Joe's Bridge or someone else's

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by levien, Sep 24, 2009.

  1. levien

    levien Just a member

    A friend of mine, a veteran of a recce squad of the 15th/19th King's Royal Hussars, states that it were not the Guards of J.O.E. Vandeleur that captured the bridge over the Meuse-Escaut Canal at Neerpelt, but that they did. So, naming the bridge Joe's Bridge would be wrong.
    Last saturday on the Ginkel Heath a there present (young) guardsman confirmed this.

    Any comments?

  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I'm waiting for the IG expert :D
  3. levien

    levien Just a member

    I'm waiting for the IG expert :D

    This will make me probably very stupid:huh:, but what is IG?
    I know IG-Farben, but that is certainly not what you mean.

  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Irish Guards
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Unfortunately, my father has his Market-Garden - Then and Now in his possession (bloody cheek) which would have been the first place to check. However, the 15/19 H history says:
    "On the morning of 13 September we again left 11 Armoured Division at rest and moved north to join 32 Guards Infantry Brigade in their bridgehead over the Meuse-Escaut Canal near Neerpelt.
    The de Groot bridge here had been captured intact by Guards Armoured Division on 10 September against fierce opposition."

    Levien - by way of compensation to your veteran friend, I will be posting in Soren's 'Londerzeel near Ghent' thread shortly as it seems Londerzeel was liberated by 15/19 H on 4 Sep 44.
  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD
    Thereafter, 2nd HCR, leading the Guards Armoured Division (which spearheaded the 31st Army Group into Northern France), made rapid headway, and by the 3rd September became the first British troops to re-enter Belgium.

    On the same day, 'A' Squadron 2nd HCR entered Brussels at approximately 1730 hrs, and continued the advance the following day as far as Louvain. On 10th September, 1944, a troop of 2nd HCR succeeded in reconnoitring the important bridge over the Escaut Canal, near Neerpelt, by means of which the whole British Army were to enter Holland.

    During the great airborne operation to take the large bridges at Grave, Nijmegen and Arnhem, 2nd HCR were constantly on forward patrols. Two troops managed to get through heavy German defences on the Neder Rijn and made contact with the Polish airborne near Driel, Arnhem.

    These troops joined the airborne in their gallant but unsuccessful fight, and eventually got back to their own Squadron.

    From 2Armd IG War Diary:
    The two Bns move up the left CL, a disused railway, and reformed N of the station 335861 in the order: No. 1 Sqn (Major D.A. PEEL) and No. 2 Coy (Capt. A. HENDRY) combined HQs, No. 3 Coy and No. 3 Sqn, No. 4 Coy and No. 2 Sqn, and No. 1 Coy in reserve on the backs of ARVs, Honeys and any odd vehicle.

    Our orders were to harbour in EXEL, which was reached and found clear at 16.00hrs . Almost at once further orders came to push on N to OVERPELT by a German military road and try to seize the main bridge at GROOTE BARRIER which was not yet blown, before dark. The HCR ahead had reported the road clear as far as the factory, where a patrol was observing the bridge. This was strongly defended by 88s and prepared for demolition.

    The Commanding Officer immediately dispatched a Honey patrol to contact the HCR at the factory 3(?)51955 with all speed and ordered the column to advance NORTH.

    The HCR patrol was contacted and reported the bridge still not blown, and confirmed the presence of at least 2 88s on the N side of the bridge. Major PEEL’s Squadron after a very fast drive halted just short of the factory to close up and receive orders. The Commanding Officer stressed the great importance for future preparations of capturing the bridge intact, and ordered Major PEEL to attack and rush it a soon as possible. Being out of range either of the guns or the wireless we could have no artillery support.

