The Welsh Division towards 's-Hertogenbosch, 22-27 October 1944
On Saturday, October 22, 2011 the Documentation Group '40-'45 in collaboration with the Friends of the Airborne Museum, organized a battlefield tour with the subject 'The liberation of' s-Hertogenbosch. As the battle took place on a relatively small area many places are still to be found. There is also a wealth of photographic and film material preserved. Therefore, the Battle of Den Bosch an ideal subject for a battlefield tour.
That day our guide was Luc van Gent (1925) from Den Bosch. He is a local historian on the years 1940-1945 and in 1983 he made a filmdocumentary about the liberation of Den Bosch together with Drs Karel Margry, editor of the magazine 'Then and Now' In 1985 the film was broadcasted by Kro - television. In 1989 Van Gent's book Den Bosch fought and liberated was published.
Luc van Gent was also interviewed in a television broadcast, in which attention was paid to the famous photograph of the liberation of Den Bosch, a father brings his children to safety on the market square. These children have been traced been and attended the movie scenes about the liberation of Den Bosch, where they met the photographer at that time.
General Ross in discussion with staff officiers in the surroundings of 's-Hertogenbosch, but where?
The battlefield tour started at 0930 hours at motel Van der Valk in Nuland. After an introduction by Luc van Gent we went by bus from the British advance route to Den Bosch. After having an excellent lunch, we walked through the city and visited the town hall where Luch explained the fighting.
A flail tank in action in demining.
The liberation of 's Hertogenbosch 22-27 October 1944
After the defeat at Arnhem a liberated strip from Eindhoven to Elst was left. This corridor had an average width of 20 km. Commander in Chief General Eisenhower convinced Marshal Montgomery after long hours of discussion that - inspite the failure at Arnhem - he had to postpone his plan to invade Germany, due to lack of sufficient supplies for its divisions. Anough supplies could only be guaranteed when a major port was available close to the frontier. Already on September 4th Antwerp was liberated. The port was almost undamaged but was still not in use since the Westerschelde entrance was blocked by mines and coastal batteries. Already in the first week of October there were heavy fightings on both sides of the river in order to conquer Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, Walcheren and South-Beveland. Also the road from Antwerp to Nijmegen had to be released. Therefore is was necessary to conquer Den Bosch under the code name Operation PHEASANT. Traditionally a fortified city and a junction of roads, railways and waterways. It was a strategic point. Conquest of this city and a rapid advance westward through Langstraat to the Moerdijk Bridges might prevent an escape of the German 15th Army in retreat across the river Meuse. The conquest of Den Bosch was an essential part of Operation PHEASANT and was code named Operation ALAN.
Crazy Tuesday in Den Bosch. German trucks are ready to leave for the heimat.
October 22, 1944: the attack begins
The 53rd Welsh Division under command of Major General Booby Ross began to attack from the region Oss supported by the British 7th Armoured Division on Sunday, October 22 at 06.30 am. The starting line near the villages Geffen and Vinkel was only 12 kilometers from Den Bosch. In the previous night 200 guns had shelling out on the German positions of the weakened 712th Infantry Division under the command of Lieutenant General Friedrich Wilhelm Neumann for many hours. The attack ran along two axes.The one on either side of the railroad Oss - Den Bosch and the other on either side of the Graafseweg parallel to the railroad.
The Welsh division consisted of three brigades each of three battalions containing 822 infantry men. The 715th Brigade would attack south of the Graafseweg. In the early morning a group of officers was discussing their duties in the open air when they were hit by a German hit. There were seven killed and nine wounded. The result was a slow advance of the fourth battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers towards Rosmalen through the forests of the Male Camp, especially since many German snipers were hiding behind and in the trees. The two other battalions were not harmed by this delay. The 1st battalion of the Highland Light Infantry and the 1st battalion van de Ox and Bucks had crosses the Graafseweg and became 'neighbours' of the 160th brigade. From them the 4th battalion of the Welch Regiment south of the railway had conquered the village Nuland supported by tanks and flamethrowers alreay at 09.00 hours. Along the northside of the railway the 2nd battalion Monmouthshire Regiment supported by tanks could march by Heescheind near Nuland to Kruisstraat where they were not allowed to go on at 13.00 hours according plans. At that time the 1st battalion East Lancs of the 158th brigade should pass them with Kangaroos (Shermantanks without a torret) to march to Rosmalen and Den Bosch.
