These are the tragic and bizarre events and the news reports of this day, 23rd of September 1944.
It was another day full of chaos and fighting. The Allies were trying to clear Hell’s Highway of German troops and were mainly focusing on the threat at Veghel. This occurred during what was to be known as the liberation of Brabant.
The situation around Veghel is still very tense. The German supreme command continues to emphasize that the Corridor near Veghel must be attacked on both sides.
In the early morning when it is still dark, the Germans attack the village with cannons and mortars, again from Erp. There are explosions everywhere in Veghel. The residents would later call this time the ‘grenade weeks’. The battle is now raging around the neighbourhoods of Havelt and Beukelaar.
The allied tanks that had been turned around in Gelderland also arrived on the battlefield to help at Uden and Veghel. Units of the 101st Airborne Division go to Volkel to expel the enemy.
The lists of soldiers killed around Hell’s Highway is growing. In two days there are at least 65 German casualties at Veghel and more than 60 Allied soldiers die. There are more injured on both sides.
Emergency landings, collisions and chaos
From the air, that afternoon replenishment is en route to the landing zones. The Allies bring 77 gliders, cannons, ammunition and men to Son.
To the north of Grave, near Overasselt, an even larger provision drop is planned. Around 800 aircraft will drop supplies. But German anti-aircraft around Boxtel and Volkel fire at them. Around 50 gliders make emergency landings in the occupied area between Veghel and Mill.
The crew and accompanying troops in some places fight with Germans. They mistakenly think that new air landings are underway and raise the alarm.
The German supreme command decides to give up the attempt to conquer Veghel. Kampfgruppe Walther is ordered to withdraw to Gemert. But the threat around Hell’s Highway is not over yet. It would get worse.
‘Last cavalry charge’
The most striking event is an attack by German cavalry on the English at the frontline. On this day, between Ommel and Vlierden one of the strangest events during the liberation of our country occurred. Englishmen at the front suddenly see a large group of horsemen coming in full gallop. They are Germans, led by the Austrian officer Heinrich Hoffer a veteran known to be reckless and ‘crazy’.
The English open fire. And the riders don’t stand a chance. Neither do the horses. At least 40 animals die in the deadly machine gunfire. An unknown number of German horsemen are also killed.
This bizarre incident was discovered a few years ago and taken out of historical oblivion by a group of Brabant historians. They call it ‘the last cavalry charge’ from the Second World War.
You can follow everything about the liberation of Brabant and 75 years of freedom in Omroep Brabant’s Brabant Liberated series.
The newspapers of 1944
Jan de Wit from Rosmalen collects and archives newspapers from the war. If you want to read the newspapers of this day in 1944, click here.
Source: Omroep Brabant
Written by Jessica Ranselaar and Willem Jan-Joachems
Translated and edited by Nicole Cullinan