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British Army

53rd Welsh Division's Monument

53rd Welsh Division's Monument

Following the major offensive by the German army on 16 December 1944, the Field Marshal Montgomery, commanding the 21st Army Group, decided to send General Horrocks' 30th Corps, including the 53rd Welsh Infantry Division, along the Meuse River to reinforce the defence of the bridges and stop the German troops from pushing through to Brussels and onwards to Antwerp and its port.
 
However, on December 30th the division got its orders to move forward to new positions from Marche-en-Famenne to Hotton and to prepare for the allied counter-attack decided for January 3rd 1945.  
 
On January 4th,in the early morning, with freezing wind and snowstorms, the Welsh battalions launched their attack on Menil, Hampteau, Rendeux, Waharday, Wargimont and Champlon, supported by tanks of the 144th Royal Armoured Car Regiment and the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry Regiment. 
 
Their progression was seriously hampered by the wooded and hilly terrain as well as by the extreme cold and heavy snow.  The Welsh Troops decided to dig in for the night in the woods under extreme weather conditions and to resume the attack the next day.  
 
The next day, under heavy machine-gun fire, German artillery, mine fields, roadblocks of felled trees, they pursued their attacks.  They faced German infantry counter-attacks supported by assault canons and endured fresh snowfalls and bitter cold.  They suffered heavy losses in men and equipment.  They succeeded in "clearing" the woods of Hampteau, Monseu, Grand Pouhon, Grande Namuroise, Grimbiemont, Thiers de Taille and liberated the villages of Menil, Cheoux, Waharday, Rendeux and Grimbiemont.  
 
On 8 January 1945, having suffered many losses during three days of fighting under freezing conditions and with practically no rest, some Welsh units were relieved by the Scots of the 51st Highland Division.  
 
A few days later, having achieved all its objectives, the 53rd Welsh Infantry Division moved towards an assembly zone, south of Liege and rejoined its base in Holland to prepare for the Campaign of Germany.  
 
The 53rd Welsh Infantry Division left 105 dead in the Ardennes, of which Robert NOTT of Belgian nationality, engaged in the 1/5 Battalion of the Welsh Regiment.  He died in combat on January 5 and a most of his comrades, is buried in the British and Commonwealth Cemetery of Hotton. He was 18 years of age.  
 
It is in order to perpetuate the memory of these soldiers from across the Channel that the Mayor of Hotton, Philippe COURARD, in the presence of military and civil authorities, of the British Military Attache, the population of the town and Welsh Veterans of the 53rd Infantry Division, unveiled the turret of a British version "Firefly" Sherman tank on Saturday 9th 2000.  
 
The monument has been dedicated to the valiant soldiers of the53th Welsh Infantry Division and to their supporting armoured regiments who liberated towns and villages during the Battle of the Ardennes.  
 
Unveiling ceremony, on Saturday 9 September 2000,
of a monument dedicated to 53rd Welsh Division
 L to R: Ted Cheetam, Harry Martin, Roy Hubbard
 
 L to R: Harry Martin, Ted Cheetam, Mr A. Flahaut, Belgian Defense Minister and Mr Ph Courrard, Mayor of Hotton.
 
 The monument
 
Speech presented by Harry Martin
Monsieur le Maire, Honorary Members of the Council, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen and veterans. 
 
We are here today, 9th September 2000, to unveil this memorial erected to the memory of all those of the 53rd Welsh Division who paid the supreme sacrifice for your freedom.  It is a great honour, appreciated by the veterans present.  We express our gratitude and thanks to the citizens and authority for this lasting monument which commemorates those of our comrades who rest in the War Grave Cemetery of Hotton.  We quietly remember those terrible times of freezing temperatures and ice and snow, which we shall never forget.  I would like to thank the Mayor, Mr Guy Blockmans and all concerned for their splendid efforts for today's ceremony.  
 
After the wreath laying ceremony I would like to say the Homily in Special Remembrance.  
 
"Let us remember with thanksgiving and with honour all those members of the Armed and Support Services who gave their tomorrow for our today.
 
They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.  Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning".  
 
"We will remember them".
 
 The commemorative plaque
 
 
Guy BLOCKMANS