VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. Captain Roel

    Captain Roel Junior Member

    12 Feb 45 around 11: 00h Maj Donald Wallace Beales (Border regiment) commander Delta company who had set up his headquarters at the start of the railroad stood outside and sent his ordonnans Private John Smith (a simple soldier of gypsy descent who could not read and write, his letters were always read by his buddy and if he wanted to write back his buddy did that for him) when private Smith walked away towards the battalion headquarters he turned around and called against Major Beales until in 20 minutes a few minutes later Major Beales was hit by the shards of a grenade and he dies on the spot Private ten minutes later, a shrapnel hits him and he also dies on the spot. They are now lying next to each other in the Commonwealth cemetery behind the church in Milsbeek.

    Milsbeek War Cemetery II-D-3 Donald Wallace BEALES [M].jpg
     
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: Donald Beales
    Given Initials: D W
    Rank: Major
    Death Date: 12 Feb 1945
    Number: 105565
    Birth Place: Essex
    Residence: Sussex
    Branch at Enlistment: Infantry
    Theatre of War: Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
    Regiment at Death: Border Regiment
    Branch at Death: Infantry

    Casualty
    Major
    BEALES, DONALD WALLACE
    Service Number 105565
    Died 12/02/1945
    Aged 27
    Border Regiment
    attd. 5th Bn.
    Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
    Son of Wallace Edgar and Edith Florence Beales; husband of Eileen Marjorie Beales, of West Worthing, Sussex.

    [​IMG]

    TD
     
    ecalpald likes this.
  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2.2 Gennep 2nd phase - enlarging the Gennep bridgehead (12 - 14 Feb 45)

    In the evening of the 11th a conference was held at HQ 153 Bde at Kanonskamp and orders issued for the operations of Feb 12th. At a time depending on completion of the bridge across the Niers the Bde would advance on to the high ground overlooking Gennep in the area of Heijen and Genneperheide with the object of freeing the 30 Corps axis in the direction of Hekkens and obtaining sufficient elbow room to allow the construction of the 8 Corps bridge across the Meuse at Gennep. Main Bde HQ moved to Ottersum.

    Pontoon%20bridge%20across%20Niers.jpg
    14 Fd Sqn RE attd from the Guards Armoured Division, working under considerable enemy fire on 11 Feb and night 11/12 Feb completed the bridge over the river Niers by 10:30 hrs on 12 Feb. Later on a double bridge was laid across the Niers.

    Images of the bridge building can be found in the attached You Tube video:


    The 14 Field Squadron had several casualties at the bridge as a result of enemy shelling, one man was killed:
    DIXON, PETER, Lance Serjeant 2000545, February 11, 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 11.

    On the 12th, at 14:30 hrs, the 153 Bde assisted by very heavy artillery support attacked with right 1 Gordons and left 5/7 Gordons. The start of the operation was delayed by trouble with the smoke screen but after this initial setback the attack rapidly gained momentum against crumbling resistance. The left hand battalion progressed more rapidly than its neighbour but by about 17:00 hrs both battalions were firm on their objectives. 68 POWs were taken during the day - half of these by a Troop of the Derbyshires in an advance towards the hamlet of IJshovel - of a variety of units including III./20. FJ Regt and I. and III./2. FJ Regt.

    The night was very quiet and at first light both Gordon battalions started cleaning up their areas. 'B' Sqn, 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, started patrolling forward on each battalion front and reported that the enemy was still in Hommersum (8244) and in the woods at 7941. 5/7 Gordons moved up te high ground dominating Hommersum and about 15:30 hrs reported three SP-guns and about 80 infantry forming up for counterattack. Defensive fire was brought down and the attack driven off. The enemy now started probing determinedly in the wooded area near 1 Gordons and attempted to infiltrate with his infantry between the battalion and the river Meuse. This was also countered and the enemy withdrew again at about 20:15 hrs. The enemy SPs belonged to the Fallschirm-Sturmgeschuetz Brigade 12, in support of the II. FJ Korps. The Fallschirm Stug Bde nominally consisted of three batteries with 10 Stugs each.

    Map of the area:
    Map general.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2019
    CoenNL likes this.
  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1st Gordon Highlanders at Heijen

    In the morning of the 12th, 'D' Coy of the 5th Black Watch, in a limited operation, cleared the area of the railway station which was still in enemy hands to give the 1st Gordons a clear start. It was during this action that the Company commander Major Donald Beales and his company runner Pte John Smith (aka Jocky) were killed, in what would become a grim Black Watch legend as described in the previous post # 21. Major Beales sent Smith back to battalion HQ with an urgent message. As Pte Smith set off down the road, he shouted back to his officer, 'I'll see you in twenty minutes, sir'. In the next moment Major Beales was killed by a mortar bomb. Twenty minutes later young Jocky suffered exactly the same fate.

    Beales & Smith.jpg
    Major Beales, OC 'D' Coy, 5th Black Watch and his company runner, Pte Smith, now rest side-by-side at the Milsbeek War Cemetery

    Account from the War Diary of the 5th Black Watch:
    5 Bw 1.jpg

    The attack on the Station went in with the support of two Troops (No. One and Three) of Crocodiles of 'A' Sqn of the 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. The Regt History recounts: "In the attack one platoon of infantry were to lead the Crocodiles towards the objective. But the track was hard to follow and the tanks had to make their way between several houses to get back to the correct route. In the process they did no good at all to several gardens. Within range of the Station the Crocodiles functioned splendidly, heartily flamed the buildings, forcing the enemy garrison to retreat in disorder across the fields. The infantry had never worked with flame before and apparently did not realize is was safe to attack the instant the Troop Leader gave his signal to go ahead. The assault was held for a minute or two with the result that a number of the enemy, who by rights ought to have spent the rest of the war in a cage, got away. The Troop then advanced to the next objective, the rows of houses. These they flamed with such effect that twelve of them were completely gutted in a short time. The Black Watch then asked for still more flame for another house because of the persistent fire which came from it., and which was pinning the foot soldiers down. In spite of heavy mortaring from the enemy, Troop Three of 'A' Sqn were happy to oblige with a further little deed of kindness. They quickly made fireworks of the house which was holding out, whereupon the infantry dashed forward and reached their objectives. Lieutenant Bowbly was wounded on the head by shrapnel during the attack and two trailers were knocked about but remained serviceable. On the whole a thoroughly successful action with all the objectives occupied and very light casualties."

    Train Station Gennep.jpg
    Old prewar picture of the railway station at Gennep. The station and railline are gone nowadays. The rail line was known as Boxtelter Baan, which connected the town of Boxtel (in Holland) with Wesel (in Germany).

