The battle of Hedel – 22 – 25 April 1945

The battle of Hedel – 22 to 25 April 1945

H. Sonne Mans

In the period 10 – 14. April 1945, the Royal Dutch Brigade “Princess Irene” departs from Zeeland.  In that province, the Irene Brigade carried out monitoring tasks  during the winter ’44 – ’45. A period of relative calm, after the Normandy landings in August and the operations in Belgium, Grave and Tilburg in the following months.

The area north of Den Bosch, on the Meuse, will be the new area of ​​operations. The Dutch Brigade comes under the command of the 116th Brigade commander, the sergeant CF Philips. The box on the railroad Den Bosch – Hedel, to Heusden, is acquired by a Brigade of Canadians and must be protected against any actions by the Germans on the other side of the river.

The Brigade has been completely renewed. The Marines, who from June 1944 were assigned to the Brigade to strengthen this left on April 1. They returned to the United States to join the Marine Brigade, which is awaiting the commitment to the liberation of the Dutch East Indies. But from Bergen op Zoom arrives “own cultivation.” The boys are coming from the liberated area and are volunteers. At the Irene Brigade they have received training during eight weeks at the Company Supplement Troops Major (“Uncle Paul”) Looringh Beeck. This officer, coming from South Africa, has done its utmost best to gain recruits at the Cort Heijligerskazerne in Bergen op Zoom, ready for the hard life of a frontline soldier.

Soon after arriving at the new positions there is a rumor that there is “something”, possibly crossing the Meuse, is coming. Lieutenant Rose, successor commander of Battle Group I get permission to perform. A reconnaissance patrol across the Meuse Really a job for the adventurous, tall Zwolle, a former mining engineer, who has arrived from Canada. Volunteered at the Irene Brigade

Tuesday, April 18 / Wednesday, April 19

On the night of 18 on April 19, he goes along with the Sergeant Major Sergeant Brown and Balster, on the road. The under-officers come from the Noothoven Goor-company, an airborne division, named after the deceased in England Inspector Dutch Troops. Shortly before leaving for France this part dissolved and are trained paratroopers assigned to Battle Group I.

Even before leaving the departure point, a canal in Fort Crêvecoeur, an old, right opposite Hedel fortification, sinks borrowed from the English storm boat. Do not worry, when the lock is an old rowboat. However, it should be opgeroeid. Against an unexpectedly strong currents The crossing takes therefore a half hours. More than two-hour patrol through the area occupied by the enemy, between the towns Hedel and Ammerzoden. The retreat is obviously much easier, which now takes only half an hour. Counterclockwise six o’clock in the morning, the men are back on their dangerous journey.

Around the same time, another source of information. Volunteers Gefreiter Walter is a ashore stationed Kriegsmarine component. The man sees his transfer as a demotion. Bitter and drunk, he cursed the Fuehrer and his regime. When he is told that he will have to come up with the report Gruppenführer he only sees one way out: the Meuse! In Bokhoven he reached the shore and is captured. He appears to be a source of interesting information.

Thursday, April 19

Major A. A. Paessens, commander of Battle Group I leave that afternoon jester Vlijmen, where the headquarters of the Brigade is located. Here unfolds Brigade commander Col. AC de Ruyter Steveninck of the plan, as he has received from the 116th Brigade them.

From the current arrangements, the Meuse will be crossed. This will be done at the village Hedel. The 30th Battalion Royal Marines will cross the Meuse on the right to advance to Kerkdriel. Contact will be made with the Irene Brigade and the bridgehead must be increased. The 28th Battalion Royal Marines will march to occupy Zaltbommel and Bommelerwaard. By this bridgehead

At Battle Group I “honor” to the operation, for which the Brigade-share, to perform. Major Paessens has immediately been objections to the plan, so shortly before the approaching end of hostilities. However, it is to decide not to him. He will only be able to focus on the implementation of the new orders. Against the original intent, he protested: Hedel should be followed by an intense artillery bombardment purified first. Only then would a landing to take place. Paessens believes that in wartime would be spared. Maximize the civilian property Especially because it’s the property of Dutch citizens. He proposes not to focus unduly vandalism and Hedel take immediately. Colonel de Ruyter of Steveninck agree with the plans of the major. “I have confidence in you because you have almost always been successful!”

Immediately after his return from Vlijmen, the Major begins with the development of his plans. In a discussion with his officers is decided to be broadcast. Two patrols over the Maas

Friday, April 20

Late in the evening gather four non-commissioned officers and fifteen men joined the channel of the Fort. Again, the tour headed by Lieutenant Rose. Paessens initially that his new “second man” (the Rose holds the position of successor commander of the Battle Group since one month, it really is a master job, but the promotion is still in the paper mill) once his neck is protruding. Eventually he agrees. With two storm boats, one small and one large, borrowed again at 28 Royal Marines, the group sets off.

