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    War Diary: 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles

    Month and year: November 1944

    The 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles November 1944 War diary covers the units actions in the Netherlands.

    National Archive Reference: WO 171/1384

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    Page 1 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    7832841COs conference 0900 hrs. Quiet and uneventful day weather dull and inclined to be wet.
    CM OP sent in 5 shell & 7 mortar reps. Two patrols went out during night 31/1, a
    contact patrol with Norfolks and a recce patrol from D Coy whose object was to establish
    firm base at 798289 and find out if enemy where in area 803288. Recce patrol went to
    802290 and saw 4 enemy crossing railway from East to West but otherwise nothing to report.
    Patrol had a tragic ending, owing to a misunderstanding the forward recce party were fired
    upon by the people at the firm base, killing a Serjeant.
    2CO held conference 0900 hrs. Another quiet day. CM OF submitted 12 shell and 12 mortar
    reps but no shells or mortars fell in Bn area. A recce patrol provided by C Coy went
    out during night 1/2 to discover if enemy occupied houses at 792285 & if there were mines in
    area of wood 791285. Patrol did not reach houses as they heared noises coming from there
    & noticed that tracks in the vicinity were in constant use. Track was prodded form 200
    yds from 792284 but no mines were found. A & D Coys supplied mine laying parties, A Coy
    carrying out their task according to plan but D Coy were not so fortunate. An enemy patrol
    was encountered causing 2 casualties so the party withdrew without laying mines. Weather
    during the day was dull and cold.
    3A quiet night. COs O Gp 0830 hrs followed by a recce party, consisting of CO & Coy Comds
    leaving Bn HQ at 0930 hrs to make a recce of a position East of OVERLOON & returning at
    1330 hrs. Representatives of SOUTH LANCS arrived at Bn HQ 1500 hrs, inspected Coy posns,
    & left at 1645 hrs. CO held a further O GP at 1830 hrs. Counter Mortar OP had a
    comparatively slack day owing to less enemy mortar & shell activity, sending in 4 shell & 4
    mortar reps. Standing patrols were out during night 2/3 but had nothing to report.
    Weather again cold, rain beginning to fall at 1830 hrs & continuing through the night. An RCs
    service was held at RAP at 1200 hrs.
    7843214Bn began at 0900 hrs to move to new location opposite SMAKT, at present occupied by 1 KOSB
    our post being taken over by SOUTH LANCS. The complete change over was effected by 1200
    hrs. Enemy shells & mortars fell in forward Coy areas during afternoon & early evening &
    CM OP established in Bn HQ area, submitted 1 shell & 9 mortar reps. Standing patrols were
    out during night 3/4 but had nothing to report. Weather cold & dull.
    Page 2 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    7843215Another quiet night. CO held conference 0900 hrs. Brigadier visited Bn HQ 0930 hrs & made
    a tour of the Coy posns. Baths were arranged for the Bn & MO held foot inspection. Enemy
    shells & mortars fell in Bn area at intervals throughout the day, CM OF obtaining 10 shell &
    8 mortars reps. 3 standing & 1 recce patrol were out during night 4/5 but revealed nothing
    of importance. Patrols did observe two green verey lights fired by enemy which may have
    indicated his shells were falling short. Weather during day cold & dull. A party left
    Bn HQ for 48 hrs in Brussels.
    6Rain fell throughout night. A Coy LINCOLNS were relieved by C Coy during the morning. An
    exceptionally quiet day, no enemy shells or mortars falling in Bn area, CM OP submitting no
    reps. 2 standing & 1 recce patrol were out during night 5/6. The recce patrol from A Coy
    & B Coy's standing patrol had nothing to report but D Coy's patrol heared a noise which sounded
    like a small rail car, coming from the railway in front of them. Again a very cold day but
    7Once again a quiet night. COS O GP at 1400 hrs. Representatives from LINCOLNS arrived at
    Bn HQ at 1500 hrs prior to taking over Bn posns. Another very quiet day CM OP again having
    nothing to report. Weather was rough with occasional storms, very cold. 2 standing & 3
    recce patrols went out during night 6/7. 1 recce patrol reported hearing voices coming from
    793312, another recce patrol, reported bridge at 791312 as concrete & intact & bridge at
    791307 concrete & blown. Other patrols had nothing to report.
