War Diary: 53rd Reconnaissance Regiment

Month and year: September 1944

The 53rd Reconnaissance Regiments September 1944 War Diary covers the units advance from France into Belgium and Netherlands.

National Archive Reference: WO 171/565

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Page 1 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
FRY.1944. Aug.31.Regiment moved to area FRY M5122
WARLUSSep. 1.Regt with 340 (SP) A/Tk Bty under command moved greatest distance yet in one
day from area FRY M5122 to WARLUS M8564 - a distance of about 55 miles via
route - FORGES LES EAUX M5432 - BEAUFRESNE M6442 - across R.BRESLE at
BEAUCAMPS LE VIEUX M6855 - LIOMER M7556 - WARLUS M8564
Casualty - Lieut. Deans wounded.
Sep. 2.During the night 1/2 Sep 44 orders were received for the move across R.SOMME.
Commanding Officer left at 0200hrs for Div.HQ in the area HORNOY 8155.
Regt was ordered to be ready to move at 0500hrs. Commanding Officer
returned at 0600hrs and start time was postponed until 0900hrs. It was
later postponed again until 1200hrs when the Regt. moved across R.SOMME
at Br. PICQUINGY M9965 with orders to proceed to conc. area nr ERGNIES 9382.
The enemy situation north of R.SOMME was extremely vague, and it was not
known if the Div. conc area was clear of enemy. Under comd of the Regt.
were One Coy 1 MANCH (M.G.) and 340 (S.P.) A/Tk Bty. The Regt crossed the
Bridge at approx 1500hrs and turning west B Sqn who were leading, met
opposition immediately west of FLIXECOURT M9573. The opposition consisted
of an unknown number of 88 mm guns supported by Infantry. An Armd Car Tp
was sent to work round the S. flank of the enemy position, and with the
assistance of hy Mortar and MG fire the enemy was induced to abandon his
position after about 2 hours delay. The Comanding Officer then decided
to attempt to clear as far as possible the Div. conc. area; A Sqn given
the right of the area north of DOMART M9979 completed their task and
harboured for the night, B Sqn found thenselves at last light completely
held up by craters caused by RAF boming of a flying bomb site at
GORENFLOS M9382. The Sqn. had to harbour on the spot. C Sgn followed
by RHQ advanced to AILLY LE HAUT CLOCHER M8980 and thence to ST.RIQUIR M8786.
Page 2 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep.2(continued). C Sqn entered the latter town at dusk and immediately engaged
in confused fighting with a considerable number of enemy in the houses.
Some enemy horse drawn transport and a 75 mm gun in the Market Square were
destroyed and numbers of enemy shot up. Eventually the majority of the Sqn
with the exception of No. 5 Carrier Tp led by Lieut TE Miller succeeded in
extricating itself and went into close laager for the night one mile south
of the town. RHQ and 340 Bty harboured immediately north of YAUCOURT M8883.
During the night the Carrier Tp of C Sqn succeeded in joining its Sqn, and
it was found that considerable casualties had been inflicted on the enemy
for the loss of only two carriers.
YAUCOURT.During the night the Commanding
Officer accompanied by the I.O. went into the Village of YAUCOURT and had a
narrow escape when they were fired on at close range by a party of about
20 enemy who had came back into the Village.
Casualties - Tprs Cook E (A),Tpr Hoadley (A),Tpr Baxter G (C) and Tpr
Williams CM (A) Killed, and 2 ORs wounded.
HERLIN LE SEC.3Before first light RHQ moved back to a new harbour area immediately north
of AILLY 8980. The Commanding Officer left to meet the Div. Commander for
orders at midday. Orders were received from the Commanding Officer for
the Regt to RV at rd junc NO286. From this area the Regt. moved at
1500hrs to HERLIN LE SEC N1508 and went into tight harbour. During the
evening stiff fighting took place in the town of SF POL N1612 - 2 miles to
the north and by midnight the 6 RMF succeeded in clearing the town. Orders
were given out by the Comanding Officer in the evening for A and B Sqns to
carry out reconnaissance to the West with the object of protecting the left
flank of the Corps Axis. Casualties - 4 ORS wounded.
