VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest

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

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The Other side of the Hill

    On 17 Feb 45 Montgomery - with Op Veritable entering its tenth day - stated: "In the Veritable area we are now closing in on Calcar and Goch (...). The prisoners are mounting and fresh formations are appearing on this side and it looks as if Veritable is going to draw in all the available enemy reserves. This will suit very well. The target date for Grenade is now fixed for 23 Feb and Cdn Army will have to continue fighting alone until then, but the result should be that Grenade will have an easier task and go all the quicker." (Quote from Whitaker,:"Rhineland, the battle to end the war", p. 124).

    A 51st HD HQ report on enemy activity dated 16.2 (21:00 hrs) gives some insight in the enemy units that opposed the Highland Division (incl.32 Guards Bde). It confirms the fact that enemy reserves were drawn in on the division front, not only the reserve 7. FJ Division was identified, but also several elements of formations that still were guarding the Meuse River south of the Veritable area.

    Enemy activity 16.02.45.jpg

    From this document and other Intel Sum reports the following disposition of enemy units can be pieced together. Opposing the 1st Canadian Army advance was the 1. Fallschirmarmee (Schlemm) who by that time disposed of two Corps units. The Niers River divided the areas of command within 1. Fallschirm Armee; between the Meuse and the Niers operated the LXXXVI. Armee Korps commanded by general Straube, to the north operated the newly arrived XLVII. Panzer Korps under Von Lüttwitz. The XLVII. Panzer Korps was brought up on Feb 10th from a reserve position in the south, near Mönchen-Gladbach, and made responsible for the sector between the Niers and the Rhine River. The Corps consisted of the 15.Pz Gren Div, 116. Pz Div, 6. FJ Div and remnants of 84 Inf Div - reinforced by the 858.Inf Regt/346 Inf Div - and 655. s.Pz.Jg.Abt. See also: VERITABLE 1945: 15th Scottish & 43rd Wessex Divisions in the Reichswald battle

    Battle Map Gennep - Goch 2.jpg

    Straube's LXXXVI Korps sector was held by an amalgam of units. After commitment of 7. FJ Div - a 1st Fallschirm Armee reserve - more and more units were withdrawn from the Meuse defensive line further to the south and send to the Straube's aid in a piecemeal fashion. To the south and south-east of Gennep (between the Meuse and the Kendel Brook) remnants of the I. and II./1222 Gren Regt of the 180. Inf Div, elements of the 2. FJ Regt/2. FJ Div and a battalion Riegels were active. They were supported by SP-guns of the Fallschirm-Stug-Bde 12. In the center, straddling the Kendel Brook near Müll and at Hassum, elements of the 1121.Gren Regt/180. Inf Div were identified. The area between the Kendel Brook and the Niers River was defended by paratroopers of the 7. FJ Div, with the 20. FJ Regt on the left and the III./21. FJ Regt on the right. The former - to make good the heavy losses sustained in the forest fighting and around Hekkens - had been bolstered up by new identifications, such as the II./Fallschirm Lehr Regt of the 8. FJ Div (which had been released on the 11th from Roermond and had been badly mauled by artillery and air in the counterattack on the 154 Bde's bridgehead on 14 Feb), the Fusilier Bn 180/180.Inf Div and part of the Eng Bn 180 (around Hassum Station). There were also Stugs active in this area, which probably belonged to the same Fallschirm-Stug-Bde 12 that was operating south of Gennep. According to the War Diary of the Fallschirm-Stug-Brigade - of which only a small snippet survives - the unit consisted of three batteries each equipped with 10 Stugs. The Brigade therefore had a nominal strength of 30 guns; how many of these guns actually were serviceable is unknown. Several were lost during the actions up to 16 Feb 45.

    Below: Estimated enemy situation in the LXXXVI Korps area 16 Feb 45 (morning).

    Battle Map Gennep - Goch 1a.jpg

    Last edited: Aug 27, 2020
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5. Battle for Goch (16 - 21 Feb 1945)

    Towards Goch.jpg

    In the evening of Feb 16th, two days after crossing the River Niers near Kessel and nine days after the start of Op Veritable, the 51st HD commenced the last part of its mission: the attack on Goch. The town was important to the Allies as a center of communications. It also was pivotal for the enemy defensive line between the Meuse and the Rhine. The town formed part of the Siegfried Line and was covered by an elaborate defensive network of trenches and dugouts, an anti-tank ditch and concrete pillboxes and was expected to be strongly held. The anti-tank ditch ran all around the town except for the south-eastern part, to the north side of the town it even consisted of a double line with an inner and outer ditch about 1.000 yards apart.

    30 Corps planned the operation against this important road-hub as a converging attack. The town of Goch was bisected by the Niers River. The 51st was tasked with the capture of the old town center south of the Niers, while the 15th Scottish Division, supported by a brigade of the 53rd Welsh Division, moved down from the Goch escarpment in order to seize the part of the town situated north of the river; this northern part comprised the station and industrial area. The Goch escarpment had been taken by the 43rd Wessex, see: VERITABLE 1945: 15th Scottish & 43rd Wessex Divisions in the Reichswald battle

    The general plan for the 51st HD was to advance from the Kessel bridgehead in two bounds towards Goch. First the 152 Bde, completing a short period of rest in the Reichswald during which it had reorganized and filled up its depleted ranks, was to close up with the town's main defensive line to the west and 'drill a hole' in the defensive belt at the northwestern end, near Hervorst, so as to create a gap for an advance on the town itself. The brigade was to knock -out the enemy pillboxes in the area and also was to bridge the AT-Ditch. Next the 153 Bde would slip through and move into the town in a night assault. The 153 Bde, now relieved by units of the 52 Lowland Division, would be brought forward in TCVs from Gennep.

