Sunday, 7 November 2010

18th April - Approach to Bremen

Bremen was to be defended; of that there could be no doubt. The civilian element, headed by the Burgomaster who desired to play with surrender to the British was summarily dealt with by SS troops, and General Becker, a reliable non-collaborator, was made garrison commander.

Henceforth progress towards the town could only be made after serious fighting. Not until British troops entered the heart of the town did resistance collapse, and then it became merged in the mass surrenders which became the mode across the whole of 21 Army Group front.

From Harpstedt, we had originally been cast for an attack upon Delmenhorst. But on the evening before it was due to be carried out, we were suddenly switched further East to attack the approaches to Bremen from a more Southerly direction.

On the 17 April we moved to a concentration area just North of Barrien. On 18th. 2 Lincolns opened the Brigade attack by clearing the village of Stuhr. They fought long and well, starting at first light, battling throughout the day, and not completing their task until the first few hours of daylight the next day.

On the evening of 18th. 2 RUR was ordered to move up behind the Lincolns for the night, prior to passing through them at first light the following day to capture Moordyke 1500 yards further Northwest.

One rather unexpected incident took place as "B" Company reached its company locality. The ground had been traversed but not apparently searched by the Lincolns for when a section under Cpl. Holt approached some burnt out houses in the locality, it found altogether 15 Germans under an Officer shuffling around the buildings and in the ditches.

Almost without firing a shot, Cpl. Holt rounded them up and brought them in as PW. 85 troops, they had been lying up quietly for British troops had been passing and re-passing the buildings for two or three hours, and they might have been proposing to cause havoc under cover of darkness. Careful searching and prompt action, however, prevented this from taking place.

The attack began at 0700 hrs. the next morning, after the Battalion had consumed an early breakfast at 0545. "D" Company under Major Bird MC with two troops of tanks, an FOO, a section of MGs and an RE recce party, comprised the advance guard.

Initially, progress was unhindered, but as the built up area was reached, sniping began, battle was joined, and casualties were inflicted on both sides. Progress was slowed up to the speed at which each separate house could be cleared.

SS troops were encountered both in the houses and dug into the bank of the railway which ran across "D" Company's front. In a manoeuvre to drive them out Sjt. Cochrane, commanding a platoon, was hit, and so was a stretcher bearer who went forward to assist him.

It was a strong position, for SS troops were lining a long communication trench which was also covered by a building occupied by their comrades. Finally to break it, Major Bird MC organised a frontal assault by Lt McCarthy's platoon, while the other two platoons, held up on either flank of this position, covered the attack by fire which was intensified by the BESA and solid shot of two troops of tanks.

At a given signal their fire suddenly stopped and the assaulting troops went in. A dozen Germans were killed or wounded, and the rest surrendered, through not before their officer had continued to fire a spandau in spite of everything, and he had to be liquidated by a final rush from Lt McCarthy's platoon.

Prisoners began to flow in at a steady rate, and when the main cross-roads of Moordyke - "D" Company's objective - was reached, Major Bird had already sent back 50. "A" Company now passed through along the road which branched off left towards a crosstracks 300 yards further on.

On reaching it, the leading platoon came under fire from immediately to their front. They at once returned the fire, and Major Tighe-Wood MC, commanding "A" Company, worked a second platoon with a troop of tanks round the right flank.

The Germans were now discovered to be lining a bank facing "A" Company's left, so that this latest move caught them in the rear, and the flanking platoon began to roll them up systematically.

The clearing operation took the Company well forward of its original objective, and actually traversed the second bound of the attack that I KOSB were to put in that evening.

By 1300 hrs. the Battalion was firmly on all its objectives. 94 PW had been taken, and 3 X 20 mm flak guns, and the usual host of LMGs, Bazookas, Schmeissers and Lugers captured or destroyed.

We remained in our positions while the rest of the Brigade passed through us to complete this phase by the capture of Huchting.

On 21st. the Battalion was relieved by a Battalion of 51 Highland Division, and came back to Barrien to prepare for the direct assault upon Bremen in Buffaloes.

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