Wiltshire Regiment

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"BATTLE FOR THE LEVEL CROSSING"

Operatie Overlord was tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog de codenaam voor de invasie door de westerse geallieerden in het door Duitsland bezette West Europa. Operatie Overlord begon op 6 juni 1944 en eindigde op 25 augustus 1944, toen Parijs werd bevrijd. De operatie startte met luchtlandingen en een massale amfibische aanval in de vroege morgen van 6 juni aan de Normandische kust. Na de landing werd allereerst gepoogd het Normandische bruggenhoofd te behouden en uit te breiden. Diverse operaties werden hiervoor ondernomen en tijdens Operatie Cobra braken de geallieerden definitief door de Duitse linies. Toen de Duitsers in de val kwamen bij Falaise, was de strijd in geallieerd voordeel beslist. De weg naar Parijs lag open en de Franse hoofdstad aan de Seine werd ingenomen. Men beschouwt de bevrijding van Parijs over het algemeen als het einde van Operatie Overlord. De eerste dag van Overlord werd aangeduid met “D-Day”, een term die vaak wordt geassocieerd met de gehele operatie.

Als onderdeel van de XXX Corps (Triple X Corps), bevelvoerder Lt Generaal Brian Horrocks, de 43rd Wessex Division (Yellow Dragons), bevelvoerder Majoor Generaal G. Ivor Thomas, en de 129 Brigade, bevelvoerder Brgide Generaal G.H.L. Mole, hebben het 4e Wiltshire Regiment, bevelvoerder Lt. Col. Edward. L. “Ted” Luce en het 5e Wiltshire regiment, bevelvoerder Lt. Col. W. G. Roberts, deelgenomen aan de Normandische invasie.

De aankomst van de Wiltshires in Normandië (Mulberry bij Arromanches) Frankrijk was op 24 juni 1944.
Beide bataljons zouden zwaar worden betrokken bij vele veldslagen tijdens de campagne in Noord-West Frankrijk - zoals de Slag van Oden, de strijd om Hill 112 en de verovering van Mont Picon - , de Lage Landen, en Duitsland. 

Nadat Parijs op 25 augustus 1944 was gevallen rukten de geallieerden in snel tempo op. Na zware gevechten om Toulouse en Marseille konden de troepen vanuit Zuid-Frankrijk zonder al te veel weerstand snel oprukken richten het noorden. Frankrijk was begin september op enkele steden na in zijn geheel bevrijd.

De geallieerden trokken door naar België. Op 3 september werd de hoofdstad Brussel bevrijd. Één dag later viel de havenstad Antwerpen in handen van de oprukkende troepen. Dankzij de hulp van het Belgische verzet vielen zowel de havenwerken als de tunnel bij Antwerpen onbeschadigd in geallieerde handen.

Ondertussen bedacht General Montgomery in september Operatie Market Garden, hetgeen de belangrijkste opdracht zou worden voor de Britse 21st Army Group. 
Het dertigste legerkorps ook wel “triple X Corps” genaamd heeft tijdens de operatie heldhaftig werk verricht. Vooraf werd vastgesteld dat de divisie zich zou vestigen in Neerpelt bij de Nederlands-Belgische grens. Het korps zou zich moeten samenvoegen met Airborne divisies om vervolgens richting Nijmegen en Arnhem te gaan. Garden was de codenaam voor de grond troepen. Het Britse XXX Corps onder commando van Luitenant Generaal Brian Horrocks moest vanaf het bruggenhoofd over het Maas-Scheldekanaal bij Neerpelt oprukken over de door de luchtlandingstroepen gelegde loper. De aanval begon bij Lommel Kolonie op 17 september 1944 om 14.30 uur. 

Valkenswaard 21-9-1944

                            Legertrucks van de Wilts te Valkenswaard

Ze moesten de route volgen langs Valkenswaard, Eindhoven, Sint Oedenrode, Veghel, Uden, Grave, Nijmegen, Elst, Arnhem en daarna doorstoten naar het IJsselmeer om de Duitse troepen in West-Nederland af te snijden. Daarna zou het XXX Corps bruggenhoofden over de IJssel moeten slaan bij Doesburg, Zutphen en Deventer van waaruit het in het Roergebied zou kunnen doordringen. 


