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British Army

Link-up between American and British Troops at Noir Bras, Champlon. January 14, 1945

 Link-up between American and British Troops
 at Noir Bras, Champlon.
 January 14, 1945
 
As part of the U.S. Third Army under the command of General George S. Patton, the U. S. 87th Infantry Division began active combat near Reims, France, on the 16th day of December, 1944, as part of an offensive move into Germany.  On Christmas Day, the entire division was moved in open trucks more than 100 miles to the north--from near Saarbrucken, Germany, into Belgium--to join the U. S. 101st Airborne Division and others in what has been called one of the greatest battles ever fought by the U.S. Army, the Battle of Ardennes (or the Battle of the Bulge).  
 
Each of the three regiments of the 87th Division—the 345th Infantry Regiment, the 346th, and the 347th—was assigned an area.  Company I of the 347th dug shallow foxholes (the frozen ground made it impossible to dig more than about three feet down) in a forest area near Bonnerue, Belgium.  Our task was to disrupt or stop the movement of German troops, tanks, etc. along one of their main roads into and out of the Bulge.  
 
"I" Company remained in that defensive position for about eight days during one of the coldest winters on record.  Our area was covered with deep snow.  The temperature dropped to below zero at least once during that time.  The water in our canteens froze solid.  For security reasons, we could not build fires to melt the snow.  Only twice during this time did we receive additional K-rations, and never did we get more water. 
 
Because we kept directing artillery fire on any vehicle moving along the road, the Germans regularly tried to find where we were in order to dislodge us. In my foxhole, there were three of us.  One dark night our area was approached by a German patrol, and the I Company machine gun crew in the hole next to ours fired on them.  One wounded German had to lie for three nights just out of reach of our foxhole before we could get to him and move him to an aid station.  The following night, after dark, a German tank approached us along a firebreak in the forest.  Our company commander, Lt. Miles, called in artillery fire which stopped the tank.  But the tank’s machine gun fire hit all three of us in our foxhole.  In the meantime, German artillery shells were being fired intermittently, day and night, into our area, and a number of other soldiers were hit by shrapnel. 
 
On or about January 8, 1945, "I" Company, 347th Infantry was relieved at Bonnerue by another unit of the 347th Infantry Regiment.  We, Company I, went back for a two day break at the Chateau Freuse, a home that was owned at that time by the family of Baron and Baroness de Fles Lant. 
 
On January 10, Company I and other units of the 3rd Battalion, 347th Infantry occupied the town of St. Hubert.  On January 12, Company I moved to a small village nearby.  At this time, Lieutenant Miles ordered me to lead a patrol up a nearby road in order to meet the British troops for a link-up of the two Allied armies. 
 

On January 14, 1945, this historic meeting took place, and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders from Scotland shook hands with representatives of the U.S. 87th Infantry Division.

 
 Among the Camerons were; Sgt. R. Hayworth, Sgt. L Toogood, Cpl. T. Goodall, Pte. J. Lavery, Pte. R. French, and Pte. R. Moore. Among the Americans were; Lt. Ray E. Miles and Sgt. E. Samuel Dudley.
 
 On January 13, 1945, toward the end of the overall battle, after we moved from St. Hubert, my squad was sent to establish contact with the American First Army and the British XXX Corps.  I was given scanty instructions, a country road to follow, and a "walkie-talkie" –a battery-operated radio that proved to be totally useless.  So, with no way to communicate with our own company, my seven-man patrol and I were supposed to make person-to-person contact with friendly troops somewhere along our road.  We had no idea where enemy troops might be and no exact location for finding the "friendlies".
 
After a long walk down a lonesome forest road, the leaden skies at odds with the pale snow crunching underfoot, we came to a crossroads.  Darkness was just beginning to fall, and in the deep woods, with persistent low clouds overhead, the darkness didn't just creep up. It invaded.  Within minutes of entering the forest, every nerve in my body told me that something was very wrong.  First there was the sound of an engine, then headlights came out of the pitch-dark woods along the road which crossed ours.  And then, I couldn't believe it, here came an American jeep speeding toward us.  
 