    Aerial of the Station area (Oct 1944) and railway line on the southern fringe of Gennep:
    Aerial Gennep Station area.jpg
    1. Factory building occupied by 1 Gordons; 2. Station; 3. Aurora factory occupied by enemy paratroopers.

    Map of the subsequent advance of the 1 Gordon Highlanders; which is the map of the War Diary projected on a contemporary map (courtsesy Bedee):
    Map advance 1 G (totaal).jpg

    Account of the operation of 1 Gordons from the War diary of the battalion:
    P1400038 a.jpg P1400039 a.jpg P1400041 a.jpg 1 Gordons Map WD.jpg

    Captain Ian Lesley Kidd, 127 Fd Regt who was acting as FOO with the 1st Gordons, received a MC for his actions in the attack. At Heyen he went forward on foot through a mine-field to establish an OP in a house well in front of the own line from where he successfully directed artillery fire on the enemy for an hour and a half :
    Cpt Kidd 127 Fd Regt.jpg Cpt Kidd 127 Fd Regt aa.jpg


    Heijen.jpg
    Prewar picture of the small village of Heijen which was reached by by 1 Gordons by late afternoon of Feb 12th. Below: prewar picture of the Castle of Heijen (called Kasteel in the report of 1 Gordons). 'B' Coy of 1 Gordons took up position at Heijen level with the castle. Next day the position was counterattacked and German paratroopers managed to infiltrate back into the Castle, threatening the right flank of the battalion.
    Kasteel Heyen.jpg

    The small Heijen Castle nevertheless survived the war and still exists:
    20190818_155130.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5/7 Gordons at eastern Gennep and Genneperheide

    Gennep east 12 Feb.jpg

    In the afternoon of the 12th, at 15:00 hrs, the 5/7 Gordons passed through the 5 Black Watch position at the Picardie and started clearing the eastern part of Gennep north of the railway line. Extremely heavy enemy shell fire caused a lot of casualties even before the battalion could get started. The two leading companies ('C' on the left and 'B' on the right) encountered stiff enemy resistance, especially at the two residential blocks, known as 'Genapium' at the time (nowadays the area between the Groene Kruisstraat and St.Martinus-/St.Norbertstraat). Enemy resistance was finally broken with the support of tanks and Crocodiles. From 'Genapium' the Gordons had a clear view of the ruined and burned out Paper Mill. The factory had been hit by an aerial bombardment earlier in the fall of 1944. German MGs fired from the ruined building. A Troop of tanks was called forward and the tank fire drove the enemy off from the Paper Mill, which enabled the Gordons to advance further and occupy the objectives, astride the railway line in sand dune area, called 'De Looij', by nightfall and dig in. Casualties for that day were 7 men killed and 25 wounded, including Major G.I. Gammie, OC 'B' Coy.

    Account from the War Diary of the battalion:
    WO_171_5198_0006 a.jpg WO_171_5198_0007 a.jpg

    For an account of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry see attached report of 'B' Sqn from the War Diary. The Sqn was attached to 153 Bde and moved into the Gennep bridgehead on the 12th, first probing towards IJshovel and Hommersum on the 12th and 13th. On the latter date, the Sqn took over a Coy position from the 5/7 Gordons on the eastern flank of the bridgehead until the take-over by the 32 Guards Bde, which attacked and took Hommersum on the 14th. On the 15th a last recce was made of the southern extremities of the bridgehead position. Most of the action took place in a wooded sand-dune landscape with poor sandy tracks:

    PICT0032 a.jpg PICT0034 a.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The fallen in the 153 Bde operation at Gennep (11 - 14 Feb 1945)

    5th Black Watch

    1. BOYCE, CHARLES, Private 14731737 February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 1.
    2. BRECKENRIDGE, JOHN , Private 14709013, February 14, 1945, Age 19, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY, VIII. F. 3.
    3. CHAPMAN, JOHN FRANCIS DAVID, Private 6470942, February 11, 1945, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 6.
    4. GROVE, ALBERT ARTHUR, Private 14437268, February 12, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 4.
    5. HUNTER, JAMES, Private14761065, February 11, 1945, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 7.
    6. JENNINGS, GEORGE ALFRED, Serjeant 3321910, February 11, 1945, Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 9.
    7. MACDONALD, JEAN ROBERT, Lieutenant 293993, February 12, 1945, Age 30, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 3.
    8. McCARTHY, THOMAS, Private 14775634, February 14, 1945, Age 19, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY, VIII. F. 7.
    9. McGRAW, ALEXANDER FOX, Private 1795897, February 11, 1945, Age 23, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 8.
    10. McMAHON, JAMES, Lance Serjeant 2762875, February 11, 1945, Age 33, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 10.
    11. MASSON, JOSEPH, Private 14741686, February 12, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 5.
    12. MILNE, RAMSAY, Lance Corporal 14442410, February 14, 1945, Age 20, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY, VIII. F. 4.
    13. ROBERTSHAW, JOHN, Corporal 2760831, February 11, 1945, Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 2
    14. SMITH, JOHN, Private3323651, February 12, 1945 Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. D. 4.

    and attd to 5 Black Watch:
    15. BEALES, DONALD WALLACE, Major 105565, February 12, 1945, Age 27, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. D. 3

    20190606_144930 Black Watch Graves.jpg

    1st Gordon Highlanders
    1. DIXON, BERNARD JAMES, Private 3535497, February 13, 1945, Age 21, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 9.
    2. DUNLOP, WILLIAM HUNTER, Serjeant 3061092, February 13, 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 12.
    3. SPENCE, NORMAN AITCHISON, Private 14718898, February 13, 1945 Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 11.

    5/7 Gordon Highlanders
    1. PARTRIDGE, ERNEST JOHN, Private1118031, February 14, 1945, Age 24, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 7. F. 7.
    2. FELTON, FRANK, Corporal 4915899, February 12, 1945, Age 26, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 3.
    3. FRASER, JOHN, Private 14790215, February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 1.
    4. HOLLINGER, WILLIAM, Private14698604, February 13, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 8.
    5. JENNINGS, ARTHUR, Private4923633, February 11, 1945, Age 24, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 17.
    6. MALCOLM, THOMAS, Private 3059482, February 12, 1945, Age 28, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 7.
    7. McDIARMID, DUNCAN, Private14441524, February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 5.
    8. SEDDON, JOHN LEWIS, Private 1626649, February 12, 1945, Age 31, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 4.
    9. TURNER, FREDERICK CHARLES, Private14680138, February 12, 1945, Age 20, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 6.
    10. WEBSTER, ROBERT SCOTT, Private14790272, February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 2.

