VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest

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

  1. Captain Roel

    Captain Roel Junior Member

    12 Feb 45 around 11: 00h Maj Donald Wallace Beales (Border regiment) commander Delta company who had set up his headquarters at the start of the railroad stood outside and sent his ordonnans Private John Smith (a simple soldier of gypsy descent who could not read and write, his letters were always read by his buddy and if he wanted to write back his buddy did that for him) when private Smith walked away towards the battalion headquarters he turned around and called against Major Beales until in 20 minutes a few minutes later Major Beales was hit by the shards of a grenade and he dies on the spot Private ten minutes later, a shrapnel hits him and he also dies on the spot. They are now lying next to each other in the Commonwealth cemetery behind the church in Milsbeek.

    Milsbeek War Cemetery II-D-3 Donald Wallace BEALES [M].jpg
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945
    Name: Donald Beales
    Given Initials: D W
    Rank: Major
    Death Date: 12 Feb 1945
    Number: 105565
    Birth Place: Essex
    Residence: Sussex
    Branch at Enlistment: Infantry
    Theatre of War: Western Europe Campaign, 1944/45
    Regiment at Death: Border Regiment
    Branch at Death: Infantry

    Service Number 105565
    Died 12/02/1945
    Aged 27
    Border Regiment
    attd. 5th Bn.
    Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
    Son of Wallace Edgar and Edith Florence Beales; husband of Eileen Marjorie Beales, of West Worthing, Sussex.


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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2.2 Gennep 2nd phase - enlarging the Gennep bridgehead (12 - 14 Feb 45)

    In the evening of the 11th a conference was held at HQ 153 Bde at Kanonskamp and orders issued for the operations of Feb 12th. At a time depending on completion of the bridge across the Niers the Bde would advance on to the high ground to the south and southeast of Gennep, the area of Heijen and Genneperheide, with the object of freeing the 30 Corps axis in the direction of Hekkens and obtaining sufficient elbow room to allow the construction of the 8 Corps bridge across the Meuse at Gennep. Main Bde HQ moved to Ottersum.

    'Spandau Bridge': 14 Fd Sqn RE attd from the Guards Armoured Division, working under considerable enemy fire on 11 Feb and during the night of 11/12 Feb completed the bridge over the bloated river Niers by 10:30 hrs on 12 Feb. Later on a double bridge was laid across the Niers.

    Images of the bridge building can be found in the attached You Tube video:

    The 14 Field Squadron had several casualties at the bridge as a result of enemy shelling, one man was killed:

    DIXON, PETER, Lance Serjeant 2000545, February 11, 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 11.

    On the 12th, at 14:30 hrs, the 153 Bde assisted by very heavy artillery support attacked with 1 Gordons on the right, with Heijen as objective, and 5/7 Gordons to the left, which had to clear the southeast part of Gennep and the wooded outside area of the Genneperheide. The start of the operation was delayed by trouble with the smoke screen but after this initial setback the attack rapidly gained momentum against crumbling resistance. The 1st Gordons progressed more rapidly than then the 5/7th but by about 17:00 hrs both battalions were firm on their objectives. 68 POWs were taken during the day - half of these by a Troop of the Derbyshires in an advance towards the hamlet of IJshovel; the POWs came from a variety of units including III./20. FJ Regt and I. and III./2. FJ Regt. The operations of both Gordon battalions are described in more detail below.

    Map of the area:
    Map general.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 10:37 AM
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1st Gordon Highlanders at Heijen

    In the morning of the 12th, 'D' Coy of the 5th Black Watch, as a preliminary to the operation of 1st Gordons, cleared the area of the railway station which was still in enemy hands. It was during this action that the Company commander Major Donald Beales and his company runner Pte John Smith (aka Jocky) were killed, in what would become a grim Black Watch legend as explained in the previous post # 21. Major Beales sent Smith back to battalion HQ with an urgent message. As Pte Smith set off down the road, he shouted back to his officer, 'I'll see you in twenty minutes, sir'. In the next moment Major Beales was killed by a mortar bomb. Twenty minutes later young Jocky suffered exactly the same fate.

    Beales & Smith.jpg
    Major Beales, OC 'D' Coy, 5th Black Watch and his company runner, Pte Smith, now rest side-by-side at the Milsbeek War Cemetery

    Account from the War Diary of the 5th Black Watch:
    5 Bw 1.jpg

    The attack on the Station went in with the support of two Troops (No. One and Three) of Crocodiles of 'A' Sqn of the 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. The Regt History recounts: "In the attack one platoon of infantry were to lead the Crocodiles towards the objective. But the track was hard to follow and the tanks had to make their way between several houses to get back to the correct route. In the process they did no good at all to several gardens. Within range of the Station the Crocodiles functioned splendidly, heartily flamed the buildings, forcing the enemy garrison to retreat in disorder across the fields. The infantry had never worked with flame before and apparently did not realize it was safe to attack the instant the Troop Leader gave his signal to go ahead. The assault was held for a minute or two with the result that a number of the enemy, who by rights ought to have spent the rest of the war in a cage, got away. The Troop then advanced to the next objective, the rows of houses. These they flamed with such effect that twelve of them were completely gutted in a short time. The Black Watch then asked for still more flame for another house because of the persistent fire which came from it, and which was pinning the foot soldiers down. In spite of heavy mortaring from the enemy, Troop Three of 'A' Sqn were happy to oblige with a further little deed of kindness. They quickly made fireworks of the house which was holding out, whereupon the infantry dashed forward and reached their objectives. Lieutenant Bowbly was wounded on the head by shrapnel during the attack and two trailers were knocked about but remained serviceable. On the whole a thoroughly successful action with all the objectives occupied and very light casualties."

    Lieutenant Cuthbert P.S Bowlby, in command of No.3 Troop, 'A' Sqn Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, received an immediate M.C. for his part in the attack against the Station at Gennep:
    Bowlby 1 F&F Yeo 12.s Gennep 1.jpg Bowlby 1 F&F Yeo 12.s Gennep 2.jpg

    Lieutenant Douglas Crockett of 'D' Coy of the 5th Black Watch was awarded an immediate MC for his actions on the 12th. He took over command of 'D' Coy after his Coy CO, Major Beales, was killed and coordinated the attack on the Station and the houses in the vicinity:
    Crocket D Coy 5th BW Gennep 12.2 1.jpg Crocket D Coy 5th BW Gennep 12.2 2.jpg

    Train Station Gennep.jpg
    Old prewar picture of the railway station at Gennep. The station and railway are gone nowadays. The rail line was known as Boxtelter Baan, which connected the town of Boxtel (in Holland) with Wesel (in Germany). Below: a post war picture of what was left of the torched Station building (courtesy: Van Dinter, Gennep in de Wereldbrand 39/45).

    Gennep burned out Station.jpg

    Aerial Gennep Station area.jpg
    Aerial of the Station area (Oct 1944) and railway line on the southern fringe of Gennep: 1. Factory building occupied by 1 Gordons; 2. Station; 3. Aurora factory occupied by enemy paratroopers; 4. Paper Mill.

