Thanks to The Airborne Soldier for this diary.

 

Abbreviations

A/Q

CE

CRE

GOC
GSO

Int

Ops

OR

RE

Sitrep

Adjutant and Quartermaster Branch

Chief Engineer

Commander Royal Engineers

General Officer Commanding

General Staff Officer

Intelligence

Operations

Other Ranks

Royal Engineers

Situation Report

 

 

Month and year: September 1944

Commanding Officer : Brigadier K. Mackay

 

17th September 1944

Place: Hechtel - Advance HQ

 

Chief Engineer continued general liaison with 30 Corps.  During the past few days he had continually to answer queries on general points concerning Airborne Corps to interested commanders and staff officers of Second Army.  Their knowledge of the capabilities of the Airborne Corps were often scanty.  It was arranged that BGS 30 Corps with Brigadier A/Q and Chief Engineer's party should contain the first elements of Main 30 Corps Headquarters in the advance, so that it should receive protection and the latest information.  It was anticipated that the headquarters might commence moving before dusk and a small advance made beyond the starting point that day.  Later however owing to delay in the advance of forward elements Corps headquarters move was postponed by 24 hrs.

 

Place: At Sea - Main HQ

 

Main HQ landed at ARROMANCHES beach 1430 hrs after an uneventful but pleasant crossing.  Having formed up it had tea at 60 Transit Camp and proceeded to LISIEUX for the night.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

Operation MARKET began, H hour being 1300 hrs.  SO II and SO III (Int) watched aircraft (approximately a third of the force) coming from the SW fields, as they crossed over MOOR PARK, a sight which continued for an hour.  It was most impressive and most awe inspiring in view of the fact that for the first time in history a whole army had gone to war by air.

 

18th September 1944

Place: Hechtel - Advance HQ

 

Complete lack of information on the direct WT links from Main Airborne Corps Headquarters to 30 Corps.  Some scraps of cipher messages believed to come from 1 Airborne Division were received but could not be broken down.  Owing to lack of progress of 30 Corps no forward move of Corps headquarters was possible.

 

Place: Lisieux - Main HQ

 

Main HQ moved from LISIEUX to MOREUIL.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

878 US Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion were phased back to fourth lift at least.

 

19th September 1944

Place: Eindhoven - Advance HQ

 

Signal communication was still bad, so Chief Engineer sent a most immediate message to rear Airborne Corps headquarters in UK asking them for any information they had on situation of Airborne Troops.  Hourly Sitreps of 30 Corps situation were now being sent to rear headquarters Airborne Corps.  In afternoon BGS 30 Corps ordered an all night move of the Corps HQ, which was carried out without lights and incidents, except for a temporary hold-up owing to the ditching of a lorry and bombing by the enemy of EINDHOVEN which held up traffic for some time.

 

Place: Moreuil - Main HQ

 

Main HQ moved from MOREUIL to DIEST airfield.  The towing attachment of one of the RE jeeps parted from frame as the result of an accident on 15 Sep.  The trailer was transferred to another jeep in convoy already towing one trailer.  These two trailers were overturned EAST of BRUSSELS and one RE trailer wrecked.  The contents of this trailer were transferred to a following 3 tonner and salvaged at DIEST airfield.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

As a result of the briefing of the GSO1 a message to Chief Engineer as attached was sent asking whether 878 US Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion could now have a recce party flown in direct on DEELEN airfield, briefed from air photos.

 

20th September 1944

Place: Hechtel - Advance HQ

 

After passing through EINDHOVEN at dawn, the column was held up owing to enemy action on the road just NORTH of the town.  During the halt Chief Engineer had a conversation with CG 101 Airborne Division on the northern outskirts of EINDHOVEN.  Everything appeared well in hand.  The advance was continued about mid-day and Chief Engineer arrived at headquarters Airborne Corps at NIJMEGEN towards dusk.  After reporting to GOC and BGS Chief Engineer, the party bedded down in the woods near Corps Headquarters.

 

Place: Diest - Main HQ

 

Little progress made owing to enemy action and fighting further ahead and only movement from DIEST airfield to HECHTEL was possible.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

NIL.