Crossing the Meuse windy now takes only half an hour. It was a clear night with lots of moonlight. Actually not so suitable for this patrol work. At exactly 02:00 hours the men at kilometer 26, in a bend of the river to the south-west of Hedel ashore. Five men, including two armed with Bren Guns (light machine gun) stay behind to guard. Landing point and the two boats The others, armed with Sten guns and grenades, follow the road north until the crossroad in Hedel. Minefields must be detected. Any other evidence of enemy activity will be mapped.

Hedel is reached. The village was badly damaged by artillery bombardments in the past few months. The population is then evacuated. So it is a real ghost town. Apart from a number of temporary residents …

More than three hours later, the patrol returns along the same route back. No incidents, but was valuable information collected for the planned action.

Saturday, April 22

In the evening at a quarter past eleven leaves the next patrol. Another two boats with a total of sixteen men. This time lieutenant Masthoff commander of the group. Masthoff is a paratroopers officer who has by now made ​​his mark in the period that the Irene Brigade of Europe is active.

Again keep five men at the landing behind. A group of five, led by Sergeant Balster, exploring toward Hedel. Masthoff goes with the other six in the direction of Ammerzoden. It is intended that the latter group will split in two again. However, it will not come so far.

If the men of the Masthoff group is burdened move by a dry ditch, kicks one of them on my foot and lose his leg. Sergeant Gorres is unfortunate. Sergeant Major Brown, who runs in front of him. get some shrapnel in the back. That does not prevent him to lift the wounded man on his back and bring it to the landing back. The reduced patrol continues its path. Warned they are now …

Sunday, April 22

The men return at half past five in the morning again. With the information gathered by the scouts Major Paessens works his plan of attack that needs to be done today.

In the evening gather the men of Battle Group I joined the lock of the Fort Crêvecoeur. Around midnight, three quarters Buffalos (amphibious landing vehicles noiseless motor), manned by British Engineers. They are not noticed by the enemy, although it still has a bright moonlit night.

Be fifteen minutes later the command group and the first and second platoon put ashore at post 26. To leave nothing to chance, the explorers of the past few nights and have been for them the route to be followed and the mine fields lined with poles.

The Buffalo’s return immediately back to pick. Third and fourth platoon Arrive due to technical difficulties which, however, one hour later. On board is an “illegal” passenger, namely L. Laureijssen chaplain, who will have to get the colonel. Permission “No patertje, we only have a chaplain,” he has been told. Much against the wishes of the Laureijssen because they find that “the boys”, he should be. Therefore, this unofficial departure to Hedel.

A dozen British soldiers from the Royal Engineers, assigned to the second and fourth platoon, start checking. Near the landing point for obstructions Which are not or hardly present. They are not geboobytrapped at least (with explosives unobtrusively mounted). Entrained by them mine detectors prove useful.

The platoon set off through the night towards Hedel. Only the first platoon stays behind to guard. The landing The peloton is under the command of Sergeant-Major Brown. Lieutenant Herbrink, the platoon commander, is in England on leave.

Quickly and without difficulty reached the village. It looks deserted and ghostly in the bright moonlight. Ladders and chairs against the facades of the houses. Lets give the Germans the places where mines and booby traps have been made. Caution is therefore required but fortunately nothing explodes.

Some men of the second platoon attack on tripwires, bringing a ring at the destroyed railway bridge in operation. Too bad, know some Germans in the post there to escape now. Some others, on the southern edge of the village, are not so lucky and are taken prisoner. They are totally surprised.

Clearly, in the silent night to hear British and German machine gun fire; British attack at Driel has started!

Quickly take the men into their defensive positions. The fourth platoon in the vicinity of the overpass, east under the road Hertogenbosch – Zaltbommel. The third platoon in the north, above the Drake. The second platoon on the western edge of the village, in and around the ruins of the St. Janschool.

Major Paessens decision to set in a destroyed building that once the proud home of a butcher shop and van den Bogert was. His command post This item, the Small Field, good central location.

Brens sergeant, sergeant major companies of the Battle Group, organizing the defense. The Major and his lieutenants the Rose and Bakers (adjutant and care services) have the “Battle HQ” operational quickly.

Provide the radio communications in the beginning some problems. Corporal F. van Pelt of Signals (link section), along with four others know, a radio with batteries, a wake. 22-set, bear. From the landing point to the Kleinveld A hard and dangerous job. The radio station will be installed immediately and although the corporal has never worked with such a device, he sits right behind the buttons. It is soon made ​​contact with the Brigade Headquarters “on the other side.”