4RHQ remained in harbour at HERLIN. A & B Sqns advanced to the west shortly
after first light. A Sqn advancing with considerable vigour by mid-day had
Page 3 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
BAILLEUL.1944. Sep. 4.(continued). reached the bridge at BLANGY H0517 to find it blown and held by
a considerable number of enemy on the other side. A Sqn remained overlooking
the opposite bank of the river until 1600hrs and obtained several good shoots
and fought several successful troop actions. Small pockets of enemy were
encountered on the East side of the river and a large number of casualties
were inflicted on the enemy. The progress of B Sqn directed on HESDIN
G9613 was considerably slower owing to isolated guns, road blocks and small
pockets of infantry which the enemy had left behind apparently with no other
purpose than to delay our advance. In order to keep the Corps Axis secure
it was of vital importance to know whether the communication centre of HESDIN
was held by the enemy in any strength. At 1400hrs the Commanding Officer
ordered C Sqn to move along A Sqn's route in order to come down on to HESDIN
from the North-East, This move was successful and immediately before last
light C Sqn succeeded in reaching the outskirts of HESDIN and reported only
small podicets of enemy there. A number of casualties were inflicted on the
enemy. Squadrons were withdrawn an hour before last light and the Regt
advancing through ST, POL went into harbour in the area BAILLEUL N2410.
Casualty - TPr Bright S - killed.
5No orders were received until shortly after mid-day when the Regt was
ordered to go forward and hold the city of LILLIE. The City had only been
entered by patrols of an Armd. Car Regt. and it Was feared that the enemy
might try to re-enter it. The Regt. was also ordered to patrol from LILLE
as far as TOURCOING and ROUBAIX to see if they held any enemy. In order to
reach LILLE before last light Sqns were rushed off with all possible speed
and B Sqn moved at about 1430hrs - 3/4 hrafter receipt of the order, The
Regt moved at high speed along the route AUBIGNY H3406 - HOUDAIN H3119 -
NOEUX LES MINES N4020 - CARVIN H6121 - SECLIN H6627 - reaching the City in
LILLEdaylight. RHQ harboured in the City centre at last light and the Sqns formed
a defence round the city blocking the main entrance, B Sqn patrols succeeded
Page 4 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep.5.(continued). in reaching ROUBAX H7742 and TOURCOING H7646 and reported then
clear, thus completing the task which was anticipated would require the whole
Division. During the whole of this move the Regt. was greeted with
tremendeous enthusiasm by the local population
6A & B Sqns were sent out to carry out recce NW of LILLE as far as the Canal
running NE from ARMENTIERES H5743 along the Belgian frontier. A few stragglers
were taken prisoner and Sqn's spent most of the day following up unconfirmed
reports. During the afternoon a report was received from Div. that a Geman
General with 500 soldiers was at YPRES H5962 willing to surrender. Regt.
was ordered to send off a patrol and Lieut AA Pounder of C Sqn with 3 Hy Armd
Cars set off at 1500hrs for the City. Nothing has been seen or heard of
this Patrol since. Regt, returned to LILLE in the evening,
Casualties - Lieut AA Pounder, Sgt Williams K, L/C McWilliams CG, L/C Mercer C,
Cpl Alexander A and Troopers Barker JC, Pennington H, & Rush E, MISSING.
7Rest moved out at first light with orders to conc at DADIZEELE H7461. The
Belgian frontier was crossed at 1030hrs and the advance continued through
LAUWE H7954. B Sqn who were leading ran into a considerable number of enemy
in the Village of MOORSEELE H7858, and RHQ following inmediately behind
halted in the southern outskirts of the Village. Heavy fighting continued
during the next three hours with enemy infantry about 200 strong who were
occupying the whole of the northern part of the village. B Sqn were at a
disadvantage since they were unable to extricate their vehicles from the
centre of the village. A troop of 340 (SP) A/Tk Bty was sent forward to
MOORSEELEgive them support in clearing the houses, but in the narrow streets two of
their M 10s ditched themselves and coming under heavy small arms fire from
the windows of the houses, the crews suffered casualties. The Mortar Tp
under Lieut BR Grey-Jones was also sent to the assistance of B Sqn who found
Page 5 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep. 7.(continued). themselves with insufficient men on foot to clear the houses,
and a further set back was received when their Assault Tp leader was wounded.