    5.1 Towards Goch: 152 Bde (16 - 18 Feb 45)

    Goch Google map 1.jpg

    The 152 Bde Op Instr. No.21, dated 15 Feb 45, called for an operation in four stages:
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    152 Bde towards Goch: phase I APPLE (Cloister Greafenthal) & phase II BANANA (Asperden)

    2 Seaforth went off at 20:00 hours (phase I APPLE) under cover of an artillery barrage and reported light MG fire from their right flank. 2 Seaforth were ordered to pass 'sit reps' every 10 minutes, but communications were very bad and it was not until 20:37 hours that 2 Seaforth reported having taken their first objective, the road junction at 865458. Here six POWs were taken. After another long hiatus 2 Seaforth at 21:30 hours reported having taken their second objective (Kloster Graefenthal) and fighting into their third: the woods at 869457. Information was vital at this stage in order to fix the exact time for phase II ('B' hour) to begin. Brigade command decided to fix 'B' hour at 22:35 hours by which time 5 Seaforth would be passing through the forward Coy of 2 Seaforth. Bde commander ordered 2 Seaforth to ensure that by that time their third objective was firm to permit the passage of 5 Seaforth. 2 Seaforth reported all tasks complete at 22:17 hours and thus the stage was set for phase II.

    While waiting for the leading platoon to breach the wall around the Kloster Graefentahl, the platoon of Sgt. Richard Newall was surprised by a party of enemy who infiltrated the Coy rear. Sgt. Newall quickly dealt with this situation and earned a MM for this:

    Newall 2nd Seaforth Graefenthal 1.jpg Newall 2nd Seaforth Graefenthal 2.jpg

    Phase II (BANANA) went off on time. 5 Seaforth crossed the Start Line at 869458 at 22:40 hours and moved into Asperden behind a heavy artillery barrage including two 'matresses' fired on the small village. The Coys advanced in order 'D', 'C', Tac HQ, 'A' and cleared the village in the order 'D' Coy - North sector (to road bend 882453), 'C' Coy - South sector (area Station 878447), 'A' Coy - East sector (to level crossing 884447). At Bde HQ no information was received from the 5 Seaforth until 23:55 hours when it reported being firm on its first objective. Opposition was slight. At 00:45 hours 5 Seaforth reported phase II complete and 'F- echelon transport was send forward along the road which had been cleared of mines by the pioneers. Casualties in 5 Seaforth had been light: one killed and three wounded. The enemy had already left the village and fallen back towards the defensive line around Goch. The only opposition encountered during the attack consisted of MG fire from houses beyond 'A' Coy's level crossing.

    The entrance of Graefenthal, an ancient cloister founded in the mid-13th Century by the Dukes of Gelre. The cloister was taken by the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders in the evening of Feb 16th. The building complex would serve subsequently as battalion HQ, 152 Bde HQ and finally as Divisional HQ to the 51st HD.

    Graefentahl Wall.jpg
    The cloister is surrounded by a high wall which had to be breached before the leading troops of the 2nd Seaforth could enter the complex.

    Mid-november 2019 during the BFT with the Gordon Highlanders we visited the Cloister as well (photo courtesy Capt Roel).

    Graefenthal 2.jpg
    Aerial of the walled Cloister complex (view to the south). Unfortunately the landscape around the complex nowadays has been torn up by sand excavations which left behind large water features.

    Churchill Grafenthal.jpg
    On March 4th, 1945, Churchill visited the 51st HD HQ at Graefenthal and watched a parade of the massed pipe bands of the division.

    Last edited: Oct 4, 2020
  4. sjw8

    sjw8 Well-Known Member


    Rather than go though the entire thread "liking" your previous posts, a quick note to thank you for your summaries of 51st HD operations.

    My dad was attached to 152 Bde, 51st HD, serving with 275 Field Coy RE, so the whole thread is of great interest to me and supplements, and enhances, the entries in the the War Diaries (courtesy of Drew).

    I hope sometime next year to visit the areas covered, as up to now I have concentrated on the Normandy area, being associated with a local Normandy Veterans group (sadly now down to one D-Day veteran). The maps etc. will be invaluable to my proposed tour of the area. Incidentally I have a print of Mook Church (no. 38 of 150), which dad got on a visit to the area some 20 years ago, which takes pride of place above the mantlepiece.

    Again, many thanks for the detailed posts as these are very much appreciated.

    Steve W
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Goch 6 © IWM (B 14790).jpg
    Picture of the damaged St Vicentius Church at Asperden. The village astride the main road leading to Goch had been heavily shelled and bombed before it was occupied by 5 Seaforth (Photo © B 14790)

    Asperden church.jpg
    The 5th Seaforth battalion's history described the scène of the night attack: "Asperden had had three matresses before we reached it. They made a sound like rushing water as they passed overhead. The searchlights were up to help us, but they were pale beside the fires which raged. Half the village seemed to be in flames, and the church blazed like a torch in the middle of it." (photo courtesy: Foto Ansichtskarte / Postkarte Asperden Goch, Blick auf | )

    Though severly damaged the St Vicentius survived the war and, although it lost some of its luster, still stands proudly in the middle of the small village (photo courtesy: Bestand:Goch-Asperden-Kirche St Vincentius.JPG - Wikipedia)
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    152 Bde towards Goch: phase III Cherry (reaching Goch's outer defensive line at Hervorst)

    Meanwhile in order to save time 5 Camerons already had moved forward to their FUP in Graefenthal 8746, to get off on phase III at 23:45 hours. Arrangements were made to begin phase III at that time but 5 Camerons were delayed and were not ready to start. The fire program for phase III was stopped and put back to 01:30 hours (17 Feb) when 5 Camerons were finally ready to go.

