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August 2019
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British Army

A Christmas Tale

 A Christmas Tale
 
I arrived in the Dutch town of Nuth on 19th December 1944, having collected a new Kangoroo from the Armoured Delivery Squadron in Vilvoorde.  I was soon among members of my troop and prepared to enjoy the rest, the accommodation provided by the local people was a change from sleeping in a tank.  The regiment had been in Nuth since the 9th December, but I had been knocked out in a previous battle, where my Kangaroo was destroyed and the commander and gunner badly injured, this explains my late arrival.
 

 The Regiment at that time was awaiting replacement vehicles and was expecting to stay in Nuth for the Christmas celebrations.  However, on the 20th December German jet aircraft over flew us and were gone as soon as they appeared and later that day we received news of the German counter attack in the Ardennes American sector.  Later that day we were placed on two hours standby.
 
On the 23rd December we were ordered to move into Belgium and we loaded on transporters and moved to Genval, via Diest, Leuven and Overijse, staging overnight at Casino.  On arrival in Genval we unloaded and bedded down, but early the next morning Christmas day we picked up the Oxs and Bucks Light Infantry and moved toward Rosee in the American sector.  As we moved through the villages the local people came out and clapped as we went by and if you were lucky enough to be in a village when the convoy stopped, food, wine and hot drinks were provide and they were pleased to see the British soldiers.  The weather was atrocious with snow flurries, freezing wind and roads that were like skating rinks.  Progress was also hampers by American soft skinned vehicles leaving the area, when we reached Morville the infantry debussed and we opened our Christmas Dinner, tinned Turkey supplied by the Americans before we left, although cold it tasted great.  We then moved to a village of Yves-Gomezee where we harboured for the night.  
 
On the 28th December we picked up our friends the Ox and Bucks and moved towards Namur again treacherous roads hampered our advance, but the area was becoming empty with civilians beginning to move away.  Eventually we debussed the infantry at Mettet as it was almost impossible to keep the vehicle on the road, and the infantry moved onto the objective by foot.  
 
On the following day we linked up with the 6th Airborne Division and loaded the 13th Parachute Regiment on our Kangaroos and moved forward to a small village called Houyet where the Paras were to secure the area and hold the bridge over the river Meuse.  As night fell we entered the Chateau Royale D’Ardenne where RHQ set up its Headquarters.  It looked as if we were to get beds to sleep in, but my luck ran out and I was ordered to take a Royal Artillery Officer to Houyet as an observer for his battery of guns.  The road to Houyet was down a steep hill and the road was like a skating rink and the Kangaroo with steel tracks behaved like a toboggan.  
 
Five hours later we arrived in the village to find the detachment of Paras and a lone Churchill tank were holding the area.  The Artillery Officer established his observation post in the café and we prepared a meal as we hadn’t eaten since morning, it was later when talking to the Churchill tank crew I discovered the driver was a school friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for years, Ron Mould, a strange coincidence. 
 
The weather over this period had been bad with low cloud and freezing conditions, with snow falling making digging slit trenches and bunkers almost impossible as the ground was like concrete.  Our vehicles were in khaki camouflage and stood out in the white terrain and the soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were wearing their khaki jumping smocks, not good camouflage and the winter conditions, but we had been moved so quickly there was little time to re equip or repaint our vehicles. 
 
We remained at Houyet until the 2nd January when I was ordered to return the Chateau.  I always promised myself that if at all possible I would return to the Chateau D’Ardenne after the war was over, but alas the opportunity never arose.  
 
The following day the Squadron of Kangaroos with the Parachute Regiment in board move down the hill to reach Beauraing where we harboured.  It was there that the local doctor asked me and my crew to join his family for dinner and to this day I remember the pleasure of a well prepared meal and the enjoyment of being with a family.  As the weather improved aircraft from the allies began flying and attacking the German front line and soon the enemy started to retreat.  We made several other moves in the area, but worries were concerned about engine hours and a need for maintenance.  Our role was somewhat blunted as the road conditions prevented the vehicles reaching their full potential.  
 The Kangaroo was a Canadian gun tank with the turret removed allowing a section of infantry to be carried in safety, first introduced in Normandy by the Canadians and then by the British in the October of 1944.  The photo will allow you to understand the role this vehicle did.  However, the infantry we carried fought many battles with the Germans and in the end managed to blunt the German advance.
 
 
 
Cpl A. J. BOOTH

"C" Squadron

49th Armoured Personnel Carrier

Regiment

Campaigns:

Battle of the Ardennes,

Belgium