VERITABLE 1945: the Canadian attack on Wyler & Den Heuvel, 8 Feb 1945

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    12. The attack on Den Heuvel

    The scene of the opening bombardment inspired War Artist Cpt. Alex Colville to create the following painting. "I arose at 0500 hours on 8 February," noted Colville in his official monthly report, "and I watched medium guns firing the barrage that preceded Operation Veritable. I returned to this spot after breakfast, when it was light, and made studies. The rest of the day I spent painting 'Before Zero Hour, a nocturne'." : Search the Collections | Canadian War Museum

    op 5-5-inch-firing-operation-plunder night.jpg

    When H-hour for the attack approached, the French Canadian infantry of the assault companies, covered by smoke shells that cast a protective white screen and effectively concealed all movement, started to advance down the forward slope to the start-line. Then, at 10:30 hrs, yellow smoke signalled that the artillery carried out the first lift and the infantry surged forward. Closely hugging the barrage, the French Canadians burst into the Den Heuvel position the moment the artillery lifted to the next three-hundred yards line.

    20171022_164713 aa.jpg
    The Den Heuvel feature as seen from the north from the Wylerbaan. In the background the wooded hills of the Reichswald. It started to rain, as I took this picture.

    At 10:38 hrs Lt.Col. Julien Bibeau, who had installed his Tac HQ at the farmbuilding of the Hooge Hof, reported to 5th Bde that his two forward companies, 'B' and 'D', were proceeding without trouble. The forward German defensive positions had been completely overwhelmed. Many enemy defenders were completely shaken by the deluge of fire which had gone on for many hours, and stumbled with raised arms from their positions. "It was terrible and inhuman", one captured German officer complained. At 10:55 hrs a forward 5th Bde OP signalled, that it could see, that elements of Le Régiment de Maisonneuve had passed the Den Heuvel strongpoint. Not all enemy defenders however had given up. At Den Heuvel a sharp, close-quarter fight ensued after the leading companies entered the strongpoint. Major De la Salle Robert's 'D' Coy was struck by small arms fire from behind. It was Pte Joseph Lefebvre, a company signaller, who restored the situation. An action which earned him an immediate MM:

    Pte Lefebvre R de Mais 1.jpg

    'B' Coy also encountered some trouble. Here it were Lieutenant Jean-Louis Fontaine and Pte Lucien Leger, both wounded, who decided the action:

    Fontaine R de Mais 1.jpg Fontaine R de Mais 2.jpg Pte Leger R de Mais 1.jpg


    It took until noon before all enemy resistance at Den Heuvel subsided. At 12:00 hrs the forward companies reported PINE clear after they had rounded up the last 15 or so POWs, belonging to the 1051 Regt. Major Charlebois' 'A' Coy, forming the battalion's second assault wave, had not waited for that. At 11:35 hrs the company passed through 'D' and continued the advance towards the German border, following the communication trench which linked Den Heuvel to the rear position at Hochstrasze. Twenty minutes later Charlebois signalled that his men had reached objective BAY and taken 9 POW's, all members of the 184 Artillery Regt, and one more belonging to the 1051 Regt, but were being shelled. The company nevertheless carried on and by 12:25 hrs had cleared objective MAPLE, or Hochstrasze, on the German Border. According to Major Charlebois, it was No.7 platoon, of Lieutenant Bud Delorme, that set first foot on German soil.

    Den Heuvel Painting a.jpg
    A War Artist's impression of the capture of Den Heuvel
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1480667_684613818239355_1051886005_n.jpg a145676-v6.jpg
    The first dazed POW's are brought in by the Maisonneuves & Picture of Lieutenant Louis Woods of Le Régiment de Maisonneuves taken on 8 Feb 45 (photos courtesy LAC)

    'C' Coy of Le Régiment de Maisonneuve was held in battalion reserve. In early afternoon it was called forward to relieve 'A' Coy of the Calgary Highlanders at Wyler. Major Lacroix, in command of 'C' Coy, stated: "At 13:45 hrs the company moved on to its objective without difficulty. On reaching the eastern part of Wyler the company met 28 Jerries coming by themselves [down] the road, captured by the Calgaries and a British unit on our right". Here the French Canadian company took over objective ELM from the Calgary Highlanders. Major Lacroix asked for a Jeep to collect three wounded that had been left behind by the Calgaries. From ELM Lacroix sent out patrols to contact the 10 HLI (15 Scottish Div) at the Richtersgut Farm near the edge of Kranenburg (See for the battle for Kranenburg: VERITABLE: 15th Scottish & 43rd Wessex Divisions in the Reichswald battle (Feb 1945)). The available documents do not reveal if objective POPLAR, to the east of Wyler was occupied by the French Canadians. What is known is, that a section of 18 sappers, which accompanied 'C' Coy, immediately went to work on the road leading from Wyler to Kranenburg.