The radio connection with the landing leaves little longer to wait. The radio, a 68-set, does not seem to work. The operator, soldier Slap, knows how to fix the problem. Against daybreak

Monday, April 23

Slowly the light …

The platoon of Brown, at the landing, you first see the enemy. Around half past eight they are startled by gunfire from the direction Ammerzoden. it appears

to go to a group of six men, who remain at about a kilometer away. They dig in the dike.

A patrol of three men from the fourth platoon comes in to land at a German. The man is that he gets away. Refuse stenguns: a common problem and happiness for the deliberate military …

Lieutenant Masthoff, with his second platoon grouped in and around the burned mess of St. Janschool, peering through his binoculars toward Ammerzoden. He suddenly sees men on foot and by bicycle. They are unarmed and dressed in blue. It is eight o’clock in the morning. The lieutenant decided to take a risk and let the governors allocated to his platoon heavy Vickers machine guns emit any warning salvos. The blue figures disappear.

Probably the inhabitants of Hedel been. Farmers, dressed in blue overalls, on their way to their evacuation address to their old, wrecked house. Just to see if there is to find something of value. Sometimes even just to see if the house is still standing …

Similarly, the Thirty Hedel to van Hemert. He comes into the village, along with an acquaintance. Purpose of their journey: a chest clothes in his house at the Prince Bernhardstraat. To their surprise, they see soldiers. It is immediately clear that they are not Germans. “They speak Dutch!” The two men are brought to Major Paessens. This gives us to understand that they must leave immediately. Them “The Germans could at any time launch an attack!”

Meanwhile, twelve British Engineers a new landing point cleared of mines and obstacles. The site is located south of Hedel, along the harbor. It is the place where once the ferry aanlegde and therefore is particularly suitable for the Buffalos. The location is right across from Fort Crêvecoeur. The distance to be traveled in the Meuse is important now shortened. Therefore less risk of enemy fire.

The Mortar Group Battle Group I, at ten o’clock in the “Old Spring” ashore. G. van Dam, a soldier in the Brigade from January, says later:

“The crew of the Buffalo sends the vehicle deftly side where the landing flap with a rattling sound hit the rocks. Quick jump our mortar group ashore, glances around curiously and quickly start unloading the mortar and further equipment and ammunition. We are at a bare stone path that runs along a length of a few hundred meters from the river to the dam, is straight and offers no coverage. on the dike, I see a few men of the brigade run, but for the rest, everything is quiet, at least for a beachhead in enemy territory. at the command of sergeant Major Trienekens each takes his stuff. Except my gun and my backpack, I also wear a mortar barrel and two containers with mortar shells.

Despite the early time of the year, it is already quite warm and sweat quickly gushing down my forehead. Before us, in the direction of the center of the village, now sounds gunfire. In the fast pace we walk the road to the safe shelter of the houses on the dike to come. Once there, walk Trienekens the backyard of the house on the corner of the dike and the main state and orders to dig. Three mortars of the group at intervals of a few meters He points out a few men to dig the pits and shells around it to accumulate. The others, including me, have the landing grenades and other equipment to retrieve landed. By Buffalo’s rapidly During the time that we are doing this was shot only once on us, presumably somewhere from a house on the dyke. ”

The Support Group Captain Post, which include mortars, is well prepared for noon. Just in time …

Around eleven gets Lieutenant Rose command to send to Velddriel and Kerkdriel. Two patrols They will have to do with the British 30 RM contact Some men of the fourth platoon from the viaduct on the way. However, two patrols run very quickly fixed. Heavy fire from Spandaus (German machine guns) from the houses on the dike, east of the station, prevents them from continuing. The enemy has since firmly established. The contact will not be able to come so the threat is beginning to emerge. Established provisionally The operation as a whole is still a chance of success?

At the same time Major Paessens monitors the preparation of the third platoon in the Drake. The groups of houses, orchard and tall weeds, obstruct the view. With the platoon commander, Sergeant Major Huizinga, he discusses a new setup. The Major has just left when all hell breaks loose.

Totally unexpected enemy unit opens the attack. Although surprised, the Irene Men defend itself vigorously.

Observers of artillery, led by captain and lieutenant Gouman Wijnekes give their instructions to the battery, which is situated by Vlijmen, on the other side of the river. The well-directed fire hampered the enemy attack. The mortars do it, even though they have only just installed.

More than an hour it takes bitter fight. Bren Gunner. Grootendorst is hit. His helper is and remains missing. It is assumed that a soldier R.E. van den Beek prisoner is made​​. Unfortunately, exactly six weeks later, his body was found by residents of Hedel.