    20190606_144448 Gordon Graves.jpg

    Derbyshire Yeomanry:
    1. MUCKLOW, PETER, Lieutenant 295890, February 13, 1945 Age 23, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 19. G. 1.

    Jonkerbos Mucklow.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
    ramacal and Recce_Mitch like this.
  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3. The Path through the Wood: 152 Bde

    Path through the wood 152 Bde.jpg


    While the 153 Bde was fighting for Gennep the remainder of the 51st Highland Division moved deeper into the Reichswald forest. The task of leading the advance into the forest was given to the 152 Bde, which had not been committed on Day 1 of the operation. The axis of advance ran along the Kartenspielerweg, codenamed 'Homer', a long straight forest ride running from west to southeast through the forest, which is crossed by the two lateral roads running through the Reichswald, the road from Kranenburg/Frasselt to Goch and the one from Cleve to Gennep.

    Plans for this attack were already made in the first week of Feb 45. The 152 Bde had issued a detailed Operation Order No.12 on Feb 4th to the units, which gave five phases for the attack, each named after a fruit: Apple, Banana, Cherry, Damson and Fig. In general the plan amounted to an advance with the three battalions of the Bde leap-frogging along the 'Homer' axis, with the objective of clearing the crossroads of Hekkens, and capturing the bridge across the River Niers at Kessel. The latter was essential for a continuation of the advance of the Highland Division towards Goch. Hekkens, which lay just across the border inside Germany, was an important crossroads. Here the two lateral roads through the Reichswald come together. Since the crossroads also lay within the main enemy defensive line (Siegfriedline), it was expected to be well defended. In the divisional plan of attack it was expected that Hekkens would be seized by the end of D+1.

    Op Order No. 12 152 Bde:
    Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 1.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 2.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 3.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 4.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 5.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 6.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 7.jpg

    Hekkens Crossroads Plan of attack 152 Bde.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
    CoenNL, ramacal, canuck and 3 others like this.
  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.1 Phase I: Apple (Feb 9th, 45)

    152 Bde Phase I APPLE.jpg

    The 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, commanded by Lt.Col. Derek B. Lang, DSO, MC, arrived in the assembly area by 06:45 hrs on the 9th. The Camerons attack did not start as early as was intended owing to 5/7 Gordons not being firm on their objectives, the high ground dominating the entrance of the 152 Bde axis into the Reichswald. At 10:00 hrs the QOCH started off. The order of march was 'D' Coy, 'B' Coy, Bn HQ, HQ Coy, followed by 'A' and 'C' Coys. From the start it was apparent that the advance of 152 Bde was going to be slow and hard and also (for a change) that the enemy was going to fight it out. Groups of enemy well equipped with MGs were strung out along the axis. The thickness of the forest made it well nigh impossible or at least immensely difficult to deploy far from the axis - hence the battle rapidly resolved itself into a series of fights between said MGs and the leading Cameron infantry which fights occasionally increased in scope until the whole of the leading company was involved in manoeuvre. Progress was slow and costly. A troop of tanks supported the leading 'D' Coy (Captain R.C. MacCunn), but after 200 yards a large crater was encountered in the road track which successfully held up the tanks. Some 300 yards further down the track 'D' Coy met more determined opposition and was held up. Colonel Lang ordered 'B' Coy (Major Donald F. Callander) right flanking in order to try and turn the south flank of the enemy and a very spirited engagement followed in which 'B' Coy accounted for many of the enemy. The situation still being in the balance, Major J.L. Melville, DSO, CO 'C' Coy, decided that the answer was a bayonet charge, and he himself led his company in with great dash. Supported by the three tanks which at last rejoined the Battalion and then fired high explosive point-blank into the enemy dug-outs, causing terrible casualties, the company achieved its objective, thoroughly demoralizing the enemy, many of whom surrendered. In the engagement Major Melville, the Coy CO, was wounded by a shell splinter and had to be evacuated.

    The Battalion advance was continued with 'B' and 'C' Coys on the left and 'D' Coy advancing astride the road track, the tanks moving on 'D' Coys right flank. A thousand yards or so farther a cross-tracks was reached and enemy opposition encountered. At this moment Captain Beaton, who had taken over command of 'C' Coy, appeared on the scene with one of his platoons, and without further ado, dashed out towards the center of the enemy position shouting to his men, who followed like a pack of hounds. Everyone expected him to become a casualty, but instead, those of the enemy that escaped bayonetting surrendered and the cross-tracks fell into the Battalion's hand. A number of wounded were picked up and forty dead were counted near the objective. The Cameron's battle lasted until 16:00 hrs at which time it was reported that they had reached their objectives and were mopping up the APPLE area. An enemy SP gun sent several rounds in the Cameron's direction but no casualties were caused by it. "That first day's fighting", remarks the Cameron's regimental history, "reflected great credit on to the Battalion. A penetration of 1500 yards into the forest had been made, and this against determined opposition. German paratroopers fired until wiped-out at point blank range, while snipers who had not been flushed by the leading troops resolutely continued firing from the immediate flanks and rear." Approximately 80 POWs were passed through the battalion and 40 enemy dead were counted near the position.

    Major Donald Fraser Callander, The 'B' Coy CO, 5th Camerons, received a DSO for his actions on the 9th. He personally led his two leading platoons in a successful charge over a fifty yard clearing on an enemy position and accounted for ten enemy dead and wounded:
    Maj Callander 5 Camerons 9 Feb 45.jpg

    5th Cam 1 aa.jpg
    Map overlay from the War Diary the 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, giving the positions by late afternoon of Feb 9th on Objective Apple (Courtesy 51Highland and Bedee).

    Thumbnails: pictures taken at the X-roads in the Kartenspielerweg of the 'Apple' position.
    Apple 3.jpg Apple 1.jpg Apple 2.jpg
    No.1 'D' Coy's position at the X-roads looking down the Kartenspielerweg to the east; no.2 forest ride to the north of the X-roads looking back at the Kartenspielerweg; no.3 site of 'B' Coy position which was to the left of the ride.

    Now 2 Seaforth were ordered to go through 5 Camerons and to advance to BANANA commencing at 20:30 hrs. It took considerable time to bring up the Seaforth in the darkness over muddy forest tracks and they passed through at 23:45. The Seaforth had not advanced far past the leading Camerons when they bumped an enemy strongpoint. In the darkness it proved impossible to dislodge the enemy and 2 Seaforth were held up until dawn when they resumed the advance. Here is the position as the 2 Seaforth saw it when night fell. The front was fluid in the extreme and enemy snipers and MG teams were dodging around. The supporting tanks were rendered practically immobile by the thick woods and undergrowth. Enemy shelling and mortaring was heavy and in the forest it was impossible to tell from which direction the fire was coming Indeed it seemed to be coming from all around. That night the commander of 152 Bde asked for 'Crocodiles'. The Second Troop of 'A' Sqn, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, commanded by Lieutenant D.J.Dudley, were ordered by Division to stand by for the next day.

