51st Highland Div ?

Discussion in 'War Cemeteries & War Memorial Research' started by Alex1975uk, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    I came across this photo from a website run by a historical group in Venlo, Holland. I’m assuming they are 51st Div soldiers buried as they liberated the small towns of Baarlo and Kessel. Just wondered if anyone could add anything?

    Attached Files:

  2. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    According to CWGC:

    All four men (Gregory, Laurie, Southwood & Smith) were in Gordon Highlanders and all died on 21 Nov 44.

    According to casualty lists they were all in 5/7th Battalion which were part of 153rd Brigade, 51 HD.

    All were buried at VENRAY Cemetery, Limburg in Holland.

    The Low Countries, Oct - Dec 1944 | 51st Highland Division

    Hope this helps

  3. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Great stuff, thanks very much.

  4. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    5/7th Gordons crossed Cameron Bridge over the Zig (Uitwaterings) canal on 18th November and occupied the Keup-Egehel area. The next day they were near enough on the banks of the Maas. On 24th they were relieved by units of 53rd Div.
    Alex1975uk likes this.
  5. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    So do you know who liberated Baarlo /Kessel/ Panningen? 51st Div or 53rd?

  6. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Pretty sure 1st Black Watch took Baarlo and were relieved there by a battalion of the Welch on 26th November.
  7. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    7th Argylls took Kessel 14th February 1945.
  8. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    I’ve got 7 Para in Kessel ( just south of Baarlo) 23/24th January?
  9. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Are there 2 Kessel's? I'm on about the one around the Reichswald. Hekkens area.
    stolpi likes this.
  10. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Appears that there is. After capturing Baarlo and Bong. 51st headed for the 'Island'. 15th Scottish took over attacking from Venlo area.
    Alex1975uk likes this.
  11. Aeronut

    Aeronut Junior Member

    This is the relevant section of the account of the 1Bn Black Watch actions written by its CO Col Hopwood. Its not very detailed but it does show that the battalion did suffer casualties.
    Incidentally, the Signals Officer mentioned in the first paragraph was my late father.

    Soon after dark “C” Company moved forward into position under heavy shelling and fortunately dug in without casualties. They bumped a small party of Germans trying to withdraw and drove them off. Later patrols contacted the 5/7th Gordons further to the South. The supporting arms were brought up and the Kangaroos leaguerd in the Battalion. Headquarters area. Battalion Headquarters distinguished itself by capturing several prisoners under the leadership of the Signals Officer and the Adjutant, who after several mutual misses at close range ended an argument with a German by kicking him where it hurts most. During the rest of our stay in Helden the village was subjected to intermittent periods of fairly heavy shellfire inflicting however almost no casualties. The majority of our casualties were caused by the Battalion Headquarters moving into a Schu minefield during the mopping up stage earlier referred to, here the Signal Officer was deafened and the Pioneer Officer slightly wounded whilst some of the pioneers were more seriously so.

    We remained at Helden for 3 days until the artillery had been stepped up in rear and the 7th Black Watch passed through us to the village of Onder from which the Recce. Regiment were patrolling forward for about 1000 yards. On the 21st November, however orders were received and we advanced through the 7th Black Watch directed upon the town of Baarlo just South of Blerick.

    “A” Company led the advance which was down a succession of tracks leading eastwards initially across the field that bounded the village and finally through thick patches of woodland till the little village of Bong was reached on the outskirts of Baarlo after about 3000 yards there was various alternative routes which might be taken according to the opposition. It was therefore necessary to hold the rest of the Battalion back until it could be decided whether the leading company and tanks could clear this axis or whether the next company should be committed to a fresh axis to find another way round.

    Almost from the start heavy and accurate shelling began to fall along the line of advance. There must have been considerable number of enemy concealed in the woods which we bypassed who were able to observe the whole advance. Shortly after entering the wooded area the leading company was fired on by a self propelled gun and this occurred at each corner in the woods - Germans handling their guns most skilfully. The leading company had inevitably to deploy and make out flanking movements to dislodge them. Eventually Bong was reached and here “A” Company put in a small attack admirably supported by the artillery with smoke and high explosive. They killed and captured a small number of infantry and reorganised. At the same time “B” Company cleared up a parallel axis and shortly afterwards “C” Company passed through and was directed upon its original objective of clearing up the main road through Baarlo to the North where it was to establish itself.

    Once “C” Company had cleared the cross-roads “A” Company was to follow on and clear eastwards through the town as far as the eastern limits and then to patrol down the river.

    “C” Company deployed and advanced but unfortunately on reaching the edge of the town met a Schu minefield and suffered some casualties and at the same time the leading tank was knocked out at the cross roads. Major Davies Colley at once swung the company to the North and advanced parallel to the main road round the houses and almost succeeded in cutting off the self-propelled gun, which had damaged the tank. Immediately afterwards “A” Company passed through and exploited and cleared up minor opposition in the town.
    stolpi likes this.
  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    For more info about the operations in this area I recommend: What are you reading at the moment?

