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LINCOLN BRANCH

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Of Polar Bears and Imps: An unpublished folio of notes compiled by Tom Anderton.

The Story of Goirle

Do you remember Goirle? It is a picturesque little town about 3 miles north of the Dutch frontier and had all the appearance of presenting a strong Bosche outpost to the important town of Tilburg.


We remember it well, too well, probably. Remember it from just after breakfast on October 5th, 1944, when we started out after a squadron of the Division Reconnaissance Regiment to take the place. Round about 9a.m. Recce ran into trouble and that, delayed us for an hour or so. And if you've never been an infantryman you probably don't realise just how tense your nerves get when you are delayed. There we were waiting for the trouble in front to be cleared up, getting more and more irritable, so that we were glad when we got the order that we could get moving again.


Well, we went about 1500 yards over the border and there was the nicest array of spandau nests and 2Omm guns sitting on the edge of the thick wood in front of us to give us welcome.


Major J.O.Flint, commanding B Company, who were leading the advance, wasted no time. He had with him a troop of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment, and while the latter dealt with the 20mms, the company outflanked the Bosche positions and did the necessary.


Then we got stonked! It was a good stonk too, with mortars and artillery, and there wasn't a thing we could do about it, except to realise that the sooner we got out of that particular area, the better we should be. And what better way than to go straight on?


We went straight on! C and D Companies cleaned the woods lining the axis and the two remaining companies were pushed through with the complete tank squadron in support with Goirle as the Objective.


We got to within 1,000 yards from the town, too - or at least A Company did. Then we ran into heavy fire from the north, north-east, and north-west. It was impossible to locate the Bosche fire accurately owing to the noise of the tank machine guns.


A Bazooka merchant suddenly fired from a ditch by the roadside and knocked out the two leading tanks - in quick succession too - before he joined his ancestors. It was a brave effort, though.


We'd now got into our stride, however, and dealing very effectively with the enemy, although the spandaus were using up their ammunition, and the enemy was mortaring us. We reckoned there must have been a company on each side of the road astride the axis, and that's quite a lot of men.


It was obvious that a major plan of attack would be required to capture Goirle, even though the vital bridge leading into the town had been captured intact and A Company's forward platoon were over it and in position.


We attacked at dusk across the stream. Together with a troop of tanks, B Company made the first bound alright but they were stopped right there, so they dug in. However, in the light of the bigger plan the whole battalion was ordered to withdraw under the cover of darkness; this was carried out unopposed.


The enemy then blew the bridge, but it was done so badly that there was still sufficient width to pass light transport over - so passed the night. We were all jumpy and nervy.


By morning, the Recce were covering our immediate front, and we sat quietly right up to about mid-day, when Jerry Decided to stonk us fairly heavily with what we contend were 105mm guns.


C Company were having difficulty in dealing with the enemy infiltration force which was coming in from the rear, and were nearly isolated. The woods that they had cleared behind them were filling up with Germans again, and altogether the situation was pretty wobbly, as their 18 set was riddled by spandau, and Battalion HQ had no communication at all with them. However, Capt. J.R.Slinger, very cleverly extricated them, although unfortunately his covering force was completely cut off and the fighting patrol that went to their aid met a solid phalanx of Bosche in the intervening woods.


By this time it was 1830 hours, and the battalion settled down to what was going to be another nocturnal vigil. Enemy were only about two or three hundred yards forward of us. A patrol we sent out had half its members wounded, and withdrew to make way for our mortar^ and artillery.


Infantry was not lacking, ammunition was not lacking, and the Bosche was not lacking. The situation was eerie. We jumped at the slightest sound, trigger fingers nervous, and we breathed in short noisy gulps.


Sytematically the woods were stonked by our artillery and mortars during the night. Two threatened counter attacks were broken up. Two sections of the forward platoon of A Company were over-run, and after some very stiff close fighting the Bosche was again astride the road. This was about four in the morning.


By 0700 hrs every company was committed, and the Bosche were being engaged in every direction. By 0830 hrs the sting appeared to have been taken out of their attack, and from prisoners we learnt of the good work done by the mortars and the artillery during the night.


By 11 o'clock the Bosche had had enough, and he dug in all round. And by the time we were relieved by another battalion, just after mid-day, we had had enough too.


Oh, yes, we remember Goirle!


Goirle Map

 

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Icy Roads near Nijmegen - January 1945

Icy Roads near Nijmegen - January 1945

Canadian Guns

A Canadian 25-Pounder in action near Groesbeek, January 1945

Stationsstraat

Stationsstraat

Gido Hordijk sent us this photograph because he believes that it shows the same tanks as "Icy Roads near Nijmegen - January 1945" (above).
Click on this photograph to enlarge.
[Ed. 22 Jan 2013]

 

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Formations

49th (West Riding) Division

  • Major-General E. H. Barker (to 29.11.44)
  • Major-General G. H. A. MacMillan (to 24.3.45)
  • Major-General S. B. Rawlins (from 28.3.45)
  • 56th Bde.
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 146th Bde.
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 147th Bde.
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Divisional Troops
  • 2nd South Wales Borderers
  • 2nd Gloucestershire Regt.
  • 2nd Essex Regt.
  •  
  • 4th Lincolnshire Regt.
  • l/4th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • Hallamshire Bn. York and Lancaster Regt.
  •  
  • 1st Leicestershire Regt.
  • llth Royal Scots Fusiliers
  • 7th Duke of Wellington's Regt.
  •  
  • R.A.C. - 49th Recce. Regt.
  • R.A. - 69th, 74th (ex-50th Division), 143rd and 185th Field, 55th A/Tk. and 89th L.A.A. Regts.
  • R.E. - 49th Divisional Engineers
  • R. Signals - 49th Divisional Signals
  • Machine Gun - 2nd Princess Louise's Kensington Regt.