    Map of the subsequent advance of the 1 Gordon Highlanders; which is the map of the War Diary projected on a contemporary map (courtsesy Bedee):
    Map advance 1 G (totaal).jpg

    Account of the operation of 1 Gordons from the War diary of the battalion:
    P1400038 a.jpg P1400039 a.jpg P1400041 a.jpg 1 Gordons Map WD.jpg

    Captain Ian Lesley Kidd, 127 Fd Regt who was acting as FOO with the 1st Gordons, received a MC for his actions in the attack. At Heyen he went forward on foot through a mine-field to establish an OP in a house well in front of the own line from where he successfully directed artillery fire on the enemy for an hour and a half :
    Cpt Kidd 127 Fd Regt.jpg Cpt Kidd 127 Fd Regt aa.jpg

    Prewar picture of the small village of Heijen which was reached by by 1 Gordons by late afternoon of Feb 12th. Below: prewar picture of the Castle of Heijen (called Kasteel in the report of 1 Gordons). 'B' Coy of 1 Gordons took up position at Heijen level with the castle. Next day the position was counterattacked and German paratroopers managed to infiltrate back into the Castle, threatening the right flank of the battalion.
    Kasteel Heyen.jpg

    The small Heijen Castle nevertheless survived the war and still exists:
    Heijen Castle.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 10:44 AM
  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5/7 Gordons clearing the eastern part of Gennep

    Gennep east 12 Feb.jpg

    In the afternoon of the 12th, at 15:00 hrs, the 5/7 Gordons passed through the 5 Black Watch position at the Picardie and started clearing the eastern part of Gennep north of the railway line. Extremely heavy enemy shell fire caused a lot of casualties even before the battalion could get started. The two companies in the lead ('C' on the left and 'B' on the right) encountered stiff enemy resistance, especially at the two residential blocks, known as 'Genapium' at the time (nowadays the area between the Groene Kruisstraat and St.Martinus-/St.Norbertstraat). Enemy resistance was finally broken with the support of tanks and Crocodiles. From 'Genapium' the Gordons had a clear view of the ruined and burned out Paper Mill factory. The complex had been hit by an aerial bombardment earlier in the fall of 1944. German MGs fired from the ruined building but were driven off by the fire of a Troop of tanks that was called forward. This enabled the Gordons to advance further and occupy the objectives, astride the railway line in a sand dune area, called 'De Looijerheide', by nightfall and dig in. Casualties for that day were 7 men killed and 25 wounded, including Major G.I. Gammie, OC 'B' Coy. In the operations both Gordon battalions of 153 Bde on Feb 12th together captured 68 POWs from a variety of units including III./FJ Regt 20 and I. & III./FJ Regt 2.

    Account from the War Diary of the battalion:
    WO_171_5198_0006 a.jpg WO_171_5198_0007 a.jpg

    The night was very quiet and at first light both Gordon battalions started clearing up their areas. 'B' Sqn 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry started patrolling forward on each battalion front and reported that the enemy was still in Hommersum and the woods at 7941. The 5/7th Gordons moved up to elevated ground dominating the approaches to Hommersum and at about 15:30 hours reported three SP's and about 80 infantry forming up for a counterattack. The enemy at the same also started probing determinedly in the wooded area near the 1st Gordons and attempted to infiltrate with his infantry between the battalion and the Meuse river. This was also countered and the enemy withdrew again at about 20:15 hours.

    For an account of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry see the attached report of 'B' Sqn from the War Diary. The Sqn was attached to 153 Bde and moved into the Gennep bridgehead on the 12th, first probing towards IJshovel and Hommersum on the 12th and 13th. On the latter date, the Sqn took over a Coy position from the 5/7 Gordons on the eastern flank of the bridgehead until taken over by the 32 Guards Bde. On the 15th a last recce was made of the southern extremities of the bridgehead position. Most of the action took place in a wooded sand-dune landscape with poor sandy tracks:

    PICT0032 a.jpg PICT0034 a.jpg

    During the next days, from 14 to 16 Feb 45, meeting slight enemy opposition, the battalions of the 153 Bde pushed further to the southeast and cleared the wooded areas in squares 7941 and 7941 until relieved on the 17th by the 157 Bde of the 52nd Lowland Division. On the latter date the 153 Bde moved back to Gennep to rest and reorganize for the next move: the attack on Goch.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 10:59 AM
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The fallen in the 153 Bde operation at Gennep (11 - 17 Feb 1945)

    5th Black Watch

    1. BOYCE, CHARLES, Private 14731737 February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 1.
    2. BRECKENRIDGE, JOHN , Private 14709013, February 14, 1945, Age 19, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY, VIII. F. 3.
    3. CHAPMAN, JOHN FRANCIS DAVID, Private 6470942, February 11, 1945, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 6.
    4. GROVE, ALBERT ARTHUR, Private 14437268, February 12, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 4.
    5. HUNTER, JAMES, Private14761065, February 11, 1945, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 7.
    6. JENNINGS, GEORGE ALFRED, Serjeant 3321910, February 11, 1945, Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 9.
    7. MACDONALD, JEAN ROBERT, Lieutenant 293993, February 12, 1945, Age 30, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 3.
    8. McCARTHY, THOMAS, Private 14775634, February 14, 1945, Age 19, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY, VIII. F. 7.
    9. McGRAW, ALEXANDER FOX, Private 1795897, February 11, 1945, Age 23, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 8.
    10. McMAHON, JAMES, Lance Serjeant 2762875, February 11, 1945, Age 33, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 10.
    11. MASSON, JOSEPH, Private 14741686, February 12, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 5.
    12. MILNE, RAMSAY, Lance Corporal 14442410, February 14, 1945, Age 20, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY, VIII. F. 4.
    13. ROBERTSHAW, JOHN, Corporal 2760831, February 11, 1945, Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 2
    14. SMITH, JOHN, Private3323651, February 12, 1945 Age 29, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. D. 4.
    15. THOMPSON, EDWARD, Private 14701368, 17 February 1945, Age 19, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY 3. E. 2.

    and attd to 5 Black Watch:
    16. BEALES, DONALD WALLACE, Major 105565, February 12, 1945, Age 27, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. D. 3
    17. FOSTER, WILLIAM ALAN, Lieutenant 314199, 14 February 1945, Age 30, MIERLO WAR CEMETERY VIII. F. 6.

    20190606_144930 Black Watch Graves.jpg

    1st Gordon Highlanders
    1. DIXON, BERNARD JAMES, Private 3535497, February 13, 1945, Age 21, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 9.
    2. DUNLOP, WILLIAM HUNTER, Serjeant 3061092, February 13, 1945, Age 25, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 12.
    3. SPENCE, NORMAN AITCHISON, Private 14718898, February 13, 1945 Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 11.
    4. TITCHINER, FREDERICK CHARLES, Private 14428792, 16 February 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. G. 10.

