Joe Brown

2000 P.o.Ws assembling Middelburg Square.

2000 P.o.Ws assembling Middelburg Square.
Joe Brown, Apr 21, 2013
    • Joe Brown
      As a Major with only 140 men under your command how do you take charge of 2000 prisoners of war that had just surrendered? The General had just handed over his pistol and the quick-thinking Major also demanded the map case of his Chief-of-Staff with all the German positions marked

      He told the General to instruct all his troops to assemble in the Square where they would be disarmed. He told his Captain Second-in-Command to give orders for the four Vickers machine guns of 11 (Machine Gun) Platoon of 'C' Company 7th Battalion The Manchester Regiment to position their Vickers machine guns in the four corners of the Square and to select positions for two Buffaloes to provide additional fire. The population rallied to help as they and the Dutch police rounded-up the Germans. Selected civilians were given the arms of the surrendering Germans and issued with arm bands. Many formations were marched in to the Square by their own officers. Some would not leave their positions until the British told then to do so as they were frightened of the civilians who had endured four years of German culture and tyranny.

      The Square was full of rejoicing civilians until the Major issued orders to the Dutch Police to clear the Square and from between 1700 hrs and 1830 hrs it alarmingly filled with German prisoners. As darkness fell the Major must have felt he was sitting on a powder keg. He had the overriding problems to keep the prisoners in order until reinforcements arrived and there was the consideration of feeding and ordered the bakeries to open up and produce bread. Some restlessness was detected as a number of German NCOs began to appreciate this was not a large force and where was the main body including the tanks. The Major ordered a Platoon Commander to organise available Buffalos to drive round the centre areas of the town and make as much noise as possible. Fortunately it began to rain and that helped dampened things down.

      There are three other photographs recording the scene that afternoon in Middelburg Square on 6th November 1944.

      The 140 force held the 2000 Germans until relieved at 0300 hrs the next morning when they handed over to the 5th HLI, who were reinforced shortly afterwards by the 4 KOSB.

      The Major was awarded Order of the Bronze Lion by the Government of The Netherlands.
    • Bernard85
      good afternoon joe brown,yesterday,09:18am.re:2000 prisoners of war.a great story,are you the major.regardless,you did a brilliant job containing your prisoners under such circumstances.the germans had had enough.I hope you get this message.i sent you one.re:the britania hotel.seem to have lost it.keep posting,its great history,stay well bernard85
    • Joe Brown
      Dear Bernard,

      Always good to have your messages.

      The Major was Hugh Johnston and I am in touch with one of his sons now living in America. I am delighted he has written a book based on his late Fathers War-time experience, particularly his epic effort in Middelburg. It is due to be published soon.

      Hugh was a great friend and as soon as he met up with the Battalion after handing over to the 5HLI he came searched me out to hand over the Chief-of-Staffs mapcase and said some kind complimentary words about the reconnaissance patrol which along with the Brigade LO we had carried out to find him the best route through the flood and mines to his objective.

      Havent seen your message about the Britannia Hotel (may come across it yet) but wanted when anyone looks at the picture of war-scarred Britannia Hotel to set down the story of the brave action of the Battalion. It was a very fierce battle; losing 20 Royal Scots tells its own very sad story. Hope to go back one more time in 2014 to stand on what I will always regard as hallowed ground.

      As aye, warm regards,

      Joe
    • Bernard85
      good day joe brown,yesterday.08:47am.re:major hugh Johnston.thank you for your informative reply,it will be worth readind the book you metioned.its great you have contact with his son.i will try and find the hotel post.stay well.bernard85
    • Bernard85
      good day joe brown.today.25-4-2013.3:37pm.I have been trying to find your post of that batlle at the hotel.can you put it back up so I might resend,my message to you.thank you.stay well.bernard85
    • Joe Brown
      Greetings, Bernard. I have added a message as a comment under the photograph of the Hotel Britannia, which has a number beneath it 35 and 1.

      Joe
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