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    War Diary: 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles

    Month and year: December 1944

    The 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles December 1944 War diary covers the units actions in the Netherlands in the area around Wanssum

    National Archive Reference: WO 171/1384

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    Page 1 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    8552541st.Zero hour for this, the second attack on the WANSSUM pocket, was fixed at 0100 hrs. At
    2100 and 2300 hrs the previous evening the gunners had shelled known Bosche localities but
    the actual attack was to be silent except for some harrassing fire on more remote targets by
    4.2 Mortars and MGs.
    Punctually to time "B" Company arrived in the forming up position, having passed through
    the gaps in the wire made by "D" Company in the earlier attack. Once again, however, the
    brilliant moonlight proved to be the downfall of the expedition. The ground was extremely
    flat and visibility was about 250 yards so that any movement across this flat country could
    be seen at great distance. So the leading platoon had advanced about 300 yards when a
    spandau opened up from the direction of WANSSUM. It was vigorously engaged by our leading
    section, but, at that moment, three more machine guns began firing, the platoon was effectively
    pinned to the ground. Then two verey lights were shot into the sky by the German
    positions and down came his defensive fire. The 2" mortar of the leading platoon was
    busily employed in trying to silence the MGs but all was to no avail because they were too
    well dug in and at least one of the guns was firing from a building. The shooting was low
    and accurate and at least one of the enemy MGs was a Bren Gun.
    Meanwhile the other two platoons had come up. The Company Commander, Capt H.M. GAFFIKIN,
    had originally intended to pass one of them around the left flank, but soon it became evident
    that such a committal would involve very heavy casualties and, without much greater support,
    Capt GAFFIKIN did not feel justified in so doing. The forward platoon had made another
    attempt to get forward, but in the attempt had suffered casualties. Capt GAFFIKIN therefore
    sent forward the order to disengage and dig in back with the rest of the Company. This was
    carried out after a long änd arduous crawl by the remainder of this platoon throughout under
    fire from Machine Guns and shells. Casualties in the Company were six men Killed and 13
    Further North, "D" Company had a similar experience when, synchronized with "B" attack,
    the Company attempted to cross the WANSSUM - BLITTERSWYCK road to capture objectives on the
    Northern side. A dismounted section of the Carrier Platoon had been brought up to release
    "D" Company from commitments on their Southern flank and "A" Company had already taken over
    "D" positions on the N. W. of BLITTERSWYCK so that the whole Company was ready to go forward.
    As it happened, only one section actually traversed the road and as its men dropped into the
    gully on the far side of the read spanduas opened up from the front and from the left
    Page 2 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    8552541st. (Contd)along the gully, so that the whole section was effectively pinned. Two of them, one the
    Section Commander, were wounded and this evoked a most courageous action from L/Corporal
    ROSSITER volunteering to go to the assistance of the wounded, he ran forward into the open,
    crossed the road and picked up Corporal CARROLL the Section Leader. Placing him over his
    shoulder and calling to the rest of the stranded party to follow him, L/Corporal ROSSITER
    ran back across the open to the cover of the wood. Throughout the whole incident he was
    under heavy and sustained MG fire, but both he and his charge escaped further injury.
    By now, the Commanding Officer had decided to call off this operation for that night.
    Difficulties, however, still remained. Flooding had made the approaches to BLITTERSWYCK
    passable only to a Weazel and evacuation of casualties to the RAP on such restricted
    transport provided just one of the problems. Shelling and Mortaring from the other side
    of the river was another, and casualties were inflicted upon several of those occupied with
    the passage of the wounded to the RAP, or of food, greatcoats and ammunition forward to the
    companies. "D" Company lost their Colour Serjeant and NCO in charge of the Stretcher
    Bearers, both wounded and evacuated. Everyone now realised that further progress was
    impossible without the co-operation of tanks; or if possible, it could only be carried out
    by suffering casualties out of all proportion to the significance of the task in hand.
    Accordingly the Churchill tanks of the 4th Grenadier Guards were co-opted to assist in
    reducing this pocket, and operation was provisionally arranged for first light on 3 Dec.
    2 Dec was to be spent in reconnaissance by the Squadron and Troop Commanders and in joint
    conferences with their opposite numbers. Altogether the tanks were to deploy two squadrons,
    one operating from the Windmill, in support of our Battalion, and the other, on the
    left, operating Northwards in support of an attack from MEERLO to be launched by 1 KOSB.
    Nothing more could be done that day (1st),but during the night, patrols were sent out
    to discover whether the Germans had remained in the positions he was known to occupy.