    8Another quiet night. At 0830 hrs D Coy observed 6 enemy crossing their front, opened fire
    & scared the enemy off. Occasional shelling in Bn area by enemy Infantry gun. CM OP
    obtained & submitted several shell & mortar reps. Standing & recce patrols were out during
    7/8 but had nothing to report. Weather again cold with hail & rain. O GP 1600 hrs
    7263809Bn relieved by 2 LINCOLNS, change over beginning at 0930 hrs & completed by 1600 hrs. Bn came
    out of the line to a rest area, a mile South East of ST ANTHONIS. Move was carried out in
    appalling weather, rain, hail & sleet which was almost continuous throughout the day. A
    party left for Brussels at 0830 hrs. During night 8/9 2 standing & 2 recce patrols were
    out but revealed nothing of importance.
    SEE O.O. No 10
    10Rain throughout night continuing cold & stormy during day. Admin being carried out during
    Page 3 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    72638010Bn's rest period. Several parties visited cinema & ENSA shows during afternoon & evening.
    CO held conference 1730 hrs.
    11Weather cold but fine. REME inspection of Bn vehicles. parties visited various entertainment
    in vicinity. MO carried out a further foot inspection. Party visited TAF , inspecting
    TEMPEST & TYPHOON aircraft. Party to Corps Rest Camp.
    12Weather cold & stormy. Bn had bath day. Church parades were held for RCs & CEs. Party
    left at 0830 hrs for 24 hrs at Div Club.
    13Weather again cold & wet. REME inspection of Bn motor cycles. War Office controlled
    stores check. Party left for Div Club. Representatives of 2 LINCOLNS visited billets
    prior to taking over Bn position. Recce party to new location left Bn HQ 0915 hrs
    returning at 1200 hrs. O Group 1500 hrs.
    77132414Inter Bn relief carried out, Bn taking over posn occupied by 1 KOSB, about half a mile in
    rear of the position opposite SMAKT. Move began at 0830 hrs & was completed by 1300 hrs.
    During the afternoon Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. MONTGOMERY KCB DSO visited Div HQ &
    distributed decorations awarded for recent battles. The four members of the Bn receiving
    decorations were Capt MONTGOMERY MC, C/Sjt SHARKEY DCM, Cpl REID MM, and Rfn CHARLES MM.
    A group photograph was taken of the recipients with the C-in-C & GOC, the recipients
    subsequently receiving a photograph. A party left for Div Club at 0820 hrs. CM OP
    established at Bn HQ submitted 3 mortar reps. Weather still cold & stormy.
    15CO & 2 i/c carried out an inspection of Coy posns during morning. At 1700 hrs CO & IO
    went to Bde O Gp and it was disclosed that a renewed attack was to be made upon the enemy
    bridgehead West of the MEUSE. The attack was to be initiated from the South and each
    Division taking part was to attack in a North Easterly direction with the object of assaulting
    the enemy defences from a flank. With 3 Br Inf Div this meant that 9 Br Inf
    Bde who would probably launch the attack, had to move to posns South of VENRAY, relieve
    units of 11 Armd Div and this Bn was allotted the area of HELDE-VEULEN, partially occupied
    by 3 RTR. A party left for Div Club before proceeding to Brussels. Another
    party visited a Cinema show in HEIMOND. CM OP sent in 4 mortar and 1 shell rep. Weather
    cold but fine.
    Page 4 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    77132416Enemy shells fell in Bn area at 0200 hrs. CO held conference 0900 hrs and then spoke to all
    coys on the War situation since D day and up to the present time, - The favourable way in
    which Bn casualties compared with other units - Importance of Christianity and also Brussels
    leave. 2 i/c and IO went on recce of new area during the afternoon. A very quiet day
    no shell or mortar reps being submitted. Parties went to Div Club and a concert at
    Gemert. Weather again cold but fine. A white frost overnight.
    17Enemy shells fell in Bn area at 0700 hrs. CM OP had a slightly busier day obtaining 8 shell
    and 1 mortar rep. Again parties were despatched to Div Club & a concert at GEMERT, also
    a party left for Corps Rest Camp. Authority for promotion of Sjt DYER of A tk pl to
    commissioned rank came through today. Another white frost overnight, weather cold
    throughout day, rain beginning to fall at 1630 and continuing all night.
    18Enemy shells fell in Bn area between 0630 and 0700 hrs. Coy Comds on recce of new area at
    1400 hrs returning at 1700 hrs. O Gp at 1800 hrs. CM OP sent in 3 shell & 3 mortar reps.
