70 YEARS AGO – The Battle for Veghel – 4

A true story as told by Dorothy Ramser, daughter of Sgt M. I. Dickson about three British gunners during The Battle for Veghel also known as ‘Operation Market Garden’.

In a series of 7 articles.

The gun positions were moved frequently, often several times a day to prevent enemy artillery zeroing in on them. Sgt Dickson had passed the exam for G.P.O.A. but had not accepted the promotion – this is probably why on this occasion he was called upon to perform the task. So he was busy sticking flags in a field, deep in thought, when he heard a faint metallic noise which he believed was coming from the green undergrowth at the edge of the clearing. Battle hardened to any hint of imminent danger, he stopped for a moment and listened and squinted towards the bushes and trees, thinking he’d probably imagined it. Then he caught sight of some movement from the corner of his eye and quickly looked in that direction. He could see there was a ruined stone farm building, which the undergrowth had invaded and within the ruins to his utter horror, he could see a camouflaged German Self Propelled Gun. Fortunately for him he was a keen runner, a Harrier during civilian leisure hours, and he was up and running for his life, towards the cover of trees at the edge of the field in seconds. It wasn’t long after that the enemy gun opened up on him personally, which sent clods of earth showering over his head as he fled, zigzagging his way to safety, despite wearing heavy army boots!

After getting safely back to Veghel, 342 Battery were ordered into action north east in Havelt. Meanwhile in Veghel, Denys got into the jeep with Signaller Williams and another soldier (whose name evades him now), along with the Battery Commander. Denys was in the driver’s seat (he told me laughingly, that the first time he drove was not long after D-Day when he had to collect Major Kiln from Arromanches), he had told his senior officer that he was unable to drive and was told "WELL! ..now is a good a time as any to learn!". Denys drove up the road beside the woods adjacent to Veghel, then down a long track which had been laid for woodmen and was constructed from logs, which jarred every bone in his body as the vehicle bounced along it. Joe Cattini explained to me that the jeeps they drove had extremely uncomfortable seats. They were made of thin rubber cushion, which became very hard after they had been wet.

At the end of the track were 3 or 4 houses that were quite modern and had the same log paths around them. Their Commanding Officer told them to go ahead and make an observation post (as Denys said "In a wood???") and drove off, without another word, leaving the three bewildered young soldiers standing there with a wireless set to transmit from.

In the picture: 86th Hertfordshire Yeomanry Field Regt RA leaving Gold Beach on D-Day morning – Copyright I.W.M.

See continuation of story on www.EindhovenNews.nl

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