    Major PEEL then moved his Squadron up to the factory gates, debussed the infantry Coy, and rightly appreciating that any guns defending the bridge would be sited either on or near its N end or at the X rds S of it 353956 made his plan accordingly. The leading Troop No. 3, Lt. LAMPARD’s was to patrol slowly forward, towards the X rds accompanied by its infantry platoon (Lt J STANLEY-CLARKE) while the rest of the Squadron took up position at the bend of the road, Sqn HQ firing W to the X rds and No. 2 Troop Sjt BELL and No. 1 Troop L/Sjt SMITH firing at the bridge and it approaches. All tanks were ordered to keep up heavy Browning and HE fire, to discourage the German gunners. Covered by Sqn HQ, Lt. LAMPARD’s troop moved up towards the X rds and got his tanks into position 30 yds short of it to observe and fire on the bridge.

    Major D.A. PEEL then dismounted and agreed with the Coy Commander that the leading troop and Platoon should rush the bridge, and if successful be followed across by the rest of the Group. He ordered Lt. D. LAMPARD to make his own plan with Lt. STANLEY-CLARKE.

    Meanwhile Lt. D LAMPARD caught an 88 being towed across the bridge and knocked it out.

    Another gun opened fire on him from the N end of the bridge but without effect. He then moved is troop up to the X rds and place his tanks among the houses on both sides of the road. L/Sjt McGURREN’s tank left, Sjt STEER’s and his own right. His fourth tank got a jammed case and had to withdraw from the action. As L/Sjt McGURREN crossed the road a third 88 fired on him from the cutting W of the bridge missed and merely got a heavy burst of Browning in return.

    As Lt. D. LAMPARD’s rear and left were now secure, Sqn HQ switched its fire to the bridge, which now had 11 tanks shooting at it. Lt. LAMPARD dismounted and agreed with Lt. STANLEY-CLARKE to cover his platoon up the main road to within 100 yards of the bridge, when a GREEN VEREY light would be fired. This was a signal for all guns to fire only on the bridge; and when the infantry were ready for the final assault a RED VEREY light would be fired as a signal for all fire to cease and the leading tanks to charge.

    It was 20.30hrs when the infantry moved down the road, took up their paositon and fired the GREEN VEREY light. For two minutes very heavy Browning fire came down on the bridge, which was now lit up by a house blazing on the right. The RED VEREY light went up and the tanks charged. L/Sjt McGURREN’s hit the corner of a house and stuck, so only Sjt STEER’s leading and Lt. LAMPARD’s actually did the assault. They went flat out, past the front section, over the bridge and halted in posn the N side. The infantry doubled close behind, came under fire Spandau on the road which was quickly knocked out by the Sherman and lay down around the tanks.

    The ammunition of the knocked out 88 now began exploding on the bridge, but Major PEEL at once ordered the rest of the group to join Lt. LAMPARD on the far side. A Sapper officer Lt. HUTTON, with a party of 4 Guardsmen from 3rd Bn, followed the leading platoon, and climbed over the side of the bridge to cut the cables and remove the detonators of the charges on the piers.

    The Commanding Officer then sent No. 3 Sqn and No. 3 Coy to reinforce No. 1 Sqn with all speed and take up position on the left of the road. The Combined HQ and reserve Sqn and Coys meanwhile formed a hedgehog between X rds and the S end of the bridge.

    We then reported back on the HCR link that the bridge was captured intact and securely held and our success caused great joy in Higher Formations.
    The Bns dug in for the night, awaiting a counter attack. But none came - not even a shell or mortar bomb.

    Two unhappy prisoners of War captured by No. 1 Sqn from the infantry platoon that was supposed to protect the 88s said that the speed of our attack and advance had taken the gun crews, who were expecting their tank not ours that evening, completely by surprise. The fate of their fellow comrades on the bridge and the very heavy Browning and HE fire first put them off their aim and then made them remove to a safer if less heroic place. The Serjeant in charge of the demolition squad, in spite of a stirring speech he had made to the garrison earlier in the day that “the bridge must and will be blown” “that every man fights to the last round”, was one of the first to leave, forgetting to press the switch. Their officer had fled the day before - again after some bellicose words.

