National Archives catalogue reference WO 171/1236

 

Abbreviations

2 I/C

665806

AA

AL

Amb
Amn

Armd

Arty
Ass

A/Tk

Bde

Bn

Br

Bty

CO

Coy

Det

Div

Fd

FOO

Fwd

Infm

Junc

LO

MG

MMG

MO

Mtr

OC
O Gp

OR

Pnrs

Posns
QM

Rd

Rly

RV

SA
Sec

SP

Sptd

Sta

Tpt

VMG

X-rds

Second in Command

Map Reference

Anti-Aircraft

Airlanding

Ambulance

Ammunition

Armoured

Artillery

Assault

Anti-Tank

Brigade

Battalion

Bridge

Battery

Commanding Officer

Company

Detachment
Division

Field

Forward Observation Officer

Forward

Information

Junction
Liaison Officer

Machine Gun

Medium Machine Gun

Medical Officer

Mortar

Officer Commanding

Orders Group

Other Ranks

Pioneers

Positions

Quartermaster

Road

Railway

Rendezvous

Small arms

Section

Self-Propelled

Supported

Station

Transport

Vickers Machine Gun

Crossroads

 

 

1st September 1944

Bn standing by.

 

2nd September 1944

Operation Linnet cancelled.

 

3rd September 1944

Voluntary church services.

 

4th September 1944

Bn standing by for instant action.

 

7th September 1944

CO's briefing of O Gp for operation "Comet".

 

8th September 1944

24 hr postponement.

 

9th September 1944

Operation "Comet" cancelled.

 

11th September 1944

Battalion at instant readiness for war.

 

14th September 1944

Bn proceeded on a 36 hr leave pass.

 

15th September 1944

Return from leave.

 

2000 - CO's 'O' Gp briefed for operation Market.

 

16th September 1944

Briefing of all operation personnel.  Final preparations for war.

 

17th September 1944

The Bn arose from sleep at an unwanted hour and after breakfast, embussed and moved to Barkston Heath airfield.

 

1130 - Take-off.  We passed over the English coast at Aldeburgh across the channel and into Holland over much flooded country.  A very little flak was encountered.

 

1403-1408 - The bn dropped at the right time and in the right place.

 

1445 - Bn reported at full strength except for three men.  From this point the story is taken from the Commanding Officer's diary of events from 1540 to 0730 on Sept 19th.

 

1540 - Ordered to move from R.V.

 

1600 - Moved from RV to Rly Sta 665806 - met OC Recce who stated enemy were to East down Rly (infantry only) and tanks up rd to North.  As we could not get tpt along Rly any further - moved North up road.  Tanks withdrew.

 

1700 - R Coy attacked infantry posns astride road at 673816.  Enemy withdrew with casualties.  R Coy reached rd junc 675820 after more fighting - were heavily engaged at that point by tanks and infantry.  R Coy took up posn facing East then attacked again.

 

1800 - Remainder Bn by-passed opposition via track to South of main rd to main junc 690809 [690806?].  W/T with R Coy broke down.  No touch with Bde HQ - sent L.O. off to contact (he was shot off M.C. by enemy on main rd but got back to the Bn)

 

1900 - About to advance N to main rd when tanks approached from S.E. along main rd.  Altogether 5 tanks and approx 15-half-tracks passes X-rds 691811 (400 yds N of our posn in woods).  Enemy also digging in WOOD 694809.

 

1930 - Sent Major Bune back for R Coy and decided to bypass to South again.

 

2000 - Armd car and some infantry approached out lying up posn.  Engaged enemy - they withdrew, we had 6 casualties.  Enemy in WOOD 695809 opened fire - returned fire and took up all-round posn until R Coy should come up.

 

2200 - Major Bune returned with 2 I/C R Coy - they had 50 per cent casualties and could not get casualties away.  Sent M.O. Fd Amb back with 2 i/c to bring remainder Coy back to Bn.  Sent patrols to main rd - many enemy - spasmodic fighting and firing.

 

18th September 1944

0100 - R Coy still not arrived so left guides and went down track to SOUTH with intention of getting to objective via town, as we had heard bridges were in our hands.  No touch with Bde.  Wireless hopeless all through.

