VEGHEL 22-23-1944 (party RHQ)

 

At 06.30hrs 22 Sept 44 the Veghel column with RHQ, followed by 408 Bty, 405 Bty and REME W/Shops was halted by traffic jam. The head of the column about 1/2 mile outside Veghel on Veghel Road with the remainder of the column parked in the town itself, the column comd Major Bailey was told that the column would be freezed for 5 hours.

At approx 10.00hrs rumours were heard of enemy tanks in the East, the right flank of the column. The commander of the American paratroops was informed but no orders were received from him. It was decided therefore that should any enemy action occur J Troop 408 Bty was to move some of to their guns past Regt HQ column in a effort to die parse the vehicles in the town and at the time provide some A/T defence. At approx 11.50hrs an american patrol on the right flank contacted the enemy and at the same time heavy shelling on the town commenced. It was not at the time officially known to the Regt HQ that the enemy had been contacted except that there was some SAA fire on the right flank. In an endavour to find out the road situation the American paratroop deployed in position on the side of the road by Regt HQ. Vehicles were approached but they were unable to state whether it was their own tps firing or the position of their own tps.

It was however obvious that an attack was imminent so vehicles and guns of E Troop were sent forward as arranged to take up their A/T posns. These were under command of Lt ??. The Regt HQ vehicles were also dispersed along the road to avoid conjunction and as some protection from shelling. Personnal from Regt HQ were placed in defensive positions in the ditches on either side of the road, positions were difficult to choose as the Americans continially stated that the position we had choice was liable to fire on their tps although they could not say where their tps were. The remainder of E Troop under Lt G.Robinson toop up defensive posns behind Regt HQ mainly on the right of the road, where the attack was expected and some on the left, PIATs were also ready for

At approx 11.45hrs the small arms fire increased in intensity and was directed at the position occupied by RHQ, tanks were also heard in the woods on the right flank and moving towards the town. At this point the paratroops withdrew through regt HQ. It was decided that the road was imposible to depend from the position when occupied and  that the only change of holding of the enemy was to take up fresh positions along the line of an hedge  at right angles to the road on the outskirts of the town. Orders were therefore issued by the Adjudant for RHQ to withdraw to this line. The RHQ personnel were in two parties with Lt Jordan and Lt Hirsch (Belgium LO) on one side of the road with 6 men and the Adjudant on the other with 5 men. At this stage it was not possible to see what was the to the A Tp guns or to the personnel of a Brengun posn.

Fire by now became extremely heavy and one tank broke through on the road and proceeded towards the town knocking out and setting fire to vehicles on the way and spraying the hedges with MG fire. Other tanks appeared on the right of theroad and PIATs of RHQ was placed in the best possible position in a ditch with a field of fire in this direction  and enemy MkII came through the hedge of the field  and was fired upon receiving a direct hit from the PIAT. Meanwhile the tank a MkIV with 88mm gun which had presiously broken through on to the road crossed into the field on the left flank and was knocked out by American A/T gun that had taken up position in the hedge that the RHQ party were making for. This tank passed over the ditch into the field 5yrds of Lt Jordans party, Lt jordan was wounded in the face and 1 OR was wounded in the stomach. These two wounded man were dragged away by the remainder of the party under direction of Lt Hirsch but havy fire made it impossible for this party to get back for some time. They therefore remained in No mansland in the ditch until the whole attack was beaten off. They then joined the remainder of the Regiment which had by this time withdrawn into the town where the guns were deployed in an A/T role.

Shelling grew in intensity and fighting continued. The enemy was at the main road running north of the town and is was obvious that E Troop that had guns to the head of the Regiment column was now cut off from the rest of the Regiment as was the bran gun crew under the RSM. Most of the Regiment H.Q. vehicles were turning fiercaly as well as a tractor of 408 Battery on the edge of the town although the gun was saved. The situation improved slightly later in the afternoon and one or two en from E Troop managed to get back to the town but is was not until the next day at approx 1900 hrs that the full story could be formed. Lt. G.J. Robinson's report is attached.

