Operation Amherst: French SAS April 1945

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    At 15:30 hours the paras reach the first farm buildings on the southern edge of Westerbork. Believe it or not, but the paras have approached the German HQ up to a few hundred meters, without being detected. Inside the village all is quiet. German soldiers are engaged in their regular work, while some stroll through the main street, completely unaware of the danger. From behind the cover of a hedge Betbèze observes the Slomp Restaurant, which houses the HQ. He quickly devises a plan of attack: one group of four men armed with a Brengun will provide flank protection and cover the road to Beilen, another group of eight also armed with a Bren will knock out the telephone switchboard next to the HQ building with explosives and block the main road for reinforcements from the eastern part of the village, while the remainder will take care of the command post itself.

    Nothing, however, comes of the plan. The inevitable happens. Two German soldiers approach on bicycles. The one in front sees the French paras, hesitates and then realizes that something is amiss. He makes a quick about turn with his bike and starts to pedal back to the main street. Betbèze knows that he must act fast or he will lose all surprise. He gives the order for an attack and firing with their weapons all paras storm forward in the direction of the command post. The HQ building is riddled with bullets and German soldiers, completely surprised by the sudden assault, scurry in all directions. Many are struck by the fire of the paras. The first ones to fall are the fleeing German biker and his mate.

    The French paras reach the command post and start to throw Gammon bombs into the building. They then enter through the kitchen at the backside of the building. The opponent opens fire from a window from across the road. But the first shots are hasty and miss target. Betbèze recognizes the danger and directs part of his men to outflank the enemy by circling along the back side of the houses on this side of the road and cross the main street further west. Corporal Robert Bonjean unwisely decides to directly cross the road and is hit when he is midway in the street. One of the French paras who has made it across sees a German officer, dressed in a long leather coat and armed with a machinepistol, running out of the front door of the Slomp building. The para fires. The officer turns around his axis and collapses on the sidewalk in front of the building. The German army in northeast Holland has just lost its commander, Generalmajor Böttger. He is hit by bullets in the chest but survives, though severely wounded. Two members of his staff who follow closely behind the General are shot.

    Then the situation starts to deteriorate. In an attempt to rescue the severly wounded Bonjean, who is lying in the middle of the road, Captain Betbèze is slightly wounded in the leg by a hand grenade thrown into the street. The men cannot reach the mortally wounded Bonjean and he dies where he has fallen. The Germans recover from their first surprise and send reinforcements. The paras manage to destroy the telephone switch board, but German fire is now coming from all sides. Even from the church steeple. In a short time three French paras are wounded and another, Corporal René Marché, is killed. Betbèze signals his men to break off the attack and retreats with his remaining men to the base camp at Witteveen. Not all paras manage to disengage. The young Corporal Jean-Francois Cognet, who, together with a companion, has moved around the right flank, is cut off by the enemy and is killed. The fight, which had started at about 16:00 hours had lasted just over one hour. By nightfall the group of Betbèze arrives at the bivouac, tired and disappointed by the loss of six men. They had been unable to evacuate the three wounded and had to leave them behind. Two of them Le Boulinec and Boulard are taken prisoner and evacuated by their captors to a hospital in Assen. One wounded, Lorang, manages to hide in a house in the village and remains in hiding for 48 hours until the ground forces arrive.

    That afternoon and evening strong German patrols comb out the immediate area around Westerbork. They find no trace of the French paras. German losses in the attack are unknown but are estimated by civilian eyewitnesses at 30 to 35 men. German ambulances were busy all night to evacuate the casualties of the battle.

    Attack on Westerbork

    Westerbork 2.jpg
    1 = Restaurant Slomp (German HQ); 2 = Telephone switchboard; 3 = Church; 4 = House where Böttger stayed; 5 = Main street; 6 = Road to Beilen.
    A. = initial attack by Betbèze; B. = flanking move across the main street; C = move of Cpl Cognet; Red arrows: general direction of German counterattacks

    Slomp Restaurant.jpg
    The Slomp Restaurant or Abdij de Westerbork as it is known today. This is the building that housed the German HQ of the Feldkommandantur 674 and where Generalmajor Böttger was shot (photo courtesy Pen and Dagger).

    (The story - my paraphrase - with courtesy to: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945"; I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019 at 5:46 PM
  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
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  3. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Stolpi
    An excellent thread. Please advise how close is the monument to the Westerbork concentration camp which we visited in 2014 or 2015.
     
  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Randy - the Westerbork Camp was a bit further to the north; strangely enough the Allies were unaware of the camp, which still held about 876 prisoners, among them 300 Jews. The last train had left in September 1944 taking with it Anne Frank and her family.

    In the afternoon of April 11, the German guard detachment fled. They took with them 116 female non-Jewish political prisoners but release them at Visvliet on 14 April. The Westerbork Camp is liberated on 12 April.

    See our 2015 trip: Tour of Northeast Holland

    For the Liberation of the Camp see: Kamp Westerbork per telefoon bevrijd - Jodenvervolging - Drenthe in de oorlog
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2018
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Orvelte (Orvelterbrug & Lock at the Flax Factory), April 8th, 1945

    Orvelte 2.jpg

    1 = Mulder Farm; 2 = Pol Farm; 3= Flax Factory (Fabriek) with lock; 4= Enting Farm, 5= Orvelterbrug

    In order to prevent the Germans from using the Oranjekanaal as a defensive line, the French paras had to ensure that the Germans would not blow up the bridges and locks. It is not required that the paras take and hold the bridges for a longer period of time, for that they are simply too weak. The mission of the paras is to knock-out the sentries and take away any explosives they find, to prevent the destruction of the passages.

    The stick of De Camaret came down close to the planned dropzone on the north side of the Oranjekanaal, in an area called Ellertsveld. Somewhat further north the stick of Taylor also comes down. The stick of Edme lands on the wrong side of the Oranjekanaal, south of Wezuperbrug. After the landing, the men of Lieutenant De Camaret regroup and collect their containers. One para, Corporal Brasse, has sprained his ankle and cannot take part in the operation. He is hidden by his companions in the southern tip of Schoonloo Forest. The paratroopers then gather at a farm near the landing site: the Pol Farm. Twelve Frenchmen spent the rest of the night in the Pol's residence, while two of them stand guard outside. Over time, the guards report the arrival of an enemy patrol. It turns out to be a large group of about 50 German soldiers on foot, marching along the canal from the direction of Zuidveld. They too were looking for a place for the night. Fortunately they pass the Pol's Farm and eventually end up at the Enting family's farm some 700 meters to the east, just beyond the Flax Factory. Here they are accommodated in the attic of the barn. Two farms with enemy soldiers so close together would inevitably lead to a clash the next day.