    Corker 34 ArmBde 107 RAC 1.jpg Corker 34 ArmBde 107 RAC 2.jpg
    Sgt Wilfred Corker, a Troop sergeant in 'A' Sqn 107th Regt RAC, earned a MM for his actions in support of the 2nd Seaforth.

    Kartenspielweg%20right%20axis%20of%20advance%20152%20Bde.jpg
    The Kartenspielerweg (codenamed 'Homer') as it appears today. It has little changed over the years, still running straight through the forest, except that it is now hard surfaced and the trees then came right up to the edge of the road. It's a favourite stretch for racebikers. Cars are not allowed in the forest.

    Kartenspieler Bren.jpg
    Bren Carriers moving along the Kartenspielerweg, the axis of 152 Bde's advance through the main forest. The official caption to this photograph: "British advance through the Reichswald Forest. Line of Bren gun carriers moving up to support (the 2nd Bn Seaforth). The infantry of this Bn are hardly discernable as they are crouching down behind trees and cover as their advance is temporarily held up by the machine gun fire. 152 Bde. 51 HD. Germany. Taken by Sgt. Silverside". (Photo IWM)

    Kartenspielerweg bren 2.jpg
    Kartenspielerweg: same spot nowadays. Now a paved road.

    In the meantime and in order to maintain the impetus of the attack 5 Seaforth Highlanders were ordered to advance along the light track running north of and parallel to the 152 Bde axis. Assigned as axis of advance to the 154 Bde, part of the track already had been cleared by the 7th Argylls who continued their advance at 10:00 hrs in the morning from the positions gained the previous evening. 'D' Coy led the advance with the support of a troop of Churchills, followed by 'A' Coy, Bn HQ and 'B'Coy. 'D' Coy had advanced to an X-tracks almost level with the 5 Camerons without encountering much resistance. As their third Coy left the old location it met opposition. It appeared that the enemy did not show himself when the troops went past supported by tanks, but with infantry who had no tanks with them they did oppose them. The tanks were called back from 'D' Coy and soon dealt with it. The battalion established itself in the area 821507, mostly in positions and dugouts previously occupied by the enemy, with 'D' Coy with the tanks forward on a slight rise and 'B' on the right and 'A' and Bn HQ behind. The battalion experienced some mortaring and shelling and there was some sniping in 'D'Coy area which caused some casualties. Total for that day beind 1 Officer killed and 3 wounded; 1 O.R. killed and eight wounded.

    At 17:00 hrs the 5th Seaforth moved through the 7th Argylls and at 20:30 hrs they reported being on BUNYAN at 826505. The Seaforth borrowed the troop of tanks supporting the Argylls. This was all that was reported, but later it transpired that an epic battle had taken place at this point in the darkness. The leading Coy of 5 Seaforth, 'B' Coy, came through the trees and surprised what was estimated a battalion of enemy infantry forming up to attack and ran into a artillery preparation. Enemy MGs opened up at 50 yards' range, brens replied, and the forest was filled with muzzle-flashes and stream of tracer. Neither side could see much, but the Seaforth had the advantage in that they were in battle order and expecting trouble, whereas most of the Germans were still forming on the Hekkens road and only their advance guard had started to move down the forest trail. The 'Jocks' did not hesitate, 'C' Coy, under Major Harmish Paterson, supported by the troop of tanks firing their besas, went through 'B' Coy and attacked straight into the serried enemy mass and broke it up at the bayonet point. In doing so 5 Seaforth sustained about 50 casualties but, as the War Diary 152 Bde states, "the resulting pile of Hun dead was satisfying to see". Captain Rusell Ferguson, who led 'B' Coy was killed. The battle had been costly and the 5th Seaforth were down to three Coys next morning, but still in contact. They were ordered to stay in the present position and carry out patrolling.

    Lieutenant Patrick Hugh Grant, No.11 Platoon commander in 'B' Coy, 5th Seaforths, was awarded a MC for his actions in the attack on the 9th. The recommendation for his award gives some insight in the closeness and ferociousness of the forest fighting:
    Lt Grant 5 Seafs 9 Feb 1.jpg Lt Grant 5 Seafs 9 Feb 2.jpg

    30 Corps Int Sum no 593 9.2.45.jpg
    Excerpt from the Intel Summ 30 Corps of Feb 9th, 1945. The enemy troops encountered were identified as elements of the FJ Regt 20 of the 7. FJ Division; a unit which formed part of the 1. FJ Armee reserve. Though the 7.FJ Division had only just returned to the Lower Rhine area, from an engagement in the Alsace (Operation Nordwind), where it suffered heavy losses, it was considered by 30 Corps by far the toughest opponent. The combat strength of the 7. FJ Division was estimated by 30 Corps at 6.000 men. The para Division just prior to the battle had received 800 reinforcements from a "March battalion" hastily collected in the Ruhr. Unconfirmed identifications indicated that the rest of the FJ Division was piling into the forest between Kessel and Hau in an effort to seal off the gap torn into the German lines.


    Nameless%20track%203.jpg
    The 5th Seaforth, advanced along the forest track running to the north, parallel to the Kartenspielerweg. This nameless forest ride, more than the modern Kartenspielerweg, breathes the atmosphere of the tracks followed by the British through the forest.

    Nameless%20track%202 Borthwick.jpg
    The distance to the main Kranenburg - Hekkens road is about 6 kilometers. Borthwick: "It is almost impossible to describe the atmosphere of the Reichswald. One might say that it was an evil place, that it stank of danger, that it was one long natural ambush, and yet give little clue to the impression it made upon us."

    Main%20road%20Kranenburg%20-%20Hekkens.jpg
    The junction with the main road Kranenburg - Hekkens, codenamed BUNYAN at 826505, where the leading Coy of 5 Seaforth ran into a mass of enemy infantry. To the right, near the parked car, the nameless track emerges from the forest. The picture was taken with a view to the south in the direction of Hekkens crossroads. Here the battalion consolidated for the night into a compact defensive perimeter from which it would be prepared to counter enemy infiltration from any direction. To the left the enemy were still holding up the 2nd Seaforth along the Kartenspielerweg in the right rear of the battalion. The 53rd Welsh Division was reported to have reached the main road within a mile to the north, but as there was no contact, their exact positions were unknown.

