On Saterday 21 June 2014 there was a battlefield tour of the Friends of the Airborne Museum On this tour attention was paid to the 7th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment and the fightings a brickswork “De Korevaar” between Driel and Heteren. Operation Market Garden was in full swing.

In the Betuwe German units mainly consisted mainly of 16 tanks of the 10th SS Panzerdivision "Frunsberg", one and a half battalion of  Kampfgruppe Hartung and parts of reconnaissance regiment of 9th SS Panzerdivision "Hohenstaufen". In the night of 20-21 September reinforced with Kampfgruppe Knaust, consisting of eight tanks including  Tigers, Panthers, Mark IV tanks and Sturmgeschütze. Along the road to Elst the Germans had built up a strong defence line. That became clear from a captured German map.

Also now we drove on narrow roads by bus. Although the landscape was changed beyond recognition compared to 1944, we got an impression that it was hardly possible to drive on these narrow roads with tanks and military equipment. it was difficult to maneuver. Visibility was limited by the many orchards. Air support was off because of bad weather in England and at the airports in France.

Only six hours after the request came artillery support. While the shells came over 47 tanks van de Irish Guards put themselves under the railway bridge at Lent on. The infantry was driving with on sherman tanks. Initially, the march went well until a farm where German guns were. The first three tanks were knocked out and the infantry took cover in the ditches along the road. The guns were old French 75 mm guns with armor-piercing shells. There was infantry needed to disable the German guns and air support was here too. The advance was stopped.

An attempt by the Welsh Guards om advance with Cromwell tanks through Oosterhout was also holded by the German defence line However the Welsh were in time to support units of the 82nd Airborne Division to beat off an attack with tanks. Three German tanks were knocked out. Then the advance of the Welsh Guards was demolished by the headquarters.

Meanwhile Lieutenant General Horrocks came to the conclusion that the Betuwe terrain was unsuitable for tankunits and that more infantry was needed. On 20 September 1944 the 43rd Wessex Infantry Division received the order to advance to Nijmegen from the south. The advance along the 75 kilometers long Hell's Highway was slow. Most vehicles were left. The division was mainly transported with DUKW's that appeared unsuitable on narrow roads.

 
From the perimeter around Hartenstein on the northern bank of the Rhine was a radio link established with the 64th Medium Regiment Royal Artillery. The guns positioned at the power station in Nijmegen could now provide fire support to the Airborne. Later 25 pounders of the 43rd Wessex Division were established in Oosterhout that could also provide support.

Op 21 september the 1st Indipendent Polish Parachute Brigade landed near Driel. The Germans had to withdraw units from the perimeter to face this new threat. But the result was also the the German defence of the Betuwe was reinforced.

German troops of the116th Panzerdivision crossing the Rhine bridge at Arnhem into the Betuwe.

The bridge at Grave

 

The 4e batallion The Dorset Regiment was left to guard the bridges at Grave and Neerbosch. Further units were deployed to form a defence line between the river. Furtheron Units were deployed to form a defence line betwin the Waal river and the west of Nijmegen. The remains of 130th Brigade had to clear Nijmegen from left Germans. Late in the afternoon of 21 september 1944 the message came that units of the 43rd  Wessex divisie would relieve the Irish Guards in the morning hours of the 22nd. D-Squadron van de Household Cavalry was given the order to withdraw to the south bank of the river Waal before the night.

In the evening of 21 september 1944 the 43rd Wessex Division was given the order to relieve Guards Armoured division and continue the advance. One squadron of Household Cacalry was given the order to support te 43rd Wessex Divisie at dawn. About 0800 hours of 22 september 1944 Captain Wrottesley and his men succeeded in making contact with the Polish at Driel followed by reinforcement by troops of Lieutenant Young, coming from the west over the Rijndijk at Driel .

Rijndijk at Driel

 

Polish paratroopers welcome the Household Cavalry at Driel

 
Contact with the Poles

Late in the evening of 21 september 1944 the orders were received for the operations on the following day. It was assumed the enemy would withdraw during the night. The 43rd Wessex Division had to continue the advance. One squadron van de Household Cavalry was given the task to support the 43rd Wessex Divison at dawn. But it was unlikely that the Germans would withdraw since they held the line and it was more likely that the British 1st Airborne Division at Oosterbeek could no longer hold the line. Colonel Abel Smith of the Household Cavalry discussed the situation oh the Head Quarters of 43rd Wessex Divisie and gave the order to Major Herbert, commander of C-Squadron, to march to Arnhem and to make contact with the Poles south of Arnhem. At 0800 hours in the morning the unit of Captain Wrottesley succeeded to make contact with the Poles at Driel.

