WW II, a British focus




 

 

THE HISTORY
OF
4TH ARMOURED BRIGADE

Chapter V
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Liberation - France, Belgium and Holland - June 1944 to February 1945

For the Invasion the Brigade was equipped with Sherman tanks again, though unfortunately not diesels. They were mostly the original Wright Whirlwind model, each regiment having twelve 17 pounder tanks for the first time. On June 6th, D Day, we began to move from the marshalling areas, embarking at Stokes Bay and anchoring in the Solent, listening with bated breath for the news of the assault on the beaches.

The first troops of the brigade landed on M beach at La Rivière at eight o'clock on the morning of June 7th under command of the Highland Division. The Sharpshooters were placed in support of 153 Brigade, one squadron supporting the 1st Bn The Black Watch in an abortive attack on the strongly fortified radar station of Douvres La Delivrande.

On the 8th rumours were current of an enemy counter-attack with tanks in the area of Coulombs, on the boundary between 1st and 30th Corps. The Sharpshooters moved to the high ground south of Creully where they joined hands with 1st Royal Tanks of 22nd Armoured Brigade, sent there to support 50th Division against the same mythical counter-attack which never developed.

Meanwhile The Greys had taken over support of 153 Brigade on the left. By June 10th all the fighting troops of the Brigade were ashore.

On the 11th we concentrated near Colomby-sur-Thaon, on the main road from Courseulles to Caen to support 9 Canadian Brigade of 3 Canadian Division against a supposed threat. The Sharpshooters took up fire positions among the infantry near Villons Les Buissons, the rest of the Brigade being on either side of Colomby. Main Brigade HQ in the chateau at Beny sur Mer was an obvious target for the enemy artillery and was finally forced to evacuate it on the 13th, after several direct hits had set the chateau on fire. From then till the 25th the Brigade was engaged in supporting 51st Highland Division and 3 Canadian Division in the same area.

On the 25th the Brigade, with 4 RHA now under our command, came under command of 11th Armoured Division in 8 Corps. On the 26th 15th Scottish Division had reached the line St Mauvieu to Cheux and 11th Armoured Division were passing through to seize a crossing of the river Odon. In the afternoon enemy tanks were reported at Rauray and the Brigade was called forward to support 29th Armoured Brigade. Brigadier Currie had just given orders to Commanding Officers at the level crossing south of Bretteville when he was killed by shellfire. By his death the Brigade lost a gallant and inspiring commander who had led them with great success and skill from Foum Tatahonine, by the Mareth Line, to victory in North Africa, through Sicily and Italy to the fields of Normandy. Lieut-Colonel Cameron, commanding the Sharpshooters, took over command until I arrived in the afternoon of the following day. By that time 29th Armoured Brigade, with 44th Royal Tanks also under command, had crossed the Odon near Baron: 159 Brigade were holding the area of the crossing and we were protecting both flanks between Cheux and the River, while 15th Scottish Division stepped up behind, taking over the ground gained by 11th Armoured Division. This situation lasted for three days.

On the open high ground between the Odon and the Orne, 29 Armoured Brigade could make no headway against strong opposition from tanks and SP guns, 44th Royal Tanks losing 12 tanks on one day on the right flank. The Germans made constant efforts to penetrate both flanks of the narrow salient in the valley of the Odon and north of it, the situation on several occasions being extremely confused in the thick hedgerows of the Bocage.