    Party visited concert at GEMERT during the afternoon. Weather fine.
    MOVE ORDER No 14
    19Bn moved to new area by march route, the first Coy leaving at 1010 & Bn in posn by 1400 hrs.
    It was an unpleasant march owing to the muddy state of roads & tracks but vehicles made
    the journey without any casualties. A CM OP was established on arrival & submitted several
    mortar & shell reps. Weather fine.
    20CO's conference 0900 hrs. Mortars fell in Bn area causing two casualties. CM OP
    obtained 15 shell & 8 mortar reps. Party visited HELMOND and saw a play, another party
    left for 24 hrs at Div Club. Weather wet throughout day.
    21Shells landed in Bn area between 0615 & 0645 hrs. CO held conference 0900 hrs. Church
    services were held for RCs at 1030 hrs & CEs 1130 hrs. Baths were arranged for the Bn.
    An O Gp was held at 1800 hrs. Bn area was again shelled from 2000 hrs to 2350 hrs
    causing two casualties in D Coy. CM OP sent in 2 shell & 7 mortar reps. A patrol was
    sent out by B Coy under Lt EWART to find out (a) if bridge at 763209 is suitable for
    marching tps & vehs (b) Width & depth of ditch from br 763209 to 763213 (c) condition of
    track from X rds 758216 to br 763209. The required infm was obtained under the most
    difficult conditions. Weather milder than of late but inclined to be stormy.
    Page 5 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    77132422Bn area shelled fairly frequently between 0300 & 0500 hrs. CO held conference at 0900
    hrs & then attended Bde O Gp at 1000 hrs. It was learned that patrols from 2 LINCOLNS had
    visited objectives, which were to be taken on the following day, & reported them clear of
    enemy. An O Gp was held at 1500 hrs. Comparatively little shelling or mortaring was
    experienced during the day, only 3 shell & 1 mortar rep being submitted. Rain throughout
    the day.
    See O.O No 11
    23Quiet night. Previous plans altered owing to 1 KOSB & 2 LINCOLNS taking the Bn objective
    but Bn stood by at 1 hrs notice to move during the day because it was thought that we might
    be required to pass through the KOSB & go forward to more advanced objectives, but mines
    & road blocks had slowed their progress & although tney met no enemy, it was darkness before
    they had reached our original objective. Shells fell in Bn area between 1830 & 1900 hrs.
    Again a wet day & Bn was fortunate i being able to remain under cover for the whole day.
    82223324CO held conference 0900 hrs. Bn at 1 hrs notice to move. At 1000 hrs new was received
    that Bn would move at 1200 hrs to KLEINERLOO, recce party leaving at 1145 hrs. Bn moved
    to new area & Coys were in posn by 1430 hrs. Two American airmen were brought to Bn HQ
    at 1700 hrs by member of local resistance movement. Airmen were shot down while attacking
    VENLO almost 2 months ago & had been in hiding since. A German deserter belonging to
    2/20 PARA Regt gave himself up to C Coy. Bde O Gp was held at 1800 hrs & Bn O GP at 1930
    hrs. A party left for 48 hrs at Corps Rest Camp. Weather stormy throughout day
    particularly so while move was taking place.
    25Enemy mortars fell in Bn area during night. C Coy moved from MOLENHOEK to 852244. A very
    quiet day, no enemy shells or mortars falling in Bn area. A party left Bn HQ at 1500 hrs
    to spend the night at Div Club and then proceed to Brussels on the 26th. C Coy & the
    Carrier pl were both forward of their posns during the night 24/25. Their posn was close
    to the line of the BEEK & their role was to prevent any infiltration of the enemy across
    the WANSSUM canal before the tps moving Northwards from HORST could cover the ground to our
    East. The Carrier Pl had a particularly difficult night, it was extremely dark & as a
    small body of men some distance forward of our nearest posns the utmost vigilance had to be
    maintained by every man throughout the night, as enemy were reported either by the Carriers
    or C Coy who were more comfortably situated near the canal about half a mile further North.
    During today 15 Scottish Division occupied TIENRAI & subsequently pushed North to
    Page 6 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    82223325BLITERSWIJK on the MAAS thus clearing all enemy to our immediate East. We were thus
    released from our commitments on the BEEK & C Coy & the Carrier pl were withdrawn to their
    original posns. Weather again stormy.
