Extract from the Regimental Diary, October '44, 4 King's Shropshire Light Infantry (11th Armoured Division):
8th October 1943.
B Coy, 4KSLI were spread out over a quarter mile front about 500yds N of the swollen Loobeek Creek and ordered to hold at all costs ROUTE FERRET taken during yesterday's fighting. Spread thinly, 1Pl under Lt MELVILLE was well spaced and thoroughly dug-in; responsible for the defence of a fairly substantial but narrow polder facing S (with the OVERLOON-VENRAY road/dyke on his right and another dyke parallel some 150yds to his left). 3 and 4 Pl were stationed W of here; 2Pl was in Coy reserve.
|Veterans' spacing. Oh yeah. That table cannot be more than two feet wide, right?|
|'No Retreat' Mission. Used without permission (from Battlefront)|
The enemy, in half-tracks and with armoured support weapons came upon us fast, evidently intent upon using their speed and surprise. 1Pl remained unscathed at first though, and Capt HARMER swiftly mobilised his reserves. In the meantime, both the 25pdrs and the Typhoon arrived, but had only a very temporary effect on the enemy's advance, in that some units were distracted by firing at the aircraft.
Very soon the enemy was upon us, and although 1Pl weathered more fire as they closed, they were rapidly overrun once the half-tracks reached their trenches. MELVILLE himself was badly wounded, as was Sgt PORTAS. Cpls BAKER and SHEPPERTON were both killed in hand-to-hand, as were 3 other men from 1Pl: BATES, COURT and WILLIAMS, J. Fifteen men were treated for wounds, and Pte WYNNE succumbed at the RAP later that week.
After bitter close-wuarter fighting, 1Pl just managed to send the enemy off with a flea in his ear, just as we heard the rumble of 3RTR arriving from reserve. Special note is to be made here of L/Cpl WATKINS, who, armed with the PIAT and in the thick of the melee not only managed to knock out one half-track and a team of Germans but was also (with his loader) the only member of 1Pl who managed to keep his firing trench from being overrun.
At this point (0700), two troops of tanks arrived behind the position: 'B' Troop going hull-down behind the crest of the embankment [Point 162] behind the remains of 1Pl's position to provide cover whilst 'D' Troop advanced up our narrow right flank to close with the oncoming half-tracks. Now Sgt NORTON also uncovered his A/T platoon from their dug-in positions on the facing side of Point 162, and the combined fire of 3RTR and Sgt NORTON's 6pdrs immediately brought the enemy's advance to a halt, resulting in 1Pl's position being cleared of all enemy and the destruction of the assaulting pioneers, three StuGs which had also closed in and two of the half-tracks on our right.
Again, L/Cpl WATKINS - his loader now incapacitated - fought bravely on alone from his now isolated trench: in fact a remarkably cool shot from his PIAT was resonsible for the destruction of the lead StuG; very possibly dealing the blow which broke the back of the Germans' advance. [L/Cpl WATKINS was recommended for the MM for his actions on this day - see separate citation.]
From 0705 onwards the tide turned. On our left, the enemy's Marders were shortly destroyed at long range by the accurate fire of 'B' Troop's Shermans and Fireflies (despite being strafed by a Ju87 Stuka which made a pass on 'B' Troop) - in each case, Lt PELLIGREW, 3RTR is to be commended for his coolness under fire.
By this point (0710), Lt BROMLEY had advanced 2Pl at the double to reoccupy and clear 1Pl's original positions and to reinforce the line.
|2Pl arrives at the double (from the left). Note the Stug/half-track graveyard. That white paperback, by the way, is 'Point 162'.|
Sgt ABLE's 3" Mortar pl arrived sortly after, and set up on the rght.
In the centre, the combined fire of the dug-in 6pdrs and both armoured troops destroyed one of the half-track platoons just as they reached our lines, and the StuGs, whilst on the right, as our 3" mortar bombs started rain down on the right flank, 'D' Troop's tanks under Lt MEENEY raced up to close with the last remaining half-track platoon, soon routing them (although they were lucky to survive a number of panzerfaust hits).
|Objectives secured and 'D' Troop destroy the last of the Panzergrenadiers|
Happily, the Regiment and attached units suffered no more casualties at all after the initial assault on 1Pl, except for an AOP pilot, whose Auster was forced down by the enemy's A-A quad guns. In the confusion, he managed to destroy his aircraft and escape back to ROUTE FERRET.
In conclusion, the speed of response from 3RTR in reserve, the excellent siting and direction of the 6pdrs in ambush under Sgt NORTON, the courge and fortitude of 1Pl under Lt MELVILLE and the courageous actions of L/Cpl WATKINS all contributed to a swift and decisive victory over the enemy.
Later, at 1330...
Thanks, All. I hope you're all well.
With specia thanks to my sporting and agreeable foe, Mathew: cheers, mate!