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Author Topic: WW2 Battles in the Netherlands (1944) Blerick  (Read 13394 times)
stoffel
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« on: 9 October 2011, 22:52:43 »
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Battle in the mud, heavy rains and mines.

The VIIIth (UK) corps which was located north of the Venlo-Meyel road was ordered to take that area and clear it from German forces.
The XIIth (UK) corps which was located south of this road had to clear the area along the Meuse river between Blerick and Wessem.
In VIII corps sector the 3rd infantrydivision had to move to Venray from the southeast( after Overloon)
The 11th armored division was ordered to move to venlo along the railroad (Venlo-Eindhoven) and through the town of America.
The 15th Scottish Infantrydivision was positioned at the most southern flank of the VIII  corps.
This division had orders to clear the Heleneaveen/Sevenum area and to occupy Beringe.

Map of the Limburg area:


The order of battle of the 15th division was:
44st infantrybrigade:
* 8th batallion Royal Scots
* 6th batallion Scots Fuseliers
* 6th batallion Own Scottish Borderers
46th infantrybrigade:
* 9th batallion Cameronians ( Scottish rifles)
* 2nd batallion Glasgow Highlanders
* 7th batallion Seaforth Highlanders
227th infantrybrigade:
* 10th batallion Highland light infantry
* 2nd batallion Gordon Highlanders
* 2nd batallion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Supportunits:
* 102nd Antitankregiment ( Northumberland Hussars)
* 1st Middlesex machinegun batallion
* 15th Scottish reconaissance regiment.
* Royal artillery regiment

The prelude to Blerick: a plan along two roads that werent roads

The commander of the 15th soon reckoned the fact that the heavy continuing rain would be his major problem.
Heavy traffic would certainly destroy the few roads available  and turn them into mudpools.
This was also the case at Overloon and Meijel.
After studying airreconnaissance pictures the Scottish commander decided to create two axes of advance.
One leading from Meijel through Beringe towards Sevenum named Skye.
The other from Liessel through Helenaveen and Achterste steeg named Ayr.
The Schwerpunkt was Ayr.
On both routes a tight network of controlpost manned by military police was created.
Strict orders were given to avoid double traffic to garantee a smooth flow of traffic.
Engineers were given iron plates to reinforce the roads and the unit received 6 US amphibian Weasels ( these vehicles could free other vehicles from the mud).
On 19-11 the 9th Cameronians moved out from Hoogebrug to Helenaveen on the Ayr route.It wouldnt take long before they met German resistance west of Helenaveen.
Next morning the unit resumed the advance, but close to the village the leading company drove into a minefield causing heavy losses.
This caused a long delay, the mines were cleared manually. Soon after the advance was resumed the men walked into a another minefield.
It wasnt untill 15.00 in the afternoon that the batallion reached the western bank of the Helenavaart where they dug in.
In the mean time the 2nd batallion Gordon Highlanders of the 227th brigade started their advance supported by a squadron tanks along the Skye route.
Following them close behind were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
This batallion was met by heavy mortarfire from the surrounding woods, farms and houses.
The supporting Churchills moved forward to give cover fire, during that action 3 were knocked out by 88mm guns.
At the beginning of the evening the batallion stopped 3 miles passed Beringe.
The Germans destroyed everything during their retreat and fleeing civilians hindered the allied advance.
On the Skye route nature shelled the men with heavy rains for 3 days, these rains continued untill the 227th reached Horst on the 23rd.
On november 21 around 13.00 hour the Gordons reached de Voorste Steeg southwest of Sevenum, here their enemies were mines, mud, rain, craters and blown up bridges.
The Ayr ax had more succes, Helenaveen was cleared of the enemy and troops of the 46th infantrybrigade crossed the canal without meeting enemy resistance.
Its 2nd batallion Glasgow Highlanders and the 7th Seaforth Highlanders went straight through the swamps in eastern direction.
With the falling of the evening they dug in at Achterste Hees about 1km from Sevenum.
Weather was bad from the start and got worse, at night the rain became heavy.
Roads changed into mus slights, mean got sucked into the mud, vehicles got stuck and the engineers did all they could to help.
Iron panels, trees and everything they could use was thrown on the roads to keep the traffic moving, all in vain.
Only the Weasels were able to reach the men in the first line.
That night they made 14 trips to the men carrying, rations, ammo, blankets and other equipment.
The batallions used their light carriers to resupply the platoons.
For the men it was a terrible ordeal, no cover, no housing and no shelter was available against this torture of mother nature.
22 november gave even more rain than the day before.
At Skye the Gordon Highlanders reached Sevenum at late afternoon, the Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders occupied Vorst east of Sevenum.
recon units 3 miles to the north found Horst a small town abandoned by the Germans and not destroyed.
The 7th batallion occupied Achterste Hees where the 2nd batallion quickley linked up.
9th batallion set up defensive positions west of Sevenum.
The 46th brigades units were now located east of the Veen, while their HQ and logistic units were in the west.
Only the Weasels were able to resupply the men in the forward units.
The AYR route was a big mess now.
The brigade was asked to move its artillery and logistic units through the area of the 11th armored division.
That way those units should be able to reach the other parts in 2 days.