We continued to clear up and protect the flanks, supporting 159 Brigade and succeeding brigades of 15th Scottish Division and later 53rd Welsh Division, until the bridgehead over the Odon was securely established and contact made with the Canadians a few miles south-west of Caen. 11th Armoured Division were now withdrawn and on July 3rd we came under command of 53rd Division. 43rd (Wessex) Division then arrived to take over the area between the Canadians and Baron and we came under their command. On July 8th an attack by 43rd and 15 Scottish Divisions was launched to extend the bridgehead over the Odon towards the Orne, which we supported, though Churchills of 31st Armoured Brigade did most of the direct support of the infantry. This attack got no further than the outskirts of Evrecy and to Maltot: casualties were heavy particularly round Hill 112 and Maltot, the latter being eventually abandoned. For the next ten days we were engaged under command of 12 Corps in supporting 43rd and later 53rd Divisions in this area, which was a most unpleasant one. Shellfire was intense and accurate, and casualties to tank commanders were heavy. On July 20th we were withdrawn into reserve near Carpiquet aerodrome coming under command of 11th Armoured Division in 8 Corps. While we were there 3rd CLY amalgamated with 4th CLY from 22nd Armoured Brigade and became 3/4 CLY, the one and only Sharpshooters.

On July 28th we came under command of 2nd Canadian Corps. The Greys moved through Caen to support 4 Canadian Brigade of 2nd Canadian Division in the area of Ifs and Hubert Folie south of the town, again a very unpleasant area of accurate and heavy shell and mortar fire. One squadron was attacked one morning by a detachment of "Beetles", the German remote-controlled tanks, but none got as far as our tanks. On the 29th The Sharpshooters also moved to that area under command of 7th Armoured Division, on the left of The Greys, 4 RHA coming under 4th Canadian Armoured Division in the same area on the 30th. We had thought that we were going to take part in the Canadian attack towards Falaise, but on August 2nd we were placed under 8 Corps again and moved round to near St Paul Du Vernay, half way between Bayeux and Caumont. On the 4th we came under command of 3rd British Division, moving on the 6th to join them west of Beny Bocage. On the 8th The Greys were placed in support of 185 Brigade, Sharpshooters in support of 8 Brigade and 44th Royal Tanks with 9 Brigade in their attack over the River Alliere and on to the high ridge beyond, outflanking Vire from the east. After some fierce fighting, including crossing the river by Scissors Bridge and climbing an almost vertical slope beyond, 44th Royal Tanks captured the ridge with 9 Brigade, 8 Brigade with the Sharpshooters passing through on the right and The Greys with 185 Brigade on the left. After a short fight the enemy withdrew out of contact.

German remote control vehicle, Springer On August 12th we were relieved by a battalion of 6th Guards Armoured Brigade and moved again, this time by transporter, to join 12 Corps near our old battleground by Evrecy. On the following day we came under 53 Division and moved to a further concentration area east of the Odon round Mulrecy, D Squadron of The Royals coming under our command. On the 14th we moved up to Bois Halbout, Sharpshooters passing through 71 Brigade to the high ground beyond, while D Squadron of The Royals found a way through the thick woods to Bonnoeil, which was occupied by 2 KRRC with a squadron of 44 Royal Tanks by last light. On the 15th The Sharpshooters with two companies of 2 KRRC continued the advance through very thick "bocage" on the left of 44 Royal Tanks as far as Treprel, where determined resistance by enemy infantry, backed up by SP anti-tank guns, held them up until the afternoon, by which time 44 Royal Tanks had come up on their right, after dealing with the enemy on the west edge of Treprel.

By last light 44 Royal Tanks, with one company of 2 KRRC, had cut the main road from Conde to Falaise, south-west of Treprel, and The Sharpshooters had done the same further east. During the night 6 RWF of 160 Brigade caught up with The Sharpshooters and helped to make the area secure and two companies of 4 Welch took over behind 44 Royal Tanks.

On the 16th 160 Brigade took over the area we had captured and began to mop up and extend it, while The Greys supported 1 HLI on a cross-country move to Martigny and beyond. They continued to support them on the following day in seizing the high wooded ridge south-west of Falaise. Meanwhile the rest of the brigade concentrated behind 71 Brigade, ready to pass through when they reached the Falaise-Argentan road. This they did by a brilliant night attack down the ridge. Soon after first light the Greys, with one company of 2 KRRC, passed through 71 Brigade heading down the main road to Argentan.