    Though the enemy made no attempt even to harass us in the night, at 08.00hrs next morning 11th SEPTEMBER reports came in of 6 Sps and a Coy of infantry W of the bridge in the village of de LUYKEN 3395. Suddenly an SP gun opened fire on the Recce Tp just by 2nd Bn HQ, while another shot down the road to the X rds past 3rd Bn HQ. The first tow shots killed 7 and wounded several of the Recce Tp, including Lt. B.C.P. WARREN and the Adjutant Capt. R.S. LANGTON who was helpting to carry a stretcher. This gun was quickly spotted in a field some 500 yds away and engaged by Major D.A. PEEL, who chanced to be at Bn HQ at the time and climbed aboard ST. PATRICK for the fight. He hit the gun 4 times and brewed it up, though half the honour is claimed by a FIREFLY of No. 3 Sqn which also fired from N of the canal. The second retired and took cover in the gardens further WEST. A lull followed during which the Recce Tanks moved out of the exposed field and drove down to the embankment by the bridge. On the way two were hit by the second SP gun, which opened fire again and one driver was wounded.

    Major D.A. PEEL then handed over ST PATRICK to Lt. K.R. BRIANT, and went forward to observe for Major D.N.L. GORDON-WATSON in ULSTER. On his way through a garden he had the great misfortune to be dangerously wounded by another round from the SP, which still could not be spotted. Lt. BRIANT moved to ST PATRICK up towards the bridge trying to get a line on it, but again was seen first and ST PATRICK went up in flames. No-one was hurt.

    After this the enemy withdrew and though one or two shots came from the houses, no more damage was done. Some prisoners brought in by 3rd Bn, said that about 1 Coy of mixed SS and infantry with some sappers and 6 Sps had been ordered to retake and blow the bridge. Their attack failed miserably and 3 more Sps were caught in the flank by a GRENADIER column working up from the SOUTH. The others were shelled by medium guns in de LUYKEN an hour later and heard of no more.

    The rest of the day was quiet. In the afternoon 6 Typhoons attacked enemy withdrawing over the bridge at LOMMEL and destroyed the bridge. COLDSTREAM GROUP reinforced our positions with 2 Coys of 5 COLDM GUARDS over the river and 1 Sqn of 1 COLDM GDS in support S. While No. 2 Motor Coy, of 1 MOT GREN GDS took up an outpost position a mile ahead of us.

    In the evening all slept soundly and undisturbed still without mortaring or shelling.

    My father was in No. 1 Company and his best mate was one of the four Guardsmen who were volunteered to help the RE Officer deal with the demolition charges. The each were awarded an MM. The RE Officer got an MC.

    From medal recommendation, Guardsman H. Trimble:
    Directly the leading pl of the 3IG Battle Gp had crossed the DE GROOTE BARRIER over the MEUSE-ESCAUT Canal on the night of 10 Sep 44, the RE offr required four men to assist him in removing the charges from the br. Gdsm TRIMBLE was one of the four Gdsm who carried out this extremely dangerous work, calmly and efficiently handling dangerous explosives which he was not accustomed with. His task entailed the climbing of ladders to remove the charges and this had to be done under enemy fire. In addition, there was an exploding amn truck by the br. It was only through the extreme bravery of Gdsm TRIMBLE and his comrades that the charges could be removed and the br saved from destruction.

    From 3Bn IG War Diary:
    As is often the case, the 1/50000 scale map bore no resemblance to the ground and after one coy and one sqn had been launched on the chosen axis it was proved that the going was entirely unsuitable to tks. Luckily, No 4 Coy, which had been sent forward for this task pf ground recce were able to disengage from the enemy with very light cas and the Bn group followed up the C.L. of the GREN GDS group who had discovered a bridge by means of which tks could cross the otherwise impassable ground. Having reached the main rd to the ESCAUT Canal, the I.G. group were ordered to hook right and make for the bridge over the ESCAUT at de GROOT BARRIER.