    By late afternoon the Maisonneuves had taken 64 POW's. A number of 60 killed enemy soldiers were counted in the battalion sector, these were the casualties visible on the battlefield, not including those in trenches and hide outs. It was evident that the opposing enemy force at Den Heuvel, estimated at a (reinforced) company of infantry about 100 - 150 men strong, had been completely wiped out. The War Diary lyrically describes the operation of that day as "an overwhelming success" ... "everything worked perfectly" ... and praises the high morale of the men and the "superiority in firepower, equipment and men". The 3rd Cdn Inf Div Intell summary concluded that by the end of the first day of Op Veritable, the 1051 Regt of the 84 Inf Division, which had opposed the 5th Bde's attack, no longer was reckoned to be an effective fighting forces.

    84th VG Div KIA on 8 Feb 45.jpg
    The lifeless body of a German soldier of the 84 Inf Division killed in a trench.

    Losses for the French Canadians had been very light: 2 KIA and 25 wounded; a further proof of the effectiveness of the artillery bombardment and the dash and speed with which the infantry had followed the barrage.

    The two fallen soldiers were:
    001 FOURNIER A E/110071 - 09/02/1945 LE REGIMENT DE MAISONNEUVE, R.C.I.C. XI. F. 13.
    002 LACOSTE GA D/143728 - 08/02/1945 LE REGIMENT DE MAISONNEUVE, R.C.I.C. V. A. 16

    Fournier.jpg La Coste.jpg
    Cpl. Alexis Fournier died of wounds on 9 Feb 45 and was initially buried at Mariënbosch at Nijmegen.

    Pte Albert Lacoste, only a teenager, was a batman for one of the 'A' Coy's lieutenants, Lieutenant Boisclair. Lacoste was instantly killed by shellfire while escorting four POW's back from the line of fire. According to the Regimental History of the Maisonneuves, a Belgian volunteer, named Alexandre Vermeire, who accompanied Lacoste, was also killed in the same incident. His final resting place is unknown (Edit: Initially burried at Groesbeek his body was transferred in 1949 to Uccle/Brussels in Belgium, with courtesy to Frans8800, see: Need help: Belgian Volunteer killed in Op Veritable).

    70 pct.JPG
    Frans8800 most kindly sent me the above picture of the headstone of Alexandre Vermeire at Uccle/Brussels.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    20171022_163215aa.jpg
    The present-day Den Heuvel Farm is a postwar structure. The original farm was completely destroyed during the war.

    20171022_163424aa.jpg
    The houses of Wyler are visible in the distance. To the right, partly visible through the trees, is the big green shed near the Lagewald Farm which also is visible on the pictures in post # 10.

    20171022_163405 aa.jpg
    The gently sloping terrain over which 'A' Coy advanced towards objective BAY, which was a farmhouse, now gone, located near the small tree parcel in the center (round trees). To approach BAY, the Coy most likely used the existing German communication trench, connecting Den Heuvel to the rearward positions. Not far from BAY was the next objective, a farmhouse along the Lagewald road, labelled MAPLE. In the far distance the church spire of Kranenburg, which was within the 15th Scottish Division's zone of attack, protrudes above the trees.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Two more images of the French Canadians taken near the FUP:

    Regt de Maissonneuve Nijmegen 1.jpg Maisonneuves FUP 1.jpg
     
  5. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

  6. Jan2000

    Jan2000 Member

    Hello,

    Stolpi asked if I could possibly add something to this thread, as I explored the area with the metal detector.
    Near the FUP, I found a pit with 2 british mestins (only 1 survived) shaving cream, a Canada button, some buckles, and lots of accu`s. Also the remains of a bug and broken beer bottles.

    Near the mmg zone I found lots and lots and lots of empty vickers ammo cans. All in poor shape unfortunately. Only 1 of them still had pieces of the belt in it. Also found a couple of carrier tracks.
     

    Attached Files:

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  7. Arnos

    Arnos New Member

    Nice maps from the pepperpot barage. Do you also have maps from the south-west part of Groesbeek forest?
     
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