The situation is hopeless for the platoon. The connection with the headquarters, 38 per set (a small portable device) has been lost. Lieutenant Rose comes running and gives Huizinga command sergeant major to attract men returned to the Roman Catholic Church and along the Zaltbommelseweg. Quickly take the men into new positions. The enemy occupied the houses that have left immediately. Irene soldiers

The Rose runs back to the command post and report to Paessens. The Major wants to see the situation itself. Along with his entrepreneurial “second in command”, he goes to investigate. Paessens is just to the sometimes too reckless lieutenant temper. What Sometimes he lets himself get carried away sometimes. He later says:

“We were in coverage under a wall, the road was under fire from a German machine-gunner Roos challenged me the road to stabbing, he would have to keep the matter in mind, I ran across the road and happy….: that German was just a little too late of course I then called the Rose to get what he obviously did If you later about it here:.. commander and his deputy that a dangerous game to play with a Spandau-shooter “!

The two officers discover that the enemy has now penetrated the Protestant Church in the village.

Sergeant Major Brown has been around noon the order to leave. Ancient landing point by Buffalo with his platoon The men leave behind pole 26 and arrive at the “Old Spring” to land.

It has been thirty as a lieutenant in the Rose he comes up with new orders. Briefly outlines the lieutenant the situation. The 30 men of the 1st platoon must undertake a counterattack and drive the Germans back from the houses. They get this contract amplification of a section (10 men) of the second platoon. Half an hour later, the pack, along with the men’s section sergeant Germans, on the road. The Rose holds the lead in-house.

The fire of the Artillery Battery “across the street”, is extremely precise. Observers of artillery deliver stunning work. The group is now well-mortar shots and give support.

The infantrymen need it. It is a real street fight. House by house to be taken. Hand grenades are thrown through the windows. If a group of Germans trying to entrench in the Protestant Church, they are followed immediately, with fixed bayonets. In the church, man-to-man battles to find. Lieutenant Rose gives the example throughout this action, go ahead, jump over walls, gun in hand. By six o’clock the old positions again. Eighteen dead Germans are counted. Seven prisoner of war be discharged. Six men of the Brigade were injured, one by a bayonet.

The men of the 1st platoon take positions on the northern edge of the village. The peloton Huizinga comes back in the racks at the Drake.

This small success can be bad news, however, not supplant. The command post is the message that the British Marines are beaten back by Kerkdriel on the Meuse. The total operation, with the purpose of the occupation Bommelerwaard, does not go through. However, the commander of the 116th Brigade commanding maintaining. Bridgehead at Hedel

The Hedel to W. Angels has not spoken to the British, shortly before the battles that would follow. From his evacuation address is he going to look, using their breakfast by the side of the Meuse, unaware of the impending danger. With his sister at the soldiers Later he was to have been witness to the debacle. Safety after his sister Shortly thereafter, he knows the Meuse to stabbing and “liberate” themselves.

The same afternoon also killed Sergeant Kraay. The sergeant is classified as a shooter Vickers machine gun (the Support Group Captain Post) in the fourth platoon. From the dike, he has a great vision, but the position appears to be dangerous. He is struck by a bullet from a sniper. His helper, corporal Schepers, injured.

The men of Signals, the whole afternoon in the back with the laying of cables for field telephone connections. A cable is also placed on the Meuse to the Fort Crêvecoeur.

The Buffalo’s sail all afternoon and down. Vehicles are transferred. Also, the anti-tank guns of the support group (six-pounders) arrives in Hedel. The pieces given their position near the command post. Men of Battle Group II help in transferring the material. Ammunition, bandages, technical reserve material, everything is made ​​to order. Material is also supplied for barbed wire. This is used to strengthen. Theses of the third and fourth platoon, along the eastern border,

By eight o’clock is too personal gain. Lieutenant Dill and his platoon of Battle Group III sailed to the combat zone. It is expected that the entire Third Battle Group will arrive tomorrow. The lieutenant and his men arrive in reserve on a farm near the bases of the 2nd platoon in St. Janschool.

That night happens where Major Paessens fear has been, an enemy patrol is able to penetrate through the space between the bases of the third and fourth platoon entered the village.

A section of the third, the Germans discovered happy as fast. Sergeant Major Huizinga immediately asks artillery fire. This support comes quickly, and, as usual, extremely accurate. Moments later, five Germans are found at a farm on the highway. One of them is seriously injured and the others give themselves without any problem. During the interrogations show that a sixth man should be. A search is put on line, where also some people from Lieutenant Dill’s platoon are deployed. The Germans sought is found quickly. The man does after his capture another escape attempt: while he is shot by his captors.

The rest of the night remains quiet but Brigade soldiers remain vigilant …

Tuesday, April 24

The next morning more reinforcements arrive in Hedel. The 1st platoon sergeant major Schoonen and the fourth Sergeant Major Kloots be put on the Meuse. The platoon of Battle Group III have a provisional “recce-position”, which means they can be used for patrol duties. Deployed

Also arrives the support group, under the command of Lieutenant Theunissen. The various sections of this group are added to the sections of Battle Group I. The present two mortar sections are together have six 3-inch (8 cm =) mortars. Placed at the command post antitank sections, have access to four 6-pounder and four 2-inch mortars. Furthermore, there are now two sections with a total of four light 2cm guns. The four Vickers machine guns of the newly arrived support group are assigned to the four infantry platoons. These platoons have itself become a 2 inch mortar.

