2 IC














O Gp











Map Reference

Second in Command



British / Bridge





Commander Royal Engineers






Map Reference
Officer Commanding

Orders Group





Royal Engineers


Start Point





14th September 1944

Place: Arques, France MR 50/154510


1800 - Major Smith, O.C. of R.E. Fd Coy taking over our maint commitments in this area, arrived and spent the night here.


15th September 1944

Place: Arques, France MR 50/154510


0600 - Weather:- fair and warm.


0800 - Coy carries on with routine tasks.  Transport personnel are busy servicing vehicles and unit in general preparing for a long move.


1300 - B.B.C. reports British firmly established East of the ALBERT CANAL and driving North.  Americans are fighting on German soil East of AACHEN.


1800 - Capt Parsons attended 'O' Group at CRE HQ and received movement order.  Unit to pass S.P. at 0800 hrs tomorrow en route for BRUSSELS Area.


16th September 1944

0600 - Weather:- fair and warm.


0730 - Coy moved off in convoy passed S.P. at BELCROIX at 0800 hrs.


1800 - Convoy arrived at R.V. West of BRUSSELS and met Sgt Dorzinsky from advance party who passed on order to move straight through to new area North of the ALBERT CANAL.


1830 - Unit passed through BRUSSELS.  Everyone was greatly impressed at the magnificence of the city and the tumultuous welcome of the people.


1930 - Unit stopped at old BRUSSELS area for evening meal.


2030 - Unit moved off en route for EXSEL bivouac area, 60 miles distant.


2230 - The Q.M. truck turned over at a bad corner nr LOUVAIN.  The first incident in a night of grief to follow.


17th September 1944

0600 - Weather:- clear and cold.


0200 - Coy crossed the ALBERT CANAL after having been delayed for hours by traffic jams on 2 Brit Army route.


0215 - Convoy split at sharp turn in route - more grief.


0330 - Convoy back together again and moved off.


0630 - Convoy finally located new bivouac area and moved in.


0730 - Breakfast and bed.


1700 - The role we are to play in present operation is outlined by the O.C. as follows:- 2 Brit Army intend to cross the RHINE along its lower reaches in HOLLAND where it splits into three tributaries: the MAAS (South), the WAAL (centre) and the NEDER RIJN (north).  The immediate objective is ARNHEM and the North bank of the NEDER RIJN.  Three Airborne Divs with parachute Bdes attached will be dropped along the NIJMEGEN - ARNHEM axis tonight in an attempt to seize all bridges intact and cut the enemies' communications between a force of 100,000 Panzer troops and their German bases.  The Guards Armd Div have been given the job of taking EINDHOVEN tonight and driving on to link up with the Airborne Troops further north.  The 43 and another Br Inf Div are supporting the Guards.  In the very probable event of the bridges along the axis of advance being blown, 14,000 Engineers, of which we are a very small part, are in support of the attacking forces for bridging and rafting the three rivers which bar the way to ARNHEM.  The coy's particular role for this op depends greatly on the success or failure of the Airborne Divs' attempt to seize bridges intact.  Our role will most likely be the building of a Bailey barge bridge across the MAAS and an assault ferrying job by either Cl 9 or Cl 40 rafts across the NEDER RIJN.


2100 - Intelligence reports that the 3 Airborne Divs have been landed in the following areas:- an American Airborne Div in the NIJMEGEN Area, a 2nd Airborne American force in the ARNHEM area and a Brit Airborne Div north of ARNHEM.  The Guards have run into stiff opposition and have not yet taken EINDHOVEN.  Preliminary reports state that all brs have been seized intact by the Airborne troops.


2300 - Lt Mackie has been detailed to take recce party, which is on 2 hours notice effective immediately.


18th September 1944

Place: Exsel, Belgium


0600 - Weather:- fair and warm.


0800 - Coy carries on with routine maintenance and preparation for coming operation.


1000 - Guards Armd Div still having difficulty in EINDHOVEN Area.  Intelligence reports one br blown across the MAAS.


1800 - Intelligence reports that an additional Airborne Div landed along the RIVER MAAS.


2000 - Strong forces of enemy bombers raided this area, presumably in an attempt to knock out bridges.


2300 - Heavy artillery barrage opened up in this area.


