The Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment
Who twice visited the Battalion in Holland as War Correspondent for "The Star" and "The Sheffield Telegraph."
An Account of the Campaign in France, Belgium and Holland, from June, 1944, To May, 1945.
AT midnight on June 9th, 1944, The Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment embarked in Infantry Landing Craft at Newhaven and in the afternoon of the following day landed on the beach at Ver-sur-Mer, France.
On May 4th, 1945, at Ede, near Utrecht, Holland, the Battalion learned that the enemy had surrendered unconditionally.
Between those dates The Hallamshires sustained 843 casualties, including 155 dead, while fighting valiantly through France and Belgium into Holland, constantly adding to their laurels.
Often they were given grim tasks in holding on to vital positions, their Laurels tasks which called for those qualities of tenacity and courage for which men of the York and Lancaster Regiment are justly famed.
And for long periods they had weary waits in dreadful conditions, forming part of the solid shoulder on which the Allies' strong arm swung to sweep the Nazis back to Germany.
Fontenay, Tessel Wood, Le Havre, Turnhout, Niewerk, Roosendaal, Nijmegen "Island," Arnhem . . . are all "forever Sheffield." Glorious and grim history was made at these places. Men of Sheffield proved their manhood there, shed their blood, gave their lives.
But the record needs no embellishment. Told simply and straightforwardly it makes quite clear the high qualities of courage and endurance displayed.
Commanding The Hallamshires when they landed in France was Lieut.-Colonel Trevor Hart Dyke. a Regular soldier of fine type.
He left, for promotion and Burma, in March, 1945, sorry that he could not see the war through with the Battalion, and was succeeded by his second-in-command, Lieut.-Colonel M. C. K. Halford, another Regular soldier, formerly with the 6th Battalion of the Regiment, and son of Lt.-Col. M. F. Halford, who commanded the 2nd Y. & L. Battalion in the 1914-18 war.
Serving with The Hallamshires in 146 Brigade, part of the 49th (West Riding) Division, were two other Territorial units: the 1,4 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, drawn originally from Dewsbury, Normanton, Wakefield and South Yorkshire; and the 4th Lincolns, who originated from Lincoln, Grantham, Spalding and Stamford.
In the Line After 3 Days
They were regarded as follow-up troops when they landed in France on the fifth day of the invasion, and within three days they were in he line relieving some of the tired assault troops of After 3 Days the 50th Division.
But the beginning was not so easy as that sounds. The Hallams, as they came to be popularly known, certainly had a smooth Channel crossing and landed with nothing worse than wet feet. And they quickly marched inland for three miles without opposition to Rucqueville, their marshalling centre.
It was then learned, however, that the advance party, due a day earlier, had not yet landed, neither Brigade nor Divisional Commands had arrived, and there was no transport or wireless!
Such conditions were inevitable in such a tremendous undertaking as the invasion. While the difficulties were being overcome, The Hallamshires ate large quantities of eggs, which had been packed and paid for by Germans who had previously occupied the area.
Then on June 13th, 146 Brigade took its place in the line, the Hallams being near woods to the west of Loncelles. Patrols out that night made first contact with the enemy.
Actually the Battalion was to continue in close contact for 33 consecutive days and nights, during which casualties grew to 33 officers and 460 other ranks—a bloody baptism.
Tragic Find by Padre
The first few days in action were spent clearing woods and houses around the village of Audrieu. It was here that the Padre, Capt. H. S. G. Thomas, found the corpses of 14 Canadian soldiers, men of the Regina Rifles, in the garden of a chateau.
These men had been prisoners and had been brutally murdered - put up against a bank and shot through the head in cold blood.
There were many mines in the area, and while the pioneers did good work clearing them, casualties did occur. Capt. C. R. S. Sandford was seriously injured near Cristot on June 16th when a truck was blown up.
Towards the end of the month preparations began for the capture by 146 Brigade of Tessel Wood, a dense wood on the top of a dominating ridge, and while the Battalion dug in at Le Haut Audrieu patrols were active, maintaining contact with the enemy and locating their positions. Capt. J. A. H. Nicholson and Capt. L. M. Lonsdale-Cooper both took part in this important recce work.
