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Sword Beach to Bremen., A Veterans tale. Sapper

Discussion in 'Honor, Service and Valor' started by sapper, Sep 18, 2002.

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  1. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Any one help? Is there any way to tell how many folk read the pages that I post? Is it just a few or is there a more numerous number of readers?
     
  2. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Previous to the operation, which began on the 8th of July. (the attack on Caen) 17th fd coy was still at Benouville. Thery sent out representatives with the infantry of 185 Brigade to discover if any large minefields had been laid, and to Recce any anti tank obstacles.

    On the early morning of the 7th July, a gap was cleared through our own “Le Homme” minefield to enable the infantry carriers to get through in the coming attack.
    At the same time, 246 Fd Coy (Mine) made several gaps in the hedges and made hard standings for the tanks in the grounds of the Chateau De La Lande, so that during the attack on Le Bisey wood (which would have to be taken before Caen) .Support could then be given from the Chateau on the right flank.

    On 3rd July, Major RMS Made who had commanded 246 RE since 1942, left to become BM of 12th AGRE and was replaced by Major NJ Gell RE.

    -On the evening of the 7th of July, an enormous weight of bombs was dropped by Lancaster’s on the centre of Caen. From which the Germans had unfortunately pulled out. We were harboured a short distance away and were covered by a tremendous amount of dust and debris, going as far back as Beuvuille some three miles in the rear.

    (I have a tape recording of that raid from inside a Lancaster over Caen))
    The attack began the next morning and all the platoons of 17th Fl Coy were with the forwards battalions of 185 Brigade who were assaulting.
    TBC
     
  3. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Hi Sapper

    Do I understand that the flattening of the centre of Caen turned out to be unneccessary?


    PS does not the number of hits on this thread give you a clue as to the number of readers?
     
  4. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Yes..Caen was a pivotal point that the whole of the battle Normandy pivoted on. The previous battle to the North of the City had been ferocious in the extreme. At the time, it was also believed that the SS would defend the city house by house...Knowing that the whole of that part of Normandy revolved around that strategic City. Just looking at the map shows clearly the City as a "swivel"

    The city was bombed not knowing the enemy had withdrawn. It was only after the onslaught that we sadly discovered their absence.
    Such are the tragedies of war..... Not only had the enemy departed, but we were now faced with a city where the roads had vanished...

    At the time we cheered the bombers on... in the naive belief that they were destroying the enemy.
     
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  5. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    185 brigade did well, though suffering casualties. By mid day they had captured Lebisey wood and were on the higher bit of flat ground that overlooked Caen.
    17th Fld Co had 2 killed and 9 wounded including Lt E Crush RE, who also had 2 vehicles knocked out. 9 brigade were ordered to pass through 185 brigade.

    246 took on the task of clearing the main axis, and despite an earlier setback when a dumper and a bulldozer were both blown up on Tellermines. The result being some fatherly advice by the chief Engineer to Lt Edwards! Meanwhile we continued to drive forward and 2 sections going into the town by the left hand route (Me) With 2 sections entering by the right hand route with the RUR.

    Initial recces into the town confirmed that the streets were entirely blocked with huge craters and debris caused by the bombing. In the evening the CRE held an “O” group just outside the town to organise with the AVRE personal detailed recces into the town at night to discover the best routs to attempt to open…..

    Let me add a personal note here. Our Left hand route was on the high ground that looked down on a great sweep of countryside, and in particular; the Collombelles industrial estate. From our position you could see for miles. Trouble was that the huge rusty looking steel works down below was still held by the enemy. He was watching our every move. It was supposed to have been taken by 51HD
    Earlier tin this narrative, I described the moment when the enemy shelled us at point blank range.

    If it would help in following this story clearly I will repeat the description of that devastating barrage.
    TBC
     
  6. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    Not quite correct. Caen was bombed 7th July, the German defenders withdrew from the centre of Caen and 3rd British and Canadians entered Caen on 10th.153rd Brigade of 51st Highland Division plus 7th Black Watch, attacked Colombelles at 01.00 hrs on the 11th July. On the 9th of July 'A' Company of 1st Gordons had been sent out to test the defences of Collombelles, and stirred up a hornets nest.
     
  7. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    The bombing took place on the 7th of July in the evening. We entered the City on the 8th of July, by the left hand route along the high ground that looked down on Colombelles. By the 10th of July the clearing of the streets was complete to allow access to the RUR Battalion HQ in the centre of the city.....The RE Company returned to Colleville on the 10th and the 11th. It you have information otherwise..... it is wrong.

    I never make any attempt to recall dates, after 67 years it would be foolish indeed to try. The dates given here are directly from the official war dairies of the Royal Engineers at the time....
     
  8. sonofacameron

    sonofacameron Member

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    I do not think I disputed anything about the RE and your good self. I was just recording when and what the HD elements were up to.!!!
     
  9. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    No bother at all my freind...None!

