11th Armoured Division and the Crossing of the Weser, Leine and Aller - April 1945

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by PhilGraham1, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Motorbikingbleu1

    The 170 TD was built at Helstorf as something of an emergency measure to give 11th Armoured Division its own bridge rather than its units having to divert south to use one at Neustadt or the undamaged one even further south at Bordenau, which were being used by 6th Airborne Division and, in the case of Bordenau, the US Army. The Helstorf bridge was built round the clock by sappers alternating from 612 and 13 Field Squadrons. Construction started at 1600 hours on Monday 9 April and finished the next day. The bridging effort was protected by 1 Cheshire. 147 was not a Field squadron but was the Field Park squadron in 11th Armoured; ie it was the provider of engineering equipment rather than the builder of bridges etc. The original intention was to build a Bailey pontoon (a much faster proposition) at Helstorf but such was the demand on Bailey pontoon equipment it was decided instead to build a Bailey bridge. A TD bridge was capable of taking the heaviest of loads and was, if memory serves me, Class 80.

    John
     
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  2. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Why would anyone want to sell such a fantastic read? :rolleyes:
     
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  3. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    To me it looks like a DT or a TT Bailey bridge ie Triple-Story bridge. They had to have the overhead-bracing. If it was a DT and 170 is its lenght in feet, its safe capacity was 50 tons IIUC.

    PS. I checked from The Royal Engineers Reconnaissance Pocket Book and its says DT 170 ft Class 40, so 40 tons. TT 180 ft 50 tons and 160 ft 60 tons.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Well, I imagine there will be some used copies on the market when your revised book is released :)
     
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  5. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Spot on Juha. I have checked the 612 Fd Sqn diary and it confirms that its sappers and those of 13 Fd Sqn built a 170ft D/T bridge at Helstorf.
     
  6. motorbikingbleu1

    motorbikingbleu1 Sgt John 'Jack' Eric Crane

    Thanks JDKR - I have some more photos of this bridge now. I believe Sgt Crane (my grandfather) was one of the men responsible for building this bridge so would that mean he was part of 612 Fd Sqn?
     

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  7. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Greetings motorbikingbleu1 - Excellent photos. Love the one of the Cromwell (or is a Comet Steve?!) crossing the bridge and had I known of its existence I certainly would have asked you if that could have gone into Theirs the Strife. Oh well.
    I'm afraid I can't confirm to which squadron your grandfather belonged, and it could have been 13, 147 or 612 as they all played their parts in the bridge's construction.
    If he had been in either 13 or 612 he would have had a very unpleasant day at the hands of the Luftwaffe on 6 Apr when the squadrons' sappers were gallantly trying to bridge the Weser at Stolzenau. Best. John
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
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  8. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    That looks like a Cromwell to me, from the shape of the turret - especially the turret face with its recess for the guns.

    And I agree, those are great photos!
     
  9. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    Definitely a Cromwell......and, John, just wait to see his photo of the completed Essel Bailey Bridge!
     
  10. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Is there one or is this plonker pulling?!?! :point:
     
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  11. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

  12. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    I never look at Facebook - perhaps I should if only for 11 Armd Div! I would be pretty certain that the photo on Facebook is of the Essel bridge as the Bailey is a Cl 40 TD (this bridge was built by 257 Fd Coy, which I think belonged to 15 Scottish Div), the pine forest is visible in the background and the demolished cantilever bridge is differently constructed to the similarly demolished one at Helstorf (see photo 012_12 at post #66). Incidentally, a bridge wasn't built at Engehausen. Once Winsen was captured, the Essel Bailey was dismantled and rebuilt at Winsen as this, rather than Essel, was a better axis for VIII Corps.
     
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  13. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Not just for 11AD. There's also a very nice 8th Rifle Brigade group on FB... :rolleyes:
     
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  14. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    :blush:
    Oh dear I’d better get up to speed with FB!
     
  15. motorbikingbleu1

    motorbikingbleu1 Sgt John 'Jack' Eric Crane

    Sorry for the slow replies for some reason I'm not getting notified that people are responding. Here's the Essel photo. He was at Stolzenau. His diary makes a brief few grim entries on these days and how they then crossed with the 6th after failed attempts. I think he makes reference of being attached to 13th and 612 at different points throughout his scribbles so maybe he was 147? Unfortunately, the diary ends just before Belson as a whole bunch of pages have been torn out. I presume these may of made reference to Belson? Would 147 of been there? In the early days of it being liberated, he mentions being at HQ, refueling, Oldendorf, Muden and I think even Lubek all within a few days. They certainly got around and in his words 'tired is not the word'

    Sorry here's the photo that's believed to be Essel

    If anyone has the 147 war diary I would love to see it as it would probably fill in a few blanks!
     

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  16. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    I would be interested to read his diary entries for his time at Stolzenau. The poor sappers probably suffered more than any other cap badge during the battle to cross the Weser. As he was attached to both these sqns there is a good chance that he belonged to 147.

    Unfortunately I only have 13 and 612 Fd Sqn's war diaries for Apr 45 as that was my focus.

    I don't know whether 147 Fd Pk Sqn was involved at Belsen. However, as bulldozers were used during the grim clearance operations at the camp there is a chance that at least elements were involved. The only authoritative list that I'm aware of showing units involved at Belsen is: British and Allied Units. 147 is not mentioned but the list is not exhaustive and 147's war diary would reveal all.

    Great photo of the Essel bridge! Best. John
     
  17. motorbikingbleu1

    motorbikingbleu1 Sgt John 'Jack' Eric Crane

    Thanks John. I've attached photos that I had on my phone to hand. The following page refers to joining up with the 6th. I am trying to type them up but as you can see the handwriting is very hard to read. Once i've finished doing them I will be sure to revert here and share a link to the full thing. He kept two small diaries like this. Both March - April 45 and some of the days don't seem to match up so I'm not sure what's gone on which is why the war diaries would be good so I can adjust as needed. I'd love to see the war diaries for 13th and 612 if you're able to share? As mentioned before he refers to being attached to the 13th in particular a few times. I think I'm going to get my dad to apply for his service records too as hoping that will shed a bit more light on things.
     

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  18. motorbikingbleu1

    motorbikingbleu1 Sgt John 'Jack' Eric Crane

    To translate that image for you for ease

    6th Apri - Arrive at Stolzenau 12.00hrs. Shelling us like hell.
    7th - Still shelling us and bombing with everything he has. We are all badly affected.
    - Pulled out 11.00hrs. bombed on way.

    Unsure what the list underneath refers to. the bottom line starts with 20 something from 2 bombs. I wonder if it's a list of bridging equipment they lost rather than people as we know there were more than 20 losses there. They're very small diaries and virtually un-legible in places!
     
  19. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Had a quick look. The entry in Memo beneath 7 April seems to say:

    “Pulled out at 1100 hrs
    Worked on way
    1 casualty 4 bomb happy [ie in shock]
    20x [ie yards] from 2 bombs”

    Not surprised they were in shock having been so close to the explosions.
    I’ll have a go at the other entries in due course.
     
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