  

Then Major Herbert sent No 2 Troop under the command of Lieutenant Young after Wrottesley who was following the same route as Wrottesley.

Initially it was about six miles on the dike along the river Waal in the west. Then, the unit turned north and eventually arrived on the RijnDijk from the west at Driel. Along some disabled German Mark IV tanks were passed and several crew members shot down aircraft picked up, including an Australian war correspondent. Upon reaching the dike along the Lower Rhine Germans were observed on the other bank. Of the British Airborne was no trace. Young reached Driel when a German attack took place in Arnhem and Elst. It was decided that Wrottesley would continue to maintain the radio link between the Poles the 30th Corps and also to give support to the Poles at Driel. Lieutenant Young was to explore the Rhine east of Driel to find a proper crossover for the DUKW with supplies for the 1st Airborne Division.

 
A German tank disabled by the Welsh Guards in the main street of Oosterhout
 
The battle of Oosterhout
Meanwhile Major Herbert, commander of C-Squadron, had decided to advance to Driel with his squadron to overlook the situation by himself. Led by Lieutenant Hopkinson Troop followed the squadron headquarters commanded by kaptiein Clyde.  They also followed the dyke towards Oosterhout. The first five hundred meters they had to made ​​their way through all kinds of vehicles along the side of the road. When the leading vehicle of Hopkinsons Troop arrived at the village of Oosterhout there was an explosion. Hopkinson and Corporal Bland managed to get out of the vehicle but the driver, Trooper Harold Read, was killed.

Hopkinson could not move his Troop on the narrow dyke. The next vehicles had to drive backwards.

Using a smokescreen the vehicles tried to come out the German shooting area. The rest of the squadron failed to achieve Driel.

In the afternoon of 22 september 1944 the 5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry (5th Battalion DCLI) moved to the assembly area on the northern bank of the river Waal. The 7th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry (7th Battalion SLI) was clearing Oosterhout and surroundings from Germans supported by the Welsh Guards. The 5th Battalion DLI had to march to the north and make contact with the Polish paratroopers. The got two DUKW's fully loaded with ammunition to be delivered at the British paratroopers. By the commander of the 7th Battalion SLI they were told that the attack would be deployed at 15.20 hours. Later in the afternoon information was received that the attack of the Sommersets went well and that the troops were cleaning up the last German resistance at Oosterhout. At 17.00 the 5th Battalion DCLI moved. B Company marched through the statements of the SLI and then turned off because information was received that the proposed route was under German fire. The advance through the alternative route caused deley mainly due to the many hedges and backyards. Therefore the company and supporting tanks Daardoor bereikten de compagnie en de ondersteunende tanks did not reach the starting line in time. The initial shooting had already taken place. It so happened that at that moment the connection with the supporting artillery was dropped so that no repetition could be applied. Fortunately also SLI had requested fire support. The advance of B Company was continued without significant opposition. Given the need to reach Driel that same night the commander decided to adjust the original plan to march on  without the usual flank cover. Little was known about the enemy. Er was weinig bekend over de vijand. It was assumed that the enemy was able to bring in a force quickly that might to disturb the advance forever if the 5th Battalion DCLI and the supporting tanks of 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards would make to use of the present situation. Besides there was the risc that the rapidly approaching darkness would significantly slow down a rapid advance. It was of importance to take as many as possible troops on tanks,carriers and DUKW's. The rest of the battalion would follow by foot. They should accept the risk the the Germans might cut off them from eachother.

A DUKW at Driel

An urgent request was made for an extra squadron tanks and DUKW's so they could transport the units on foot. The brigade commander, Brigade General Essame, told Lt. Col. G. Taylor, commander of the 5th Battalion, "Take all you need, but if you come through it."

Unfortunately the requested DUKW's did not arrive in time due to the traffic jam at Oosterhout.

The B-company under the command of Major Hingston secured the positions of the battalion while the convoy was regrouped. Following the reports it was 'an organised mess'.

 
Driel reached
The convoy rumbled along the village Valburg towards Elst to turn to the north just before the village. Along the way some Germans were observed but a little attention was paid to them. Around 1945 hours the forefront reached Driel. A number of houses were on fire and a German attack was repulsed minutes earlier. The tank of Corporal Reboulf drove over a mine laid by the Poles but hardly addressed damage. The crew was shocked and then they saw an armoured German vehicle in the bend. They opened fire. The vehicle was found, however, to belong to the Household Cavalry. This incident killed Trooper Reginald Holmes. Also the next tank drove on a mine. Finally contact was made with the Poles although the convoy was still incomplete.