Continuation

On november 23 the 227th brigade continued their advance along Skye with the crossing of the railroad near Sevenum.
Early in the afternoon the 3 batallions were reinforced with armor from the Scots Guards near the town of Horst.
At this point the brigade had its first contact with 11th armored division, meanwhile the 15th recon moved on and found elements of the 3rd infantrydivision at Castenray.
The Germans who were dug in at Tienray shelled the allied troops with mortar and artilleryfire.
In the sector of the XII corps the 49th infantrydivision approached Hout-Blerick on the westbank and Venlo on the eastern bank of the Meusse river.
From the 25th on the weather improved a bit which proved to be very good for the speed of the advance.
The 227th brigade pushed through northwards to Swolgen, Tienray en Eikenbos and quickley occupied this area.
However the advance halted near Broekhuizervorst because the Germans there offered stiff resistance, at that spot they could use a ferry.
The 227th brigade and the 46th brigade now continued their advance together over a front 10km wide.From Blitterswijk in the north to Houthuizen in the south.
The Germans fought hard at the ferry points, for several days the allied soldiers had to fight hard  but eventually the entire area was liberated.
Specially around the Broekhuizervorst castle the fighting cost the 9th Cameronians many casualties.
On the 25th the Germans finally destroyed the last remaining bridge between Venlo and Blerick.

Big complicated changing situation

In the night from 27 to 28th november and from 28 and 29th november the allied units changed commands and displaced units.
The main events are described in this article.
* 2nd batallion Gordon Highlanders was put under the command of the 46th brigade, the 2 remaining batallions of the 227th moved to Asten.
* The 15th infantrydivision was released in the night of the 28/29th by the 11th armored division. The 15th released the 49th infantrydivision which moved to the Betuwe through Nijmegen.
* The 46th brigade with the new Gordon Highlanders but without its 9th batallion Cameronians released the 46th infantrybrigade of the XII corps. 46th brigade took over new positions south of Blerick.
* on november 30 9th Cameronians released the 7th Seaforth Highlanders, the 7th was transferred to the 44st brigade.
This brigade was division reserve and therefore ordered to attack Blerick.

The new OOB
44th infantrybrigade:
* 8th bn Royal Scots
* 6th bn Scots Fuseliers
* 6th bn Own Scottish Borderers
* 7th bn Seaforth Highlanders (from 46th brg)
46th infantrybrigade:
* 9th bn Cameronians
* 2nd bn Glasgow Highlanders
* 2nd bn Gordon Highlanders (from 227th brg)

Fortress Blerick
 Blerick was the only town left in German hands on the westbank of the Meusse.
The town was heavily fortified by the Germans, with Antitank ditches, trenches, minefields and barbed wire.
The Germans cut off most of the town by a 3 km wide AT ditch, this formed an island between the ditch and the river.
The 44th infantrybrigade had to take the "island".
Above the mines and fortifications the Germans could overlook the area from the other side of the river at Venlo.
Hundreds of guns and mortars were ready, besides that the troops had to cross Blerick with its difficult roadnetwork.
But there were positive aspects as well, the defenders were faced with the danger of the river in their back, and above all the Germans didnt have the manpower to defend a 3 x 5 km wide area.
The 44st was allocated additional support from tracked vehicles and of course ample artillery.
The 31st tankbrigade (Churchills) under command of brigadier Knight was assigned as support for the 44th.
3 artilleryregiments were added to the brigade (3rd, 8th and 59th) together with the first Canadian rocketbattery.
This was a new unit which used Matresses, the battery had 6 of these which could fire 350 rockets into a 250 x 250 meter area.

Plan

Brigadier Cumming-Bruce plan was simple.
He used a maquette made using maps, and information from the reconnaissance units.
All officers spent several hours learning about the plan and all its details.
The artillery had to deliver a 2 hour bombardment in order to confuse, demoralize and/or destroy the German forces in the island.
This bombardment also should create craters for cover.
The initial plan was split in 2 parts, all units would use tracked vehicles.
Phase 1) Breaking through the fortifications, the minefields and the AT ditch by the Funnies (Churchills with special equipment)
Phase 2) The attack on Blerick and the 'island' by the infantry.

During phase 1 the Churchill tanks had to provide overwatch and coverfire for the advancing engineertanks.
The plan called for 6 lanes to be made through the fortifications by tanks equiped with mine rollers, 6 more churchills with bridging equipment had to lay a bridge over the AT ditch, a smokescreen would cover them.After that the Minerollers would go into action again destroying the last minefields untill they reached the outskirts of Blerick.
Phase 2 was the part of the plan where the infantry would join the battle.6th batallion had to use the 3 northern lanes while 8th batallion was to take the southern ones.
After arrival the batallions had to assembly in their assigned boxes and send the Kangaroos back to pick up the other units.(7th seafort highlanders and 6th Royal Scots Fuuseliers.)
The commander hoped to be able to quickley take essential positions in Blerick this way. The attack was sceduled on 3 december.

