History of 'DD' Battery, Royal Horse Artillery
Chapter 5 - Winter in Holland, Clearing the Maas, Onto German Soil, Crossing the Rhine, the Advance to Bremen and the end of of hostilities at Hamburg.
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1st December. 1944 - 31st January, 1945.
In action behind the lines, at Ittervoort (north of Maseyck) supporting first a Brigade of 53rd (W.) Division, with the Inns of Court Regiment on their right, then 2nd K.R.R.C. (left) then 44th R.T.R. (right), with 4th Armoured Brigade under 11th Armoured Division.
The next two months must be viewed as a single period, a mixture of action, rest, training and Christmas celebrations. Since the few days at Heyst-op-Den-Berg early to September, the Regiment had not been out of action, so it was not long before the Colonel arranged for one battery at a time to be out of action, or at least at six hours' notice. The system finally settled down to four days in support of the 60th (at comparatively heavy commitment, since two O.Ps. were needed as well as an officer at Battalion H.Q. day and night), followed by two days out of action, then four days in action, but with only a liaison officer at the H.Q. of the Inns of Court Regiment (and later 44th R.T.R.) on the right, since observed fire on their front was given by O.Ps. from 13th R.H.A., followed again by two days out of action before the next four of supporting and K.R.R.C.
Vacancies for forty-eight hour leaves in Brussels were regular, and frequently lorries were lent back with men who wanted an unofficial two days at Heyst, which held many friends for us and was conveniently near Brussels. In December full instructions came about nine days' leave in England for all who had done six months' continuous service abroad. The ballot for places was an exciting moment, there being about 150 men eligible, forty of whom went in January.
As is inevitable during long periods of action, maintenance of equipment, training and a variety of domestic matters had been neglected or shelved for a more suitable opportunity. But these comparatively quiet conditions allowed for the paying of greater attention to these things. Brigadier R. M. P. Carver, commanding 4th Armoured Brigade,
visited the Regiment on December 15th. All outside witnesses agreed that the standard of turn-out of men and vehicles, the tidiness of cookhouses, billets, etc., was the higher in the Regiment —the result of several days' hard work by everybody. The Colonel sent a personal note of congratulation to the Battery. Like so many inspections, it was too hurried to be thorough; the Brigade Commander bad to attend a conference, which cut down his time with each Battery.
Just before Christmas, General "Pip" Roberts, G.O.C., 11th Armoured Division, with Brigadier Fowler, the C.R.A., also visited but this was not so through as the previous
inspection which concerned details of administration, the state and maintenance of vehicles, the quality and systems of cookhouses, etc.
Throughout this period the whole Battery, with the exception of the B.Q.M.S and his vehicles (with the " B " Echelon at Weert) and the M.T. stores (with the L.A.D. at Hunsel) was together - H.Q. Troop being in the Burgornaster's house (compared with the small farms we had occupied during the first few months, the acme of luxury and spaciousness, with its three stories and two adjoining farms) while each troop cluster round its own small farm. Troop cookhouses, after teething troubles changing over from vehicle messing, worked well. For Christmas, dining tables were erected in barns or the big room of a house. Pigs and pianos were respectively bought or borrowed. The cooks did magnificent work producing one of the best Christmas dinners ever eaten. On Christmas day it was impossible to get the whole Battery together : there was no room large enough and dinners of the three troops had to staggered, since the Battery was in action. Civilians from across the Maas brought rumours of the Germans' intention to keep Christmas on the 23rd and 24th and then to attack on the 25th. An extra degree of alertness was called for, but nothing came of it. During this time were one or two changes within the Battery. At Christmas Lieut. G. A. Phalp joined from 124th Field Regiment, R.A., which had recently been broken up when 50th Division were disbanded. From similarly placed units came three or four tradesmen, surplus to requirements. Then in early January, a scheme known as " Spark" caught the Regiment in its grip - almost every Gunner Regiment had to send twenty-four men to the infantry : such men had to be of a certain age group and not holders of a campaign medal, and not tradesmen.
