VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest

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

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    I decided to restore an old thread of mine about the 51st Highland Division in Operation Veritable, which I posted on this site in March 2012, but afterwards was lost due to a software change of the website. Unfortunately I did not manage to save all of it, so part of the thread, in particular that dealing with the battle for Goch, will have to be redone from scratch and this necessarily will take some time.

    HD map.jpg

    During Veritable the 51st Highland Division formed the right or southern wing of 30 Corps - operating under the directions of 1st Canadian Army - and had as primary mission to open up the main road around the southern edge of the Reichswald, the MOOK - GENNEP - HEKKENS - GOCH road, which was just as significant as the one to the north of the forest. The Division had to break into the enemy defensive line, conduct an attack through the southern part of the forest towards the crossroads settlement of Hekkens, cross the River Niers near Kessel and capture the fortified town of Goch. Besides that the division had to divert part of its strength to establish a bridgehead across the Niers at Gennep and clear the eastern bank of the Meuse River, in order to enable engineers to start the construction of bridges across this water barrier as a preliminary for the build-up for the next big operation: the Rhine Crossing by the British 2nd Army. The battle fought by the Highland Division in the Reichswald lasted almost three weeks, from 8 - 28 February 1945, and included two river assaults, some bitter forest fighting and two urban battles (Gennep & Goch - the latter protected by a ring of pillboxes).

    Elsewhere on this site, I already dealt with the operations of 30 Corps to the north of the Reichswald, from the Dutch border through Cleve and Moyland toward the Goch escarpment and 2 Canadian Corps at Moyland Wood, Louisendorf and the Goch - Calcar road, see: VERITABLE 1945: 15th Scottish & 43rd Wessex Divisions in the Reichswald battle; and for the Canadians: VERITABLE 1945: the Canadian finale (Moyland Wood & Goch-Calcar road) and VERITABLE 1945: the Canadian attack on Wyler & Den Heuvel, 8 Feb 1945 and 3rd Canadian Division in Op Veritable.

    Road to Goch a.jpg

    Sequence of the engagements described in this thread:
    1. Gaining the western edge of the Reichswald; 154 & 153 Bde - Operation VERITABLE: 51st Highland Division (Reichswald, Gennep, Hekkens & Goch)
    2. Across the Niers at Gennep: 153 Bde VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    3. The Path Through the Wood: 152 Bde VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    4. A second bridgehead across the Niers: 154 Bde VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    5. Battle for Goch: 152 & 153 Bde VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    6. Final operations south of Goch (21 - 28 Feb 45) VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest

    This thread was made possible by the much appreciated assistance of Horsapassenger, dbf, Tolbooth, Hugo Levels, Wolfgang Endemann and Captain Roel who most kindly provided me with War Diaries, photographs and other documents. Bedee (again) continued to perform his wonderful work on the map-overlays from the War Diaries.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2023
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1. Gaining the western edge of the Reichswald

    In outline the plan of attack of the 51st Highland Division consisted of three phases, though it would be adapted several times during the operation, especially the third phase:

    - In phase I 154 Inf Bde was to secure the high ground on the western edge of the Reichswald.
    - immediately the 154 Bde had completed its task, 153 Inf Bde was to pass through and swing south and make for the Meuse, cutting off whatever enemy remained between that area and Mook, thus removing the enemy forces that were blocking the access to the important Mook - Gennep road. This phase was to be completed by dawn on D plus 1;
    - For phase II, starting on D plus 1, 152 Bde was to pass through 154 Bde, thrust through the Reichswald toward the first lateral road that ran though the forest and seize the crossroads area of Hekkens. The 154 in the meantime was to move forward on the left through the forest covering the 154 Bde's flank. Meanwhile153 Bde was to open up the 30 Corps axis, the main road running from Mook to Gennep.
    - During the last phase (phase III), while 152 Bde maintained a firm base at Hekkens, the 154 Bde was to push forward through the forest and take the Asper bridge near Asperden. By this time 153 Bde, after clearing the area north of the Niers River, would advance on Goch. Phase III was forecast for first light D plus 2.

    The Brigades were supported by the 107 RAC (gun tanks), 1st Fife & Forfar Yeomanry (Crocodiles), Lothians (Flails) and 222 Assault Sqn RE (AVREs).

    Artillery plan - The initial attack of the 51st Division there was no creeping barrage as with the other assault divisions in 30 Corps. The Divisional Commander, Major-General Thomas G. Rennie, decided against using a barrage and instead chose to use a series of timed concentrations. He felt that the enemy locations in his boundaries had been accurately located and preferred to have his fire support concentrated on those locations rather than dispersed in a barrage where they may not fall on an enemy location at all. Any unforeseen enemy targets before the 51st Highland Division could be addressed by concentrations-on-call fire missions.

    On the 8th at 0500 hours there opened the heaviest artillery shoot of the campaign. Over 1.000 guns saturated the German forward line at the egde of the Reichswald for over five hours with shells of all different calibers. At 10.30 hours the infantry attack went in, with all assault divisions moving in simultaneously. In the initial phase of the operation the Highland Division skirted the northern flank of the Kiekberg and St.Jansberg, an elevated stretch of ground which dominated the main Mook - Gennep road running along the river flats of the Meuse and therefore had been transformed into an almost impregnable stronghold by the enemy. The open right flank towards the Kiekberg and St.Jansberg was covered by a new device, known as the "pepper-pot" group, consisting of machineguns, anti tank guns, tank and anti aircraft guns, to which was allotted the task of preventing any interference from that quarter by saturating the enemy positions with fire.

    Map of the combined fire plans during opening phase of Veritable and the arrangements for the "pepper-pot" (work on the overlay courtesy Bedee):
    Combined%20fire%20plans.jpg Pepperpot 51st HD sector.jpg

    Axis of advance for the attack on the Reichswald - I have tried to figure out the axis of advance of the assault divisions in Op Veritable. On the map below they are marked nos. 1 to 7. The 51st Highland Division used three axes of advance for the initial attack. These are indicated on the map with no. 1 to 3: No.1. Breedeweg Straat (right), No.2. Bruukse Straat (center) and No.3, a track north of Bruuk called Ashorst (left). The paved main road from Groesbeek towards Milsbeek (the Grafwegsche Straat/Holleweg) - the more obvious route for an advance - could not be used, as the Germans still held Grafwegen and the slopes of the St.Jans- and St. Martensberg south of the hamlet, whence they were able to control the road with fire.

    Axis of assault divisions a.jpg

    Tanks & Infantry Op Veritable 10.02.45.jpg
    Tanks and infantry assemble in the Reichswald area on Feb 10th, 1945 (units unknown).

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2022
  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Break-in of the enemy forward defenses (154 Bde)

    Because of the narrow frontage allocated to the 51st Highland Division, it was decided to initiate the attack with only one brigade (154 Brigade) up, reinforced by an extra infantry battalion, the 5/7th Gordons attached from 153 Brigade. The other brigades followed in column, in the order of 153 (-) and 152.

    The 154 Brigade moved forward with its two Black Watch battalions abreast, each closely followed by one of the remaining battalions. The 1st Black Watch attacked on the left, the 7th on the right. Moving forward along three lanes, both were to seize the townships of Breedeweg and Bruuk and cross an AT-ditch which lay between these settlements and the forest edge. The three axis had to be cleared by flails (of 'B' Sqn 1 Lothians & Border Yeo), which were followed by two AVREs bridge layers and two AVREs carrying Fascines of the supporting 222 Assault Sqn which were to create passages across the AT-ditch. Once across the ditch a further assault was to be made to seize the first stretch of high ground just inside the forest. This high ground was known as the Freuden Berg, an elongated ridge line with raised ground at either end, which faintly gave it a saddle-like appearance. The 1st Black Watch aimed for the northern knoll. As soon as they were firm the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were to pass through and advance deeper inside the forest. The 7th Black Watch were to protect the open right flank at Breedeweg. The task of securing the southern knoll of the Freudenberg was given to the attached 5/7th Gordon Highlanders.

    107 Final aa.jpg
    Map overlay of the advance of 154 Bde in the opening stage of Veritable. The AT-ditch, which actually was an enlarged drainage ditch known as De Leigraaf, had to be crossed at four different points codenamed 'Wordsworth' and 'Tennyson' in the 7th Black Watch and 'Shelley (1)' and 'Shelley (2)' in the 1st Black Watch sector. The ditch at these points had to be bridged by AVRE's (Map courtesy of Bedee).

    Bruuk Leigraaf.jpg
    The drainage ditch, known as De Leigraaf, across the Breedeweg Straat and the Bruuksche Straat (now: Bruuk) was turned into an anti-tank ditch which had to be bridged by the AVRE's. The crossing points of Tennyson and Wordsworth (both within the 7th BW sector) were in the fields to the left of the road. From this picture it becomes evident why the approach to the AT-ditch was extremely boggy. Already by the second day of the offensive the area turned into an appalling quag with traffic jammed all day near the passages of the AT-ditch. View to the west towards the (modern) village of Breedeweg. The Bruuksche Straat remained impassable for the first day of the attack because of the many mines near the AT-ditch and a number of damaged and bogged down tanks.

