Award Military Medal Pte. F. Holland, 2nd Bn Essex Regiment (Netherlands)

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by brithm, Jul 20, 2023.

  1. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Award Military Medal Pte. Frederick Holland, 2nd Bn The Essex Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, I Corps

    WO 373/52/398

    Leicester Evening Mail 11th January 1945

    What are polar bears and timberwolves doing in/near the hamlet of Barlaque, Huize De Blaak and the Keenesluis?

    Some facts.
    Neighborhood Barlaque:
    - On the border of Standaarbuiten - Fijnaart
    - Approximately 20 houses and approximately 50 inhabitants
    - Baer = fierce / bald
    - Laku = swampy terrain
    - Marsh area reclaimed in the 15th century (St. Elisabeth flood 1421)

    - Centuries-old former lock with drainage channel
    - Part of the damming of the Moye Keene from 1765/1769
    - The Barlake flowed locally, connecting the Mark with the Dintel
    - Used by narrow ships with mainly flax on board, which were locked at the Keenesluis

    House De Blaak:
    - Dike house with basement
    - Burned down in 1930, then rebuilt
    - October 4, 1944 Battalion HQ of the Polar Bears (49th West Riding Infantry Division), suitable as HQ mainly because of the basement.

    With this last fact you can already see the connection with the “Polar Bears”…

    It was at the end of October/beginning of November 1944 that this part of West Brabant was liberated from the Germans during the Second World War. This year (2024) 80 years ago.

    Various Allied operations are carried out to liberate West Brabant. Canadians, British (the Polar Bears), Americans (the Timberwolves, see the connection with “timberwolves” here) and Poles (1st Polish Armored Division) took part in these operations. These operations were given code names:
    - Operation Pheasant
    - Operation Suitcase
    - Operation Humid
    - Operation Rebound

    Operation Rebound was part of the major operations Humid and Pheasant and aimed at the advance to Hollandsch Diep/Moerdijk, with its vital/strategic bridges.

    At the end of October/beginning of November the weather was bad, average temperature around 5 degrees Celsius and it rained a lot.

    The Germans had withdrawn to the so-called Mark & Dintellinie (Stampersgat / Standdaarbuiten) on October 29, 1944. The Mark and the Dintel formed a natural defense line and had to be crossed by the Allies in order to continue the aforementioned advance. This advance was anything but successful. The polder landscape also worked against it. There was little or no use of tanks and therefore mainly consisted of infantry fighting.

    Part of the “Humid” plan concerned the crossing of the Dintel, which would take place near the hamlet of Barlaque. That would be a so-called “silent assault crossing”, a silent crossing to surprise the German defense. The British planners hoped to be able to advance towards Fijnaart/Willemstad and towards Oude Stoof/Klundert. The plans turned out to be somewhat overly optimistic given the fairly large operating area, the weather conditions, the unknown polder landscape and the fierce German resistance, especially in the Oude Stoof and Klundert area. The polders in the Fijnaart area were also flooded.

    While the Americans (104th Infantry Div. – Timberwolves) proceeded to form a bridgehead on the other side of the Mark (Standdaarbuiten), the British (49th WR Infantry Div. – Polar Bears) attempted to do this on the other side of the Dintel, near the hamlet of Barlaque. It is striking that the British crossing had to take place without noise, while there was a hellish noise, in the American sector, because of the supporting artillery. At exactly 9:00 PM (November 2, 1944) the first crossing of the Dintel was completed. This happened in complete darkness, always with 2 boats going back and forth. In each boat were about 10 soldiers from the 2nd Bn Essex Regiment (Polar Bear Division), also known as the “Pompadours”. The crossing was protected by Gloucestershire's Rgt. (“Glosters”). The Essex Pompadours were later relieved by the South Wales Borderers Rgt. There is a photo of them passing Huize De Blaak and walking in the direction of Standdaarbuiten, towards the Timberwolves.

    Even though the crossing took place in absolute silence, the Germans discovered the British. The British came under fire from the direction of Fijnaartse Kade and the first casualties were reported. After the crossing, the Germans appeared to have already withdrawn from the area around the Barlaque. Barlaque was therefore found virtually deserted. A reconnaissance soldier (Recce - scout) from the 294 Field Company captured the steam pumping station at the lock almost single-handedly, because he had lost his comrades in the darkness. Later, reinforcements arrived and the Keenesluis was found intact. The Keenesluis, an important bridge for the further advance, was checked by several engineers ("Sappers" Royal Engineers) for the possible presence of explosives. These were indeed present and could be neutralized. The Keenesluis was therefore spared from destruction. Shortly after midnight, an emergency first aid station was set up in the basement of one of the few houses (Barlaaksedijk towards Standdaarbuiten), where the first wounded could be treated. This concerned both Polar Bears and Timberwolves. Intermittently the Germans fired shells at the small bridgehead. Halfway along the Blaaksedijk the British encountered heavy rifle and machine gun fire.