    To return to the damage in Caen, It was so bad that in some cases it was impossible to recognise streets, even with air photographs. During the day Bulldozers and explosives were used to good effect and by the evening at least two routes were open into the middle of the town.

    Having reached the line of the River Orne we did not attempt to cross and on the 10 and 11 July the two fd Cos concerned, 17 and 246 and 2 platoon of 253 Co who had been under command of 9 brigade in Caen returned to Hermanville and Colleville restively.

    For the next few days the Coys were cleaning up and sorting out after the battle for Caen, and preparing for the next operation “!Goodwood” of bad reputation. Well! it was for me that operation scared the living daylights out of me
    End of the Story.


    Next Was it really “The Bridge too far”? Why is that seen as too risky???
     
  10. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Over the years there has been a great deal of controversy over the operation known as "The Bridge Too Far" It would help, if others here could give their opinion on the value of the airborne assault on the lowlands. Holland in particular.
    For what I am about to describe; is my own feelings about the operation and indeed... what seemed to me to be the stupidity of some of the Film "The Bridge Too far"

    Firstly. The British public I am pretty sure, think that there was one massive drive North towards Arnhem. Not so, there were two drives North, the main was straight up through Holland. the second was a loop to the East and North, and here I will name the places if anyone is interested in following the route?

    This was Operation "Market Garden" I am, or was, a member of the Market Garden Association. Pretty much now defunct. The members too old and frail to turn out any longer
     
  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Ok I am on the edge of my seat - give us the route Sapper
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Please name the places on that route. I'm with scipio, I can't wait. As you've mentioned, Brian, there will soon be no one to give us direct information. Give it so it will be preserved here.
     
  13. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    On the front page there is a list of stats - one section is the most read threads. Tonight this is what it shows for the number of times someone looked at this thread:

    [TABLE="align: center"]
    [TR]
    [TD="width: 50%, align: left"]Sword Beach to Bremen., A ... 63,988[/TD]
    [TD="align: right"][/TD]
    [/TR]
    [/TABLE]
     
  14. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Next ….Was it really “The Bridge too far”? Why is that seen as too risky???
    So firstly. let me give a rough idea of the route taken. The route that followed immediately after the sickening slaughter of the enemy in the Falaise Pocket…..

    After leaving the Falaise region from Vire via Tinchebray Flers we set off for the River Sein. Actions took place as we travelled. Lt Jones, Lt Dixon, and Major Scott-Bowden were all injured with shrapnel. Scotty Bowden being the same man that they did a TV programme about, when he with another Sapper went over to Normandy at night to gather some sand samples to make sure the landing vehicles would not sink in on the landings.

    So this is roughly the route: Tinchebray….Flers….Montsecret….Les Andelys
    …Vernon….across France to Gisors….Arras….Brussels…..Through to new location Thielt. North of Louvain….Escaut Canal…. we harboured at Peer…The Assault crossing At night of the canal at Petit Brogel….(Lille St Hubert) on to a Convent by morning. Don’t know where?….Weert in Holland……Zomeren….Maarheeze…. Euvelwegan…..Helmond….River Maas near Mook….East of Grave….I went to Nijmegen, and on to the “Island” that led to Arnhem, to locate a possible company harbour location. Returned to Company….moved to Heunen ….The Nijmegen railway bridge….prepare for the Reichwald battle…. Did some River fishing with explosives the result ended up in the officers mess…….Bugger!

    Company moved South East in preparation for operation “Aintree” The battle for Overloon and Venraij… The worst battles yet…….

    To be followed by a possible discussion on “The Market Garden Operation”
    TBC
     
  15. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    The views I am about to express about Market garden, are entirely my own, and are gathered from one that took part in that operation. If to say the least ..."Reluctantly" ......Big Grin!
     
  16. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Additional information on the route.These are just the main moves and nmot those taken in some actions.

    The Route
    Newhaven. / Southampton / Piccadilly Circus / Sword beach. / Queen Red and Queen white sectors ./ Ouistreham. / Hermanville / Morris"German position. / Hillman" German defence position. / The Orne canal and river / Pegasus Bridge. / Benouville. / Coleville S Orne / St Aubin d Arquenay / Blainville /Beauregarde /Herouville / Periers sur le Dan / Beuville / Bieville / Lebisey / Gazelle / Le Mesnil / Cambes / Chateau De la Londe / Le Landel / Le Homme / Escoville /Epron / La Bijude / CAEN Across Pegasus bridge to Herouvillette / Touffreville / Sannerville / Troan Road / Bonneville / Back across the Orne / Benouville / The Long move to Le Beny Bocage / River Allure / Vire and villages around / Wounded S Mine / The mad charge down the Tinchbray road. / Tinchebray / Flers / Falaise gap / The Chase across France toThe River Seine / Les Andelys / Amiens / Arras /Lille /BELGIUM / BRUSSELS / Porte Joie / Thielt / Escaut canal.Lille st Hubert / HOLLAND / Weert / .Helmond / Heumen / NIJMEGEN / Recon; on the Arnhem road / Linden / Mook/ The River Maas / Vierlingsbeek / Boxmeer / Vortum / Groeningeng / Ooplo / Overloon / The Molen Beek / Venraij / Overloon to Venraij road in the Limburg area. / Severely wounded /Shelling? / Helmond / temp Hospital in school Eindhoven / Hospital Airport to Croydon / Croydon Hospital / Warwick Hospital / Poole Hospital / Bovington Hospital / Shaftesbury Hospital / Lady Leas Lytchette / Hospital / Lake House Rehab Hospital / Egham Rehab / At last back to .Home Sweet Home!
     
