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Author Topic: WW2 Battles in the Netherlands (1944) 'The Peel'  (Read 13231 times)
stoffel
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« on: 20 March 2011, 21:35:50 »
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Allied operations in 'The Peel' (NL) 29-09-44 till 03-12-1944

Introduction
The allied advance in the Netherlands was halted after the failure of Market Garden.
Nonetheless some bloody fights occurred in the south of the country, the Peel was one of these battlefields. (info: here)
History saw it just as a statistic, many of the soldiers there fought tough and bloody battles against the Germans.
Overestimation of the allied power and a gross underestimation of the german capabilities cost the lives of many allied soldiers and made the war last longer.


Situation map

Allied situation
On 22 september 1944 Eisenhower made a decision to enlarge the sectors of all the armies in the Dutch area.
He did this on advice from Montgomery.
12th armygroup(US) sector was shifted towards the north, this meant the Peel came in the US sector.
XIX(US) corps was tasked to clear the area from German forces, this corps operated on the flank of (US) 1st army.
XIX(US) corps was ordered with two tasks:
1) Breakthrough the Westwall in the north.
2) Drive the Germans out of the Peel.

Montgomery was very happy with this plan, it gave him more units to carry on with Market Garden and he lost a very unattractive area of operations with the Peel.
XIX (US) corps had 2 divisions to do its job, 2nd US armored division and 29th US infantry division.
1st armies commander Hodges was not so happy with this because he wanted to have US 29th div for the flanksecurity of US 2nd armored division and US 30th infantry div tasked with attacking the Westwall north of Aken.
After a meeting with Montgomery, Hodges and Dempsey a desicion was made to give US 7nd armored div the task to clear the Peel area.
It was to supported by 113th cavalry group and the Belgium Piron brigade.
The G2 from US XIX corps assumed the total German strenght to be about 2000 to 3000 men.
On 29 september the US 7nd armored division moved through the British reararea from the north towards its starting point to attack in southern direction.
Brigade Piron and 113th cavalry were tasked to do spoiling attacks at Wessem and Sittard to tie German units down,.
German resistance at the Peel was much more intense than expected and on 6 octobre the allied attack came to a standstill at Overloon.
The US 7nd armored division was released from its task by the British 3rd infantry division and moved to the Deurne canal, Noordervaart and the Wessem -Nederweert canal with orders to secure and defend this important area.
87nd mechanized reconnaissance squadron was ordered to secure the area around the small town of Meijel.
Allied supreme HQ also restored the old army sectors, US 7th armored division was returned to the command of the British VIII corps.
The British troops continued the attack on Overloon.
Overloon fell on 12 october, Venray at the 19th.
Nothing was in the way for the allied troops to quickley occupy the Peel area.
However on Montys orders the initial attack was cancelled.
Pressured by Eisenhower Monty decided to give his attention to the battle of Antwerp and the liberation of the Dutch provence Zeeland.


German counterattack.

German situation
In the beginning of september the allied advance stalled.
For a small part because of logistic problems and for the biggest part stubborn and more fanatical German resistance now the Allies came closer to Germany.
Defending the Heimat made them more fanatic and determined.
The Germans reorganised their command in early september.
Von Rundstedt became commander of OKW after Von Kluge committed suicide. (in august 44 Rundstedt was fired and replaced by Von Kluge)
Feldmarshall Model who took over command after Von Kluge died was released with this command and could focus on Heeresgruppe B again, this group had to defend Zeeland.
Its 15th army was retreating under pressure of the Canadian first army along the coast towards Zeeland lead by general Von Zangen.
General oberst Student was ordered to defend the Albertcanal from Antwerpen to Maastricht with the 1st Fallschirmjaegerarmee.
On the leftern flank of Heeresgruppe B 7th army was fighting the british 21st armygroup.
Student managed to halt the 21st along the Maas-Scheldecanal and the Albertcanal.
He also managed to stabilize the front in front of the Westwall.
Model had two major problems to face.
A possible US attack on Aken and denial of allied usage of the Antwerp harbor.
The battle therefore would shift towards Noord Brabant and Limburg, and allthough the Germans could only hope to stop the allied advance when they reached the Maas river they were ordered to halt ground.
This gave 15th army the time needed to retreat to Zeeland almost unharmed.