Then at dawn on June 25th the battle began. To capture Tessel Wood the Brigade had first to clear Fontenay-le-Pesnil. And as The Hallamshires moved forward towards this village a dense fog descended, limiting visibility to one yard.
Compasses had to be used, and even then patrols and sections lost contact with their parent units. Heavy mortar and spandau fire increased the difficulties.
Col. Hart Dyke was anxious to use the cover of the fog to get his men across open country. He pushed forward reserve companies and took his own H.Q. post forward under the protection of a dismounted carrier platoon, pioneers and a R.E. platoon.
Moved under Fog Screen
This Command Post at one time was ahead of the rest of the Battalion, and when it was established across the Tilly-Fontenay road it was fired upon from three sides—just as an anti-tank platoon arrived on the spot.
Guns were unlimbered and faced in all directions. The platoon of pioneers was then directed to attack on one side, while the R.E. fixed bayonets and attacked on the other side, led by Capt. Lonsdale-Cooper. It was an unexpected and unsought role for the sappers, but they did not falter.
Meanwhile, men were moving forward in the fog and as visibility improved some order came out of the confusion.
Not, however, until there had been many casualties.
It was here that Major David E. Lockwood was killed while leading his men. He was 32 and had been a Hallamshire since he joined the Territorials when 18.
He was first commissioned in 1936 and had proved a born leader, popular with the men. His loss was a severe blow.
At the time of his death companies and platoons were all intermingled in this Battle of Fontenay. Major P. S. Newton and Capt. J. A. H. Nicholson took forward parties of men to subdue spandau fire which had been severe.
And Capt. Nicholson's group met with such success that it was decided to exploit the position. With visibility now almost normal the attack was pushed forward towards the final objective.
Knocked Out Three Tanks
One of the Hallamshires' anti-tank guns knocked out two of three Panther tanks which opposed progress, so winning the Divisional Commander's £5 prize for the first enemy tank knocked out by the Division.
But heavy shelling still held up the Battalion, and casualties were heavy. Consequently the C.O. ordered into the line all available men—cooks, clerks, drivers and others—to hold the positions.
There were many heroic deeds. The stretcher bearers deserve special mention. Two of them were killed while rescuing wounded under spandau fire.
The Battalion was opposed by a Panzer Regiment which put up a stiffer resistance than was encountered by the other Battalions in the Brigade.
Only the determination of all ranks to get and hold their objectives enabled success to be achieved after a period when the situation seemed hopeless. Major Newton, Captain Nicholson, Lonsdale-Cooper and W. Ashby were conspicuous for their leadership and courage.
By June 27th the Battalion was advancing towards the south end of Tessel Wood, holding a salient with enemy positions to the west, south and east. The advance of two other battalions was being held up. Mortars, artillery, tanks, and snipers were causing many casualties.
One mortar bomb hit a scout car where Col. Hart Dyke was talking to the Brigadier. This killed Capt. P. M. Young who was in a nearby slit trench. Capt. R. Turrell and Capt. W. R. Jenkinson (then O.C. H.Q. Company) and a driver and signaller were all wounded.
The C.O. escaped with a shrapnel wound in the arm which did not necessitate evacuation.
Total Hallamshire casualties in the Battle of Fontenay were 123. Two officers killed were Major Lockwood and Lieut. O. Watson-Jones. Wounded officers were Major R. I. Slater, Major A. J. Brunton, Capt. D. A. Abbott and Lieut. J. Firth. There were 18 other ranks killed and four reported missing.
Col. Hart Dyke received an immediate award of the D.S.O. for his direction of the Battalion in the battle and Captains (Majors very soon afterwards) Nicholson and Lonsdale-Cooper both received the M.C.
Divisions Sticky Job
At this stage of the campaign the task of the 49th Division was to hold on to these positions while actually inviting counter-attacks, so as to give the Americans on their right a chance to complete the rapid capture of Cherbourg. This was the first of such sticky jobs given to the Division. There were many casualties—Capt. P. H. Willis-Dixon was wounded on July 10th—before the Hallams were relieved on July 16th by the 4th Lincolns, and moved to the rest area at Ducy St. Margurite.
