70 YEARS AGO – The Battle for Veghel – 5

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.

They went into one of the empty houses and into a front room on the ground floor, where they set the radio down in front of the bay window. They lay on the floor so as not to be seen and spotted an old cigar box, which on further investigation turned out to contain a substantial amount of German currency, dating from the time of the Great Depression, so the notes were large denomination like one million Marks. The soldier without the name went into the back of the house in search of water, and using one of the methylated spirit tablets, boiled some water to brew tea, to drink whilst eating thick ‘hard tack’ biscuits (like high energy biscuits).

The three soldiers dozed under the window, for want of something better to do, while waiting for some orders to come through on the wireless set. Suddenly, they heard boots on the log pathway which surrounded the house. Stock still, eyes staring, senses alert, hearts thudding like pistons hardly daring to breath,the three soldiers waited. By this time it was starting to get dark and the little lights dancing on the wireless set, would twinkle like beacons and be spotted immediately by a keen eyed German. Denys hissed urgently "Switch the thing OFF!!". Then they heard German voices and the scrape of boots right outside the house and realized that their worst fears had been well founded. Nobody moved a muscle, desperately trying to hear the faintest movement of impending discovery. The German patrol was outside for 10 minutes, which as Denys said, seemed to them like hours. Then, the German patrol started to walk away from the house, still chatting to each other, leaving a faint aroma of German cigarette and an enormous sense of relief in their wake. For some reason they hadn’t bothered to check the house, had they done so, there would have been no escape for the three British men.

They spent the remainder of the night in front of the wireless set waiting, not daring to sleep. They had nothing substantial to eat as the C.O. had not left them any rations. The Battery Commander turned up in the jeep, bright and breezy the following morning, as if he’d only left them an hour before. He probably didn’t notice the resentful looks of his subordinates, at being sent on a worthless mission which almost got them captured.

It was not until early in the morning of the 26th that through a combined effort of 44 Royal Tank Regt and troops of 101st US Airborne, along with elements of British 7th Armoured Division, that the remnants of Huber’s Battle Group was dislodged.

On the 3rd October 1944 when in the Nijmegen area, 86th Hertfordshire Yeomanry Field Regiment R.A. received an official letter of commendation from General Maxwell Taylor, Commander of 101st US Airborne Division in which he commended them for the timely and invaluable assistance they rendered the (US) Division in the repulse of enemy attacks on the town of Veghel.

In the picture: Gunner Joe Cattini on the right – Feb 1945

See continuation of story on www.EindhovenNews.nl

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