Market Garden did not really make the Germans confused, within a few days the German High command was in control of the situation.
Because the allied advance to Nijmegen split the front into two parts Model ordered a reorganisation, he shifted his armies, this happedened on september 20th.
15th army was relocated to Zeeland and the area west of the corridor, 1st fallschirmarmy became responsible for defending the line Nijmegen-Roermond.
Immediately after the allied landings at Arnhem the II fallschirmjaegercorps was ordered to setup a defensive line east of Nijmegen.
To its south LXXXVI corps was located.
The British VIII corps which was attacking on XXX corps right flank had not enough force to drive the Germans back.
Therefore the German LXXXVI corps led by colonel Obstfelder had not much problems and would make the Americans pay deerly in the Peel area.

On 16 october while Monty cancelled his succesfull attack on Venray it was Model wo decided to mount a counterattack to tie down allied troops inorder to reduce the pressure on 15th army and to give them more time to retreat.
He chose the area around the village of Meijel as the schwerpunkt of his attack.
Generalcommando XLVII was ordered to take the nessecary measures.
9th panzerdivision and 15th panzergrenadierdivision were earmarked for the coming attack, renamed XLVII panzerkorps under command of general der panzertruppen H. Von Luttwitz.
The main objective was reaching the line Liessel-Asten.

OB west, Von Rundstedt ordered the attack to be executed on october 25 1944.
Initially the attack would start with elements of 9th pz but 15th panzergrenadiers units were commited soon after the start.
Not only did the Germans expect to reduce pressure on 15th army but also they hoped to stop the allied advance in the Nijmegen-Sittard area.
On october 26th 9 pz div took in positions on its startingline near the Deurne canal and the Noordervaart.
15th pz grnd remained stationary in the area east of the Maas river.
9th panzerdiv attacked with its 3 regiments, 10 and 11th pzgrenadiers and 33rd pz regiment.
9th pzreconabteilung drove ahead of the attack.
Total manpower was estimated around 12.000 men the division was lead by general-major Freiherr Von Elberfeldt.
Each regiment had 2 batallions (abteilung) however panzerregiment 33 staff and 1st batallion were still  in St Polten so only 2nd batallion was committed in this battle.
At Meijel the allied presence was formed by C-platoon 87th US recon batallion, they were located on 2 farms at Hof and Donk.
German reconnaissance was able to pinpoint the US positions, and the US command ignored messages from local resistance about the upcoming German attack.
On 27th october at 06.15 the Germans started the attack with an artillerybarrage from America.
The first kampfgruppes managed to cross the Deurne canal and the Noordervaart without dificulties.
3 kampfgruppes were formed.
On the rightern flank panzergrenadier regiment 11 attacked with its II bn while 1st batallion attacked on the leftern flank towards the village of Heitrak.
This attack was stopped by allied forces around 09.00.
US forces counterattacked and forced the Germans to go into the defensive.
In the north 10th panzergrenadier regiment together with 9th reconabteilung advanced towards Meijel.
They reached the Vieruiterstenforest north of Meijel at 08.00.
There the panzerpioniere constructed a bridge over the canal to reconnect the road from Meijel to Beringen.
In the early afternoon 9th recon stopped a US counterattack, destroying 5 tank.
Late in the afternoon Meijel and Donk were in German hands again.
Panzerpioniere constructed a new bridge at Roggelse brug, this enabled 33rd panzerregiment to send units to 10th panzergrenadierregiment.
Both regiments continued to attack north and soon they made contact with 11th panzergrenadierregiment at Neerkant.
After repelling the US counterattack 9th reconabteilung (Aufklarung) together with 1st bn of pzgren reg 10 continued to attack in the direction of Asten, this advance was stopped by American forces at 2 km west of Meijel.
To support the attack at Meijel OKW sent units from 344th infantry division (LXXXVI Corps), these units crossed the Noordervaart and took the villages of Waaskamp and Winnerstraat.
Increasing US resistance stalled the German advance and only after heavy figthing on the 28th the town of Ospel fell into German hands.
Because the initial start of the operation looked promising for the Germans 15th panzergrenadierdivision was ordered to advance west of the Maas river to exploit the gains made by 9th panzerdivision.
On 27th october this division attacked around 23.00 with its panzergrenadierregiment 105 towards Hutten.
Its main objectie was Liessel.
The sector border with 9th panzerdivision lay south of the road Hoge Brug-Hutten in Nord-western direction.
When the Germans continued early on the 28th they discovered the US troops had recovered from the first surprise.
After two attacks, at 03.45 and 14.45 the 9th aufklarungsabteilung did not manage to reach Asten.
The Germans ran out of artillery ammo and could not support the 9th.
The Germans than had to endure several US counterattacks from Westdijk and Moostdijk which were repelled with great difficulty.
German attacks towards Heitrak and Neerkant were beaten off by the Americans.