Major Paessens has a lot of firepower in a small bridgehead Hedel. Especially if you’re there add up the supporting artillery fire. These are the six pieces of Artillery Battery (25-pounders) and more than 20 pieces of the British.

After the arrival of the reinforcements is the message that Battle Group III will not happen in its entirety. This actually means that only the staff of Battle Group III will not be. Beachhead in the operational As it stands now, the bridgehead is not extended and the area is too small for the operation of two battle groups. Therefore Paessens has access to people and material of Battle Group III but kept under one command. The Brigade Headquarters suggests the whole henceforth as the “Battle Group Paessens” to indicate. Strange really, when you consider that this is based on the German system at the end of the war. All kinds of formations and units are then swept through the German headquarters in a heap, and indicated by the wide name: Kampfgruppe. Such Kampfgruppe is then further identified by the name of the commander. Known example is the Kampfgruppe Walther, active in Brabant during Operation Market Garden in September 1944.

Paessens find the term “battle group” seems a bit strange, because he used it only once. That afternoon he will sign an order as “battle group commander Huber.” Huber is the major who had until March 16 Battle Group III on the warrant.

From the north to reach the Hedel A. van Driel village. He, along with his uncle, on their way to the farm at the Korenstraat, as he has done before. In Hooiweg both farmers are under attack. Quickly they turn to but now come to lie. Under German fire The men crawl on their knees towards the road. She could hardly breathe through the choking gunsmoke. If by some miracle they are not touched and know eventually bring to safety.

The day such artillery duels will take place. The different platoons goals by giving. The German artillery was slightly less active, except for the British artillery observation plane is even from the air. From this plane, the positions of artillery, positioned behind the Waal, well to observe. The Germans seem to feel there is nothing to form. A good target for They keep quiet then.

In the area of ​​the fourth platoon is a 1940 dating bunker. This bunker shoot slots in southern direction towards the blown up several months ago, road bridge. Therefore useful for the Germans, so they try to occupy. The bunker They are driven by the section of the Blue sergeant immediately. The sergeant is hereby wounded in the thigh and removed.

Three men with a Bren machine gun stay behind to keep the bunker. Occupied A few hours later the Germans a new attempt. Lieutenant Rueb and some of his men managed to prevent this. Some Germans were wounded and captured. One of them is slain.

By the end of the afternoon filling the hopper is lifted again. The position turns out to be dangerous.

Morning mines are discovered at the landing point. Therefore safety reasons make Buffalo’s no longer the place where first the old pontoon bridge is located. Finding the landings in one place next place, something that is less perfect.

Platoon lieutenant Buisman, the second platoon of Battle Group III, is commissioned to purify the land mines along the twelve British Engineers. The peloton has just returned from Tilburg, where they guarded. Headquarters Netherlands District

At a quarter to six in the afternoon, the “Springbok” (= volunteer coming from South Africa) Lieutenant to Major Paessens reports that his job is done. The Buffalo that afternoon, including two 6-pounder anti-tank guns of Battle Group II have moved to now the usual route to follow.

No minutes later detonated a mine. Not at the landing point, but in the middle of the village. A brenguncarrier runs it and is thrown by the violent explosion upside. Soldier Schortinghuis is half under the four-ton crawler milk and is slain immediately. The other three passengers injured.

Hospital soldier Siem de Waal of Battle Group II sits across the street at the Fort Crêvecoeur. He notes in his diary. The sheets are hidden in his gasmaskertas. Indeed, it is not permitted for safety reasons to keep. These notes to

“Wacky World: slept between sheets and then boys across the street but fight I discover that Cor his pipe, his inseparable pipe, has left and decides to bring him back So I’ll unofficially Hedel The boys are looking good… concealed along the street because there is a bunker shot at them. I’m almost as if Jansen walked through the streets of the bunker told. then I deck but as soon as I can.

There are 17 dead Germans, and they do not give it up. There have been battles of man against man, but now it’s just quiet. Cor has brought the dead together and was just trying to make. Captured a pipe cleaning Small ‘Whoopee “(Brabant) was seriously injured.

The sergeant Kraay is begraven.Werd shot when he received orders to shoot, according to Cor a zelfmoordorder.Arme Kraay. Cabbage in the field from the top of an embankment on the Germans by Cor in the garden

I speak as a doctor, Bakker, which the boys a giant example has been. There is a lot of artillery fire and fall back grenades around us. There is a big fire and the fights are sometimes bayonet. The third unit is now completely over.