    In early morning, before dawn, a frightening situation arises, when two young German soldiers knock at the door of the Pol's Farm. They demand a cup of coffee. The coffee is ready. The lady of the house was just preparing coffee for the French! With much foresight, De Camaret had seen to it that his men are well hidden and have not left any items or equipment lying around. After finishing their coffee the two Germans leave, without noticing the presence of the French. All went well. Not long after that, four paras led by 2nd Lt. Richard, who belong to the stick Taylor, arrive at the farm. They have lost their unit and join De Camaret. Another stray para, Corporal Treis, also reports in. During the night he has become separated from his own stick, that of Cochin. At daybreak, De Camaret, decides to check the lock at the flax factory and the road bridge across the canal north of Orvelte, known as Orvelterbrug. A low fog is hanging above the canal and fields, when the paras, now twenty strong, depart from the Pol Farm. As the French approach the lock, they encounter a party of eight German soldiers who guard the lock gate. Taken aback the German sentries in a short scuffle are overwhelmed. Two are killed, the remaining are taken prisoner. The Germans however manage to get some shots of and two French paras, Richard and Mahé, are wounded. Whether one of the German sentries manages to escape and sounds the alarm or they are warned by the shots that suddenly ring out is not known, but the enemy soldiers in Enting's farm now are fully alert. A violent firefight breaks out in which Corporal Antoine Treis is killed. Realizing that he is heavily outnumbered, De Camaret, who has taken up position in the Flax Factory, decides to break off contact. His men fall back to the Pol Farm, taking the two wounded and the prisoners with them. From there they move north to the Schoonloo Forest and disappear into the woods. The Germans who closely follow the group capture one of the paras at the Pol Farm.

    For the Pol family, a precarious situation arises, which could easily have gone wrong, when one of the German soldiers finds a rucksack and helmet in the shed. Have the French received help from the Dutch family? With a hefty dosis of farmer's shrewdness Pol succeeds to convince the German captain that he knew nothing about the presence of the paras. He points to the lock of the stable door, which has been broken for a long time. The French have destroyed it last night while his family was fast asleep. How could he have known that they were secretly hiding in his barn?

    Attracted by the sound of the battle, the Stick Edme on the other bank of the Oranjekanaal moves to the Orvelter bridge in an attempt to outflank the Germans. One of Edme's men, Blanquet, is wounded by a stray bullet. It is obvious that the opposition is too strong and Edme also disengages.

    Vlasfabriek Orvelte.jpg
    Aerial of the Flax Factory with the Oranjekanaal running in front. Note the flat featureless countryside to the north. The lock with the small bridge is to the left, not visible on this picture.

    Vlas fabriek Oranjekanaal Orvelte.jpg
    The former Flax Factory and the lock in the Oranjekanaal (Courtesy Pen and Dagger)

    Monument Treis.jpg Antoine Treis.jpg
    At the front of the factory is a monument to commemorate the fallen Corporal Antoine Treis (photo to the right).

    Later that same day the stick of Lieutenant Georges Taylor, who has collected only half of his stick, makes an attempt to reach the Westerborker bridge, another crossing site of the Oranjekanaal to the northwest of Westerbork. He also runs into German opposition and is forced to retreat. Trying to evade the Germans he and his small group, four or five men, end up at the Mulder Farm, but they are soon discovered by a German patrol. While his men flee across the open fields, Taylor engages the Germans with his carabine. There is a short firefight. When it ends, the young Lieutenant is laying in a lawn next to the farm, mortally wounded. The others have made it and get away.

    Taylor.jpg
    2nd Lt Georges Taylor, 20 years, was killed at the Mulder Farm on April 8th. Next day he was given a temporary burial by the Germans at the farmyard, with military honour.

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy:
    https://orveltejournaal.nl/uit-de-oude-doos/archief/ and Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945"; I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019 at 7:16 AM
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Belgian Jeeps & Polish Recce to the rescue

    The old fortified town of Coevorden, located in the southeastern edge of Drenthe, was the first town in the Province of Drenthe to be liberated. The town was reached by a company ('A ' Coy) of the Lake Superior Regiment (4th Cdn Arm Div) in mid-afternoon of April 5th. This unit had been split off from the main body of the 4th Cdn Armoured Div at the German town of Emlichheim. While 'A' Company of the Lake Superiors sidestepped towards Coevorden, the rest of 4th Cdn Armoured Div headed for the main objective further east, the German town of Meppen on the River Ems. As the Lake Superiors approached Coevorden the German defenders, estimated about 300 strong, blew the bridges into the town. In the ensuing firefight a Canadian carrier was knocked out by a Panzerfaust and two Canadian soldiers were killed and five wounded. Next day the town was occupied by the Canadians, the German garrison had left the town during the night.

    Bentheimerbrug.jpg Binnentrekkende%20soldaten_bron%20Foto%20de%20Boer%20Coevorden_0.jpg
    Left: Picture of the blown up Bentheimerbrug at Coevorden. A Bailey bride was quickly build across the canal. Right: Canadian infantry moves into Coevorden on April 6th. It was the first town in the Province of Drenthe to be liberated. An excuberant crowd cheered: "Hurrah, the Tommies have arrived!". Whereupon major Calquhoun, the Coy CO, grimly reacted: "No, no Tommies, Canadians!" (Photo courtesy: De bevrijding van Coevorden | Geschiedenis Coevorden). On a sidenote: the Dutch residents of Coevorden immediately funded the purchase of two coffins for the two fallen Canadians who were given a proper burial at the local cemetery the same afternoon.