Near Ronai the leading squadron ran into a column of guns and horse-drawn transport which it dealt with effectively, but they continued to have considerable trouble from German tanks and SP guns to their front and open left flank. The Sharpshooters meanwhile had got down the steep wooded ridge further west, but were held up at a village covering the exit from the woods. 44 Royal Tanks, moving across country between the two, came up on the right of The Greys and were soon in action against enemy columns trying to move east. By last light the Sharpshooters had got one Squadron round behind the village of Rouffigny, but had not cleared it up, 44 Royal Tanks were on the edge of Ronai and The Greys on the outskirts of Pierrefitte. Each had their motor company with them. The woods and hedge rows were full of German infantry and there were a considerable number of German tanks and SPs about, trying to prevent us from closing the narrow gap between ourselves and Argentan.

On the 19th we pushed a little further south, The Sharpshooters clearing Rouffigny and 44 Royal Tanks clearing Ronai and taking zoo prisoners. We continued to inflict considerable damage on the enemy attempting to move east, which he now only dared do by single vehicles travelling very fast and by crawling up hedgerows. We were relieved by 71 Brigade in the afternoon and moved to the area of St Clair, coming under command of 15 Scottish Division, prepared to move south-east to clear up the final pocket between 53 Division and the Canadians. Plans were changed and on the 21st we came under command of 2 Canadian Corps to carry out the same task, 53 Division recce regiment being also placed under our command. In the afternoon 44 Royal Tanks and 2 KRRC supported by 4 RHA passed through 53 Division Recce. By last light our task had been completed with the capture of 3000 prisoners, and the "Falaise pocket" had been finally eliminated. We reverted to the command of 53 Division at midnight, but changed to 15 Scottish Division again next day, the 22nd. Between the 23rd and the 28th we moved from Trun to Ailly, on the west bank of the Seine, without opposition except from the mass of dead horses and derelict vehicles blocking every road. Here 4 RHA left us to go and re-equip with SP guns, being relieved by 6 Field Regiment. On the 29th we crossed the Seine at St Pierre du Vauvray, concentrating in the bridgehead formed by 15 Scottish Division, with D Squadron of The Royals again under our command.

equipment on a road at Falaise At first light on the 30th we led 53 Division out of the bridgehead, our objective being Gournay. The Sharpshooters followed close on the heels of The Royals and little opposition was met. By last light we were beyond it on three sides, Sharpshooters to the north-west, 44 Royal Tanks to the north-east and Greys to the west, each with a company of 2 KRRC. During the night a column of Germans, escaping from Rouen, got astride the centre line between the Sharpshooters and their forward squadron which, with the Royals and a company of 2 KRRC, was holding the bridge three miles north of Gournay. This took some time to, clear: meanwhile The Greys were advancing on a separate axis on the left. We were now under 7 Armoured Division, the rest of the division crossing the Seine behind 53 Division.

After The Sharpshooters had cleared Bazancourt and Villers Vermont, capturing 200 prisoners and knocking out a number of guns, 44 Royal Tanks passed through them, clearing each village on the axis in turn. Little opposition was met in Grandvilliers and, after completely destroying its flank guard, they came upon a dense column of transport trying to move through Poix.

The Greys had found the tail of another column some six miles further west and both regiments began to inflict heavy punishment on the enemy. They were both low in petrol and ammunition: while they were refuelling, the Typhoons of the RAF were given a free hand with more German columns to the north, bringing all movement to a stop. Towards last light both regiments continued their advance, clearing a way through the carnage as best they could and halting after dark about six miles north of Poix. Our bag for the day had been 1500 prisoners, 5 guns and untold quantities of transport, motor and horse-drawn.

Our objective for the next day, September 1st, was a crossing over the Somme. 44 Royal Tanks on the right were directed on Picquigny, The Greys on the left to Longpre. Sharpshooters were following up the Greys protecting the open left flank between us and 4 Canadian Armoured Division. Both regiments met the enemy on the line of the road through Molliens Vidame. This was soon dealt with and the advance resumed.