    Once started the 5 Camerons found the going fairly easy and were able to dispense with part of their pre-arranged fire support. The battalion advanced in order of 'A' Coy, 'B', Tac HQ, 'C' and 'D'. The battalion pushed forward and reached the objective, the small townships of Asper and Hervorst, but not without suffering quite a few casualties when 'A' Coy ran into the own barrage. Some mines were met and the Bn HQ lost the medical Jeep on a Teller mine; Corporal Innes was killed and the drivers arm was broken in several places. During the march down the road between Kessel and Asper there was some MG fire across the road but it was not very effective. At 03:40 hours 5 Camerons reported three companies firm on the battalion's objectives: one at Asper bridge which was blown, one at 885458, one at Hervorst ('D') which complained feeling lonely as they had quite a large area to cross, and the fourth Coy ('B') going in on the final objective. Here trouble was encountered in the shape of a pill-box full of fighting enemy (pill-box 890458); there were two others full of passive enemy also in 5 Camerons area. At 05:30 hours 'B' Coy was still meeting opposition from this pill-box. The battalion decided not to make another attempt to reduce this active pill-box during darkness but to wait until daylight by which time tanks of 107 RAC and Crocodiles of the 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry would be available to lend a hand. The pill-boxes accordingly were left to see their final dawn in German occupation. Shortly after Tac HQ 5 Camerons established itself in the west of Asper some 'Moaning Minnies' dropped into the village and caused some casualties among the supporting troops.

    Dawn came and 5 Camerons set about reducing said pill-boxes. The job was given to 'B' Coy of the Camerons. The first pill-box containing non-resisting Germans was captured before the pioneers, who had just completed laying a charge, could blow the entrance. Some 25 Germans marched out with their hands up. Number two pill-box also surrendered to the infantry without too much trouble. The third constituted a problem. MG fire covered the approach to the entrance and an enemy SP gun prevented the tanks from coming around to the front. However the tanks gave cover with HE and smoke to the infantry who managed to reach the top of the pill-box where they dropped 36' grenades and smoke grenades down the chimney. They were forced to withdraw by MG fire from another quarter but soon after the occupants decided that the Führer could expect no more of them and gave themselves up. Up to this point in the attack on Hervorst the 5 Camerons had taken 125 POWs. About 80 of them belonged to the III./21 FJ Regt (7 FJ Div) and III./2 FJ Regt (2 FJ Div), while the rest belonged to a hodge-podge of different units, including a cyclist Coy of 7 FJ Div, the Fus Battalion 180, and local defensive units as 1512 Fortress Arty Bn, 180 PAK Bn, Support troops and Goch garrison Troops.

    Pill boxes at Hervorst.jpg
    Map showing the locations of the sub-units of 5 Camerons at about 03:40 hours (17 Feb) and (in red) the locations of the three pill-boxes at Hervorst that were taken out by the battalion after first light on Feb 17th. The pill-box 890458 was the one that resisted actively, probably one of three fighting bunkers of the 107 type, with two MG guns, that were defending the western face of Goch. There were about 20 concrete pill-boxes in the area around Goch. Almost all of them have been cleared away after the war. Only three are still standing, see: - Westwall - Geldernstellung - Goch-Kessel - Westwall am Niederrhein
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Positions 152 Bde at dawn 17 Feb 1945

    Hervorst Map 16.17 Feb 45.jpg

    Map with courtesy of Wolfgang Endemann. I'm very glad the author gave me permission to make use of his (base)map that was used for his book "1945 Am Niederrhein". It shows the lay-out of the German defenses to the northwest of Goch in detail, with Antitank ditch (Panzergraben), trenches (Schützengraben) and pillboxes (brown squares). Unit indications are my addition. Although the Allies generally regarded Goch as a lynchpin position in the Siegfried Line, in actual fact the bunker strength in this northern sector of the Westwall was not nearly as dense as it was further south. In all, between Hekkens and Kessel on the southern fringe of the Reichswald and Gaesdonk south-west of Goch — a distance of over 20 kilometres — there were only 20 concrete casemates, and a mere three of them were ‘fighting bunkers’ (Regelbau Type 107s equipped with two machine guns). All the others were Type 102V large personnel shelters. The three Type 107 bunkers were all located just west of Goch, covering the approach roads from Hervorst, Asperden and Hassum respectively - they are indicated on the map with two dashes sticking out on either side.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  8. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    From Dads memories;
    "After what had been two days of comparative rest, "D" Company was revived and the Battalion moved to the village of Hekkens. We knew another attack was imminent. We were to attack Hervorst. The village was dominated by a tree covered hill about two miles from Goch, and formed part of a reserve line of the Siegfried Line: which consisted hereabouts of enormous Pill-Boxes, buried deep under hillocks of ground, all mutually supporting and housing 150mm guns.

    At last light on 16th February, behind a heavy barrage, we left the forest and crossed the river at Hekkens, and advanced on Hervorst. Apart form the inevitable mines, we met relatively light resistance, taking out a few Spandau machine gun positions. Hervorst was taken and "C" and "D" Companies advanced a further mile in the direction of Goch. During the advance a thick mist came up off the river and made visibility so bad that we captured some Germans before they knew we were amongst them. We then bedded down for the night, as usual, cold and wet.

    During the night of 17th-18th February "D" Company moved east of the wooded hill of Hervorst to clear the intervening ground and link up with the 5th Seaforth. When we finally halted and encamped, I couldn't find "Porky". Somebody told me that he had been seriously wounded. He had been caught in a blast from a mortar shell, having the back of his legs shot away. It was a serious wound as he was immediately evacuated back to England. (I was to see "Porky" again after the war, visiting each other at various times. The last occasion being about 1965. He and his wife were holidaying in Clacton and drove to Ipswich to visit me, where we had a night of reminiscing, with the odd dram of whiskey. "Porky" was to emigrate to Australia the next year to be with his son and his family. He had been there about two years when he was diagnosed as being terminally ill. "Porky" died shortly after, I believe, a belated casualty of that "bloody Reichswald").