    20190606_144448 Gordon Graves.jpg

    5/7 Gordon Highlanders
    1. PARTRIDGE, ERNEST JOHN, Private1118031, February 14, 1945, Age 24, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 7. F. 7.
    2. FELTON, FRANK, Corporal 4915899, February 12, 1945, Age 26, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 3.
    3. FRASER, JOHN, Private 14790215, February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 1.
    4. HOLLINGER, WILLIAM, Private14698604, February 13, 1945, Age 19, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 8.
    5. JENNINGS, ARTHUR, Private4923633, February 11, 1945, Age 24, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 17.
    6. MALCOLM, THOMAS, Private 3059482, February 12, 1945, Age 28, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 7.
    7. McDIARMID, DUNCAN, Private14441524, February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 5.
    8. SEDDON, JOHN LEWIS, Private 1626649, February 12, 1945, Age 31, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 4.
    9. TURNER, FREDERICK CHARLES, Private14680138, February 12, 1945, Age 20, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 6.
    10. WEBSTER, ROBERT SCOTT, Private14790272, February 12, 1945, Age 18, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY, II. G. 2.

    News paper McDiarmid.jpg
    (Newspaper snippet Courtesy DK1983)

    276 Field Coy (in support of 153 Bde)

    1. GRAHAM, THOMAS PROUDFOOT, Sapper 211928, 13 February 1945, Age 24, MILSBEEK WAR CEMETERY II. C. 1.

    Derbyshire Yeomanry:

    1. MUCKLOW, PETER, Lieutenant 295890, February 13, 1945 Age 23, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 19. G. 1.

    Jonkerbos Mucklow.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3. The Path through the Wood: 152 Bde

    Path through the wood 152 Bde.jpg

    While the 153 Bde was fighting for Gennep the remainder of the 51st Highland Division shouldered its way into the Reichswald forest. The task of leading the advance into the forest was given to the 152 Bde, which had not been committed on Day 1 of the operation. The brigade axis ran along the Kartenspielerweg, a seven mile long straight forest ride running from west to southeast through the forest. The forest ride intersects the two lateral roads running through the Reichswald. After four miles it makes a junction with the main road from Kranenburg/Frasselt to Goch; two miles further on, it crosses the main road from Cleve to Gennep. Though the Kartenspielerweg carries on for a few miles after the latter junction, it peters out in the forests north of Kessel.

    Plans for the 152 Bde's attack were already made in the first week of Feb 45. The brigade had issued a detailed Operation Order No.12 on Feb 4th to the units, which gave five phases for the attack, each named after a fruit: Apple, Banana, Cherry, Damson and Fig. In general the plan amounted to an advance with the three battalions of the Bde leap-frogging through the forest along the Kartenspielerweg, which was codenamed 'Homer', with the objective of capturing the crossroads of Hekkens and seizing the bridge across the River Niers at Kessel. Both were essential for a continuation of the advance of the Highland Division towards Goch. Hekkens, which lay just across the border inside Germany, was an important crossroads. Here the two lateral roads through the Reichswald come together. Since the crossroads also lay within the main enemy defensive line (Siegfriedline), it was expected to be well defended. The divisional plan assumed that Hekkens would be seized by the end of D+1.

    Op Order No. 12 152 Bde:
    Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 1.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 2.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 3.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 4.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 5.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 6.jpg Op Order 152 Bde Veritable 7.jpg

    Hekkens Crossroads Plan of attack 152 Bde.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 12:03 PM
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.1 Phase I: Apple (Feb 9th, 45)

    152 Bde Phase I APPLE.jpg

    Leading the 152 Bde's advance was the 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, commanded by Lt.Col. Derek B. Lang, DSO, MC. The Queen Own Camerons arrived in the assembly area by 06:45 hrs on the 9th, but the start of the attack was delayed owing to 5/7 Gordons not being firm on their objectives, the high ground dominating the entrance of the 152 Bde axis into the Reichswald. At 10:00 hrs the QOCH started off. The order of march was 'D' Coy, 'B' Coy, Bn HQ, HQ Coy, followed by 'A' and 'C' Coys. From the start it was apparent that the advance of 152 Bde was going to be slow and hard. The enemy was giving way grudgingly. Groups of enemy well equipped with MGs were strung out along the axis. The thickness of the forest made it well nigh impossible or at least immensely difficult to deploy far from the axis - hence the battle rapidly resolved itself into a series of fights between said MGs and the leading Cameron infantry which fights occasionally increased in scope until the whole of the leading company was involved in manoeuvre. Progress was slow and costly. A troop of tanks supported the leading 'D' Coy (Captain R.C. MacCunn), but after 200 yards a large crater was encountered in the road track which successfully held up the tanks. Some 300 yards further down the track 'D' Coy met more determined opposition and was held up. Colonel Lang ordered 'B' Coy (Major Donald F. Callander) to right flank in order to try and turn the south flank of the enemy and a very spirited engagement followed in which 'B' Coy accounted for many of the enemy. The situation still being in the balance 'C' Coy, under Major J.L. Melville, DSO, was deployed. Major Melville decided that the answer to the tactical problem was a bayonet charge, and he himself led his company in with great dash. Supported by three tanks which at last rejoined the Battalion and then fired high explosive point-blank into the enemy dug-outs, causing terrible casualties, the company achieved its objective. The enemy was thoroughly demoralized and many surrendered. In the engagement Major Melville, the Coy CO, was wounded by a shell splinter and had to be evacuated.

    Thereafter the advance was continued with 'B' and 'C' Coys on the left and 'D' Coy advancing astride the road track, the tanks moving on 'D' Coys right flank. A thousand yards or so farther a cross-tracks was reached and enemy opposition encountered. At this moment Captain Beaton, who had taken over command of 'C' Coy, appeared on the scene with one of his platoons, and without further ado, dashed out towards the center of the enemy position shouting to his men, who followed like a pack of hounds. Everyone expected him to become a casualty, but instead, those of the enemy that escaped bayonetting surrendered and the cross-tracks fell into the Battalion's hand. A number of wounded were picked up and forty dead were counted near the objective. The Cameron's battle lasted until 16:00 hrs at which time it was reported that they had reached their objectives and were mopping up the APPLE area. An enemy SP gun sent several rounds in the Cameron's direction but no casualties were caused by it. "That first day's fighting", remarks the Cameron's regimental history, "reflected great credit on to the Battalion. A penetration of 1500 yards into the forest had been made, and this against determined opposition. German paratroopers fired until wiped-out at point blank range, while snipers who had not been flushed by the leading troops resolutely continued firing from the immediate flanks and rear." Besides the 40 enemy dead counted near the position, approximately 80 POWs were passed through to the rear.

    Major Donald Fraser Callander, The 'B' Coy CO, 5th Camerons, received a DSO for his actions on the 9th. He personally led his two leading platoons in a successful charge over a fifty yard clearing on an enemy position and accounted for ten enemy dead and wounded:
    Maj Callander 5 Camerons 9 Feb 45.jpg

    5th Cam 1 aa.jpg
    Map overlay from the War Diary the 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, giving the positions by late afternoon of Feb 9th on Objective Apple (Courtesy 51Highland and Bedee).

    Thumbnails: pictures taken at the X-roads in the Kartenspielerweg of the 'Apple' position.
    Apple 3.jpg Apple 1.jpg Apple 2.jpg
    No.1 'D' Coy's position at the X-roads looking east down the Kartenspielerweg; no.2 forest ride to the north of the X-roads looking back at the Kartenspielerweg; no.3 site of 'B' Coy position which was to the left of the ride.