The Regiment stoof to at 0500hrs as it was expected that an attack on the town would take place but is did not materialise. Further shelling took place during the whole of the day and the Regiment sustained further casualties - 8 killed and six wounded with soms damage to vehicles. The road was, however opened during the afternoon and the Regiment received orders to move forward at 2000hrs to NIJMEGEN. Al small REME party and rear party of 405 and 408 Battery under Lt Axelby were left behind to salvage as many damaged vehicles as possible while the remainder of the Regiment moved forward arriving at NIJMEGEN at 0130hrs.

The Regiment less 409 Battery which ws already deployed was in action by 0500hrs. E Troop 408 battery were onl able to deploy a action but this was withdrawn later in the day as the heavy casualties on the journey up made it impossible for them to maintain this section in the field at the state of readiness required. From 24 - 30 September the Regiment remained af NIJMEGEN in defence of the bridges. There was considerable air activity during the period both by day and night. The Regiment claimed 15 Cat 1 and 17 Cat IIs during this period. Shelling and bombing causes casualties amounting to 5 killed and 17 wounded mostly 409 and 408 Batteries. Detailed AA summary (INT) is contained in weekly AA INT summary for week ending 30 September 1944.

 

E Troop

On Friday 22 September 1944, E Troop was proceeding in a regimental column to NIJMEGEN. Regiment H was leading and E Troop was immadiatly behind. The column was moving throughout the night of 21/22 September and at approx 0615hrs 22 September had reached VEGHEL, where is was ordered b movement control to pull of the road for 5 hours to allow other troops through. The position, then, of the column was as follows: - Regiment H. Vehicles were parked on te road outside and north of the town; E Troop was behind, als outside the town, with their last vehicle just on the edge of the town. Behind E Troop was the remainder of 408 Battery, followed by 405 Battery etc, all parked along the main road running north - south through the town. Because of the great amount of traffic on the road, all the vehicles were nose to tail.

At approx 1030hrs rumours were head of enemy tanks in the East - our right flank - and though there was no official news, it was decided that should any enemy action occur E Troop would move some of their vehicles past the Regiment H vehicles in an effort to disperse the column and also to provide some defence.

At approx 1130 hrs an American patrol on the right flank contacted the enemy, and at the same time heay shelling of the town commenced. Vehicles and guns of E Troop were then sent forward as aranged to take up their A/tk positions. These were under the command of Lt T. MILUM. The remainder of the troop were under Lt O.H.J. Robinson and took up positions, mainly on the right of the road, where the enemy were and some on the left. 40 mm and PIAT were also ready for action commanding two main approaches. Al these positions were on the edge of the town.

Shelling grew in intensity ans some American Troops came and took up position, including tow gun crews with A/tk guns. These A/tk guns were rather hurriedly put in position and insuch a way that they were in front of the E Troop A/tk guns, thus almost completely blocking their field of fire.

Shelling became heavier with the enemy approaching, and soon after an enemy tank appeared on the left flank, much to the surprise of evereyone concerned. The tank opened fire and scored a direct hit on E Troop HQ 3 ton lorry. At the same time S.A. fire hit the gun tractor. Both vehicles burThe st into flame. The American gun crews opened fire on the tank and eventually hit him, but not before the remainder of the Americans had rather suddenly retired into the town. In view of this Lt Robinson decided to withdraw to the Americans in the town, and all personnel reached this point.

The shelling and fighting continued - the enemy had cut the main road running north of the town, - and it was ovbious that that part of E Troop that had originally on to the head of the regimental column was now cut off from the rest of the Regiment, as was Regiment H. The 40 mm gun on the edge of the town was salvaged but all the vehicles are burning fiercely and nothing could be done about them.

The situation improved slightly later in the afternoon and one or two men who were cut off of E Troop managed to get back to the town, but is was not until the next day at approx 1900hrs, that any real story could be formed.

From these men that got bac to the town it was learned that No 2 det had taken up and A/tk position near the head of Regiment H. The Bren was manned and other S.A., and the tractor driven away. Almost immediately the det was engaged by direct enemy machine gun fire and the D.C., Sgt SCOTT RA badly wounded. The enemy approached right to the gun position and those members of the det that had taken up positions in the ditch by the road were fired upon by a German, who sprang- sprayed his machine gun fire up and down the line of the ditch. L/Bdr C. SMITH and gunner J. HANCOCKS and S.G. CLARKE are the only ones not wounded. They tended the wounded men, using their own clothing for handages and touniquetes and waited there until the American Medical party arrived. The helped evacuate the wounded and afterwards managed to get back to the town. The last seen of gunners SATE and MUNDY was when they were manning the 40 mm gun. Later is was found gunner J.R. SATE was killed,and gunner D. MUNDY was missing.