    The 154 Brigade met with varying success. On the left, the operation of the 1st Black Watch (operating along axis no.3 - see map previous post) went smoothly. The battalion was commanded by Major Taylor, in the absence of the C.O. on leave. At 10:50 hrs the two leading Coys crossed the Start Line with 'B' Coy on the right (Major C.T. Cathro) and 'C' Coy (Major J.N. Davies-Colley) on the left, 'A' Coy was in reserve - there was no fourth Coy at the time. The leading Coys each were accompanied by a Troop of Churchill tanks of 'A' Sqn, 107 RAC. At 10:56 hrs the battalion moved off into the attack and an hour later reported that it had reached the first objective, the wooded area of Bruuk near the AT-ditch, without encountering much opposition. From here the battalion moved on at 12:30 hrs but resistance stiffened in the area of "TOMATO". The 30 minute pause here proved most useful, allowing just sufficient time for regrouping before Phase II. 'A' Coy in the tail of the battalion column was closed up to "TOMATO" and 'B' an 'C' Coy moved on towards the Reichswald. They maintained their planned rate of advance and at 13:20 hrs, clearing up the small farmsteads en route, reported being on their final objective, the ridge 300 yards inside the Reichswald. 'A' Coy came up into reserve. The major trouble was caused by the ground. The Bruuk area, actually a stretch of low lying brook land crossed by a couple of dirt tracks, was extremely boggy and unfit for vehicles, not even tanks could pass through. The AVRE bridge laying tanks became ditched in the soaked ground well before they reached the AT-ditch at Shelley 1. Eventually the accompanying Flails (No.1 Tp, 'B' Sqn 1st Lothians) cleared a track slightly to the north of the proposed crossing site on to the 53 Welsh Division southern axis, which offered some better footing. The supporting arms crossed the AT-ditch at MR 783535, where a crossing had been established by the 53 Welsh Division. By nightfall the 1st Black Watch was firm on the northern knoll of the Freuden Berg. The battalion just succeeded in beating the 7th Black Watch for the honour of being the first troops in the 51st Highland Division to enter Germany. The battalion took over 100 POWs at the cost of 4 men killed and one officer and 16 men wounded. There was very little enemy shelling. The tremendous counter-battery program appeared to have silenced the small amount of artillery the enemy had. Late in the evening the 7th Argylls passed through and pushed deeper into the forest towards the area at MR 792520. Here the Argylls dug in, with 'D' Coy forward near the X-tracks and 'B' to the right. 'A' Coy and Bn HQ dug in near 792520. The Argylls lost 1 O.R. killed when a barrage of 5.5 inch shells fell close to 'B' Coy. During the night a German patrol approached but was easily driven off. 2 POWs were taken.

    Bruuk 2.jpg
    Above: The 1st Black Watch had to move through Bruuk, nowadays a swampy nature reserve. Below: The axis leading up to Shelley 1, a small muddy ride leading through the bog, was impassible for vehicles. Not surprisingly the bridge laying tanks bogged down well before they reached the AT-Ditch.

    Bruuk 1.jpg

    Bruuk 4.jpg
    The last stretch of the 1st Black Watch' sector leading up to the Reichswald forest; the area codenamed 'Tomato'. This picture was taken on German soil, from the Grafwegener Strasse - the road running along the forward edge of the Reichswald - with a view towards the west. The Dutch/German border runs slightly in front of the road. The houses in the background are situated in Holland, the farm to the left is in Germany. At 12:45 hours, Feb 8th, 'B' and 'C' Coys of the 1st Black Watch crossed the German frontier somewhere at this point; the first of the 51st Highland Division to set foot in Germany during WW2 according to the War Diary of the battalion.

    Freudenberg trench.jpg
    German trench running along the top of the northern knoll of the Freuden Berg. Though not quite clear on the photo, the trench is still about 3 feet deep. The 1st Black Watch captured the knoll without enemy opposition.

    Major Peter Taylor, the 1st Black Watch acting CO, received a DSO for his conduct of the operation:

    Maj Taylor 1 BW 8 Feb 45 1.jpg Maj Taylor 1 BW 8 Feb 45 2.jpg

    Major Charles Thompson Cathro, the CO of 'A' Coy, the 1 Black Watch leading right hand company, was awarded a MC for his conduct of the operation:
    Maj Cathro 1 BW.jpg

    L/Cpl. Joseph Baron of the 1st Black Watch won an immediate MM for his actions during the opening phase of the battle:
    1 BW award.jpg

    Excerpt from the Regt History of the 7th Argylls re the opening of Veritable:
    Argylls00%20a.jpg Argylls01%20a.jpg

    On the right 7 Black Watch got into trouble. The battalion met unexpected heavy opposition from a fresh enemy battalion of the 1222nd Grenadier Regiment (180th Infantry Division), which had been inserted into that portion of the line the previous evening. The Black Watch moved forward along the Herwendaalse Straat (axis no.1), which in fact formed the extreme right flank of the First Canadian Army's offensive. As a result the battalion's right flank was open. To cover the advance, Grafwegen and the elevated ground south of it, still occupied by the enemy, was saturated by fire from the "pepper-pot" groups, consisting of medium machineguns, anti tank -, tank and anti aircraft guns. Reaching the road-fork just short of De Klok, the battalion split up and moved forward towards the anti-tank (AT) ditch with two companies abreast. On the right 'B' Company, followed by 'A', continued along axis no.1. 'B' captured the area around the village church, though the company found it hard to identify their appointed positions due to the amount of destruction inflicted to this area. Some sniping was encountered but many of the enemy, including a complete Coy HQ, were found cowering in cellars and trenches and taken prisoner. 'A' Coy then passed through and headed down the Breedewegse Straat towards the township of Breedeweg. Screened by their own 2-inch mortar smoke, 'A' Coy without delay scrambled through the AT-ditch and captured the hamlet without much difficulty. Only the leading platoon encountered some opposition which however soon was eliminated. Meanwhile 'D' Coy, forging ahead on the battalion's left, along axis no. 2 (the Bruuksche Straat, nowadays called Bruuk), was not so fortunate. 'D' Coy suffered rather heavy casualties from some enemy who remained well concealed in a house near the AT-ditch and, though by-passed by the leading platoon, held their fire until 'D' Coy's HQ were within about 50 yards. They picked-off the company commander, Major Lowe, and two of his platoon leaders together with 5 men. The loss of three officers threw 'D' Coy off balance. It was not until the I.O. of the battalion, Captain Rae-Smith, arrived that some order was restored. Tanks of 'B' Sqn, 107 RAC, which after some difficulty managed to get across the AT-ditch, finally eased the company on to its objective at the forest edge. Once the 7 Black Watch had reached its objective, the attached 5/7 Gordon Highlanders, following in the tail of the column, came forward and just before dark started the move into the forest. On their way in the Gordons were troubled by fire from the open right flank.

    It was essential that both axis in the 7th Black Watch zone should be opened as soon as possible to enable the rest of 153 Bde to pass through and exploit the attack southward. On the right, along the Breedewegse Straat, the Crabs of the 1st Lothians flailed a 500 yards lane up to the AT-ditch, exploding about 30 mines. A Churchill SBG was brought up by 222 Assault Sqn RE and launched successfully; a bulldozer ramped the ditch with rubble, farm carts and a burnt-out enemy truck and by 12:30 hours the right lane was ready. However, on the left, along the Bruukse Straat, things went much slower and a passage across the AT-ditch was not finished until 19:00 hours. The road and verges in the area of the AT-ditch and beyond were infested with mines. Delay was caused by two Churchills of 'B' Sqdn, 107 RAC, being bogged, a Sherman Crab by-passed them but was bazooka'd and brewed up. By the time the two Churchills had been towed away another Churchill which went forward stroke a mine and blocked the route. 'B' Sqdn, 107 RAC, lost Lieutenant Robertson and six men wounded on that day.

    An excerpt from the War Diary of 'B' Sqn, 1st Lothian and Border Yeomanry (Sherman Crabs), gives ample details of the efforts on the part of the Sherman Crabs to clear the lanes in 154 Bde's sector (courtesy Tolbooth):
    Sgt Cox manoeuvred his Flial tank past the two Churchills which blocked the road and went off down the road himself. After having exploded at least six mines, his tank was struck by a bazooka fired from a house on the left hand side of the road. The tank brewed up and, while the crew were evacuating, was machine-gunned from the house. Sgt Cox was killed by small arms fire as he attempted to bale out and Tprs Parker and Bloor wounded by splinters caused by the bazooka explosion. A picture of the smoldering Flail tank next to the house where it was knocked out

    It seems that the action at Bruuk with the 1st Lothians' Flails also was filmed, including the brewed up tank of Sgt Cox (see at 01:22): OPENING OF THE ASSAULT BY 5/7 GORDON HIGHLANDERS, 51ST (HIGHLAND) DIVISION, ON THE VILLAGE OF BRUUK AT THE EDGE OF THE REICHSWALD, GERMANY [Allocated Title]

    Below some stills from the above footage:

    Photo 3 aa.jpg
    The Sherman Flail of Sgt Cox has moved forward past a ditched Flail (in the right foreground). Cox's tank then is hit ...

    Photo 3.jpg
    ... and burns ...

    Flail IWM BU 1794.jpg
    ... the ditched Flail was also photographed. In the background a big cloud, is it the tank of Cox envelopped in flames? (Photo © IWM BU 1794)

    Photo 5 00.jpg
    A troop of Churchills cautiously move forward. One has already advanced almost level to the ditched Flail, which is indicated with the large circle. Someone is walking back through the ditch along the road (small circle). Another Sherman Flail has moved up along the small Bruuk road to the scene of the calamity or are the scenes out of sequence and is this Sgt Cox's tank?