In spite of operations, leave, local course on mines and so on, a fifteen days' course of training was carried out, the programme being doggedly adhered to, though breaks for Christmas and New Year tended to divide it into blocks of five days' work at a time. It was based on the lines of previous Regimental Cadre Classes and aimed at the teaching of Junior N.C.Os. by Senior N.C.Os. acting as instructors.
Every degree of temperature and all varieties of weather - except summer conditions - were experienced. There were hard frosts, day and night, at the end of the year, which called for extra care of radiators. Thaw and snow followed : frost returned, then even more snow, and so on. Until the frost prevented the use of the ground, A Regimental Football League was getting well under way, each Battery entering three teams from the two Troops and H.Q. Troop. An entrance fee was charged and the winning team stood to receive an extra forty-eight hours in Brussels. " D " Troop had a particularly strong team - but had yet to play " G " Troop, also a high-class team, when frost stopped play.
Since D+2 of the Normandy landings, the Regiment had been almost continuous action but it bad seldom been of a spectacular nature. So in the matter of honours and awards it was fair to admit that few in the Battery had earned a reward for some specific act of great bravery; there, bad been such individual case, but it was difficult to get awards for them since they had not been performed under any limelight. However, in December it was announced that the Commander-m-Chief bad awarded a certificate for gallantry to Gnr. G. Wright of " D " Troop who had done good service as operator in his Troop Commanders O.P. tank. About the same time, too, Captain P. E. Millington was awarded the Military Cross. Both had served a long tem in the Regiment and Battery, always giving of their best. Leave to England began in January (the allotment of vacancies for the next month was, unfortunately, considerably reduced) and the front remained quiet. On 16th December tee German thrust in the Ardennes began, setting Brussels, and indeed all Belgium, astir; but, as everyone knows, in the course of a few weeks that little matter had been put right, with crippling and demoralising losses to the enemy. On our own front, the 60th had got the better of those on the other bank of the Maas, so that the enemy began to show less enterprise in patrolling on our bank; in due course we sent patrols across to examine the island between the river and the Juliana canal which ran from Maasbracht to Maasricht. They raided Stevensweert and brought back a prisoner who was utterly surprised, having been suddenly seized by three white-clad figures in snow-suits as he was sauntering back to his billets.
A vast operation, "Pinafore," was planned for the capture of the " island. " No. 3 Commando, from " I " Special Service Brigade, were to carry this out if the 60th had not done it by a certain date. The time and date depended upon the progress of XII Corps operation " Blackcock," which was to take them north and north-east up the east bank of the river from Sittard. The operation, with 7th Armoured Division, 52nd (L.) Division and 43rd Division an protagonists, began on the 15th January, and during its opening days (it was not completed till the end of the month) operation orders were being exchanged on all sides, like Christmas Cards between the various units taking part in our own operation "Pinafore." But 7th Armoured Division pressure the left of XII Corps up the river bank alarmed the sparely scatters platoons on the island; they withdrew, and when No. 3 Commando, with the support of the Battery, landed at midday on the 18th, they found only mines and one deserter in a cellar.
" Blackcock," then, was to take XII Corps up to the banks of the River Roer as it ran its last twelve miles or so north-west into the Maas at Roermond.
As 7th Armoured Division approached Maasbracht from Echt and Schilberg, our O.P. (Captain Hoyle), on the lock near the north end of the Juliana canal, had a grand view of 11th Hussars entering Maasbracht, Before their arrival he had had some targets near the village - strong German forces creeping along behind houses and going to ground.
1st "S.S. Brigade " (Brigadier Mills-Roberts) consisting of Nos. 3, 6 and 45 (Marine) Commandos - No. 46 was elsewhere at time - were under command 7th Armoured Division for the attack on Maasbtacht and Linne, the last phase of "Blackcock " which did not, in fact, put the Corps front in these parts right up to the banks of the Roer. There were considerable enemy defences - north of Linne, in the form of anti-tank ditches, wire, etc.
