Kenneth Taylor's War Diary 8
Related entry: War Diary.
Monday 11 September, 44
In early morning mist enemy made terrific counter-attack and he evidently intends to destroy this bridgehead. The tanks infiltrate and turn up in the most unexpected places. Two Panthers concealed in houses destroyed 8 Shermans in quick succession. One Bn of DLIs near Gheel surrounded. The Jerries can be heard yelling and shouting as they attack.
Tuesday 12 September, 44
During the night a good deal of shelling. I counted 60 in 10 minutes which fell in our immediate vicinity. More counter-attacks. Moved Battalion HQ early in the morning, just in time to avoid further shelling. 15 Scottish Div began to take over. During afternoon I undressed and swam across the canal for excercise and not for the reason I originally feared. Just as we were going back over Ferry 7GH counter-attacked so we had to leave our Carriers and A.TK. guns behind. A tremendous relief to leave this bridgehead for a rest.
Wednesday 13 September, 44
Rest cancelled during the night and we had to move early to protect the Guards Arm'd Div bridgehead at Beeringen. However on arrival there things were fairly peaceful. Enemy aircraft came over at night dropping flares but no bombs. Our tracer AA is an amazing sight.
Thursday 14 September, 44
Resting! i.e. a lot of work to do.
Friday 15 September, 44
Went over to bridgehead at Gheel again to bury some bodies and then had 2 hours in Diest. Did some shopping in quite well-stocked shops.
Sat 16 - Mon 18 September, 44
Still resting. Played a game of Rugger. Took HQ Coy for a Route March (Pub Crawl). The new C.O. is quite charming and amusing so far - but rather keen on various bits of nonsense. The Battalion is now made to Blanco. A bugler has been produced. The talk is all concerned with what we are going to do when we get to Germany - which some people imagine will be soon. I seem to have caused some alarm by saying that I only joined the army in order to be able to fraternize with the Germans.
Moved off to Escaut canal at Neerpelt. SS thought to be in vicinity. Occasional Spandau. We were subjected to a prolonged air raid at night which caused us no casualties. We are in the middle of all the AA fire again. Spent all night laying lines.
Tuesday 19 September, 44
Spent the day digging-in vehicles until 1730 when we decided to move Bn HQ - thus causing considerable annoyance to all concerned. However we went to a lovely park. Up all night again laying further lines.
Wednesday 20 September, 44
Moved into a lovely big house with electricity and hot water. Went for a short pub-crawl in the afternoon and also had some sleep. The airborne operation in Holland seems to be progressing well and we are waiting to follow the armour to connect up with it.
Thursday 21 September, 44
Prepared to move at midday but then postponed. Waiting all day for the road into Holland to become clear.
Friday 22 September, 44
Moved at 0035hrs in pitch darkness over the Escaut canal and up the main road to Eindhoven. Frequent delays and by daylight we had moved 6 miles. Had breakfast by the roadside. A great number of knocked out Shermans of Gds Arm'd Div. Our column on this road is nose to tail and sometimes 2 deep. Our object is to reach Nijmegen as soon as possible. Passed thro' Eindhoven about midday and to Son where we were held up many hours. Found out that road had been cut a few miles in front at Veghel by enemy tanks and infantry. Half the Bde including C.O. had got there but we have to stop here in defensive positions.
U.S. airborne troops protecting the corridor here, which is a few miles wide.
Saturday 23 September, 44
Road still closed. Heavy fighting in Veghel. Moved into better defensive positions. Eindhoven behind us has been attacked and enemy got to within sight of bridge but then pushed back. During afternoon saw hundreds of American gliders landing in fields all around us with supplies. Some of them crashed. They are the most amazing sight as they approach across the sky. C.O. arrived back in evening having managed to get thro' from Nijmegen. Arranged to move early in morning if road is still open.
Sunday 24 September, 44
Stayed up all night. Ready on the road at 0400 and although it is still under shell fire in front we moved off at 0430. Our column travelled at a very considerable sort of velocity and as we passed thro' the deserted streets of Veghel and Juden in the early morning light life held a certain amount of interest. However all was quiet and as we sped Northwards towards Grave the tension diminished and one could begin to enjoy the thrill of the journey. The big bridge over the Maas is undamaged and it is a great achievement to have captured it intact.
Arrived in Nijmegen about 0700hrs with great feeling of relief. The first thing to happen was a series of sudden screaming roars as the German aircraft came swooping over the town to drop their bombs. This is something new to us in daylight. Our AA fire is deafening. We are supposed to be defending Nijmegen for a few days but at midday we are told to cross the Waal and put an attack in Eastwards towards Bemmel. The airborne Div at Arnhem is still fighting and has not been fully relieved.
Crossed the Nijmegen Bridge over the Waal at about 1600hrs with some apprehension on foot. It is a magnificent bridge and its capture a marvellous achievement. As you walk across with the Luftwaffe in the offing and shells imminent you feel just about the biggest target in Western Europe. In fact that is exactly what you are, as the enemy will now do everything to wipe out this bridge. So far he has not succeeded in doing it any damage and a few hundred yards to the West the railway bridge is still intact and being used for transport.
As it goes dark we move into defensive positions at Ressen and apart from a certain amount of shelling things are reasonably quiet. At night the Luftwaffe renews its activity over the bridge and the AA fire is a beautiful sight. The sky becomes absolutely dense with lines of slowly ascending red balls which appear to creep upwards interminably until they eventually burst.
Related entry: War Diary.