Show R. from Cape Town also told me a strange story. They were in the bunker when a German pulled open the door and ordered them out. “He had all of us to shoot for the foot,” said Toon, “We were completely overwhelmed., But he let us run and crawled himself in the bunker.” Incredible escape. This was a special friend of mankind? The man was later found charred with a flamethrower in the bunker.

De Waal is that night in problems of conscience. He goes along with the platoon of Lieutenant van Voorst tot Voorst that on the south side of the river, east of the railway bridge involves propositions. That evening kicks the lieutenant on my shoe. He thereby loses a portion of his left leg. De Waal ties him up and gives him a shot of morphine for the pain. Then follows a difficult trip by stretcher along the embankment, over two kilometers. The lieutenant has severe pain, although he still has the full dose of morphine had. By jeep the wounded officer is taken to the hospital, where the Waal a warning regarding the morphine number. “I ran back to the house with Jan and first redderde my bag back a bit. I then came to a nasty discovery. Because I had one in my pocket morphine and other inde iodine for mild cases. In the dark I did, however, put the needle through the rubber of the iodine bottle and thus iodine given him instead of morphine! and I could not understand that he be kept. in such pain made ​​me worried to death, but there was no plague more to do . Shame! Have iodine never worn in the pocket of that time. ”

Hilarity at the landing point as chaplain Laureijssen comes walking up with a prisoner that he rein with a piece of wood, you know hidden under his coat. The result of a trip to the section sergeant Besouw. A few hours later, the story is already far exaggerated that it’s five prisoner of war!

In the evening the commanders gathered in the “battle-HQ” in the butcher shop. There have been in the position. Few shifts The platoon sergeant major Schoonen In the early evening the statements taken from the third platoon. Sergeant Major Huizinga and people get a well deserved rest and come in reserve in a grove in the center of the village. The platoon sergeant major Kloots occupied from midday a new focal point, namely the farm and orchard Drake, near the theorems of Schoonen.

Major Paessens warns his commanders: “If the Germans not come tomorrow, they never come” He will prove to have equal …

At ten o’clock some enemy artillery fire, east of Bokhoven. Then it gets quiet. All in all it has been a quiet day …

Wednesday, April 25

It was still dark when the men of the fourth platoon are awakened by German artillery, mortar and machine gun fire. Rough Lieutenant Rueb looks at his watch: it’s a quarter past five. Through the radio, he reported the command post that his platoon is attacked and immediately gain needs. The 2-inch mortar platoon starts firing eastwards from the road. The confusion is great. The squad consists mainly of young and inexperienced soldiers. They are well led by the highly experienced section commanders.

One of those sections is almost entirely eliminated as a direct hit from a Panzerfaust strikes. The acting commander, Corporal de Boer, is half blinded by the explosion. He stays with senses and knows how to move to the orchard where is the first section. His group back

Section 2, north of the viaduct, is also surprised. They can only do they get away, covering their retreat with hand grenades. At least one enemy soldier is slain by this.

Will become apparent later, a complete German battalion (about 1,200 men) the attack. The noise of battle is deafening and also creates confusion in the hand.

In his headquarters, Major Paessens trying to form the current situation an image. A threat to the command post can do. Disabling the 4th platoon would The third platoon will have to come into action immediately.

Even before the Major this warrant can pass, calls the Lieutenant Rose: “Major, those guys must be uitgedonderd!” Immediately he runs from the command post. Within minutes he collects ten people (cooks, orderlies, people from the anti-tank section). This improvised group he ran to the endangered platoon.

Along the way someone of mortar group “incorporated”.

The platoon command post of lieutenant Rueb has been occupied almost the Germans. They sit in the garden and have entrenched themselves in the buildings behind the farm. Knows the lieutenant rose to reach the post. Through the field phone, he says the Major, “I’m here, send direct reinforcement, otherwise I’ll lose it!” The situation is critical.

A violent burst of fire, the 2-inch mortar platoon knocked out. Two men are seriously injured. One of them is carried by Rueb and Corporal Tiemersma inside. The other soldier van Veenendaal, will succumb to his injuries the next day.

Sergeant Germans rent the building to ask for his 2nd section help. By a bullet, he is hit from behind and dropped beside his platoon commander at each other. He was killed instantly.

Doggedly trying to keep the enemy. Farm Lieutenants Rueb and Rose with grenades and fire from their guns of Then put the third platoon sergeant major Huizinga the attack. Just in time. The help comes too late for the soldiers and camp Morel. These two men of the fourth are already killed.

Twenty to six may be reported that the enemy attack was repulsed. The third platoon occupied the positions of virtually disarmed fourth.

The section of the killed sergeant Germans still fighting fiercely through on the east side of the viaduct. Corporal Cherry, who has taken over the command, and three men sitting there with two Bren guns and cut off many enemies on the open ground.

Small groups of Germans continue to attack. However, the threat of a major attack concentrated in this corner is over.