Meanwhile Tac R reported that the Picquigny bridge was blown and 44 Royal Tanks were redirected to Ailly, further east. The bridge here was blown as they approached. The Greys found the main road bridge east of Longpre blown, but with great skill and dash seized the smaller bridge to the west before the enemy destroyed it. They managed to get two troops over, but the bridge itself was weak and there was a wet crater in the road this side of it: several attempts were made to improve it, but for most of the day the bridgehead in and around the village of Long was held only by two troops of tanks and a company of a KRRC. Every attempt by the enemy to get back to the bridge was foiled in spite of the thick country, and the rest of the squadroncrossed by nightfall. The Sharpshooters on their left rear had made contact with the Canadians, leaving Airaines behind them still occupied by the enemy. This isolated party resisted strongly. Unfortunately Lieut-Colonel Littledale, commanding a KRRC, drove straight into the village and was killed instantly. The Sharpshooters made one attempt, with one company of a KRRC, to clear it from the north-west, but had not the men to complete it. Meanwhile we had been ordered to move round north of Amiens to secure an area north of the Somme in which 7 Armoured Division could concentrate during the night. Accordingly in the failing light 44 Royal Tanks, followed by Tac Bde HQ, crossed the river at the western outskirts of Amiens and continued in the moonlight to the high ground north of Canaples, twelve miles to the north.

On the 2nd 44 Royal Tanks advanced to Bernaville, where, protecting the left flank of 7 Armoured Division, they completely destroyed a German column moving east, taking 600 prisoners. The Sharpshooters crossed- the river at Picquigny and turned left clearing the north bank for fifteen miles and linking up with the Greys bridgehead at Long, destroying a battery of 88s on the way.

For the next two days, under command of 12 Corps, we protected the left flank of the Corps axis, stepping up behind 53 Division and clearing the area to the west as far north as St P01. On the 5th we returned to the command of 7 Armoured Division, moving behind 22 Armoured Brigade through Aubigny, Vermelles, Carvin and Secin, crossing the Belgian frontier at Estambourg, finally halting with The Sharpshooters at Oudenarde, 44 Royal Tanks at Kerkhove and The Greys at Avelgem. We were ordered to remain concentrated there while 131 Brigade passed through. We had a completely open left flank, an area in which there were known to be large numbers of Germans, pressed from the south by the Canadians and Poles.

During the night therefore I obtained permission from the commander of 7th Armoured Division to face west next day and protect the Corps axis from that direction. At first light the Brigade therefore took up battle positions on a front of fifteen miles on the high ground between the River Escaut and the Lys canal, the Sharpshooters covering Oudenarde, 44 Royal Tanks Kerkhove and The Greys Avelgem. It was not long before my suspicions were proved correct and a stream of Germans began moving east heading for the Escaut along the whole brigade front. With only one motor company with each regiment it was impossible to prevent infiltration through the villages and hedge-rows. In spite of heavy losses the Germans continued to try and break through. All through the afternoon the tanks were sweeping their areas over and over again. It was clear that we could not hold them during the night on such a broad front. Luckily there was a road running east of the river which could be used as an alternative Corps axis, provided we held the bridge at Avelgem and kept the Germans from crossing the river anywhere.

After warning the Divisional Commander of the situation and securing his agreement, regiments were pulled back at last light to the immediate vicinity of the bridges and Brigade HQ and all echelons moved east of the river. During the night the German 712th Division tried several times to reach the bridges but got no further than the main road between the villages. At first light on the 7th each regiment counter-attacked and drove the disorganised enemy back to the high ground. A large number of prisoners were taken and many casualties inflicted. The enemy made no further attempt to break out to the east and the second battle of Oudenarde was over.