They were back in the line, near Demouville, before the end of the month, harassed in daytime by artillery fire and at night by mosquitoes and bombs from aircraft.
And according to some of the men the mosquitoes were the worst! Large quantities of mosquito cream were used and there had to be a determined attack on thick undergrowth to destroy the pests.
Towards the middle of August there was arranged a programme of raids to cover the whole Divisional front, with the intention once more of attracting enemy attention. (The role of holding out hands for caning came along almost too often!) This time the idea was to distract from the operations being launched by the Canadians and the 51st (H) Division towards Falaise.
Assault on “Snig Hill”
When Chicheboville was being captured on August 9th, Major Nicholson's jeep was blown up and he was wounded.
On August 20th the Battalion was ordered to try to capture Butte du Haut Parc—known to the Sheffield men as Snig Hill which dominated the whole position.
A squadron of Churchill tanks supported them, and eventually the Command Post was established in a chateau on the summit.
Movement now became more rapid. Between August 15th (when The Hallamshires lost almost an entire platoon while successfully attacking Vendes against a hail of machine-gun fire) and August 30th, the Division thrust east from the Falaise Pocket to the banks of the Seine, advancing 50 miles (as the crow flies) over easily defensible country, crossing seven rivers and taking 1,621 prisoners.
It was on August 30th that a recce party of Hallamshires crossed the Seine. They were the first troops of the 49th Division to do so, and there was some champagne drunk to celebrate the event.
On September 1st orders were received for the whole Battalion to cross the river to prepare for the assault on Le Havre. All vehicles and the main body of troops had to go round through Rouen, to get over the only available bridge, but Col. Hart Dyke and his company commanders commandeered the only available rowing boat (the C.O. put a revolver shot across its bows to do so) and crossed in that. They were met on the other side by a party of Free French soldiers with an extraordinary charcoal-burning lorry.
After many stops to re-fuel this ancient vehicle, the party reached—by mistake—the town of Lillebonne, and liberated it.
The Divisional Commander issued an ultimatum to the garrison of Le Havre on September 9th, but the Nazis refused to surrender.
So the following day, after a heavy bombing attack on the port, the attack began. At first The Hallamshires were in reserve, but on September 12th they moved through the 4th Lincolns, who had reached Harfleur, and began to clear the south of the town of Le Havre.
Docks were Blown Up
Pioneers had to demolish road blocks to make the advance in transport possible. Heavy shelling also hindered the advance and both Col. Hart Dyke and Major Newton were slightly wounded by shell splinters but were able to carry on.
Terrific demolitions began in the docks as the Hallams neared them, so that for a time there was a halt, to avoid unnecessary casualties. By 3 o'clock 500 prisoners had been taken.
Then the Battalion was ordered to clear one area of the docks, to prevent further demolitions. This was of such importance that casualties had to be accepted. The operation was completed in the dark.
The final "bag" at Le Havre was: 1,005 prisoners, one submarine, three Dorniers. And an area of docks extending 1,000 yards from east to west and 2,000 yards in width was cleared of the enemy.
One officer (Lieut. N. McNeile) was killed and 15 men were wounded.
Towards the end of September The Hallamshires moved forward to the front on the Belgian-Dutch frontier. When they reached the Turnhout canal on September 24th they got another "sticky" job. They had to try to make a diversionary crossing while the Lincolns got over more comfortably elsewhere.
September 27th brought much confused and hard fighting along the canal bank. Captain Douglas Bell was fatally wounded and died in hospital some weeks later. Lieut. J. Wollerton was the leader of a platoon of "B" Company which displayed great courage in capturing a farm and inflicting severe casualties on the enemy.
Corporal J. W. Harper V.C.
Epic Story of a Brave Man
September 29th was the day Corporal John William Harper won his V.C. and lost his life. The official citation is given below:
"The Hallamshires attacked the Depot de Mendicite, a natural defensive position surrounded by an earthen wall and then a dyke, strongly held by the enemy.
"Cpl. Harper was commanding the leading section in the assault, with his objective a length of the wall. The enemy was dug in on both sides and had a perfect field of fire across 300 yards of completely flat and exposed country.
