• Si Biggs

45 RM Commando Operations around the Meuse Jan 1945

On the 14th January 1945 45 Commando under Command of Brigadier D Mills-Roberts DSO MC Irish Guards embarked at Tilbury Docks for Ostende, arriving the following day.


From there the Commando moved forward as part of the retitled 1st Commando Brigade was and given the task of holding a stretch of the River Meuse during the Ardennes Offensive, during which they were involved in the operations to capture Maasbracht and Brachterbeek.


It was during this period of operations that Lance Corporal H. Harden, a medical orderly of the RAMC attached to 45 (RM) Commando, won the Victoria Cross.



Below extracts from the 1 Cdo Bde HQ War Diary


12 January 1945

Lewes - Bde HQ entrained at Lewes at 1057 hrs for BLA.


16 January 1945

Asten, Holland - The Bde came under command 15 (S) Div and went into reserve. 3 Cdo were detached and came under command 11 Armd Div.


19 January 1945

Asten, Holland - 3 Cdo captured the island of Stevensweert without opposition one POW being taken.


20 January 1945

Helden - The Bde took over position of line held by 227 Bde. Bde set up at Helden. Very cold with more snow.


21 January 1945

Helden - Cold day with some snow. Orders were received from 15 (S) Div that the Bde was to be relieved in the Helden sector and come under command of 7 Armd Div.


22 January 1945

Helden - Cold day. Some sunshine. The relief of the Bde was completed by 1100 hrs. The Bde proceeded to Echt by TCV.


23 January 1945

Echt - Another very cold day with several snow showers. The Bde was ordered by GOC 7 Armd Div to clear the enemy from his left flank between the rly and the R Maas and to capture Maasbracht, Brachterbeek and Linne. One Sqn of 1 RTR was put under command, 3 RHA in support and 11 H were ordered to assist in recce and on the right flank. 3 Cdo would revert to command at 1100 hrs in the morning.


The ground between Berkelaar and Maasbracht being flat and open and the only covered approach being a narrow wadi running from St Joost N to Brachterbeek which had not been investigated, the Bde Comd ordered 6 Cdo to assault Maasbracht from the W crossing the Juliana canal by the ice near Berkelaar during the hours of darkness and to recross by the lock. The Sqn of 1 RTR was ordered to support the advance whilst 3 RHA and a medium regt RA fired concentrations on the E end of Maasbracht and Brachterbeek. 11 H provided last minute recce up to Maasbracht and gave the invaluable infm that the village was lightly held.


23 January 1945

Berkelaar

0830 – 0900 - By 0830 hrs 6 Cdo were ready at their FUP on Stevensweerd, Bde HQ and 45 Cdo having set up at Berkelaar. At 0900 hrs 6 Cdo recrossed the lock by a footbridge erected by the SORE and supported by the tanks captured Maasbracht without opposition. 45 RM Cdo passed through 6 Cdo and captured Brachterbeek again without opposition and Bde HQ moved to the Burgomasters house at Maasbracht. All this was completed by 1100 hrs.


23 January 1945

Maasbracht

1100 - 4 RHA came in to support the Bde in place of 3 RHA. 45 RM Cdo moved forward towards the Montfortbeek with a patrol thrust towards the station. The latter became heavily engaged and were unable to extricate themselves until nightfall after suffering and inflicting casualties. 45 RM Cdo had now succeeded in getting a bridgehead established over the Montfortbeek in the face of heavy opposition from about a Coy of enemy clad in snow suits.

3 Cdo arrived in Maasbracht during the afternoon and went into Bde reserve. During the night they sent a patrol forward to the De Villa area where they were engaged by heavy fire.


2030 - The Bde Comd held a conference at Bde HQ and issued further orders. During darkness 6 Cdo were to relieve 45 RM Cdo in the Montfortbeek bridgehead and were to drive down the stream from N to S with the station as the final objective. One Tp was ordered to clear the woods towards De Villa. A Sqn of 8 H who were relieving 1 RTR overnight was ordered to send tanks down the Montfortbeek in support. Arty on Linne, the enemy localities at the windmill along the stream and at the station, was provided by two medium and three field regts RA.


24 January 1945

Maasbracht

0730 - Another very cold day with more snow. 6 Cdo in posn on Montfortbeek.

0800 - Arty programme commences

0815 - 6 Cdo commences drive down Montfortbeek covered from enemy view by a smoke screen laid by Brigaded 3” mortars to obscure view from Linne.

0900 - Cdo established at Station. No opposition apart from shelling.

1000 - 3 Cdo who had occupied De Villa were ordered to patrol forward into Linne and they got forward to the church where they captured a prisoner. Owing to heavy enemy fire the patrol then withdrew.

1415 - 3 Cdo were again ordered to patrol forward into Linne which they found was still held.

1700 - A scissors bridge was put down at the windmill by the Div Engrs.

1715 - A patrol of 3 Cdo supported by tanks of 8 H attempted to move up the Vloot Beek into Linne. Owing to heavy mortaring this attempt had to be cancelled.