British tank in de Groenstraat , today Pastor v.d. Kampstraat) with a bunch of willow branches which ditches were filled
A Churchill tank driving through Groenstraat.
The Graafsebaan at the junction Papendijk/Vinkel.
The church of Nuland. Because church steeples served as observation posts, they were usually blown up.
The Ox and Bucks in action alongside the carpentry of H. Steenbergen to Graafsebaan Papendijk and in the forest at the water station.
The Kangaroos had all morning waiting in reserve in Oss. Once on the road to Kruisstraat they came up in a traffic jam of 111 cars on the dirt roads were very slow in progress. At 15.45 hours the East Lancs arrived at Kruisstraat. A little further was an undetected minefield. A tank drove on a mine so the convoy crashed again. An unexpected German counter-attack was repulsed. At 17.00 hours the penetration was aborted and the Est Lancs were ordered to continue on foot because the kangaroos were diployed near boxtel at the 51st Highland Division according to plans. It was getting dark early and 2 km further away at Bruggen the East Lancs met so much opposition that they withdrew to Kruisstraat in darkness. The delays on the first day would later repeat several times.
Kangaroo on the dirt road to Kruisstraat.
In the counterattack in Rosmalen the Germans made use of Sturmgeschütze. The remaining specimens were used in the next days during the street fightings around the Diezebrug in Den Bosch.
The second day 23 October 1944
The next day flamethrowers drove to Bruggen and put some farms on fire. The night before the Germans have offered mucht resistance but had disappeared to that the 160th Bridgade could advance from Kruisstraat into Rosmalen. But because the German 712th Infantry Division had no tanks assigned General Neumann did an emergency call on the day before that a number of Sturmgeschützen at Utrecht would be transported to Den Bosch by train as soon as possible. On 18 September during operation Market Garden the railway bridge at Hedel was blown up so the Stutmgeschützen were unloaded at station Zaltbommel late in the evening. There was just enough fuel for the 16 kilometers to go to Den Bosch. During that trip German guns gave a fire disturbance so the sound of the rattling caterpillar wheels could be heard by the British. The whole morning the crews were searching for fual in Den Bosch for a German counter-attack that began not before the afternoon. Afther that was repulsed it appeared that the disadvantage on the second day amounts to 38 hours. Untill late into the night General Ross and his staff devised a new plan which is still known as a successful example of opportunism Surprise was the main issue.
The third day 24 oktober 1944
Sketch of Ad Hermens die in 1944 who lived in the café Juliana near Rosmalen station as a boy of 10 years old in 1944.
Storm attack on the railway line at Rosmalen on the spot of the town hall today.
From the crossing Empel in Rosmalen two battalions on food went in complete silence along both sides of the railroad on their way to Den Bosch.
A fallen German and a 75 mm gun on Graafseweg.
German Red Cross vehicles on Graafseweg. The convoy was in custody on the way to the British field hospital near Coudewater, Rosmalen.
Captain Ronnie Urquhart (with Scottish kilt) among his 11e Field Security Section.
Liberation monument in the center of Rosmalen.
The 7e RWF in advance on Graafseweg enters the city passing destroyed German field artillery.
The first tanks driving on the undamaged Aa-brug at the water tower.
The tank of Lieutenant Peter Wallworth of the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards ready to go near the water tower.
The baker in the bakery watches as a tank maneuvers in Hinthamereinde.
Two large beams were shining against the low clouds so that the men had just enough light to see where they were. At the same time that night a barrage of more than 10,000 shells hit the headquarters of General Neumann of the Villa Park Hintham which was completely destroyed. Residents who had not been evacuated have had a terrible night to go through. They were shaken heavily but came out unhurt from their shelters as well as Neumann who came out of his bunker. When he made a phone call with the headquarters of the 88th Corps and reported that the enemy was less then 200 meters away, he was ordered by General Reinhard not to surrender. With his staff he walked two kilometers to the positions in Den Bosch from where he arrived in Buren near Tiel by crossing the bridge over the river Meuse at Heusden. From that time on his division was called Kampfgruppe Neumann. In 2009 the TV star of the BBC Rory Bremner came to Den Bosch to determine which route his father had made that night when he walked along the railway embankment as Major Donald Bremner (East Lancs) and became the first liberator who penetrated the first house of the city at 05.00 hours. It was still dark. A German was easily shaving himself and another knocked off his blankets. Dumbfounded they were imprisoned.