 

0300 - Very bad going through woods with guns, carriers etc.  Bumped enemy post X tracks 697797 (approx) - caused enemy casualties - enemy withdrew (Major Bune and Mtr Det missing).

 

0430 - Reached rd junc 709783.  S Coy ran into enemy fire from astride rd at 713782.  Enemy armd cars off rd - MG fire, 20 mm. and mortars.  Attacked with S Coy left flank - gained northern enemy posn and inflicted casualties.

 

0530 - Received infm from FOO from Bridge that 2nd Bn were in urgent need of reinforcements.  Decided to disengage and bypass to South and so to bridgehead.  Coy had 30 casualties.

 

0700 - Passed HQ Coy 3rd Bn - took them along (my mortars, Ass Pnrs, Sec MMGs and 1 A/Tk gun with R Coy).  At Rly Br 712775 ran into Mortar fire and shell fire.

 

0800 - Enemy in strength astride rd at Houses 717776; in Factory 720776; area Rly Br 715780; 4 Armd cars and 1 tank also seen at this Br - they moved to high ground 718778 which was held strongly.

 

0900 - First attack by T Coy gained astride rd at Houses 717776 - this was spptd by Arty, Mtrs, and MMGs.

 

1400 - Second attack on factory failed - 20mm from River bank too strong.  Met Major Dennison and made plan for co-ordinated attack - his Coy left on high ground - T Coy astride rd and the factory - sptd by Arty (Lt. Col. Thompson and F.O.O. throughout) mortars and MMGs.  A/Tk guns used against pillbox in factory area - direct hit.  Caused heavy enemy casualties in this area.  One enemy armd car put out.  S Coy in meantime were attacked from rear and held attack which was light.  T Coy reduced to 22 men.  S Coy 6 casualties.

 

1500 - Reached Rd junc 726778 - came under '88' fire, MG and Mtr fire from main rd - gained rd junc after fight, Mtrs used on rd junc.

 

1600 - Advanced East down main rd on South side.  Heavy fighting - could not advance past rd junc 729779 - tanks ahead.  Here Mtrs, Arty and MMGs put out two A.A. guns on river bank -  MMGs shot running men.  Good work.

 

1700 - Crossed road over cover of smoke and tried North side by backs of houses - came under Heavy Mtr fire and sniping - reached just West of hospital.  Tried to get vehicles fwd but quite impossible - lost one carrier.

 

1830 - In touch with bridgehead received orders from there that must get through.  Had practically no amn and approx 100 men left.  Decided to try right down on river bank.  Heavy fire cut across main road and every side street.

 

2000 - Met OC S STAFFS who had my R Coy with him (very depleted approx 40 men) and Ass Pnrs, Mtrs and MMGs - made plan to get to Bridge - Starting time 0100 hrs.  Resupplied with amn.  News came back that Bridge had been over-run.  Attack put off.

 

19th September 1944

0100 - Received orders from Div to withdraw to bridgehead at OOSTERBEEK.  11 Bn arrived.

 

0230 - Above order cancelled - proceed to bridge.  Made plan 1st Bn by river - S.STAFFS by main rd.  11 Bn follow 1st Bn axis.  Starting time 0330 hrs.  S.STAFFS hr late.

 

0400 - Crossed start line and reached rd at river bank 730779 - (Dorrien-Smith had come up and said we would not get along the bank - opposition too strong.)

 

0430 - Heavy firing, shelling, mortaring coming down on us.  Tanks and half tracks on high ground to left.  Enemy infantry cleared with bayonet and grenades.  Cleared to rd junc 7389776.  Inflicted heavy casualties on enemy - remainder ran or surrendered.

 

0500 - Attacked by tanks.  Gammon bombs used by R Coy.  Two infantry guns captured.  German prisoners coming along with us.  Opposition ahead intense.