The support for the Commando attack was mainly by " C" and " F " Batteries, but Lieut. McCulloch was there and helped in a skilful way. The nature of the operation called for F.O.Os. to go forward on foot, with No. 38 wireless sets working back to a base vehicle, though " C " Battery had tank O.Ps. with the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards (22nd Armoured Brigade). Throughout these final stages of the XII Corps Operation, while our Armoured Regiments rested (though the Sharpshooters were engaged in we battle on the river farther north) we came under the C.R.A. 7th Armoured Division. But the guns remained on the 11th Armoured Division side of the Maas, moving forward a couple of thousand yards to the village of Thorn to keep within range. Wireless range to the O.Ps. was fairly short, but to visit them by roads one had to go with to Masecyck and cross the river there.
On the 23rd January, Lieut. McCulloch was supporting 45th (Marine) Commando, sitting " in the pocket " of their CO to start with. They became involved as they approached Linne with some stubborn Germans, having one troop temporarily cut off. They were attacked during the night but steered off trouble with the help of D.F. on the village. " Nebelwerfers "were beginning to appear again - unheard of since Normandy days.
The next day, when No. 3 Commando relieved 45th, the O.P. went out with a patrol to discover to what extent the enemy were holding Linne. They passed the big house called De Villa, which stood among area on high ground 1,000 yards from the river and, following the Vlootbeek, reached the edge of the village unopposed. Here they were sniped and machine-gunned, and eventually bad to withdraw to make a fire plan, which the Regiment then fired. A second patrol set out with the same objective and with the same O.P. party, and this time met stiffer opposition, including one or two Mark IV tanks which engaged them with H.E. and forced them to withdraw. When the Commando withdrew to a firm base, the Regiment fired concentration on the front edge of the village and all was well. At 1700 hourly with a fire-plan from the Battery and the support of a troop of tanks, a further probe into Linne was made, covered by smoke from the other batteries. But one tank fired continuously along the Vlootbeek - the obvious and only line of approach - perhaps just able to observe through the thinning smoke. The O.P. engaged the tank and silenced its fire. Further mortaring met any attempt to get into the town by another way, but a very quick response from the guns on to suspected mortar area* stopped further trouble from that quarter, and thereafter the night was quiet.
The next day Linne was entered without opposition, and by the 27th, the main operation wax complete, with XII Corps on their final objectives. The Battery took over from " F " Battery O.Ps. one with the Marine Commando on the left, one with the 3rd Commando in Linne and one with 6th, who were stepped back down the main road from Linne, doing a daily " swanning " patrol to the east up to the enemy-dug defences. The Linne O.P. saw much movement with enemy positions only eight hundred yards away; the right hand one had three or four busy hours each day, sometimes on foot with a No. 18 set if a section of Commandos was patrolling alone on foot, sometimes in a tank if 5th R.T.R. sent a troop of tanks to support. The left hand O.P.. when established on the water-front at Linne, had a good view of the island - the looped piece of land formed by a bend in the river north of Linne. No. 45 Commando were to raid the " island," clear it of enemy, then pass a troop through to the " mainland " on the north tide of the loop to raid Merum. So one snowy night with Tactics H.Q. established on the river bank, the first assault boats crosed, There was a bright moon - far too bright. The enemy saw them coming, fell back on their Spandau posts, and by small-arms fire and grenades, after twenty minutes of fierce fighting, had inflicted heavy loses on the Marines. Our F.O.O. therefore never crossed. It was 0400 hours before the last wounded that could be rescued were brought back by boat, the Marines themselves doing magnificent rescue work. All night, particularly when surprise was first lost by the Troop that crossed, the guns fired on the Linne front to give the impression of an attack, coming up the main road to Roermond. It was a tiring night for all, and not much wu achieved. During the following three days various parleys were held on the river bank. to attempt to get the Germans to surrender and to get back those who had been killed on the night raid. This latter was achieved; the wounded had already been evacuated by the Germans.