    Photo 4.jpg
    ... the Flail moving forward probably is the one filmed here.

    Bruuk 3.jpg
    The Bruuksche Straat just after the war which shows the amount of destruction and poor state of the road. On this stretch of the road Sgt Cox tank moved forward alone and flailed at least six mines before being knocked out. The house in the center is the one with the ditched Flail in front of it. There were in fact two separate but identical houses build next to each other. White tapes warn for the mined verges. A couple of AT-mines are visible to the right hand side of the road and to the left there are even more glimmering in the grass. The Freudenberg is looming in the distance (Photo courtesy: G.G. Driessen, Groesbeek 1935 - 1945, Crisis en Oorlog).

    Bruuk 37 house.jpg
    Though renovated, the first house is still standing (nowadays Bruuk 37) - the second one has been torn down since. Note the cyclist. He has just passed the point where the AT-Ditch (De Leigraaf) crosses the road. He is also visible in the first picture of this thread (below the opening map).

    The operations of the 7th Black Watch is described in some detail in the Regt History of the battalion:
    7th Black Watch 001.jpg 7th Black Watch 002.jpg

    Mechanist Sergeant Eric A. Maclean, of 'B'Sqn, 107 Regt RAC, was in the midst of the battle along the center lane and earned an immediate MM for his efforts in salvaging the tanks of his unit:
    MacLean 107 RAC Bruuk 1.jpg MacLean 107 RAC Bruuk 2.jpg

    57 Gordons Breedeweg.jpg
    Advancing infantry move into Grafwegen on the edge of the Reichswald forest. This probably is the point codenamed 'Skelton' on the wartime map above, the junction of the Breedewegse Straat with the Grafwegener Strasse.

    Kartens 2.jpg
    Same spot today (view to the west). The turn off to the right leads toward the entrance of the Kartenspielerweg, the road that crosses the Reichswald.

    Jonkerbos Lowe Major.jpg
    Major Lowe, the 'D' Coy CO, and two of his platoon leaders (Lieutenants Gaisford and Shanks) were killed in the advance along the Bruuksche Straat which completely threw the company's operation off balance. They rest on the Jonkerbos War Cemetery at Nijmegen.

    The battalion I.O., Captain William Booth Rae-Smith, immediately went forward and reorganized the leaderless 'D' company and led it onto its objective. He was awarded a M.C. for his action:
    Rae Smith award 1.jpg Rae Smith award 2.jpg

    Pte Robert Middleton, a platoon runner in 'A' Coy, 7 Black Watch, was awarded a MM for his actions. His recommendation bears testimony to the fact that the advance of the right hand company also was not without difficulties:
    Pte Middleton 7 BW A Coy.jpg Pte Middleton 7 BW A Coy aa.jpg

    By late afternoon resistance in Breedeweg and Bruuk had been quelled by 7 Black Watch, but things had been going rather slowly. The 5/7 Gordons passed through and moved against the southern part of the Freuden Berg. Inside the forest, while moving up the wooded slope, the leading Gordon company encountered stiff resistance, which necessitated an outflanking move. This drove the enemy off and after nightfall the southern knoll was finally secured. Enemy mortar and artillery increased considerably once the Gordons reached the crest. The enemy in this sector had not been subdued and a sharp fight went on through the night as the Gordons probed deeper into the dark forest (see for more details below post #5).

    Meanwhile, the 7th Black Watch consolidated some 200 yards short of the forest. 'A' and 'B' Companies forming a defensive front facing south and southwest along axis no.1 (Breedewegsche Straat) toward the enemy-held Grafwegen. Much delayed the 153 Brigade - which formed the second wave of the Highland Division's attack - now could start its right wheel; 5 Black Watch striking against the Pyramid Hill, followed by 1 Gordons, moving along the western edge of the Reichswald and then making a westward hook on to the St.Jansberg. This move would place the Gordons in the rear of the enemy occupying the elevated ground which controlled the main road from Mook to Gennep. For their approach march both battalions used axis no.1, the Breedewegse Straat, instead of the Bruuksche Straat which still was not completely cleared of mines. As they moved forward the road was still under occasional shell and small-arms fire. Especially a machinegun firing from the direction of Grafwegen caused some trouble. After nightfall, a 'B' Company fighting patrol (of 7 BW) was sent to Grafwegen, but found the place - or what was left of it - abandoned.

    By 19:30 hours the 5th BW seized Pyramid Hill, point 78 (7751), and in the dark dug in on the top of the hill. The 1st Gordons meanwhile followed close behind the 5 BW to assault the high ground about the St.Jansberg (7650). Darkness had already fallen before all companies of the 1st Gordons had reached their first objective, the slopes of the St Jansberg, aided in their advance by artificial moonlight and white tape laid by an Officer recce party of the Battalion.

    By midnight the Highland Division had accomplished a break-in of the German forward defenses, the (approximate) positions reached by the battalions are indicated on the map below:
    The break-in positions by 2400 hrs Febr 8th a.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2023
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Freudenberg area today

    Edge Reichswald.jpg

    Picture of the western edge of the Reichswald, as seen from Klein Amerika, with the high ground of the Freudenberg and Pyramid Hill in the center and to the right, which were the respective objectives of 154 and 153 Bdes. The houses in the foreground belong the village of Breedeweg. The Brandenberg, to the left, was assigned to the 53rd Welsh Division. The Highland division advanced through the shallow valley from left to right towards the Reichswald forest, while the Germans in position on the high ground, from where this picture was taken, were surpressed by "pepper-pot" fire.

    Freudenberg as seen from the Breedeweg Straat (axis no.2). The long stretch of high ground along the western face of the Reichswald was the objective of two assault battalions of the 154 Brigade; the northern knoll was allotted to the 1st Black Watch, the southern to the attached 5/7th Gordon Highlanders. The narrow road of the Breedeweg Straat runs along the houses to the left.

    The wooded area in front of the Reichswald, known as Bruuk, seen from the Bruuksche Straat. It was here that 'D' Company, 7th Black Watch ran into difficulty and lost a number of men to sniper fire. On this first day of the operation the Battalion had 3 officers (Major Lowe, OC 'D' Company and two of his platoon leaders) and 7 men killed in action, 1 man missing and 23 wounded.

    Picture taken from the position of 'A' Company, 7th Black Watch, on the Breedewegse Straat (axis 1), looking toward the open southern flank. The houses at the end of the field are part of Grafwegen and line the main road from Groesbeek to Milsbeek. Beyond the ground leads up to the St.Jansberg. This area was still occupied by the enemy as 154 Bde advanced toward the Reichswald. The position was outflanked by the 153 Bde later in the evening of February 8th
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2020
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 5/7 Gordons at the Freudenberg

    Picture of the left hand axis of the 7th Black Watch or axis no. 1. Infantry of the 5/7th Gordons move along the Breedeweg Straat across the German border towards the Reichswald. To the left of the road the pushed aside barrier which marked the border.

    Same area at the end of the Breedeweg Straat today. The dwellings at the end of the Breedeweg Straat are part of the township of Grafwegen. The Breedeweg Straat still is a narrow country lane, where two cars can hardly pass each other. The tree-line in the background is the western egde of the Reichswald.

    The official caption to this photograph reads: "British troops (of the 5/7th Gordon Highlanders) pass the boundary from Holland into Germany. A very shell-torn house and barbed wire fence marks the demarkation line and a solitary sign, "Reichs Grenze" is the only intimation of German territory. Immediately behind is the Reichswald forest, a natural obstacle which the Germans contested strongly. Pictures show men (of the 5/7th Gordons) combing the forest. 154 Brigade. 51 H.D. between Bruuk and German border. Taken by Sgt. Silverside. 10.2.1945". (photo IWM).

    This well known picture is a sequel to the above photograph. The official caption reads: "Immediately behind is the Reichswald forest, a natural obstacle which the Germans contested strongly. Pictures show men (of the 5/7th Gordons) combing the forest. 154 Brigade. 51 H.D. between Bruuk and German border. Taken by Sgt. Silverside. 10.2.1945." (photo IWM). In 5/7 Gordons area, on the southern end of the Freuden Berg, the enemy kept up stiff resistance inside the forest during the night 8/9 Feb.

    Reichswald Freudenberg 5_7 Gordons aaa.jpg
    The leading 'C' Coy of the 5/7th Gordon Highlanders reached the edge of the Reichswald just before dark. 'A' Coy passed through and moved up the wooded slope of the southern end of the Freudenberg but ran into determined enemy resistance and could make no headway (A1). 'D' Coy then made a left flanking movement along the Heiland track and once this company was firm at the forest edge near Nergena Süd a 'B' Coy patrol was sent through to investigate the southern knoll of the Freuden Berg. This patrol was successful and soon was followed by the remainder of 'B' Coy who occupied the high ground (B1). The battalion reported 7 OR killed, 1 Officer and 22 OR wounded and 1 missing. Later that night, at 03:00 hrs, 'A' Coy, which had been withdrawn from the forest in front of 'C' Coy, released 'B' at the Freuden Berg (A2) and the latter in the pitch darkness moved deeper into the forest towards an X-roads in the main track. Here 'B' Coy ran straight into an enemy take-over with several hundred enemy soldiers milling around in the darkness in the area of the main track. Though heavily outnumbered 'B' Coy attacked with startling success. The attack caused great confusion among the enemy and eventually the enemy withdrew leaving behind many dead, while the company took 164 POWs (among them 16 wounded) at the cost of one man wounded (for more details see attached fragment from the War Diary). B2 is the position indicated by the MR (map reference) in the Gordon War Diary; since the War Diary mentions an X-roads in the main track that was later used as axis of advance for the 152 Bde I have some doubt about the correctness of this MR. The X-road reached by the Gordons probably was the one indicated in the yellow circle - which is on the main track known as Kartenspielerweg. Even then the situation inside the forest had not quieted in the 5/7 Gordons area. At 0630 hrs on the 9th, 'A' Company of 1 Black Watch was sent to the assistance of the 5/7 Gordons and cleared the area on the left of the Gordons at the cost of 1 officer (Lt Rosenthal) and two men killed, and Lt. Mitchell and 7 men wounded.