  17. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Market Garden!
    To get the whole picture of Market Garden in its true focus. It is first necessary to look at the whole of the campaign in North West Europe.
    The first stage was the invasion, where the strategy was to hold.. And then build up for the conquest of Normandy. At first, our forces were out numbered. F M Montgomery first plan was to prevent a massive armoured panzer punch that would drive the early weaker invasion forces back into the sea., That was prevented by sudden strikes here, there, all over the place.. That caused their panzers scurrying from place to place to prevent a breakthrough, plug the holes, and thus prevented that massive collective panzers punch to the coast. The enemy did try, but was not strong enough,

    Thus we had to take on the power of the Panzers around Caen and North of the City. To that end, the Americans could get on with taking the Cherbourg peninsula. That strategy worked exactly as it was designed. We took on, and destroyed his armour in the Sword Beach North of Caen area. Taking so much armour away from the American sector that at one time all the enemy could spare to tackle the Americans was half a panzer div. And of course, it developed with the utter and complete victory in Normandy culminating in the slaughter of our enemy inside the Falaise Pocket.
    Now having said all that. After the battle our forces pursued the enemy across France Belgium and then to Holland, where the enemy made a stand. Patton? Oh he was off capturing the countryside empty of the enemy.. Had he joined the forces trying to close the neck of the Falaise pocket? Then perhaps, just perhaps? the Seven bridges to Arnhem may never have been necessary…?Then Patton ran out of petrol…….

    Here then, is where the Market Garden offensive began. The calculated drive North on a single highway. Up though Holland there were seven water courses to cross. Known as “The Seven Bridges To Arnhem” The plan was to use airborne and land troops combined.
    I have often heard, and suggestions made that it should never have been tried…… In my next submission I will attempt to explain why we went ahead with the Seven Bridges to Arnhem..
    Please note! these observations are my own opinion, and are not shaped by any other influence
    TBC
     
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  18. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Sapper this is a fantastic total! I am told that a specialist book on WW2 will sell 2000 copies and count it self lucky to hit 5000 copies. Even at only 10% regular viewer you are way ahead.

    I really do think you should commit this to a book - I never imagined that life would be so hard for a Sapper.
     
  19. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    You are right..I really should have a go at publishing. I write on other sites, one has a readership of 122,747
    But age and disabilities make it a little tough going without the added burden of seeking a publisher. I have already written the book and had it published privately, for family and close friends...Cost an arm and a leg!
    Cheers Scipio
     
  20. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Previously, as the resume of the war in Normandy has shown, we had taken on the enemy and beaten him. Through out the campaign so far, we had gone after him, where ever and when ever we could. As in any war, there are ebbs and a flows. Now having chased the enemy all the way from the beaches of Normandy. The planning for the thrust Northwards was put into practice….A combination of air and ground forces working together to leap frog up through the centre of Holland. The concept was brilliant. And it has to be said… brilliantly carried out. But for the final long shot …Arnhem…

    But First! Why would we take on the high risk of that final bridge…. the prize of the Seventh bridge to Arnhem? Why?

    Simple really… Before the Allies now, lay the Glittering prize of a break through into the Northern plains of industrial Germany. Where our armour could deploy in great thrusts in all directions. Ideal for armour, in reality “Set Free“ . Supported by our Fighters and bombers, but most of all the Rocket firing Typhoons. There would have been great carnage of the remainder of the German army,

    Everything now lay before us. That glittering prize of our armour spreading out swiftly and devastating all that lay before us….
    The war would be over by Christmas. We would be into Berlin first. But the greatest prize was this; had that long shot of the Seventh Bridge been successful, the savings of thousands of our young men’s lives. A swift end to the war. With the Western Allies controlling a great deal more than took place afterwards...

    And one other, not recognised, but vital reason, the destruction of the V2 rocket sites that were continuing to take so many innocent civilian lives back in the UK.

    At night we would go out and watch the rocket being fired towards home. Was that long shot worth the gamble? Too bloody right it was….Years later, had that chance been successful, we would have prevented the Berlin blockade. Much of the cold war would not have occurred. We would have been in control.

    The alternative to the Seven bridges to Arnhem, operation Market Garden? Simple, sit on your hands and let others take the initiative. For those that say we should never have tried for that last bridge, they are advocating what? Stop fighting because times get tough? Really? For those that argue we should have sat on our hands. Look at the reasons WHY…
    TBC
     

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