    During our attack we were pinned down by heavy shell and machine gun fire from a gun emplacement well dug in. Our officer managed to contact a tank and sent it to our aid. When it reached us I got the platoon in cover behind it. I got on the inter-com phone at the back of the tank and directed the fire of the tank. The second high explosive shell it fired scored a direct hit, blowing the Jerry anti-tank gun into the air. The remaining Jerry's emerged waving white flags shouting "Nicht Schissen".
    The Battalion took over a sector of the line from 5th Seaforth, near Asperden, where we spent our time for three days, on active patrols and being subjected to the usual shelling and mortaring. We had the odd lighter moment, not the least of which was watching Rocket firing Typhoons having a go at Jerry. It was always an enjoyable experience, when being on the delivering side".
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5.2 The 152 Bde towards Goch: across the Anti tank Ditch ( 2nd Seaforth 'Operation Damson', 18/19 Feb 45)

    The remainder of 17 and most of 18 Feb 45 were spent by the 51st HD with preparations for the final attack on Goch, while waiting for the 43rd Wessex and 53rd Welsh Division to come abreast by closing in on the Goch escarpment north of the River Niers. At last light on the 17th the 214 Bde of the 43rd Wessex reached the escarpment north of Goch between the railway and the Goch - Calcar road after stiff fighting in the country to the immediate north (see: VERITABLE 1945: 15th Scottish & 43rd Wessex Divisions in the Reichswald battle). During the night of 17th/18th engineers constructed 6 crossings over the outer AT-ditch at the foot of the escarpment through which the 44 Bde was strike against the town in the afternoon of the 18th.

    The final attack on Goch by 153 Bde, which was to start in the night of 18/19 Feb, was preceded by an attack of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders called Operation Damson. The 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, supported by 'C' Sqn (-) 107 Regt RAC, two troops of Crocodiles and one Troop of AVREs (incl. one Jumbo bridge laying tank and four Petards), were tasked with securing a bridgehead over the Antitank Ditch in the Hervorster Strasse. H-hour for the attack was set at 19:00 hours on the 18th. After a bridge over the Antitank Ditch had been established the 153 Bde was to pass through and capture the town of Goch. The 2nd Seaforth subsequently were to exploit towards Asperden and mop up the German defenses from the rear in the intermediate area including the three remaining pill-boxes along the main road.

    The 152 Bde's Operation Order for this operation read as follows:
    152 Bde Operation Damson 17.2.45 (1).JPG 152 Bde Operation Damson 17.2.45 (2).JPG

    Map op Operation Damson: Phase 1 red and Phase 2 orange (map courtesy Wolfgang Endemann)
    Op Damson Map.jpg

    Starting off at 19:00 hours on Feb 18, the 2nd Seaforth advanced in order of march:- 'D' Coy - 'B' Coy - Tac HQ - 'A' Coy. 'D' Coy reached its objective, the level crossing a few minutes before 20:00 hours, meeting only slight opposition, though heavy shelling and mortaring was going on and failing communication again caused some confusion. By 20:30 hours the Coy had taken its objective. 'B' Coy then moved forward towards its objective, the houses at 892446. At 21:00 hours while the Coy was nearing its objective, Major McIntyre, the Coy CO was wounded, and the position in the 'B' Coy area became obscure. Capt. C.A. Manning was ordered forward to take over command of the Coy. Meanwhile 'A' Coy continued the advance towards the Antitank Ditch, which was reached by 22:40. Though mopping up was still ongoing, 'A' Coy asked for the Jumbo bridgelayer tank to be sent forward. Enemy mortar fire was persistent and fairly heavy. Nevertheless, at 23:15 hours - 45 minutes in advance of schedule - the Jumbo had laid a bridge across the Antitank Ditch. The drive for Goch now could go on.

    The 5th Seaforth at Asperden in the meantime received a severe pounding by enemy artillery. Or as the battlion's history recounts: "The Germans had no intention of giving up Goch, their biggest town in the area, without a struggle; and a glance at the map was sufficient to tell them that the obvious route to it was through Asperden. So they shelled Aperden. However, we also had been glancing at the map and were prepared for it. We dug deep and for two days watched that already shattered village being reduced to utter ruin. It was not pleasant; but we drew solace from the fact that at least the Germans were pounding German houses instead of Dutch ones. (...) We had hundreds of shells and mortar bombs thrown at us, but had few casualties. Slit trenches were suprisingly effective even in the heaviest bombardment so long as we did not have to leave them; and at Asperden we had norhing to do but hang on. The climax came on the night of February 18 when another Brigade, ignoring the obvious approach, came in on Goch from the left flank. The Germans could not tell in the darkness where the main attack was brewing, chose the likliest direction, and put down nearly the whole of their defensive fire on top of us. Once again we were distracting the enemy's attention while others advanced; but this time the cost was not so great. We had hardly any casualties".

