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British Army

Greetings From Your Neighbors to The North

 

Greetings From Your Neighbors to The North

 
My story isn’t really about the fighting in the Bulge, although we did plenty later, but about the actual GETTING there!
 
We didn’t learn of the German Ardennes attack until late on the 18th December 1944, just after we’d arrived outside of Antwerp for a “rest” from the fierce fighting around Roermond in Holland.
 
“Monty” as we called him, decided the British 30 Corps, of which the 53rd Welsh Division was a part, would take up a “lay-back” position, with the 43rd Wessex Division, the 51st Highland Division, 33rd Armoured Brigade and the 34th Tank Brigade to prevent the Germans reaching Brussels and Antwerp should they succeed in breaking the Meuse (Mass) River.  At this point in time we didn’t even know where or what the Ardennes were!
 
By Christmas Day we were still sitting in our “last line of defense” foxholes, a long, long way from the front with the landscape covered in six inches of freezing snow enjoying the roast turkey and a beer and wondering how long it would be before the “Krauts” put in an appearance!I must admit that at that time. No one was joking about it and I for one wondered if we could conceivably lose the war.
 
By the end of the month we were ordered to relieve the U.S. 84th Infantry Division in the line around Marche-en-Famenne and Hotton.
 
No one who was in action in the “Bulge” will need reminding of the conditions that prevailed at the time, a journey of a few yards on the icy, freezing roads reminded me of a drunk on a skating rink, laughable but not funny somehow.
 
Slowly our long column wound his way along the Belgian tree lined roads through a vicious snow storm, south of Brussels with German V1’s (buzzbombs) racing overhead to their targets in the city and on to Antwerp (where we’d been headed for a few days’ rest)!
 
After a 14-hour drive in nightmare conditions which was only accomplished because as our tanks, trucks, and other tracked vehicles slid off the road into ditches and rivers the U.S. Engineers either pulled, pushed, lifted or carried them back onto the road with their bulldozers, cranes, winches or whatever!It seemed that no matter what trouble we found ourselves in, a GI would appear from nowhere and say “We”ll have you’all outa there quicker’n thet…just hold on!”  I shudder to think what would have happened if the weather had been fine and the Krauts had had the same Luftwaffe as they had in 1940!  I don’t think many of us would be here today.
 
We spent a night holed up in a monastery somewhere in Belgium while the flying bombs flew over at regular intervals to be awakened around 6:00 a.m. for a session of P.T. before we mounted up for the drive over the Meuse to Marche-en-Famenne!
 
The traffic on arrival at Marche can only be described as chaotic as the 84th Division struggled to get out to their new assignment and we did likewise trying to take over … while two miles down the road a Panzer Division fought like mad to kick us all out!
 

Our Division moved forward on the 4th of January 1945 along with the other units involved in the triangle Hotton – Marche – La Roche.

 
Can’t ever remember feeling that cold before or since or that miserable!  So, it’s all 65 years ago?  Sometimes wonder if it ever happened or if it’s some horrible recurring nightmare that won’t go away!  We did, however, have some pluses … one of them was enjoying some of our GI “K” rations which were sheer heaven after some of our stuff!  So, to all the guys that kept us “on the road” .. thanks.  And to all BoB guys, have a good life.. you did a magnificent job!
 

4th January 1945 - Four men of the 53rd Welsh Division

 
Source: Bulge Bugle, August 1994

By Cpl Charles BEDFORD

"B" Company

1st Battalion

1st Manchester Regiment

53rd Welsh Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Ardennes,

Belgium