfordter Wald. They came under fire as they reached the railway line, and overcame the enemy at this point. They took another track through the woods to the main road, fifteen hundred yards from the autobahn. A minor road branched north-east to the autobahn. They decided to attack over the road as soon as it became dark. Companies would successively bite their way forward until ‘B’… (copied page takes over from here).



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  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Thanks Owen, here it is. A hero. Another lifesaver of course was penicillin, as far as I am aware provided for all of our injured soldiers in these forward stations. One of the best 'secret weapons' of the latter stages of the war.
    One down two to go!

    Cheers

    Pete

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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    There is a chance that the MR of the Coy's postion are mentioned in the War Diary of the battalion or in that of 44 Bde; if you are lucky the Bde Diary might contain a Intell Log or a Sit Report, these sometimes specify the sub-units positions down to Coy level for various stages of the operation.
     
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  5. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Good shout Stolpi. The wood in which the Germans counter-attacked was at 200527, according to the battalion War Diaries. I'll go look for a map now...

    Thanks

    Pete
     
  6. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    I’m very familiar with this ground having conducted a battlefield tour this year of the 6th Airborne areas ( this is the same area as you speak/ask)
    Tomorrow I’ll plot that grid reference for you as I have the map you need.

    Alex.
     
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  7. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Much appreciated Alex, I am rapidly trying to get up to speed on 'purple grids' and 'British modified system'. Not as straightforward as I imagined so expert help would be very reassuring.

    Cheers

    Pete
     
  8. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    No worries.
    The grid reference is easy as I have the map.
    Battalion HQ was at Vockingshof, that’s a farm right next to the autobahn which I know exactly where that is.
    The road you mentioned is easy to follow too even on modern day google earth as the ground hasn’t really changed.

    Alex.
     
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  9. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Hi Alex, in case it is of use I have included the war diaries for 6 KOSB for the relevant period. The reference 200527 is for the wood referred to on 26th March. Please note that while Jack was in D company not C, it seems clear from P.97 of Baggaley's book, above, that B and D companies both become involved in this incident.

    Thanks again,

    Pete
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Peter ... I have a copy of the BAOR Battlefield Tour of the Rhine Crossing which deals in detail with the 15th Div river assault ... if you want a copy just sent me a PM.
     
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  11. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Is that the directing staff or guests/visitors one?

    Alex.
     
  12. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Pete,
    the files I'm creating are to big ( as images) to post here . I can email you the info if you wish . Send me a direct message with your address and i'll send them over .

    Alex
     
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  13. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Peter.
    I’ve emailed you the map required to locate these locations. I highlighted the Vockingshof Farm and wooded area you mentioned. So, it seems you got 3/3 done!

    Alex.
     
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  14. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Hi Alex,

    This is absolutely wonderful! More successful by far than I anticipated when I started this thread. Jack has a surviving sister who will be delighted to see this. I am a great lover of maps, having used them for many a year walking you get to a point when the landscape comes alive when you study one. A great help, and I will also study google Earth to get the current lie of the land. If I could just confirm one detail? Are you indicating that the barn used for accommodating the wounded men was Vockingshof Farm, ie the headquarters rather than the unit commandeering the nearest available building in an emergency?

    Indebted and grateful. Thanks again,

    Pete
     
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  15. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    Well I must say that was great fun, as well as shedding light on a mystery that has existed in the family for 74 years! All three questions answered thanks to the expert and generous help of Alex1975uk and stolpi. Eternally grateful..

    Pete

    Jack, by the way, survived his injury (bullet entered high in leg and exited through calf - hit while in the prone position shooting) and went on to live a happy life with wife and four children.
     
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  16. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    It says in the passage of book you posted that battalion HQ was set up in Vockingshof farm. That’s on the south side of the Autobahn. The other companies crossed and set up in other farms.
    It seems that the Germans counter attacked as Battalion HQ was moving to another spot ( north of the Autobahn) so the Barn is probably North of that, but not as far N/NE as the Issel river.
    Alex.
     
  17. Guy Hudson

    Guy Hudson Looker-upper

    Wounded in July 1944, date not recorded
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  18. Peter Halsall

    Peter Halsall Member

    That's really interesting Guy. I'd like to know more about both Rudkin and Brooks. I was interested to find that Brooks was from Stockport, so English like my uncle but serving in a Scottish regiment, commonplace at the time as the Scottish regiments were struggling to keep numbers up. My understanding is that the 6th KOSB were mainly untried youngsters like my uncle who was called up at 17 years and 6 months for training so they would be ready to serve at D-Day and beyond. I must explore Brooks background to see if he was another 'youngster', ditto Rudkin.
     

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