Geleen, The Netherlands & Operation Blackcock

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Sasha, Aug 12, 2017.

  1. Sasha

    Sasha Junior Member

    Hello all,

    I am presently researching my Grandfather Albert Charles Popham. I haven't got his service records yet but I know the following:

    He was a member of the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment and enlisted in April 1940.

    He was able to drive tanks as he later remarked that he didn't need to apply for a drivers license for a car as being able to drive a tank meant he could drive anything.

    In 1953, he took his wife and daughter (my mum) to stay with a family in Geleen who he had met during the war. I found a couple of postcards from there yesterday.

    My research has concluded that he seems to have been a part of 1/5th Queens and that the soldiers stayed with families in Geleen in November 1944 while they were preparing for Operation Blackcock.

    However, I'm struggling to find much information about the involvement of Geleen and what he would have experienced during that time.

    Would particularly be interested to know if there is a record of the number of troops involved in this conflict, particularly the number involved from 1/5th Queens Royal West Surrey Regt.

    Any information much appreciated,

    Many thanks,

    Sasha
     
  2. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    1/5 Queens were part of 131st Infantry Brigade, 7th Armoured Division I believe, at the time of Operation Blackcock - there is a very good book called Battle for the Ruhr Triangle (Operation Blackcock - January 1945) by Har Gootzen and Kevin Connor. This will tell you lots more about the battle. Good luck with your research.
     
  3. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Battle for the Ruhr Triangle £100.00
    on Amazon
     
  4. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Hi Sasha,

    Is this what you after? If so, please send me a private message.

    Cheers

    Rob
     

    Attached Files:

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  5. smdarby

    smdarby Well-Known Member

    Hi Sasha,

    I visited Geleen a couple of weeks ago. There is a monument there to US 2nd Armoured Division who liberated the town in September 1944. In "Churchill's Desert Rats" by Patrick Delaforce, it states that 1/5 Queens moved to the town around 10th January 1945 to prepare for Operation Blackcock. You can pick up this book fairly cheaply on Amazon and it has some information on 1/5 Queens during the operation.

    I also visited Susteren, which was liberated by 1/5 Queens on 17 January 1945. Obviously, I don't know what company your Grandfather was in, but B Company had a particularly hard time and suffered many casualties fighting off enemy counter-attacks. The commanding officer of B Company, Major John Evans, was severely wounded and later had his left arm amputated. Evans was the only officer to survive. There is an enemy cannon in Susteren with a memorial tree next to it and a nearby street called Majoor Evanslaan. You can find more information here: The story behind the Susteren Tapestry

    Evans lived until 2014, just short of his 100th birthday. You can see his obituary here:
    Plymouth Albion war hero who lost an arm fighting Nazis dies aged 99

    Regards,

    Shaun
     
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Chapter and map from "A Short History of the 7th Armoured Division June 1943- July 1945" re "Operation Blackcock":

    015.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fine coloured map of Operation Blackcock taken from "Mountain and Flood, the History of the 52nd Lowland Division":

    52nd Lowland Blackcock.jpg

    ... hope this is of help.
     
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  8. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    My father's Troop of flail tanks were based in and around Geleen early January 45 and took part in the clearing of Bakenhoven on the night of 12/13th Jan with the 1/5th Queens.
    These two reports are from the Lothians and Border Yeomanry WD:

    The Attack on Bakenhoven on Night 12/13 Jan 45;
    part played by 1Tp B Sqn.
    Ref Maps: 1:50,000 Sittard (N) .

    The tp of four flail tks, together with one SHQ tk, moved to Holtum 6674 during the afternoon of 12 Jan 45. The crew comds went forward to recce the ground from the OP at Gebroek 6675.
    The plan of attack was laid down as follows:-


    Four single lanes would be driven parallel to each other from the SL: the track running NW - SE through 'R' of Gebroek to the wood surrounding Bakenhoven. The left hand lane would run along narrow track running at right angles to the SL. Each flail tk would be followed by a half pl of inf, who would pass them on reaching the wood. Distance between lanes approx 50yds. Inf about 80yds behind flails. H-Hr 0500hrs 13 Jan 45. Arty fire on wood from H to H+6 'laddering' back in four 3min steps. Bofors to fire over left hand lane as aid to direction. Artificial moonlight to be provided.

    Immediately after sundown the tks moved up to Gebroek. One flail tk skidded on the ice and became ditched. The ARV was unable to recover it and it was decided that the two left lanes would be amalgamated. At approx 1900hrs a scissors bridge was put in posn at 66007565. At H-18 the leading (ie left hand) lane moved out of Gebroek over the bridge to the SL. The other two tks followed. The inf arrived with the tks on the SL.