With superb disregard for the hail of mortar bombs and small arms fire which the enemy brought to bear on this open ground, Cpl. Harper led his section straight up to the wall and killed or captured the enemy holding the near side.
"During this operation the platoon commander was seriously wounded. Cpl. Harper at once took control of the platoon. He reorganized it. The enemy on the far side of the wall were at this time throwing grenades over the top. Cpl. Harper at once climbed over the wall, himself throwing grenades, and in the face of heavy close range small arms fire personally routed the Germans directly opposing him. He took four prisoners and shot several of the remainder of the enemy as they ran. The prisoners he brought back across the wall.
"Still completely ignoring the heavy spandau and mortar fire which was sweeping the area, once again he crossed the wall alone to find out whether it was possible for his platoon to wade the dyke which lay beyond. He found the dyke too deep and wide to cross, and once again he came back across the wall, and received orders to try and establish his platoon on the enemy side of it. All this time the area was subject to intense cross machine-gun fire and mortaring.
"For the third time he climbed over alone, found some empty German weapon pits and himself providing the covering fire urged and encouraged his section to scale the wall and dash for cover to those trenches. By this action he was able to bring down sufficient covering fire to enable the rest of the company to cross the open ground and surmount the wall for the loss of only one man.
"Cpl. Harper then left his platoon in charge of his section commander and once more walked alone along the banks of the dyke in the face of heavy spandau fire to find a crossing place. Eventually, he made contact with the battalion attacking on his right and found that they had located a ford.
"Back he came across the open ground and, while directing his company commander to the ford he was struck by a bullet which fatally wounded him and he died where he was hit, on the bank of the dyke.
"The operation was more difficult than expected due to the Battalion on the right, which was doing the main attack, crossing the start line very late, with the result that at the time of the platoon attack all enemy weapons were concentrated on it. The area attacked was very heavily defended and from this area 93 prisoners were eventually taken and some 30 dead Germans counted. "The success of the Battalion in driving the enemy from the wall and back across the dyke must be ascribed to the superb self-sacrifice and inspiring gallantry of Cpl. Harper. His magnificent courage, fearlessness and devotion to duty throughout the battle set an example to his men rarely equalled.
"Such conduct in the face of direct close range enemy fire could have but one result. But before he was killed, Cpl. Harper by his heroism had ensured success for his Battalion in a most important action.
"His action, moreover, enabled the main objective to be reached by the battalion on the right who, together with another battalion, were completely checked on other parts of the front. The success of the attack on the Depot de Mendicite can thus fairly be attributed to the outstanding bravery of Cpl. Harper."
Cpl. Harper was the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Harper, Hollinbridge, Hatfield Woodhouse, near Doncaster. He worked with his father as a peat cutter before the war, married a local girl and lived at Thorne.
Polish Flank Protected
It was during the attack on the Depot de Mendicite that Major Lonsdale-Cooper was wounded.
At the beginning of October The Hallamshires had the task of protecting the left flank of the Polish Armed Division. They moved forward over open country, mopping up as they went.
There was fierce fighting with German infantry and armour when 146 Brigade was moving towards Tilberg, and The Hallamshires and Lincolns had tank support in maintaining progress in the Nieuwerk area, where the trees and shrubbery had a jungle-like density which gave good cover to snipers, mortars and spandaus. There were many casualties here.
The area was so difficult that it needed strenuous work by 69 Field Regiment, R.A.—Territorials from Leeds who gave constant and splendid support to the Sheffield Territorials throughout the campaign from Normandy to Arnhem—who fired more than 3,000 rounds during the night of October 6th-7th. And even after that, the Nazis were able to counter-attack strongly, with tanks supporting them.
It was on the morning of October 7th that Sergt. Newton, of Sheffield, won his Military Medal. He was in charge of an anti-tank detachment in close support of a forward platoon.
Before the enemy attacked they put down very heavy mortar and small arms fire which set alight a haystack beside which Sergt. Newton's gun was located. In spite of the heavy fire he dragged the gun to a position from which he covered the road along which the attack would come.
It was impossible to dig in, fire being too intense, so he ordered all the crew except one to take cover in some slit trenches.