Reginald Alfred Holmes     

Servicenumber : 329689
Rank : Trooper
Regiment : Life Guards
Date of Death : 22-09-1944
Age : 31
     
Reginald Alfred Holmes was a son of Tom and Alice Maud Holmes. He was married to Alice Maud Holmes of Chelsea, London.
 
The tankbattle at Elst
The speed of the front group could not be followed by the rest, and thus there was a gap created. Het achterste deel werd aangevoerd door majoor Parker. The back part was led by Major Parker. He drove his jeep leading the group, five hundred yards behind them came the carrier compagnies Sergeant Major Philip and two hundred meters behind the next vehicle came with Lieutenant Olding. Arrived at junction 'The Hope' suddenly a German tank appeared that came to a stop along the road, followed by three other tanks still driving on a side way. Major Parker managed to pass the tanks.  He tored away and managed to achieve the rest of the convoy at Driel Philip saw German tanks 75 meters from the junction, gave gas and managed to pass the two tracked vehicles in front which moved aside for him. But the third tank did not so and the carriers came to a halt right before the tank. In follow Philip opened fire on the commander of that vehicle who was killed. Also the crew of the tank opened fire with machineguns, but missed their target. Philip and the rest of the crew jumped out of the carrier and managed to escape through a ditch along the road. The carrier of Lieutenant Olding (A-company) which was following Philip's vehicle, had turned meanwhile and warned the troops coming back. The anti-tank guns under the command of Captain Bellamy were immediately placed in position and thus insulated the way Valburg off. The convoy by foot commanded by Major Kitchens company, immediately decided to choose another route, made a flanking movement and reached Driel at about 2100 hours.
The disabled German Tiger tank on the Valburgseweg. In the foreground the wrecks of two carriers.
Disabled Tiger tank of Schwere Panzer-Kompanie Hummel Elst
 
Major Parker met this convoy and organised a battlegroup equiped with all available PIAT's. At junction 'The Hope'  was a struggle in which five German tanks were knocked out. The remaining two tanks could not do otherwise Er onstond bij kruispunt 'De Hoop' een gevecht, waarbij vijf Duitse tanks werden uitgeschakeld. De twee overgebleven tanks wisten niets beters te doen than reserving get away as fast as possible.  They both fell into a ditch. The crew escaped in the orchards. Then the British went to Driel.
 
7th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment
 

Monument 7th Batallion Royal Hampshire Regiment Driel

 
7th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment was demobilized at the end of World War One but established again in 1920 to form 5/7th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment together with 5th Battalion. On 1 april 1939 England decided to extent its  Territorial Army. 7th Battalion became undepended. Than she was part of the 130th Infantry Brigade. This brigade was one of the three brigades of 43rd Wessex Division. They were stationed in the county of Kent. After three years of training the 7th battalion left England on 19 June 1944 to go ashore at Le Hamel, Normandy, on 22 June 1944 to become involved in 'Operation Epsom'. They were part of the British  VIII Corps, excisting of the15th Scottish en 43rd Wessex Infantry Division, the 11th Armoured Division and the 31st Tank and 4th Armoured Brigades, totaly 60.000 men. They had to allow the crossing of the rivers Oson and Orne in Normandy mogelijk maken and then occupy the high ground northeast of Brettevill sur Laize. Then the battalion was deployed in the battle for Hill 112. On July 10, 1944 they fought at the site Maltot.b On July 10, 1944 alone, the battalion lost in these battles 18 officers and 208 other soldiers.
 
An ammunition carrier of the 11th Armoured Division explodes after being hit by a mortar during Operation Epsom on June 26, 1944
 
After the fighting in Normandy, the battalion took part in the march to the north. In early September, they were surrounded by a cheering crowd in Brussels. The 7th Battalion was six days in Brussels.
On 15 september 1944 the battalion left Brussels to joing the 130rd Brigade again at Diest. The next day in a cinema of Leopold in Belgium the battalion commander Lieutenant H.A. Talbot attended the briefing of Lieutenant General Horrocks about the deployment of the 30th Corps in Operaton Market Garden. The plan was that the ground troops (Operation Garden) together with the 43rd Wessex division that would follow the Guards Armoured Division marched to Arnhem. American, British and Polish Airborne units had to conquer several bridget across rivers and chanels.

The following day the company commanders of the 7th battalion were informed about the coming Operation Market Garden. The battalion would play a role in this magnificant operation. Alone the 43rd Wessex division had 3,000 vehicles thile 2300 vehicles were required to bridge storage material once needed.