The Assuit Tp of A Sqn under Lt. PJ Nolan was sent forward and the enemy soon
began to show signs of clearing out. The Mortar Its employed itself by firing
without secondaries over the top of a row of houses and into the gardens on
the other side. Apart from the first salvo which landed on the top of the
houses, this was done with considerable effect. The remainder of A Sqn
were sent round the left flank of the village where two Armd Car Tps got in
good positions to fire on the enemy as he withdrew At about 1600hrs as
a result of the efforts of the combined assault tps of A & B Sqns, supported
by the SP A T/k Troop and covering fire by the Carrier Tps of B Sqn, the enemy
began to clear out in haste. As he did so A Sqn had a very successful shoot
on parties of enemy escaping across the fields to the North of the village.
The village was finally cleared. About 20 PWs were taken and an estimated
50 casualties inflicted on the enemy. Our losses were surprisingly slight,
The Regt harbouned for the night at ROLLEGHENCAPPELLE H7763.
Cas- CPI Gunn WS, Trps Evans J & Myles JA - killed and 6 ORs wounded. It. Chapelhow & Lt.Woolston - wounded
8Regt came under command of 15 (S) Div. since the 53 Div had been ordered to
advance along the 30 Corps Axis to the North, B Sqn patrolled across the
Canal at ROULERS H7570 to GHENT. Small disorganised pockets of enemy were
encountered, but the Sqn reached the outskirts of GHENT without meeting
serious opposition, although the town was not occupied by Canadian tps until
some weeks later. C Sqn held the bridges at ISEGHAM H8367. At this place
they fought a brief battle with the same enemy with whom had been fought the
battle of MOORSEELE two days earlier. Apparently they had by this time
changed their intention about fighting and C Sqn took over 120 prisoners.
9Under orders of 15 (S) Div. A Sqn set out to do the same job as had been done
the previous day by B Sqn. At mid-day however the Regt. reverted to command
Page 6 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep.9.(continued). of 53 Div. and was ordered to move forward to SINAY J4392. This
order was received over the air. At 1100hrs the Regt moved by the following
route - LAUWE H7954 - MOUSCRON H8248 - crossing the ESCAUT at ESTAIMBOURG H9041
TERMONDEPOTTES H9545 - AUDENARDE -J0957 - ALOST J4066 -TERMONDE J4576. As RHQ reached TERMONDE
a message was received which made it clear that the Rent was proceeding on
incorrect orders and that it was intended that we should move to the ANTERP
area. As it was by this time dark, it was too late to turn to bring A & C
Sqns back. These two Squadrons proceeded on their original orders and
spent the night at SINAY in front of the 11 Hussars forward patrols. The
OPDORP.remainder of the Regt including 340 (SP) Bty harboured at OPDORP J5376.
Orders were sent to A & B Sqns during the night by means of L.O.
10,At first light the Regt moved with B Sqn leading to conc. area at VREMDE J7591.
VREMDE.A & C Sqns arrived later in the day. Route - OPDORP - WILLEBROECK J6279 - BOOM J6482 -
CONTICH J6986 - VREME.
11Day sent in rest and maintenance.
12The position on the right of the Div. Eastern boundery which ran from the
ESCAUT CANAL (which the Div was holding) to LIERRE J7885 was extremely vague
as there was no formation immediately on our right. The Regt was therefore
ordered to send one Sqn daily into the area between NYLEN J8589 - BOUWEL J9090 to
carry out patrols in order to see that the enemy did not attempt to come
across the Canal in strength. In this area was found the HQ of a T.A.F. Gp.
which was practically umprotected. On this day A Sqn carried out these
patrols, and exchanged shots with some enemy on the opposite bank.
13C Sqn carried out the same patrols as A Sqn had done the day before, without
incident.
Page 7 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep. 14B Sqn carried out the same patrols as had been carried out the previous day.
BOUNED.15A Sqn patrolling in the area of BOUWEL J9090 had a minor brush with an enemy
patrol on the south side of the Canal when they were called to the assistance
of an RASC convoy which had been fired on, Cas - Tpr Woods eounded.
16Regt with 340 (SP) A/Tk Bty still under comd moved by route LIERRE J7885 -
HARSSELT I0076 - WESTERLOO I0381 to VORST I1079.
VORST17During the afternoon the beginning of the Allied air landing operations in
Holland was seen as hundreds of gliders and transport planes passed overhead
going North.