On 29th of october at 11.15 Von Rundstedt ordered to cancel the attack.
However on requests made by Model the attack continued the next day.
That day Liessel fell into German hands after heavy figtings, 9th pz had suffered heavy losses and made not much gains.
The Germans destroyed 85 US tanks from the 27th till the 30th october.
The XLVII corps went over to the defense, on 1 and 2 november both 15th pzgrn and 9th pzdiv were taken away from the front to recover.

Allied defense 27-30 October
On 22 october CCB of the US 7th division was located at the Deurne Canal.
The 87th squadron had to secure the Canal and the Noordervaart between Liessel and Nederweert.
C platoon was located at meijel in two farm complexes with 43 men.
South of Nederweert CCA manned the first line.
CCR was the divisions reserve and was located near Asten, halfway between Eindhoven eand Nederweert.
The unit made patrols through the area and conducted exercises.
No enemy action was reported untill the 27th when the German artillery opened fire.
C-platoon was driven out of Meijel under German pressure.
An attempt to retake Meijel with help from CCB was repelled by the Germans.
At Heitrak D platoon  had to retreat as well the retreat was covered with support from CCR (TF Whemple).

The CO from British Viii corps ordered the release of CCB by units of the British 11th armoured division, this was done to allow the US troops to conduct a counterattack.
On 28 october both CCR and CCB would attack the German troops around Meijel.
A platoon (87th) which was located at Nederweert had to retreat west on the 27th.
CCA sent TF Nelson to support them and the 28th the unit attacked, TF Whemple was stopped at the road from Liessel to Hogebrug, while CCRs TF Chappuis got stuck halfway between Asten-Meijel.
TF Nelson from CCA also did not manage to succeed and was stoppen at Horik.
German XLVII panzercorps had the initiative again.
The US troops were driven out of Liessel on the 29th.
With extensive artillery support the US troops could barely hold Asten.
Corps command decided to relieve the US 7th Arm div by the Scottish 15th infantry division.
Meanwhile CCB releaved CCA, CCR remained reserve.
CCA had to mount a counterattack with the 15th scottish division to drive the Germans out of Meijel.
7th US arm div commander general-major Silvester was replaced by general Hasbrouck on 30 october.
Tilburg was taken by the 15th Scottish division and 6th Guards tank brigade on the 27th.
Last German pockets of defense in the town were cleaned up on the 28th.
That day the Scottish troops were going to take part in the celebrations in Tilburg, but the Germans had other plans and werent in for a party.
They were ordered to help defend against the attack on Meijel.
At 1200 on october 28 the Highland 227th brigade supported by 3rd Scotts Guards armoured.
In the early morning of the 29th they reached Asten where they took defensive positions.
131st field artillery allready arrived at Heusden together with 25th field royal artillery regiment.
Soon therefafter both units opened fire on the Germans.
The latter unit was allready attached to the 7nd armor by general Hasbrouck on the 28th.
Around the same time the 44th Lowland brigade went onto the defensive in the area around Deurne.
This brigade was attached to the 1st British armoured division.
The situation looked grim and confused for the allied troops.
7th US armored division appeared to have been defeated and the Germans were threathening Liessel.
After a brief meeting on the 29th at Someren the commanders of VIII corps, 7th armored and the Scottish 15th division HQ decided to throw the entire 15th division into the battle.
There was a danger that the Germans could cut off 227th brigade when they were able to take Liessel.
The 44th brigade was dispatched from Deurne to Asten, accept the 7th Kings Own Borderers ( allready deployed along the Deurne-Liessel road)
The 46th brigade took over the defense of Deurne, 7th KOB was attached to them and the 46th attached its 2nd Glasgow HIghlanders to the 44th brigade.
On 29 october around 18.00 8th Royal Scotts and 6th Royal Scotts Fuseliers had taken in positions in the southern edge of a forest south of Liessel.
2nd Glasgow Highlanders took positions in the northeastern part of that same forrest.
By occupying the line Asten-Leensel-Deurne the 15th division had cut off all the approach routes that German XLVII armeekorps could take and thus effectively stopped its advance.
Now they had an opportunity to drive the Germans back.
7th US armored division penetrated the lines of the 15th division and assembled in the area north of Nederweert and prepared to attack the Germans again on the morning of the 30th.
But that morning German troops  from the village of SLot attacked the positions of the Glasgow Highlanders.
The bn lost its forward platoon and in the forests south of Leensel a chaotich fight erupted.
Eventually the Germans were driven back by 2 companies from the Royal scotts backed up with an armor squadron of the 4th Guards division.
After this succes the infantry from the Royal Scotts Fuseliers advanced towards the German lines, this attack was beaten off by the Germans.
Late in the evening a new German counterattack was repelled by the Scottish infantry.
46th brigade had reached Loon together with the 7th Seaforth Highlanders on 30 october.
Its 9th bn Cameronians attacked from the north towards the German left flank.
There they encountered heavy defensive German fire and broke off the attack north of Liessel.
The Seaforth Highlanderes on their rightern flank made contact with the Scotts Fuseliers.
They assisted the Scotts fuseliers against the mentioned German counterattack and dug in.