    Nameless%20track%20British%20trenches.jpg
    Near the main road, where the 5th Seaforth Highlanders dug in, dozens of British slit trenches are still visible inside the forest today. Live in the Reichswald forest was pretty grim, aggravated by the weather, the impassability of the water-logged rides, the difficulty of communications smothered by the trees, the heavy casualties caused by shells, mortar bombs and grenades, bursting in the trees overhead, against which a slit trench was no protection, and the pervading eeriness.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
    CoenNL, ramacal, canuck and 4 others like this.
  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders lost the following men fallen on the Friday the 9th:

    1. BROWN, WALTER PETER, Private 14498340, February 9, 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 5
    2. CLEARIE, HUGH, Lance Serjeant 3131652, February 9, 1945, Age 26, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 4.
    3. CORMACK, DONALD, Corporal 2933412, February 9, 1945, Age 26, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 12
    4. FINLAYSON, DAVID, Private 2939686, February 9, 1945, Age 22, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 1.
    5. HUGHES, ALBERT EDWARD, Private 14394192, February 9, 1945 Age 28, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 2.
    6. MACHIN, CHARLES, Private14411592, February 9, 1945 Age 20, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 3.
    7. MUNRO, HUGH, Private 2928607, February 9, 1945 Age 34, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 11.
    8. SHELTON, RICHARD, Private14760791, February 9, 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 6.
    9. WOMERSLEY, KENNETH, Private14710691,February 9, 1945 Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 10.

    See for the headstones of the fallen Camerons: Keep 'em Moving, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, Mook cemetery Holland

    The 2nd Seaforth Highlanders lost the following men:

    1. DUFFY, CHARLES GILLAN, Lance Corporal 14671343, February 9, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 13.
    2. CORBEN, ARTHUR RAYMOND LESLIE, Private11052715, February 9, 1945, Age 23, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 14. G. 1.

    Fallen of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders on that day were:

    1. BONAR, ALEXANDER CRICHTON, Private 14731886, February 9, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 18.
    2. FERGUSON, ARTHUR RUSSELL, Captain 153381, February 9, 1945, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 4
    3. HARRIS, SIDNEY, Private14362879, February 9, 1945, Age 23, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 13.
    4. WISE, WILLIAM LESLIE ALEXANDER, Private 14496597, February 9, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 5.

    Seaforth 9 feb.jpg


    1/7th Bn Middlesex Regiment:
    1. DOLLIN, FRANK, Serjeant 6203399, February 9, 1945, Age 25, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 55. D. 3.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
    17thDYRCH, CL1 and 51highland like this.
  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.2 Phase II : Banana/Cherry (Feb 10th, 45)

    Seaforth Reichswald 3.jpg
    A soldier of the 2nd Seaforth, 152 Bde, searches one of the many German dug-outs encountered in the forest. Picture taken by Sgt Silverside. 11.2.1945 (Photo: © IWM (B 14457)).

    The 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders went forward again by 09:00 hrs on the 10th. This battle continued that of 5 Camerons of the previous day with the exception that an enemy SP gun and an AT-gun now took a hand against them. One of the supporting tanks of 'C' Sqn, 107 RAC, was hit and one crewman was killed. The 2nd Seaforth pressed on and by skillful manoeuvre of infantry succeeded in winkling out both weapons without however destroying them. A troop of Crocodiles (No. 2 Troop 'A' Sqn, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) were put in support of the 2nd Seaforth and proved invaluable in flushing out the deeply dug enemy positions. There was little room for manoeuvre so the Troop Leader, Lieutenant Dudley, called up only one other of his tanks. The two tanks pressed forward into the wood. They were met with heavy fire. The second tank sent a heavy squirt of flame into the enemy position. Unfortunately a nearby tree was hit and some of the blazing fuel splashed back on the vehicle and his trailer link caught fire. The tank was ordered to withdraw. Lt. Dudley went on himself and closely supported by the infantry platoon flamed and cleared the wood for a distance of three hundred yards. By this time the infantry had run out of ammunition and the only thing to do was to consolidate and count the prisoners. There was a satisfactory badge of seventy-six. 2nd Seaforth gained their objective (BANANA) astride the first lateral road through the forest by about 14:00 hrs but mopping up was not completed until much later.



    Seaforth Reichswald 4.jpg
    A picture of the advance along the Kartenspielerweg. The caption of this picture reads: "British advance through the Reichswald Forest. Men (of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders) advancing through the Reichswald Forest. In close support of them are the flame throwing Churchill tanks. (So far no heavy concrete emplacements have been encountered so the flame-throwers have not been in action, but) they advance with the forward troops so that they can be called upon for instanteneous action. Constant sniping and machine gun fire in the dense woodland make the infantry use all the available cover. 152 Bde. 51 HD. Germany. Taken by Sgt Silverside. 11.2.1945." (photo IWM). The Crocodiles in support of the 152 Bde belonged to 'A' Squadron 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.

    Seaforth Reichswald 2.jpg
    Another picture taken at the same site as the previous one (Photo: © IWM (B 14453))


    Text fragment from the regimental history of the Seaforth re the actions of the 2nd Battalion on 10 Feb 45:
    Seaforth 10.2.jpg

    Captain Frank Quilter, in command of one of the leading companies in 2nd Seaforth, was awarded the MC for his actions during the operation on the 10th:
    Cpt Quilter 2 Seafs 10 Feb.jpg

    Pte George Atkin and Pte George Henry Lambeth, both stretcher bearers in the 2nd Seaforth ('C'Coy), were awarded a Military Medal for personally evacuating 40 casualties during the fighting. The citations reflect the severe difficulties encountered with the muddy tracks inside the forest, which eventually made even the evacuation of the wounded nearly impossible.
    Atkin 2nd Seaforth 1.jpg Atkin 2nd Seaforth 2.jpg
    Lambeth 2nd Seaforth 1.jpg Lambeth 2nd Seaforth 2.jpg


    At 16:00 hrs 5 Camerons were ordered to pass through 2 Seaforth, who were still bothered by an enemy pocket in front of their position, and to advance to CHERRY astride the next lateral road through the forest. Again and with darkness falling heavy fighting developed. Enemy shelling was extremely heavy but somehow 5 Camerons managed to press forward until, at 19:30 hrs, they reached CHERRY. The Crocodiles again were instrumental in the advance. A number of casualties was caused when the enemy made a counter-attack. It was beaten off successfully. Close contact was enforced on 5 Camerons during the whole of the night and small arms skirmishing persisted all along the Cameron's front until well into the following morning.