18At mid-day the Regt moved across the Albert Canal at BEERINGEL I2475 - BOURG LEOPOLD
I2633 to KERKHOVEM I2787. Although the distance covered was only 15 miles,
the Regt did not reach harbour until about 2000hrs owing to considerable
delay at bridges over the Albert Canal. The Commanding Officer who had
gone ahead for orders held an O Gp at 2200hrs. The situation was that the
15 (S) Div. having failed to establish a bridgebead at MOLL I1791, it was
intended that the 53 (W) Div. should make a bridgehead across the Junction de MEUSE
Canal in the area LOMMEL I3095. 158 Inf Bde were to do an assault crossing
during the night and it was hoped to construct a class 9 bridge by morning.
The 4 Welch and 1 E.Lancs succeeded in crossing the river but enemy
resistance on the North bank held them up and delayed the construction of
the bridge. A Sqn eventually crossed the Canal at 1600hrs. They succeeded
in reaching WILREIT E2704 by darkness, Lt.Nolan's assault tp was engaged
in very confused fighting in the woods to the SW of the village with enemy
infantry, 3 PWs were taken and about 20 casualties inflicted on the enemy
before the Tp withdrew in darkness to their Sqn harbour area at WILRETE.
19The remainder of the Regt. remained at KERKHOVEN. Cas - 2 ORs wounded,
The Regt came under comd 160 Inf. Bde. At 0300hrs the Regt less A Sqn
?? Gates missing - believed killed
Page 8 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep.19(continued). moved -out to cross the Junction Canal, crossing the bridge at
0400hrs. By first light RFQ had reached LUYKSGESTEL E3101. C Sqn passed through
A Sqn who were holding the road from WILREIT to rd junc E290058 with orders
to patrol in the direction of EERSEL, E3109 and BLADEL E2410. B Sqn patrolled
to the West with the object of seizing the bridge site at E183053.
A considerable number of enemy in the area of X rds E262037 consisting of 6
Parachute Regt fighting as a Battle Gp completely prevented A & B. Sqns making
progress. An infantry attack was planned on these X rds by 158 Bde but the
attack was first delayed and then unsuccessful, B Sqn eventually reached the
bridge at E199997 by taking some very inferior tracks through the wood.
C Sqn made most progress until finally they were held up by blown bridges
within sight of the main road BLADEL - EERSEL. During the afternoon
A Sqn were put under command 71 Inf Bde for an advance to the NE while the
remainder of the Regt was to continue the job of clearing the woods to the
west of LUYKSGESTEL under cand 160 Inf Bde. During the evening two coys of
,our Infentry suffered severe casualties from the enemy in the area WEEBOSCH E2504.
This resulted in the left flank of RHQ and A Ech. which was harboured
in the area E3003 being completely open with a considerable number of very
bellicose enemy only 1 1/2 miles away. Cas - Tprs Lees P, Jones D & Moore C killed
and 6 ORs wounded.
LUYKSGESTEL20,RHQ moved back into the village LUYESGESTEL E3101. B is C Sqns carried out
patrols into the woods towards the Dutch - Belgian frontier to a depth of about
4 miles to the West. No major encounters were made. The Regt came under
comd 158 Inf Bde. Cas - Sgt Hall killed. 1 OR wounded,
21,The Regt moved at 0530hrs to the North. The plan was for the Regt (Less
A Sqn) to clear the conc area for 158 Inf Bde in area BLADEL 2410 - ERSEL
DUIZEL.3109 - VESSEM E2916 - NETERSEL E2414. RHQ was established at DUIZEL E3010.
The villages of HOOGELOON E2714 - CASTEREN E2616 and BLADEL were found to be
Page 9 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944 Sep. 21.occupied. C Sqn fought a very spirited action in the village of HOOGELOON
HOOGELOON-and succeeded in clearing about 100 enemy from the village. Lt. Addison's
carrier Tp was prominent in this action. Fighting continued throughout the
day in co-operation with the Infantry who had now come forward. Cas - Tpr
Timms D killed,
22C Sqn is co-operation with the 1 E.Lancs attempted to clear the enemy out
of BLADEL. B Sqn assisted the Infantry at the Villages of WESTELBEERS
E2319 and CASTERIN E2613, the latter village being cleared by 1300hrs.
