THE ARDENNES OFFENSIVE 1944-45 BASED ON EXTRACTS FROM THE REGIMENTAL WAR CHRONICLES OF THE OXFORDSHIRE & BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY VOL4 1944-1945 1
Just when the Regiment was preparing for Christmas dinners orders were received to reinforce the front in Europe against the German offensive in the Ardennes which came to be known as the Rundstedt Rush (The Battle of the Bulge). The advanced party left Tilbury on the 22nd December, to be followed on the 23rd by the main body, which landed at Calais the same day, the first troops to use the port since its liberation.
The following day the Regiment travelled by road through Waerejem to Olsene and moved on Christmas Day through Ath, Mons and Charleroi to Givet, reached at 0400 hrs. By noon the 52nd had taken over the Givet bridgehead and defence of the town. At this time Givet was an American replacement depot and American troops were available to help in the defence, as were French troops to man posts along the river towards Dinant, where the rest of the brigade was posted.
On Boxing Day Henry Howard, commanding the 43rd, visited the 52nd not since the disbandment of the Light Division after Toulouse had the two regiments met on the battlefield.
At this time the 52nd had the 507th American Parachute Infantry on its right and the 29th Armoured Brigade screened the front ten miles forward. The Regiment’s reconnaissance platoon made daily contacts with troops of this brigade.
On the 30th December the 52nd handed over to the 12th Parachute Battalion and marched to Drehance to rejoin its own brigade in the task of holding the bridgehead at Dinant.
ON the 2nd January the Regiment moved into reserve at Custinne (0882) with a counter-attack role on the Royal Ulster Rifles’ positions. Two days later C Company (Major Granville) was detached to Bure to help the 13th Parachute Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel P. Luard, D.S.O.), while the rest of the Regiment moved to Resteigne as reserve to the 5th Parachute Brigade. On the 5th January Bure was evacuated and C Company rejoined the Regiment, having lost during its defence five soldiers killed and one officer and nine soldiers wounded. For the next three days defensive positions were prepared, but on the 9th January the Regiment was moved to Rochefort by road.
By now the enemy’s offensive had spent itself and the front was moving eastwards fast. The next day the 52nd followed up behind the Ulster Rifles through Wavrelle and Forrieres to Nassogne. By the 13th it had been squeezed out of the battle and moved to Fromelennes on the 17th, where it stayed until the 24th. That day a move was made to the area of Grubbenvorst (8914) in very hard weather. There the Regiment remained for the rest of the month, finding many patrols at night near the River Meuse.
During the first week of February patrols were very active. By now the thaw had set in and the river rose rapidly, its strong current precluding patrols by boat across to the enemy’s bank. On the 21st the 52nd was relieved and journeyed by road, train and aeroplane to England, arriving at Bulford on the 28th February. 1
ACCOUNT OF THE ACTION OF C COY, COLBORNES, IN BURE EXTRACT FROM REGIMENTAL JOURNAL NO97 From January 4TH — NIGHT JANUARY 5/6th, 1945
The company left Custinne at 1400 hrs January 4th, 1945, with orders to report to Para Bde HQ and then to go into Bure to assist Para Bn.
We de-bussed in Tellin and marched to Bure, where we arrived just after dark. The company commander, Major J. Granville, met us, having gone on ahead to recce the position with Lieut/Col. 20 Pl (Lieut F. H. Wood) moved in first and took over from the left forward platoon of Para Bn, without incident. 21 PI (Lieut G. Hill) then pushed through them and got as far as the S bend in the centre of the village, where they contacted the enemy. 22 PI (Lieut J. Leadsom) moved in on the right and established itself in a school building, opposite 21 PI. 23 Pl (Lieut J. K. Stone) moved up into reserve behind 20 Platoon. The enemy had two patrols in the village, one on the other half of the S bend consisting of an SP gun, with fairly strong flanking protection, of LMG groups and snipers. The other was a similar force on the road running SE. from the centre of the village. The latter kept the main road covered, but we were able to move fairly freely behind the buildings on the left.