    Now 2 Seaforth were ordered to continue the advance and pass through 5 Camerons and move on to BANANA, commencing at 20:30 hrs. It took considerable time to bring the Seaforth up in the darkness over the muddy forest tracko and it was already 23:45 hrs when they started their operation. The Seaforth had not advanced far past the leading Camerons when they bumped into an enemy strongpoint. It proved impossible to dislodge the enemy in the dark, thick woods and the advance was halted. The 2nd Seaforth were ordered to patrol at first light and give report on enemy found. Here is the position as 2 Seaforth saw it that night: "The front was fluid in the extreme and enemy snipers and MG teams were dodging around. The supporting tanks were rendered practically immobile by the thick woods and undergrowth. Enemy shelling and mortaring was heavy and in the forest it was impossible to tell from which direction the fire was coming Indeed it seemed to be coming from all around."

    Next day promised to be yet another grim day of forest fighting and in order to speed things up the commander of 152 Bde, Brigadier A.J.H. Cassels, asked for the flame-throwing 'Crocodiles' to be sent forward. The Second Troop of 'A' Sqn, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, commanded by Lieutenant D.J.Dudley, was ordered by Division to stand by for the next morning.

    Corker 34 ArmBde 107 RAC 1.jpg Corker 34 ArmBde 107 RAC 2.jpg
    Sgt Wilfred Corker, a Troop sergeant in 'A' Sqn 107th Regt RAC, earned a MM for his actions in support of the 2nd Seaforth.

    The Kartenspielerweg (codenamed 'Homer') as it appears today. Still running straight through the forest, it has little changed over the years, except that it is now hard surfaced and the trees are no longer coming up to the edge of the road. It's a favourite stretch for racebikers; cars are not allowed in the forest.

    Kartenspieler Bren.jpg
    Bren Carriers moving along the Kartenspielerweg, the axis of 152 Bde's advance through the main forest. The official caption to this photograph: "British advance through the Reichswald Forest. Line of Bren gun carriers moving up to support (the 2nd Bn Seaforth). The infantry of this Bn are hardly discernible as they are crouching down behind trees and cover as their advance is temporarily held up by the machine gun fire. 152 Bde. 51 HD. Germany. Taken by Sgt. Silverside" (Photo IWM).

    Kartenspielerweg bren 2.jpg
    Kartenspielerweg: same spot nowadays. Now a paved road. Note the roadside plowed by wild boar, which are quite common here.

    In the meantime and in order to maintain the impetus of the brigade's attack 5 Seaforth Highlanders were ordered to advance along a light track running parallel and slightly north to the 152 Bde axis. Assigned to the 154 Bde, part of the track already had been cleared by the 7th Argylls who continued their advance at 10:00 hrs in the morning of the 9th, from the positions gained the previous evening. 'D' Coy led the advance with the support of a troop of Churchills, followed by 'A' Coy, Bn HQ and 'B' Coy. 'D' Coy had advanced to an X-tracks almost level with the 5 Camerons without encountering much resistance. As their third Coy left the old location it met opposition. It appeared that the enemy did not show himself when the troops supported by tanks went past, but with infantry who had no tanks they did oppose them. The tanks were called back from 'D' Coy and soon dealt with the resistance. The battalion established itself in the area 821507, mostly in positions and dugouts previously occupied by the enemy, with 'D' Coy and the tanks forward on a slight rise and 'B' on the right and 'A' and Bn HQ behind. The battalion experienced some mortaring and shelling and there was some sniping in 'D' Coy area which caused some casualties. Total casualties for that day being 1 Officer killed and 3 wounded; 1 O.R. killed and 8 wounded.

    At 17:00 hrs the 5th Seaforth passed through the 7th Argylls and, making steady progress, at 20:30 hrs reported being on BUNYAN at 826505. The Seaforth borrowed the troop of tanks that had supported the Argylls. This was all that was reported, but later it bevame evident that an epic battle had taken place at this point in the darkness. As the leading Coy of 5 Seaforth, 'B' Coy, almost emerged on the Hekkens - Kranenburg road, they surprised what was estimated at a battalion of enemy infantry forming up to attack and ran into an artillery preparation. Enemy MGs opened up at 50 yards' range, Bren guns replied, and the darkness was filled with muzzle-flashes and streams of tracer. Neither side could see much, but the Seaforth had the advantage in that they were in battle order and expecting trouble, whereas most of the Germans were still forming on the Hekkens road and only their advance guard had started to move down the forest trail. The 'Jocks' did not hesitate, 'C' Coy, under Major Harmish Paterson, supported by the troop of tanks firing their Besas, went through 'B' Coy and attacked straight into the serried enemy mass and broke it up at the bayonet point. In doing so 5 Seaforth sustained about 50 casualties, including Captain Rusell Ferguson, the CO of 'B' Coy who was killed - but, as the War Diary of the 152 Bde states, "the resulting pile of Hun dead was satisfying to see". The battle had been costly for the 5th Seaforth and the battalion next morning was down to three Coys, but still in contact. They were ordered to stay in the present position and carry out patrolling.

    Lieutenant Patrick Hugh Grant, No.11 Platoon commander in 'B' Coy, 5th Seaforths, was awarded a MC for his actions in the attack on the 9th. The recommendation for his award gives some insight in the closeness and ferociousness of the forest fighting:
    Lt Grant 5 Seafs 9 Feb 1.jpg Lt Grant 5 Seafs 9 Feb 2.jpg

    30 Corps Int Sum no 593 9.2.45.jpg
    Excerpt from the Intel Summ 30 Corps of Feb 9th, 1945. The enemy troops encountered were identified as elements of the FJ Regt 20 of the 7. FJ Division; a unit which formed part of the 1. FJ Armee reserve. Though the 7.FJ Division had only just returned to the Lower Rhine area, after having been engaged in the counterattack in the Alsace (Operation Nordwind), where the division had suffered heavy losses, it was considered by 30 Corps by far the toughest opponent. The combat strength of the 7. FJ Division was estimated by 30 Corps at 6.000 men. The para Division just prior to the battle had received 800 reinforcements from a "March battalion" hastily collected in the Ruhr. Unconfirmed identifications indicated that the rest of the FJ Division was piling into the forest between Kessel and Hau in an effort to seal off the gap torn into the German lines. Luckily for the Highland Division, the arrival of the 7. FJ Division had been delayed by disagreements between Heeresgruppe H and 1. FJ Armee. General Schlemm, the 1. FJ Armee commander, recognized the Reichswald attack as the main Allied effort. Accordingly, already on Feb 8th, he set his reserve 7.FJ Division in motion from the area to the southwest of Venlo towards Goch. General Blaskowitz, the Heeresgruppe H commander, however immediately revoked the order. In his opinion the main Allied blow would fall at Venlo. He considered the Reichswald operation only a diversion. Not until next day, Feb 9th, when it became clear that the Reichswald sector was endangered, the 7.FJ Division was allowed to move north. The first elements of the parachute division arrived at the southern edge of the Reichswald by the end of that day, by that time it was already too late.

    The 5th Seaforth, advanced along the forest track running to the north, parallel to the Kartenspielerweg. This nameless forest ride, more than the 'modern' Kartenspielerweg, breathes the atmosphere of the tracks followed by the British through the forest. The unpaved road soon turned into a muddy mess; that evening the 5th Seaforth reported the road impassable to wheels.