    On April 7th the 5th SAS Regiment (Belgians), commanded by Major Edouard Blondeel, took over the defense of the town from the Canadians. The Belgian SAS battalion consisted of 14 Officers and 254 men, and was equipped with 50 Armoured Jeeps. Their mission was, pending the arrival of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, to screen the left flank of the Canadian armour which still was bound for Meppen, as a secondary task they had to grant Amherst support if possible. Over the next few days the Belgians send out Jeep patrols in all azimuths. They recced as far as Hardenberg, Dedemsvaart and even to the eastern outskirts of Hoogeveen, which had not yet been reached by the 2nd Cdn Inf Division. The 1st Polish Armoured Division, under general Stanislaw Maczek, in the meantime had been alerted to move north across the Rhine and join the advance of 2nd Cdn Corps. The Polish armour were to concentrate at Coevorden from where they were to operate on the left of the 4th Cdn Armoured Division. This move necessarily would take time, since the Poles at that moment were still in a reserve position far south of the Rhine River, near Breda in the southwestern part of Holland. On April 8th first elements of the 1st Polish Armoured Division began to arrive at Coevorden. The move was completed on the 10th and from that day on the Poles took over command of the sector as well as the Belgian SAS.

    Coevorden bevrijding.jpg
    Belgian SAS Jeeps arrive at Coevorden on April 7th to take over from the Lake Superior Regiment (photo courtesy Sorry 1 x Zwwt foto - 50plusser.nl)

    With a view to the coming operations the Belgians on April 9th attacked and captured intact the bridge across the Verlengde Hoogeveensche Vaart at Oosterhesselen. In the attack the Belgians received support from six Polish Bren Carriers. The SAS immediately established a firm bridgehead across the canal, that would be used over the next days as a sally port for further operations. Late in the afternoon of the 9th a patrol of the Belgian SAS moved out from the area of Oosterhesselen to contact the French SAS at Witteveen. The SAS Report of Op Larkswood states that the Belgian patrol, three armoured Jeeps and a motorcycle of 'A' Sqn, of 5th SAS, reached the Witteveen wood without incident. The French report that they have three men killed and one wounded. That they had attacked a German HQ at Westerbork. The village according to the French was held by approximately 100 men. As the French did not need any help, the patrol went back to Oosterhesselen. On its way back the patrol clashed with German paratroopers. The Jeeps opened fire and the Germans withdrew. Tpr. Becket was wounded in this short engagement and one of the Jeeps and the motorcycle were put out of action.

    1ab815e54104e3e6dc40043d2f251fdf7475ed9f42b5bec40423315f93da57fa.jpg
    Belgian SAS Jeep at Oosterhesselen carrying a POW on the hood

    Early in the morning of April 10th, elements of the 1st Polish Armoured Division passed across the bridge at Oosterhesselen and moved towards Emmen. A Polish Armoured Recce unit, composed of elements of the 10 Mounted Rifle Regt (10 pułk strzelców konnych (PSK)), a Recce unit equipped with Cromwell tanks, supported by motorized infantry of the 10 Dragoon Regiment (10 pułk dragonów), reconnoitered in the direction of the Oranje kanaal at Orvelte and Westerbork to check the crossings of the canal at these places. By 13:00 hours they reach the canal and make contact with the French paras in the area. The bridges across the Oranjekanaal at Orvelte and Westerbork were found destroyed. A Polish foot patrol moved across the canal at the Westerborker bridge, but had to retreat after it clashed with a German force armed with machineguns. Two Polish soldiers were killed in this action.

    Poles Westerbork.jpg

    Next day, April 11th, a Belgian SAS patrol, of two Jeep sections and two Assault sections of "B" Sqn, 5th SAS accompanied by a medical section, move up to Orvelte. Without enemy interference they reach the the Flax Factory at the Oranjekanaal where they contact French SAS paras. With the help of the local population, an improvised bridge is built across the lock gate and Belgian Jeeps move across to support the French SAS on the northern bank of the canal. One Jeep section rescues a section of French paras who are engaged by the enemy in Schoonloo wood. In the meantime the M.O. gives first aid to six wounded French paras, after which they are evacuated to Coevorden. Also 10 wounded POW's were taken care of. From Orvelte Jeep patrols are also sent westwards along the south bank of the canal. Westerbork is reported free of enemy but further to the west Beilen is still defended (this village eventually falls on April 12 to the 2nd Cdn Inf Div). By 20:15 hours all Jeeps were back in Coevorden

    Orvelte Belgian SAS.jpg
    On April 11th, Belgian SAS Jeeps cross the emergency bridge at the lock gate which was constructed with the help of the local population (photo courtesy: Battlefield Tour Operation Amherst).

    Lock at Orvelte.jpg
    Same spot nowadays (photo courtesy Pen and Dagger).
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Zone D Assen - Rolde - Gieten - Borger

    Zone D Gieten Borger Assen Rolde 2.jpg
    - All of the Chalk nos. took off from Rivenhall and dropped their sticks between 23:30 - 23:59 hours over the DZs. The planes with Chalk nos 11 and 12 also dropped 9 simulators each.

    Report of Brigadier Calvert:
    Calvert Zone D.jpg
    NB. GISELDE should be Gasselte
    NB2. the village of HOOGENVAAL is an unknown place (Hooghalen?)
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Sticks Simon, Varnier, Corta and Gabaudan

    All four sticks landed in the area to the south of the Staatsbos Gieten (Bois de Gieten), roughly in the area between Borger - Schoonloo and Grolloo.

    The stick of 2nd Lieutenant André Simon dropped four miles southwest of the planned DZ. The stick quickly regrouped and collected its containers. The paras then moved in a south-easterly direction and in the early morning approached a farm near Westdorp, located a few miles to the SW of Borger. The officers Lt Simon and Bornhauser try to clarify their position and move forward to the farm. Sergeant Matern arranged the security around the farm. After a few minutes the two officers returned with a German prisoner. The nearby bridge, with access to Westdorp, is defended by an enemy detachment of about 20 soldiers.

    Meanwhile, another farmer alerts the Germans, who send a patrol from Westdorp in the direction of the farm. Unfortunately not all residents could be trusted. When the German patrol draws near Sgt Matern gave the order to open fire. The Corporals Péron and Besnars open up with the Brengun and force the Germans to seek cover in a ditch. Lieutenant Bornhauser killed a German officer with his carabine.