On September 20 the brigade moved along the corridor from Eindhoven, Son, St Oederode and Uden along an enthusiastic crowd liberated Dutch. It took twelve hours for the battalion to take the 90 kilometer long route that would end at Grave for the time being.

Then the battalion had to protect the southern ramps of the road and railway bridge over the Waal.

Meanwhile the 30th Corps tried to make contact with the 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem-Oosterbeek, but they were still not aware that the 1st Airborne Divisie had to give up its positions on the north side of the Rhine bridge at Arnhem.

Knocked out Sherman tank in Elst

 
The 129th brigade tried in vain to free Elst. The 130th Brigade was to advance to Driel. On September 23, 1944 began their advance. Meanwhile, there was heavy fighting in the Calburg-Elst area by the other brigades.

The 7th battalion The Hampshire Regiment was left of the 5th battalion The Dorset Regiment that was in position left of the railway and Heteren. They had to protect the 43rd Reconnaissance Regiments left flank of the 43rd Wessex Division. Between 7th battalion Hampshires and 5th battalion Dorset was the 1st Polish Independed Parachute Brigade jumped at Driel on 21 September 1944. The battalion became involved in several combat actions on the night of 24 on September 25 at the heroic crossing of the 4th Battalion The Dorset Regiment, which incidentally failed. IOn the night of 27 to 28 September, the Germans infiltrated toward Heteren. A counterattack was executed. On October 1, German troops crossed the Rhine to occupy the castle Doorwerth and brickworks Korevaar. They formed the Kampfgruppe Oelkers. The area was defended by B Company 7th Hampshires. After the morning fog had lifted the Germans came in sight of the British and were full of fire of four Vickers machine guns, 3 inches mortars, Brenguns and guns. Yet the survivors saw the opportunity to occupy the brickworks and the 'White House' thereby. The Germans had now conquered position on the southern bank of the Rhine.

Korevaar brickworks

The Ringdijk between Driel and Heteren. Our guide Wybo Boersma talks with the President of the VVAM, Ben Kolster.

We are walking to Korevaar brickworks.

During the afternoon we visited the remains of Korevaar brickworks, that are the same as after the fighting in 1944.

 

In 1880 a brickworks was established across castle Doorwerth on the southern bank of the Rhine. During World War Two the factory was functioned normallly until 1942.  Then several brickworks in the Netherlands were closed because they no longer wanted to work for the Germans. Similarly, the Korevaar. Vegetable was then grown on the grounds to supplement scarce foodstuffs

Explanation of the events at the brickworks Korevaar in September 1944

To the two doors can be seen that there was a ring furnace.

Inside the brickworks everything breathes the atmosphere of 1944...

We were allowed to look inside brickworks Korevaar and walked into the area where the ring furnace was located.

 

At the brickworks emerged 12 days of fierce fighting, in which the 7th Battalion The Hamshire Regiment lost 166 men, including 42 killed and 124 wounded. The fallen are commemorated on a monument erected by the inhabitants of Heteren in 1988. The former brickworks Korevaar is now a municipal monument. The largest part of the complex was destroyed in World War II, the most emphatic remnants are still part of the chimney pipe and a piece of oven. We were also shown. It was a 'ring oven'. Also, a fierce battle was conducted in Upper Driel (Driel-east) at the railway embankment and farm De Laar. On December 2, 1944, the Germans blew up just past the railway bridge towards Elden embankment and came a large part of the Betuwe flooded and Betuwe Offensive went on with small boats and amphibious vehicles. On the remaining dry places civilians took care of the cattle corralled and experienced many adventures. Officially women and children were no longer allowed to live in the war zone, that is why a part of the Betuwe became known as 'Men Island'.  From January 1945 Driel was again occupied by the Germans. This lasted until the spring when the whole Betuwe really was liberated by the Canadians.

Source: Guide Battlefield Tour Betuwe VVAM by Wybo Boersma 2014
 

In the autumn of 1944 Operation Market Garden came to a standstill in many places in the marshy meadows of the Betuwe.
 
Finally we visit Betuws War Museum 'The Island 1944-1945'. This is a historic museum at Heteren, in the Betuwe, that exists since 1995. It is especially dedicated to the struggle in the region between the large rivers in the Netherlands, in which 16 different nationalities participated from September 1944

This museum gives an overview of the fighting in the area between the Rhine and Waal. In this museum are five dioramas in which all 16 nations are expressed. Many materials, a logo or even complete uniforms, donated by veterans and residents of the Betuwe to the museum. The museum also contains photographs, weapons and many objects with a story.
 

Part of the turret of a German Könings Tiger which was knocked out in Bemmel early October 1944

Track and wheel of a British Bren Carrier