    Nameless%20track%202 Borthwick.jpg
    The distance to the main Kranenburg - Hekkens road is about 4 miles. Fighting in the forest was arduous and time-consuming. Borthwick: "It is almost impossible to describe the atmosphere of the Reichswald. One might say that it was an evil place, that it stank of danger, that it was one long natural ambush, and yet give little clue to the impression it made upon us."

    The junction with the main road Kranenburg - Hekkens, codenamed BUNYAN at 826505, looking south in the direction of Hekkens crossroads. Here the leading Coy of 5 Seaforth ran into a mass of enemy infantry. To the right, near the parked car, the nameless track emerges from the forest. The 5th Seaforth consolidated for the night into a compact defensive perimeter from which it would be prepared to counter enemy infiltration from any direction. Further south, in the right rear of the battalion, the enemy were still holding up the 2nd Seaforth along the Kartenspielerweg. The 53rd Welsh Division was reported to have reached the main road within a mile to the north, but as there was no contact, their exact positions at the time were unknown.

    Near the main road, where the 5th Seaforth Highlanders dug in, dozens of British slit trenches are still visible inside the forest today. Live in the Reichswald forest was pretty grim, aggravated by the weather, the impassibility of the water-logged rides, the difficulty of communications smothered by the trees, the heavy casualties caused by shells, mortar bombs and grenades, bursting in the trees overhead, against which a slit trench was no protection, and the pervading eeriness of the forest.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 1:12 PM
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders lost the following men fallen on the Friday the 9th:

    1. BROWN, WALTER PETER, Private 14498340, February 9, 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 5
    2. CLEARIE, HUGH, Lance Serjeant 3131652, February 9, 1945, Age 26, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 4.
    3. CORMACK, DONALD, Corporal 2933412, February 9, 1945, Age 26, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 12
    4. FINLAYSON, DAVID, Private 2939686, February 9, 1945, Age 22, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 1.
    5. HUGHES, ALBERT EDWARD, Private 14394192, February 9, 1945 Age 28, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 2.
    6. MACHIN, CHARLES, Private14411592, February 9, 1945 Age 20, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 3.
    7. MUNRO, HUGH, Private 2928607, February 9, 1945 Age 34, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 11.
    8. SHELTON, RICHARD, Private14760791, February 9, 1945, Age 18, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 6.
    9. WOMERSLEY, KENNETH, Private14710691,February 9, 1945 Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, I. A. 10.

    See for the headstones of the fallen Camerons: Keep 'em Moving, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, Mook cemetery Holland

    The 2nd Seaforth Highlanders lost the following men:

    1. DUFFY, CHARLES GILLAN, Lance Corporal 14671343, February 9, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 13.
    2. CORBEN, ARTHUR RAYMOND LESLIE, Private11052715, February 9, 1945, Age 23, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 14. G. 1.

    Fallen of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders on that day were:

    1. BONAR, ALEXANDER CRICHTON, Private 14731886, February 9, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 18.
    2. FERGUSON, ARTHUR RUSSELL, Captain 153381, February 9, 1945, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 4
    3. HARRIS, SIDNEY, Private14362879, February 9, 1945, Age 23, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 13.
    4. WISE, WILLIAM LESLIE ALEXANDER, Private 14496597, February 9, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 5.

    Seaforth 9 feb.jpg

    1/7th Bn Middlesex Regiment:
    1. DOLLIN, FRANK, Serjeant 6203399, February 9, 1945, Age 25, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 55. D. 3.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.2 Phase II : Banana/Cherry (Feb 10th, 45)

    Seaforth Reichswald 3.jpg
    A soldier of the 2nd Seaforth, 152 Bde, searches one of the many German dug-outs encountered in the forest. Picture taken by Sgt Silverside. 11.2.1945 (Photo: © IWM (B 14457)).

    On the Kartenspielerweg, the 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders went forward again by 09:30 hrs on the 10th whith the lateral Kranenburg - Hekkens main road as objective (codename BANANA). By 12:00 hours the Seaforth reported to have reached report-line BROOKE, half-way to their objective, with a certain amount of enemy opposition. By 14:00 hours the battalion approached the lateral road but were held up by infantry and an enemy SP gun and an AT-gun that now took a hand against them. One of the supporting Churchills of 'C' Sqn, 107 RAC, was hit and one crewman was killed. The 2nd Seaforth pressed on and by skillful manoeuvre the infantry succeeded in winkling out both weapons without however destroying them. A troop of Crocodiles (No. 2 Troop 'A' Sqn, 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) were put in support of the battalion and proved invaluable in flushing out the deeply dug enemy positions. There was little room to deploy the flame-throwing tanks so the Troop Leader, Lieutenant Dudley, called up only one other of his tanks. The two pressed forward into the wood. They were met with heavy fire. The second tank sent a heavy squirt of flame into the enemy position. Unfortunately a nearby tree was hit and some of the blazing fuel splashed back on the vehicle and his trailer link caught fire. The tank was ordered to withdraw. Lt. Dudley went on himself and closely supported by an infantry platoon flamed and cleared the wood for a distance of three hundred yards. By this time the infantry had run out of ammunition and the only thing to do was to consolidate and count the prisoners. There was a satisfactory badge of seventy-six. By 16:00 hrs 2nd Seaforth had gained objective BANANA, astride the first lateral road through the forest, but mopping up was not completed until much later.

    Lieutenant John S. McMartin, in command of No. 4 Tp, 'C' Sqn 107 RAC, was awarded an immediate MC for his support of the infantry in the Reichswald:
    McMartin 107 C Sqn 1.jpg McMartin 107 C Sqn 2.jpg

    Seaforth Reichswald 4.jpg
    Soldiers of 'B' Coy, 2nd Seaforth, advance along the Kartenspielerweg. The caption of this picture reads: "British advance through the Reichswald Forest. Men (of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders) advancing through the Reichswald Forest. In close support of them are the flame throwing Churchill tanks. (So far no heavy concrete emplacements have been encountered so the flame-throwers have not been in action, but) they advance with the forward troops so that they can be called upon for instanteneous action. Constant sniping and machine gun fire in the dense woodland make the infantry use all the available cover. 152 Bde. 51 HD. Germany. Taken by Sgt Silverside. 11.2.1945." (photo IWM). The Crocodiles in support of the 152 Bde belonged to 'A' Squadron 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry. Over the years I met two of the soldiers in this picture: the second from the left, Pte Ralph J. Allgood, and the fifth from the left, Pte Jim MacLeod. The latter was present at the 75th anniversary ceremonies at Gennep (see post # 111 of this thread (VERITABLE 1945: 51st Highland Division Reichswald Forest).