    26A very quiet night. C Coy reported having seen rockets fired from posn 810230 at 0620 Hrs.
    C of E Service was held at 1100 hrs, the Brigadier attending, and RC Service held at 1200
    hrs. There was enemy air activity between 1800 & 2000 hrs when a few bombs were dropped in
    VENRAY area. Weather quite fine.
    85525427CO's conference 0900 hrs. News came through at 1100 hrs that Bn would move during night to
    MEERLO. Bn eventually moved at 1600 hrs & were in posn by 1900 hrs, A & D Coys in
    BLITTERSWIJK, B Coy in MEGELSUM & C Coy in MEERLO. Bn HQ was shelled between 2300 & 2345
    hrs causing 4 casualties, at the same time B Coy area was also shelled causing 2 casualties
    & a 15 cwt completely destroyed. Some useful information was obtained from members of local
    resistance movement about enemy still in this area, which was forwarded to Bde. Weather
    fine but cold.
    MOVE ORDER No 16
    28I OP established 872273 at 0830 hrs. Bde O Gp 0930 hrs. No shelling in Bn HQ area but
    OP reported considerable shelling & mortaring in A & D Coy areas. A patrol went to 854266
    & clashed with enemy, after an exchange of shots & grenades enemy moved to house 853268.
    A patrol to MELLING was fired on by 2 MGS & rifles from 855271. Another patrol reported
    farm at 864273 occupied by 4 enemy & a spandau firing from there. A party left for A
    Echelon prior to proceeding to Brussels. Weather fine during morning but rain throughout
    afternoon & evening.
    29Quiet night. Occasional shelling during day in Bn HQ area. Enemy snipers & MGS active
    on A Coy's forward Pl front causing 3 casualties. A civilian who stated he had swam the
    MAAS on the previous evening was sent in by A Coy for interrogation & subsequently taken to
    Bde. Track between MEGELSUM & BLITTERSWIJK flooded at 869259 to a depth of 2 feet, water
    still rising. I OP manned at 0920 hrs received a direct hit at 1115 hrs, causing 1
    casualty. New OP established 872273 obtaining a number of shell & mortar reps. Otherwise
    nothing to report. Weather fine. During the day a plan was evolved to eject the enemy
    from the remaining bridgehead he held between East WANNSUM & the MAAS. The CO held
    Page 7 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    85525429conference with Coy Comds & gave orders as per Appendix. Much valuable time was spent in
    reconnaissance & comds at every level had plenty of opportunity to observe the ground over
    which they were to fight.
    SEE O.O. No12
    30Zero hour was at 0500 hrs and soon odd bursts of spandau and shots of rifle fire were heared
    from Advanced Bn HQ. At 0545 the first reports came through from the two leading Coys.
    Both had successfully breached the belt of wire which marked the outer ring of enemy defences.
    C Coy on the left found some R mines attached to the wire but these were disarmed by our
    Pioneer Pl & a breach made without difficulty. Opposite D Coy, however, the wire had
    attached to it some concealed charged, they were inaccessible without moving the wire & so
    the Pioneer Section working with D Coy had no alternative but to set them off. The
    explosion made an alarming noise but the strong wind must have concealed the sound and the
    enemy did not apparently hear it. breach was then made by the Pioneer Pl and the first
    Platoon passed through. It was clear from the nature of the weather and the ground that
    this attack would not be an easy one. The night was clear and a strong wind kept the sky
    free of clouds & allowed a bright moon to shine down with unabated intensity. The ground
    on both sectors was extremely flat, & opposite C Coy quite devoid of cover so that in the
    moonlight the advance would plainly be frought with difficulties. At 0545 the leading
    Platoon having advanced along the WANSSUM RD came under heavy machine gun fire from the
    orchard on the left of the rd & houses on the right hand side. This little settlement is
    named HELLING & soon it proved to be strongly held. The Coy Comd, Major MURPHY,
    appreciating what had happened from his Headquarters by the wire, ordered a second platoon
    to work up the left flank along the edge of the flooded BEEK. This Platoon had worked
    forward with success to a point almost level with the first platoon on the rd when it too
    was pinned by close range MG fire from the Western corner of the orchard. Plainly the
    German had the ground well traversed by fire & that the moonlight allowed him a complete
    view of our tactical manoeuvres. Thereupon Major MURPHY decided to withdraw these two
    platoons to the original joining up position in order to bring mortar & artillery fire to
    bear upon the stubborn position. Great work was done by the Company runner Rfn BEATTIE
    in transmitting this message to the two platoon comds under heavy MG fire. On the right
    however it was unfortunate that just after receiving this message Sjt HAMMERSLYY, the
    Platoon Comd, was wounded & evacuated, and it seems fairly certain that the order to
    withdraw never reached one section of his platoon or the Pioneer pl Comd, LT SHIMMIN, and
    his seven Pioneers who had closely followed up the right hand platoon. At all events
    only five men from the platoon and no pioneers returned to the forming up position.