    Gordons Freudenberg 1.jpg Gordons Freudenberg 2.jpg

    Kartens 1.jpg
    Halfway up the slope from the entrance of the Kartenspielerweg trenches are still visible. It probably was here that the leading 'A' Coy ran into enemy opposition which made an outflanking movement necessary.

    Major James Ian Gammie, CO of 'B' Coy, 5/7 Gordon Highlanders received a MC for his actions in the opening of Reichswald attack. The award also renders testimony of the bravery of the men of the Coy who according to the citation 'fought like demons, capturing and killing many of the enemy':
    5.7 award 1.jpg 5.7 award 2.jpg

    Another MC was earned by Lieutenant Alexander M. Scott, who was in command of the leading platoon in 'C' Coy, 5/7 Gordon Highlanders:
    Scott 5.7 G  8.2 1.jpg Scott 5.7 G  8.2 2.jpg

    Bruuk 7 BW.jpg
    The Bruuksche Straat, the small road that served as the 7th Black Watch left hand axis, nowadays known as Bruuk.

    Reichswald Freudenberg 5.7 Gordons bb.jpg
    The wooded slopes of the Freuden Berg today. Fighting during the hours of darkness inside the smashed up forest must have been a difficult and confusing experience for the 5/7 Gordons Highlanders, yet they succeeded in overcoming the enemy resistance by outmaneuvering them.

    Another picture taken in the Bruuk area demonstrates the terrible state of the ground. The name Bruuk stands for Brook Land, low sodden ground. The boggy, sodden soil was an important factor in slowing down the Allied offensive. The official caption reads: "Even tracked vehicles find it hard going and have to be dug out. 154 Bde. 51 H.D. Between Bruuk and German border. Taken by Sgt. Silverside. 10.2.1945". Note the German halftrack in the background (is it the same one as captured by the Gordon Highlanders in the Ardennes? See: Ardennes 1945, 51st Highland Div. (photo IWM).

    German Halftrack Bruuk.jpg
    Same halftrack but now from a different angle.

    Road conditions in HD sector.jpg
    On the night of the 8th it started to rain quite heavily. It rained all night and it rained all the next day, which further deteriorated the road conditions.

    Churchills edge Reichswald.jpg
    Even the Churchill tanks of the 107th RAC had difficulty to move across the sodden ground near Bruuk. For Op Veritable one sqn of tanks was in support of each of the Bdes: 'A' Sqn, 154 Bde; 'B' Sqn, 153 Bde and 'C' Sqn, 152 Bde. For the opening phase of the operation 'A' and 'B' Sqn were in support of the 154 Bde. The official caption to this photograph reads: "Tanks (of the King's Own 107 RAC 34th Tank Bde.) line up on the edge of the Reichswald Forest awaiting the order to go, before pushing into Germany. 154 Bde. 51 H.D. Between Bruuk and German Border. Taken by Sgt.Silverside. 10.2.45". (Photo IWM)

    More images can be found here: Video Stills: Invasion Scenes - Europe - British Pathé
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2021
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Operations of 153 Brigade: Pyramid Hill and St.Jansberg

    As soon as 154 Bde had taken its objectives, 153 Bde, next in line, was to pass through and swing south and make towards the Meuse, cutting off whatever enemy remained between that area and Mook. The plan was that 153 Bde would pass through 154 Bde at about 1300 hours on D Day, for it was estimated that by this time 154 Bde’s objectives and lines of communication thus far would be clear enough to allow 153 Bde to move up to capture the wooded hills north and east of Riethorst and form a firm base facing south. From here 153 Bde would exploit to clear the road Mook – Kanonskamp (7649). This phase, apart from 153 Bde’s exploitation, was to be completed by dawn D plus 1.

    The 5th Black Watch had to capture the southwestern corner of the Reichswald, known as Pyramid Hill. This would enable the 1st Gordon Highlanders to wheel to the west and take the German positions on the elevated ground formed by the St.Jansberg and Kiekberg from the rear.

    The 5th Black Watch advanced in order of 'A' Coy, followed by 'D', 'C' and 'B'. The battalion, using axis no.1, was to pass through the position of the 7th Black Watch at Breedeweg and move up to the Pyramid Hill. Though 'A' Coy crossed the start line at 13:00 hrs there was a considerable hold up as the 7 Black Watch had to deal with enemy resistance. Only by late afternoon, 18:45 hrs, all companies had passed through the 7 Black Watch position. At 19:30 hrs, while the other companies were fighting up the wooded slopes of the Pyramid Hill, 'B' Coy was launched along the sunken road towards the bridge at 771505 at the foot of the Pyramid Hill over which passed the road to Milsbeek. By 23:00 hrs all companies had reached their objectives. For the rest of the night they were in close contact with the enemy.

    Fragment from "Spirit of Angus", the Regt History of the 5th Black Watch:
    Pic 1 RW%20043a.jpg
    Pyramid Hill, with the small post-war firewatch tower, was the objective of the 5th Black Watch; view from the west from Breedeweg. The Pyramid Hill is the most southerly part of the ridgeline along the western edge of the Reichswald. To the south of it the ground drops off to the river flats of the Meuse and its tributary the Niers.

    The Dutch/German border at Grafwegen; the forbidding Reichswald looms up just beyond the houses. The old barrier marking the border can be by-passed with a bike without much trouble.

    The entrance of the Reichswald. According to one Highland veteran: "after we had crossed the initial belt of organised defenses, which included anti-tank ditches, Schu-mines and fortified farms and villages, we now faced our biggest obstacle - the natural fortress of the Reichswald". Inside the forest visibility was obscured by a wall of trees and brushwoods, made worse by the massive artillery preparation, which had smashed up the trees and branches, making it very difficult for the troops to find a way through. Rain and the falling darkness added to the problems as the leading Highland troops probed forward into the forest on that first day of Veritable.

    Battle scarred Reichswald.jpg
    The Reichswald was practically shredded. Timber lay felled every which way , making movement difficult.

    Inside the forest, somewhat further up the Pyramid Hill, German trenches are still visible. They zig-zag across the western face of the forest for many a mile. Though not quite visible on the photograph this one is about 4 to 5 feet deep. Most of these trenches date back to the WW1 era, when German troops were guarding the frontier against neutral Holland.

    The Zwarteweg, aka by the 5th Black Watch regimental history as the causeway, with a view to the north toward the Holle Weg ('Hollow Road'), a sunken road that runs between the St.Jansberg and Pyramid Hill. The marshy ground south of the Reichswald is known as "De Diepen". There were flood waters either side of the raised road, hence causeway. In the morning of the 9th the 5th Black Watch moved down this road to capture Kanonskamp (now part of Milsbeek) and cut the Mook - Gennep road.

    At the southern edge of the Reichswald the ground drops abruptly, giving way to a flat featureless landscape stretching all the way to the River Meuse and its tributary the River Niers. View of Pyramid Hill from the south. The causeway is to the left (not visible). The atmosphere with the low hanging clouds is almost like February 1945, except that it is not raining. BTW those are not tank-tracks, but the tracks show how soft the ground is. During Veritable the ground conditions were even worse as a sudden thaw and heavy rainfall softened up the ground, making it almost imposible for vehicles to cross.

    Same spot now looking eastwards, the edge of the Reichswald stretches, as far as the eye can see, all the way to Hekkens and beyond. The task of protecting this stretch of forest, in what would become the right flank of the 152 Bde in its advance to Hekkens, went to the MMG coys of the 1/7th Middlesex Regiment. The trees in front of the forest line the narrow farm tracks of Oudedijk and Koningsvennen.

    5th Black Watch.jpg
    Some film shots of 5th Black Watch & archers of the 61st Anti Tank Regt taken on 8th February, 1945 (courtesy IWM © IWM A70 237-9).
    5th Black Watch 2.jpg

    Last edited: Sep 15, 2022
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1st Gordon Highlanders at the St. Jansberg & Kiekberg

    Account of the operations of the 1st Gordon Highlanders in the opening stage of Op Veritable from the War Diary of the battalion:
    5.7 G WD 1.jpg 5.7 G WD 2.jpg 5.7 G WD 3.jpg 5.7 G WD 4.jpg 5.7 G WD 5.jpg

    1. St.Martensberg, view from the north, beyond the tree-line there is an abrupt drop to the river flat of the Meuse. Company 'A' and 'C' of the 1st Gordon Highlanders, moving in from left to right along the forest edge, by the evening occupied positions on the far side of the fields.

