Saturday, 6 November 2010

20th to 30th September - Marheeze and Deurne

After the action at Lille St Hubert, the Class 40 Bridge, built by the Royal Engineers of our Division, permitted the passage of 11 Armoured Division, and after this our Divisional role was to follow up the armour, taking over important points as these were overcome, and also ensuring the protection of their line of communication.

German resistance in these circumstances became almost guerilla warfare, because the rapid advance of armour split up without destroying their forces and these operated independently until such time as they could link up again with their own forces. The quantity and extent of the woods in this part of Holland afforded ample cover for their activities and so the utmost vigilance had always to be maintained by our own troops.

Our first move of this kind was to Marheeze, which lay some 16 miles North East of the Escaut. During this march we crossed the frontier between Belgium and Holland and the reception in the villages and towns of both countries can only be described as riotous.

Our pipers played us through to the delight of the civilians, and, when we reached Holland, it was a happy coincidence that the pipers saffron kilts toned with the gay orange rosettes which were the national emblems of the Fighting Dutch. The streets were lined with these cheering folk, so that vehicles following the marching troops could with difficulty find a way through.

The Dutch matched this great reception by their hospitality to us in Marheeze and subsequently in Deurne, where many members of the Battalion made friendships which they hoped to renew at an early date.

At Deurne, some 20 miles North of Marheeze, across the Helmond Canal, the German was at once closer to us and more organised. He was holding the line of the Deurne Canal about two miles East of the town and had outposts well forward across the water, and though we were not in constant touch with him in this position, fighting patrols of company strength went out on two successive days and had no difficulty in locating him.

The country down to the canal was flat and open, with, however, enough trees and ditches to allow covered approaches. Moreover the Boche was watchful and handled vigorously with mortar and sniper fire any observed movement. Training of the previous months was now given the reality of battle conditions, for the utmost skill in observation and fieldcraft was demanded.

These patrols were not carried out without loss; 'D' Company on the second day lost six men wounded. Against that, one German was killed and much damage was thought to have been inflicted by calculated artillery and mortar supporting fire. We ended the month of September moving out of Deurne, but having benefited greatly from our stay in it.

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