The leading enemy Panzer tank, seeing its infantry within 150 yards of our company headquarters, advanced to the kill. It reached within 10 yards of the H.Q. and then it turned round the building and came face to face with Sgt. Newton and his gun.
The sergeant, who had steadfastly remained with the gun in spite of all, opened fire. The tank slewed round, but he fired six more rounds and the tank then "brewed up," only one of the crew escaping.
Sergt. Newton, said the citation for his M.M., "by his courage and steadfastness saved both companies from being overrun by enemy infantry and tanks, and the bridge which the Battalion had been ordered to hold from falling into enemy hands."
The fighting here at Nieuwerk was fierce. Shelling and mortaring continued for long periods. Tanks were often in action. And once more than 40 Spitfires came to the division's aid, successfully straffing an area where the Germans had been concentrating for attack.
After only a brief rest The Hallamshires, together with the K.O.Y.L.I., were given a role in an attack to the north-west, along with the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, with Esschen as the objective. This was all part of the plan to open up the port of Antwerp and involved the capture of Roosendaal.
Here in the last days of October effective use was made of the artillery. While heavy shelling was preparing the way for the advance, Hallamshires, with tank support, drew very close —dangerously close—behind the concentrations. In one village on the outskirts of Roosendaal they captured an entire garrison while it was still hiding in cellars.
In liberated Roosendaal, by the way, The Hallamshires found very comfortable billets and many of the men returned there on leave afterwards.
The next operation was the clearing up of the Maas pocket. The country here was very difficult for warfare.
The Grim Story of "No Man's Water" - With the Hallams on the Western Front
Large areas were flooded. There were wide ditches which made movement impossible except along roads which were exposed and mined.
There were some nasty little actions. Major Newton was injured on November 4th, and during the same night another officer and 33 other ranks were wounded and 7 O.R's were killed.
Two days later, taking part in the capture of Zwingelspaan, the Battalion gained all its objectives—one town and four villages—in spite of the difficulties of the terrain, mines and strong enemy opposition.
Paratroops as Rearguards
As The Hallamshires moved forward here the enemy fought stubborn rear‑guard actions with Parachute troops. Yet by the end of the month they had reached Nijmegen.
It was about this time that Major-General E. H. Barker left the 49th Division to assume command of the 8th British Corps. in an order dated November 28th he expressed his regret on leaving and mentioned that the Division had taken prisoner 140 officers and 10,602 men (exclusive of about 200 officers and 6,300 men captured at Le Havre).
He spoke with pride of the men wearing the Polar Bear flash, and referred to the fact that "Lord Haw Haw," in a broadcast just previously had called them "The Polar Bear butchers"—a compliment to their vigorous fighting spirit.
In December The Hallamshires began their long period of trial on the "Island" north of Nijmegen, and I know something of the difficulties and dangers they encountered, for I spent two brief periods with them, the K.O.Y.L.I.'s and the Lincolns—the first about Christmas and the next at the end of February, 1945.
From the beginning of December to the middle of April the fighting on the "Island" was of a kind which demanded great powers of endurance.
It was "No Man's Water" here. Night patrols waded waist-deep in icy water or paddled slowly forward in assault boats which sometimes struck mines floating beneath the floods.
Supplies went out in "ducks" to forward platoons occupying desolate ruined houses in the middle of the watery wastes. Wounded men fell and drowned miserably….
It was the only static front at the time. Elsewhere British, American and Canadians were surging forward in exhilarating style. But their progress would not have been possible had not the 49th, with The Hallamshires prominent, held grimly on to the pivot It was just another "sticky job."
With the Hallamshires, K.O.Y.L.I.’s and Lincolns in the line at Bemmel Elst, Valburg, Andelst, Zetten an Haalderen, I went out to forward platoons isolated in the floods, talked to snipers and men on patrols, shared cups of tea with Sheffield men huddled in cellars swimming with water.
And I formed a great and sincere admiration for them, for their good spirits and high morale undaunted by the dreadfully depressing and dangerous conditions.
This sector was often subjected harassing shell fire, and another danger came from the flying bombs. Scores of these buzzed overhead every day at every night, along "Doodlebug Alley as it was called.