    Unfortunately I do not have the 2nd Seaforth War Diary. Instead below a transcription of part of the 152 Bde's Op Log. The Seaforth initially reported to Bde HQ every 10 minutes or so on progress untill communications somehow failed and they were out of touch with their forward Coy for longer intervals:
    Two Jumbo bridgelaying tanks lined up along the road behind the sledge during the opening phase of Op Veritable (photo © IWM BU 1740).

    large_000000 aa.jpg
    I found another picture of a Churchill bridgelaying tank (Jumbo) in action on the internet (courtesy: Churchill AVRE A bridge being layed by a Churchill bridgelayer across the river at Moergestel, 26 October 1944)

    While the 153 Bde attacked the town of Goch early on the 19th, the 152 Bde started operations to open up the road Asperden - Goch. The 2nd Seaforth, assisted by part of the 5th Camerons, started to mop up the remaining enemy defenses facing Asperden from the rear, including a number of concrete pill boxes. Clearing operations went on all day and yielded in all 136 POWs. A special pillbox reducing team was formed, consisting of one Troop of tanks, one Troop of Crocodiles, a Troop of AVREs (Petards) and 'A' Coy of the 5th Camerons. This special force engaged and captured four pillboxes during the day. The area cleared consisted of the triangle Asperden, 893454, 890440. Next day the 5th Seaforth swept the area south of Asperden, known as Asperheide, which included the clearing of two pillboxes. This was accomplished against slight resistance. Boeckelt and the line along the Kendel Brook were strongly occupied and for the time being remained in German hands.

    Goch railway line 20.2 © IWM (B 14751) aa.jpg
    Tanks and AVREs supporting the 152 Bde move forward along the railway line against enemy pillboxes near Goch on 19 and 20 Feb, 45. These operations opened the main road from Kessel - Asperden - Goch (photo © IWM B 14751).

    In support of the Seaforth Highlanders/152 Bde operated several Churchill Crocodiles and Petard mortar armed Churchill AVREs. More often than not, the psychological effect of the vehicles would be enough to beat the foe. One can only imagine the dread felt by the Germans who were being stared down by the mortar of the AVRE and the flaming nozzle of the Crocodile. When facing a stubborn enemy bunker or position, the Crocodile would lay some flame in visual range to showcase its deadly breath. Should the position continue to stand, the accompanying AVRE would crack it open with a mortar round. The Crocodile would then proceed to cover the breached area in the flaming liquid which would then flow into the position.

    for the Churchill bridgelayer aka Jumbo see 17:02:
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The following men fell during 152 Bde's approach to Goch and the subsequent operations for opening of the Asperden - Goch road from 16 - 20 Feb 45:

    2nd Seaforth Highlanders:
    1. DAY, VICTOR WALLACE, Lance Corporal 10602068, 17 February 1945, Age 22, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY 3. D. 6.
    2. DUFF, WILLIAM, Private 14780800, 18 February 1945, Age 18, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY 60. A. 3.
    3. DUNCAN, THOMAS, Private 14678669, 19 February 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY 60. A. 4.
    4. RYAN, EDWARD, Private 14782271, 17 February 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 17.
    5. SHAW, FRANK, Private 14246188, 18 February 1945, Age 21, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY 60. A. 5.
    6. STIRTON, CHARLES BRODIE, Private 268918, 17 February 1945, Age 23, OTTERSUM ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY Grave 5

    5th Seaforth Highlanders:
    1. WILLIAMS, ERIC, Private 14780325, 17 February 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 18.
    2. LITTLE, JOSEPH, Lance Corporal 3602669, 20 February 1945, Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. E. 11.
    3. ROWLEY, ROBERT JAMES, Private 14431467, 17 February 1945, Age 19, OTTERSUM ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY Grave 6.

    5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders:
    1. COOK, ROBERT, Private 14709339, 17 February 1945, Age 27, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. B. 22.
    2. INNES, FREDERICK WILLIAM, Lance Corporal 2932492, 17 February 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 20.
    3. JOBSON, ROBERT, Private 14439614, 17 February 1945, Age 21, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. B. 21
    4. LAMB, CECIL THOMAS BENJAMIN, Private 4543145, 17 February 1945, Age 31, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 22.
    5. ROWE, THOMAS, Private 3710555, 20 February 1945, Age 30, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY 3. A. 5.
    6. SWINFORD, CHARLES GEORGE, Private 14612960, 17 February 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 23.
    7. WEBSTER, COLIN, Private 14002672, 17 February 1945, Age 20, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 19.
    8. WHITE, HERBERT, Private 14497374, 18 February 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 14.
    9. WHITEOAK, FRANK, Private 1554924, 17 February 1945, Age 29, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 21.
    10. QUIGLEY, ROBERT, Private 14790847, 17 February 1945, Age 18, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY 3. E. 7.

    Three members of the supporting 222 Assault Sqn RE were killed on the 17th:
    1. LOWE, WILLIAM HENRY, Corporal 5393559, 17 February 1945, Age 37, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. E. 3.
    2. SIDDALL, ROBERT, Driver 14397876, 17 February 1945, Age 20, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. E. 5
    3. WOODHALL, JOHN CLIVE, Sapper 14315342, 17 February 1945, Age 22, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 16.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2019
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  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5.3 Attack on Goch 153 Bde (19 Feb 45)

    Goch Kreis Kleve.jpg

    During the period of 18 - 22 Feb 45 the focus of the 30 Corps operations lay at Goch. While 2nd Canadian Corps took over the right wing and continued operations in the direction of the Goch - Calcar road (see: VERITABLE 1945: the Canadian finale (Moyland Wood & Goch-Calcar road)), all units of 30 Corps from north and west converged on the town of Goch. The town was a bulwark of the German Siegfried Line in this area and besides the natural obstacle of the river Niers it was protected by a ring of trenches, concrete bunkers and Antitank ditches. In addition to garrison troops, elements of the 7. and 8. FJ Div and 15 Pz Gren Div were defending the town.

    30 Corps outline plan of the capture of the town was:
    (a) 51 Highland Div to capture the town south of the River Niers;
    (b) 53 Welsh Div to maintain its position on the escarpment between the River Niers and the railway line Cleve - Goch;
    (c) 43 Wessex Div to maintain its positions on the escarpment between the left of 53 Welsh Div and the Goch - Calcar road;
    (d) 15 Scottish Div (44 Bde), passing through 43 Wessex in the north, to capture the town north of the River Niers.