Platoon lieutenant Dill, in a farmhouse near the positions of the second platoon (St. Janschool), will go to the command center and stay. Standby there

The fighting is fierce. Well on the other side of Hedel Some groups of Germans are drawn to Hedel back and attack from the west. The second platoon at the St. Janschool is surprised. Lieutenant Masthoff immediately gets all wounded, still own a mortar shell! Sergeant Hillebrand, who immediately takes over the command, in the beginning trouble with his observations because his viewer is filled with the blood of the lieutenant. The peloton knows, however, to keep the enemy. Of an imminent breakthrough is no question.

Also, the 1st platoon, in northern Hedel, is startled. The enemy knows the farm where Sergeant Major Brown and his men entrenched, approaching. Almost unnoticed Suddenly jump a couple of Germans located behind the farm potato heap away from all power firing. The peloton is ready and takes about 20 enemy soldiers under fire. A fierce battle erupts. It succeeds the Germans to shoot. Farmhouse fire The men should look like. Everyone remain calm and under cover of smoke knows the peloton to leave the position. Lossless After the farm was burned, patrols are sent back to the front to take. Old positions again Brown has the situation under control and sends one of its sections to his right neighbor is in trouble.

At a quarter past six, if the concentrated attack on the overpass has stalled, platoon sergeant major Schoonen gets the brunt. Its front section is run completely under the foot.

The section commander and his successor will be wounded and discharged. Soldier Ligtvoet takes the lead. He gives his helper command to withdraw the rest of the section itself remains behind with his Bren machine gun. At least five Germans are slain by his fire. Ligtvoet looks around and sees that the people of his section have withdrawn. Then he decides to also leave themselves. He jumps up and is hit immediately. Wounded, he falls back into his foxhole. A German steel grenade makes a few minutes later to end the life of 23-year-old soldier.

The farm where Schoonen platoon commander’s headquarters is in flames. Requested and received artillery support seems to stop the German attack. If then also the section of the 1st platoon to help comes, he can report at six: situation under control.

Corporal Baker injured caregiver sees the Canadian volunteers walk. “Hey, old man, you’re bleeding like a pig!” “Are you cheated, that’s only half an ear. I did not have a gun anymore and that’s worse!” While corporal connects his ear, he informs the front to allow. “Hey, old man, there are many Germans, do you?” “Are you fooled, that’s not so bad.” “How much do you estimate?” “Well, I think a thousand or

twenty! “Soo was very lucky not!

Also, the platoon sergeant major Kloots, on the farm of the Drake, the hard time. Bren Gunner Tiemstra of the front section of Sergeant Cnossen defends himself immensely. The different sections are scattered throughout the orchard behind the farm.

Half an hour later, around half past six, Major Paessens can provisionally conclude that the great German attack was repulsed. Meanwhile adds Lieutenant Herbrink rejoin his 1st platoon. The lieutenant has returned from leave in England, sailed immediately after instruction at the Brigade Headquarters in Vlijmen. He will lead peloton during the small-scale attacks of several enemy patrols will still go on. All morning When one of these actions himself used the flamethrower, a not very enjoyable and dangerous job.

Meanwhile, the injured carers have stacks of work. One of them, Sergeant G. Fisher, has in his pocket a crucifix. Got a resident of Hedel with the words: “This is the last thing I could get out of my house You are now perhaps more than I do.” When the man was that he came away from the battle field.

Battle of Group III which belongs Fisher, killed that morning the soldiers Sprenkeling and Picokrie. The latter, a Tilburg boy of 20 years, during a heroic action when Bren Gunner. Soldier R. Smith, severely wounded transferred to a field hospital, dies the next day. The number of wounded is so big that the stretchers to be borrowed from Battle Group II, on the other side.

Platoon lieutenant Buisman comes for the second time to Hedel. After the “mine-cleansing operation” of the previous day, they returned to Fort Crêvecoeur. Now they are instructed to Hedel “Thoroughly wipe clean.” The squad consists mainly of veterans of the French Foreign Legion, so it is entrusted to them. The men are very seasoned to work. Near the railway bridge they know to roll a German department: five imprisoned, ten others killed.

German snipers on the bridge, all those days have been the crossing Buffalo’s very difficult to be localized and “cleaned up”.

Comes around noon the contract: beachhead Hedel clear. The news is received divided. One is relieved (“We have never been so bad before us Muffs behind the Meuse”), but also bitter (“where it’s all been good for?”).

Colonel de Ruyter of Steveninck located on board the artillery observation plane circling above Hedel. Below him he sees on the road Zaltbommel – Den Bosch, a major activity of German ambulance cars. A proof of the heavy losses that the Germans should be collected. However, the bridgehead must be vacated. Brigadier Philips has the colonel explained earlier that afternoon: The Marines of 28 RM be deprived of his command; they have been given another assignment. Since, moreover, little insight is more a further offensive action, given the recent developments (the capitulation of the Germans soon expected) it makes no sense “sticking one’s neck out unnescessarily” “Colonel, you must be very proud of your people ”

Indeed, and that is the Brigade Commander.