    The Germans however were reinforced by a detachment of Fallschirmjäger, who are encamped in Borger. These men skillfully deployed in the fields and the pressure on the French paratroopers increased. Several Frenchmen are hit. Péron on the Brengun is killed. The outnumbered French paras were forced to disengage. Not everyone however gets away. Ptes René Péron and Serge Levasseur are killed in the firefight, so is Corporal Albert Le Saux. Three others are captured: Usséglio, who is hit by bullets in the shoulder, Delassale and Besnars. The French POW's are taken on a horsecart to Borger, where the enraged sentries at the bridge at the entrance of the village threaten to execute the French and throw their bodies into the canal. Only the presence of a Dutch doctor and the timely arrival of a German officer prevents them from doing so. The prisoners were accommodated in the local café. Here also the agitated German soldiers threaten to execute the "Gaulish terrorists". It transpires that one of their unit has been killed in the recent fight and two were wounded. Again the presence of the doctor and the German officer keeps them from this. From Borger the prisoners are transferred to Assen, where Usséglio is treated in a hospital. Later they are transported to a POW camp in Germany. The other members of the stick make it into the nearby Schoonloo woods, two of them wounded. They eventually join with the Stick Varnier.

    Westdorp Stick Simon.jpg
    Map of the area between Borger - Grollo and Schoonloo and site of the battle near Westdorp (blue circle).

    Monument Westdorp.jpg
    There now is a monument dedicated to the three fallen French paras, who were killed in the firefight on 8 April: Oorlogsmonument Franse SAS Parachutisten - Westdorp - TracesOfWar.nl

    Westdorp ophaalbrug.jpg
    The small 'ophaalbrug' or drawbridge at Westdorp across the Buinen-Schoonoord Canal which was the objective of the stick Simon. The bridge was blown by the Germans on April 12th, when Polish ground forces approached from the south (photo courtesy Pen and Dagger).

    Of the actions of Stick Varnier, which landed not far from the stick Simon, no details are known other than that some of the escaped members of Stick Simon ended up with Varnier. But it looks as if Varnier likewise ran into trouble. Three men of the stick Varnier eventually were killed along the Oranjekanaal at Wezuperbrug on 9 April, executed by the Germans. They were the Sergeants Aimé Le Berriguad, Gabriel Judet and Robert Le Grass.

    Of the two other sticks, that of Lieutenants Corta (an alias for Henry Roger Courtant) and Gabaudin, which were dropped around Schoonloo, no details are known.

    In the early morning of the 8th, French paras entered the main road of the small farming settlement of Schoonloo; it is not known which stick these men belonged to. Frederik Klaassens (57), who operated the local café in Schoonloo, and his son Jantinus Klaassens (23), venture into the street to have a chat with the paras. A surprised German soldier who passes by on his bicycle is taken prisoner. Then the paras move on along the road to a farm just outside the village at a place called De Strubben. Here a skirmish followed in which two German soldiers were killed. This would have immediate repercussions. Later on the day a horse drawn cart with the bodies of the two fallen Germans passed through Schoonloo. Klaassens and his son were ordered by the Germans to climb up on the cart, presumably to assist with the burial of the fallen soldiers. The Germans however had less good intentions. That evening father and son Klaasens were executed behind the windmill at Schoonoord. They were accused for having given assistance to the French paratroopers. In reality they probably were shot as a reprisal for the death of the two German soldiers.

    Grave monument of Klaassens and his son at the local cemetery of Grollo: Nederlandse Oorlogsgraven Gemeentelijke Begraafplaats Grolloo - Grolloo - TracesOfWar.nl

    On 9 April, Klaas Schepers (50) a farmer from Schoonoord, was shot dead in the Schoonloo forest. It has remained unsolved by whom he has been shot. The Germans demanded a horse and carriage with a driver to collect ammunition in the forest. Klaas Schepers decided to go along. From the kitchen window his family saw him leave, that was the last time they saw him alive. It is not know what happened. Some assume he was trying to flee.

    Oranjekanaal monument.png
    Three men of the stick Varniers eventually were killed along the Oranjekanaal at Wezuperbrug on 9 April, executed by the Germans. They were the Sergeants Aimé Le Berriguad, Gabriel Judet and Robert Le Grass. A small plaque near the Oranjekanaal is dedicated to the three (photo courtesy HdJ).
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019 at 5:47 PM
  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 'Bois de Gieten'

    One of the more successful actions of the French SAS during Amherst took place in the Rolde - Gieten - Borger triangle. In the middle of this area lies the Staatsbos of Gieten. An extensive forested area that offered good coverage and lent itself perfectly for SAS operations. By coincidence, the sticks of Captain Paul de Gramond, Lieutenant Jean Appriou, Lieutenant Michel Legrand and 2nd Lieutenant Henri Stéphan land close to each other and assisted by the local resistance soon came into contact with each other. The French decide to join forces. With a combined strength of around 60 man, the paras have sufficient punch to make the surrounding area unsafe with their actions. The Staatsbos Gieten (or as the French called it 'Bois de Gieten') is used as a patrol base. Despite the proximity of larger enemy troop concentrations near Borger and Assen, the French are relatively safe in the wooded area. The Germans, fearful of the strength of the French paratroopers, which they grossly overestimate because of the French aggressiveness, dare not enter the woods.

    Bois de Gieten.jpg

    Appriou's report: Initially half of the stick is missing. Searches for the missing men and for the containers continue all through the first day. Based on information from a Dutch civilian, a recce under Lieutenant Appriou is conducted in the direction of Gieten in the afternoon. According to the civilian there are Germans in the village and the French want to know in what strength. The information appears to be correct, but the Germans are too strong. In a firefight two Germans are killed and papers are captured. The French have to disengage. Returning to the patrol base, Lt Appriou to his great relief sees that the other men of his stick have joined up. During the jump from the plane a short delay was caused by one of the men who, while still in the plane, snagged behind something, with the result that part of the stick landed further away in the woods. The Sticks of Stéphan, Legrand and Gramond have also joined, so that now four sticks have gathered in the Bois de Gieten. It is decided to stay together and form one battle group.