2030 - The Bde Comd held a conference and ordered the assault on Linne to take place next morning. 3 Cdo were to assault with two tps carried on the tanks of the 8 H.


25 January 1945

Maasbracht

0740 - Arty programme on Linne commenced provided by two medium and two field regts. A few minutes later the tanks moved across the scissors bridge.

0815 - Assault tps mounted on tanks which had formed up along the Montfortbeek. Assault commenced covered by smoke screen given by brigaded 3” mortars.

0820 – 0830 - Linne captured by 3 Cdo.

1100 - The Corps Comd and the Div Comd (Lt Gen Ritchie and Maj Gen Lyne) visited Linne.

1400 - The Bde HQ moved to the Priests house by the church at Brachterbeek. Weather still very cold with snow showers.


26 January 1945

Brachterbeek - Weather very cold. Snow showers. During the afternoon 6 Cdo supported by two tps of 5 RTR who had taken over from 8 H patrolled forward to a line from 764864 to 773858. A foot patrol carried on to 774861 when it made contact with the enemy.


27 January 1945

Brachterbeek

No change in weather. More snow showers. During the afternoon 6 Cdo patrolled forward to the Spielsmanhof area MR 772851.

2215 - 45 RM Cdo sent a fighting patrol to Anchor island and Belle Isle. Anchor island was not held but the patrol ran into violent opposition on Belle island. The patrol withdrew after inflicting heavy casualties and suffering 30 casualties itself.


28 January 1945

Brachterbeek - No change in weather. 6 Cdo carried out another patrol E of their area and captured 4 prisoners during the afternoon. The enemy allowed us to evacuate our dead from Bell island under cover of the Red Cross.


29 January 1945

Brachterbeek - No change in weather. Multi barrelled mortar fire caused damage in the Bde area during the night 28/29 Jan.


30 January 1945

Brachterbeek - Weather warmer. Slight thaw. 6 Cdo carried out another patrol E of their area during the afternoon. Enemy were encountered in the Heide Wood area and we sustained 2 officer casualties.


31 January 1945

Brachterbeek - Weather much warmer. Thaw in progress. 6 Cdo again patrolled E of their positions during the afternoon and reached Boschberg.


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Advance Through Maasbracht


Unit/ Formation: 45 Cdo RM


Location: Massbracht


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1945


Date/s: 23 January 1945


Marines of the British 1st Command Brigade advance January 23, 1945 to Maasbracht and Brachterbeek. There is no man on the street and it is anxiously quiet. The center of Maasbracht is soon reached.


Then they decide to continue towards the station and the Vlootbeek. A few minutes later, hell breaks loose and the British end up under heavy mortar and machine guns. The dreaded paratroopers of the German Kampfgruppe Hübner suffered defeat a few days earlier in the fighting for St. Joost and they buried themselves with those who can still fight behind the Vlootbeek and into the mill. The dreaded paratroopers of the German Kampfgruppe Hübner suffered defeat a few days earlier in the fighting for St. Joost and they buried themselves with those who can still fight behind the Vlootbeek and into the mill.


The men of the 45 Royal Marine Commandos seek cover in the open field. They are lying in the snow, it is ice cold and a number of men are injured.


From the First Aid station, 32-year-old Corporal Henry Eric Harden sees that the wounded cannot move forwards or backwards. With the danger of their own lives, Eric Harden removes one of the wounded soldiers from the field and is thereby injured. Then he goes into the field twice more to save his men. The rescue of Lieutenant Corey becomes Henry Eric Harden final act. Eric Harden and his fallen comrades get a temporary grave in an orchard on the Kloosterstraat in Maasbracht. After less than a year, they are transferred to their final final resting place, the British Military War Graveyard in Nederweert.


1 Commando Brigade established its HQ at the Priest's House at Brachterbeek from 25 Jan 45 - 19 Feb 45. Read More/ Web Link: Liberation Route Europe


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Attack on Belle Island


Unit/ Formation: 45 Cdo RM


Location: Roermond


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1945


Date/s: 27th January 1945

Lt. Peter Winston of 45 R.M. Commando who was killed in action in the early hours of 27th January 1945 during the 45 RM Commando action at Belle Island on the River Maas in the Netherlands. He lies today at Nederweert CWGC Cemetery

27 January 1945 Brachterbeek No change in weather. More snow showers.


2215 - 45 RM Cdo sent a fighting patrol to Anchor island and Belle Isle.


Anchor island was not held but the patrol ran into violent opposition on Belle island.


The patrol withdrew after inflicting heavy casualties and suffering 30 casualties itself.


28 January 1945 Brachterbeek - No change in weather.


The enemy allowed us to evacuate our dead from Bell island under cover of the Red Cross.





More reading:

Commando Veterans Archive


Search 45 Commando 'Dits'


More Royal Marines History 'Dits':


The Battle of the Bulge - Royal Marines in the Ardennes Offensive

L/Cpl HE Harden VC (RAMC) - attached to 45 (Royal Marine) Commando

45 Cdo Royal Marines Formed in Burley Hampshire

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