Misleading the Germans

In the night of 1 on 2 december allied troops tried to simulate all kind of noises in the sector of the Glasgow Highlanders to fool the Germans.
The sound of advancing armor was played by speakers, tracked vehicles made fake tank tracks in the fields and reconpatrols were send out.
With Bangalore torpedoes troops created  holes in the barbed wire and the man made noise to simulate the use of bridging equipment.
In the afternoon of december 2 the commandpost of the 44th was moved to Rooth. Brigadier Cumming-Rice kept his batallions close to his commandpost in order to have short communicationlines so his men could quickley move to their startingpoints.
In the night of the 2nd december allied forces occupied the hills in front of Blerick.
All went according to the plans but the weather was a problem, heavy rains shelled the countryside again.
The fileds were allready soaked and couldnt contain much more water.
From 18.00 hours it was impossible to drive with tanks and the brigade commander let the decision to start the attack to the divisioncommander whom on turn decided to let the corps commander Neil Ritchie to take the decision.
The attack was postponed untill midnight, but it stopped raining around 21.00 and after some reconnaissance the green light was given.
Next morning the attack would be carried out.

3 december 1944, the start of the attack

The artillerybarrage started at 05.25, never before so many guns were assembled in such a small area.
Suddenly Blerick dissappeared in a cloud of dust, smoke and fire.
At 07.45 the Churchills started their engines in support of the engineer tanks.
Smoke was added to the explosions ahead, the minerollertanks advanced, some got stuck but the majority could reach their targets.
A path was created through the mines and the fortifications, the AT ditch was filled up.
In the end 4 routes ( out of proposed 6) were ready at 09.25.
The infantry was ordered to start the attack, 6th and 8th batallions moved out in their Kangaroos, the first units of the 8th Royal Scots were at Blericks suburbs within an hour.
On the northern flank the Kangoroos had to stop halfway because of the mud, the men of the 6th Royal Scotts Fuseliers had to continue on foot.
Fortunately the Germans were fooled by the misleading plan and opposition was scarce.
The Germans had most of their guns turned to the north where the attack came from the west.
At 13.00 both batallions had reached the centre of Blerick, the other two batallions were icked up by the kangaroos, with the 7th slightly behind of scedule due to the mud.
The Germans meanwhile recognized the schwerpunkt of the attack and shifted their fire, artillery and mortarfire hit the lines.
A direct hit on the cp killed major Ginn of the 531 fieldartillery.
It was all over at 1600 hours, Blerick was liberated.
Shortly after the battle the rain started to poor down again, within minutes the routes through the fortifications were useless.
The allied troops were lucky for once.
The Germans lost 250 men WIA, KIA, including prisoners and numerous guns and equipment., the allies lost just 50 men.

Lessons learned

The allied generals learned valuable lessons  in Blerick.
They found out that the key to succes was to do a thorough study of the map, terrain and resources to create a working battleplan.
No longer would the infantry be used against strongpoints (with the usual heavy losses) but correct use of (the right) available armored assets and the coordination of artillery and available heavy weapons.
The psycological effect of this battle on the troops was huge.
For the first time the Germans were defeated with "light' losses.
The brigade had suffered before this operation at Gheel and at meijel.
After Overloon and Meijel this battle was the third fase of the allied attempt to drive the Germans back to the east across the Meusse river out of Limburg.
The 15th division would remain stationary along the river untill january 21, a periode which caused an anticlimax for the division after the victory at Blerick.

Source:From the magazine Stijdend Nederland, Bond oud Stoottroepers, BOSS ( www.stoottroepers.nl  available in English and Dutch)
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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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« Reply #1 on: 1 January 2012, 16:46:45 »
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Hi Stoffel and all.
Great info thanks,I have some map info regarding this, just to put a bit of background to the images. I purchased a German map case with related paperwork last year,from the info I have the case and paperwork were captured by a Lt Macfarlane in the 2bn Gordon Highlanders,the paperwork belonged to an Obergefreite Albert Kögler in the  3. Ausb. u. Gren. Ersatz btl 306.He was training to be an architect and drew the school building plans.
The area can still be identified on google maps with 1 school still there.The map is only part of the page as I'm unable to scan the full image, it was information taken form RAF pictures of the Germans in the area in late 1944.



Cheers jerry
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stoffel
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« Reply #2 on: 1 January 2012, 22:27:48 »
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Great maps,

recently I have finished the battlemap for Combat Mission about the fighting at Blerick using the Google maps and the maps from the Dutch army.
Should have had this one  instead Bedroefd
But thanks for posting!

I hope yopu know the Combat Mission series of games, if not have a look at: www.battlefront.com
They are the best around!
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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.
Highlander
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« Reply #3 on: 2 January 2012, 00:47:58 »
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If I can get the full maps scanned at work i will post them on the site,there is a lot more info that can't be seen on this section.

cheers
jerry
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