    "C" Company searched the HELLING area carefully, but found no trace of Bosche anywhere.
    On the other hand, in the early hours of the morning, a German patrol tried to enter the
    wood in the Northern extremity of "D" Company's position. Our men opened fire upon the
    intruders, and wounded one of them who was subsequently captured though he died in the RAP.
    The patrol withdrew and as it did so, called down DF fire upon our positions by firing a
    red verey light. Afterwards it seems that this patrol was simply a blind, to cover the
    withdrawal of the Bosche from the area, though this was not known at the time.
    2nd.During that morning close reconnaissance was carried out by the Brigade Commander and
    Page 3 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    2nd. (Contd)his two Battalion Commanders, and also by the Commander 4th Grenadier Guards and his two
    Squadron Leaders. In the end, however, this proved unnecessary because when the Commanding
    Officer returned to Battalion Headquarters, he heard from a civilian that the Germans had
    left WANSSUM the previous evening. Patrols were organized to enter WANSSUM, and also to
    explore the woods of the North side of the woods beyond "D" Company. By 1400 hrs it was
    clear that no Germans remained on this side of the river, and the attack was called off.
    At 1430 hrs, Major E.M. MURPHY began to move "C" Company into WANSSUM. By 1600 hrs he was
    in position.
    "D" Company moved back to "C" Company's old positions in MEERLO, and "B" Company returned
    to their old billets in MEGELSUM. All these moves were completed by nightfall.
    Weather throughout the first two days was cold but fine.
    3rd.Weather continued fine and cold. Floods in Bn area beginning to subside. "I" OP at
    872273 manned but nothing to report other than civilian movement on opposite side of river.
    The Carrier Platoon, under Capt W. E. S. STURGEON, took over W. WANSSUM from the Carrier
    Platoon of 1 KOSB an a capok bridge across the canal was built by Div sappers to connect
    the two parts of WANSSUM. BLITTERSWYCK received intermittent shelling during morning.
    Two Recce patrols from "C" Company visited woods in area 8528 during the night 2/3 and
    reported them clear of enemy.
    4th.Commanding Officer's conference held at 1200 hrs. Capt W.E.S. STURGEON, OC Carrier
    Platoon and a signaller disappeared from billet during night 3/4, believed taken prisoners
    of war. Brigadier visited "B" Company area at 1230 hrs. Bn HQ area had a quiet day but
    "A" Company area received heavy shelling and mortaring at intervals throughout the day and
    East WANSSUM experienced heavy shelling between 1400 and 1500 hrs. A Presbyterian Church
    Service was held at 1100 hrs and Roman Catholic at 1500 hrs. Recce patrol again went to
    woods in area 8528 during night 3/4 but had nothing to report.
    A party visited a cinema show at GEMERT during afternoon. Weather cold and inclined to
    be stormy.
    5th."B" Company cleared houses on road 875264 to 882257 and in the evening moved to that area.
    "C" Company, on being relieved in WANSSUM by a Company of 1 KOSB, moved to "B" Company's
    Page 4 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    5th. (Contd)old position in MEGELSUM. A search was carried out for a suitable OP near to the river
    bank. All civilians were evacuated from WANSSUM during morning. Two recce and a contact
    patrol were out during night 4/5th. "A" Company recce patrol visited houses at 864274 but
    had nothing to report. Recce patrol from "C" Company were not able to reach house at
    859288 as they discovered the wood at 857286 occupied by enemy. Patrol from "B" Company
    made contact with Rifle Brigade at 1700 hrs and 0700 hrs. Weather again stormy.
    6th.The Commanding Officer attended Corps Commander's Conference. "I" OP was established
    at 868269 but had nothing to report. A party left Bn HQ at 0900 hrs for 24 hours at the
    Divisional Club and another party went to "A" Echelon, spending the night there prior to
    proceeding to BRUSSELS on the following day for 48 hours leave. During the night 5/6th
    four patrols were out. One recce patrol went to wood 864278 but had nothing to report;
    another recce patrol visited houses in area 8826 and reported them clear of enemy. A
    Standing Patrol went to Wood 858285 and house 859288 but saw or heard no enemy. Contact
    Patrol met Rifle Brigade at 0630 hrs. Stormy weather continued.
    7th.A Court of Inquiry was held in the afternoon regarding members of the Bn believed to
    have been taken Prisoners of War during operations on 1st. A party visited a concert at
    GEMERT. Weather again cold and stormy throughout the day. During night 6/7th a Standing
    Patrol again went to Wood 858285 but had nothing to report. Recce patrols went to Woods
    861277 and 888258, neither patrol having anything to report. Contact was made with Inns
    of Court at 1700 and 0630 hrs.