    Advance to Goch.jpg upload_2019-12-11_21-47-21.png

    The task of 51 Highland Division was to seize that part of the town of Goch south of the River Niers, which contains the old town center, open the road Asperden - Goch and then exploit to the south and south west on the axis Goch - Siebengewald.

    152 Bde's attack securing a bridgehead across the Antitank ditch the night of 18 Feb, technically part of the assault against Goch, already has been discussed in the previous post (Operation Damson: VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest). As soon as a passage across the ditch had been created 153 Bde was to swing into action. The brigade's plan of attack was simple. The brigade was to advance along the Hervorster Strasse, where the AT-ditch had already been bridged, seize the town and block the eastern and south-eastern entrances to it. The three battalions involved attacked in column, one after another. First to go in was the 5th Black Watch. Their task was to clear the northeastern part of the town up to the town's main square. The 5/7th Gordons were then to pass through the Black Watch positions and continue the attack through the town center up to the railway line at the eastern end of the town. Finally, 1st Gordons would secure the right of the advance by clearing the southern part of the town and its outlying farmsteads. H-hour for the attack was set at midnight on the night of 18 to 19 Feb.

    The Operation Instruction No.29 of the 51st Highland Div dated 18 February 1945 gives the details of the plan of attack on Goch:
    51st HD Goch 1.JPG 51st HD Goch 2.JPG 51st HD Goch 3.JPG 51st HD Goch 4.JPG

    Base Map Battle for Goch.jpg

    The battle for the town of Goch will be described in three parts:

    A. The first day: The attack on the town center (153 Bde, 19 Feb) VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    B. The second day: Fight for the Thomashof (153 Bde, 20 Feb)VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    C. The Final Round: encircling the town (153 Bde, 20/21 Feb) VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  12. Wapen

    Wapen Active Member

    Hey Stolpi,
    I'm back looking at 1 and 7 BW and 5/7 Gordons on D-Day. Just a quickie but expect email pestering later.
    All the best,
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    A. Battle for Goch - The first day: The attack on the town center (153 Bde, 19 Feb)

    The 5th Black Watch enter Goch

    Preparations for the operation against Goch, as far as 153 Bde was concerned, started in earnest in the afternoon of 17 Feb when a conference was held at Bde HQ in which all commanders were informed about the outlines of the attack on Goch.

    The battalions of the 153 Bde had been relieved by the 52nd Lowland Division the previous day and now were at rest in Gennep. Now they were to move to a concentration area near Asperden. The battalions were to be transported by TCVs to a concentration area near Graefenthal in order of 5 Black Watch, 5/7 Gordons and 1 Gordons. Whence they were to march on foot through Hervorst and down the small road, known as Hervorster Strasse, towards Goch. The Brigade would be supported by one Sqn of 107 Regt RAC, two troops of 1 Fife and Forfar Yeomanry (Crocodiles) and AVREs. The route to the concentration area followed the road from Hommersum over Hassum to Kessel and ran almost through the forward line of 154 Bde. To the horror of the Bde commander the supporting tanks and other tracked vehicles were supposed to follow the same route as the TCVs, boding little good for this second class road, which the 153 Bde descrobed as being already "in very bad state". In addition only 20 TCV's were allotted. These could only lift one battalion at a time, thus entailing "a very complicated movement order".

    In the morning of the 18th the 153 Bde commander, after attending a conference at Div HQ, at 10:30 hours issued his final orders for the operation to the COs of his battalions and those of the supporting units. Tanks and other tracked vehicles were now allowed to move along the main road over Gennep - Ottersum to Hekkens, thus relieving the pressure on the Hommersum track. In addition the transport situation was improved; another 20 TCVs were allotted to 1 Gordons, which necessitated only two trips by the original 20.

    Movement order 153 Bde.JPG Movement order 153 Bde 2.JPG WO_171_4409_0052 Goch assembly.JPG
    Attached the 153 Bde Movement Order No. 14 complete with Movement Table and overlay from the 153 Bde War Diary detailing the concentration of the units that took part in the attack on Goch.

    WO_171_4409_0052 Goch assembly 2 aa.jpg
    Bedee expertly projected the overlay belonging to the Movement Order on a wartime map. By 23:00 hours on 18 Feb 153 Bde HQ was established in the Reichswald at 836482, just to the NE of the Hekkens crossroads in the forest. The battalions were carried forward in the order 5 Black Watch, 5/7 Gordons and 1 Gordons. The approach route of the TCVs ran over Hommersum - Hassum - Kessel. After debussing the infantry near Kessel, the TCVs returned through Zelderheide - Ottersum - Gennep. The TCVs which had transported the 5th Black Watch were to make another run carrying forward the 1st Gordons. The area of Graefenthal was used as concentration area (courtesy Bedee)

    The 5 Black Watch moved as by movement table and were concentrated in the Asperden area without incident. The 153 Bde's War Diary, not without some pride, recorded that on 18 Feb "at 14:55 hours 153 Bde entered Germany". The attack of the 2nd Seaforth which was to open a passage of the AT-ditch started at 19:00 hours. At the same time, orders were given out by 5 Black Watch and the Coys were warned to be at 30 minutes notice from 23:00 hours. At 23:15 hours the 5 Black Watch received order to move out to an assembly area at Hervorst, just north of the AT-ditch where Bn HQ was established. 'H'-hour was at 01:00 hours (19 Feb) and the artillery program began 15 minutes earlier. 'D' Coy attacked at 'H-hour and soon captured the crossroads at 903440, on the first lateral road beyond the AT-ditch, and the houses 300 yards further on. Resistance was light as the enemy was still cowering from the artillery barrage. 'B' Coy advanced at once and soon had captured the houses and road junction at the entrance of the town - at MR 903436 - shooting up and capturing a few enemy. At 02:10 hours they reported that they had reached the small bridge over the old town moat, which still embraced the southern part of the town (called Am Oelgraben) and reported it intact. It now was the turn for 'C' Coy to advance. They went forward and cleared the area to the right of the main street, known as Mühlenstrasse, and moved up to the factory and houses at 904434, without encountering much enemy opposition. 'C' Coy was closely followed by 'A' who cleared the other side of the main street, right up to the large building of the Convent Hospital. By 03:00 hours 'A' Coy had reached the buildings at 906434 near the Convent Hospital. 'C' and 'A' Coy, each on their side of the Mühlenstrasse, patrolled forward to the main square and by 04:50 hours reported it clear of enemy, while 'B' Coy killed some enemy who walked into their area from the right. Overall the enemy reaction was spasmodic and it appeared that he had been completely surprised by the night attack.