    And yes there is a Kessel in Holland located along the Meuse River and a German town - or rather village - with the same name on the southern fringe of the Reichswald. The latter was taken during Op Veritable by the 51st HD as well but that was in Feb 1945 … after the Ardennes.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  13. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Hi. Absolutely brilliant account. Is that from a private publication?
    Is there anymore regarding that area?


  14. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    From the History of the 51st HD by J.B. Salmond; "In its final advance to Baarlo the 1st Black Watch kept meeting self-propelled guns at every turn of the road; but those were liquidated satisfactorily. Major Peter Taylor, as on many previous occasions since the Division started battling at Alamein, again distinguished himself. Towards the end of the advance the 42nd also went forward on foot through the village of Bong to Baarlo. All through this advance the German shelling was particularly heavy and accurate, testimony to that heaviness and accuracy being borne by the tale of "The Tin Hat". During the height of the shelling the Brigade Commander, Brigadier James Oliver, came up to see Colonel Hopwood. On returning to his Headquarters the Brigadier was asked what it was like up there. His reply was not only a cryptic and vivid impression of the state of affairs, but also a tribute to a very brave officer. He answered "John is wearing his steel helmet".1
    . (It had been something of a tradition in the Highland Division that the Balmoral bonnet, as the sign (for all to see) of a Scots soldier, should be worn in battle except when particularly heavy shelling made such a practice foolish)
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  15. Aeronut

    Aeronut Junior Member

    Colonel Hopwood's sent a proof of the account of the 1st Battalion's European campaign to my father shortly after the war. It was a joint effort by the Colonel and his second in command with the aim of filling out some details that in conjunction with the Battalions War Diary would assist whoever it would be who would write the official history. As far as I know Col Hopwood's account was never published in its own right and I don't know how much, if any, of it was used for the official history.
    The original is spirit duplicated and therefore in parts it is difficult to read. Because of this I took it on myself to transcribe it into a 'Word' document, a copy of which I donated to the Black Watch museum in Perth when I was horrified to discover they had very little archive material on the 1st Bn in Europe.

    What area/operations are you interested in? The document covers the period May 44 to May 45 and has 33500 words.
    Juha and Tricky Dicky like this.
  16. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Well to make a long story short: I’ve been invited by the local historical society ( Baarlo / Kessel) to their liberation event in November this year. My knowledge of the area is pretty good and I’m well versed in the British Army’s operations there but only from January 45 onwards when 6 airborne Div took over the line. My grandad was in 7 Para, hence the research there.
    I’ve got some copies of the war diaries from some of the 51st Div that mentions some of the action there, but not much. So I’m hoping ( as I promised them) I’d try and get more info regarding the liberation in November 44.

    JimHerriot likes this.
  17. Piet Snellen

    Piet Snellen Member

    Hi Alex, take a look on Facebook site "Venray War Cemetery" and you find info as below.

    Private Harold Gregory
    5/7 Bn. Gordon Highlanders,
    Service number 14751695
    Age 18
    Son of Wilfred Laurence Gregory and Elsie Gregory
    of Rotherham, Yorkshire UK
    Grave number VIII.D.2

    Private George Laurie
    5/7 Bn. Gordon Highlanders,
    Service number 14752511
    Age unknown
    Grave number VIII.D.5

    Serjeant Stanley Robert Jamieson Smith- 5/7 Bn. Gordon Highlanders,
    Service number 2881992
    Age 26
    Son of John and Majory Smith
    Husband of Elsie Violet Smith
    of Stratford, Essex UK
    Grave number VIII.D.4

    Lance Corporal Vernon Southwood
    5/7 Bn. Gordon Highlanders,
    Service number 3658162
    Age 28
    Son of George Harry and Elisabeth Gertrude Southwood
    Husband of Alfreda Hobday Southwood,
    of Blackhill Co. Durham.
    Grave number VIII.D.6

    Killed in action by German snipers during the liberation of Kessel NL. They were temporarily buried near the house of the Timmermans family, Donk, Kessel (L)

    Mariet Van Knippenberg My father took this picture, I have the original. They were buried next to barn of his mother's house. For decades my father kept in touch with the Gregory family, I remember the parents visiting, have pictures of that. When my parents got married they went to Venray to take a picture. My father was years later invited to Scotland by the Gordon Highlanders and attented the highland games, he would ride his bike to Venray till he was almost 80. I have been there many times, with the Gregory family, first the parents, after they died, we lost contact but that was restored and the brother Lol and his wife Sheila came to visit
    • [​IMG] Piet Snellen[​IMG] What a lovely story Mariet. I wonder if you have a photo of Harold. We are collecting photos of soldiers, buried at Venray War Cemetery. There are plans to make small signboards with photos to put on the graves for special occasions.
    • [​IMG]
      Mariet Van Knippenberg
      Piet Snellen unfortunately not...my dad passed away in 2002 and I never found a pic of Harold. Harold's parents are long gone and so is the brother and his wife and after we lost again contact with the family after my mum died in 2012
    Chris C, stolpi and JimHerriot like this.
  18. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Hi Piet!
    Many thanks for that. So do you live in Kessel?
    I was there last week!

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