    8th.Weather continued to be wet and cold. "I" OP established at 876277 and observed some
    enemy movement. A party left for 24 hrs at the Divisional Club and another party visited
    a film show. Three patrols were out during night 7/8th. "A" Company Standing Patrol
    lay up in house 876277 for offensive action in the event of enemy approaching, but they had
    nothing to report. A recce patrol from "B" Company went to house 876263, they, too, had
    nothing to report. A second recce patrol from "B" Company went to 886254 for offensive
    action if enemy approached along BLITTERSWYCK - NACHTEGNAL Road but nothing was seen or
    heard of any enemy.
    9th.Snow fell during morning and rain in the evening. "I" OP manned but observed little
    enemy movement. During the night 8/9th a recce patrol from "A" Company went to Wood
    865278 and house 863283 but their visit revealed nothing. "B" Company provided a Standing
    Page 5 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    9th. (Contd)Patrol at 883259 whose object was to prevent enemy infiltration from Wood 887256 but they
    had nothing to report. Another patrol went to 885260 and 876264 and again there was
    nothing to report. "C" Company patrol went to 874247 and made contact with Inns of Court
    at 1730 and 0700 hrs.
    10th.Major W.D TIGHT-WOOD, MC, rejoined the Battalion from being wounded and became OC "B"
    Company, Capt H.M. GAFFIKIN becoming 2 i/c "B" Company and Capt W.H. BAUDAINS, MM, OC
    Carriers to replace Capt W.E.S. STURGEON. The Commanding Officer visited all Rifle
    Companies. "D" Company carried out a recce of "A" Company's positions in BLITTERSWYCK
    prior to taking over. Church services were held for C of Es at 1200 hrs and RCs at 1500
    hrs. "I" OP was moved to 877274 and saw a certain amount of enemy movement in WELLERLOI.
    The Commanding Officer held a conference at 1430 hrs. During the night 9/10th "B" Company
    Standing Patrol went to 887258 but had nothing to report. "A" Company recce patrol went
    to 876277 and 877274 they, too, having nothing to report. Rain fell throughout night
    9/10th, weather during the day was quite fine but cold.
    11th.During the morning the Comd Offr and IO went to DEURNE and lectured officers of 4th
    Grenadier Guards, of 6th Guards Tank Brigade, on "taking over the line." "D" and "A"
    Companies changed over positions in the afternoon while "C" Company carried out a recce
    of "B" Company's position before taking over on the 12th. A party went to a concert at
    GEMERT. A ten days signal course was held at Bn HQ under the supervision of the SO for
    Company Signallers. Three Standing Patrols were out during night 10/11th, lying up in
    houses 882257, 876277 and area WIGNIEHOF 876263 each patrol having nothing to report.
    Weather dull inclined to be wet.
    12th.An "Officers Day" was held, programme as per appendix. During the afternoon "C" and
    "B" Companies changed positons. OPs reported sparodic MG and Rifle fire which appeared
    to be at no particular target, little enemy movement was observed. Parties attended
    Cinema sgow at "A" Echelon. Weather again dull and wet. Recce, Standing and Contact
    Patrols were out during night 11/12th but revealed nothing.
    13th.Recce party left Bn HQ at 1000 hrs for GEMERT. Six Officers and Six Serjeants from
    4th Grenadier Guards visited the Bn for the purpose of studying Infantry methods. Parties
    visited film show at "A" Echelon and a concert at EINDHOVEN. OPs reported usual MG and
    Rifle fire during the day and again there appeared to be no particular targets, enemy
    Page 6 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    13th. (Contd)simply firing at random. Two Recce and a Contact Patrol were out on night 12/13th but had
    nothing to report. Weather cold but fine.
    14th.Thick fog at 0600 hrs clearing at 1000 hrs except for the area of the river where fog
    didn't clear until 1300 hrs. Fog limited observation to the afternoon only but OPs again
    reported enemy MG and Rifle fire at intervals throughout the day. The Armourer carried
    out an inspection of Bn weapons. A party visited a concert at GEMERT given by Belgiun
    artists. Major C.R.P SWEENY, MC, was today summoned to an appointment on the staff of
    the Commander-in-Chief. Major V.D. TIGHE-WOOD, MC, now went back to Command "A", his old
    Company. Capt H.M. GAFFIKIN resumed Command of "B" Company with Lieut J.A. PHILLIPS as
    his 2 i/c. During the night 13/14th. two recce patrols were out visiting Wood 864279 and
    house 876263 - neither patrol had anything to report. Weather remained fine but still
    15th.A hard frost overnight, cold but fine throughout the day. A check was made of civilians
    returning into restricted areas and only people with official permits were allowed to remain.