A high proportion of them failed at this early stage of the intended journey to England, Holland or Belgium. Many of them crashed on our lines and caused casualties, while others happily turned tail and returned to crash on the Germans.
It was also possible in the later days to see on the horizon the jagged lightning streak caused by the V2s being fired on London from sites only a short distance behind the enemy's lines.
On Boxing Day there was an unusual incident which occurred while I was having a mid-day meal in the Command Post of the K.O.Y.L.I. alongside The Hallamshires. Eleven Germans carrying Red Cross flags suddenly presented themselves on the dyke dividing the opposing lines.
They were reluctant to advance, but eventually did so, assisted by smoke shells dropped behind them. At first it was thought they were coming towards the K.O.Y.L.I.'s, but they finished up with The Hallamshires, were blind-folded and taken into custody.
They protested that they had come to bury their comrades killed on Christmas Eve, but the incident was regarded with great suspicion in view of the considerable recce activity on the front and the persistent rumours of pending attack.
However, nothing more happened and The Hallamshires were still at Bemmel when 1945 dawned.
In the middle of January, during a period of heavy snow, they occupied the unpleasant Haalderen sector, regarded as the most important of the "Island" positions.
The posts here were so exposed—with No Man's Land only 200 yards wide—that movement in daylight was impossible and forward companies had to be maintained by night carrying parties. Sleep was at a premium and holding this area was an exhausting task.
Snipers did magnificent night work. There was a "Sniper's Alley" where our men sometimes met German snipers and patrols. And there was more than one instance of German and Hallamshires snipers finding themselves occupying the same ruined building, with embarrassing and exciting consequences.
Casualties at this period were not heavy, but there was seldom a day passed without a few occurring. On January 15th, for instance, a patrol of one officer (Lieut. Godlee) and eight other ranks was reported missing after going out to try to take a prisoner.
General health of the Battalion had to be watched carefully during this spell on the "Island," and The Hallamshires were fortunate in having a splendid M.O., Capt. P. G. Griffiths, M.C., who in turn had an admirable staff at the Regimental Aid Post.
And the spiritual health of the Battalion was also in excellent hands. Padre Thomas was deservedly popular. The men admired his courage, friendliness and understanding.
There were heavy German attacks about this time in the Zetten sector, which delayed The Hallamshires' relief from Haalderen.
The enemy's morale in this area was still high, even at this period. Propaganda broadcasts from our forward positions were greeted by the Nazis with derisive laughter, shouts, spandau fire and mortar bombs.
On January 25th, the Battalion was relieved and returned to Nijmegen, having completed the longest tour of duty in the line since the days of Tessel Wood.
February saw them back in the line at Andelst and Zetten, the area where there had been heavy fighting a fortnight earlier. The snow had now melted and given place to heavy flooding, steadily increasing.
White Tapes Marked Road
The positions occupied by the Battalion were islands in the water, and their maintenance had to be carried out by amphibious vehicles such as Ducks and Weasels. The M.T.O. now became known as the Harbour Master!
The roads leading to the Battalion's areas were flooded and badly damaged. White tapes above the water on either side
of the invisible road were the only indications for miles of the course to be followed by the sorely-tried drivers.
In the middle of the month the Battalion was ordered to send out men to occupy the farm of De Hoeven, which was in the middle of a veritable sea of water anything up to 4 to 5 ft. deep, approachable only by boat and only then at night, with great difficult!. and danger. This was to be the scene of a disaster.
In the early evening of February 21st shells began to fall in the De Hoeven area and intermittent shelling continued during the evening. There was quiet again, however, when a relief party arrived there in boats soon after midnight. Then at 2 a.m. on the 22nd shelling began again, and at 2.40 the buildings were machine-gunned.
We replied with artillery and mortar .fire and all enemy fire ceased. But communications with the outpost had then gone dead and soon after 4 o'clock the farm was seen in flames. with ammunition exploding.
A recce patrol went out in the morning and found only a burnt-out building. Thirty-one men, including Sergeants Newman and Potter, were missing.
Not until after the German capitulation was the mystery solved. Then among liberated prisoners came Sgt. Potter, who explained that after taking over the positions from the out-going platoon at De Hoeven they posted seven sentries and all was quiet. Suddenly, however, intense fire from close range was directed at the house from all sides, much of it coming through the windows.