Meanwhile, the other dets proceeded along the road, and took up A/tk positions further up. They were immediately engaged by enemy tanks. Dets 2 and 3, between them, knocked out one tank, which was left burning.

Lt. MILUM, seeing that the situation was getting very serious, decided to pull out and get along the road to the North. It would seem though, that at tis time the enemy had the advantage and almost completely encircled the town and the area around it. However, the dets proceeded and rounding a bend in the road came face to face with three Mk IV tanks. The men dispersed, the tanks opened fire and the tractors were hit and bursts into flames. Further down the road, No 1 Tractor had received direct hits form enemey mortars and was in flames.

Lt MILUM and Sgt BRUNNING A decided to salvage at least one gun and tractor. With volunteers they succeeded in resouing one gun, but unfortunately the tractor they were trying to get became bogged. Throughout all this they were under direct enemey machine gun and mortar fire.

An RASC vehicle was nearby and Lt MILUM decided to try and get all the men on ti and make a bid to reach VEGHEL for the enemy tanks were still operating and causing damage to guns and personnel.

The recaptured gun was hooked on to a jeep and nearby all the men managed to board the RASC lorry. The gun was manned and Lt MILUM led the Vehicles, himself sitting on the bonnet of the jeep. They had almost reached the head of the Regiment H vehicles, nearly all of which were burning when they ran into heavy Spandau fire form the road side. The RASC lorry was hit, and, out of control crashed into a ditch. The enemy fire killed four men and wounded several others. The jeep was not put out of action though Lt MILUM was wounded in the stomach and L/Bdr J. SCHOFIELD manning the gun was killed. The jeep, driven by gunner CUMMINGS RA proceeded along until it received 3 puncture and had to stop. Gunner CUMMINGS attended to Lt MILUM and one other wounded man as best he could stayed with them for an hour or so until an American Medical Party arrived and evacuated the wounded. He then later managed to get back to town.

Three men who did not boars the RASC lorry were out off by the enemy, but later managed to get back to the town with the help of the Americans who eventually contacted them.

Back at the RASC lorry, Sgt BRUNNING took control of the situation. Those who were not wounded and those with only slight wounds, he got back into a neaby house. He then set about tending the wounded - all in all - ant stayed out with them until darkness came. Then he managed to get them back to the house where the rest of the men were. An RAF crew sho had crashed the day before were with them. Sgt. BRUNNING was going out to collect the last men but was stopped by the RAF officer, who thought is was to dangerous. This man later managed to crawl back to the house.

Earlier, Sgt C.M. JEFFERIES tried to get a wounded man in but he himself was wounded in the throat and neck whilst doing this.

Sgt BRUNNING now had all the men in the house. He looked after all the wounded throughout the night. The wounded, some of them serious, knowing that they were completely cut off and surrounded, kept absolutely quiet.

The night passed without any special incident. From the house German tank could be seen and in their present state all Sgt BRUNNING and the men could do wat to hold on at the house. Later in the day - about 30 hours afters the action started - elements of the Guards Armoured Div approached form the North and after some fighting managed to relieve the E Troop personnel. Sgt BRUNNING saw to the evacuation of all the wounded and then later took his party and eventually arrived back in VEGHEL.

Known casualties form 408 Battery were - 7 ORs killed, 2 Offrs and 14 ORs wounded; and 6 ORs missing. Vehicles - 6 tractors completely burnt out; 1 3 ton lorry and one 15 cwt water cart completely burnt out; 2 Jeeps - punctures and one had a bullet hole through the engine. Regiment H. casualties were - 1 Offr and 2 ORs wounded and five ORs missing including the R.S.M. Vehicles - 1 3 ton lorry, 2 W/T trucks, Office truck and three RASC vehicles.