    During the approach march we met no opposition and civilians and elements of H.C.R infmd us that there were no enemy SOUTH of the Canal. We reached the area of the bridge as light was failing and the Commanding Officer, after a rapid recce, decided to try and rush it. No. 2 Coy and one sqn of tanks were detailed for the job. The tks put down a hail of fire on the area of the bridge itself and succeeded in knocking out several un-armed 88 mm AA/A. Tk guns.

    Lt. STANLEY-CLARKE’s pl. preceded by a tp of tks then rushed the bridge itself and succeeded in reaching the opposite side. The remainder of No. 2 Coy and No. 3 Coy were quickly pushed across to join them and the posn was rapidly consolidated.

    The RE Offr [R. Hutton] with the Bn succeeded in disconnecting all the charges which were in position to blow the bridge, and the crossing of the ESCAUT had been successfully achieved.

    Total cas for the day were one OR killed and 5 Ors wounded.

    Lance Serjeant JOHN DUNN 2719614, 3rd Bn., Irish Guards who died age 23 on 10 September 1944
    Son of Thomas and Margaret Dunn; husband of Helen Paterson Dunn, of Rankinstone, Ayrshire.
    Remembered with honour LEOPOLDSBURG WAR CEMETERY

    Edit: there is some debate about after whom the bridge was named.
    From Paul's battlefields of WW2 site
    Joes Bridge

    From History of Irish Guards in Second World War, FitzGerald
  7. levien

    levien Just a member

    Thank you for your very extensive answer.

  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  9. levien

    levien Just a member

    Wonderfully documented!
    Thanks again and more.

  10. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Intrigued by the role of 2HCR I looked for more information about them in the IG History Thought I'd post it here for it's as good a place as any.

    Meanwhile the 2nd Household Cavalry Regiment had been exploring the countryside. In an advance, the Household Cavalry in the scout cars operated on the flanks, and often well in front of the Division. They had an admirable habit of suddenly appearing out of a side road or racing straight down the road from the direction of the Germans with a fund of invaluable information and an unquenchable desire to help. If anyone wanted to know "whether Jerry was up the road" the answer was "Ask the 2nd Household Cavalry to go and see." Above all, they could always be relied on somehow and somewhere to find a way round any obstacle, natural or unnatural.,

    This evening the Household Cavalry found something splendid - a fine new unmappped German-built military road running from EXEL due north to OVERPELT and then turning left to the ESCAUT CANAL at DE GROOTE BARRIER. "The angle appealed to me," said Colonel Joe, "I prefer an oblique approach to dead ahead." The Grenadiers were already moving up the main road towards the canal, so Colonel Joe decided there and then "to have a crack and beat the Grenadiers to it." The Group covered the eight miles to DE GROOTE BARRIER at top speed. Near OVERPELT, where a transverse road from LOMMEL joins the military road, the leading troop ran straight into a large black Mercedes staff car, going hell-for-leather. They shot the car and its contents, a smartly dressed officer, to bits with the added pleasure of knowing that they were evidently not expected from this direction. In OVERPELT they found a Household Cavalry car waiting for them with the news that the road ahead was clear, certainly as far as a factory just south of the bridge. A Household Cavalry patrol in this factory reported that the bridge was still intact, but that it was prepared for demolition and strongly held by 88 mm. guns. A troop of Honey tanks raced ahead to join the Household Cavalry in the factory; from there they wirelessed back that the bridge was still standing, and that there were at least two 88s on the north back. No. 1 Squadron and No. 2 Company followed as fast as they could in the gathering dusk and reached the factory just before the light failed.