    Meanwhile Bn HQ had been unable to advance as the Jumbo bridge over the AT-ditch was impassable to Jeeps. After strenuous efforts a bridge was improvised alongside and Bn HQ finally was established near the crossroads occupied by 'B' Coy. Meanwhile 'D' Coy reported the bridge across the Niers at 904441 intact and established a standing patrol on it.

    Initially 5 Black Watch task had been to remain firm in the positions attained until first light, acting as rear guard for the 2nd Seaforth who were attacking westward, clearing the main road from Goch to Asperden. Only at first light were they to clear up to the main square in the center of the town. As no serious opposition had so far been encountered 5 Black Watch decided to carry out this task immediately. About 06:00 hours 'D' Coy were ordered to move to a position level with the square in front of 'C' and 'A' Coy and consolidate in the area. In doing this they met with some small arms fire from the Convent Hospital (now Klosterplatz) and Church area. 'D' Coy, led by Major Brodie, immediately attacked the building and after some fighting occupied it. They captured Colonel Matussek, the commander of the town defense force, his Chief of Staff Major Kranz and other HQ personnel in the cellars of the Hospital. The 'A' Coy patrols apparently had moved past them unnoticed in the darkness. 'A' Coy then moved forward and took over the Hospital from 'D'. Bn HQ had moved forward into a good cellar in the main street and all Antitank guns and 'F' Ech, vehicles had been brought up. By now there was a certain amount of shelling and sniping. At about 07:30 hours 5/7 Gordons came up and began to advance through the 5 Black Watch positions, but met opposition at once and made little progress.

    Map 5 Black Watch Goch new.jpg
    Map from the War Diary of 5 Black Watch of Phase I of the attack on Goch.

    It was certainly the enemy intention to defend Goch to the last. Colonel Matussek when captured carried on him a pencilled note signed by the Lt.Gen Hermann, GOC 7. FJ Div, and his immediate superior, ordering him to "blow the bridges in Goch and hold the town to the last". According to Matussek 7 FJ Div was responsible for the defense of the town and the area to the south as far east as the railway line Goch - Weeze; the remnants of the 15. Pz Gren Division were situated the the east of the railway line. The capture of the garrison commander and his staff otherwise did not yield much useful Intelligence information according to the Intel Sum of the 51st HD of 19 Feb:

    Interrog Rep Matussek.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Goch aerial oblique 5 BW.jpg
    Oblique post war aerial of Goch. The town had been heavily bombed during the night preceding Op Veritable (7/8 Feb) and most of the town center was reduced to rubble. As in Cleve, the civilian population had been evacuated by the Germans in the late fall of 1944, but there were heavy casualties among the slave workers that were quartered inside the town. Yet again the debris and destruction caused by the bombardment completely blocked the roads within the town and paralyzed the movement of the supporting arms, tanks and flamethrowers were unable to get forward to support the infantry.

    Goch 2 © IWM (B 14777).jpg
    Due to the destruction and debris, the fight for Goch turned into an ugly urban battle, in which most of the burden was taken by the infantry fighting slowly from house-to-house and cellar-to-cellar through the rubble of the town. It was not until the evening of the 21st that all enemy resistance in the town was eliminated (photo © IWM B 14777)
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  15. Wapen

    Wapen Active Member

    Another beauty Stolpi. ;)
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  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Goch today

    Goch, this picture was taken on 21 Feb and is sometimes identified as the Hervorster Strasse near the point where the road meets the Mühlenstrasse; I still have to figure out the exact location (photo IWM © B-14778)

    Hervorster Strasse Goch.jpg
    The junction of the Hervorster Strasse with the Mühlenstrasse which was reached by 'B' Coy, 5th Black Watch at about 02:00 hours on 19 Feb. View to the north in the direction of Hervorst. Turning to the left 'A' Coy of the Black Watch, later followed by 'D'Coy, advanced from here along the Mühlenstrasse towards the town center where they reached ...

    Klosterhof Goch.jpg
    ... the convent hospital and church area. Picture of the site of the former convent hospital, nowadays a parking lot known as Klosterplatz; the convent hospital has been torn down after the war. Only the old convent library - the building to the left - has been left standing. The brickstone houses to the right across the road line up along the Mühlenstrasse. The convent hospital housed the HQ of the local town defense which was captured by 'D' Coy of the 5th Black Watch. Sergeant John King of 'D' Coy recalled: "We cleared the ground floor of the hospital and it became obvious that the Germans were in the basements. A grenade failed to persuade them to give up, then after bursts of Stengun fire, a white flag carried by a lieutenant appeared. He was followed by a major, who was followed by a colonel who had been wounded by the grenade and a dozen men. We had captured the garrison commander of Goch and his staff". (photo courtesy Goch: Goch plant Bebauung des Klosterplatzes).