    The French establish two bivouacs inside the 'Bois de Gieten', one near the eastern edge of the forest and another deeper inside the woods. From these basecamps the paras over the next few days conduct their operations. They successfully lay ambushes along the surrounding roads, though the first attempt on the evening of 8 to 9 April ends in failure. That night it is decided to place an ambush on the Rolde - Gieten road. Along the road is a detached house (De Heidehof). Two scouts are send out to recce the premises. When they approach they are suddenly shot at from the upper window and Sergeant Lesné is killed instantly. Now that the enemy has been alerted, the planned action is called off. However, in the early morning of April 9 an ambush is laid along the road Borger - Rolde. This action yields prisoners of war, a group of five soldiers who are on their way to Rolde to report for sick roll. The prisoners are taken back to the patrol base deep inside the woods. Later on an ambush is laid during daytime along the road Rolde - Gieten, which yields another three prisoners. A German vehicle is disabled. To the embarrasment of the French, it is a vehicle of the Red Cross. The prisoners, a medical officer and two members of the Feldgendarmerie (military police), are brought back to the patrol base. On the 11th an ambush is laid along the Gasselte - Borger road. As the French approach the road they encounter a German detachment that immediately opens fire. There follows a gunfight in which some Germans are captured. Then another detachment of German soldiers moving down the same road from the opposite direction, from Borger, runs into the fight and opens fire on their own troops . While the French disengage unobserved, taking the POW's with them, the two German detachments continue to fire at each other for a long time.

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945"; I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen.

    36223734_2067976916810981_4600097891720101888_o.jpg
    Picture of the stick Legrand in the Bois de Gieten. The French paras could move around almost undisturbed in the forest and even found time to pose for a group photo like this one. Note the soldiers to the far left and in the center, they have fitted their red berets with a camouflage netting. The second one to the left in the front row has a torn trouser leg (picture courtesy André Jans: French sas).

    Lesne monument.jpg
    Near the spot where he has been killed a small monument commemorates Sergeant Guy Jean Lesné (photo courtesy Pen and Dagger)
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
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  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Attack on Gasselte, April 9th

    At the beginning of October 1944, a detachment of the National Sozialistische Kraftfahr Korps (NSKK) was stationed in Gasselte. It consists of Dutch volunteers who, as drivers, carry out transports for the German Wehrmacht. Only the commander, Obersturmführer Klaus, a somewhat elderly officer, is a German. The headquarters of the detachment is located in the vicarage. For the accommodation of the staff, rooms are requisitioned with the villagers. Because of their cooperation with the occupying forces the NSKK-men are considered as traitors. The relationship with the inhabitants is further strained by the authoritarian behaviour of the NSKK-men. The information of the presence of the NSKK headquarters in Gasselte is quickly passed on to the French paras by the local resistance. The French decide to carry out an attack against the headquarters around noon on the 9th, in the hope that the Germans will not expect an attack around lunchtime and will probably be less attentive. A plan of attack is drawn up on the basis of the detailed information provided by the resistance.

    At the entrance of the village Albert Bacuez will keep the road (Lutkenend) covered with a Brengun. The stick of Lieutenant Appriou will move forward along the north side of the road and head for the vicarage to take out the headquarters. At the same time, the Stick Legrand has to move along the south side of the street and clean the houses and attack the enemy. De Gramond's stick will make a wide outflanking movement north of the road in order to cut off the enemy and stop reinforcements. Sergeant Le Goff is instructed to make an outflanking movement along the south side of the village with some men and to block the Dorpstraat.

    Map of Gasselte and plan of attack:

    Gasselte Map 1.jpg
    1 = Vicarage with NSKK HQ; 2 = Church; 3 = Lutkenend; 4 = Dorpsstraat
    A = Appriou; B = De Gramond; C = Legrand ; D = Le Goff

    Gasselte 3.jpg
    Aerial of Gasselte (Courtesy: Google Maps)
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The men who will carry out the attack, they number about 40 men, gather at the barn of the Pronk farm on the eastern edge of the 'Bois de Gieten', from where they will go up against Gasselte accompanied by guides of the local resistance. Though it is daytime the village is reached without problems.

    As Lieutenant Appriou approaches the vicarage, he hesitates to launch the attack, his men have to cross an open lawn to get to the building. He orders two paras to move around the left flank and scout the backside of the building. As soon as the two try to move on, they are taken under fire from the vicarage. The NSKK-staff has discovered the French and start firing from the windows of the building. At the backside of the house an automatic weapon opens up. The men of Appriou take cover and return fire, but they are in relatively open terrain and two of them, Sergeant Briand and Corporal Bégue, are hit. The last one is killed.

    Lutkenend Pastorie.jpg
    Lutkenend, the small road running in front of the vicarage, which is the building to the right. This is about the spot where Legrand arrived and opened fire on the NSKK headquarters. View in the direction from where the Stick of Appriou approached. They moved along the right side of the road. The open lawn that he and his men had to cross is clearly visible (Photo courtesy Google Street View)


    In the meantime, Legrand has arrived at the front of the building and opens fire, so that the command post now is under fire from two sides. The NSKK-soldier with the automatic weapon is knocked out by the French, which gives two men of the Stick Appriou, Ptes Goudivèze and Urbain, the opportunity to storm the Presbytery and throw hand grenades through the windows. Black smoke appears from inside the building. The NSKK soldiers have had enough, they quit firing and with hands held high leave through the backdoor of the building. Here they surrender to the men of Legrand and are taken prisoner. The action was short-lived and all together took only half an hour.

    Elsewhere in the village there is great panic among the remaining members of the NSKK-detachment. The men flee here and there, some without success try to get hold of civilian clothes. Most of them are caught by the paras, two NSKK-ers are killed. Unfortunately one manages to escape on a motor-cycle. Obersturmführer Klaus, a Dutch NSKK colonel and about 18 men are captured. The number of killed opponents is not counted. The prisoners are marched off to the bivouac in the forest on the double, hands above their heads. A German staff car left behind in front of the vicarage is used to bring the fallen Bégue and an amount of captured documents back to the 'Bois de Gieten'. Back at the basecamp the prisoners were tied up with parachute cord, with the exception of the officers, who had given their word of honor that they would not try to escape. They kept their word. What probably also helped was the French threat to kill the remaining prisoners in the event of escape, as this would force the paras to change locations and the prisoners then would become a burden.