The Para Bn moved into Bure with the intention of going through to attack Grupont, but moved into the buildings behind C Coy when they found the village still occupied. Piat patrols from both ourselves and the Para Bn, tried to get round the buildings to attack the AFVs from the flank, but were unable to do so owing to the enemy's good use of his snipers, LMG groups, etc. The enemy then eased his way forward round the bend until he located 22 Pl. His flank towards 21 PI was covered by buildings into which he got some infantry. The SP opened up on 22 Pl's house, from about 50 yds range with its MG, and then its 88 mm. gun.At this range he scored four direct hits on the house, doing a lot of damage to it and the platoon inside who had two killed and about a dozen wounded. Lieut Leadsom, himself wounded in the leg, moved the remnants of his platoon into the next building. The SP then came forward using its MG at random down the street but doing no damage. Pte Cooke, on 21 Pl's Piat could not engage the vehicle from the area of the school, so took his Piat down the road and hit the SP which started to back away. He rushed back calling for another bomb "as the b------s were getting away". With his fourth bomb, all of which hit, he broke the track, but the enemy were able to tow the vehicle away with another one which took its place.
The rest of the night was very cold and dark, and was spent in the positions without a great deal of activity, save for light probing by enemy infantry, several of whom we eliminated. During this time L/Cpl Short, M.M. was killed by an odd shell from an SP 88 mm.
The next morning was fairly quiet except for patrols, until we received orders to clear the rest of the village. C Coy was to clear the right of the main street, and A Coy Para Bn, the left. 3 Shermans were to assist us forward. The enemy had a well-dug-in MG post at the far end of the street, some 300 yds away, and there were snipers in several houses, one of whom had wounded L/Cpl Jerome and a gunner officer.
The assault went quite well to start with, and the tanks set the far end of the village on fire and eliminated the main MG post. Unfortunately we lost all 3 tanks shortly afterwards. Two were knocked out by bazookas and one "brewed" up by another SP gun.
The enemy was installed in the far end of the village in some strength, but 21 PI got to their objective just after dark. 23 PI, who were behind them, established themselves on the right flank, with HQ Coy on then-left and 20 Pl hit the buildings covering the length of the road from the western end; 22 Pl's remnants were in the rear in reserve.
Lieut Stone took a patrol of ten men to contact 21 PI with orders for a temporary withdrawal, to allow a medium artillery stonk to be put in on the remaining enemy positions just east of Bure. They reached the house all right but the enemy had both entrances covered by MG and snipers, who opened fire as soon as the patrol was clear on its way out. The darkness of the night and wire fences, made it difficult for the patrol to manoeuvre freely and they lost Cpl Boyce (killed) and 3 men wounded. The patrol got back with its wounded and shortly after Lieut Hill extricated his platoon.
Major Granville directed the artillery shoot from the road outside Coy HQ, which was lit up by burning buildings. As the target was only 150-200 yards away, we were glad the artillery were very accurate with their shooting.
Lieut Wood with Lieut Stone as guide then took 20 Pl to the forward position. The artillery seemed to have been very effective, as the Pl got into position unmolested.
The Para Bn were established left of the road, thus after 30 hours during which we had no rest and not too much food, the village was ours.
At 0010 hrs we had orders to withdraw from the village starting to thin out 0015hrs, and C Coy to be clear by 0030 hrs.
We marched back to Tellin where barns were found for a well-earned "kip", after a hot meal which the CSM and CQMS had waiting for us.
During the action our casualties were:
Killed: 5385997 Cpl Blower, J. 5384921 Cpl Boyce, F. 14734886 Pte Reeve, K.
Died of wounds:
14209889 L/Cpl Short, H., M.M. 14517569 Pte Morris, J.
Wounded: Lieut J. Leadsom and 12 other ranks.
1. The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Chronicle, Vol 4: June 1944 - December 1945 Pages 97-99