Allied attacks 31 october-05 november 1944,

In the night off 30 to 31 october the German HQ took 15th panzergrenadierdivision away from the frontline and replaced them with Fallschirmjeagerregiment Hubner.
On the 31st the 46th Scottish brigade took Liessel and Slot.
The attack on Liessel was carried out with 2 batallions in line.
After an artillerybarrage the Seaforth Highlanders charged with 2 companies, 1 followed the road Loon-Liessel the other went to Liessel from the east through open terrain.
The Royal Scotts supported this attack by attacking Liessel from the west.
After Liessel was occupied the Kings Own Borderers took over and advanced with 2 companies together with a squadron from 4th Coldstream Guards armoured towards Slot.
At 1500 on the morning of the 31st october they advaced to Slot with 2 companies advancing in line on both ides of the road.
They destroyed 2 German tanks and dug in just south of Slot.
Outside Hutten the Guards recon platoon found the German positions running from Heitrak to Hoge brug.
The Scotts however broke off the attack.
During the night the Germans bombarded Liessel and Slot with their artillery, which gave the Scottish troops not much rest.
On the 1st of november the Kings Own Borderers took Hutten without meeting German resistance.
The objective for the 44th brigade was the town of Moostdijk.
Their attack started on 2 november at 09.30.
Supported by Churchills and flailtanks with the Glasgow Highlanders on the right and the Royal Scots Fuseliers on the leftflank.
3 Flailtanks and a Churchill were knocked out by mines durting the attack.
At 10.30 Heitrak was in allied hands.
The Glasgow Higlanders returned to the 46th brigade.
Their positions were overtaken by The Royal Scotts.
The Royal Scotts Fuseliers were replaced by the Kings Own Borderers.
At Moostdijk the attack came to a halt and the 46th had dug in along the Deurne canal near the road leading from Slot to Hoge Brug.
Because the terrain along the cnal was relatively flat the Scotts had to stay away at least 1000 meters from the canal, because from the eastern bank German fire was very effective.
In the sector of the 227th brigade not much happened accept soem minor fights with German patrols.
The next day, the 3rd 44 brigades Kings Own Scottish Borderers spent time to secure their starting line for the decisive attack on 4 november.
Situated at Schelm.
Effective German fire from the other bank of the river hindered the allied troops so they decided to lay a smokescreen for cover.
Because these shells were not available the attack was postponed to the next day.
Weather was bad, heavy rains made the terrain ( which was bad for vehicles) even worse for tanks to drive through.
On 5 november the attack started at 07.30.
2 squadron from 4th armoured Scottish Guards made a pincermove  from Schelm around the Vieruitersten forest to get into Meijel.
At the northestern point of this forest the attack came to a grinding halt because of the swampy terrain and the German mines.
On 08.45 the Royal Scotts Fuseliers attacked with support from 1 squadron of the 4th armoured Guards towards Schans, but this attack also failed.
At 12.30 the divisional commandere gave the order to abbort the attack.
It proved to be imp[ossible to get to Meijel.
The Royal Scotts Fuseliers became the reserve force, the first line was occupied by the Kings Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scotts.
6th Guards armoured was taken from the battle and sent back to helmond to recover and re-equip.
4th armoured Guards lost 23 of its 48 tanks due to the mines.
After regrouping the 7th US armored division was ordered to resume the attack on Meijel together with the 15th Scottish division.
But first the area between the ZUid-Willenmsvaart, Noordervaart and the Grote Peel had to be occupied and cleared of German forces.
Next objective was to attack Meijel from the area between the Grote Peel and the Noordervaart.
CCA of the 7tn armnored was tasked with this job.CCR would provide firesupport from its psoitions west of The Willemsvaart.
CCB was the divisions reserve.
On november 2 at 10.00 the assualt started, TF Fuller operated east of the Willemsvaart.
On the left flank TF Brown.
The advance of TF Fuller was delayed because the area was littered with German mines.
German troops from Horik gave effective fire delaying the advance even more.
TF Brown which had not much trouble had to slow down to stay on one line with TF FUller.
The divisional commander decided to use more artillery to support Fullers attack.
Together with this artillery barrage an airraid was executed to demoralize the Germans.
At the beginning of the evening the Americans reached the outskirts of Horik.
The next morning at 0600 a 45 minutes lasting artillery barrage was layed upon Horik.
5 minutes later TF Fuller and Brown resumed their attack, enemy resistance was minimal and at 12.30 the first objective, the road Kreijel-Waatskamp was reached.
During the rest of the day the US troops would regroup and pause.
The attack to take Meijel would be continued on the 5th with infantrysupport from 15th division.
But due to the difficult terrain, mines and heavy German fire this attack also failed.
After the US troops heard about the Scotts broke off the attack, they started consolidating their positions.
In the afternoon the 7th armored was replaced by 51st (Highland) division, this operation was completed around midnight on the 7th.
The 7th returned to the 12th armygroup to the XIII corps.
After the battle for Aken this division would became famous for its part in the Battle of the Bulge.
The battles in the Peel were a disaster though.
The failure to take Overloon and the huge difficulties to stop the German offensive at meijel were a black page in the divisions history.
But bad terrain, mines and stiff resistance by the Germans were a decisive factor.
The 7th divisions AARs contained the grim numbers.
During october the unit lost 125 KIA, 734 WIA and 364 MIA's.
28 light tanks were knocked out, as were 52 medium tanks, together with 101 other vehicles.
In November the losses were 88KIA, 225 WIA and 31 MIA's.