    Seaforth Reichswald 2.jpg
    Another picture of what seems to be a Coy command group taken at the same site as the previous one (Photo: © IWM (B 14453))

    Text fragment from the regimental history of the Seaforth re the actions of the 2nd Battalion on 10 Feb 45:
    Seaforth 10.2.jpg

    Captain Frank Quilter, in command of one of the leading companies in 2nd Seaforth, was awarded the MC for his actions during the operation on the 10th:
    Cpt Quilter 2 Seafs 10 Feb.jpg

    Pte George Atkin and Pte George Henry Lambeth, both stretcher bearers in the 2nd Seaforth ('C'Coy), were awarded a Military Medal for personally evacuating 40 casualties during the fighting. The citations reflect the severe difficulties encountered with the muddy tracks inside the forest, which eventually made even the evacuation of the wounded nearly impossible.
    Atkin 2nd Seaforth 1.jpg Atkin 2nd Seaforth 2.jpg
    Lambeth 2nd Seaforth 1.jpg Lambeth 2nd Seaforth 2.jpg

    The 152 Bde pressed on. At 16:00 hrs 5 Camerons passed through 2 Seaforth, who were still bothered by an enemy pocket in front of their position, with orders to move on to CHERRY astride the next lateral road, the main Cleve - Hekkens road, some one-and-a-half miles further to the east. The Crocodiles again were instrumental in the advance. With darkness falling heavy fighting developed again but somehow the Camerons managed to press forward until, by 19:30 hrs, they reached CHERRY but they were still fighting. A number of casualties was caused when the enemy made a counter-attack. It was beaten off successfully. Close contact was enforced on 5 Camerons during the whole of the night and small arms skirmishing persisted all along the battalion's front until well into the following morning.

    Fragment from the regimental history of the Camerons (Courtesy 51Highland):
    Camerons fragment.jpg

    Lieutenant Douglas J. Dudley, in command of the No. 4 Troop, 'A' Sqn of the 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, was awarded an immediate MC for his actions in support of the 5th Camerons:
    Dudley 1 F&F Yeo 11 5 C.jpg

    Captain Beaton, a Platoon commander in 'C' Coy of the 5th Camerons, was awarded a MC for his action on the 10th when his company cut the main Cleve - Hekkens road:

    Cpt Beaton 5 Camerons 10 Feb.jpg

    Sgt David McClew, a platoon sergeant in 'C' Coy , 5 Camerons, was awarded a DCM for his actions during the final stage of the attack on the Cleve - Hekkens road. The recommendation (again) bears testimony of the closeness and ferociousness of the forest fighting. McClew and his men accounted for 20 of the enemy, wounded and killed:
    Sgt McCLew 5 Camerons.jpg

    5th Cams 2 aa.jpg
    A map overlay from the War Diary of the 5th Camerons gives the position reached by the battalion by late evening of Feb 10th near the second lateral road through the Reichswald: Objective CHERRY (Courtesy 51Highland & Bedee).
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 1:23 PM
  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Objective BANANA & CHERRY

    Seaforth Reichswald 1.jpg
    Infantry of the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders cautiously move forward through the forest towards objective Banana. This picture of 2nd Seaforth men in the Reichswald was taken on 11 Feb 45 (Photo: © IWM (B 14455))

    After about 4 miles the Kartenspielerweg debouches on the main Kranenburg - Hekkens road, the first lateral road through the forest. Picture taken with a view to the west.This area was codenamed BANANA and seized by the 2nd Seaforth in the afternoon of the 10th.

    Turning around at the same spot as the above picture and viewing towards the east. The Kartenspielerweg continues as an unpaved track through the forest. After about one-and-a-half miles it intersects with the next north-south road, the Cleve - Hekkens road: a junction codenamed CHERRY. While the 2nd Seaforth were still mopping up enemy resistance at BANANA , the 5th Camerons moved down this track towards objective CHERRY in the afternoon of the 10th.

    Some 500 yards down the track towards the east. This stretch of the Kartenspielerweg resembles the old forest ride much more than the western part of the road, which nowadays has been broadened and is hard surfaced.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2020 at 1:25 PM
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fallen of the 152 Bde on Saturday Feb 10th:

    5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders:
    1. GLEDHILL, WILLIAM, Private14668728 , February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 8.
    2. JONES, CHRISTOPHER WILLIAM, Private 4922889, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 13.
    3. KIRK, WILLIAM, Private 3320430, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 9.
    4. LOGAN, THOMAS, Private 14678728, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 1.
    5. RICKABY, NEVILLE ALAN CECIL, Second Lieutenant 338827, February 10, 1945, Age 24, MOOK WAR CEMETERY I. A. 7.

    See for the headstones of the fallen Camerons: Keep 'em Moving, Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, Mook cemetery Holland

    2nd Seaforth Highlanders:
    1. JONES, ARTHUR WILLIAM, Private 14779913, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 9.
    2. RATCLIFFE, JOHN, Private 4865673, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 2.
    3. PATRICK, ROBERT, Private 14709401, February 10, 1945, Age 19, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 22.
    4. RICHARDSON, ROBERT, Corporal 10602131, February 10, 1945, Age 22, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 12.
    5. SHAW, WALTER, Corporal 3197031, February 10, 1945 Age 35, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 20.
    6. SMITH, LEONARD JAMES, Private 975253, February 10, 1945, Age 29, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 10.
    7. SUTHERLAND, JAMES, Private 2828156, February 10, 1945, Age 25, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. B. 11.
    8. WATSON, HERBERT, Private 1554918, February 10, 1945, Age 29, MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 23.
    9. FORSYTH, PETER MIROY, Second Lieutenant 330385, February 10, 1945 MOOK WAR CEMETERY II. A. 19

    107th Regt RAC:
    1. HALES, WILLIAM HENRY ALEXANDER, Trooper 6030226, Saturday, February 10, 1945, Age 31, RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY, 12. D. 25.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.3 Phase III: the attack on Hekkens Crossroads (morning Feb 11th, 45)

    In the evening of Feb 10, while the Camerons were fighting forward towards the second lateral road, the 5 Seaforth at BUNYAN, at 20:30 hrs, received orders to advance to Hekkens and capture the crossroads. The division now was a full day behind schedule; it had been assumed that Hekkens would fall by the end of D+1. The 7th Argylls took over the 5th Seaforth' position at BUNYAN and at 01:00 hrs (Feb 11th) the Seaforth were ready to move and cautiously led off the attack moving down the main road past BANANA in a frontal attack against the crossroads. 'C' Coy was in the lead followed by 'D' and 'A'. Heavy rain was falling. Progress was slow and there were many halts, but nevertheless progress was made and hopes began to rise. A heavy barrage was sweeping the ground ahead of them; and as far as the bend in the road they met no opposition. After half an hour the leading section approached the Anti-Tank ditch near the southern edge of the Reichswald at 828486, and as they went forward to investigate it all hell broke lose. They came under intense artillery and small arms fire in the darkness. Moreover the AT-ditch breached the road at this point which meant that no supporting tanks could get forward into Hekkens along with the infantry. In an attempt to overrun the opposition 'D' Coy was passed through 'C' and 'A' Coy was moved up on the east side of the road with a view of outflanking the position from the left. The attempts to resume the advance proved unsuccessful and the battalion axis was now subjected to heavy defensive fires from all weapons at the enemy's disposal. The two leading companies were pinned down in a ditch by the road side, some 50 yards from the main enemy defenses. The battalion remained in these positions for the rest of the morning. 'D'Coy right forward and 'A' Coy left forward and 'C' in reserve. The OC the battalion, Lt.Col. Sym, was wounded in the neck but remained on duty.