    Major J. C. S. G. deLONGUEUIL rejoined the Bn from a Staff Appointment at 21 Army Group HQ.
    Another party visited the concert at GEMERT. OPs reported little enemy movement and the
    usual MG and Rifle fire. Three recce, a contact and a standing patrol were active during
    night 14/15th. but no enemy movement was seen or heard.
    16th.Rain fell at intervals during the day. A few enemy mortar bombs fell to the right of
    BLITTERSWYCK at 1400 hrs. OPs reported enemy movement at 877286 and a certain amount of
    MG and Rifle fire, again at no specific target. A party left Bn HQ for "A" Echelon,
    staying there the night before proceeding to BRUSSELS on the following day. Another party
    left Bn HQ at 1200 hrs for a film show at HELMOND. Patrols for night 15/16th. were three
    recce, visiting house 862275, Wood 863278 and house 883264 but they had nothing to report.
    17th.Weather dull with occasional rain. Brigadier visited Bn HQ at 1100 hrs. Baths were
    arranged for the Bn during the day. Church services were held for Presbyterians at 1430
    hrs and RCs at 1530 hrs. A three day course commenced under the supervision of the IO,
    instructing three Other Ranks from each Rifle Company on OP work. Five patrols were out
    during night 16/17th but had nothing to report, other than the sound of hammering on
    opposite bank of river. Enemy AA was far more active than usual against Typhoons.
    Page 7 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    18th.Officers' Day held in VENRAY, programme as per appendix. Enemy jet planes flew over
    Bn area during the morning and were heavily engaged by AA fire. OPs were manned by
    personnel on the OP Course but little enemy movement was observed. During the night 17/18
    "D" and "A" Companies stood to and Bn HQ was at one hours notice to move, owing to suspected
    enemy movement. Two Fighting Patrols were out visiting areas between forward Company
    positions and the river, but no enemy were seen or heard. Weather rather milder than of
    late with occasional rain.
    19th.Slight enemy air activity at 0630hrs when a bomb was dropped; probably in the TIENRAIJ
    area but no reports were received. Representatives from the 1 Suffolks visited Bn HQ
    during the afternoon and a recce party left Bn HQ at 1400 hrs for new location. A report
    was received that a few enemy were at large on our side of the river which resulted in
    Companies clearing woods in Bn area, but no enemy were discovered. A party left Bn HQ at
    0830 hrs for 24 hours at the Divisional Club. Weather was cold and misty and OPs were
    unable to see opposite bank of river. Patrols out during night 18/19th were two Fighting,
    two Standing and a Contact patrol but again nothing was revealed of enemy on our side of the
    20th.Weather again cold and misty. A recce party left Bn HQ for new area at 1400 hrs.
    Recce party from 1 Suffolks visited Company positions during the afternoon and in the evening
    two Companies from 1 Suffolks relieved "C" and "D" Companies. Fog again restricted
    observation and OPS had nothing to report. Five patrols were out during night 19/20th,
    they, too, had nothing to report.
    21st.9 Br Inf Bde was relieved today by units of 8 Br Inf Bde and, during the morning, the Bn
    moved by march route to new reserve location in HORST area, first Company leaving MEERLO at
    0900 hrs, move being completed by 1400 hrs. Weather still foggy and cold.
    22nd.Frost overnight remaining cold throughout the day. Bn began the rest, reveille being
    at 0730 hrs and administration was carried out during the day. The Commanding Officer
    held a conference at 1200 hrs. Parties visited a cinema in HORST during afternoon and
    evening and a party left Bn HQ at 1400 hrs for 48 hours at BRUSSELS.
    23rd.Another hard frost overnight remaining cold. QM carried out a check of War Office
    Controlled Stores and Arms. Bn Transport was also inspected by MTC. At 0930 hrs all
    Page 8 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    23rd. (Contd)Officers, WOs and Serjeants attended a lecture at HORST given by the Divisional Commander
    who spoke on the War situation. Parties again visited the cinema in HORST.