During the afternoon and night of the 7th we handed over the area to a brigade of 15 Scottish Division. On the 8th The Sharpshooters moved at first light to Antwerp to join 53rd Welsh Division there, while the rest of the brigade, including 4 RHA who had returned equipped with SPs and relieved 6th Field Regiment, concentrated south of Termonde by last light. We were still under command of 7th Armoured Division. Our task was to clear the area west of the Scheldt and north of the River Durne. 11th Hussars and Royals had patrols in the area but more and more Germans were flooding in from the north and west.

The Greys with 'C' Company 2 KRRC moved before last light on the 8th to take over Lokeren from one squadron of the Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. At first light the rest of the Brigade crossed the wooden bridge at Termonde, (later classified as capable of carrying 9-ton loads after considerable repair!), led by 44 Royal Tanks with 'B' Company 2 KRRC. No enemy were met and 44 Royal Tanks entered St Nicolas in triumph. Meanwhile 1 RB from 22nd Armoured Brigade had come under our command and had relieved The Greys in Lokeren. I had ordered the Greys to move to Beveren Waes, north-east of St Nicolas and on the opposite bank of the Scheldt to Antwerp. The rest of 2 KRRC came to take over St Nicolas before 44 Royal Tanks moved any further.

St Nicolas by this time was a scene of wild and delirious rejoicing. Crowds thronged the square and blocked the streets. In the middle of it The Greys, moving up the by-pass just east of the town, met a German column coming in the opposite direction. It had first opened fire on a recce party of 4 RHA. At the same time further German columns tried to enter the town from the north and north-east. The battle which followed had a sobering effect on the crowds for a time. By the middle of the afternoon the enemy had either been destroyed or withdrawn northwards and calm restored. On the 10th The Greys liberated Beveren Waes and met the enemy holding a strong position at Calloo and Fort Sainte Marie, on the bank of the Scheldt. Our object was to prevent the use of the ferry further north at Lillo.

It was clear that a full scale attack would be necessary to capture Calloo, the approaches to which were completely open over boggy ground intersected with dykes. 1/7 Queens were put under my command for this and arrived during the afternoon. Everything was laid on for an attack at last light, but it had to be cancelled as the medium regiment was not forthcoming and the plan was changed, our area to be handed over to the Polish Armoured Division. The hand over took place on the 12th and we moved back to Termonde, the tanks having to go all the way round through Wetteren.

Next day we moved on again to a concentration area around Boisschot, where we expected to get a few days for maintenance which was badly needed. Meanwhile the Sharpshooters had moved from Antwerp to Gheel, and were supporting 15 Scottish Division in forming and extending the bridgehead over the Junction Canal.

On the 17th September 44th Royal Tanks moved to near Hechtel, coming under command of 30 Corps. They were to link up with 101 US Airborne Division between Son and Veghel on the road from Eindhoven to Nijmegen. On the 18th the Brigade, less the Sharpshooters and 44th Royal Tanks moved to 8 Corps and took over from the Inns of Court Regt the line of the Junction Canal from Lanklaer to Bocholt, a front of 15 miles. On the 20th the Sharpshooters rejoined us, taking over the southern bit of the front from 2 KRRC: 1st Belgian Brigade took over from Bree northwards. By that time we had cleared all the enemy from the west bank of the canal.

The Arnhem operation started on September 17th: on the 20th 44th Royal Tanks joined up with 101 US Airborne Division and had a strenuous fight to keep the main road open. On the 22nd the enemy succeeded in cutting the road north of Veghel. 44th Royal Tanks successfully organised a counter-attack and the road was open again early on the 24th. On the 25th it was cut again south of Veghel and again 44th Royal Tanks cleared it. The Germans never succeeded in reaching the road again, though they remained quite close to it for a long time and the 44th Royal Tanks' anxieties were by no means over.