    Goch 4 © IWM (B 14789) inf on march 23.2.45.jpg
    On the attached photo the convent hospital is visible, the building with the small rounded turret (photo IWM © B-14789).

    Goch town square today view to the west. To the left the Mühlenstrasse debouches onto the market square (aka
    Markt). The Klosterplatz is just behind the church, part of the convent Library is visible behind the church. The original 67 meters high church spire of the St.Maria Magdalena Church survived the war but collapsed after a building accident in 1993 and has been rebuild and enlarged since, some say the collapse was caused by structural weakness due to war damage. In the far distance the vague dark contours of the Reichswald (photo courtesy Goch lädt zum Street Food Frühling auf den Marktplatz).

    For a comparison a photograph of the market square as it looked in Feb 1945 (photo courtesy Goch, Germany 1945)

    For Goch see also:

    Last edited: Jul 30, 2020
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  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5/7 Gordon Highlanders clear the town square (19 Feb)

    The 5/7 Gordon Highlanders followed the 5th Black Watch into the town. The battalion moved to the concentration area at 03:00 hours via the route Hommersum - Hassum - Kessel. It completed the move at 04:30 hours and had breakfast at 05:30. Lieutenant Col. Irvine, the battalion CO, who had been with Tac Bde HQ in the forest just to the northeast of Hekkens crossroads most of the night, to keep in the picture, went to Goch to visit the HQ of the 5th Black Watch. He arrived there just before first light at 07:15 hours and was given an optimistic picture on the progress so far. According to the War Diary of the Gordons: "We were let to believe that there were very few enemy in the town. How quickly we were disillusioned!"

    When light came on the 19th the enemy emerged from the cellars where they had spent the night and it soon became clear that the enemy still had every intention of defending the town. 'A' Coy, the leading unit of 5/7 Gordons, had to fight their way forward even to the start line, the main square, which was supposed to have been already cleared. Before long the Gordon Coys found themselves street fighting in parts of the 5 Black Watch objective which, through lack of numbers this battalion had been unable to occupy or, because of darkness, could not clear during the night. The enemy commenced to stonk the western end of the town systematically and severely and casualties were by no means light. The objective for 5/7 Gordons was to clear the eastern end of the town up to the railway line. Fighting continued to be very hard throughout the day and the enemy was with difficulty dislodged from his positions in key buildings and amongst the rubble of the badly battered town. A troop of 'B' Sqn, 107 Regt RAC, and a troop of Crocodiles were supporting the Gordons, but as a result of the debris it was almost impossible for them to get forward to support the infantry. One tank was bazookad and the commander, Lt Jackson was killed and two of his crew members wounded. By nightfall the 5/7 Gordons, despite all efforts, had moved forward only 200 yards from their start line - according to an entrance in the Div Sit Rep of that evening the most forward troops had reached point 908431 - and had three companies fully committed; 'B' Coy on the left, 'A' Coy in the center and 'C' Coy on the right. 'D' Coy were in reserve and employed in preventing the infiltration of snipers. Fighting went on through the night; but the Gordons made only slight gains. The Gordons lost 25 men during that day of which two were killed.

    Pte Tom Renouf, of 'A' Coy 5th Black Watch, witnessed the leading Gordons cross the main square: " (...) by early light, the 5/7 Gordon Highlanders had arrived behind us. [They] appeared at the bottom of the [main] street and started moving up on the opposite side towards the square. Our 'A' and 'D' Coys were ordered to give them covering fire as they prepared to cross the square. Our full firepower was concentrated on the buildings on the far side. I thought to myself those poor devils are going to have a hard time of it. The Gordons' leading company broke cover and charged in extended order across the square into heavy fire. Bullets swept the ground around them and machine-gun and sniper fire erupted despite our efforts to keep their heads down. The young Gordons dropped (...) one after the other. We willed them on but our faces creased in despair whenever the next one went down. The Gordons realised that their only salvation was to run like hell for the cover of the buildings on the far side. It was a most courageous feat and it was rewarded with just a few casualties."

    5.7 Gordons.jpg
    The advance into the center of the town by 5/7 Gordon Highlanders on the 19th.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2020
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The town square of Goch as it looked from the air. In the foreground the Convent Hospital and the St. Maria Magdalena church.

    ... and this is how it looked from the ground; a Bren Carrier spurts down the Voßstrasse while mortar rounds explode nearby. The Voßstrasse is the extension of the Mühlenstrasse/Markt and nowadays is the main shopping street of Goch. Note the camouflaged 6-pounder AT gun in the left foreground. This picture was taken on 23 Feb 1945 after the town had fallen (photo IWM © B 14787).

    Goch © IWM (B 15097).jpg
    Another image of the eastern part of the town or what was left of it: a view down the Herzogenstrasse towards the market square; in the center the tower of the old town gate aka
    Steintor. The 5/7th Gordon Highlanders had the almost impossible task of fighting a way through this rubble (photo IWM B 15097)

    Town Hall Goch 2.jpg
    Post-war picture of the northwestern side of the town square with to the right the sad remains of the Protestant church

    Town hall 3.jpg
    Above and below: The Protestant church has been rebuild after the war next to it is the Rathaus (Town Hall).

    Town Hall Goch.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2020
  19. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    We had a very nice lunch in that square.
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  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1st Gordon Highlanders on the right (19 Feb)

    Since the operations of the 1st Gordon Highlanders at Goch are described in full detail by the acting battalion commander Major Lindsay in his book: "So Few Got Through", I suffice with a transcript of the War Diary of the 1st Gordon Highlanders for 17 - 19 Feb 45:

    Goch 1st Gordons 1st Day 19 Feb.jpg

    The War Diary of the 1st Gordons has the full account of the battle in an appendix:
    1 G 1.JPG 1 G 2.JPG 1 G 3.JPG 1 G 4.JPG
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2020
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