De voorhoede van het XXX Corps zou worden gevormd door een pantserdivisie van de Guards. Met daarachter de 43th Wessex en de 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division en tenslotte de 8th Armoured Division en de Nederlandse Prinses Irenebrigade. Deze legerkorpsen omvatte meer dan 22.000 voertuigen en meer dan 100.000 man, die allemaal over een smalle weg moesten, die tijdens de operatie de naam “Hell’s Highway” kreeg. Belangrijk in dit hele plan was natuurlijk de verovering van de bruggen. Binnen twee dagen na het van start gaan van deze enorme operatie, zouden de Britse luchtlandingstroepen bij de brug in Arnhem moeten zijn.

nijmegen molenstr. 22091944

Op donderdag, 22 september 1944 had Johnn Frost zijn heroïsche strijd op de noordelijke oever van de Arnhemse brug reeds opgegeven. Generaal Urquhart was echter nog steeds in afgesneden gebied te Oosterbeek en de Polen waren de avond tevoren net geland bij Driel. Het XXX Corps was nu binnen een tiental mijlen van de 1e Airborne, en stuurde de 43e Wessex division naar voren in een poging om door te stoten naar hun manschappen over de Rijn. De 43e Wessex stuurde op 22 september 1944 om 08.00 uur de 214e Brigade naar het westen van de weg naar Oosterhout, en de 129e Brigade, met de Wilts, naar het noorden van de weg naar Elst. 

Wilts te Nijmegen 

Vanaf 22 september tot 6 oktober 1944 vocht het Wiltshire Regiment op het gedeelte “THE ISLAND” tussen Nijmegen en Arnhem rond Oosterhout en Elst en Driel.

Wilts9

War Diary van 22 september tot 7 oktober 1944

2 Armd Irish Guards
CO: Lt. Col. G.A.M. Vandeleur

22 september 1944
09.00hrs. The Commanding Officer met the Commanding Officer of 4th Bn WILTS whose Bn was going to attack through us. He showed him the enemy line and agreed on a plan of close support by No. 2 Squadron.
16.00hrs. Lt.. W.C.T. MacFETRIDGE led his troop into the orchard E of the road trying to help forward the 4th Bn WILTS.
20.00hrs. The 5th Bn WILTS tried a night attack along the railway - but only reached the station at RESSEN by daybreak.


4th Wilts
CO: Lt. Col. Edward L. "Ted" Luce

22 september 1944
Bn moves of in Div convoy for advance into HOLLAND with the intention of holding posns in area of DEVENTER (Map sheet 2a and 3a - z 90). On reaching VALKENSWAARD (E 40) the coln was halted owing to the enemy blowing a bridge North of EINDHOVEN which was quickly repaired and the coln allowed to move on via ST. OEDENRO
UE (43), UDEN (354) to area North of GRAVE (E 65) where bn conc for the night arriving at 0200 hrs.

23 september 1944
Bn moves off at 0815 hrs with the intention of capturing ELST (E 7171) which is reported to be occupied by enemy. Fwd coys reach line of road East of x rds (6968) where stiff opposition is met from MGs, 20 mm and 7.5 cm guns, which knocked out 4 tks of 13/18 HUSSARS who were supporting the bn. Casualties were heavy in A coy in the area of this x rds, two Mk IV tks well protected by inf, causing all the trouble. Capt. Bedford and Lieut. Hardiman were killed in this action. Coys hold same line during the night when enemy patrols were very active.

24 september 1944
Enemy still putting up stiff resistance near X rds (6968) which is covered by heavy fire from posns due West along road. Coys unable to make intended progress to line of railway but ELST itself is captured by 214 Bde from the WEST. During the night patrols on both sides were more active than previous night.

25 september 1944
Stong patrols occupying X rds (6968) and posn on road to the N without opposition, where coys were eventually established. B coy push down road to occupy BEMMEL sta (707673) finding the road had been hurriedly evacuated leaving behind 7 x 7.5 mm guns, and a large amount of equipment. C and D coys move fwd of rly to line of road 716676 - 718672 in the village of RESSEN where they dig in and occupy defensive posn. By last light 129 Bde are relieved by 69 Bde from 50 Div. Bn relieved by 6 GREEN HOWARDS conc in area of X rds (6967) where they had previously been held up.

4e Wilts via Zetten naar Heteren. Via Zetten kwam het 4e Wiltshire Regiment in Heteren aan. Zij maakten in Heteren enorm veel kabaal en schoten met alles wat zij hadden. Dit alles om de Duitsers die aan de overkant van de Rijn zaten te misleiden. Hierdoor konden de Engelsen en Polen die in Oosterbeek ingesloten zaten terug over de Rijn worden gehaald. Hiermede was Operatie Market Garden ten einde. 