    2. St.Jansberg, view from the south. The picture was taken from the causeway looking in a westerly direction across the plain known as 'De Diepen', the same spot as the picture in the previous post. The hills are right to left: first and second knoll the St.Jansberg, the third is the St.Martensberg and beyond that (not visible) lies the Kiekberg (the latter was held by the Canadians - the Cameron Highlanders of Canada). Note that on the war-time map below, this area is erroneously indicated as wooded. In reality it was marshy ground.

    3. Main road Mook - Gennep at Plasmolen View to the east towards Milsbeek. This is the area indicated as D3 on the War Diary map. It was here that 'A' Company of the 1st Gordons ran into stiff enemy opposition, which was only overcome at nightfall of the 9th, with the battalion commander, Major Lindsay, personally taking lead of one of his companies and storming the position. On the left, just past the restaurant, is the shallow valley called Molendal (photo courtesy

    3a. Same area today. Many of the completely destroyed buildings in this area were not rebuild after the war. The operations of 1st Gordon Highlanders are most graphically described in Martin Lindsay's book, "So few Got Through, With the Gordon Highlanders from Normandy to the Baltic".

    Locatie pics St_Jansberg.png
    Map of the St.Jansberg/Kiekberg area; the numbers on the map correspond with the above pictures
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2020
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1st Gordon Highl at Jansberg.jpg
    Soldiers of the 154 Bde move along a sandy track somewhere near the St.Jansberg (photo © IWM BU 1787)

    1st Gordon Highl at Jansberg 2.jpg
    A German POW moves to the rear along the same track; according to the unit's War Diary the number of POW's captured by the 1st Gordons in the attack on the Jans- and Kiekberg exceeded well over 350. Most of them paratroopers belonging to the I./2 Para Regt, which had been shuffled in between the 180 and 84 Inf Div to guard the important entry of the Mook - Gennep road. Attacked from the rear and in the darkness the enemy was completely surprised and suffered heavy losses - the number of killed is unknown but must have been high. The 2. FJ Regiment belonged to the 2. FJ Division whose FJ Regiments 7 and 23 were still deployed north of the Rhine in Holland in the sector of the 25. Armee (photo © IWM BU 1796)

    War Diary pages of the 1st Gordons re the operations on 8 and 9 Feb 45:
    1 G WD pages 1.jpg 1 G WD pages 2.jpg

    Note the remarkable similarity between the operation of the 1st Gordons at the Kiekberg and that of the Canadian Calgary Highlanders (2nd Cdn Inf Div) at Wyler; both were enveloping moves aimed at opening up an important, well defended, entry into the enemy lines. Whereas the Canadians at Wyler managed to open the road by the evening of Feb 8th (D-Day), it took the Gordons, as a result of the delays incurred in the opening assault, until late in the 9th to overcome the enemy resistance and open the road. See also: VERITABLE 1945: the Canadian attack on Wyler & Den Heuvel, 8 Feb 1945

    The sandy track running up from the main road towards the St.Jansberg. View towards the west to the first intersection which was the C1 position

    View from about same spot towards the east with the Pyramid Hill, occupied by 5th Black Watch, in the background. Along this track A and C company were in position on the evening of the 8th (C1 and A1 positions).

    Whille the 1st Gordons were fighting for the Martens- and Kiekberg, the 5th Black Watch, in the morning of Feb 9th, descended from the Pyramid Hill and moved out along the causeway, aka Zwarteweg, to seize the area of 'Kanonskamp' (nowadays Milsbeek). This would put the battalion astride the main road Mook - Gennep. The causeway led across the flat marshy ground known as "De Diepen" which stretches along the foot of the high ground. As soon as the leading 'B' Coy appeared in the open, it came under very heavy shell and small arms fire from the right rear, that is to say from the northwest from the part of the Martens- and Kiekberg woods still occupied by the enemy. The enemy fire caused 15 casualties including two killed. It became necessary for the artillery and the supporting tanks (Churchill tanks of 'B' Sqn,107 RAC) to blanket the edge of the forest with a smoke screen and to maintain this cover until the infantry of the Black Watch had negotiated the causeway. From then on the operation went smoothly and by 15:00 hrs the objective had been taken; Kanonskamp was secure and contact established with the 1st Gordons on the right. The battalion took 47 POWs during the action.

    20190606_134248 aa.jpg
    The sodden plain aka as "De Diepen" stretches at the foot of the Jans- and Martensberg. Here as seen from the road at De Hel (view towards the east). In the far distance the restaurant 'Eethuis de Diepen' which is located along the causeway to Milsbeek. This road formed the exposed axis of the 5th Black Watch' advance on Feb 9th. To the right part of the small woodlot labelled D2 in the map of the 1st Gordons operations.

    Kanonskamp 5 BW 9.2.1945.jpg
    Map of the positions of the companies of the 5th Black Watch at 16:30 hrs on the 9th as they were reported to 153 Bde. The battalion had cut the Mook- Gennep road (indicated by M), which was to serve as main axis for the 30 Corps south of the Reichswald. To the right the 1st Gordons were still mopping up enemy resistance from mostly paratroopers. Not until 06:00 hrs next morning was the area up to the River Meuse reported clear by the Gordons .

    Plasmolen 1945 a colonne mil..jpg
    Opening the southern 30 Corps axis the main road Mook - Gennep was one of the objectives of the opening battles of the 153 Bde. Aerial of the main road at Riethorst/Plasmolen with a view to the east towards Milsbeek. The picture was taken in March 1945. Top left the hamlet of De Hel; the Kiekberg is on the left (not visible on the picture) ; in between the shallow valley of the Molendal/Zevendal. The high spur of ground was occupied by the Canadians, an area baptized in Sept 44 by the airborne troops of the 82nd US AB Div as "The Hill". At the foot of the spur is the area indicated as D3 on the War Diary Map of the 1st Gordons. The last picture in post # 7 was taken at the junction where a road turns off to the right. (photo courtesy CaptRoel).
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2021
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Other side of the Hill: map overlay German defense

    154 overlay.jpg

    Map overlay from 154 Bde War Diary - map courtesy Bedee

    According to the Divisional Intelligence Report No.324, 51st HD, of Feb 9, 1945, the enemy appeared to have been caught by the attack of the Highland Division while adjusting his forward positions. This explained the concentration of enemy troops encountered during the first day of the operation; in all four battalions of infantry. The Intell Report detail the enemy units encountered as follows:

    "Some four days ago, the 84 Fus Bn appears to have taken over the whole of the sector held by 1052 Gren Regt, which then went north to the Zyfflich area. On the night 7/8 Feb 84 Fus Bn in its turn was handing over the sector formerly held by the southernmost battalion of 1052 Regt, to I./1222 Gren Regt of 180 Div, which had come up from a reserve position. This change over was interrupted and I./1222 was severely mauled in the area of Bruuk. Further south II. battalion of 1062 Gren Regt (Katzmann) was withdrawing into the woods, and it is suggested that II./1222 was due to take its place. I./1062 was caught by us at Grafwegen and is hoped to be accounted for in the 100 POWs which are reported from our clearing operations in there to-day [9 Feb]."

    A POW, taken on Feb 8, from the I./1062 stated that Battle Group Katzman contained two battalions and was only renamed two or three weeks ago into 1062 Gren Regt. The regiment, according to the POW, was expecting to be relieved on 6 Feb, but this appears to have been postponed until the morning of 8 Feb and I. battalion was caught in the opening barrage on its way back to the Reichswald and went to earth. The II. battalion was identified in the area 795908, where they were committed in a position consisting chiefly of foxholes along one of the rides. Many casualties were suffered from the shelling and the fighting that took place on the 8th. The POW estimated that 50% of his unit was written off. I. battalion seemed normally organized with an average company strength of 78 men.

    The Jansberg/Kiekberg area towards the Meuse since early January 1945 was occupied by the 2. FJ Regiment (Oberst Vorwerck) which belonged to the 2. FJ Division. The Fallschirmjäger had been inserted in the frontline between the 84. and 180. Infanterie Divisionen. The other two regiments, FJ Regiment 7 and 23, were still deployed along the Rhine/Waal in Holland, in the sector of the 25. Armee.

    Sit Rep 51 HD as of midnight 8/9 Feb 45:
    Sitrep 090100 51 HD.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2021
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The following Highland soldiers fell in the opening phase of Veritable, Feb 8 and 9, 1945; I included Feb 9th since the battle within the forest continued through the night. Used the search machine of the CWGC site for the first time and have still to figure out how to download the results properly - but already do sorely miss my old companion 'Geoff's search machine'.

    1st Black Watch:
    1. ARMSTRONG ,IVOR (33), 08/02/1945, Private 2645034, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 8. C. 4.
    2. BARKER, ALBERT (30),08/02/1945,Private 2645072, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. A. 3.
    3. CROWTHER, LAWRENCE AUSTIN PRANCE (20), 08/02/1945, Private 2645316, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 2.
    4. FROST, ALBERT FREDERICK (32), 09/02/1945, Private 2645477, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 1.
    5. HARPER, PETER JOSEPH (19), 09/02/1945, Private 2645578, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 3.
    6. McHENRY, ROBERT (19), 08/02/1945, Private 2619299, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 8.
    7. WARE, KENNETH LESLIE (20), 08/02/1945, Private 2647079, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),1st Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. E. 7.