    Fragment from the regimental history of the Camerons (Courtesy 51Highland):
    Camerons fragment.jpg

    Captain Beaton, a Platoon commander in 'C' Coy of the 5th Camerons, was awarded a MC for his action on the 10th when his company cut the main Cleve - Hekkens road:
    Cpt Beaton 5 Camerons 10 Feb.jpg

    Sgt David McClew, a platoon sergeant in 'C' Coy , 5 Camerons, was awarded a DCM for his actions during the final stage of the attack on the Cleve - Hekkens road. The recommendation (again) bears testimony of the closeness and ferociousness of the forest fighting. McClew and his men accounted for 20 of the enemy, wounded and killed:
    Sgt McCLew 5 Camerons.jpg


    5th Cams 2 aa.jpg
    A map overlay from the War Diary of the 5th Camerons gives the position reached by the battalion by late evening of Feb 10th near the second lateral road through the Reichswald: Objective CHERRY (Courtesy 51Highland & Bedee).
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Objective BANANA & CHERRY

    Seaforth Reichswald 1.jpg
    Infantry of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders cautiously move forward through the forest towards objective Banana. This picture of 2nd Seaforth men in the Reichswald was taken on 11 Feb 45 (Photo: © IWM (B 14455))

    Kartenspielerweg%202.jpg
    After about 5 miles the Kartenspielerweg debouches on the main Kranenburg - Hekkens road, the first lateral road through the forest. Picture taken with a view to the west.This area was codenamed BANANA and taken in the afternoon of the 10th by the 2nd Seaforth

    Eastward%20extension%20Kartenspielerweg.jpg
    Turning around view towards the east, where the Kartenspielerweg continues into the forest towards the next north-south road, the Cleve - Hekkens road. In the afternoon of the 10th the 5th Camerons attacked down this track into the forest towards objective CHERRY.

    Eastward%20extension%20Kartenspielerweg%202.jpg
    Some 500 yards down this road towards the east. This part of the Kartenspielerweg resembles the old forest ride more than the western part of the road, which nowadays has been broadened and hard surfaced.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
    51highland, ramacal and CL1 like this.
  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fallen of the 152 Bde on Saturday Feb 10th:

    5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders:
    1. GLEDHILL, WILLIAM, Private14668728 , February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 8.
    2. JONES, CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM, Private 4922889, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 13.
    3. KIRK, WILLIAM, Private 3320430, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 9.
    4. LOGAN, THOMAS, Private 14678728, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 1.
    5. RICKABY, NEVILLE ALAN CECIL, Second Lieutenant 338827, February 10, 1945, Age 24, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 7.

    See for the headstones of the fallen Camerons: Keep 'em Moving, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, Mook cemetery Holland

    2nd Seaforth Highlanders:
    1. JONES, ARTHUR WILLIAM, Private 14779913, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 9.
    2. RATCLIFFE, JOHN, Private 4865673, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 2.
    3. PATRICK, ROBERT, Private 14709401, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 22.
    4. RICHARDSON, ROBERT, Corporal 10602131, February 10, 1945, Age 22, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 12.
    5. SHAW, WALTER, Corporal 3197031, February 10, 1945 Age 35, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 20.
    6. SMITH, LEONARD JAMES, Private 975253, February 10, 1945, Age 29, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 10.
    7. SUTHERLAND, JAMES, Private 2828156, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 11.
    8. WATSON, HERBERT, Private 1554918, February 10, 1945, Age 29, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 23.
    9. FORSYTH, PETER MIROY, Second Lieutenant 330385, February 10, 1945 MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 19

    107th Regt RAC:
    1. HALES, WILLIAM HENRY ALEXANDER, Trooper 6030226, Saturday, February 10, 1945, Age 31, RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY, 12. D. 25.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.3 Phase III: the attack on Hekkens Crossroads (morning Feb 11th, 45)

    In the evening of Feb 10, at 20:30 hrs the 5 Seaforth at BUNYAN received orders to advance on Hekkens. The 7th Argylls took over their positions and at 01:00 hrs the Seaforth were ready to move. 'C' Coy cautiously led off the attack, followed by 'D' and 'A', and a heavy barrage was sweeping the ground ahead of them; and as far as the bend in the road they met no opposition. Heavy rain was falling. Progress was slow and there were many halts, but nevertheless progress was made and hopes began to rise. After half an hour the leading section approached the Anti-Tank ditch near the southern edge of the Reichswald at 828486, and as they went forward to investigate it all hell broke lose. They came under intense artillery and small arms fire in the darkness. More-over the AT-ditch breached the road at this point which meant that no supporting tanks could get forward into Hekkens along with the infantry. In an attempt to overrun the opposition 'D' Coy was passed through 'C' and 'A' Coy was moved up on the east side of the road with a view of outflanking the position from the left. The attempts to resume the advance proved unsuccessful and the battalion axis was now subjected to heavy defensive fires from all weapons atthe enemy's disposal. The two leading companies were pinned down in a ditch by the road side, some 50 yards from the main enemy defenses. The battalion remained in these positions for the rest of the morning. 'D'Coy right forward and 'A' Coy left forward and 'C' in reserve. The OC the battalion, Lt.Col. Sym, was wounded in the neck but remained on duty.

    "It was an abominable place",
    recounts the regimental history of the Seaforth, "'C'Coy and Bn HQ were so close to the Germans that they could hear the NCO's giving fire-orders; and the leading men were inside grenading range. The ditch was deep, but not deep enough to stand in. There was so little room that at one time men were lying on top of each other three-deep to keep under cover. Outside, the fixed lines of the spandaus were firing tracer at stomach-height; and the only safe way forward was to crawl along the ditch, over all the bodies. In places the piles of humanity were so deep that even this method left the crawler exposed. The stretcher-bearers, unable to stoop and carry simultaneously, did magnificent work in carrying the wounded back through the hail of bullets in the open, but many of them were hit. Lelsie Forshaw-Wilson, who took over command when Colonel Sym went to Brigade, had been wounded before he could issue any orders. Hector Mackenzie took over and continued to explore the enemy flanks. The Colonel resumed command, and gradually the congestion in the ditch was sorted out. Bodies were only one deep now. The firing slackened. By dawn only a few snipers were active, and after the alarms of the night there was relative peace now."