    "It was an abominable place",
    recounts the regimental history of the Seaforth, "'C'Coy and Bn HQ were so close to the Germans that they could hear the NCO's giving fire-orders; and the leading men were inside grenade range. The ditch was deep, but not deep enough to stand in. There was so little room that at one time men were lying on top of each other three-deep to keep under cover. Outside, the fixed lines of the spandaus were firing tracer at stomach-height; and the only safe way forward was to crawl along the ditch, over all the bodies. In places the piles of humanity were so deep that even this method left the crawler exposed. The stretcher-bearers, unable to stoop and carry simultaneously, did magnificent work in carrying the wounded back through the hail of bullets in the open, but many of them were hit. Lelsie Forshaw-Wilson, who took over command when Colonel Sym went to Brigade, had been wounded before he could issue any orders. Hector Mackenzie took over and continued to explore the enemy flanks. The Colonel resumed command, and gradually the congestion in the ditch was sorted out. Bodies were only one deep now. The firing slackened. By dawn only a few snipers were active, and after the alarms of the night there was relative peace now."

    Pte Henry Bailey received a MM for his actions at the crossroads. His recommendation gives further detail of the predicament the forward Coys found themselves in especially at after first light on the 11th:
    Bailey 5 Seaf 11.2 Hekkens 1.jpg Bailey 5 Seaf 11.2 Hekkens 2.jpg

    Sappers and a bulldozer were sent up at first light in order to make a road through the AT-ditch. When the Bulldozer emerged from the wood to make the attempt it was promptly engaged by an enemy SP gun which was covering the road. Unable to move forward or backward from this shallow cover the men were shelled and shot at the whole morning, until by mid-day, under cover of tank-fire, they retired into the woods. Captain Munro was mortally wounded while carrying the message for the retreat to the forward companies. A set-piece attack with tank support was necessary to take the Hekkens crossroads. Another route was recced by which the tanks and infantry could move into the attack on Hekkens. The fire plan was prepared and the 5 Seaforth had begun to move into their FUP when general Rennie, GOC 51st HD, stopped the attack in view of the scarcity of infantry and ordered the 154 Bde to make the assault instead. The 5th Seaforth were pretty exhausted and, after two days of heavy fighting in the forest, had lost 2 officers and 17 men killed and 65 wounded.

    Throughout the morning the 5 Camerons patrolled actively to the east and discovered about a company of infantry digging in some 500 yards from their FDLs. These enemy were hotly engaged by all available fire. During the morning 5 Seaforth were pulled back to X-roads 826495 and 2 Seaforth moved to area 815493 with orders to maintain a standing patrol at 814485. The Camerons did not move.

    The strength of the 152 Brigade had considerably dwindled by the forest fighting. After two days in the forest the 2 Seaforth could muster only two companies with the makings of a weak third company, and the other battalions were little better off. The 5th Seaforth were down to three weak companies and 5 Camerons to four very weak companies. "The first fight on German soil had been costly", concludes the Bde War Diary, "but the cost had gained the Brigade an advance of 8000 yards through the key sector of the Siegfried Line. The number of POWs taken was 101 - the number of dead 'Bosche' was estimated at over 200 - a Russian proportion".

    Fall of Hekkens Crossroads 11.2.1945.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2020
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Hekkens Crossroads aa.jpg
    Oblique aerial of Hekkens Crossroads, probably taken in Oct 1944, with a view to the NE which shows part of the German defense around the crossroads. The AT ditch runs in front at the bottom of the picture.

    Hekkens bend in road.jpg
    Before leaving the Reichswald forest, the main road Kranenburg - Hekkens makes a bend eastwards. Just beyond the bend lay the anti-tank ditch and the main enemy defensive line, which caused he 5th Seaforth so much trouble during Feb 11th, 1945.

    Hekkens position AT Ditch.jpg
    Approach to Hekkens, view from the enemy perspective. The main road is visible in the back ground (cars behind the farm houses & three motorbikes). The anti-tank ditch ran through the flats somewhere in the middle of the photograph. Nowadays there is no trace left of it. The treeline marks the southern edge of the Reichswald forest.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fallen of the 5th Seaforth on 11 Feb at Hekkens Crossroads were:

    1. BEECROFT, JOSEPH JAMES, Private 14440750 Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 2.
    2. BURNS, JAMES, Private 14731891, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 15.
    3. CAMERON, PETER THOMSON, Private 14767930, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 18, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 11.
    4. CASSIDY, BERNARD, Private 3195520, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 32, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 1.
    5. HARTWELL, HENRY WILLIAM, Private 14377335, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 20, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 7.
    6. HEMPHILL, ANDREW HUGH, Private 14444914, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 9
    7. HENRY, PETER MCWHINTER, Private 14775761, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 14.
    8. HILL, WILFRED LAWRENCE CREECH, Serjeant 5677781, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 29, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 8
    9. MAMMEN, ROBERT, Private 14445413, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 17.
    10. MACLEOD, JOHN, Private 2829132, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 23, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY,61. E. 10
    11. MORRISON, WILLIAM STEWART, Private 14742030, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 16.
    12. MUNRO, ANDREW DONALD, Captain 94044, Sunday, February 11, 1945, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 3.
    13. SHELTON, JOHN BARBER, Lance Corporal 5831905, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 31, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 19.
    14. THOMSON, ALEXANDER, Corporal 2939404, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 28, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 12
    15. WARDLE, JOHN, Private 3058471, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 26, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. E. 6

    Seaforth 11 feb.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
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  16. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Remembered Princes Risborough war rmemorial Buckinghamshire
    Service Number 14440750

    Died 11/02/1945

    Aged 19

    5th Bn.
    Seaforth Highlanders

    Son of Robert Sidney Beecroft, and of Amy Annie Beecroft, of Monks Risborough, Buckinghamshire.


    Location: Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
    Number of casualties: 7500

    Cemetery/memorial reference: 61. E. 2.

  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3.4 154 Bde takes out the Hekkens Crossroads (afternoon Feb 11th, 45)

    The 154 Bde had been held at stand-by for an advance along the northern axis through the Reichswald to the SE-part of forest as soon as 152 Bde had seized Hekkens. When darkness fell on the 10th it was clear that the 154 Bde would not be called upon until the following day. Late that evening the 154 Bde was ordered to concentrate in the area just in the rear of 152 Bde in which position the Bde was well placed to fit in of any plan of the Division commander. The Division boundary with the 53 Welsh Div was changed so that the Division front now swung round to face south as opposed to SE which had been the case in the first days of the operation. When the attack on Hekkens by 152 Bde was unsuccessful on the 11th, orders were given for a full scale Brigade attack by 154 Bde. The 154 Bde was to seize the crossroads and at the same time clear east to the new division boundary at 855483.The whole of the artillery deployed in support of 30 Corps would be available to support the Brigade. As it had already been found earlier in this operation, that it was practically impossible to carry out a successful attack by night through the Reichswald on account of the density of the woods, it was essential that the attack should be launched in sufficient time to enable the objectives to be captured before dark. As the orders to make the Brigade attack were only received about mid-day, time was very short and the Brigade Commander accordingly decided (first) to launch the attack at 15.30 hours which would give about one and a half hours of daylight in which it could be completed, and (second) to make the simplest possible plan, as the Battalions which had to make the attack had to be brought forward a considerable distance to the forward part of the area now held by 152 Brigade and could only arrive there a very short time before the attack had to be launched. There would accordingly be no time to carry out the necessary preparations for anything except the most straight-forward type of attack. The Brigade plan accordingly resembled rather the 1914/18 war type of infantry attack than the normal type of attack which had generally been carried out during this campaign. A convenient forest track running south-east across the main Hekkens/Cleve road and about 2000 yards north east of Hekkens - the unpaved stretch of the Kartenspielerweg - made a suitable start line and the main road leading into Hekkens made a suitable axis of advance down which the two attacking Battalions would advance, one on either side of it.