    Picture of the 19-years old Peter Joseph (Pete) Harper, who was killed in action on 9 Feb 45 in the Reichswald; he died probably near his field grave at Grafwegener Strasse (courtesy

    5th Black Watch:
    1. BRADFORD, DAVID (25), 09/02/1945,Corporal 2037108, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 5th Bn., REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. D. 4.;
    2. HUNTER, JOHN (-), 09/02/1945, Private 2055705, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),5th Bn., REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. D. 6.;
    3. REID, WILLIAM (18), 09/02/1945, Private 2961916, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 5th Bn.,MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. D. 2.;
    4. McGURN, ROBERT (18), 09/02/1945, Private 2961878, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 5th Bn., MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. D.1.

    7th Black Watch:
    1. BURTON, DENNIS GILBEY (-), 08/02/1945, Private2645203, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. C. 2.
    2. GAISFORD, ANTHONY WYNDHAM GWYN (19), 08/02/1945, Lieutenant 2645485, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. C. 3.
    3. GREEN,LEONARD (29), 08/02/1945, Lance Corporal 2645546, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. G. 2.
    4. HULME,FRANK (26), 08/02/1945, Private 2645684, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. G. 7.
    5. LOWE,KENNETH ALLAN (26), MC, 08/02/1945, Major 2645837, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. C. 1.
    6. MACDONALD,THOMAS (20), 08/02/1945, Private 2646511, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. G. 4.;
    7. PRICE,WILLIAM ALBERT (28), 08/02/1945, Private 2646741, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. B. 8.
    8. ROCK, KENNETH (19), 08/02/1945, Private 2646795,Black Watch (Royal Highlanders),7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. G. 8.
    9. SHANKS,OWEN (35),MM, 08/02/1945, Lieutenant 2646849, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. G. 3.
    10. SHEACH,STANLEY (21), 08/02/1945, Private 2646858,Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), 7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,14. G. 5.

    Jonkerbos Gaisford.jpg

    1st Gordon Highlanders:
    1. FRASER, WILLIAM GEORGE (28), 09/02/1945, Lieutenant 2961829, Gordon Highlanders,1st Bn., MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II.D.6.
    2. WALLACE, ERIC ANDREW (18), 09/02/1945, Private 2046672, Gordon Highlanders, 1st Bn., REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. C. 5.

    Captain William George Fraser:
    Fraser Capt.jpg

    5/7 Gordon Highlanders:
    1. BELL, MATTHEW PATTISON (30), 08/02/1945, Lance Corporal 2619141,Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. B. 17.
    2. CHAPMAN,LESLIE WILLIAM (31), 08/02/1945, Private 2619170,Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 10.
    3. JOLLY,WILFRED (22), 08/02/1945, Serjeant 2645727, Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 7. F. 4.
    4. NUTTALL,ROBERT (32), 08/02/1945, Private 2619325, Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. B. 19.
    5. RYDER,WILLIAM ALFRED (24), 09/02/1945, Lance Corporal 2961922, Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, I. G. 15.
    6. SKILLICORN, WILLIAM ALFRED (32), 08/02/1945, Private 2619364, Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., MOOK WAR CEMETERY,II. B. 18.
    7. SPENCE, EDWARD HOWLETT (23), 09/02/1945, Corporal 2646923, Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY,21. C. 3.
    8. TAYLOR,DENNIS (23), 08/02/1945, Corporal 2619389, Gordon Highlanders, 5/7th Bn., MOOK WAR CEMETERY,II. B. 16

    Two of the Gorden Highlanders who rest on the Milsbeek War Cemetery:
    Ryder 57 G.jpg Lt Fraser 1 G.jpg

    276 Field Coy RE (in support of 153 Bde):
    HOPLEY, THOMAS HENRY, Sapper 1915758, 08 February 1945, Age 28, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 20.

    The supporting 'B' Sqn 1st Lothian and Border Yeomanry lost one man killed:
    COX, DOUGLAS NORRIE, Serjeant 420059, 8 February 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 11.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2023
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  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2. Across the Niers at Gennep, 153 Bde

    After clearing the western edge of the Reichswald and mopping up the area around Milsbeek and the Kiekberg, the 153 Bde set about the next phase of the operation: the clearing of the main road Mook - Gennep, which was to serve as the 30 Corps axis south of the Reichswald, and the capture of the small town of Gennep and the bridge across the river Niers, a tributary to the River Meuse.

    WO_171_4409_0015 153 -1.JPG WO_171_4409_0015 153 -2.jpg WO_171_4409_0015 153 -3.jpg WO_171_4409_0015 153 -4.jpg
    Operation Order no 14 of the 153 Bde, as given on 5 Feb 45. There were no detailed written orders for Phase three of the battle, which was about to be opened now.

    Total Niers_cr-01 aa.jpg
    The third Phase of the operation for the 153 Brigade consisted of the capture of the town of Gennep, which involved a River Assault, and finally the clearing of the wooded area south of the town known as Genneperheide and the small village of Heijen. The above map overlay from the 153 Bde gives both stages of the operation- in brown resp. red colours. The operation lasted from 10 to 13 Feb 1945 (Map courtesy Bedee).

    Gennep R Meuse aa.jpg

    The capture of Gennep and the area immediately to the south of the town also was of logistical importance. Clearing the eastern bank of the Meuse enabled engineers to start building bridges across the river to support the operations in the Rhineland and eventually facilitate the build up for the next big operation: the Rhine Crossing. The big railway bridge to the west of Gennep had been blown as is demonstrated by this aerial of Feb 1945. View to the northeast. In the background the town of Gennep, the flooded Niers and in the far background the dark contours of the Reichswald.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2.1 The approach of Gennep (5/7 Gordon Highlanders, Feb 10)

    The 5/7 Gordon Highlanders were tasked with the attack on Gennep. During Feb 9th, the Gordons remained on the edge of the Reichswald. The battalion was out of action for much of that day after the 154 and 152 Bdes moved eastward, deeper into the Reichswald forest and the 153 Bde mopped up enemy resistance in the Kiekberg - Milsbeek area. Two Gordon companies were posted on the Pyramid Hill to provide a firm base, after the 5th Black Watch left the area to exploit southward. The rest of the battalion assembled in what had been the 'C' Coy objective, the area of Grafwegen. Here war correspondents filmed and photographed the men, providing the Home Front with some 'action' shots of the fighting in the Reichswald (see for example: Video Stills: Invasion Scenes - Europe - British Pathé).

    After spending a 'peaceful night' on the edge of the forest the 5/7 Gordons reverted to command of the 153 Bde and, at 10:00 hrs on the 10th, with 'B' Coy in the lead, moved out to the right and passed through the position of the 5th Black Watch. The battalion's new task was to clear the main road along the River Meuse to Gennep and if possible capture the bridge across the Niers river at the town. By the end of the afternoon the battalion had captured the village of Ottersum, a friendly small village that straddles the road to Hekkens and faces Gennep on the opposite bank of the Niers, but had been unable to capture the bridge into the town. When a patrol of 'A' Coy approached it around 15:00 hrs, the Germans blew the bridge. From the volume of fire encountered it was apparent that the enemy strongly held the line of the Niers. The 5/7 Gordons lost 1 man killed and 10 wounded during this engagement.

    Chris C kindly added information about the 17-pounders SP guns that were supporting the Gordons in their final bound towards the bridge, see: VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest

    Fragment of the War Diary of the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders:

    One of the wounded soldiers of the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders succumbed to his wounds and was buried at the Jonkersbosch War Cemetery. The soldiers lost on the 10th were:
    1. BROWN, ALFRED JOHN HENRY, Private 4918283, February 10, 1945, Age 25, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY 7. F. 5.
    2. MINNEY, REGINALD PERCY, Private14724372, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. C. 15.

    The 210 Field Coy RE, a 30 Corps engineer unit attached to the 51st Highland Division and tasked with the opening of the Mook - Gennep - Hekkens road for Class 40 traffic, lost one man killed on the 10th:
    BAKER, HENRY, Sapper 2007746, 10 February 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. D. 9.

    Aerial of Gennep taken in December 1944 with the bridge across the Niers on the northern edge of the town. The Niers River in February 1945 ran at a high flood due to melting snow and the rainy weather. The river had overflown its banks, which is shown in the picture as the light frozen area above the town, thus forming a formidable waterbarrier. The 5/7 Gordons approached the bridge along the causeway running down from the top-left corner of the picture. Positioned in the houses lining the south bank of the river, the Germans commanded the open area up to Ottersum with fire (picture courtesy: Untitled Document).

    Niers River as seen from the bridge nowadays

    View across the bridge along the Nijmeegseweg towards Ottersum. The river had overflown the banks at the time and the water stood at the river dike. The first houses on the opposite bank border the Kleineweg, they are post war buildings with the exception of the houses along the Nijmeegseweg. At the time the area was much more open. The leading platoon of the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders had reached the house on the corner of the Nijmeegseweg/Kleineweg - then a café known as 'Oud Buitenzicht' - when the Niers bridge was blown. In the background the windmill of Ottersum.

    Below: The windmill of Ottersum also features in another well known photograph. The road to Venlo/Maastricht, turn to the right, leads up to the bridge site. The route straight on is the Ottersumseweg which leads to Ottersum and then to Ven-Zelderheide and Hekkens, the small crossroad settlement on the southern edge of the Reichswald (photo: © IWM B 14625)



    Nijmeegseweg 36 then.jpg
    Highland infantry approach Ottersum along the Nijmeegseweg. The picture was taken in front of house no.36.