    Back in the woods, the French realize that their rations are not sufficient to provide for them and their prisoners. They also need ammunition. By means of radio communication the French request a re-supply. Two Typhoons drop four supply containers filled with ammunition, weapons, medicines and rations on 10 April. This feat did much to dampen the morale of the POW Officers who, as it turned out from conversations with them, up till then still had good hope that they would somehow win the war!

    stick_appriou_1211.jpg jean_appriou_117.jpg goudiveze_et_urbain_474.jpg
    Left: French paras of the stick Appriou in the 'Bois de Gieten' ready to depart for the attack on Gasselte. Third from the left is Cpl Bégue who would fall in the action. Center: 1st Lt Jean Appriou. Right: Privates L. Goudivèze and M. Urbain at the bivouac inside the 'Bois de Gieten'.(photos courtesy: http://fflsas.org/index.php?option=com_fflsas_user&view=image_browser&lang=EN)


    Bois de Gieten POWs.jpg
    Two members of the French paras carried cameras with them, Victor Stephan and Jean Troller. This resulted in a unique series of photographs of the actions in and around the 'Bois de Gieten'. Most of these can be found in the link below. The picture above is one of these: At the bivouac deep inside the Bois de Gieten the POWs taken in the attack against Gasselte are tied together with parachute cord by the French SAS men. In the middle Obersturmführer Klaus. Behind the French paras part of the captured German staff car is visible, with which the body of Cpl Begué was taken back to the bivouac. Begué was given a temporary burial inside the forest.

    For a pictorial impression of the SAS action see (section Gasselte): Battlefield Tour Operation Amherst
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019 at 8:06 AM
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Gasselte aftermath:

    In the belief that they had been liberated the residents of Gasselte plunder the inventory of the NSKK headquarters. Typewriters, stationery, furniture and everything else that somehow is useful are taken from the Presbytery. At 17:00 hours a strong troop of Germans, coming from the direction of Gasselternijeveen, enters the village to occupy it again. Unfortunately two NSKK men, who all the time have hidden in the basement of the HQ building, have witnessed the looting and report it to the German commander.

    Enraged the Germans round up all the residents of Gasselte, male and female, in the play ground of the local school. The women are released after a while. But the men, in all a number of about 300, are driven towards the church and locked up inside. The Germans are threatening to kill all by throwing hand grenades into the building. Luckily the NSB-mayor, named Tuin, interferes and dissuades the German commander from carrying out this plan. Instead the aggrieved German commander decides to shoot every tenth prisoner. Tuin, however, convinces him that this measure is too harsh, since there actually is only a handful of culprits and he will ask them to report. Sixteen men do report and plead guilty. Apparently satisfied the Germans let the other prisoners go. The sixteen are led to Borger and later to Gieten, where they, standing to the ankles in brine, have to spend the night in a refrigerated carriage in the local railway yard. If it were not by chance that one of them had knowledge of the ventilation system of these carriages, all would have been killed due to lack of oxygen. Now they arrive alive in Assen the next day, where they are locked up in the local prison until being liberated by the Canadians on 13 April.

    Monument Begue Gasselte.jpg
    In front of the old Presbytery a small monument commemorates the fallen Sergeant Begué

    Witte Kerkje Gasselte.jpg
    The small Protestant Church in Gasselte situated next to the Presbytery was the site of a near-drama which due to the intervention of the NSB-Mayor ended well for the residents of Gasselte.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 7:40 AM
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Borger Liberated by the Poles (10 - 13 April 1945)

    The area of Borger - Gieten is liberated by the 1st Polish Armoured Division on 12 and 13 April and so are the French paratroopers in the 'Bois de Gieten' and the POWs they have taken during their actions. On the 10th the Poles force a passage of the Oranjekanaal at Noordbarge and take the town of Emmen to the NE of it. Next day, the 11th, the Polish Armoured Division continues to the northeast towards Ter Apel on the Dutch/German border. The Division is preceded by the recce squadrons of the 10th Mounted Rifles (or 10 pułk strzelców konnych (PSK)) under Major Jerzy Wasilewski. An armoured recce regiment armed with Cromwell tanks. Wasilewski diverts one of his squadrons (1st Sqn) towards the north to cover the left flank of the Polish advance. The 1st Sqn scouts towards the villages of Odoorn and Exloo, but just short of Odoorn runs into road blocks and mines and is held up. After some fighting the enemy opposition is overcome and both villages are taken in the afternoon, over 100 Germans are taken prisoner.

    Attack Poles Borger.jpg

    On 12 April in a joint operation with elements of the 10th Dragoon Regiment (10 pułk dragonów), a motorized infantry battalion of the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade, the area up to Borger is cleared. The units move along three axes each followed by a platoon of Cromwells and a platoon of infantry. The left axis runs from Odoorn over Esergroen along the canal towards Westdorp; the central axis follows the main Odoorn-Borger road; and the right axis runs along the railway line from Exloo to Buinen. At Westdorp and Borger the bridges across the Buinen-Schoonoord canal are blown as the Poles approach. The Germans retreat behind the canal.

    Borger Polen.jpg

    At Borger the Poles make an attempt to cross the canal. Covered by fire from three Cromwell tanks the infantry of the Dragoons move forward in carriers to the destroyed bridge. Some fearless men crawl over the bent remains to the other side of the canal. A few small groups follow, which together form a weak bridgehead on the far bank. The German opposition however is too strong. One carrier is knocked out and several men are injured. Soon it turns out that the small attack group can not hold on. Under cover of a smokescreen fired by the Cromwells, the Dragoons with their wounded comrades return back to safety. One Polish soldier is killed in the attack. In the meantime the neighboring village of Buinen has been taken by the Poles. Here enemy resistance, which consisted of machinegun fire, was quickly overcome. One Polish soldier, Pte Stanislaw Bieliniec, was killed.

    The German defenders of Borger have had enough. Though they have repulsed the attack of the Dragoons they are intimidated by the roar of the battle from Buinen and hastily abandon the village of Borger. By late afternoon the Poles, who have been warned by local residents that the Germans have left, enter Borger without meeting further opposition. Next day, April 13th, Gasselte and Gieten are liberated.

    (Story courtesy Harde strijd om Borger - vereniging 1e poolse pantser divisie nederland)

    Buinen Polish Monument.jpg
    After the war a monument was placed at Buinen for the fallen Pte Stanislaw Bieliniec. See for the location: Pools Monument Buinen - Buinen - TracesOfWar.nl
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    ZONE E Smilde - Appelscha - Diever

    Map Zone E Appelscha Diever.jpg

    - The Stirling with Chalk no 7 (Stick Lagèze) is the only plane that did not take off on the 7th due to engine troubles. The Stick Lagèze was dropped on the second night of the operation (8/9 April) near Smilde;
    - The Stirling with Chalk no. 44 took off from Dunmow airfield and dropped its stick between 22:30 and 23:00 hours;
    - The Stirlings with Chalk nos. 49 and 50 took off from Dunmow and dropped their loads between 22:30 and 23:00 hours, while chalk no. 51 used Shepherds Grove airfield and dropped its load between 23:00 and 23:30; each Stirling also carried 8 simulators;
    - The planes with Chalk nos. 52, 53 and 54 took off from Sherpherds Grove and dropped their men between 23:00 and 23:30.