On the 26th, having handed over our front to the Royals, we took over from 8 Brigade of 3 British Division the area of Weert, a front of 12 miles along the Bois le Duc and Wessem Canals. We were faced by German parachute troops whose enterprising and aggressive patrols kept us busy every night. On October 3rd The Greys, relieved by 4th Tank Grenadier Guards moved up to Nijmegen coming under command 30 Corps for the support of 101 US Airborne Division on The Island. 44th Royal Tanks concentrated at Volkel for a few days' sorely needed maintenance. On the 6th the Grenadiers left us without relief, and The Sharpshooters and a KRRC held the entire front until we were relieved by 7 US Armoured Division on the 8th. The following day the brigade moved up to west of Nijmegen to join the Greys under command of 12 Corps, who had relieved 30 Corps. Next day The Sharpshooters crossed Nijmegen bridge to join 53rd Welsh Division and 44th Royal Tanks to join 50th Division, the Greys remaining with 101 US Airborne Division. On the 13th the brigade also took over from 157 Brigade the area between the Lower Rhine and the Maas, west of the Reichswald, 61st Recce Regt and the Royal Netherlands Brigade coming under our command and a KRRC manning the south bank of the Lower Rhine on the left flank of 101 US Airborne Division, who were on the far side. This state of affairs lasted until the night of October 17th when the whole brigade were relieved by 8th Armoured Brigade.

On the 18th we moved to the area west of Eindhoven, The Royals and the Royal Netherlands Brigade also coming under our command. For the first 24 hours we were under the Highland Division but the following day came direct under 12 Corps. On that day 2 KRRC and 44th Royal Tanks took over the front north of Poppel from a brigade of 49 Division. We now had a brigade front of twenty miles from Eindhoven to where we joined hands with the Polish Armoured Division west of Poppel. The Sharpshooters were supporting the Royal Netherlands Brigade and the right squadron of The Royals, The Greys supporting the rest of the front of the Royals, 4 RHA and the 6 guns of the Royal Netherlands Brigade supporting the whole front. Between then and the 24th there was considerable activity in a KRRC's area, but only patrols elsewhere.

On the 25th, while 15th Scottish Division on our right was attacking westward north of the Wilhelmina Canal and the Polish Armoured Division on our left attacking north-west towards Breda, we attacked towards Tilburg on two axes, The Sharpshooters and the Royal Netherlands Brigade up the road from Hilvarenbeek, 2 KRRC and 44th Royal Tanks towards Goirle. Mines, demolitions and boggy ground held up both groups all day. On the 26th we were into the outskirts of Tilburg on the right and on the edge of Goirle on the left. During the night 44th Brigade of 15 Scottish Division relieved our right group, which moved round to Poppel. During the 27th a KRRC cleared Goirle finding more mines and demolitions and the Royals moved out on their left to fill the gap between them and the Poles.

4GHQ Tps RE, who were also under our command, finished building the bridge south of Goirle before last light and The Greys moved into the town after dark with one squadron of The Royals. At first light on the 28th, Tilburg having now been entered by 15 Scottish Division, The Greys and 2 KRRC moved through the western outskirts and west along the road to Breda. They regained contact with the enemy south of Rijen about ten miles west of Tilburg: the rest of the day was spent clearing Rijen and the woods to the south and south-west of it, while Royal Netherlands Brigade and The Sharpshooters moved up to take over the area astride the main road and the Royals kept touch with the Poles in the area of the aerodrome.

Next day, leaving The Royal Netherlands Brigade, The Greys, 2 KRRC and one squadron of The Royals in the area of Rijen under command of 7th Armoured Division, the rest of the Brigade, with the Royals less one squadron, still under command moved all the way back to our old sector of the front near Weert, coming under command of 7 US Armoured Division in 8 Corps on arrival.