    These were fierce battles know from the fact that Pte (private rank) Frederick Holland (2nd Bn Essex Rgt, 56th Infantry Brigade, 49th West Riding Infantry Division, 1 Corps) was later awarded a so-called military medal for his bravery in the advance from Barlaque towards Fijnaart. His platoon was attacked by about 20 Germans. Pte Holland immediately took action as a light machine gunner (LMG). Firing his gun from the hip, he immediately killed at least 3 Germans and later 5 more. Perhaps an overconfident action...? In any case, at the risk of his own life. Despite all this, however, the advance was still stopped by German resistance. They were also heavily bombarded with mortars, after which they decided to dig in.

    Later, Commander Harrison - Topham established his battalion (KOYLI – King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) headquarters in Huize De Blaak, which in turn was controlled from Brigade Commander Walker's headquarters in Roosendaal. There was pressure from Roosendaal to accelerate the advance towards Oude Stoof/Klundert and the Moerdijk bridges. Air support was therefore requested to shell and bomb the area around Klundert in particular. The german artillery was also stationed there. The german FLAK batteries were also concentrated in the vicinity of Klundert and the Moerdijk bridges. Oberst Leutnant L. Von Alvensleben was responsible (“Mit Seinen Kopf”) for the defense of the area around the Moerdijk bridges. The Allies had difficulty with the advance. It was impossible to advance without high losses among one's own men. After all, the polders around Fijnaart were largely under water. There had been no drainage for weeks and the water level was high. Soldiers were therefore forced to move over dike roads. The Germans had dug themselves into these dikes. They proved to be able to stop an advance of an entire company with just a few soldiers (Kampfgruppe Chill) with their good mortars and machine guns and some Sturmgeschütze (Stugs / tanks 244 Stug Brig. led by Hauptman Jaschke).
    The command of the crossing of the Dintel was assigned to Brigadier Maurice Ekins (56th Brigade / Royal Fusiliers). On November 2, 1944, he gave the orders for the crossing, which would take place that evening/night. Bizarre detail, he was found dead on November 4, 1944 around 4:30 am outside the “” (in his car) with a gunshot wound in the head (from close range on the right side)… According to official reports “Killed in action”. Command was taken over at 1:30 PM by Lt. Colonel Mackay Lewis (185 Field Rgt.) Brigadier Ekins left a wife (Catharine) and 2 children (Jennifer & Jim). He is buried at the military cemetery in Bergen op Zoom.

    The hamlet of Barlaque, De Blaak house and the Keenesluis played a major role in the Second World War and the liberation of the south-west of the Netherlands / West #Brabant. Literally the crossroads where British and Americans, read Polar Bears and Timberwolves, met each other as “brothers in arms”. A lot has happened here, fighting for our freedom. Now, 80 years later, we must not forget that...
    “Lest we forget.” We will remember them!

    Author Dré van Roomen
    Board member (2nd vice president/2nd secr) The Dutch Polar Bears Foundation (ANBI)
    February 2024 ©

    - Operatie Rebound (Bevrijding van de Westhoek) Stichting Historisch Onderzoek Tweede Wereldoorlog oktober 1944
    - Bevrijding van Fijnaart en Heijningen – Heemkundekring Fijnaart en Heijngingen
    - Monty’s Left Flank – The Polar Bears / Patrick de Laforce
    - Brabant Bevrijd – Henk van der Linden
    - De Bevrijding van West-Brabant
    - The Pompadours - A.A. Vince
    - The Royal Engineers Journal
    - Autumn Gale / Herbststurm – Jack Didden
    - War Diary HQ 56th Inf. Brigad Nov. 1944

    Attached Files:

    JimHerriot likes this.
  3. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Just in case you have not seen this before.

    A Dutch Polar Bear for a Dutch Polar Bear.

    Toon Kramer.

    On this day during WW2

    Always remember, never forget, always,

    Dutch Polar Bear likes this.

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