After november 5 a temporarely rest returned in the Peel.
Walcheren was taken on november 8th and with that the entrence to Antwerps harbor.
It would take untill the 28th before the first ships could reach the harbor.
Monty could now give his full attention to operations on the eastern flank of his 21st army group.
First objective was drive the Germans from the Peel.
Operation Nutcracker had to do that.
The allied command had learned the hard way that a single division wasnt enough.
So now two entire corps had to do the job.
British VIII and XII corps.
XII corps had to cross the Wessem-Nederweert canal and advance east from Noordervaart towards Blerick.
VIII corps with 3 divisions and a tankbrigade had to continue the attack from Venray towards Blerick.(postponed on 16 october)
While the 7th US division returned to 12th US armygroup the 15th Scottish division remained in position in front of Meijel.
Nutcracker started on 14 november with both corps advancing.
A patrol from the KOSB found out the Germans evacuated from Meijel.
A reconnaisance patrol from the Scottish Higklanders sent out at night found some Germans still on the eastern perimeter of the village.
These men were ordered to go to the local church and wait for reinforcements.
The Germans also kept a small bridgehead at the Deurne canal and at Hoge Brug, but they left those areas when the (UK)51st division took Panningen on the 19th.
Later that same day the 15th scottish division forded the canal and made contact with British 152nd brigade coming from Beringen.
Finally the battle for the Peel came to an end.
For Meijel the battle meant total destruction.

Source, Strijdend Nederland magazine of BOSS
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My topics are about my personal opinion, my thoughts and what I think. They do not reflect the official opinion of the ministry of defense of the Netherlands.
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