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61st at Arnhem, April 1945

by Lieut. E.F. Burkart (Intelligence Officer, 61st at Arnhem)
(Back Badge, 1948)

The plan was for the 56th Infantry Brigade to secure the south-eastern part of Arnhem, through which the remainder of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division could then pass directly across the Neder Rijn. The 61st was to be the Assault Battalion across the River Ijssel, a front of some 3000 yards which included 4 German strong point. A simultaneous assault by all 4 rifle companies was planned: "D" Coy. (Major C.L.C. Roberts, MBE) in 3 LCAs were to capture "The Spit". A few hundreds yard to the west, "C" Coy. (Major A.M. Munday), using Buffaloes, would capture sheds and move to the Silk Factory building, known as "Power House." "A" Coy. (Major H.J. Lovett), also using Buffaloes, were to assault the old fort at Scheisprong, close to the destroyed rail and road bridge across the Ijssel. East of the bridge, "B" Coy. (Capt. B.C. Covin-Cohen) in RE stormboats, would seize the orchard near the brickworks. The Carrier Platoon (Capt. R.D. French) would give covering fire against the fort for "A" Coy's. attack.

12th April 1945 - Typhoon attacks were made by the RAF on various targets, including a rocket attack on the fort. At 8.40pm (H hour minus 2) the artillery barrage began. An integral part of the plan was the blowing of a gap in the bund (artificial high bank) by the sappers so that the Buffaloes of "A" and "C" Companies could take to the water directly opposite their objectives. Charges were laid, but failed to work satifactorily, due it was thought to the wires being cut during the Typhoon attack.

Thus it was that at 10.40 pm - H hour - under a cold and clear night sky, lit by searchlights, the carefully laid plan went wrong. Is it to the credit of the careful briefing and determination of the platoon commanders that the assault was made at all. The simultaneous assault of 4 Companies became an assault by "D" Company, when the engines of "B" Coys. boats would not start! But at 11.10pm "B" Coy. made their assault, due not least to the organisation and ability of CSM Trawford, who was awarded the MM for his part in the operation. Then "A" and "C" Coys crossed the river in 3 Buffaloes that had been man-handled over the bund.

Once the assault was under way, the objectives were taken and cleared. Capt. R.V. Cartwright (2 i/c "A" Coy.) had captured 60 fully armed Germans hiding in the fort, more or less single-handed. By 3 am om 13th April all objectives had been secured. The 2nd Bn SWB and 2nd Bn Essex Regt. then passed through and on into Arnhem itself.

The Battalion casualties were 2 officers slightly wounded, 3 men killed and 27 wounded. The GOC 49th Division (Major-General S.B. Rawlins) visited the Battalion at Arnhem and stated that the capture of Arnhem was due almost entirely to the 2nd Glosters assault and 4th Bn Lincolnshire Regt for dealing with a group of fanatical German paratroops in the town.

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Private Fred Tennant. Died 13th April 1945. Aged 21. Son of Frank and Ann, of Elmet, Yorkshire. Buried at Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands. 2nd Battalion.

Private John Howard Beebee. Died 15th April 1945. Aged 18. Son of John and Lilian, of Wolverhampton. Buried at Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands. 2nd Battalion.

Corporal William Cecil Gravett. Died 22nd April 1945. Aged 35. Husband of Marjorie, of Thornton Heath, Surrey. Buried at Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Netherlands. 2nd Battalion.