19th September 1944

Place: Exsel, Belgium


0600 - Weather:- fair and cool.


0800 - Intelligence reports that the Guards Armd Div have linked up with American Airborne Troops in the EINDHOVEN Area.


0900 - Major Jones detailed to take recce party as far forward as he can get (to ARNHEM if possible) and recce sites for bridging and rafting.


1000 - Major Jones and Lt Linton left in a White Scout Car for the front line.  We all wished them luck and good hunting.


1900 - 2 IC attended CREs 'O' Gp.  Probably changes in plan in the coming op were discussed.  There is still no sign of an immediate move.


20th September 1944

Place: Exsel, Belgium


0830 - Officers and platoon sgts reports to CRE and proceeded to BEERINGHEM where they inspected the Bailey Barge Bridge built across the ALBERT CANAL.


1300 - Reports state that the Guards Armd Div are heavily engaged around NIJMEGEN.  Nothing has been heard from the Airborne Div in the ARNHEM Area but the bridge is reported to be still intact.


1900 - Still no sign of a move for unit.  Nothing has been heard from the O.C. and his recce party.


21st September 1944

Place: Exsel, Belgium


0600 - Weather:- fair and warm.


0700 - Warning order received.  Unit is to be ready to move on 15 minutes notice by 0800 hrs when we come under command of 43 Brit Inf Div.


0915 - Lt Mackie with recce party moved off from CRE HQ.


1030 - Coy moved off in convoy and made circuitous route to South joining up with bridging train in marshalling area along the BOURG - LEOPOLD - HECHTEL Highway.


1230 - Complete formation with bridging train moved off from Marshalling Area and headed North for NIJMEGEN.  This is the route that the 2nd Brit Army spearhead has opened up.  The enemy are close to the highway on both flanks.


1600 - Convoy shelled while moving along the rd South of UDET.  H93424 Spr Topping GA was badly hit by shrapnel and evacuated to an American Fd Hospital.


1645 - Convoy halted while a very lively dog fight raged overhead.  Several enemy fighters and one of our own were shot down.


1900 - Unit met recce parties.  Major Jones, Lt Linton and Lt Mackie, all pulled into temporary bivouac area on the outskirts of NIJMEGEN.


2200 - O.C. attended CRE's 'O' Group.  There is nothing to report on the battle situation.  43 Div is taking over the assault from the Guards Armd Div at 220830A.  We still don't know whether or not there is a job for us.  The assaulting corps wants its own engineers to handle the rafting and bridging so we may have come on a wild goose chase.


22nd September 1944

Place: Nijmegen, Holland.


0600 - Weather:- cloudy and cool.


1200 - CRE's 'O' Group.  Lt Mackie and his recce party sent forward to make recce of rafting site.  Infantry are having a 'sticky' time North of NIJMEGEN.  The enemy are in ELST in strength.  No contact has yet been made with the British Airborne forces around ARNHEM.


1400 - Results of 'O' Group are that we area to go forward to the NEDER RIJN and ferry across tanks on Cl 40 Rafts.  Tanks are in pressing demand by the Airborne Forces on the North bank.


1800 - Airborne reinforcements and supplies dropped to ARNHEM forces.  Reports received that we have been cut off in the rear near UDEN.


23rd September 1944

Place: Nijmegen, Holland.


0600 - Weather:- cloudy and cool.


0630 - We are on one hour notice to move after 1200 hrs today.  We are now directly under command of CRE 43 Div.


1500 - Information from CRE 43 Div as follows:- 130 Bde have reached the NEDER RIJN West of ARNHEM.  Enemy still in strength in ELST and another strong pocket exists just N.E. of NIJMEGEN Railroad Bridge.  Enemy have cut us off in UDEN Area and seized 5 miles of rd with tanks and infantry.  8th and 12th Corps are moving up along flanks of spearhead to seal gap.  We are on one hour notice until dusk and again at first light tomorrow.


1800 - Large forces of Airborne Troops landed in ARNHEM and GRAVE District.


24th September 1944

Place: Nijmegen, Holland.


0600 - Weather:- cloudy and cool.


0730 - Unit standing by awaiting orders to move.