I gave my squad the order to cover me, stepped to the side of the road, and shouted, "HALT!"  The driver slammed on his brakes, skidded in the snow, and turned off his lights.  A side flap snapped open and a head appeared.  "Don't shoot!" said a voice. "We're Americans!"  
 
After a brief exchange of words, I felt confident that they were what they claimed, mostly because of their fluent American vulgarities.  I realized that it was probably safe, as safe as anything in combat, for me to half crawl into the Jeep which they immediately blacked out so we could use a light.  They showed me on their map the location of some British soldiers and a few Free French paratroopers.  The men in the Jeep were members of the American 101st Airborne Division, returning to their outfit at the end of a patrol.  They explained that since their engine noise was a dead giveaway as to their location, speed was more important to them than stealth.  Also because the snow-covered road was so poor, they needed the lights if they were to get back to their unit; they were willing to take the chance.  After giving me the information I wanted, they took off fast.  
 
Slowly, my patrol continued to trudge through the snow until we came to a lone house near the crossroads.  An elderly Belgian couple occupied the house, and we imposed themselves on them for the night.  Even without a common language, they and we seemed to enjoy each other's company.  And sleeping on the floor in a warm room made a welcome contrast to the bottom of a foxhole in the snowy woods.  
 
14 January 1945 
The next morning, leaving the rest of the squad at the house, three of us walked to the nearest village and found two French paratroopers fast asleep on the second floor of a house in the middle of the town.  They seemed much more interested in getting back to sleep than in the historic significance of the event, the joining of the two allied armies at the end of a fierce battle.  And it was not just any battle.  If the Germans had been successful, they could probably have reoccupied France, our sleepy allies' homeland.  Leaving them to their dreams, we returned to our squad at the farmhouse. 
 
Early that morning, the guard I had posted outside reported a large number of soldiers approaching.  I quickly ordered my squad to take up defensive positions, though I don't know what they could have done if challenged by this "invading force".  
 
I stepped into the middle of the road only twenty or thirty yards in front of the advancing soldiers, held my rifle at port arms across my upper body – a natural, no threatening, but ready position – and called out, "HALT!"  There I stood dirty from weeks in foxholes not having shaved in weeks, a lone infantryman with no rank showing, facing down a couple of platoons of soldiers.  I guessed and prayed that they were English, but I wasn't familiar enough with their uniforms to be sure.  They ignored my command and kept coming.  I knew that I couldn't order my men to fire from their positions, but I also didn't want to ignore the refusal of these strangers to follow my orders.  Fortunately, they continued their advance for only a few second before they halted.  Much to my relief their commands were in fluent English with what I assumed was a British accent.  
 
Their commanding officer, at the front of the unit, approached and in spite of realizing that he was clearly a high-ranking officer, I did not salute.  We had bee so thoroughly indoctrinated, and had become so used to not saluting officers while in combat—not wanting to suggest them as targets for enemy snipers – that I merely spoke politely and somewhat deferentially to the British leader.  
 
I identified myself as Sergeant Dudley in command of the patrol behind me.  This led to simple formalities and then relaxed conversation.  I discovered that these were members of the 5th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders from Scotland who had come South down the road looking for Americans, just as we had been sent North to find the British troops to establish physical contact. 
 
I began to realize just how significant our meeting was when the Scots brought up a movie camera crew to officially record the historic meeting of the two armies.  As they were taking shot for the British newsreels, I overheard one spotlessly clean Scottish soldier say to one of my squad, "My, your army doesn't worry much about clean-shaved".  I didn't have the heart to tell him where we had been and under what conditions we had existed for the past few weeks. 
 
 60th years later American and Scot Veterans meet again at the same place.
 Saturday 12 June, 2004
 
 Left to right: Mr. Murcar, Mr Massey, Lieutenant Ray E. Miles and Sgt E. Samuel Dudley
 
 Photo: Henri Rogister
 
Sgt E. Samuel DUDLEY

"I" Company

347th Infantry Regiment

87th Infanterie Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Ardennes,

Belgium

Rhineland, Germany