26 september 1944
Bn takes 'over posns in ELST (7070). Situation rather quiet except for intermittent shelling from the direction of ARNHEM. Patrols carried out by both sides during the night.

27 september 1944
Bn still occupies ELST (7070). Intermittent enemy shelling continues. The NIJMEGEN bridge under constant shell fire and spasmodic attacks by fighter aircraft.

28 september 1944
Bn situation remains the same with intermittent enemy shelling N and E of ELST. No casualties reported.

29 september 1944
4 SOM LI take over Bn operational role in ELST. Coys concentrate West of ELST and assume counter attack role against ELST and 5 WILTS area to NORTH Carrier pl takes up posns in between 4 SOM LI and 5 WILTS.

30 september 1944
[Pages 18-19] Stong enemy attacks against 3 Irish Gds East of ELST (7070) repulsed with heavy loses to enemy including 150 PW. Attacks also repulsed NE of BEMMEL in area (7469). Only small local engagements on Bde front which hasn't necessitated any help being given from own bn. Weather - Normal for time of year. Bn Strength - Officers = 27 Other Ranks = 715

1 oktober 1944
Only small local engagements with enemy on bde front. Bn moves up to re-inforce 5 WILTS in area 6972 but situation allows bn to return to former conc area (6769). Enemy shelling of cas in personnel and Vehs of A ech and 3 coy.

2 oktober 1944
C coy under comd of 5 WILTS stop enemy infiltrating between 4 SOM LI and 5 WILTS at 705728. Small parties of en show up on 4 SOM LI and 5 WILTS front during the day but are easily dealt with. 3 deserters give themselves up to the 5 WILTS and give infm of an en night attack on that front which turned out to be correct, the attack commencing at approx 2245 hrs. There were also signs of an attack on the 4 SOM LI front. Both these attacks were heavily engaged by arty, 4.2 mortars and MMGs resulting in en retiring under smoke screen and almost certainly suffering heavy cas.

3 oktober 1944
Bn relieves 5 WILTS with fwd coy posns at 705728, 705735, 698747 (6 NW). On their way to take over, D coy suffer cas from shell fire owing to area being lit up by fire, also caused by shelling. Shelling and mortar fire continues during the night at a steady rate.

4 oktober 1944
Today en shelling and mortar fire has been very heavy in the fwd areas and also in the orchard occupied by Bn HQ this barrage being exceptionally heavy and resulting in Bn HQ moving to new area. D coy successfully engage small parties of enemy 3 of rly in area (708735).

5 oktober 1944
Pages 20-21] Our arty very active in engaging en posns and gun areas. During the night a large party of enemy infiltrated into D coy lines which are successfully dealt with during the day, 50 PW being taken. During the early evening the en have been very active but every movement, whether intended for attack or otherwise has been severely dealt with by arty and 4.2 mortars. One party of en very close to fwd posns of D coy were successfully dealt with by one single 25 pdr gun. Total number of PW taken during the day were 93. At approx 2100 hrs the relief of bn by a unit of 101 US Airborne Div commences, each coy moving to a fwd assembly area in square 6968 from those moving to bde conc area 6665 this being completed by 0500 hrs 6 Oct. 

6 oktober 1944
Bn remains in conc area (6665) resting for most of the day.

7 oktober 1944
[Nos 7-8] No change. Bn still resting.

5th Wilts
CO: Lt. Col. W.G. Roberts

22 september 1944
Bn moved on and reached NIJMEGEN, and transport harboured in the streets. Distance 8 m.
1655hrs. Carrier exploded, setting one 15cwt and 2 DUKWs on fire. Damage to buildings by explosives from 25 pr amn Bn suffered cas, 4 killed, 14 wounded.
2000hrs. Bn crossed R.WALL and Bn HQ est LENT 7264. Coys moved fwd to posns. "A" 712660, "B" 707669, "C" 712664. "A" Coy having to fight in gain their posn, being engaged by enemy fire from their objective, took up all round def posn 712660.

23 september 1944
0825hrs. "A" Coy counter attacked; this was unsuccessful and repulsed.
0940hrs. "C" Coy counter-attacked from EAST and from NORTH EAST. Counter attack successfully repulsed. 
1700hrs. "A" Coy attacked EAST from their posn to clear ground to Coy of 1 WELSH GUARDS. During night prisoner of 594 Flak Bty captured. found to be an Offr of Labour Corps.