    I also asked my Dad:

    What do you remember about the Household Cavalry Regiment?
    Yes now they were light reconnaissance. They found the road leading on to JOE's bridge, but they didn't occupy the bridge; they passed the message on to the heavier crowd. Yes, they were in Armoured cars, Daimlers and that sort of thing. They were always going around, they were that fast that the Germans couldn't hit them most of the time.

    I remember once we were on a lane and on the tanks and there was forest on both sides, but on the left-hand side at one point there was a gap about the size of one field. None of the tanks wanted to risk it as they were too slow. The officers got out and had a chinwag. One tank went up ahead and an 88mm shell came whizzing over, didn't hit the tank though, missed. It was an SP, self-propelled German gun.

    Well they sent for the Household Cavalry and a small armoured car came up. There was a driver at the front and one at the back, both had steering wheels so that they didn't have to turn around. They could go like the wind. We were lying in a ditch and heard what was said. We thought the HCR must have been better educated than us poor Foot Guards: you see, after this Sergeant listened to our Officers, he answered with this very plummy voice, "Ah yes, I think we can managed that."

    So off they took and by the time they hit the gap they were going full out. The German gun didn't have a chance to hit them and then went out of sight and then the reverse driver did the same coming back.

    The Sergeant got out and said, "There you are!"

    I think it was my mate Sammy from Belfast who shouted out, "Hey mate, you're 'flipping' mad!"

    The Household Cavalry were that fast.

    Now they didn't go across the bridge, there were 2 88mm AA guns with rubber wheels on the bridge. Our tanks, forget who was in them, hit them hard and 'dozed them off the bridge. The HCR found the bridge but they didn't occupy it, it took the Foot Guards to do that. Ach I once seen a few of them go up in a blaze of glory hit by an 88mm but they were good, really good, I'll hand it to them.

    That reference in the History to 'beating the Grenadiers to it', what was that about?
    Ah, there was always a lot of good banter between the Regiments, and I remember when we were coming back from Calais after our first leave and the train made a stop. There were a lot of blokes from the Armoured Division and you know, a lot who were attached to it, on the train: it was packed. There were some RASC, you know drivers, nearly all Cockneys, at the dining table - when I say dining table it was a rough plank in a tent - and there was this Grenadier mouthing off about something, you know. One of the Cockneys shouted at him, "Oi, the Micks took everything, you were away back!" There was always craic like that.
    Smudger Jnr and Drew5233 like this.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    :lol: Good old cockney geezers !
  12. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Please thank your father for that pearl of wisdom. A super story to read.

  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From The Times , Nov 11, 1944



    From Our Special Correspondent in Holland

    Of the Household Cavalry regiments it may be said that in them, the cult of the horse being dead, the cavalry spirit yet lives. That is equally true, of course, of others of our horse-mounted units now mechanized. Life Guards and Horse Guards are out there in the Low Countries, serving together in one unit, their ceremonial breastplates and plumes and sheepskins put aside with their splendid black mounts these five years, in favour of battledress and black berets and dungarees and armoured-cars. They still speak of sabre squadrons (which naturally are those which bump the Germans when an armoured division is thrusting) as distinct from the one which functions as headquarters. The commanding officer's command vehicle is even known as his charger.

    Lately I had the privilege of spending some hours at the regimental headquarters on a small but sprawling Dutch farm. The orderly room was the front sitting room of the house; the mess was a little canvas marquee in the garden behind the kitchen. At the time the regimental job was the slightly boring one of sitting watchfully on a flank, the sabre squadrons holding posts towards a certain river. Their reports came in continually on the radio-telephone in the orderly room while the adjutant sat on the table swinging his legs and talking to me of the regiment's part in that classic, exhilarating rush of the British armour through France and Belgium and deep into Holland.


    Up from Laigle they went to the Seine, which they crossed at Verdun, and it was somewhere in front of Gisors, he said, that they began to get the sense of doing a true cavalry job with their cars. I wish there were space to tell his whole fascinating story, with all its undramatic half revelations of the gay courage and the dash, and sometimes the grim endurance that made all things possible and carried the household troops through. But there is scarcely room for the barest outline of the incidents he recalled.