0900 - Intelligence reports that Polish paratroopers (about 200 strong) crossed the NEDER RIJN West of ARNHEM during the night in assault boats and attempted to link up with Airborne Troops.  It is believed that they have been wiped out.  The bridge at ARNHEM is now completely in enemy hands.  130 Bde are standing by to assault the river West of ARNHEM.  A few patrols have linked up with Airborne Forces on the North bank.  They are fighting against heavy odds and are in desperate need of tanks.  Their stand has been one of the outstanding of the war.  The Irish Guards have penetrated to the South Bank of the NEDER RIJN just South of ARNHEM and have infiltrated South and East of ELST, in an attempt to cut off strong enemy forces causing so much trouble in this area.


1100 - Orders to marshall bridging train and coy vehs received.  Total convoy consists of 483 vehicles.


1200 - Units and bridging train marshalled and ready to move off.


1330 - Coys ordered to stand down and return to bivouac areas.  Tactical situation has deteriorated.  Lt Mackie, last heard of last evening when he returned to NEDER RIJN to have another look at rafting sites further down stream, has not yet reported.  We are rather anxious about him.


1500 - Reports state that the corridor behind us was opened again for a few hours but was closed again by determined enemy pressure.  Unit will be on one hour notice to move at first light tomorrow.


1800 - Persistent rumours are about that the unit will be returned to First Cdn Army at ANTWERP and assist in assault crossing the SCHWELTE RIVER.


25th September 1944

Place: Nijmegen, Holland.


0600 - Weather:- clear and cold.


0645 - Order received that there will be no moved today before 1200 hrs.


0830 - Spr Rimmer with his wireless truck (he has been attached to 10 AGRE) arrived from BOURG LEOPOLD with mail for the unit.  This is extremely welcome at this time.  The corridor has been opened again in our rear but is still under shellfire.


1200 - OC attended 'O' Group at CRE 43 Div.  Our coy together with 23 Fd Coy and two RE Fd Coys (204 and 260) will ferry back the Dorsets and the remnants of the 1st Airborne Div from the North bank of the NEDER RIJN using storm boats after dark.


1430 - Platoon pers trucks and a few of the HQ pers moved to assembly area T VALSBURG, 3 miles South of DRIEL, Lt Mackie joined us here.


1700 - The O.C. attended 'O' Group.  Heavy artillery barrage will be laid down at 2100 hrs.  First storm boat will touch down at 2140 hrs.


1830 - Pls moved off with their storm boats (See Appendix 6 for further detail of this op).


26th September 1944

Place: Nijmegen, Holland.


0600 - Operation over.  A total of 2,500 men ferried from far bank, they are believed to be all that is left of the Airborne Forces and the Dorset Regt.  The unit sustained no cas.  The 23 Fd Coy had 14 cas and one officer missing.


0900 - Unit returned to Bivouac area at NIJMEGEN.


1400 - OC attended 'O' Group at CRE 43 Div.  He was told that we are now back under command of our own CRE and would be going back to the First Cdn Army shortly.


1930 - OC attended 'O' Group at HQ 1 CAT Engrs.  We have been given a rd maint job in VALBOURG area for tomorrow.  It is expected that we shall move to the Cdn Army on 28 SEP.



Appendix VI





1. CRE "O" Group 1000 hrs 25 SEP 44 at MR 666678.  Unit was given orders to move to the vicinity of VALBURG Railway Station.  A minimum of men and transport were to be taken to assist in evacuating all those left on the far bank of the River NEDER RIJN.  Storm boats and assault boats were to be used.


2. O.C., two HQ Officers and three Platoon Comds and twelve sections moved to marshalling area MR 665705 with two kitchen lorries and sixteen other vehicles.  23 Cdn Fd Coy arranged for storm boat lorries to marshall at this point.


3. CRE "O" Group 1700 hrs 25 SEP 44 at MR 670712 (130 Inf Bde HQ).  Final plans outlined at follows:-

    (a) This unit with eight storm boats to start moving to rendezvous at X-rds MR 687720 at 1815 hrs.  Tps to debuss and leave TOV's along rd leading East from X-rds and to march to advance rendezvous MR 684759.  Storm boat lorries were to proceed under cover of darkness to advance rendezvous and four boats to be unloaded complete with motors, gear, etc.  At this point two boats were to be carried immediately to river bank in time to start ferrying at 2130 hrs.