    Nijmeegseweg 36.jpg
    Same spot Nijmeegseweg no.36 (house to the right) nowadays. The gable of house on the right has changed little over the years. Just around the corner is the roadfork with the Ottersumseweg and the nearby windmill.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2021
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Derbyshire recce to Zelderheide and Ven (Feb 10th)

    In the afternoon, armoured cars of 'C' Sqn of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, which was attached to the 153 Bde, were sent out to recce the flat and open area to the east of Ottersum between the Reichswald and the river Niers. The recce was conducted by the 2nd Troop, under Lt. D.G. Partridge. The Troop advanced from Ottersum through the small settlements of Aaldonk and Zelderheide, which were found clear. When the lead cars ventured further eastward, towards the x-roads at 834481 (Hekkens), they were hit by AT-fire from a concealed position. Three armoured cars were knocked out in quick succession and several men killed and wounded. The Troop leader, Lt Partridge, was taken POW, but recaptured later.

    Report by the CO of 'C' Sqn, Major Patrick MacNaghten, of the events of the 10th:
    Derby C Sqn Report.jpg

    Next day the Derbyshire position at Zelderheide was reinforced by the arrival of 'A' Coy, 5/7 Gordon Highlanders. The infantry held the hamlet together with one Recce troop of 'C' Sqn. Another 'C' Sqn troop held Aaldonk and two sections of the Carrier Platoon, 5/7 Gordons, occupied the cloister area of Maria Roepaan along the Niers, thus picketing the north bank of the river. The Germans still held the south bank. The small township of Ven as well as the Hekkens crossroads, remained firmly in enemy hands.

    The 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry lost the following men in this action:
    1. BEARE, CHARLES GODWIN, Trooper 3860407, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 10.
    2. BLOUNT GEORGE HEDLEY, Trooper 7905770, February 10, 1945, Age 26, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 14.
    3. FULLER, HENRY, Trooper7939026, February 10, 1945, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 13.
    4. SCHEIN, SOLOMON, Trooper 4749323, February 10, 1945, Age 26, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 11.
    5. WEST, FREDERICK EDMUND, Lance Serjeant 7905819, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 12.

    All of them rest at the Milsbeek War Cemetery:
    20190818_165406.jpg 20190818_165413.jpg 20190818_165439.jpg 20190818_165458.jpg 20190818_165504.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2.2 Fight for Gennep, 5 Back Watch & 1st Gordon Highlanders, 10/11 Feb, 1945

    Now that the bridge had been destroyed it was decided to make a River Crossing of the flooded Niers somewhat downstream of Gennep. Taking advantage of concealment offered by darkness, the 5 Black Watch (BW), during the night to 11 Feb, crossed the river in assault boats and in the early hours of the morning entered Gennep from the northwest. The site of the crossing was well chosen being a mile from the town itself so a large measure of surprise was achieved. Two companies of the BW cleared the town. First to enter was 'B' Coy, Major Sander Leslie, which cleared the area around the Church and hospital and then seized the area of the destroyed bridge. Enemy resistance was "considerable", but was overcome by the speed of the attack. The enemy tried to make a stand at the Genneper Molen, a large old factory building which stood by the destroyed Niers bridge. This resistance was quickly overcome by artillery support. 'C' Coy, Major Graham Pilcher, then passed through 'B' and proceeded to clear the main street - known as Zandstraat - down to the large crossroads at the southern end of the town. Enemy resistance remained the same and was aggravated by long range sniping and shelling, especially of the bridge site. Sniper fire from the houses lining the river, along the Niers Straat, at first made it impossible for the engineers, who were standing by in Ottersum, to approach the bridge. The sniper fire only eased as 'C' Coy moved further south. 'A' Coy, next in line, advanced on the left as far as the build up area of the Picardie street, but met heavy enemy resistance halfway down this road and was held up. Later that evening the Coy was counterattacked by about 50 enemy, but held its ground, though it suffered about 20 casualties from small-arms fire - machine gun and snipers.

    There were no civilians in Gennep to welcome the Highlanders. Because of the proximity of the frontline the entire population had been evacuated by the Germans in October 1944.

    Gennep Town.jpg
    Aerial of pre-war Gennep (about 1920) with 1. Sanatorium/Hospital, 2. Martinus Curch, 3. Gennepermolen, 4. Old Town Hall, 5. Site of POW Renouf, 6. HQ building 'C' Coy, 7. Niers Straat, 8 Main Street or Zandstraat. (picture courtesy Capt.Roel)

    Fragment from the War Diary of the 5th Black Watch:
    WO_171_5159_0005 5 BW 1.JPG WO_171_5159_0006 5 BW 2.JPG

    In the afternoon the 1st Gordons also crossed the River Niers at the same site used by the Black Watch. All of the Gordon Coys and Tac HQ were across by 15:00 hrs. Making their way forward along the communication trenches dug by the enemy along the Meuse, they reached the part of the town occupied by the 5 BW without incident. In the meantime enemy resistance had stiffened and enemy artillery shelling, hitherto confined to the bridge site, was directed on the town center. The 1st Gordons were to clear the southern part of the town up to the railway line. The battalion decided to attack astride the main road with two companies and, after having reached the level railway crossing, strike outwards and clear the whole area north of the railway. 'C' Coy led off and cleared all the houses on the west side of the main street as far as the railway and occupied the 3-storey milk factory just short of the level crossing, which was a key-building with a good field of fire across the railway line. 'B' Coy passed through the first houses which had been cleared by 'C' and then, under the cover of smoke, dashed across the street and proceeded to clear the houses across the main road from 'C' Coy. As soon as both companies were established 'A' and 'D' Coys were brought up and put in positions close up against them. Both Coys at once sent out patrols, those to the west reported no enemy north of the railroad, those to the east located several enemy parties almost in the next street. 'C' Coy was in close contact, the enemy firing a bazooka at the factory building from 100 yards. This was the position by dark on 11 Feb. The obstinate resistance came from a battalion of the FJ Regt 2, 2. FJ Division, who according to a POW had orders to hold the railway line to the last man.

    Gennep fight for the town.jpg

    For the story of the battle for Gennep I'm much indebted to WW2talk member Captain Roel who provided me with documents and photographs and kindly guided me around in his hometown and pointed out many details of the battle that were thusfar unknown to me.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Crossing site at the Genneperhuis

    Genneperhuis Spit.jpg
    Aerial (Dec 1944) of the crossing site at the Genneperhuis - an old castle and 16th century fortification destroyed in 1710 by the French of which nothing remained but for the foundations and surrounding ramparts. The spit of land between the two rivers at the time was even narrower than on the picture because of the overflooded banks. Clearly visible is the communication trench along which the Highlanders moved towards Gennep. The enemy troops - belonging to the 180 Inf Div - which occupied these trenches were facing to the west, towards the Meuse River which was the frontline. 'Bill' is the codename for the Hurkens farm - the house has gone long since (picture courtesy Capt.Roel).

    Bloemenstraat Niers.jpg
    Crossing site of the 5th Black Watch near de Drie Kronen (view to the west towards the Meuse). The ramparts of the old fortification are vaguely discernible as shallow rises in the terrain. The area of the Genneperhuis is accessible by a small footbridge that spans the Niers, on the picture on the right, a new construction - which was not present in 1945 - and part of a recently completed landscaping project see Genneperhuis | Vista).

    Leslie Farm 2.jpg
    Somewhat further down the spit of land 'D' Coy reached the farmbuilding codenamed Leslie which was to serve as jump off position for the attack on Gennep. As the leading platoon of 'D' Coy approached the farm the darkness was momentarily illuminated by a flash of light and the men were schocked to find a German platoon right in front of them. A tremendous firefight erupted and several men were hit; a corporal was killed. The platoon nevertheless managed to take their farm objective. But as soon as they occupied the position it was hit by enemy mortar bombs. Lt. Col. Bill Bradford went up to the farm on recce with the OC 'B' Company, Major Sandy Leslie (!). Finding everything allright 'H' hour for 'B' Coy's attack was fixed for 07:15 hrs.

    The spit.jpg
    The narrow path - nowadays a bicycle path - leading to Gennep from the Genneper House. To the left the a glimmer of the Meuse River can be seen between the trees. The Black Watch surprised a group of German infantry which still was in position guarding the Meuse frontline. They readily surrendered.

    Buffalo over de Niers c.jpg
    Later on the 11th, two Troops of Buffaloos (79 Assault Sqn) passed from 3 Cdn Division to 51 Highland Div and were employed to ferry anti-tank guns, essential vehicles and ammunition into Gennep across the swollen Niers. This image from a news reel was taken near Henakkers (IWM).

    Gezicht op Gennep.jpg
    View of the northwest corner of Gennep. 'B' Coy of the 5th Black Watch attacked into this corner of the town from the direction of Leslie Farm. On the far left the factory building of the Genneper Molen. The ship of the Martinus church was so badly damaged, that it was torn down after the war. The church spire is the only part still standing (photo courtesy Capt.Roel).
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2021
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  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Battle for Gennep (Niers Bridge)

    Niers Crossing.jpg

    Image of the swollen Niers river. The St. Martinus church and the high square building of the Genneper Molen are clearly visible on the opposite bank. The bridge site is under shell fire (courtesy Arensbergen).