We were joined there by The Greys, 2 KRRC and the remaining squadron of The Royals next day. On the 31st we came under command of 53rd Welsh Division who also had been hurried to this area to face the expected counter-attack which had already begun further north. By November 2nd The Royals had left our command and 53 Division had taken over the whole front, the Brigade being in Div reserve prepared to support all sectors, which we continued to do for the next ten days. On November 13th 12 Corps' Operation "Mallard" began to clear the enemy from west of the Maas. 44 Royal Tanks and the Vickers MGs of 2 KRRC fired a diversionary indirect shoot on the left flank before The Sharpshooters, supporting 160 Brigade, advanced by artificial moonlight at half past ten at night to the banks of the Wessem Canal. The terrific display of fireworks produced by The Sharpshooters and the flails and Crocodiles working with them was so successful that no opposition was met on the canal itself at all. The Class 40 bridge was not completed until half past seven on the evening of the 14th. 44th Royal Tanks were first across to support 158 Brigade near Baexem, followed by 4 RHA and The Sharpshooters, the latter supporting 160 Brigade in extending the bridgehead to either flank. The Greys with 71 Brigade crossed at nine o'clock on the morning of the 15th and reached the outer defences of Roermond, west of the river, before they met opposition, though mines were plentiful.

On the 18th we came under command of 49 Division to support their attack to clear the area beyond the Zig Canal up to Venlo. The brigade concentrated on the 11th on the road between Roggel and Meijel and on the 20th round Panningen. 44th Royal Tanks supported 146 Brigade on the right, The Sharpshooters in reserve ready to support 147 Brigade when they were used. The rest of the brigade advanced on the left of 146 Brigade, passing through 49 Div recce and taking them under command. During the 21st progress was slow owing to a large number of mines of all types, completely waterlogged ground and a few SPs which we could not locate. At first light on the 22nd 2 KRRC occupied Tongerloo, taking a few prisoners, and The Sharpshooters and 44th Royal Tanks supported their respective brigades up to the outer fringe of the western defences of Blerick, opposition being more determined on the 44th front, mines and bog being universal. 49 Div recce passed through 2 KRRC, who remained concentrated where they were, as did the Greys. 4 RHA moved up to an area east of Sevenum and came under command CRA 49 Division. On the 25th the brigade left 49 Division, except for 4 RHA and The Sharpshooters who remained to support them, and concentrated at rest south of Someren, joined there by The Sharpshooters on the z 5th. 4 BRA on the 30th moved down to Hunsel, supporting 53 Division holding the line of the River Maas in that area.

This situation lasted until December 17th when the brigade came under command 11th Armoured Division in place of 29 Armoured Brigade who had gone away to re-equip. The armoured regiments stayed where they were, a KRRC taking over the line of the river from opposite Stevensweert to Wessem, the Inns of Court, also under our command, holding it south of them to Maeseyck, both supported by 4 RHA. Main Brigade HQ moved to Neeritter, leaving Rear HQ with the armoured regiments south of Someren. For the rest of the month we continued this task, a war of patrols, sniping and harassing, snow adding to the interests and hazards of the job. On the last day of the year, 44th Royal Tanks, with a battery of 63rd Anti-Tank Regiment under command, relieved the Inns of Court. For the next fortnight patrolling became more active, both a KRRC and 44th Royal Tanks sending patrols over the river. On January 8th 'A' Squadron of 3/4 CLY, which had moved up for the purpose, took part in a highly successful attack by 8 Brigade of 3 British Division to destroy the enemy bridgehead west of the Maas at Wanssum.

On January 19th No. 3 Commando under our command crossed the Maas, captured Stevensweert and began to clear the Island between the Maas and the Juliana Canal, relieved the same day by a KRRC, a ferry being built at Stevensweert by 13 Field Squadron RE. On the 20th a KRRC completed clearing the island up to Maasbracht and made contact with 7th Armoured Division beyond the canal. By the 24th the advance of 7th Armoured Division on the far side of the Maas made our task superfluous and we were no longer in contact with the enemy. We remained in the same general area around Weert under command of 11th Armoured Division until February 27th, resting from our labours of liberation and training for the spring invasion of Germany.

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