    (b) At 2100 hrs our own support tps were to let loose with a barrage of all weapons available.

    (c) At periodic intervals two Bofors were to fire tracers at each extremity of the narrow beach head.

    (d) White tapes were to be laid from unloading point through orchard, across flood banks to beach.  (See Appendix 'A')

    (e) A.D.S. to be situated in town of DRIEL MR 684738.  Stretcher bearers were to be available at beach rendezvous near flood bank MR 686764.

    (f) Two storm boats and as many assault boats as available were to cross the river at 2130 hrs, pick up evacuees and return to near bank and continue crossing at hourly intervals thereafter.

    (g) Smoke was to be used at 0400 hrs 26 SEP 44.


Execution of Plan

4. Plan was carried out to unloading point MR 684759.  A recce was made by the O.C. and one sapper from unloading point to beach and white tapes laid.  It was necessary to make this recce by compass and it was raining hard and was extremely dark.  In the meantime storm boats and assault boats were being unloaded.  As soon as the unloading was completed, the boats and crews were moved to flood bank MR 686764.


Due to incessant machine gun fire from three enemy posts on the far bank directly opposite the site, it was decided between the R.E.'s and ourselves that it would not be practical to immediately start up Evenrude motors and consequently give our position away.  It was then decided to send an assault boat across to make a recce and to ascertain the number of troops waiting on the far bank.  Also to hinder our progress and make it more hazardous, a large factory was burning furiously and lit up our side of the river.


Every time there was any movement over the first flood bank, the enemy opened up on us with machine gun fire.  Fortunately, he was not aiming very accurately as no cas were suffered although there many near misses.


The first assault boat crossing resulted in the evacuation of two of the Dorset Reg't.  These men advised us that there were no other personnel on the far bank.


Another assault boat was sent across to check this information and no one was found.


At 2330 hrs another assault boat was sent over but none of our troops were found.  However, a section of the Dorset Reg't arrived on our side of the beach in an assault boat which they had found on the far bank.  They also reported no further personnel on the far bank.


At 0100 hrs our own mortars were dropping on our beach which forced us to stop operations for an hour.


At 0200 hrs another assault boat was sent across and picked up two stragglers.


At 0300 hrs our part of the evacuation was called off.  Three of our storm boats were removed to the flood bank and all the motors.  At 0330 hrs orders were given to send four storm boats to the site 1,500 yards to the right where the 23 Fd Coy were operating.  This meant launching the boats again.  During the launching, one storm boat was knocked out by mortar fire and sank.  The second boat was launched and a party was set our down the river to the other site.  They were under enemy machine gun fire continually and were forced to take cover on the near bank half way to the site.  The motor failed and would not start.  This party left the boat on the shore and made their way through mud up to their hips to a point of safety.  The third and fourth boats were not launched as it was nearing daylight and the enemy had us pinpointed with machine gun fire and it is not likely that either one of these boats could have been launched successfully.


The show was called off at first light.  48 evacuees came through our positions.


Technical Details Likely to Influence any Further Ops of This Nature

5. Storm boats are NOT practical when in close contact with the enemy and no covering fire is allowed.


Two assault crossings had been made on the two nights preceding this operation, hence the enemy had the spot well marked and covered by machine gun posts.


Assault boats were the answer to such an operation as they could be launched and manned without excessive noise.


If motor propelled craft had to be used in such an operation, it is suggested that better Engines and Prop Units replace Evenrudes as much difficulty was experienced with the Evenrudes stalling when their props fouled in the mud.


Some kind of signal should be offered from the far bank such as a flash light to indicate exact position of the troops.  We had 300 yds of beach to comb and on that beach were three enemy machine gun posts situated up above the flood banks (See Appendix 'B')


In all such ops, there should be an absolute minimum of personnel on hand.  We started off with 12 secs but this was soon cut down to 4.  All the remaining secs were sent back to a point of safety to rest and await further orders.  This is one of the reasons why no cas were experienced, all personnel being under complete control.


NOTE:- All Map References ARNHEM Sheet No 6NW/W Holland 1/25,000.


(A.W. Jones) Major

Officer Commanding,

20 Cdn Fd Coy RCE

29 SEP 44

In the Field.