    At H-Hr the Crabs moved forward flailing and hit the objective at about H+20. The inf went in. There was little apparent opposition, other than comparatively light mortaring. Sgt Rawlinson's tk went into the village but found great difficulty manoeuvring amongst the buildings. He did some road clearing, but lost a lot of chains and had great difficulty in getting out when rejoining me to return to Gebroek before dawn. He eventually rejoined me on the edge of the wood at about H+130. The third tk had, by this time, finished the task of making intercommunication lanes between the original lanes.

    All three tks returned to the bridge. One crossed safely but the bridge collapsed under the weight of the second; this tk was abandoned. The third was stranded on the other side of the water. As dawn was approaching, I ordered it to return at once to the two pls in Bakenhoven and remain under cover there until a new bridge could be put down, probably on the following night.

    Observations:-


    (i) The Bofors was not as good as usual, in that at first it was firing very low and seemed to wander slightly, but despite this it was definitely indispensable. The accuracy with which each lane went to its allotted point was due almost entirely to the Bofors.

    (ii) Artificial Moonlight. Ineffective owing to mist. In any case unnecessary.

    (iii) Mines blown up. Many AP; no A Tk.

    (iv) Silhouette of Tks. It was possible to see black outline of tks clearly at least 200yds distance. If tks are painted, I think a dull white would blend better than pure white.

    14 Jan 45
    (sgd) P B Carter
    Lt, OC 1Tp B Sqn

    ----------------------

    The Adventures of Tk 'Canongate II', on being Isolated with D Coy Queens Regt at Bakenhoven on 13 and 14 Jan 45.

    Report by Cpl G Imrie 7889582, 1Tp B Sqn.


    Bakenhoven had fallen to the inf coy without opposition before daylight on 13 Jan 45. The flail tp, on completion of their duties, rallied and returned in the direction of Gebroek in order to re-cross the scissors bridge before daylight. Whilst the second tk of the three was crossing, the bridge collapsed and 'Canongate II' was left with no alternative means of crossing.


    Lest the coming daylight should expose the tk in an open posn, the bn CO in charge of the operation instructed us to report back to Bakenhoven and join the garrison there until a further bridge could be erected.


    At first light, and under cover of a heavy mist, we were occupied in towing two carriers, which had broken down with mechanical faults on the flail path, back to the stream whence they could be towed over a wooden bridge to safety in Gebroek.


    When we finally settled in Bakenhoven the inf coy were completing occupation and removing numerous booby traps. After reporting to the garrison comd the tk was arranged in the village to cover the road leading in from the West. During the day the atmosphere was kept lively with occasional mortar fire and sniper shots from enemy believed located in the orchard running North of the village to the canal.


    From 1730-1830hrs, during the last light, stand-to was ordered and the trenches were manned. On stand-down being announced a skeleton force remained in the trenches and others were withdrawn.


    At approx 1845hrs the counter-attack opened, heralded by intense mortar and small arms fire, and appeared to develop from the previously mentioned orchard. The alarm was sounded and the inf dashed through heavy fire to reach the trenches. On the opening I was in a house occupied by a pl HQ and I dashed for the tk, which was then a few yards from the door. On entering the turret my right arm was grazed with shrapnel from a mortar shell bursting close to the tk.


    The crew, already anticipating what had happened, were on the tk and in a few seconds both Browning guns were answering back. A round of our HE whistled into the wood and it was noted that some of the enemy MGs had ceased firing; either they had changed posns or suffered from our fire.


    We were informed later that the front pl of D Coy had been over-run and that the enemy had taken up posns in and around a house about 100yds to our front. For fully an hour we continued to exchange MG fire with this force. Our own inf had suffered severe casualties and it was when all seemed lost that the OC Coy rallied the remnants and, with the carrier pl who were now on foot, prepared to attack the German posn. With a Cromwell OP tk also in the village, both with our engines revving at their loudest, we pounded the posn with HE and MG fire for 4mins. The inf completed the rout by yelling into a bayonet attack, putting the enemy to flight and capturing a few prisoners.


    Silence reigned for fully half an hour, until about eight extra big shells burst near the tk and were later believed to have been sent over by an SP gun which had moved into the area. Before midnight we were back to normal and the wounded were evacuated from the trenches to receive treatment from stretcher bearers at Coy HQ. D Coy, having badly suffered, were relieved by another coy from the same bn at 0300hrs.


    Except for occasional mortar fire, the remainder of the night was spent in comparative peace, but the tk remained fully manned until daylight. Four dead Germans, seen in the daylight at 20yds from our tk, marked the limits of their advance.


    The following evening we joined 2Tp, participating in all their operations and returning with them to the sqn location on the night of 17 Jan 45.


    (sgd) G Imrie
    Cpl

    EDIT: Just noticed that Cpl George Imrie received the Military Medal for this action
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    More about Op Blackcock in this slide-show of Har Gootzen, one of the authors of the book "Battle for the Roer Triangle", cited by Giberville in post #2 of this thread:

    A battle for each farmyard 2010 english
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017

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