    Report of Brigadier Calvert:

    Calvert Zone E.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
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  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Boiteux - Aardappelmeelfabriek Oranje

    I will first deal with the two sticks - Boiteux and Lagèze - that landed on the east side of the Drentsche Hoofdvaart (aka Smilder Vaart), the main canal that runs in a SW - NE direction straight through the province of Drenthe and connects Meppel with Assen.

    The Stick Boiteux is unlucky. The paras were dropped far from the intended DZ and retrieved their containers only after a long search, thereby assisted by local residents. One of the supply containers with food has burst open and the weapons in the others are still thickly greased and not immediately usable.

    The terrain is bare and flat without any cover. To the north a large building protrudes above the flat ground - the cooperative potato-flour factory situated on the northern bank of the Oranjekanaal. Around it are modest worker houses built in single files on both sides of the canal. Factory and houses together form the township of Oranje. A drawbridge connects both halves of the township. The paras gather at a farm and after having established a bivouac in one of the open fields, decided to explore the bridges across the Beilervaart (to the south) and the Oranjekanaal (to the north). Two three men patrols were sent to the crossings at Tol and Nijenstate on the Beilervaart. These bridges were found undefended and intact.

    The bridge across the Oranjekanaal at Oranje is a different matter. According to the local residents, German soldiers are stationed at the factory near the bridge. It is decided to commit half a stick to test the bridge defense and, if possible, to remove the explosives that undoubtedly have been installed by the Germans. Around midday on April 8th, two groups of paras sneak in the direction of the bridge. A group of three men led by Philippe Paris installs itself on the left to provide flank coverage. The other group - five men strong - led by 1st Sergeant Julliard, heads directly for the bridge, but before they reach the bridge a firefight breaks out. The German defenders prove to be too strong. A group of German soldiers crosses the canal further to the west with a boat and surprise the French in the flank. Unable to retreat five paras, some wounded, are captured. The few that manage to get away, flee back to the bivouac, with the Germans hot on their heels. The position has now been entirely compromised and the bivouac is abandoned. Eventually the paras are hidden by a farmer in a secret hiding place in a hayloft. Sergeant Julliard, who continues to fire at the German pursuers to distract them from the rest inside the farm, is captured. After the Germans ceased their search for the remaining parachutists, the hiding place is used as a base for further actions until the Allied ground troops reach the area. Unfortunately there are no data on the further actions of the stick.

    It is not known if the paras managed to remove the explosives on the bridge over the Oranjekanaal at Oranje. Probably not, since the Germans blew the bridge the next day.

    Aardappelmeelfabriek Oranje.jpg
    The potato-flour factory of Oranje as it appeared in the 1930's. The building would be completely destroyed during the battle for Beilen, that took place on 12 April 1945 (2nd Cdn Inf Div).
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019 at 5:38 PM
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  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Lagèze - Veenhoopsbrug at Smilde

    Operation Amherst had an ominous start for the Stick Lagèze. The Stirling bomber that carried the stick failed to take off on the evening of 7 April due to engine troubles.
    After it turned out that the technical problems could not be solved with hastily performed repairs the men were transferred to a reserve plane, but it was already well past midnight, too late to take off. The flight therefore was cancelled. Instead of jumping over Holland the disappointed paras found themselves laying on the floor of one of the outbuildings of Dumow airfield, awaiting the night and trying to get some sleep with their parachute packs as a pillow.

    Next night, April 8/9, the stick was flown to Holland and jumped near Smilde. Two men are lost in jumping accidents. One of the stick - by the name of Guyon - breaks his leg upon landing. In early morning he is handed over to the Dutch who load him on a handcart and hide him in a farm, were he is taken care of by the local doctor. A second member of the stick - Sergeant Jean Marie Ravenel - is killed; his parachute got entangled with a supply container and he fell to his death. His liveless body is wrapped in his parachute by his mates and is hidden under some bushes not far from the drop zone.

    9614608cb03b094533350881e55f48ce67f02e6d355aedee26af941a1e2534e9 aa.jpg
    Men and supply containers were dropped at the same time from the Stirling bombers; preferably the containers were dropped halfway through the stick, after the first half of the men had jumped, to ensure that the containers landed in the center of the area where the paras came down. Sergeant Ravenel was the ninth men in the row and probably jumped simultaneously with the last container that had been released. Below: Ravenel now rests in a combined War Grave at the Local Cemetery of Smilde (photo courtesy Nederlandse Oorlogsgraven Smilde - Smilde - TracesOfWar.nl)

    Grave of Ravanel Smilde.jpg Grave of Ravanel Smilde 2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 4:13 PM
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Despite this tragic start the Stick Lagèze immediately went into action. They decide to attack the main road Meppel - Assen which runs parallel to the Drentsche Hoofdvaart. The stick dropped some 500 meters east of the road and during the hours of darkness could hear the sounds of traffic; enemy columns retreating along the road to Assen.That same afternoon they ambushed a small convoy of enemy soldiers moving along the main road with horse carts and inflict severe losses on them.

    During the action the French discovered a bridge at the southern end of Smilde - called the Veenhoopsbrug - where the main road through Smilde switches across and continues on the opposite bank of the Drentsche Hoofdvaart. Lagèze decides to attack the bridge that same evening. The bridge guard, which consists of five men is quickly overwhelmed, one sentry is killed the others are taken prisoner and handed over to the Dutch resistance who guard them. Jan Vervoort a farmer from Smilde removed the explosives from under the bridge. After having accomplished their mission the French paras retreat to the bivouac for some rest and food. Next night, April 10th, they returned to the bridge but ran into enemy opposition. The Germans have reoccupied the bridge. In a firefight that lasts for two hours the enemy is driven off. None of the French paras is hurt. The Germans have lost several men killed and wounded, while the French paras return to the bivouac with three POWs. During daytime the Germans have undermined the bridge again, but a stout-hearted Jan Vervoort with the help of his father for a second time removed the explosives. On the evening of 11 April the French once more move out against the bridge. This time there are no guards and the paras take up defensive positions around the bridge using the German trenches. After a while they are attacked by a strong fighting patrol of about 60 Germans who were sent down from Assen. In the ensuing firefight the Germans suffer several casualties. The French paras again disengage, regroup and return unscratched to their bivouac. On April 12th the French return and occupy the bridge again. This time they have come to stay. In the course of the 12th they are relieved by the Canadian ground forces.