In the early days 70th Brigade was part of the division. They comprised :-

  • 10th and 11th Durham Light Infantry.
  • 1st, Tyneside Scottish.
  • They were replaced by 56th Brigade.

 

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Advance Towards Breda

The famous 'Pheasant Drive'.

An event that we like to' recall happened on the advance, to Breda. At this stage we were the only infantry battalion in a Canadian Armoured Brigade, due to a regroup¬ing that had taken place some days before. We had further split up into two forces which were called Whiteforce and Gorforce. The latter consisted of one armoured reg¬iment, and D Company. Whiteforce, having an armoured regiment and A B and C Companies were pushing on ahead with Gorforce following quite nicely behind.


Well, sure enough, if things are going sweetly the Bosche tries to upset them and they were true to form on this advance. It was a road junction just outside a town about half-way to the objective this time and Whiteforce were pulled up pretty short.


There was some close quarter work done in no time and we decided to park for the night on the spot. Jerry wanted to infiltrate and we did our best to prevent him. It wasn't a really restful night for either side.


In the morning it was decided to clear this road junction for a couple of miles using Whiteforce so that Gorforce could go through them and get the town. Very early then, the plan was set in operation - B Company and its tanks to clear the woods on the right of the axis, C Company and its tanks to capture a little village a mile up the road, and A Company to pass through the village to the next one - and it worked like a charm. Opposition was met all the way, and we finally finished up with an 88mm gun intact and a couple of hundred prisoners.


But the piece de resistance was the "pheasant drive". B Company and its tank squadron were the beaters, and C 'Company and their squadron having worked their way round to the right were lying there as the 'guns'. Sure enough, the beaters flushed several large parties out of the wood slap into our 'guns' and there was some very fine shooting as the Bosche broke cover and dashed across the open. Those who weren't killed or wounded were captured, and they can consider themselves very fortunate.


It is interesting to note that all the time we were with the Canadian Armoured Regiment we had the Polish Armoured Division on our right, and the liaison between us was near perfect as could be. So we were really pleased when their Commander, Major-General S. Maczek sent the following message to our G.O.C.


"Dear General, I would like to convey to you my sincere thanks for the excellent work performed by your Lincoln Regiment at the time when it was under command 2nd Armoured Brigade in Baarle Nassau area, on our immediate left flank.


It has been a source of deep satisfaction for my officers and men to work so closely with such a fine team.


I would be grateful if you would, convey my thanks and appreciation to the Commanding Officer of that Regiment who throughout his attachment showed the maximum spirit of co-operation and initiative.


Yours Sincerely,


sgd. S Maczek.


From Major-General S. Maczek, G.O.C. 1 Polish Armoured Div. To Major-general E.H. Barker CB CBE DSO MC, G.O.C. 49(W.R.)Inf. Div."


Yes, we were really pleased about that, and over another message that, came from the Commander of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, and we echo all those sentiments, too. They were all grand blokes.


 

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Arnhem - Just Over the River

The capture of Arnhem was the last operation of the campaign. You were all there and you knew how keen the Division was to get weaving into the town that had been just out of arms reach for so long. And there were none keener than we were. It was not simple though, with the Neder Rijn and the river Ijssel in the way - and the high ground behind that gave jerry such good observation. Moreover, we learned that he had been preparing his defences there since the airborne landing in September, 1944.


We were in great spirits though, when we concentrated south of the Ijssel. It was great to be off the 'Island' - in country that had not been fought over. You all know the plan by now; how another brigade was to cross the river during the night of 12/13 April and then we Lincolns were to pass through and get a grip of the town itself. Well, the brigade got over all right and there we were formed up under cover of a railway embankment waiting to go through. Smack on mid-day we started to move with D Company leading. They had to seize a crossroads eight hundred yards ahead. The axis passed under two railways and just beyond the second one was a large factory. There were signs of the enemy around the second railway too, and the road was blocked; so D Company had to go forward without the tanks.


At first all went well. But as the leading platoon got within sight of its objective heavy automatic fire opened up from the crossroads and at the same time the rear platoon reported that the Bosche was working round behind them and doing a spot of shooting from the rear. There was nothing for it but to make ourselves firm in the factory and from there to start sorting out the Men. Capt. Francis, O.C. of D Company, called down artillery fire to cover us into our strong point.