    Standing next to the bridge is the old water mill driven factory building - known as the Genneper Molen - which used to be a saw mill. On the right the church spire of the Martinus church, the only part of the building still standing.

    The Niers Bridge photographed in Feb 2015 as the bridge was renamed Highlander Bridge to commemorate the Liberators of Gennep (see also:Operation Veritable - Bridge across the Niers at Gennep now 'Highlander Bridge' ).



    Work on a new bridge started as soon as the situation allowed it on the 11th. Engineers of the 14 Field Sqn RE of the Guards Armoured Division constructed a new bridge within 36 hours despite considerable shelling - which forced repeated stops to the work. The officer in charge of the Troop of RE, William Gordon Cantlay, was interviewed by the IWM. As he arrived at the bridge, says Cantlay, "there's not a bloody 'Kilt' in sight. Very quiet, not very nice at all". Cantlay sent a Bren group in an assault boat across the river and proceeded with the construction of an 80 foot Double-Single bridge while under heavy mortar and sniper fire. After working all through the night the bridge was completed by 10:30 hrs on the 12th and tanks and other vehicles were able to enter Gennep. Cantlay, however, did not see the bridge finished. He was wounded on the 12th, by the same mortar bomb that killed Sergeant Dixon. Another four or five sappers were wounded during the bridge building operation at Gennep, which was quite a number percentage-wise for a small Troop of thirty men. The engineers baptized the new span "Spandau Bridge" because of the heavy enemy fire they were subjected to.

    debris of the destroyed bridge first had to be cleared away before a new bridge could be build; engineers attach explosives to blow up the twisted remains. Inspecting the charges are (probably) Cantlay and Sergeant Dixon or as Cantlay recounted: "We just carried on with the charges and we got all these on ready to blow. We were ready to put the detonators in; until that time you string up your detonating fuze and all that, and your detonators are on that but until you put that into the charges very little will happen. If something really does hit a charge it might go off, but the chances of it are not so much, but immediately you put the detonators in, you're in trouble. So Sergeant Dixon takes the left hand girder, and I take the right hand girder, and we're both crawling up this girder putting the detonators into the charges and we get stonked. That's not terribly happy when you're lying on that with that happening. Fortunately nothing happened."

    The complete audio interview with William Gordon Cantlay can be found here: Cantlay, William Gordon (Oral history) (see audio: Reel 5, from 14:53 onwards)

    For a transcript of the interview see: William Gordon CANTLAY, 14 Field Squadron, RE, attached GAD (courtesy dbf)

    Gennep Niersbridge post war.jpg
    Post war picture of the Bailey bridge at Gennep; the debris of the destroyed bridge still lay beneath it (courtesy Capt. Roel)
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2021
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  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Battle for Gennep (Town center)

    After 'B' Coy, 5th Black Watch, had cleared the bridge site and the northwest corner of the town center, 'C' and 'A' Coy passed through and moved along the main street, or Zandstraat, to the south of Gennep. In his book "Black Watch" Tom Renouf ('A' Coy) has the following account: " (…) 'C' Coy went up the left hand side, dashing from house to house, while those of us in 'A' Coy went up the right. All of the shop windows had been blown out and the roofs were close to collapsing. We eventually reached a shop whose whole frontage was missing. I stormed inside and found three Germans. One was crying in agony with a broken femur while the other two were trying to help him. They were clearly second-line troops - older and terrified, they did not want any trouble and were relieved to be taken prisoner. I said, "OK, get out," and pointed down the street to where they had to go. I had no time to escort them - we needed to clear the house and get moving. They plonked the injured Jerry on a plank and picked him up, but when they reached the street his leg fell clean off and he let out a terrified scream. Poor chap. If I had remembered my Boy Scout training, I would have tied his legs together. I silently chastised myself but then shouted at them to carry him away. We had to carry on."

    Renouf story.jpg

    Before they evacuated their wounded comrade, the POWs, taken by Tom Renouf, were stripped off their equipment which was left behind on the doorsteps of the shop and later photographed (photo © IWM B 14624)

    Picture of the market place with the old Town Hall. The shop where the three Germans were taken prisoner is to the right with the wooden benches in front. It is located at the Marktstraat 9 (see no. 5 on the aerial of Gennep in post # 14).

    feb1945 Zandstraat na de gevechten.jpg
    Another picture taken further down the Zandstraat. The Town Hall is visible in the background. The armoured cars most likely belong to 'B' Sqn of the Derbyshire Yeomanry which entered Gennep after engineers had finished the bridge across the Niers (IWM) .

    Gennep Town Hall.jpg
    The Old Town Hall had been damaged by shellfire as was the Hotel De Kroon, where I stayed with several members of WW2Talk over the years and which hosted the 51st HD veterans on their Pilgrimages. The Hotel is visible to the right behind the car (courtesy Capt. Roel).
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Battle for Gennep - Major Pilcher's CP (Town Center)

    BW Gennep.jpg

    Life for the most part is underground in Gennep. The Germans are still making the town, which was a key place in their water defense line, an unhealthy place to live in, and shell it regularly. Major Pilcher, CO 'C' Coy, established his CP in the cramped basement of the house at the Zandstraat no. 7. Major G.A. Pilcher, MC, is in the centre. With him is his 2nd in command, Capt. A.L. Campbell and No. 13 Platoon Commander, Lt. D.P. Smyth. The picture was taken by Sgt. Silverside 14 Feb 45 (photo © IWM B 14622)

    Below attached: The building that housed 'C' Coy's HQ still exists and is standing to the left of the Zeeman-shop. The basement windows nowadays have almost disappeared behind a raised pavement, but are still discernible. The building is indicated as no. 6 on the aerial of Gennep in post #14 above. Lt.Col. Bill Bradford's Bn Tac HQ, which was esablished next door, received a direct hit from an enemy shell. This killed his signaller and jeep driver.

    CP Zandstraat.jpg

    Gennep Zandstraat.jpg
    The main street of Gennep, or Zandstraat, as seen from the south. The 'C' Coy command post was in the basement of the high building to the left hand side of the road, about level with the approaching Bren Carrier. At the far end of the road the Old Town Hall (Photo courtesy Capt.Roel).
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
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  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Battle for Gennep - Picardie
    Stadsherberg 14-2-1945.jpg

    At the south end of the Zandstraat, near the crossing with the Picardie, this picture was taken of Highland infantry attacking the building that houses the 'Stadsherberg' restaurant. After a smoke grenade has been thrown into the Picardie Street, the infantry dash across the road to 'liberate' the restaurant. These images were staged and taken after the battle for Gennep (photo: © IWM B 14629).

    Same area today. Looking across the Zandstraat into the Picardie Street. The first house to the left inside the Picardie Street features on the next image.

    feb1945 Engelse soldaat valt pand Picardie 4 binnen.jpg
    Picture taken from inside the 'Stadsherberg' restaurant. Across the street a soldier is involved in 'house-clearing'; he breaks down the front door with his rifle butt to enable another soldier to throw in a grenade and finally get into the house, which is Picardie 4. Sometimes the soldiers used bricks instead of handgrenades, especially when dark cellars had to be cleared and it was not possible to tell if innocent civilians were inside. Most of the time the thud of the brick in the dark space sufficed to bring out the occupants in a hurry. According to the veterans, it was a most effective method and 'less messy' (photo IWM).

    Same house nowadays.

    Picardie Aerial.jpg
    Aerial of the southern part of the town of Gennep up to the Railway Station. In the Picardie street, 'A' Coy 5th Black Watch encountered strong enemy opposition from a fresh unit of German paratroopers (2. Fallschirmjäger Division). The problem with the Picardie was that the houses were built with large gaps. Fifty yards of open ground separated each property from its neighbour, so it was a mad dash to find some cover and then regroup for the next domestic raid. The Germans clung to the southeastern part of Gennep and at 19:00 hrs a sharp counterattack hit the position of 'A' Coy. Firing bazookas and grenades at short range German paratroopers rushed the rear of the cottages that had just been taken. The 'A' Coy men fought back and held some of the houses, but others had to be abandoned as they were forced to retreat. The Germans overran house no. 21 held by No. 8 Platoon. Although 'A' Coy eventually held its ground, it lost 20 men in these actions (Nos. on the map are: 1. Stadsherberg restaurant, 2. Picardie house no.4, 3. Picardie house no.21.) (aerial courtesy Captain Roel)

    Picardie house no. 21 still exists - although barely. Picture taken with view to the east towards the junction with the Kruisstraat which was about the farthest 'A' Coy had got. Tom Renouf: "Our lads threw smoke grenades and some escaped through the front door and windows, but six of them were trapped in the cellar, where they had gone for a smoke. The Germans took them prisoner".

    Cpl. Donald Swatman, a section leader in the 5th Black Watch, earned a Military Medal for his actions at Gennep. Swatman ended up leading his platoon in the defense against a 50-men strong German counter-attack (from this fact I deduce he was a member of 'A' Coy).
    Swatman 5 BW Gennep 1.jpg Swatman 5 BW Gennep 2.jpg

    Docudrama "Battle for Gennep" on You Tube:
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020
  20. Captain Roel

    Captain Roel Junior Member

    At the end of the Zandstraat where the Jan Lindersplein now originated, there used to be a statue of the "Heilig Hart statue" in the perkje in front of the statue, Germans had made a machine gun set-up that they could use to fire directly in the Zandstraat and the Spoorstraat.

    Heilig Hart Beeld te Gennep.jpg
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