    Smilde  Veenhoopsbrug.jpg
    The Veenhoopsbrug at Smilde as it appeared before the war. At this point the main road to Assen switches across the canal and continues its parallel course to the canal on the other bank.

    The old pivot bridge over the canal has been replaced after the war by a modern draw bridge. For the location and a picture of the new bridge see: Veenhoopsbrug Smilde - Smilde - TracesOfWar.nl

    Story - my paraphrase - courtesy: Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945"; I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 9:35 PM
  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stick Thomé - Diever & Dieverbrug

    Lieutenant Edgar Thomé (alias Tom) and his stick came down in the wooded area called Hezer Esch to the northeast of Diever, some 4 miles south of the intended Drop Zone. It took them considerable time to orient themselves and it was only by daybreak that Lieutenant Thomé learned from some civilians who were walking through the woods, that he was near Diever. The stick thereupon established a bivouac in the woods just opposite the Armen-Werkhuis along the Groningerweg. There are no data available of the actions on the 8th.

    On Monday 9 April the Stick Thomé successfully laid an ambush on the road along the Drentsche Hoofdvaart and interdicted German transport along this important traffic artery for the rest of the day. The paras intercepted several enemy vehicles. A German staff car was destroyed and its occupants, some staff officers, among whom the Gestapo-chief of Den Haag (The Hague), were killed. The staff car yielded lots of documents with valuable information about the enemy forces and logistical support in Western Holland. A cargo boat, filled with machines and ammunition, and a smaller tug, sailing past through the canal, were also attacked and destroyed. Both barges were sunk with explosives and the German ship's crew either killed or taken prisoner. Finally, in late afternoon, a group of seven individuals, two Germans and five Dutch collaborators (policemen members of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD)) were apprehended by the French. Three promptly surrendered but four of the Dutch policemen made a run for it. One plunged into the canal and tried to escape by swimming across. All four were shot by the French paras and killed. The Dutch policeman who had surrendered thereupon was also shot by the French and left for dead at the canal side, though he survived. He later was convinced that he had been shot by German Fallschirmjäger, since the soldiers spoke fluent German; he probably spoke to one of the Alsatians. As a result of the French action all traffic along the Drentsche Hoofdvaart was completely paralyzed. From then on no more traffic was seen.

    Diever - Dwingelo Map aa.jpg
    1 = Hezenes where the stick Thomé gathered after the landing; 2 = De Haarsluis site of the ambush on April 9th.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019 at 7:56 PM
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  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    In the afternoon of the 9th the local resistance leader of Diever - mr. Wiglema -, who had tapped the telephones in the switch board of the locale Post Office, overheard a telephone conversation of the NSB-mayor of Diever with the Wehrmachtskommandant Assen in which the mayor informed the Wehrmachtskommandant of the presence of French paratroopers and urgently requested for military assistance. Though the Wehrmachtskommandant replied that was unable to supply any troops at the moment and that the mayor had to fend for himself, it was apparent that the NSB-mayor and his close assistent, the local leader of the Landwacht, posed a severe risk. Thereupon Wiglema requested the lieutenent Thomé to arrest both men. A group of paras went to Diever and arrested the mayor, the local leader of the Landwacht however got away by hiding himself in his house. Local resistance fighters, lightly armed with pistols, were posted inside the village that afternoon and evening to keep a look out for the latter. Not a harmless pastime since now and then small groups German soldiers on the retreat passed through the village on bicycle or in vehicles.

    Next day great tension arose between the inhabitants of Diever, who felt more and more liberated, and some of the remaining Dutch NSB-ers who started to pack up for a flight from the village. This eventually ended in a scuffle in the early afternoon. Though the fighters were separated by the local police, one of the NSB-ers sent for help from a German detachment encamped at nearby Steenwijk. In the afternoon at about 16:00 hours a group of five German soldiers appeared in the village who were clearly not on the run, but were sizing up the situation. Warned by his men, Wiglema immediately went to the bivouac of the paras to ask them for help. Lieutenant Thomé thereupon decided to sent half his stick - eight men - to the village to capture the Germans. Cautiously sneaking through ditches and brushwood along the side of the road, the small group of paras approached the village unseen. At the eastern edge of Diever they ran into a larger group of Germans. Two strong detachments, together in about company-strength, surrounded Diever from the direction of Wapse (west) and Wittelte (south); a German truck filled with soldiers stopped at the eastern edge of the village and blocked the exit on that side of the village. The French paras decided to engage the latter group. Using the cover of the ditches they crawled unperceived to within hand grenade range and threw some "gammon" bombs at the German position, killling and wounding several of the enemy. In the ensuing firefight about ten Germans were killed or wounded, including the commanding officer. The French paras disengaged and moved back to the bivouac in the woods opposite the Armen Werkhuis. Now that the position had been compromised, it was decided to move the bivouac, including six Germans prisoners, to a new location in the forests near the Haarsluis. Later in the evening the Germans, who did not dare to move out from the village to engage the paras, started to shoot at the wooded area where they suspected the paras with an artillery piece which they had received as reinforcement. Several houses in the area and the shed of the Armen Werkhuis were set on fire by this gun.

    Meanwhile inside the village the Germans took their revenge on the population. With a lot of rage and yelling they randomly arrested 11 men. Who later that evening were executed at the edge of the local cemetery, on command of an officer of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) commander Habener, who arrived by staff car from Steenwijk and personally took part in the execution by emptying a magazine from a sub-machine gun on the defenseless victims. Surprisingly one man survived the shooting. After playing dead for a while he managed to get away after nightfall, though he had been hit twice by bullets.

    Diever monument.jpg
    The local war monument at Diever remembers of the victims of the execution of April 10th (and other wartime dead of the village): Monument De Zwerfkei - Diever - TracesOfWar.nl

    Story - my paraphrase - with courtesy to Opraekelen, orgaan van de Historische Vereniging Diever, april 1995 and Col. Roger Flamand: "AMHERST : les parachutistes de la France libre, 3e et 4e SAS, Hollande 1945"; I used the Dutch translation of this book by Jaap Jansen
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019 at 9:52 PM
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