" Nebelwerfers " and all types of mortars were used against Linne, but though the material damage to buildings was great, casualties were negligible. To counteract this, the Battery Commander ran a Counter Mortar Office at Brigade H.Q., which achieved something, though the mortars were only active for one more night. The 3rd Commandos all appointed Counter-Mortar O.Ps. in direct touch with this Office, and on two occasions intersections on previously reported mortar areas warranted engagement with the whole Regiment.
5th R H.A. then relieved our O.Ps. and on the 31st the Battery, having moved from Thorn to Wessern to get an extra 1,000 yards range, came out of action. Wessern, which had been a front-line village held by the Germans when we first came to these parts on October, and from November onwards, was badly shattered. So the opportunity was quickly taken to move to better billets in Kessenich - in the next country, though only a mile or so away, and offering the additional advantage of electric light. The rest of the Regiment was still on Dutch soil, so that all telephone calls to them were in a sense both " trans-frontier " and international
7th February - 25th February, 1945
Out of action at Kessenich and Tilburg.
|In due course news came that we were to move north, but details were not known till, on the 18th, after advance-parties had gone abroad to arrange billets, the Regiment moved to Tilburg - our first experience of being stationed in a town since our arrival in Southend - and the vehicles were parked in side streets, while the guns and tanks were in a regimental gun-park in a barrack. The five days here were devoted to maintenance, with visits to cinemas, clubs, baths, etc.|
23rd February - 8th March, 1945.
On to German soil, with the Canadian Army, east of the Reichswald operation " Blockbuster " - the battle for Udem - and so to the banks of the Rhine.
23rd, we set out for Germany to come under the C.C.R.A. 2nd Canadian
Corps. 1st Canadian Army had already begun its drive eastwards from the
Nijmegen area through the Reichswald and the town of Cleve. The next stage
was operation "Blockbuster" which was to take the Army (viz. 2nd
Canadian Corps and XXX Corps) - there was no fighting at the moment for
2nd (B.) Army - up to the Rhine, while the American 9th Army, having with
great skill forced the crossing of the Roer, were to strike up
north-eastwards -the other half of the Allies' pincer-movement. 1st
Canadian Army was largely (73 percent.) made up of British divisions: at
different times, 3rd, 15th, 43rd, 51st, 52nd, 53rd Divisions and Guards
Armoured Division were all there. So too was 11th Armoured Division, in
which 4th Armoured Brigade was taking the place of the 29th Armoured
Brigade, while they re-equipped with Comet tanks. So we came under
Brigadier Fowler as C.R.A. from December to the end of this operation on
After occupying our first positions on German soil, at Pfalzdorf, about eight mites south of Cleve on the road to Goch, there was a few days of building up for the operation, including much dumping of ammunition. Guns were everywhere; the Regiment was nearly forced to come into action with each troop doubled up on a troop from another regiment. Luckily, the winter weather was nearly ended : to find cover in buildings was nearly impossible since they bad all been looted and shattered.
The plan was as follows: 1st Canadian Army had XXX Corps' right and II Canadian Corps' left. 11th Armoured Division on the right flank of the latter were to advance from the present F.D.Ls. held by 15th (S.) Division (and later by 3rd (Br.) Division) while two Canadian Infantry Divisions and an armoured one advanced on the left to clear Udem and 3rd Division advanced as the left of XXX Corps.
The Division Commander's plan was to use the Division in two groups:-
The Greys' advance began at 1800 hours on 26th February. They started from the line of the Goch - Calcar road and were directed south-east towards Udem, the outskirts of which were reached on the 27th. Throughout the operation, 4th Armoured Brigade Group, which 4th R.H.A, was supporting, passed one of the two subsidiary groups through the other as soon as the first became tired, the 'policy being to push on at almost any cost. The Rhine and the defeat of Germany were both in sight.
The Gunner support for 44th R.T.R. and the 60th was in the hands of the B.C of " F " Battery, with Captain Hoyle, acting B.C. of Jerboa, always in close touch. There was heavy fire from enemy guns and mortars throughout, and at one point the 60th seemed it wise to move their H.Q. from where they were bring heavily shelled (two miles west of Udem) to a quieter spot. Just as they were moving - Captain Hoyle's driver was just letting in his clutch - a shell burst forty yards behind the tank, a splinter caught his head as it stuck up through the turret and he was instantly killed.
