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British Army

Suggestion of an Itinerary. The British in the Battle of the Ardennes

Suggestion of an Itinerary.
 The British in the Battle of the Ardennes


For the British, the Battle of the Ardenne really started in Dinant, where the tanks of the 29th Armoured Brigade crossed the Meuse and stopped, on December 24th, the furthest German advance.
At the base of the spectacular “Rocher Bayard” standing proudly outside Dinant, along the Meuse, a plaque reminds the roadblock, that stopped on December 24th , the first German Recce elements trying to reach the bridge and thus to cross the Meuse. 
On the night of December 23rd units of the 2nd German Panzer Division were spotted by the Belgian Resistance and reported to the British. 
The morning of December 24th the 3rd Bn Royal Tank Regiment launched an attack with the support of an US armoured regiment and the aviation.  Early on Christmas day, the Germans retreated abandoning 840 vehicles, nevertheless 1100 Germans were also captured.  For that reason that battle has been called “The Pocket of Foy-Notre-Dame”. 
Foy-Notre-Dame is also known for its Renaissance church, the ceiling of which is made of 145 wooden frames enclosing magnificent paintings on wood by the Rubens school. 
On Sunday, December 24th, a German Mark V tank escorted by three half-tracks, blew up on a landmine in front of the Café owned by Mrs Monrique.  She told the Germans that all the roads to Dinant were mined.  The remaining vehicles turned and retreated.  It has been claimed since then that the German offensive had been stopped here.  At the crossroads of Ciney-Dinant and Dinant-Neufchateau the overturned 60 Ton German Mark V has been put back on its’ tracks and stands now as a memorial in front of the “Ry des Forges” Café-Restaurant with a plaque saying : “On this spot the von Rundstedt offensive was stopped on 24 December 1944” 
Bure will never forget the British 6th Airborne Division and its’ 13th (Lancashire) Battalion The Parachute Regiment, nor will the 13th Battalion ever forget Bure.  The battle for Bure was a deadly one during three days and nights.  The 13th lost seven officers and eighty-two other ranks in three days of battle. T he dead were given temporary graves in the village before being moved to the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Hotton.  A memorial dedicated, to the 13th Lancashire Battalion now stands in the church’s forecourt, as well as a plaque reminding the aid station in the main street of the village.  Furthermore, to be seen in the church is the Roll of Honour of the 6th Airborne Division. 
Saint Hubert is the European Capital of hunting and nature, liberated in January 45 by an US regiment and preceded a French SAS unit. S ome 6th British Airborne elements did also reach the vicinity of the town. 
Its is on January 11th that elements or of the 6th British Airborne discovered 34 civilians murdered on Christmas – eve by the German Gestapo and abandoned in a cellar.  A plaque and a Memorial remind the massacre, furthermore a visit of the cellar is advisable. 
Marche-en-Famenne, Capital of the Famenne has never been occupied during the Battle of the Ardenne, but used to be the HQ of the 84th US Infantry Division commanded by General Bolling. 
The Marche-Hotton road follows the last Ardennes’ ridge before the Famenne area giving access to the Meuse.  It was therefore of utmost importance the ridge had to be defended against the advancing 116th German Panzer Division.  Between December 24th and January 1st, the 84th US Infantry Division managed to defend the ridge at the cost of 582 casualties and was relieved by the 53rd Welsh Infantry Division.  The British sector then covered a frontline from Bure to Hotton.  On January 3rd, as part of the general allied counter-offensive, the 53rd pushed the 116th Panzer Division towards the south-east. 
Just before entering HOTTON a road on the right leads to the Commonwealth War Cemetery were the majority of British soldiers killed during the Battle of the Ardenne were laid to rest.  The Hotton nowadays cemetery situated on the defence line initially established by the 84thUS Infantry.  In the Cemetery, 666 Commonwealth soldiers lay for ever, including an 18 – year - old Belgian of the Welsh Regiment. 
Across the Ourthe, on the road between Erezee and Manhay, a Sherman "Firefly" turret has been dedicated to the 53rd Welsh Division and its armoured supporting regiments. 
Starting January 7, unit by unit, the 51st Scottish Highland Division relieved the exhausted 53rd Welsh Division.  Its regiments entered in the town of La Roche on January 11th and linked up with the 84th US Infantry Division.  On the 13th, after clearing pockets of resistance along the left bank of the Ourthe, the Scottish will also link up with the 87th US Infantry Division in Champlon. 
The “Battle of the Ardenne” museum in La Roche is certainly a must on any Battle of the Ardenne tour, since this is the only museum dedicated to the battle, which has a British sections showing the battle jacket of Lt Col CATHEART (7th Bn Black Watch), the battle jacket of Lt G. SCOTT (1st Northamptonshire), the battle jacket of Major J. Watson (13th Lancashire Parachute Regiment) and the jump jacket of T. SCHAFFER (Standard bearer of the 6th Airborne Association).  It displays one of the very rare ENIGMA coding machines and also shows the original photography of the link-up between the Black Watch and the Americans.  This picture was used for the commemorative plaque one can see on the street corner a hundred yards from the museum commemorating the link up between the 51st Scottish Highland Division and the 84th US Division on January 11. 
Also to be seen in La Roche the “Northampton” MK10 tank destroyer, the first tank to enter La Roche, overlooking the town, dedicated to the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment and its supporting units and the memorial dedicated to the 51st Highland Division with the Roll of Honour of those who gave their life to liberate the Ardennes villages and towns. 
The towns and villages liberated by the British troops, and the British Veterans themselves, will never forget the foggy, snowing and bitter cold winter 44 - 45.
May this itinerary guide your steps on the paths of memory and remind the British in the Battle of the Ardenne!