 

0600 - S/STAFFS seemed to have retired, shooting ceased some time ago.  Our position becoming desperate as enemy were on high ground and houses above us (i.e. to NORTH) A.A. & MGs from river direction.  Tanks firing at point blank range.  R Coy - 6 men left.  S Coy - 15 men left.  T Coy - 8 men left. (HQ Coy were to come along with tpt behind S.STAFFS).  Bn HQ - 10 men left (approx).  This was my last check.  No wireless touch with any Coys.  (CO fwd at this stage trying to find posns - became embroiled - had engagement - was wounded).  Orders given to make for houses on high ground - i.e. R & T.  S to house on rd junc.

 

0630 - T Coy were cut off and could not disengage.  Enemy grenading us from houses we were trying to get into.  Managed to force entry into one house - but only 6 men with me.  Enemy now between us and S & T.  Sent O.C. R Coy to find out posn.  Firing dying down in distance.  S Coy appeared to be having bad time having retired to some trenches - could not get message through.  Tanks outside our house.  Many civilians in bottom story with me.  Nothing more to be done - four wounded in my party.

 

0730 - S.S. entered house, party taken.  At this point, the end of the Commanding Officer's Diary, the story becomes that of the remnants of the Bn who were reorganised into a new fighting force which fought throughout the remainder of the action.

 

19th September 1944

0200 - In the transport area 726778 40 - 50 men under Lieut. Williams.  He set about gathering into this area stragglers and isolated parties cut off from the Bn.  2nd Glider lift party under Lt. Turrell arrived during the night.

 

0900 - The bn now 200 strong under Lieut. Williams, with Lieuts. Turrell, Clarkson, Curtis, Lt QM Brown, Capt Caird the F.O.O., and Capt Watkins, the Padre.

 

0930 - Patrol by Lieuts Williams, Curtis & Turrell on a Jeep with a V.M.G. mounted.  This penetrated far into town before meeting heavy opposition, but failed to find the rest of the Bn.

 

1100 - Bn attack.  This progressed as far as 100 yards east of the St. Elizabeth Hospital.  11 Bn followed.

 

1230 - Very heavy opposition having developed 11 Para Bn withdrew and being now isolated then Bn followed suit.

 

1400 - New positions consolidated in area X rds 726778.  By now we were joined by 60 men of the 3 Para Bn under Capt Dorrien Smith, and 1 17 lb gun and 4 6 lb guns of 1 A.L. A/Tk Bty.  We also had one carrier.  This position was held against increasing opposition from the east and north.

 

1930 - Withdrawal to area railway bridge 712774.  The night was spent in preparing posns with 1st Bn on the right, 11 Bn on left and 3 Bn in centre.  During the night there was some enemy shelling and mortaring.  Casualties during the day were about 6 killed and 20 wounded.  The carrier and the 17 lb A/T gun were knocked out.

 

20th September 1944

0800 - S Coy under Lieut. Curtis attacked by tanks, and one tank knocked out.  From then on Coy was heavily mortared but held firm.

 

1100 - Tanks reported approaching.  Three broke into our positions but were destroyed by the A/Tk guns.  Snipers got into buildings under cover of the tanks and patrols under Lieut. Curtis and Turrell engaged them.

 

1200 - Enemy aircraft overhead did a little strafing but were chiefly spotting our posns.

 

1400 - Major Lonsdale arrived from Div H.Q. to take command of the whole eastern sector of the Divisional Perimeter.  "Lonsdale Force" came into existence, consisting of 1 Para Bde, 2 S.Staffs, 11 Para Bn, a party of Glider Pilots, and 4 6 lb A/Tk guns.

 

1500 - Patrols under Lieuts. Curtis and Turrell cleared snipers.

 

1630 - Heavy enemy attack by infantry, SP guns and a few tanks, with enfilading MG fire from the railway bank on the right.  Considerable casualties in our sector.  Lieut. Curtis killed.

 

1700 - Air resupply caused great rejoicing.  This proved to be the only successful resupply in spite of the great bravery of the aircrews.

 

1900 - Enemy burning all our houses.  Positions become untenable.  Major Lonsdale ordered withdrawal to area of church 677773.  The enemy was slow to appreciate our movements, and this was successfully achieved, covered by our V.M.G. and one A/Tk gun.

 

2030 - New positions occupied in field 677772 to 702768, with S & R Coys under Lieut QM Brown on left, HQ Coy under Lieut. Clarkson in centre, and T Coy under Lieut. Turrell on right.  The night was spent in digging deep trenches in water-logged ground.  There were about 30 casualties during the day including 3 killed.