Here indeed was a sad loss, Captain Hoyle had joined the Regiment at Southend as a 1st Line Reinforcement Captain and had commanded " D " Troop since September, 1944. His was a great enthusiasm and a zest for battle and the destruction of Germans. The North African Campaign, where he was mentioned in dispatches, had given him severe wounds, and that battle-experience had served him well, so that he inspired with confidence all who came in touch with him.
In the first days of March we moved on until the guns came into action in the outskirts of the battered town of Udem (captured by the Canadian 4th Armoured Division from the north), while the Canadian right flank was linking up with the Americans after their dash up from the south-east with comparatively little opposition.
For his support in this operation Lieut. McCulloch was awarded the Military Cross, the citation for which ran as follows:-
Gun positions were reconnoitred at Sonsbeck, but a last minute change of plan moved us farther north to support the final Canadian drive to the Rhine at Wesel.
9th March - 16th March 1945
Back to Belgium; Helchteren and preparation for the assault of the Rhine with 15th (S.) Division.
|The rumour that we
were soon going back to Belgium seemed odd. But on the 9th, the Regiment
followed the rest of 11th Armoured Division back to our old hunting ground
of the winter - Bree, Kinroy, the excellent baths at the colliery near
Helchteren. And Heyst-op-den-berg was only an hour or two's run away in a
jeep. At Helchteren we had a week of planning and preparation for the
crossing of the Rhine which was planned for
the 23rd - a Friday. One recalled how Alamein had also begun on Friday, the 23rd. As the tracks stayed the night at Nijmegen on the way back they came under fire from enemy long-range gnu, which reminded us that this part of the Army Group's front which faced north into Holland, had not altered during the drive east to the Rhine. Nor was it due to move until the last weeks of the whole campaign in April.
16th March - 7th May, 1945.
The forming up for the crossing of the Rhine; the final deployment of the Army in the Westphalian plains, ending with the advance to Bremen and final halt, with end of hostilities with Germany, at Hamburg.
|Now under command
15th (S.) Division, the Brigade moved up again on the 16th - lorries and
loading parties had already been sent ahead to help in the enormous
ammunition dumping programme required for the operation. We did not see
them again till the eve of the battle. We found ourselves in the familiar
dismal Area between Udem and Kervenheim, the whole Battery living in
cramped style in a rather shattered farm. Captain P. B., Foster, M.C.,
R.H.A., came from " C " Battery to command " D "
Troop. Two days before operation " Plunder " the Brigade
Commander, addressing the Regiment, informed us that we should be the
first British guns across the Rhine. 44th R.T.R. supported by " F
" Battery's O.Ps. had been secretly equipping with amphibious D.D.
tanks. The village of Wardt, north-west of Xanten, was our gun area for
the fire-plan, approached very stealthily and with all possible
concealment including the pall of the mile-long smoke-screen which covered
the whole front. There was no doubt in the enemy's, mind that we should
cross the Rhine on this stretch of twenty or thirty miles; and he must
have known that we should use an airborne force. But it was a safe bet
that he would expect the airborne landings to precede the crossing and not
follow on the next day.
The whole story of the crossing is well known, down to the details of the formations taking part - 51st (H.) Division crossing at Rees, a Commando Brigade at Wesel and 15th (S.) Division between Xanten and Rees. 3rd Division and 52nd (L.) Division were holding the line of the river for us to pass through them. The leading brigade, with 44th R.T.R. in support, crossed on the night 23rd/24th and by the next evening the first Class 9 bridge was complete - a wonderful engineering feat - waiting for a L.A.A. Battery and then ourselves to cross. The guns and tanks of the Brigade meanwhile were using Class 40 rafts. But a bitter accident befell us. The Regiment was entirely across, with the exception of the last few vehicles of Jerboa when the bridge suddenly broke - in three places. In the middle the bridge was " D " Troop's G.P.Os half track slipped off the pontoons and sank to the bottom. In it were Bdr. Ballard the (G.P.O.A), Sig. Munn (recently returned to us, having been taken prisoner near Timimi in December. 1941) and Dvr. Graham. All were resumed drowned; in May we heard that Dvr. Graham's body had been found.