The whole afternoon is over and over again mortar and artillery fire issued. A real attack is no more. It is noteworthy that the German munitions is of poor quality. The number of duds is amazingly high.

Gelding 45 German prisoner of war be discharged. Soldiers of the Wehrmacht, but also Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. A mixed bag. There also appear to be men of the Waffen SS Grenadier-Brigade “Landstorm Netherlands”. In this “elite unit” Dutch, are led by German officers.

Begin preparations for the trip. Lieutenant Theunissen will coordinate the operation. When it became dark, at ten o’clock in the evening, ships the men of Battle Group I in the Buffalo’s. Meanwhile, firing mortars at the surrounding places Well, Ammerzoden and Kerkdriel. Also backing given by the British marines of 30 RM The crossing takes place without a problem.

The platoon of Battle Group III now begin to withdraw. Similarly, the sections of Sergeant Major Kloots. If the group of sergeant Cnossen withdraws from the orchard behind the Drake, is a soldier van der Geijn hit by a gunshot from a suddenly appearing German patrol. The platoon opens fire. Under cover of that fire Cnossen goes back and takes the wounded soldier on. The soldier narrowly escaped death.

The people of liaison have been working hard the last few days. Two of them, the soldiers van den Bergh and Pappenheim, destroy the radio equipment that remains in the village. Take remains to be impractical. Provides the Pappenheim, placed in the command post Paessens, 22, set of two hand grenades. The projectiles are deducted simultaneously. Lieutenant Theunissen has tried fifteen minutes earlier with his service revolver to destroy the device. The weapon refused … He shrugs, and the idea of ​​”the Germans will that thing still not win the war”, he leaves the post. Later it turns out that he has forgotten the safety of his arms to put …

The lieutenant and two soldiers left with the last Buffalo Hedel. Hedel, which now has become a ghost town … yet heavily damaged, with here and there a wooden cross.

Only soldier of Dune Signals is still in Hedel. He gives the final instructions by artillery. If the latter has crossed the Meuse Buffalo, also keeps his job. He runs into his underpants to the Meuse and jump into it. He is a champion swimmer. The cold, flowing and dangerous river water, he can be the boss. Safe, he also reached the final Brigademan the other side.

Only months later times the inhabitants of Hedel back into their devastated village. Netherlands has risen, so too Hedel. Parts of the old, beautiful Hedel are gone forever in the rubble … The debris which 12th Brigade soldiers lost their lives. They have done their duty. Service on “sacred duty”? Does it matter? Many Allied soldiers also performed their duty, in different places, lost their lives during major or sometimes (seemingly) minor actions and operations. The ultimate goal was the same: “to expel tyranny.”

“Never did I neglect to throw in the direction of the harbor, take a look at passing the bridge over the Meuse at Hedel, and so dead to commemorate. I’m doing this for years, so long that the accompanying thoughts gradually change of short prayer to salute because I have become different because I through alive, they do not, they closed their being young – their lives – what is the good side of the Meuse was – off in April 1945, and 40 years later I’m driving.. always smooth and unhindered from one bank to the other head aside:. Hail (Quote H. Letschert (former mayor of Tilburg and oldest rider of the Irene Brigade) in “I would go so crazy” by Hanny SR Meijler! , Penguin, 1984)

Lieutenant, later Captain, WL Rose, later received the Military William Order 4th class. The soldiers Ligtvoet P. and C. Picokrie were posthumously awarded the Bronze Lion. Major A. Paessens received a Bronze Cross, as well as 1st Lieutenant Masthoff, sergeant Th. Sergeant Major of Besouw, D. Brown, Corporal G. Cherry, Corporal F. van Pelt, Corporal J. Kraay (posthumously), soldier M. van Duin and J. Tienstra soldier. Sergeant injured carer A. Vissers received the Cross of Merit.


The History of the Kings. Ned.Brigade “Princess Irene”, genmaj.tit.VENierstrasz, Hoof Quarter General Staff, Get Historical Department, The Hague, 1959.

Archival Material H. Sonne Mans Best

Archival material Guards Regiment Fusiliers Regiment Collection Princess Irene Oirschot

Witness statements recorded by H. Sonne Mans Best.

Archives C. Angels Hedel


(c) 1998 Museum Guards Brigade and Princess Irene, Oirschot. All rights reserved.Reproduction or shown material is prohibited without the express written permission of the museum.Voor information: Hans Sonne Mans 040 266 5665/5666 or 0499 370 206, Last modified March 5, 1998.