    The attack on the crossroads was to be carried out by the two Black Watch battalions, 1st Black Watch on the left and 7th Black Watch on the right, whilst the 7th A&SH were ordered to carry out an immediate advance south-east down the start line forest track in order to protect the exposed flank of the attacking Battalions during their forming- up. At 16:00 hrs both Black Watch battalions moved in after a colossal artillery bombardment (four Field Regiments, nine Medium Regiments and six Heavy batteries). "It was like an attack of the First War, in General Harper's day", tells the division history of the HD, "the infantry kept so close behind the barrage that they were in on the Huns before the latter knew what was happening". By 16:45 hrs the 7th Black Watch reported they had reached the main road west of Hekkens and five minutes later the 1st Black Watch reported having reached the main road east of the crossroads. By 19:00 hrs both battalions were firm on their objectives and mopping up was practically completed. The 1st Black Watch reported 2 Officers and 38 OR POWs; and 7th Black Watch had taken 3 Officers and 116 OR POW. The battalion also captured one 75 mm gun with its halftrack towing truck, one 88 mm gun and two infantry guns. Losses in both battalions had been light. The 1st Black Watch had 1 officer and 14 OR wounded; the 7th Black Watch lost one man killed in the attack, and one man killed and one wounded when the Second-in-command's Jeep went up a mine. At 20:30 hrs a patrol of the 1st Black Watch reported the bridge across the river Niers at Kessel blown by the enemy.

    Next morning patrols of 'D' Coy, 7th Black Watch, searching the woods, brought in another 70 POWs, among which 16 senior NCO's.

    Cpl Hugh McKeown, a section commander in 7 BW, was awarded a MM (initially his nomination ran for a DCM) for his actions in the attack on Hekkens. He single-handedly knocked-out an enemy dug-out with grenades and thereby enabled his platoon to continue the advance closely behind the artillery barrage:
    Cpl McKeown 7 BW 11 Feb 1.jpg Cpl McKeown 7 BW 11 Feb 2.jpg

    Another section leader in the 1st Black Watch, L/Cpl Leslie Harry Shorthouse, was awarded a MM for his part in the attack on Hekkens crossroads. His nomination for a DCM also was downgraded to a MM. The recommendation erroneously dates the action at 8 Feb 45. The 1st Black Watch attacked and captured the small township of Nergena hard east of Hekkens:
    Cpl Shorthouse 1 BW 11 Feb.jpg Cpl Shorthouse 1 BW 11 Feb aa.jpg

    Sitrep 11.2130.jpg
    Sit Report 51st HD Feb 11th, 21:30 hrs

    The Hekkens crossroads, view from the southwest. This part of the crossroads settlement on the edge of the Reichswald was cleared by the 7th Black Watch. The picture has been taken right across the border - while I am standing in Holland the plowed field is in Germany.

    Artist's impression of Hekkens Crossroads Feb 1945 (courtesy Salmond History of the 51 HD)

    Same spot today. Nowadays the crossroads settlement is called Grünewald (Greenwoods), Hekkens is situated slightly further south on Dutch soil. But Hekkens Crossroads (or Corner) was the name that caught on. The picture was taken on the Cleve - Hekkens road looking south. A left turn at the traffic lights leads to Goch, a right turn to Kranenburg. The road to Gennep is straight on.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2020
  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The township of Nergena was seized by the 1st Black Watch. Nowadays it is build right up to the edge of the Reichswald. Beyond the forest the country opened out sloping slightly from the higher forest ground to comparatively open and completely flat ground across which wound the Niers River.

    From Nergena its only a short distance to Kessel, which is situated beyond the River Niers. The River Niers is flowing just beyond the plowed field, its banks marked by the green grass. On the right hidden behind the trees is the bridge in the (old) main road (see next picture). The modern main road towards Goch skirts around the southern side of the village.

    Late on Feb 11th, 1945, a patrol of the 1st Black Watch found the bridge over the River Niers at Kessel destroyed by the retreating enemy. Picture of the present bridge, taken on the eastern bank with a view to the northwest. The Reichswald is in the background.

    Just northeast of Kessel the Niers River skirts the edge of the Reichswald. This is the area reached by the 7th Argylls in the early morning of Feb 12th, 45. During the advance to the edge of the forest the battalion met little opposition. The Argylls stayed in this area watching the enemy in and around Kessel from two good observation posts until Feb 14th.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
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  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Fallen of the 154 Bde (9 - 12 Feb 45):

    1 Black Watch:
    1. FROST, ALBERT FREDERICK, Private 10600095, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 32, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 1.
    2. HARPER PETER JOSEPH, Private 14991821, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 19, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 6. F. 3.
    3. TUCKER, LESLIE DANIEL, Private 14444773 Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 19, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. D. 5.

    7 Black Watch:
    1. TURNER, DAVID ROGERSON, Private 14417517, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 20, JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY, 14. G. 6.

    7 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders:
    1. BROWN, JOHN, Private 2992891, Saturday, February 10, 1945, Age 24, MOOK WAR CEMETERY, II. A. 14.
    2. SUTTON, LESLIE EDWARD GODFREY, Private 14650203, Sunday, February 11, 1945, Age 20, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 55. G. 10.
    3. MATHIESON, ROBERT HARLEY, Lieutenant 89948, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 26, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. C. 2.
    4. THOMSON, WILLIAM, Private 2982242, Friday, February 9, 1945, Age 25, REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, 61. C. 4.

    ASH 9 Feb.jpg ASH 9 Feb math.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2019
  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Hekkens Time Life 4.jpg Hekkens Time Life 2.jpg
    The three day battle inside the Reichswald forest had been costly for both sides; some graphic pictures of killed German paratroopers near the Hekkens Crossroads. The paratroopers encountered by the 152 Bde belonged to the FJ Regiment 20 of the 7. FJ Division, a reserve of 1. FJ Armee that had been engaged late on Feb 9th to stem the British advance. The FJ Regt 20 had been sent into the Reichswald from the south with the task of closing the gap torn in the line of the 84.Infantry Division by the British Offensive. The I./20 FJ Div was encountered inside the Reichswald the II. and III. were deployed around the Hekkens Crossroads.

    Below wounded paratroopers taken POW are treated by one of their medics; some of them apparently are in bad shape. Note the Churchill tank at the top-right corner of the first picture; apparently there is a road nearby, is it the Kartenspielerweg?

    Hekkens Time Life 3.jpg

    Hekkens Time Life 5.jpg

    Br Offensive n Holland 33 aa.jpg

    Br Offensive n Holland 32aa.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
    CoenNL, Tolbooth, 51highland and 2 others like this.

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