The Gun area on the far side - incidentally full of abandoned enemy guns - was somewhat " sharp ". One battery was in view from enemy mortars who began to harass them.
From here on the advance was to be broadly speaking, north-east on the axis Bocholt -Stadlohn (just inside the Dutch border) - Ahaus - Rheine, on the Dortmund - Ems Canal. Large bodies of enemy were seldom encountered, but often a few desperate Germans dug-in, each with a bazooka, panzerfaust, or spandau holding up the leading troop of tanks. Three moves a day were necessary to keep in range. It was difficult to know always what neighbouring formations were doing; for instance, 7th Armoured Division on our right tried a little bumping and boring without informing 53rd (W.) Division, under whom 4th Armoured Brigade now were, so that we found them already on one objective when we reached it. Indeed, from now till the end of hostilities on 5th May, progress was in rapid each day that no attempt will be made to recount the move of each day in detail.
On arrival in a new position the first job was always to clear the area of enemy, secreted in woods and farms, a record figure of P.W. being produced on the 17th, south of Kicchwaldsede, when the Regiment handed over several hundred, most being caught in the woods round " C " Battery.
On 2nd April we supported H.L.I.'s attack on Ochtrup, the O.P. going on next day to support their occupation (unopposed) of Langhorst. 15th Panzer Grenadiers were expected to try to break through from north Holland, so O.Ps. joined the C.L.Y. in a defensive role. Nothing happened and the next day found the guns near Rheine firing the first rounds for a week at small enemy pockets. Two " Honey " tanks had been issued, so that, with the G.P.O.'s using these the fighting part of the Battery except for the G.P.O.'s half-track, could get over the muddy, sodden roads. While the K.O.S.B. took Spelle, six miles north-west of Rheine, the guns moved to Dreirwalde. four miles north-east of the big town. There were three O.Ps., from Field Regiments of 52nd (L.) Division working on the Battery net supporting their own infantry, a practice which was kept up till the end of the campaign. At first their very correct procedure seemed very long winded, but they soon cut it down to conform with our practice. The C.L.Y. had been in reserve at Rheine, and the K.O.S.B. holding the line from Holsten to take Voltage, under fire from the first guns and mortars encounter for MOM time. The map shows how very much this advance went along a due north-east axis Neuenkirchen and Uffeln were next taken, with Osnabruck laying ten miles or so to the south-east.
A ninety mile march to concentrate and maintain equipment took us within six miles of Bucken on the River Weser, in preparation for the crossing of the Aller. 53rd Division made an advance of a few miles, having crossed the Aller, and the next day the guns moved to Rethem, while the O.Ps. joined the Sharpshooters in support of 158th Brigade. To do this they " flicked" to 83rd Field Regiment " H " Net and fired their guns," flicking " back to the Battery net at intervals during the day to pas " sitreps "and keep in touch. Here German Marines were fighting quite well; flame-throwers were used to eject them from their positions. They were dislodged from the village of Armahen, ten miles north-west of Rethem and to the south-east of Verden which was not cleared till the C.L.Y. got there a few days later. The capture of Weitsmuhlen and Kukenmoor left Verden to the immediate west, and it was decided to attack it from the east and north-east. the Sharpshooters working with 4th RWF from 71st Brigade.
The 18th was the first of several days of mopping-up in area north-east of Verden, during which the R.Q.M.S - the R.Q.M.S Sunderland (No. 1 in " C " Troop at Sidi Rezegh and later Battery Sergt. Major) with Sergt. Nott, for a long time our Battery Clerk, took a wrong turning when coming up to R.H.Q. with canteen and mail. They ran into the enemy and a two days later their burned-out jeep and their graves were, found. Dvr. Lowe of " C " Troop did much the same thing on his way to an O.P. party with batteries and rations, but judging from reports from local civilians there was every hope that he was a prisoner, though probably wounded.