    Sappers and a bulldozer were sent up at first light in order to make a road through the AT-ditch. When the Bulldozer emerged from the wood to make the attempt it was promptly engaged by an enemy SP gun which was covering the road. Unable to move forward or backward from this shallow cover the men were shelled and shot at the whole morning, until by mid-day, under cover of tank-fire, they retired into the woods. Captain Munro was mortally wounded while carrying the message for the retreat to the forward companies. A set-piece attack with tank support was necessary to take the Hekkens crossroads. Another route was recced by which the tanks and infantry could move into the attack on Hekkens. The fire plan was prepared and the 5 Seaforth had begun to move into their FUP when general Rennie, GOC 51st HD, stopped the attack in view of the scarcity of infantry and ordered the 154 Bde to make the assault instead. The 5th Seaforth, after two days of heavy fighting in the forest, had lost 2 officers and 17 men killed and 65 wounded.

    Throughout the morning the 5 Camerons patrolled actively to the east and discovered about a company of infantry digging in some 500 yards from their FDLs. These enemy were hotly engaged by all available fire. During the morning 5 Seaforth were pulled back to X-roads 826495 and 2 Seaforth moved to area 815493 with orders to maintain a standing patrol at 814485. The Camerons did not move.

    At this stage the strength state of the 152 Brigade had considerably diminished. After two days of forest fighting the 2 Seaforth were down to two companies with the makings of a weak third company; the 5th Seaforth were down to three weak companies and 5 Camerons to four very weak companies. "The first fight on German soil had been costly", concludes the Bde War Diary, "but the cost had gained the Brigade an advance of 8000 yards through the key sector of the Siegfried Line. The number of POWs taken was 101 - the number of dead Bosche was estimated at over 200 - a Russian proportion".

    Fall of Hekkens Crossroads 11.2.1945.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2019
    CoenNL, 51highland, 17thDYRCH and 4 others like this.
  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Hekkens Crossroads aa.jpg
    Oblique aerial of Hekkens Crossroads, probably taken in Oct 1944, with a view to the NE which shows part of the German defense around the crossroads. The AT ditch runs in front at the bottom of the picture.

    Hekkens bend in road.jpg
    Before leaving the Reichswald forest, the main road Kranenburg - Hekkens makes a bend eastwards. Just beyond the bend lay the anti-tank ditch and the main enemy defensive line, which caused he 5th Seaforth so much trouble during Feb 11th, 1945.

    Hekkens position AT Ditch.jpg
    Approach to Hekkens, view from the enemy perspective. The main road is visible in the back ground (car behind the farm houses & three motorbikes). The anti-tank ditch ran through the flats somewhere in the middle of the photograph. Nowadays there is no trace left of it. The treeline marks the southern edge of the Reichswald forest.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fallen of the 5th Seaforth on 11 Feb at Hekkens Crossroads were:

    1. BEECROFT, JOSEPH JAMES, Private 14440750 Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 2.
    2. BURNS, JAMES, Private 14731891, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 15.
    3. CAMERON, PETER THOMSON, Private 14767930, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 18, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 11.
    4. CASSIDY, BERNARD, Private 3195520, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 32, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 1.
    5. HARTWELL, HENRY WILLIAM, Private 14377335, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 20, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 7.
    6. HEMPHILL, ANDREW HUGH, Private 14444914, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 9
    7. HENRY, PETER MCWHINTER, Private 14775761, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 14.
    8. HILL, WILFRED LAWRENCE CREECH, Serjeant 5677781, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 29, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 8
    9. MAMMEN, ROBERT, Private 14445413, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 17.
    10. MACLEOD, JOHN, Private 2829132, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 23, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY,61. E. 10
    11. MORRISON, WILLIAM STEWART, Private 14742030, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 16.
    12. MUNRO, ANDREW DONALD, Captain 94044, Sunday, February 11, 1945, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 3.
    13. SHELTON, JOHN BARBER, Lance Corporal 5831905, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 31, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 19.
    14. THOMSON, ALEXANDER, Corporal 2939404, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 28, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 12
    15. WARDLE, JOHN, Private 3058471, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 26, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 6

    Seaforth 11 feb.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
    Recce_Mitch, ramacal and CL1 like this.
  16. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Remembered Princes Risborough war rmemorial Buckinghamshire
    Private BEECROFT, JOSEPH JAMES
    Service Number 14440750

    Died 11/02/1945

    Aged 19

    5th Bn.
    Seaforth Highlanders

    Son of Robert Sidney Beecroft, and of Amy Annie Beecroft, of Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire.


    INSCRIPTION
    I AM PERSUADED THAT NEITHER DEATH NOR LIFE CAN SEPARATE US FROM GOD'S LOVE
    Buried at REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY

    Location: Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
    Number of casualties: 7500

    Cemetery/memorial reference: 61. E. 2.


    upload_2019-9-2_23-30-5.png
     
  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.4 154 Bde at the Hekkens Crossroads (afternoon Feb 11th, 45)

    The 154 Bde had been held at stand-by for an advance along the northern axis through the Reichswald to the SE-part of forest as soon as 152 Bde had seized Hekkens. When darkness fell on the 10th it was clear that the 154 Bde would not be called upon until the following day. Late that evening the 154 Bde was ordered to concentrate in the area just in the rear of 152 Bde in which position the Bde was well placed to fit in of any plan of the Division commander. The Division boundary with the 53 Welsh Div was changed so that the Division front had now swung round to face south as opposed to SE which had been the case in the first days of the operation. When the 152 Bde was unsuccessful on the 11th, orders were given for a full scale Brigade attack by 154 Bde. The 154 Bde was to seize the crossroads and at the same time clear east to the new division boundary at 855483.The whole of the artillery deployed in support of 30 Corps would be available to support the Brigade. As it had already been found, earlier in this operation, that it was practically impossible to carry out a successful attack by night through the Reichswald on account of the density of the woods, it was essential that the attack should be launched in sufficient time to enable the objectives to be captured before dark. As the orders to make the Brigade attack were only received about mid-day, time was very short and the Brigade Commander accordingly decided (first) to launch the attack at 15.30 hours which would give about one and a half hours of daylight in which it could be completed, and (second) to make the simplest possible plan, as the Battalions which had to make the attack had to be brought forward a considerable distance to the forward part of the area now held by 152 Brigade and could only arrive there a very short time before the attack had to be launched. There would accordingly be no time to carry out the necessary preparations for anything except the most straight-forward type of attack. The Brigade plan accordingly resembled rather the 1914/18 war type of infantry attack than the normal type of attack which had generally been carried out during this campaign. A convenient forest track running south-east across the main Hekkens/Cleve road and about 2000 yards north east of Hekkens made a suitable start line and the main road leading into Hekkens made a suitable axis of advance down which the two attacking Battalions would advance, one on either side of it.