 

21st September 1944

0730 - After a quiet night, enemy early morning "hate" by shelling and mortaring.

 

0900 - 3 tanks and about a company of infantry approached T Coy from direction of the railway bridge over the river.  Repulsed by S.A. fire and arty fire called down by F.O.O.

 

1100 - Air re-supply.  Despondency because the enemy got the lot.

 

1130-1300 -  Intensive Nebelweffer fire on Bn positions.  Highly unpleasant but few casualties because we were well dug in.  Lieut. Clarkson killed.

 

1600 - Owing to information that 30 Corps guns were going to put down a barrage on this flat ground, the Bn was ordered to move North of the road.  A withdrawal was made to the church under heavy fire which caused eight casualties.  After a rest in the church the bn reorganized and took up new positions in houses and gardens north of the road - 698773 - 698777.  Lieut Williams, having been wounded, Capt W. S. Caird, R.A., the F.O.O., assumed command of the Bn.

 

2100 - Enemy artillery and mortar "hate", during which enemy snipers took up their positions.  This was followed by a quiet night.  Casualties for the day - 2 killed and 10 wounded.

 

22nd September 1944

0630 - Morning "hate".

 

0900 - Tanks approached perimeter and driven off by A/Tk guns.  Infantry who tried to approach under cover of tank and S.P. gun fire were repulsed at great cost to themselves.  A relatively quiet and successful day.  Positions improved and much digging done.  Night patrols to prevent enemy from digging in close to Bn positions.

 

23rd September 1944

0700 - Heavy morning "hate".

 

A day spent in continuous small engagements with venturesome tanks.  Enemy infantry now more hesitant in making close-range attacks, but snipers abounded.

 

1800 - Evening "hate".

 

2000 - Reinforcements of 1 officer and 20 O.Rs arrived from the Glider Pilots.

 

24th September 1944

After the usual morning hate we successfully held our sector intact throughout the day.  S.P. gun fire and mortaring was intense.  On a sector North of us tanks broke through.  This led to additional tank and S.P. gun fire from the northern flank and the infestation of the area by snipers.

 

1400 - Lieut. Turrell detached to take over command of 3 Para Bn, now without officers.  The night was spent in fighting snipers who had moved into parts of the perimeter in large numbers.

 

25th September 1944

On this day the perimeter was widely breached to the North of us, and the enemy was moving in our left flank in force.  A considerable number of tanks inside the perimeter.  Mortar and shell fire heavier than ever.  This was made the more unpleasant because many British shells from South of the river were landing in our area, but these did providentially quieten the tanks.  A day of extremely hard fighting against heavy and confusing opposition, but the bn position held firm throughout.

 

1700 - News of an evacuation south of the river to take place than night.

 

2000 - Orders for evacuation received.

 

2300 - Evacuation begins.  Slight activity by enemy had to be silenced after which the withdrawal from our positions was miraculously successful.

 

26th September 1944

0400 - After hours of lying out on the flat ground in drenching rain the whole bn had crossed by this hour at 773769.  It was only possible to bring walking wounded with us.  The rest had to be left where the enemy would find them.  After a long walk in the dark and the rain we reached a C.C.P. where we were given a rum ration and received a great welcome from 43rd Division.  "Ducks" transported us to Nijmegen, when we arrived about 1100 hrs.  The seaborne party had prepared billets, food and blankets in great style.

 

27th September 1944

Day spent at Nijmegen, getting clean and rested, and with the issue of clean clothes.  Our numbers were found to be about 100.

 

28th September 1944

Left Nijmegen in American transport.  Some enemy shelling of road near Veghel.  Route via Eindhoven, Deist and thence to monastery near Louvain.

 

29th September 1944

Advance party left for England.  Morning spent on administration.  Rest of day free, and many men visited Louvain or Brussels.

 

30th September 1944

1000 - Left airfield near Brussels and returned to England in Dakota aircraft.

 

1215 - Arrived Saltby airfield, where a wonderful welcome had been prepared for us.  Then back to Grimsthorpe.