    24th.Again a severe frost continuing cold. RC Church services were held during the day in
    HEGELSUM Church. The Bn soccer team played an elevan from 2 Lincolns in VENRAY, losing
    by one goal to nil in spite of enthusiastic support given by members of the Bn. Owing to
    the possibilities of the enemy making raids over Christmas time the Bn was at two hours
    notice from 1600 hrs until 1200 hrs 26 Dec. Officers had their Christmas dinner during
    the evening.
    25th.An overnight frost continuing to freeze throughout the day. Church services were held
    during the morning, an RC service was held in HEGELSUM Church at 0930 hrs and at the same time
    a Presbyterian service was held in the church hall. C of E service was held in the church
    hall at 1100 hrs. After the C of E service, officers were entertained by the Serjeants' Mess,
    the Brigadier being present. At 1245 hrs everyone returned to their respective Companies
    to assist in serving dinner. The Commanding officer visited each Company at dinner and made
    a short speech, toasting the Bn and wishing everyone the Compliments of the Season. At
    1500 hrs a fancy dress football match was played between Officers and Serjeants which resulted
    in a rugger match, much to the spectators' amusement. Officers entertained WOs and Serjeants
    at 1800 hrs and a very pleasant evening was spent. Parties visited a concert in HORST given
    by Belgiun Artists.
    26th.Inter-Company Soccer matches were to be played during the morning but had to be cancelled
    owing to the hard state of the ground. Again, there was a severe frost overnight continuing
    to freeze during the day and several members of the Bn seized the opportunity to skate. The
    Divisional Commander visited Bn HQ at 1130 hrs, staying until 1300 hrs. He called at the
    Serjeants' Mess, which was prepared for the Serjeants Christmas dinner, and was most
    impressed by the decorations. A dance, held in the church hall during the evening, was very well
    attended by many civilians and members of the Bn. Representatives from 1 Norfolks
    visited Bn HQ during the morning and inspected billets prior to taking over the Bn area. A
    party left BN HQ at 0900 hrs for 48 hours at BRUSSELS.
    27th.Major B. J. FitzG. DONLEA, MC, left the Bn to take over Command of 3 Br Inf Div Trg School,
    whilst Major T.N.S. WHEELER took over duties of Bn Second in Command and Major J. C. S. G.
    deLONGUEUIL assumed Command of "S" Company. Recce party left BN HQ for new location at
    Page 9 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and Information
    27th. (Contd)0945 hrs. Baths were arranged for the Bn. During the afternoon parties visited cinema
    shows in HORST and DEURNE, also a "Stars in Battledress" concert in HELMOND. Weather still
    28th.The Commanding Officer visited all companies during the morning and spoke about the leave
    scheme, also giving a summary on the War situation. In the afternoon the Brigadier visited
    Bn HQ and presented Commendation Cards to Sjt DRUMGOOLE, Sjt TAYLOR, Sjt KILDING and
    L/Cpl DONOVAN. "A" Company moved to new area and took up the forward position. Two of
    the Bn Pipers attended the presentation of awards at 253 Fd Coy, RE, and a letter of
    appreciation was subsequently received. Weather continuing to be cold, monning and evening
    being extremely foggy.
    87223329th.Today 9 Br Inf Bde moved back into the line, relieving 185 Bde. Bn moved by march route
    to new location, the first company passing Bde SP at 0810 Hrs, and all companies were in
    position by 1300 hrs. "I" OP was established at 906227 but nothing could be seen, visibility
    being limited to a few yards owing to fog. The Commanding Officer inspected positions
    of "A" Company during the evening. Weather very cold and foggy throughout the day.
    30th.Brigadier and Commanding Officer visited positions of the Dutch Companies during the
    morning. OPs saw some enemy movement at 913245 and later, Artillery engaged two targets
    in this area. A party left Bn HQ at 0900 hrs for 48 hours in BRUSSELS. A Fighting and
    a Recce Patrol were out during the night 29/30th Fighting Patrol making contact with
    "A" Company at KASTEEL and Recce contacted detachment at WESSERHOF. Neither patrol had
    anything to report. Weather again cold and frosty.
    31st.Rain fell during night but cold weather continued during the day. It was officially
    announced that Lieut Colonel I.C HARRIS was leaving the Bn on 1 Jan 45 and Lieut Colonel
    J. DRUMMOND was to take over Command of the Bn. The Brigadier visited Bn HQ at 1230 hrs
    and left at 1400 hrs. Church services were held, RC service in local church at 0930 hrs
    and C of E at 1500 hrs in the RAP. OPs reported little enemy movement but obtained several
    shell and mortar reps. During the night 30/31st Fighting, Recce and Contact patrols were in
    operation but revealed nothing of enemy activity on this side of the river.