It was no easy task that, sorting out the factory. It was a maze of labyrinth¬ine passages, stores and sheds. The roofs were alive with snipers. The enemy fought like maniacs at close range, but we gave no quarter, and asked for none, and slowly the tide turned in our favour. This was some of the bloodiest fighting that the battalion had seen during the campaign. But C Company had fought their way forward and joined D Company, and the two commanders went into a swift huddle and decided to split the factory between them, which made it easier all round. The resistance was fanatical. One enemy officer had five bursts of Bren through him before he was stopped; another wounded Bosche tried to throw a grenade at anyone approaching him. By the evening the factory was clear, but the enemy was still managing to hold on to the edge of it. A quick check-up by the failing light revealed 32 enemy dead.


It was later revealed that this factory was one of the key points in the defence of Arnhem. By our hard fought victory here, the crust was broken and the rest of the brigade was able to pass through. That day's hammering must have played havoc with the enemy's morale for when the battalion cleared up the south-eastern part of the town next day 297 prisoners were taken, and many dead lined the streets. In the middle of the battle the Divisional Commander paid a special visit to the Lincolns to compliment them on the magnificent way in which they had fought.

 

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The Normandy Poem

  • Stay with me, God, the night is dark
  • The night is cold; my little spark
  • Of courage dims. The night is long;
  • Be with me, God, and make me strong.
  •  
  • I love a game, I love a fight.
  • I hate the dark; I love the light.
  • I love my child; I love my wife.
  • I am no coward, I love life.
  •  
  • Life with its change of mood and shade
  • I want to live. I'm not afraid,
  • But me and mine are hard to part;
  • Oh, unknown God, lift up my heart.
  •  
  • I know that death is but a door.
  • I know what we are fighting for;
  • Peace for the kids, our brothers freed,
  • A kinder world, a cleaner breed.
  •  
  • I'm but the son my mother bore,
  • A simple man and nothing more.
  • But - God of strength and gentleness -
  • Be pleased to make me nothing less.
  •  
  • Help me, Oh God, when death is near
  • To mock the haggard face of fear,
  • That when I fall - if fall I must -
  • My soul may triumph in the dust.

 

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The Early Days

They were firmly established. The cost had been high; ten thousand casualties on the first day. At Ouistreham, on Sword beach, the bodies of the East Yorkshire Regiment had formed a solid carpet from the water's edge to the cliffs. It had been no different at Omaha, 'Bloody Omaha’ they called it afterwards, where the men of the 'Big One' had been slaughtered in their hundreds. But now they were ashore and moving inland, taking casualties all the time, but still moving and heading toward the key to the whole new front - Caen.


Already, however, the heart breaking losses and sheer slog of living rough, eating out of cans, sleeping in holes, and every new day expected to batter their way through yet another defensive position, which the Germans had had four years to prepare, were taking their toll. The 2nd East Yorkshires, for example, would fight, for 42 days on foot, engaged all the time, losing that June, 7 officers and 83 other ranks killed, 13 officers and 266 other ranks wounded, plus 13 missing. That meant one man in three had already been killed or wounded and the figures were no different for most of the other British and Canadian formations. And Caen still stood, uncaptured!


Alan Moorehead, now taking part in his tenth campaign, was there. He noted, that there was a kind of anarchy in this waste, a thing against which the mind rebelled; an unreasoning and futile violence. We hid in the grey dust and waited for the shelling to stop. There seemed no point in going on. This was the end of the world, the end of the war, the final expression of man's desire to destroy. There was nothing more to see, only more dust.


A lot of young infantry men thought pretty much the same by now - there seemed no point in going on. They began to slack, go to ground immediately they came under fire, break off an attack once they were no longer covered by their own artillery barrage, or their officers and senior NCO's were killed or wounded. The fact too, that the rifle companies were being fleshed out increasingly by reinforcements from England, who were not as well trained and steadfast as the original riflemen, didn't help neither. Montgomery realised this too. He wrote to the CIGS; 'The Second Army is very strong; in fact it has readied its peak and will get no stronger. It will in fact get weaker as the man power situation begins to hit us. Also, the casualties have affected the fighting efficiency of the divisions.’


Watching yet another infantry attack that January, former infantry officer and 'Sunday Times' war correspondent, K.W. Thompson, felt 'a kind of wonder and a sense of despair'. 'Here is one with a heavy mortar tube on his shoulder', he wrote for his readers back home, who never in a million years would ever be able to visualize the life these young men led. 'Another with a Bren over his shoulder. They pause, and wait, and plod on, ready to fight, ready to charge with bayonets fixed, ready to Die... This 24 hours has made known a fact we all know - these men of the British Infantry are heroes. These are the men, who with their flesh and blood, buy victory, You can smash from the air, pound to rubble with artillery, thrust through with armour, but always these men on foot, the men with rifles and bayonets and the steady slogging courage, must go on. Without them, all else is in vain'.

 

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British troops making their way through the chaos of Caen - 9th July 1944.

British troops making their way through the chaos of Caen - 9th July 1944

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The Lincoln Imp Polar Bear, 49th Division, Divisional Flash

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Of Polar Bears and Imps - Index - Top of This Page