Did British Sappers Cross The Waal With The 82nd at Nijmegen

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Zelemenos, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member

    Can anyone confirm whether British Sappers (11th Field Company Royal Engineers) crossed the Waal with the 504th paratroopers of the US 82nd on 20 September 1944 ?

    The book Bridge Too Far doesn't mention it (but then again it doesn't mention many things British) and nor does the film show it. I've only found two books that mention it.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The best place to look would be their war diary. The WDs of the smaller units, like the Field Companies, are often quite detailed.
  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Yes, but not necessarily in the first wave. British engineers from Guards Armd Div rafted American anti-tank gums across. I’m away from my PC at the moment where the details from the war diaries are - I’ll try to find them later this weekend.
  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    That should be guns not gums! that would have been the Dental Corps
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Don't let silly mistakes like that denture confidence...
    Sapper D., Tolbooth, Chris C and 4 others like this.
  6. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member

    Many thanks Tom.

    I had read that they crossed five times.

    I'm completing a presentation to be given in December on Operation Market Garden and having read many books on the subject was puzzled as to why so many books didn't mention the Sappers as the crossing of the Waal was very heroic.

  7. Vic. Maslin

    Vic. Maslin Member

    Re post 2 above, my father once told me he had been at Arnhem, but "arrived a few days after the others".He was in the R.E.4th L.of.Corps unit. I have that section of the unit diaries , there is no mention of war work. In his personal diary , he had done recce's of a "class 40 route" in Belgium and the Netherlands prior to Arnhem and for the dates of Market Garden, no entries are made .( that is the same for the dates of all operations ,from landing on Gold beach right through to Germany.) There are daily entries except for the duration of the various 'ops' .It does seem different units had different views of what they should record. I had hoped there would be an overall record somewhere, summing up the whole operation, including all the units involved but I haven't found one yet , the size of it and numbers involved it would be a vast document !
    Regards all
  8. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Details from WO171/381 - HQ RE Guards Armoured Division:

    20 September
    A new plan was made between Comds of British & US forces to capture the NIJMEGEN br intact – the Americans to do an assault crossing in assault boats in sq 6864 and capture the far approaches whilst the British (Gds Armd) attacked through NIJMEGEN.
    0930 The notes taken at the CRE’s O Gp herewith. [See Appx D7]
    Div HQ & HQRE left for new harbour area.
    1045 Arrived new harbour area at 706566.
    The assault crossing was carried out successfully in the later afternoon and was followed up by a Cl 9 raft constructed by 615 Fd Sqn which successfully ferried A/Tk guns across.

    According to the war diary of 11 Field Coy RE they reached NIJMEGEN at 1430 hrs on 20 September but were employed carrying out reconnaissance of the bridges in the town.

    I hope that helps.

  9. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    you may already have this book, if not, then its well worth obtaining a copy? You should be able to purchase a copy for a decent price.


    By Captain the Earl of Rosse, MBE And Colonel E.R. Hill, DSO .

  10. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member

    Thanks Tom,

    I was reading online a section of the book 'Nijmegen' by Tim Saunders which said that 615 Field Squadron Royal Engineers ferried anti-tank guns and mortars for the American paratroopers across the Waal whilst under fire.

    Would the 11 Field Company be part of the 615 Field Squadron Royal Engineers ? I'm confused.

  11. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member

    Thanks Stu,

    I will look it up.

  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member



    615 Field Squadron and 11 Field Company RE were two separate units. Former was part of Guards Armoured Division, whilst the latter was a 30 Corps unit.


  13. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member

    Thanks Tom,

    That appears to clear it up.

    The book I read must have got the units mixed up as it now appears that it was 615 Field Squadron and not 11 Field Company RE which ferried the equipment across the Waal to the Americans.

  14. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Not sure if you've already seen it, but there's a first hand account of the activities of H Co, 504 Para Inf Regt, during 17-21 Sep44, at the Fort Benning site;

    http://www.benning.army.mil/library/content/Virtual/Donovanpapers/wwii/STUP2/KappelCarlW CPT.pdf

    It sometimes plays up on direct links but if you search for Captain Carl Kappel you should find it. He notes that in his wave the boats were crewed by US Abn Engrs, C Co, 307th Bn.

    Tom; never heard of anti-tank gums, but did get a reference to anti-tank buns in a covering letter many years ago...

    Tom OBrien likes this.
  15. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member


    You are correct that the boats were crewed by US Engineers.

    The book I read said that 11th Field Company Royal Engineers crossed with 504th.

    But the historical evidence I now know clearly states that it was 615 Field Squadron that ferried the 'gums' across the Waal to the 504th.

    More the fog of military historians and authors than the fog of war in this case.

  16. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    From the ‘Official History'

    Attached Files:

  17. Zelemenos

    Zelemenos Member


    Many thanks for that.

    It confirms that it was 615 Field Squadron that ferried the anti-tank guns on rafts across the Waal to the 504th.


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