    The striking and supreme fact is that these men and their armoured cares were time after time the first - and by a long way - to run into and beyond the withdrawing enemy, putting themselves constantly into situation that were either ticklish or definitely dangerous to give a lead to the armoured division with whom they were working. The rush was by no means unopposed from Gisor through Beauvais during a night of lashing rain, and the dash the next morning to Amiens and Villers-Bretonneux and Corbie to secure the crossings of the Somme will stay long in the Regimental memory.

    Then there was the scrap that developed when the swept into Albert, just as an S.S. battlegroup, all unsuspecting, entered at the opposite end of the town. It was from Douai that two squadrons, their cars festooned with flowers, made the terrific single stage of over 80 miles up to Brussels on the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the war. They had to fight before they could get off, and fight again before they got into the city. The squadrons went by different roads, and the commanders were an amateur steeplechase rider and a M.F.H. respectively, so the thing naturally became a race, its progress followed through the radio-telephone messages going back all the time to regimental headquarters.

    The Household Cavalry did not linger in Brussels, their cars wre fighting next day in Louvain, where they secured one of the vital bridges over the Dyle. Their next well-remembered exploit was that concerning Joe's bridge. This is the well-known German high-level wooden bridge over the Meuse-Escaut canal, on the road northward from Hechtel. And next to it now is the British low-level construction called Jack's bridge.


    After the battle at Hechtel cross-roads the Household Cavalry tried to seize the wooden bridge, but found it too well covered by anti-tank guns. One troop found a way through the woods to the east, and saw that the bridge was intact but held strongly. A wireless message brought up infantry and tanks of the Foot Guards, who successfully rushed the bridge and afterwards gave it the first name of their battalion commander.

    Later, in that anxious time when our 1st Airborne Division was fighting for its life in Arnhem, the Household Cavalryman to the north of Nijmegen bridge sat waiting for a suitable opportunity. It came with a mist about 6 o'clock one morning, and two troops, with their armoured cars, slipped away to the west off the road and, unobserved by the enemy, soon made contact with the Polish airborne troops on the lower Rhine.

    From there they sent signals back to the medium artillery, who made good use of the information. In the meantime the rest of the forward squadron had tried to follow in their tracks, but were baulked by the lifting of the fog. The troops on the river bank sat there until two days before the withdrawal of the airborne men.

    A young officer of still unquenched enthusiasm showed me some of the vehicles, dwelling longest on what might be called the back-bone vehicle of regiments like this, a certain British armoured-car, which, he said fervently, was the best in the wide world, with all the fire power necessary for its particular job, and also a reversing gear arrangement enabling the commander to take over and drive it straight backwards if necessary almost as fast as on the forward gears.

    In the mess the officers, including the padre in a weather-worn leather jerkin, seemed the same sort of band of brothers one is used to finding in messes everywhere out here, and the commanding officer, coming in late for lunch with a visiting brigadier, sat naturally with his guest at the bottom of the table. Altogether a stimulating and heart-warming morning.
  14. singeager

    singeager Senior Member

    As follows extracts from 'Second Household Cavalry Regiment. By Roden Orde'

    this gives a very good account of teh discivery of the bridge and subsiquent capture


    Attached Files:

    Jonathan Ball, dbf and Paul Reed like this.
  15. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Very interesting, thanks for that.
  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks for adding Singeager, contains fine praise of HCR quoted from IG History.
  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From the IWM interview with William Gordon CANTLEY, 14 Field Squadron, RE, attached 2IG / GAD

    Jonathan Ball likes this.
  18. Belgian Dave

    Belgian Dave Well-Known Member

    This is all interesting. I have not had time to look at all the post, but I only live a few miles away from the location. I know Lommel well.
  19. Buteman

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

    dbf likes this.
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016

Share This Page