24 september 1944
0600hrs. Patrol of "A" Coy contacted Coy of Welsh Guards at rd junc 719659. Contact gained by wireless with "A" Coy. In posn SOUTH of objective. Crossed on to objective.
1700hrs. Bn from 69 Bde attacked BEMMEL NE of LENT. This relieved the Bn and Coys moved back into concentration areas around Bn HQ.
2120hrs. "C" Coy moved back to conc area.

25 september 1944
1500hrs. Carrier Pl, Mor Pl and 8 Mc Pl attacked, went to ZETTEN to act as decoy while 4 DORSET ferried back men of 1 Airborne Div from NORTH side of R.NEDER, WEST of ARNHEM.
1430hrs. Bn moved from LENT to 685666 for night, in preparation to relieve 5 DCLI.

26 september 1944
no comments 

27 september 1944
1500hrs. Bn moved from 685666 to take over DCLI posns.
1930hrs. Bn in posn. Bn HQ est 691730 "A" Coy 699748, "B" Coy 701737, "C" Coy 696754, "D" Coy 705735.

28 september 1944
Few enemy patrols observed during day.
1600hrs. OP est at railway crossing in "D" Coy area. Occasional shells fell in Bn area. "D" Coy patrols covered area in front of enemy posn, Recced WOOD at 716738. Enemy set fire to haystack and occupied X Rds 712734. SOS was brought on it and lifted to WOOD at 0200hrs. Fighting patrol reported going to within 60x of enemy posn, were fired on at this range by MGs. They returned fire and then withdrew safely. No prisoners.

29 september 1944
Bn area received occasional shells. Enemy observed at 714752. 4.2 in Mor dealt with them effectively. OP reports one Coy dug in on EASTERN bank of Rly 707762 to 706756 and along rd 706756 to 714752.

30 september 1944
Contact patrols sent out during early morning. Enemy observed during day in known localities. Occasional shelling in Bn area.
1355hrs. 3" mors engaged targets at 706750.
1450hrs. Mortar fire on MR 706750 seen to have been very effective. Enemy seen removing wounded.
1700hrs. Observed 4.2" Mor shoot 7155737. Direct hit on target. No movement seen.
1715hrs. Enemy still in posn 706750. 25 prs moved up and sent 50 rds into posn. Great damage caused to posns all along to bend at 706760.
2045hrs. "D" Coy reports tpt incl tracks moving NW along rd from KRONENBURG 7272.
2150hrs. 4 Som LI report hearing enemy tanks moving EAST 7272.
2246hrs. Suspected movement of tks in fairly large numbers reported by "C" Coy, coming down from ELDEN area.
2338hrs. "A" Coy patrol observed 2 enemy tanks and number of horse drawn vehs pulled in on verge of main rd 712733, about 200 yards NORTH of "D" Coy listening post. Patrol Comd ordered to withdraw, while Arty were putting down SOS task. Arty listening post withdrawn for duration of shelling. N.C.E. Kenrick Lieut. Colonel. Comd. 5th Bn. The Wiltshire Regiment.


1 oktober 1944
0510hrs: D Coy Comdr Maj Wheatley captured 5 prisoners single handed and killed 1 of the enemy with a Gren. 4 of the 5 prisoners wounded. Identified as Marine personnel.
0650hrs: D Coy report 8 enemy on ROAD 706734. Lt Roper, A Coy. engaged with bren. Believed a few killed.
0700hrs: Lt Harry Cecil Roper killed while on patrol in D Coy area.
0945hrs: Enemy tk observed by I.O.P. at 712735 - shelled by arty.
1000hrs: D Coy area being shelled.
1005hrs: B Coy area being shelled.
1200hrs: 60 enemy inf reptd at 715752 - engaged by 3" Mortars.
1400hrs: D Coy report some enemy tks in wood 704728.
1410hrs: Large numbers of enemy inf lining embankment by D Coy area. Enemy engaged by mortars and withdrew NORTHWARDS.
1525hrs: D Coy report tks near level crossing in orchard 707727 - engaged by 5.5 guns.
1840hrs: D Coy report tk at 708735, approaching from EAST. Identified as a PANTHER. Tk engaged and hit by PIAT and probably hit by arty.