A Sqn under comd 71 Inf Bde were employed on a similar role several miles
to the NORTH, in the area MIDDLEBEERS 2721 and OUSTELBEERS 2822. They were
given the task of advancing through wooded country in front of the Infantry.
As they emerged from a wood in the area of MIDDLEBEERS, a Tp of this Sqn
overran six 88 mm guns which they captured without loss. This Sqn was
ordered later in the day to lead. an Inf. advance into a village; this led
to unnecessary casualties in men and vehicles. Cas - 6 ORs wounded
23340 (SP) AT/k Bty which owing to the lack of Class 40 bridges had been
forced to remain south of the Junction Canal arrived. Sqns were engaged in
supporting Infantry attacks against Villages in the area.
Cas - Lieut. P. Markwell killed.
24The enemy who had fought stubbornly in each village showed no intention of
falling back and skirmishes continued throughout the day around the villages
of BLADEL - HULSEL 2212 - NETERSEL 2414 and WESTELBEERS 2319. Cas - Sgt Jenkins WG
killed and 1 OR wounded.
25A Sqn reverted to command, C Sqn went under comd 160 Bde, moving to the area
POSTEL 2201 - Regt. not engaged in fighting.
NETERSEL26During the day Regt less C Sqn took over the village of NETERSEL E2414 from
1/5 Welch. The village formed part of a defensive line held by the Div.
hw
Page 10 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
1944. Sep.26(continued) extending from OIRESHOT 3125 to VOORHEIDE 1707. The assault Tp of
A Sqn completed the clearing of the village in the afternoon and armd patrols
were immediately sent out to give the enemy the impression of strength.
In the evening all was quiet, and the majority of vehicles were evacuated
to the village of CASTEREN E2613.
27A & B Sqns holding NETERSEL E2414 and RHQ at CASTEREN, Offensive patrols
to the NW and SW of that village were carried out to give the enemy the
impression that the position was held more strongly than was the case.
Rfts arrived. A PW stated that a Bn of the enemy was stationed
immediately outside the village. Cas - Tpr Waddington A. killed & 2 ORs wounded.
28C Sqn reverted to command from 160 Inf Bde and owing to the incredibly bad
state of the roads took six hours to move the first five miles out of their
positions. At 1700hrs they took over from B Sqn in NETERSEL and B Sqn were
withdrawn to CASTEREN. Mortaring and shelling by the enemy took place
during the day in NETERSEL AND CASTEREN. Cas - Tpr Morris A killed & 2 ORs
wounded.
29Regt. continued to hold NETERSEL with no prospect of relief until the 49th
Div. came up on the left of the Div. and forced the enemy to withdraw.
In the evening B Sqn took over from A Sqn. Mortaring and shelling
decreased during the day. Cas. - 1 OR wounded.
30Offensive patrols pushed out by C Sqn penetrated to a distance of some
1 1/2 - 2 miles before being engaged. A small wood was cleared successfully
and one prisoner was taken. Patrols withdrew without loss. Night was
quiet.
Page 11 of 11
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
NOMINAL ROLL OF OFFICERS SERVING.
Lieut. Colonel L. Williams.
Major J. Bielski.
Major ASD Graesser.
Major JM Piesse
Major Sir HJ d'Avigdor-Goldsmid.
Major RT Williams.
Captain JH Pitts.
Captain RH Price.
Captain DS Craigen.
Captain WF Goodyear.
Captain RFC Burton.
Captain JHP Upton.
Captain AP Blackie
Captain JE Reynolds.
Captain (QM) J. Cooper.
Captain RW Clarke (RAMC).
Captain A.D. Browne (padre).
Lieut GF Keep.
RA Talbot.
JD Richards.
BR Grey Jones.
PJ Nolan,
Lieut CR Flogdell.
Lieut HL McCarthy.
-Lieut OP Boraston.
Lieut a Riley.
Lieut P Utley.
Lieut NG Mathewson.
Lieut FL Long.
Lieut EVF Towner.
Lieut FG Masters.
2/Lt. JW Gardiner.
Lieut D Addison.
Lieut JT Ferguson.
Lieut MT Clarke.
2/Lt. ET Knowles-Bolton
2/Lt. AM Parker.
2/Lt. P Melitus.
2/Lt TE Peacock.
2/Lt. WC Manuel.