Eight of the patrol were wounded. Including the leader. Sgt. Newman. Sgt. Potter dashed towards the window in time to see a German aiming a bazooka through it. The bomb struck beside him and wounded him, so that he remembered little more except that Dutch S.S. men broke in, took the survivors prisoners and then fired the house.
The loss of the platoon was a sad blow to the Hallams, but the effect was not so much to depress them as to infuriate them. They wanted revenge, and on March 1st a patrol went out to De Hoeven again and drove out the enemy.
Nazis Tricked Into Shelling Their Own Posts
It was noticed then that as the Germans withdrew they fired a red Verey light which drew down mortar fire on the positions they were vacating. Consequently, the next day enemy positions at Indoornik were heavily shelled and then a single Hallamshire man crept up close to the enemy and fired a red Verey light. The Nazis responded quickly by shelling and machine-gunning their own positions! That was the beginning of revenge.
Clearing of "The Island"
Next month saw the clearing of the "Island." On April 3rd The Hallamshires moved forward rapidly via Zand and Rijkerswaard after concentrations of heavy and forward artillery. Then they surged on to Elden with little opposition except that D Company had a running fight up the autobahn as far as Kronenburg.
Mines slowed up the advance, but that night men of the Battalion scored another "first": they were the first in the division to cross the Neder Rijn, and a patrol actually entered Arnhem, but the actual storming of that town did not begin until a week later, from a different quarter.
After a day of heavy Typhoon raids and heavy artillery bombardments of enemy positions, the assault began on April 12th. Forces moved across the River Ijssel and met with little opposition at the outset, thanks to the effective shells, bombs and rockets which had prepared the way.
Friday the 13th brought the call for The Hallamshires to take part. They crossed the Ijssel in buffaloes and soon were subjected to fairly heavy shelling while in an exposed position along a road on the outskirts of Arnhem. There were several casualties.
They entered the town with the support of tanks and captured their first objective, a barracks, just before 11 p.m., entering the buildings amid a shower of shells and rockets. It had been a tiring day, but casualties had not been as heavy as the superstitious might have expected on Friday the 13th—three killed and 11 wounded.
Enemy strong points had to be cleared the next day and Lieut. Davis was killed while leading his platoon. Twelve men were wounded.
The advance continued rapidly now, the bag of prisoners increasing each day. Plans were made for an offensive to clear the whole of Western Holland, but these were postponed because of the Germans' threat to flood the whole of the area if attacked.
Battle halts for food to be taken to the starving Dutch.
The Hallams Last Task
On the divisional front a truce came into operation on April 26th, to enable food to be taken by air and road to the starving Dutch.
It was on May 4th that the final news came, that the enemy in North-West Germany and Holland had surrendered un-conditionally.
Immediately there was a double issue of rum, and at dark the Battalion's stock of Verey lights was used up, together with much small arms ammunition, in a display which indicated only mildly the men's feelings.
In Utrecht three days later the scenes of rejoicing were tumultuous. The Hallamshires were literally "mobbed" as they entered the Dutch town. There was much jollification—and thanksgiving.
FOOTNOTE.—The Hallamshires collected another "first" on May 8th, when a small detachment liberated Amsterdam—"unofficially."
The Hallamshires first saw action in the war during the campaign in Norway in April 1940, and afterwards were responsible for the defence of north-west of Iceland until August 1942.
Under the command of Lieut.-Colonel C. G. Robins, they took part in the advance on Trondheim, and when the withdrawal from Namsos was ordered they acted as rearguard. It was a sad blow when, after getting away from land safely, the destroyer Afridi was sunk by a bomb, and 13 men of The Hallamshires were killed.
The battalion was the only one of the units who took part in this campaign to take prisoners. Not one of their own men was captured, and every rifle, automatic and mortar was brought back safely. The band instruments, however, were destroyed in an air raid.
C S M Howden won the Military Medal. the first to he won by the regiment in the war.
Died of Wounds
Wounded (including personnel twice wounded and counted twice)
Wounded who remained at duty