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Clearing of Flak Gun positions on 27/28 March 1945 by 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion

Ref Map - BRUNEN Sheet 4206 1/2500

1.  On 27 Mar the bn was leading the Bde on its advance from HAMMINKELN Eastwards.  It was preceded by the Armd Recce who soon got stopped by enemy about the area 356493, and at least two tanks were brewed up by what was thought to be SP guns.

2.  The whole advance looked like being checked for a very long time and the Bde Comd altered, on the spot, the existing orders which had put the bn in support of the Armd Recce: with this posn reversed, I was left with the job of clearing the way and was free to choose my own line.

3.  I decided on the right flank and accordingly left the road at 343492 at about 1700 hrs with two coys and my adv HQ.  The Armd Recce meanwhile had no alternative but to stay in the posn where they had been held up, so I told them to remain there, but not to fire at the enemy posns because I would be working up to them from the flank.

4.  I left a guide on the road to tell the 2IC (Maj Taylor MC) to remain on this road with all the wheeled vehs of the bn column and to keep the rear coy for his own protection.  He and the Armd Recce were to come on, by the road, when I had cleared it.

5.  The party I had with me amounted to a very strong fighting patrol - it was composed entirely of infantry and I could therefore, move anywhere.

6.  The leading Coy ("C" - Maj Keene MC) was to attack the enemy posn and secure the crossrds in that area (356493).  When it swung back towards the road to carry this out, I ordered the other Coy ("B" - Maj Reid) to continue the flanking movement and occupy the crossrds at 364493.  I took my adv HQ with this coy.

7.  Comn with C Coy were poor from the moment of parting from them for the following reasons:-
        (i) they soon became involved in a battle
        (ii) Sets were screened in the wooded country we were moving in
        (iii) My operator had to talk very quietly and reduce the volume of his receiver to the minimum in order not to give away our posn.
        (iv) Wireless sets always seem to fall off in efficiency in the evening.

8.  Intense fire came from C Coy's objective area soon after parting from that coy, but B Coy and HQ occupied their area without opposition and were in posn at about 1900 hrs.

9.  I put my HQ and B Coy's HQ in a house near the crossrds and used one pl of B Coy (Lt Pape) for close protection of this house.  Another pl (Lt Hinman) was responsible for the area immediately NORTH of the crossrds and the third pl (Lt Gush) I sent still further forward to establish itself as a standing patrol in the area of wood 374493.

10.  This latter pl had a splendid night as it was of course considerably in advance of all other tps and also in rear of a strong enemy posn: the posn was near a rd on which carefree Germans moved freely under the impression that they were in a safe area: many startled Bosche were dragged bewildered into captivity.

11.  As the night wore on, the lack of infm from C Coy became serious because until I got their report, I did not know if the rd was open or not.  Comns both with Bde HQ and my own rd party were also exceedingly difficult.

12.  Lt Hinman reported that from his posn (NORTH of crossrds) he could spot the flash of the enemy gun and he had pin-pointed one of them.  He asked if he could take a patrol after it, and I let him go with a small party, including a PIAT.

13.  I felt that it was so necessary to get the rd open that the risk of a clash between Hinman's party and an assault by C Coy had to be taken.  It was most unlikely that C Coy would come NORTH of the axis rd (although, of course, their bullets would) so I limited Hinman to the NORTH of the rd for his approach and return and told him he was only to cross the rd when he was close to the gun and to return to the NORTH side as soon as he had destroyed it.  It was thought to be an SP gun and to be located just SOUTH of the axis rd.

14.  Hinman was out about 1¼ hrs from 2200 - 2315 hrs, and while he was away I managed to get through to C Coy (and also Bde HQ and my rd party) on the wireless.  C Coy reported stiff opposition and some cas and that they had had to pull back and would go in again at first light.  This was disappointing news but it gave me a clear field for operations from my own posn.

15.  Hinman returned with a prisoner whom he had run into NORTH of the rd and who suggested further enemy gun posns where I had not expected them, so he very wisely returned with him at once and cancelled the original plan.

16.  I had a German speaker in my Adv HQ and found him invaluable on many occasions and especially on this one.  The prisoner disclosed that:-
        (i) He was from a 5cm a tk gun pl of four guns.
        (ii) the pl was on the NORTH of the rd
        (iii) Two of the guns were out of action
        (iv) Personnel amounted to 15 under comd of an offr (they could therefore be expected to resist if attacked)
        (v) He knew there was another pl on the SOUTH of the rd but did not know details of this one.
        (vi) Neither his offr, nor he, knew we were in posn in rear of them.
        (vii) There were no tanks or SP guns in his area.

17.  Hinman then increased his patrol to 8 picked men and discarded the PIAT and set out again to mop up this pl on the NORTH of the rd.

18.  Part of the patrol returned with several prisoners in an hr and a half (at about 0030 hrs) and reported complete success, but that Hinman himself and one man had remained out to investigate a suspected MG posn and to deal with a cas he had suffered.

19.  Time was slipping by and I did not wait for Hinman to return but sent out a similar patrol under Lt Pape which had been standing by, to clear up the pl reported by the prisoner to be on the SOUTH of the rd.  At the same time I ordered C Coy to be prepared to move up and occupy their original crossrds objective when I gave the order to move.

20.  Hinman himself returned about 0120 hrs and reported that he had in fact cleared both pls, a truly remarkable feat considering the small size of his party.  I found in the morning, that he had captured intact eleven guns, eight 3.7cm AA dual purpose guns and 3 5cm a tk guns, to say nothing of several MGs and machine carbines and some 40 prisoners; all this with a patrol of eight men and at a cost of one cas.

21.  The way was then opened, but C Coy could not be safely moved up to their area as Pape was still out with his patrol in it and I had no wireless link with him.  Again the need for the quick opening up of the rd justified the risk, so I ordered C Coy on to their objective and warned them to look out for Pape's party as they moved.

22.  At 0200 hrs C Coy were in posn about 356493 and the rd was open.

23.  C Coy had been most unlucky in their assault and one pl was caught by the concentrated fire of all the guns in the area of a cottage and its gardens and suffered cas as follows:- (incl Lt Kearney) Killed 5 / Wounded 16.

24.  Attempts to work further round the flank brought more fire on to them.  The fire power of the enemy posn was devastating as the flak guns were very quick firing and all eight fired together.  Major Keene had no alternative from the decision he came to.

25.  When, in the morning, the advance continued up the axis rd, some 63 prisoners were sent back from the area occupied by HQ and B Coy (364493).

26.  These prisoners had been brought in in small parties at intervals during the night and presented something of a problem.  All available tps were required for the defence of the house and very few could be spared to guard prisoners; on the other hand, the posn we were in made adequate guarding very essential.  Actually they were accommodated in two upstairs rooms of the house with an armed guard watching the doors and a nearby sentry post keeping an eye on the windows.  All requests from prisoners to be allowed out, for any purpose, were firmly refused.

(Signed R.G. Pine-Coffin) Lt-Col.
Commanding, 7th Bn (LI) The Parachute Regt.
13 Apr 45.

Courtesy of Mark Hickman and the Pegasus Archive

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