For the next few weeks, until the fall of Bremen, the Brigade was under 53rd (L.) Division. Since our own Armoured Regiment remained with a Brigade of 53rd (W.) Division the Battery had to take on the few regular O.Ps. one of which was with the 60th and had no shooting to do, being really an L.O., and two with 52nd Recce. Regiment, provided by two Field Regiments of 52nd Division. The two Troop Commanders remained with the C.L.Y. though in due course one sufficed and Captain Foster returned. In time Captain Millington became more a Sharpshooter than a Gunner, even being been wearing a green and gold lanyard on certain few official occasions.
Big fire-plans were still arranged to support attacks: some were cancelled if opposition was light, but the taking of all the eastern suburbs of Bremen called for allotment of supporting fire. While the Greys and 44th R.T.R. worked with the various brigades of 52nd Division in turn, the 60th and the Division Recce. Regiment watched and probed the northern flank up to the Bremen - Hamburg Autobahn. This flank was but lightly held: the Recce. Regiment probed very deeply and took many prisoners. But the " Nebelwerfers " continued to harass us; once, to keep within range of the leading squadron of the Recce. the Battery, for several days divorced from the rest of the Regiment, moved a long way north to Volkersen - a village eight miles north of Verden. Where we were smartly straddled by two salvoes from Nebelwerfers. Four men were wounded.
As 52nd Division got nearer to Bremen, we came back to the divisional axis and deployed with the Regiment for the final attack on the city, entering it on the 27th.
The next day, after 7th Armoured Division had been toeing the line at the Elbe, round Hamburg, 15th. (S.) Division crossed the river. The Americans had already joined with the Russian three days before. Mussolini was killed on the 30th. Such events stand out, but it is impossible to give, even briefly, any account of the contemporary large-scale developments on other parts of the Allied Front.
The Brigade left 52nd Division on 3rd May to join 53rd (W.) Division for the assault on Hamburg, though in the end the city gave in without a fight. The bridgehead at Lauenberg was well established; the 6th Airborne Division, with the Greys, had crossed and were going at high speed to reach the Baltic at Wismar, where they eventually linked up with the Russians. There were a few days of maintenance at a small village - Reven - which lay eighteen miles south-east and south-west of Hamburg and Lauenberg respectively. Even before we left here to join the rest of the Division it was clear that there would be no more fighting for Hamburg, and we crossed and concentrated in Bergedorf, about ten miles east of the city. The Sharpshooters were with the rest of the Division, well quartered in Hamburg, but the rest of the Brigade were in our area. It was here we had warning of, and in due course, heard pronounced, the official end of hostilities
Tuesday, 8th May, was VE Day in England. In the afternoon the twenty-fours guns of the Regiment were lined up - one might in the part have said: " Wheel to wheel " but there is something too prosaic and undignified in any parallel phrase like " Track to track " - with the Regimental flag in the centre. Standing informally round the wireless set, we heard the Prime Minister's speech and the short service which followed.
Then " Take Post " was given, the Colonel gave the signal, and the Regiment fired a salvo, followed by a round of regimental fire and another salvo.
So ends a phase of this Battery's life, born in the fighting of the Western Desert in 1941, brought up, when our affairs were improving, on battles like Alamein and Mareth and the last days of Tunisia, then brought to manhood in the final defeat of the armies in Germany. The only wish that we in 1945 would send to future members of the Battery, is that our last rounds " fired in anger " near Bremen, may be the last for long years to come. But if they, in the future, are required to defend a cause as we were, may our spirit go with them when that time comes.
HONOURS AND AWARDS
June, 1944 - May, 1945
The following is a list of Casualties suffered by the Battery in the North-West European Campaign, 8th June, 1944 to 8th May, 1945.
KILLED IN ACTION
*Died of wounds, received 18-8-44,
The following were the Officers, W.Os, and Senior N.C.Os. of the Battery at the end of the War with Germany:-
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