2 oktober 1944
5 Wilts reported thirteen soldiers (!) missing in action after an artillery barrage on the farm, Pte Albert Edward Woolf being one of them 
0328hrs: D Coy attacked on left and right flanks.
0350hrs: D Coy fwd pl posn abandoned.
0350hrs: Arty put down barrage EAST of rly.
0410hrs: D Coy Comdr asked for tk spt.
0410hrs: Enemy tk firing into D Coy area from fwd pl posn.
0415hrs: B Coy local counter attack on D Coy posn. Enemy tk on EAST side of level crossing and some enemy inf crossed rly. Tk Sqn warned and PIAT Team sent out.
0445hrs: Tks move up under cover of own smoke to B Coy area.
0512hrs: B Coy barn-used as Coy HQ - set on fire by shelling - HQ evacuating.
0515hrs: Carrier pl moved up to reinforce B Coy.
0530hrs: Maj Wheatley, Lt Webber, 2/Lt Crompton D Coy, wounded.
0550hrs: Enemy along rly line opposite D Coy and at 705723 withdrawing EAST. Enemy reported digging in at 705733.
0950hrs: D Coy reported astride rly again.
0955hrs: B Coy being heavily shelled.
1015hrs: F.O.O's carrier, in D Coy area, hit by shell and set on fire.
1100hrs: Interrogation of prisoners captured during the night revealed that attack was made by Bn of 156 Px [sic 156 Pz] Gr Regt.
1230hrs: Maj Norris, Capt Willick, Capt Bailey, CSM Kercher wounded. 2/Lt Hawker reported missing.
1400hrs: C.O. decided to combine B and D Coys - Capt Rudd took Comd.
2020hrs: D Coy area again being shelled.
2245hrs: Enemy reported advg towards level crossing in D Coy area. M.G. pl informed and ordered to rly embankment - approx 705745 - to fire SOS

3 oktober 1944
0031hrs: MMG pl ordered to fire SOS.
0122hrs: Enemy rptd WEST of level crossing in D Coy area - engaged by arty and MMG.
0338hrs: D Coy fwd pl to be 30x from original posn - now held by enemy. CO ordered that posns must be retaken by first light.
0710hrs: D Coy and Carriers still not on objective. Arty fire not effective. 4.2" Mortars brought into action.
1025hrs: Enemy reported digging in at 705737.
1200hrs: B and D Coys to attack at 1345 to retake D Coy fwd posns. Tks attached 4 Wilts to cross rly line to SOUTH and shoot up enemy from rt flank.
1348hrs: Attack going well. B and D Coys across rly line. 3 bursts from enemy LMG. MG stopped firing as arty barrage lifted 200x to EAST.
1400hrs: B and D Coys counter attacked by arty and mortar fire. C.O. directed art and mortars on to orchard 717734 - believed enemy F.U.P.
1415hrs: B and D Coys still under heavy mortar fire.
1430hrs: Objective reached and 30 prisoners taken.
1715hrs: D Coy locns now at 705735 and 703737.
1800hrs: Total of prisoners now 48 - 2 offrs, 1 sjt, 6 cpls, 35 ptes of 156 Pz Gr Regt. 1 pte of 146 Pz Arty Regt.
1855hrs: D Coy HQ hit by shell - all amn exploded - 18 set damaged and comms to D Coy broken.
2100hrs: Bn prepared for relief by 4 Wilts.

4 oktober 1944
0050hrs: Relief by 4 Wilts complete.
0150hrs: Bn in new area - reserve Bn HQ est 693716 A Coy 690721, B Coy 697715, D Coy 694715 S Coy 694717 - C Coy remaining temporarily in old area attached to 4 Wilts.
1110hrs: Bn HQ hit by 2 shells - CSM Joseph Gray killed.
2033hrs: Enemy reported advg towards C Coy (attached 4 Wilts). Engaged by mortars - Lt Holly wounded.
2200hrs: Bn prepared to move to new area SOUTH.

5 oktober 1944
1700hrs: Responsibility for Bn area taken over by 2 Bn 502 RCT, 101 U.S. Airborne Div.

6 oktober 1944
0010hrs: Bn temp est in new area about 4 mls NORTH of NIJMEGAN prior to move to reserve area in WEERT 677640. Lt. Col. N.C.E. Kenrick assumed comd of the Bn vice Lt. Col W.Q. Roberts.
0840hrs: Bn est in WEERT (about 2 mls WEST of NIJMEGAN) Bn HQ 677640, A Coy 673626, and 674624, B Coy 674628, C Coy 674640, D Coy 681636, S Coy 673636. 
Quiet day at WEERT.

7 oktober 1944 - Weert
Bn still in WEERT - rest and re-fitting.


§§ © Harry Schoel sr. 2011