- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ray Griffiths
- Location of story:
- England and Germany
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 February 2004
Raymond William Griffiths born 2nd August 1926 - I received my Enlistment papers together with my birthday cards in 1944 and joined the Worcestershire Regiment at Norton Barracks at Worcester on 17th August1944.
It was there that I first met Tom Freeman from Leamington Spa and Cedric Holdnall from Lye Stourbridge. As everyone is listed alphabetically we were allocated the following numbers :-
Pte C Holdnall :- 14822242
Pte R Griffiths :- 14822231
Pte T Freeman :- 14822222
Twelve weeks training at Norton Barracks followed by six weeks at Crickhowell near Abergaveny eventually led us to embarkation to France on February 17th 1945, all this time we had remained together and were good friends.
Bear in mind that “D” Day was June 6th 1944 and that the Allied forces had reached Brussels and were preparing for the continuation of the war into Germany, the book “Overlord” by Max Hastings describes the events of this part of the war which the three of us were fortunate to miss.
When we arrived in Belgium at a small town called Haacht a few miles North of Brussels the three of us together with others were posted to the 1st Battalion The Herefordshire Regiment who were part of the 159 Brigade attached to the 11th Armoured Division.
While standing in line with others an NCO directed a number of us to join “C” COMPANY. At “C” Company again we lined up together this time an NCO said “You two (Tom and Ray ) report to No 13 Platoon and you (Cedric) to No 14 Platoon. This was the only time we had been separated and it would have such a profound effect upon our future.
Shortly after this the Herefords with the 11th Armoured Division on the night of 28th March crossed the River Rhine at Wesel and after several engagements and one major battle at the Teutoburger Wald on the 1st April we reached the River Weser on the 5-6th April. All the bridges had been blown by the retreating German force and “C” Company and “B” Company crossed this fast flowing river in rubber assault boats and formed a bridgehead on the east bank. A short time later No 13 and No 14 platoons set out to
clear the area ahead. No 13 with Tom and Ray moved up the road leading from the demolished bridge while No 14 with Cedric moved through an adjoining orchard. Both platoons came under heavy machine gun fire from a distant farmhouse No 14 platoon taking the full brunt of this.
We returned to the bank of the river and about half an hour later two of our Medical Orderlies suitably identified with a Red Cross flag, walked up to the farmhouse met the Germans and negotiated the removal of the dead and wounded. We learned later that Cedric had been killed with one other and four others wounded, one of these the section Corporal died of wounds later.
A sad day at Schlusselburg on the River Weser, we had lost a quiet and gentle friend.
The 11th Armoured Division moved onwards and after the trauma of the release of the internees of the horror camp at Belsen and the crossing of the River Elbe the war came to a conclusion during the early days of May 1945. After serving as part of the Occupation Force in Germany return to civilian life was a great relief. The next part of this story is one of sadness and success when I searched some fifty years later for the final resting place of Cedric which is entitled “THE SEARCH FOR CEDRIC”.
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