 

21st September 1944

Place: Nijmegen - Advance HQ

 

Accompanied by G2 (Ops) the Chief Engineer visited HQ Guards Armoured Division and discussed the situation with the G.S.O.1 and CRE.  The Chief Engineer subsequently visited HQ 30 Corps and discussed situation with the BGS, G2 (Int) and Chief Engineer.  From the latter he obtained the revised plan as to boom and bridge construction proposed and in hand over the rivers MAAS and WAAL.  A report was received from the Guards Armoured Division of a possible airfield site near GRAVE.  Major Hancock proceeded to reconnoitre this site.  On return he reported that with very little work it could be made suitable for immediate use.  In the evening the Adjutant RE 1 Airborne Division, who had returned from ARNHEM the previous night had a discussion with the Chief Engineer.  General details of the situation of 1 Airborne Divisional RE were discussed with special reference to the state of the ARNHEM bridges and crossings.  The Engineer of 307 Engineer Battalion visited Chief Engineer and discussed the tasks of the engineers of 82 Airborne Division.

 

Place: Hechtel - Main HQ

 

Main HQ travelled all night from HECHTEL to EINDHOVEN and after a long halt during which time it was discovered that the head of the column was making tea, it proceeded to SON.  The whole day was spent here as it was impossible to move forward due to road being out NORTH of VEGHEL.  At approx 1000 hrs the convoy moved back 7 miles SOUTH of EINDHOVEN.  It rained during the night.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

A message was received from Chief Engineer saying that he was agreeable to 878 US Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion recce party flying on to DEELEN airfield as soon as captured subject to Advance Corps approval.  The G.S.O.1 sent a message to EASTCOTE asking for aircraft and glider pilots allotted to 878 US Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion to be now briefed for DEELEN.  SO II put Colonel Collart in the picture.

 

22nd September 1944

Place: Nijmegen - Advance HQ

 

The Chief Engineer proceeded to HQ 30 Corps and took AOC 46 Group RAF to the proposed airfield near GRAVE.  AOC considered field most suitable and promised to sent a Dakota to try out field immediately on his return to BRUSSELS.  Chief Engineer undertook to mark the field using glider pilots and other local labour.  BGS was informed of this.  Major Hancock carried out reconnaissance for further strips on the north bank of the WAAL but found no suitable sites.

 

Place: So. of Eindhoven - Main HQ

 

NIL.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

NIL.

 

23rd September 1944

Place: Nijmegen - Advance HQ

 

Major Hancock with glider pilots spent the day marking out GRAVE airfield for Dakotas.  The Chief Engineer visited CE 30 Corps and discussed -

 

(a) additional bridges at GRAVE and NIJMEGEN in view of the enemy air and shelling attacks.

 

(b) methods in use by 30 Corps to cross NEDER RIJN to relieve 1 Airborne Division.

 

Some uncertainty arose as to whether GRAVE airfield would be used by transport aircraft for fighters.  However Second Army decided transport aircraft and units were ordered to fly in from UK.  A large pasture immediately EAST of the airfield was reconnoitred for us as an additional strip for aircraft or gliders.  It was also decided that 878 Aviation Engineer Battalion on arrival should concentrate on providing taxi ways and additional road access to GRAVE field.  It was arranged that in future 307 Engineer Battalion would send a liaison officer daily to the Chief Engineer at 1830 hrs so that the situation and daily requirements of this Battalion could be discussed.  Chief Engineer commenced attending BGSs conference held daily at 1930 hrs.  In the evening Chief Engineer saw Captain Mackay and Lieut Simpson 1 Parachute Squadron RE who had escaped from GERMANY after capture at ARNHEM.

 

Place: So. of Eindhoven - Main HQ

 

Main HQ having spent all day sorting and drying out by the roadside, decided to move into billets at 1615 hrs.  At 1630 hrs orders to move forward were received.  The convoy finally halted just NORTH of SON and parked on roadside until 0515 hrs 24 Sep 44.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

NIL.

 

24th September 1944

Place: Nijmegen - Advance HQ

 

Owing to continued reports of charges being still in position on the NIJMEGEN bridge the Chief Engineer ordered a re-check of bridges by 307 Engineer Battalion.  In the evening Battalion reported that no charges remained on the NORTH bridge.  Complete reports of the bridges over the MAAS-WAAL canal and the MAAS were not yet in but it was understood that nothing had been found.  Main HQ comprising of Captain Newby and 6 ORs arrived from SON at 0930 hrs.

 

Place: Moor Park - Rear HQ

 

0130 hrs the message as attached was received from Airborne Corps Main.  SO II saw G.S.O.1 and it finally transpired that G was not taking action... [diary ends]