During the filming of the battle of Den Bosch David Morgan was back in Den Bosch for the first time since 40 years. Standing on the slope of the Diezebrug he points to the two windows, behind which he had his headquarters.
The outer embankment along the Dieze, seen from the Diezebrug. Along this road David Morgan with his men ran from the warehouse on the left to the flour mill where German forces prepared them a warm welcome.
Havendijk 18. On October 24, 1944 this Op 24 oktober 1944 thisbuilding became the headquarters of the B Company 1 / 5 Welch Captain David Morgan.
Damage by a bullet in the wall of the building in which Captain David Morgan had his headquarters.
We walk along the building down of the Diezebrug where Captain David Morgan had his headquarters.
At 5 o'clock Captain Morgan, commander of B Company 1 / 5 Welch Regiment left the embankment and walked with his platoon through the quiet streets of the District Muntel.
Approaching the big bridge over the Dieze he was ordered 'to Catch that bridge intact'.Bij nadering van de grote verkeersbrug over de Dieze kreeg hij bevel 'to catch that bridge intact'. And again it was a big surprise when his men threw some dynamite on the bridge into the water without opposition. They ran to the otherside and in a house along the driveway they found two members of the resistance asleep who guarded the bridge already from October 1st on, to hand over the bridge to the liberators undamaged. Once awake they were totally surprised. Franz Kopka was the commander of P559, an independent German tankregiment. He fought near Zundert when he received an emergency order to drive with his tanks to Den Bosh on October 23, 1944. There he parked hies tanks under the trees of the Vughterweg and he drove with a Waffenoffizier in a Volkswagen to the positions on Juliana square, where commander Obert Dewald explaned to him that the Diezebrug was captured by the Tommies. Then Kopka made a walk of 350 meter to the Diezebrug. There he found a desperate Officer who told him that the dynamite loads on the bridge had disappeared, but the main charge in a pillar was still standing on edge. During a fire break Kopka's Waffenoffizier left a box of dynamite on the bridge road again and gave advice to fire a grenade on it. If the shot was a hit the vibration of the explosion would also set the ignition of the main charge on fire. Kopka and his colleague walked back to their positions. Behind them came a tremendous explosion after 100 meters. It was apparently successful. But David Morgan and 50 soldiers were trapped. They could not return over the blown up bridge and were taken prisoner.
The blown up Diezebrug.
The Diezebrug as we saw on October 22, 2011.
Our battlefield tour group at the bottom of the Diezebrug listening to Luc van Gent who is telling us what has happened here.
While the historian Luc van Gent tells his story, he is filmed by the local press.
With maps the historian Luc van Gent told in the council chamber of the city hall in Den Bosch how the city was liberated.
What a failure was that morning became a success in the afternoon. The city of Den Bosch could only be liberated after having crossed the Zuid-Willemsvaart, that had its cours from east to west through the city. Three lift bridges were blown up, but a fourth bridge was totally destroyed by our army in May 1940. Instead of this a wooden gangway was laid. From the end of September 1944 on residents had demolished the bridge because of that wood. A whole of six meters was left.
The wooden pedestrian bridge next to the gates during the war years.
Luc van Gent tells about the battles at lock 0.
De storm raid on the doors of lock 0. In 1944 the cameraman took all risks to make this unique for Den Bosch historic recordings.
The houses opposite lock 0 were hit by flame-throwing tanks. Then the Germans fled away. This picture was taken standing on the doors of lock 0.
Here I am standing on the doors of lock 0.
A rifleman in a reconnaissance patrol on the way to lock 0 for cover in the doorway of Dr. Van Mackelenbergh.
Major John Dugdale and his platoon are on the corner of Van Paeschenstraat near the flamethrower of Andrew Wilson ready for the assault on the gates.
When the 7th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers arrived at Lock 0 from the liberated Rosmalen through Hintham Commander John Dugdale saw that the gates next to the hole were closed and undamaged. He also saw a walkway on top of the lock gates. Also he saw a walkway on top of the lock gates of 50 centimeters wide which one could use to walk across the street. Immediately there was a flame-throwing tank brought to the houses across which put them on fire so that the Germans fled in panic. Behind a smokescreen Dugdale and his company stormed over the gate and settled at bridgehead across at 17.00 hours. At 19.00 hours the Royal Engineers started to build a Bailey bridge across the hole that was ready at midnight. The next morning, and next days the whole division could use it. In 1994, close on Bastion Anthonie a monument of running liberators was revealed.
Monument of running liberators close to Bastion Anthonie.
