Whilst the rail and road bridges had been captured intact, life became very uncomfortable - the Gerry using all means to destroy them with shelling, frogmen and later by the mini-subs. A third bridge was set up by our own engineers, using barges. In late September the Gerrys managed to get a frogman through, using mines. On one such attack they managed to blow a hole through the road bridge leaving a gap of about 80 feet. They also damaged the rail and barge bridges in December, by floating mines down the river.
Submarines on the River Waal - 12th January 1945
This article was kindly submitted by Mr Wally Hibbard.
It was at this point Sergeant Hibbard and his platoon was to move into a large 'Dutch Bunker', built in 1936, to defend these bridges. This was late December 1944 until 28th January 1945. His patrol was fitted out with snow suits. They marched from Bemmel, along the banks of the flood dykes, in a blizzard. His first duty was to build a dugout some 200 yards in front of the bunker. With the weather so bad, he only allowed his men to be on look-out for 1 hour guards. His duties were to intercept the Gerry patrols who were escorting frogmen - to slip into the water to blow holes through the booms that had been laid across the river.
On the afternoon of 12th January 1945, he was called forward by the dugout to sentries. They had spotted, about 100 yards upstream on the opposite bank, some Gerrys preparing to put two mini-subs into the water. Sgt Hibbard reported this to Captain Jake Forman of the Canadian Glengarry Highlanders who, in turn, contacted his C/O - Lieutenant Colonel Roger Rowley - telling him he had ordered two anti-tank guns. They then opened up with armour-piercing shells, followed by high explosives and the rest is history. There was a brief, but noteworthy conversation between the two officers - the C/O asked Captain Forman if he needed the help of the heavy field artillery. His reply was: "And let them steal my thunder?!" [Captain Forman's men went on to successfully destroy the Submarines, on their own, without the help of heavy field artillery.]
Other launch attempts were made - during January and February - these amounted to about 17.
Sergeant Hibbard returned to the Battalion and continued to lead more patrols during February 1945. This was the best month of our time in Holland, the Bunker had everything; "good sleeping bunks, good hot food, and was always nice and warm".
Another version of these events was sent to us by Graham Pickles, Webmaster and owner of The Hemlington Nautical History Society:
K Flotilla 262, was set up in Poortershavn/Hellevoetsluis, head of the Wall/Maas estuary in or around 1943. Originally only 30 Bieber were sent there, but in 1945 an extra 60 Bieber were sent. On the 29th 30th of Jan 1945 it was reported to the main K Flotilla base in Hellevoetsluis that 15 Bieber boats were sent out. Eight of these returned to base, with slight damaged from ice. Of the remaining 7, one was lost in a collision with ice, one was later found beached, and five more simply failed to return.
The design of the Bieber is such that the pilot would not be able to see through a snow storm or blizzard. Eight Bieber pilots returned knowing any mission was fruitless, others carried on. It could be that in these severe weather conditions, their only option may have been to stay afloat using the petrol engine, or to beach and hope they could hide and/or re-float later. It seems that their intention was indeed to mine the bridges. The Bieber could carry either two torpedoes or two mines (but not both). The fact that Wally fired upon them without causing a great explosion, seems to suggest they were carrying mines, not torpedoes.
The maps I have show that Wally was just up the river from a Bieber base.
Abortive attempt to destroy Road Bridge over River Waal at Nijmegen
The road bridge over the river Wall had been captured by the US 82nd Airborne division in September 1944.
Assault frogmen had already made an unsuccessful but daring raid on the rail bridge. However the defenses around bridges where strengthened by rigging four net barriers across the Wall upstream from the bridge. The operation began on the night of 12/13th January 1945, when the Germans released 240 mines in four waves. These were to destroy the net barriers and where to be followed by 20 Bieber. Each with there periscopes camouflaged to resemble floating nests. These Bieber were to fire torpedoes fitted with hooks to catch the nets and make gaps in them. Finally, 4 Bieber towed 600lb explosive charges which, according to orders, should be released to float down (or drift down) under the bridge. Each charge was fitted with a photo-electric cell. As the charge floated beneath the bridge the change of light would trigger the charge and complete the nightâ€™s work of destruction. The operation was marked as a failure.
The official report reads:
- "Both banks of the Waal were held in strength by the Allies and, after the explosion of the mines the river was raked by gunfire. All four of the explosive devices were destroyed before they passed the net barriers."
Two Bieber confirmed sunk and two lost.
3 July 2012
"I have sent you some pictures which I made of the PBD-project in 2009. The collection of pictures is about 60 pictures. I don't know if you have seen these picts before? Part of the project is also the story of John Dean, which he has sent to me personally. The map of the ammo-depot is a remake of the drawing of the resistance group "Albrecht" in Hilversum. The original was sent to me by the Ministery of Defence in The Hague (NIMH). They were very generous to sent me these files. Now they have also the remake, because it is very important that this information is saved and public for all people, interested or searching for info."
Wigger KF van der Horst