    The attack on the crossroads was to be carried out by the two Black Watch battalions, 1st Black Watch on the left and 7th Black Watch on the right, whilst the 7th A&SH were ordered to carry out an immediate advance south-east down the start line forest track in order to protect the exposed flank of the attacking Battalions during their forming- up. At 16:00 hrs, both Black Watch battalions moved in after a colossal artillery bombardment (four Field Regiments, nine Medium Regiments and six Heavy batteries). "It was like an attack of the First War, in General Harper's day", tells the division history of the HD, "the infantry kept so close behind the barrage that they were in on the Huns before the latter knew what was happening". By 16:45 hrs the 7th Black Watch reported they had reached the main road west of Hekkens and at 16:50 hrs the 1st Black Watch reported having reached the main road east of the crossroads. By 19:00 hrs both battalions were firm on their objectives and mopping up was practically completed. The 1st Black Watch reported 2 Officers and 38 OR POWs; and 7th Black Watch had taken 3 Officers and 116 OR POW. The battalion also captured one 75 mm gun with its halftrack towing truck, one 88 mm gun and two infantry guns. Losses in both battalions had been light. The 1st Black Watch had 1 officer and 14 OR wounded; the 7th Black Watch lost one man killed in the attack, and one man killed and one wounded when the Second-in-command's Jeep went up a mine. At 20:30 hrs a patrol of the 1st Black Watch reported the bridge across the river Niers at Kessel blown by the enemy.

    Next morning patrols of 'D' Coy, 7th Black Watch, searching the woods, brought in another 70 POWs, among which 16 senior NCO's.

    Cpl Hugh McKeown, a section commander in 7 BW, was awarded a MM (initially his nomination ran for a DCM) for his actions in the attack on Hekkens. He single-handedly knocked-out an enemy dug-out with grenades and thereby enabled his platoon to continue the advance closely behind the artillery barrage:
    Cpl McKeown 7 BW 11 Feb 1.jpg Cpl McKeown 7 BW 11 Feb 2.jpg

    Another section leader in the 1st Black Watch, L/Cpl Leslie Harry Shorthouse, was awarded a MM for his part in the attack on Hekkens crossroads. His nomination for a DCM also was downgraded to a MM. The recommendation erroneously dates the action at 8 Feb 45. The 1st Black Watch attacked and captured the small township of Nergena hard east of Hekkens:
    Cpl Shorthouse 1 BW 11 Feb.jpg Cpl Shorthouse 1 BW 11 Feb aa.jpg

    Sitrep 11.2130.jpg
    Sit Report 51st HD Feb 11th, 21:30 hrs

    Grunewald%20crossroads%202.jpg
    The Hekkens crossroads, view from the southwest. This part of the crossroads settlement on the edge of the Reichswald was cleared by the 7th Black Watch. The picture has been taken right across the border - while I am standing in Holland the plowed field is in Germany.

    Hekkens%20Corner.jpg
    Artist's impression of Hekkens Crossroads Feb 1945 (courtesy Salmond History of the 51 HD)

    Grunewald%20crossroads.jpg
    Same spot today. Nowadays the crossroads settlement is called Grünewald (Greenwoods), Hekkens is situated slightly further south on Dutch soil. But Hekkens Crossroads (or Corner) was the name that caught on. The picture was taken on the Cleve - Hekkens road looking south. A left turn at the traffic lights leads to Goch, a right turn to Kranenburg. The road to Gennep is straight on.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2019
  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Nergena%20at%20the%20egde%20of%20the%20Reichswald.jpg
    The township of Nergena was seized by the 1st Black Watch. Nowadays it is build right up to the edge of the Reichswald. Beyond the forest the country opened out sloping slightly from the higher forest ground to comparatively open and completely flat ground across which wound the Niers River.

    Kessel.jpg
    From Nergena its only a short distance to Kessel, which is situated beyond the River Niers. The River Niers is flowing just beyond the plowed field, its banks marked by the green grass. On the right hidden behind the trees is the bridge in the (old) main road (see next picture). The modern main road towards Goch skirts around the southern side of the village.

    Kessel%20bridge%20Niers%20River.jpg
    Late on Feb 11th, 1945, a patrol of the 1st Black Watch found the bridge over the River Niers at Kessel destroyed by the retreating enemy. Picture of the present bridge, taken on the eastern bank with a view to the northwest. The Reichswald is in the background.

    Niers%20Riverat%20edge%20of%20Reichswald.jpg
    Just northeast of Kessel the Niers River skirts the edge of the Reichswald. This is the area reached by the 7th Argylls in the early morning of Feb 12th, 45. During the advance to the edge of the forest the battalion met little opposition. The Argylls stayed in this area watching the enemy in and around Kessel from two good observation posts until Feb 14th.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
    CL1 likes this.
  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fallen of the 154 Bde (9 - 12 Feb 45):

    1 Black Watch:
    1. FROST, ALBERT FREDERICK, Private 10600095, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 32, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 1.
    2. HARPER PETER JOSEPH, Private 14991821, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 19, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 3.
    3. TUCKER, LESLIE DANIEL, Private 14444773 Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. D. 5.

    7 Black Watch:
    1. TURNER, DAVID ROGERSON, Private 14417517, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 20, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 14. G. 6.

    7 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders:
    1. BROWN, JOHN, Private 2992891, Saturday, February 10, 1945, Age 24, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 14.
    2. SUTTON, LESLIE EDWARD GODFREY, Private 14650203, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 20, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 55. G. 10.
    3. MATHIESON, ROBERT HARLEY, Lieutenant 89948, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 26, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. C. 2.
    4. THOMSON, WILLIAM, Private 2982242, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 25, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. C. 4.

    ASH 9 Feb.jpg ASH 9 Feb math.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Hekkens Time Life 4.jpg Hekkens Time Life 2.jpg
    The battle had been costly for both sides; some grim pictures of killed German paratroopers near the Hekkens Crossroads. The paratroopers encountered by the 152 Bde belonged to the FJ Regiment 20 of the 7. FJ Division, a reserve of 1. FJ Armee that had been engaged on Feb 9th to stem the British advance. The FJ Regt 20 had been sent into the Reichswald from the south with the task of closing the gap torn in the line of the 84.Infantry Division by the British Offensive. The I./20 FJ Div was encountered inside the Reichswald the II. and III. were deployed around the Hekkens Crossroads.

    Below wounded paratroopers taken POW are treated by one of their medics; some of them apparently are in bad shape. Note the Churchill tank at the top-right corner of the first picture.


    Hekkens Time Life 3.jpg

    Hekkens Time Life 5.jpg

    Br Offensive n Holland 33 aa.jpg

    Br Offensive n Holland 32aa.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
    CoenNL, Tolbooth, 51highland and 2 others like this.

Share This Page