Explanation by Luc van Gent of the events at Bastion Anthony.
xplanation by Luc van Gent of the events at Bastion Anthony.
Statue at Bastion Anthonie.
Tenslotte geeft Luc van Gent nog een uitvoerige lezing in het gemeentehuis van Den Bosch. Alvorens we naar binnen konden hebben we gewacht op het bordes en hadden daar vandaan een mooi uitzicht op de Markt van Den Bosch waar het op zaterdag druk was met winkelend publiek. Finally, Luc van Gent gave an extensive reading in the city hall of Den Bosch. Before we could enter the building, we have waited on the steps with a nice view on the market of Den Bosch where it was busy with shoppers on Saterday.
Calm before the storm on Wednesday, October 25, 1944. Pens on the Pensmarkt in the center under the canopy of C & A a Sturmgeschütz is ready to give the Tommies, who may advance through the Hooge Steenweg, a warm welcome. Curious people did not realize yet what to expect.
Wednesday, October 25, 1944. The storm has broken out. Grenade Explosions have broken the windows at C & A. At Hunkemöller The flames burst out on the first floor already. The fire brigade has started putting out the fire, but will be forced by armed Germans to stop with it. This building and the adjoining restaurant 'Lohengrin'will burn to the ground. The Sturmgeschütz prepares to leave. Bossche housewives - with shopping bags! - Rush to a shelter.
The fully burnt restaurant 'Lohengrin' on the market. on the street there are some fire hoses cut by the Germans.
Een Shermantank of the East Riding Yeomanries dring into Den Bosch on Graafseweg.
Arrival of the M-10 tankdestroyers of the 340th Battery of the 86th Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery on Graafseweg. The damaged buildings of milk trade Van de Vrande and Van Erp have now disappeared and replaced by modern houses. Behind is stadion De Vliert now.
Soldaten van D-compagnie 1/5 Welch rukken voorzichtig op langs de huizen aan de Zuid-Willemsvaart. Soldiers of D Company 1 / 5 Welch carefully advance along the houses on the Zuid-Willemsvaart.
An M-10 tank destroyer is the first that drive from Nieuwstraat into Hinthamerstraat.
From the hospital dr. Van Puyvelde took this picture of the first Tommies appearing on the Nachtegaalslaan. A day laer the M-10 tank destroyer would be hit in the Visstraat. Shortly after taken this picture there was a salvo of German shells. Wounded were brought into the hospital, some died. The pepper-pot in the foreground was heavily damaged.
Piet Kerssens brengt in de Hinthamerstraat een krijgsgevangene op. In the Hinthamerstraat Peter Kerssens brings in a prisoner.
Enthusiastic residents of Den Bosch with Piet Kerssens on a moving picture in the Hinthamerstraat, where have been fightings just before.
From an upstairs window Cato Verhees took these two pictures. Through a glass curtain, the last Germans can be seen watching into Hinthamerstraat to see if the Tommies are coming. Half an hour later they are gone, the glass curtain may open and the first Tommies are there!
Fuseliers in het portiek van het 'Hof van Brabant', nu bekend als het Eurohotel. Fusiliers in the porch of 'Hof van Brabant', now known as the Euro Hotel.
The Hinthamerstraat. The photo shows a good example of curious but careless people who witness the street fightings. Above right is Herman van der Vaart in the window to photograph. The result is shown in the picture below.
De passing brencarrier photographed by Herman van der Vaart.
An unexploded bomb.
Sturmgeschütz at the corner of the Bosveldweg and Stationsstraat, where now the tunnel entrance is.
Destroyed M-10 with the gun barrel cracked open in de Visstraat.
The same M-10 among the ruined buildings in the Visstraat.
Vughterstraat Thursday oktober 26, 1944. Peter Handford took this dramatic photo in fron of fishmongers Van Dartel maakte deze dramatische foto voor de deur van vishandel Van Dartel at the corner of the Berewoutstraat. We see the KP warrior of Hertogenbosch Martien Suiskens with a captured German gun in his hand. An hour earlier he had a short firefight with the Germans on the otherside of the Dommel from out a roof window at Berewouthofje on the Westwal. He withdrew and a short time later he could warn the marching Tommies on Vughterstraat that the Berewoutstraat was under fire. This explains the anguish of the crossing troops.