    Subsequently Major MURPHY observed five riflemen being taken back under German escort,
    Page 8 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    85525430one carrying a Red Cross flag and another a stretcher from HELLING to WANSSUM. Later
    Lt SHIMMIN and Sjt RAFFERTY were also seen going back under German escort, and that
    afternoon a civilian told us that he had witnessed the passage of 15 British soldiers
    through WANSSUM, 3 of whom were walking wounded. Six graves were subsequently discovered
    in the orchard at HELLING where our dead had been buried by the local Dutchmen. C Coys
    casualties in this action were 6 killed, 4 wounded and 12 missing, while the Pioneer Pl
    lost 1 Offr and 7 ORs missing. On the left, D Coy under comd of Major BIRD were more
    successful. At 0415 the Coy moved from BLITTERSWIJK and its defensive commitments from
    North to West were taken over by A Coy and at 0545 the leading platoon passed through the
    wire and set off towards the first objective, the some 300 yards West
    of the breach in the wire. A spandau opened up in the direction of this party at close
    range but hurt nobody, and Lt CAMPBELL the platoon comd led his men forward in a charge upon
    this position but found it abandoned complete with spandau and
    panzerfaust. The second platoon under Lt HANCOCK had a similar experience in the left
    hand edge of the wood. Coming under intense MG fire from the wood, they advanced into the
    wood using the same tactics of throwing a grenade and then rushing the position. This
    was done with great initiative and dash, but has the wood came thicker so progress became
    slower, and when they finally reached the objective it was to find that the enemy had fled.
    The third platoon was now ordered forward by the coy commander, and, having survived without
    a casualty a severe spell of German harassing fire along its line of approach, this platoon
    under Sgt. BROWN advanced without further difficulty to the coys. first objective. Nor was
    there any further trouble in gaining the second objective, a wood some distance North West
    of the Windmill. The third objective, a wood to the left to the second was, however, not so
    easily gained. Two or three German positions were located and attacked with 2" Mortars and
    PIAT fire but not until two platoons had launched a joint attack was this stubborn resistance
    broken. Not until the end did the Germans leave, but then they left in a great hurry abandoning
    weapons and equipment. Now it was fully daylight it soon became clear that although the
    Boche had given ground before the determination of D coys attacks, he retained a perimeter
    defence of WANSSUM, which he had as yet no intention of giving up. D coy were now established
    firmly in the Western end of the woods south of the WANSSUM - BLITTERSWIJK road but two or
    three wooded areas to the North of the road were known to contain Boche. Between WANSSUM and
    D coy the enemy ejected from the woods, had reorganized his defences in the area of a house
    some 700 yards away. Nor was there any evidence of withdrawal from the vicinity of HELLING.
    Equally plainly no further movement in daylight was possible for our troops, in view of the
    flat and open character of the ground. Therefore a plan was made by Lt. Col. HARRIS to renew the
    Page 9 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    85525430attack by night, employing a third coy which was to attack in a North Westerly direction
    from a point South West of D coys wood. Extensive reconnaissance was carried out by it Comd Capt
    GAFFIKIN and his platoon comds but not much of the ground could be seen and the frequent
    doses of mortar and shell fire increased difficulties. More information and assistance
    was in fact obtained from air photographs. Finally a plan was evolved (see appendix).
    Meanwhile C and D coys had continued to be offensive. Accurate mortar fire and several
    "MIKE" targets were put down on HELLING. D coy spent the rest of the day sniping at the
    Germans, Rfn HOPPER killed or wounded six with a sniper's rifle and Rfn. ROBERTS two more.
    On his side the Boche continuously shelled our positions and occasionally harassed them
    with MG fire.