The same photo printed in British newspapers on Saturday, October 28, 1944. Already awarded to the Tommies in Den Bosch on Sunday afternoon. The face of Suiskens was made unrecognizable because British newspapers were also published in neutral countries where German spies sift the newspapers to gather intelligence. To prevent the Germans in still occupied territories would take revenge on the family of the fighters recognizable on the pictures the British military censorchip checked every picture before it was released for publication. Also the distinguishing features of army units on traffic signs, buildings, vehicles and uniforms were removed.
Memorial stone in the back of the station bridge. Peter Kerssens got wounded here on October 26, 1944 and died one day later in a field hospital at Coudewater, Rosmalen.
Flame throwing Crocodiles are on the dike vughter ready to go to het Wilhelminapark (now Heetman square). In the empty street is an ominous atmosphere. The citizens are in the basement.
In Wilhelminapark next to Chalet Royal the Crocodiles spit their flames over Vughter bridge. It was however the wrong bridge!
Lieutenant Sheriff was the only one who had not used napalm. He turned to Willemsbrug to flame over that bridge. Hij draaide naar de Willemsbrug om daar overheen te vlammen. But then he was hit by a shell of a Sturmgeschütz.
The famous photograph taken during the battle of Den Bosch. Father van der Sande, with wife and children on their flight from Lombok to the downtown district. He died after the war. Behind the tank is the Willemsbrug that mother Van der Sande crossed with a pram full of childrens clothes. but she had to leave it because twigs blocked the wheels. Between the right track and the chassis of the tank you can see a piece of the mantle of Mrs Van der Sande.
Still the district Lombok is burning when this lonely Tommy crosses the road. De Besides him the pram of mother Van der Sande. The next day she went to look. The pram was still there, but the black winter coat, which had lain there, was gone. The hole in the road ran right through. Over that hole George Thompson laid a temporary bridge with his bridge laying tank.
East Lancs have drawn their anti-tank gun whith their hands over the hole in de Willemsbrug and put it in position targeting the Vlijmense 'underway'. The heavy damaged district Lombok will still suffer German fire.
The blown up Vughterbrug was already span winth a baileybridge on Sunday 29 October 1944.
Destroyed living room on the first floor of Putters garage where a German machinegun post was which was under fire for a long time from out the Visstraat.
Already on 26 October 1944 this baileybrug was led over het whole in the Willemsbrug under German shell fire where George Thompson had been in action with his bridge laying tank only one hour earlier.
Panzergrenadiere at the station during the last German counterattack.
Major Bobbie Baber of the 7th RWF hit with his Piat this Sturmgeschütz dat had penetrated beside the Post Office on Bosveldweg.
The 6th RWF cleanses the banks of the Dieze of remaining Germans.
With a mobile Bofors gun rapid-fire purifies the 116th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment in the vicinity of Dieze on the Engelenseweg.
The blown bridge over the ditch Bossche was replaced by this baileybrug a few days later.
Arie Dekkers (with Brengun) and Toon v.d. Eijnden, both from Helmond, lying in position waiting for any impending doom as members of the 2nd Company on the corner Hinthamerstraat Clarastraat.
An image of the immense devastation in and around the station, primarily due to the frequent use of phosphorus shells.
The station is still burning, after the German counter-attack was repulsed.
Now the same location. De golden dragon survived the war. The station was rebuilt.
Once in the city hall I had a nice view through one of the windows.
Once in the city hall I had a nice view through one of the windows.
Memorial space in the town hall of Den Bosch. A beautiful shield made of wood of a bombed church in England which reminds the Welsh Division that liberated Den Bosch. Below a commemorative book about the liberation of Den Bosch. On the left and on the right windows with engraved names of the fallen soldiers of the Welsh Division during the battle of Den Bosch.
Detail of the windows where the names of the fallen soldiers of the Welsh Division can be read.
Detail of the windows where the names of the fallen soldiers of the Welsh Division can be read.
Soldiers of the Welsch Divisie in liberated Den Bosch.
Sunday 29 October 1944. De RCC men Ad van Liempt, 2nd left and Rook Mertens, 2nd right, both with an English cigaret in their mouth, pose as victors together with Jo Wijnands, Brugstraat 23, and Mrs Vriens-Fizaan with her daughter Ansje. In front two unkown liberaters of the Welsh Division.
Wednesday 22 March 1945. The reception of Queen Wilhelmina on the damaged staris of the city hall in Den Boch. Cheers of thousands. The German 88 mm gun was at Hedel, only 6 kilometers from here...
We get a description of the battle of Den Bosch in the council chamber of the city hall by using maps.