- Contributed by
- Ronald Channing
- People in story:
- Ronald channing
- Location of story:
- Through Europe to Germany
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 19 March 2004
My name is Ronald Channing and as a young Private I was posted as reinforcements to 5 Duke of Cornwell Light Infantry where I was eventually attached to C Company.
OUTWARD JOURNEY TO THE BATTLE FRONT
My journey started at Folkestone where I joined many other soldiers from various Regiments to move in bulk to the German battlefields, we embarked on Landing Crafts,which were controlled by members of the Royal Navy, for the 3 hour or so crossing.
We left harbour under clear sky's to meet up with our escort of Destroyers. Keeping many Landing Crafts togeather was a great feat for the Royal Navy and they managed to get us safely across the English Channel where we arrived at Calais. I remember many of the troops suffered with sea sickness and we were all glad to get our feet on dry land again.
After a good all in stew and a cup of thick Army tea we were ready to continue our journey, this time by Bedford Troop Carriers. Our destination at this time was unknown to us so thoughts of where we were going and of loved ones back home were constantly in our minds.
The route taken from Calais to the front line was down the 200 MSR. This proved a long slow ride in convoy continually stopping and starting, the complete trip proved uneventful, we arrived at our destination after two days travelling. The thing I remember most on that journey was the way the night seemed like day, somebody had come up with the idea of pointing the powerful searchlights up towards the night cloud; this in turn reflected the light and gave the drivers a good view of the road ahead, the procedure was later known as "Montys Moonlight".
Cramped, dusty, cold and hungry we disembarked at our new location, Reichwald Forest, the first noticeable thing was the devastation, and large tree trunks were splintered like matchwood from the many hours of bombardment that had occurred over the previous weeks. However, there was still enough cover to get ourselves reasonably comfortable so that we could het a few hours rest and feed and watered before our next move. The memory of the MBLU supplied by the Royal Engineers is still vivid in my mind.
We were given many briefings, updating us on the situation on the ground and which unit covered which area, C Company was ordered to advance to the front line and relieve the Canadians, who had been in battle for some time and were being withdrawn to enable them to get some rest and relaxation. I was nervous and apprehensive with the thoughts of what lay ahead so got little sleep during the day.
ADVANCE TOWARDS CLEVES
Units left out of battle normally returned to the front line at night, this was considered a safer way of handing over to other units, in our case the Canadians. We began our move towards Cleves on a dry cool night but with the fear and adrenalin this proved to be a long sticky night.
We began advancing across open land spread out in the normal Platoon advance, the progress was slow because scattered everywhere where isolated farm houses, each had to be carefully checked out before we could advance and do a house clearance, in most cases they were abandoned shells of former homes.
On one occasion we came across a farm house that on checking the cellar we found a number of women and children, they were hungrey and frightened. The shock of seeing British Troops coming down the stairs into their hideaway caused many to scream and cuddle the children close to them. After searching them and checking the celler out we continued with our advance leaving the women and children to return to their hideaway.
As we advanced we came to a small town, here we again carried out house to house clearance, this was a slow process and made everybody's nerves stand on edge. It was during this house clearance that our platoon came under fire from a Spandau Machine Gun, there were a couple of snipers also shooting at us and it tiook some time to locate their positions, once located we returned fire and was relieved to be joined by a tank from the 4/7 Dragoon Guards which gave us the support that we badly needed, the machine gun and snipers were quickly seen too. The tank continued supporting us as we finally cleared all the houses.
At the end of the day the town had been cleared and taken, here we took up our defensive positions. It was after this battle that I was promoted in the field to Lance corporal.
One morning the Platoon was ordered to advance on yet another objective, this time we were split up and put into "Kangaroo" vehicles, these were armoured so gave a lot of protection during the move. Although they were noisy and bumped about we could still hear the pings of bullets hitting their sides as we came under machine gun and rifle fire.
The thing that worried most of us was the fact that each Kangaroo had been loaded with 25 pound shells; these were spread around and acted as seats for the soldiers inside. During one exchange of gun fire the Germans brought in an 88 mm gun, this got our range quickly and one of the Kagaroos was hit, the one I was travelling in slid to a halt and we dismounted and returned fire. The Kagaroos that had been hit had to have the 25 pound shells removed from them, this took some time and after restocking the other vehicles we continued on our way.
TAKING PRISONERS OF WAR
Later in the advance i was detailed to go on a fighting patrol, the day was clear so we had to move slowly covering the ground with extreme caution. We saw a bridge in front of us and as we had stopped to accessed the sitution and to check the surrounding area for germans, it was while we were doing this that I heardmen speaking in German, very clear and very close, I shouted "Hands Up" and to our surprise about 5 German soldiers stood up with raised hands, they had been sent forward but had decided to take a break not knowing that the british Army was so close to them. After disarming them two of the patrol escorted them back to our Company Headquarters where they were greeted and interrogated by the Intelligence Corps and our Officer Commanding Major Kitchen who was the first to praise us on our return.
ADVANCE THROUGH HOLLAND
On another occasion we were heading towards a town called Xanton, once on the outskirts we bgan the Infantrymen's nightmare of digging in, the German Army which lay ahead of us was a Panzer SS Regiment, the area directly in front was marked as a minefield and had to be cleared by Royal Engineers, once this had been done we slowly advanced towards the town, we received stiff opposition from the dwefending troops but after a long, hard and tiring battle we eventually entered the narrow streets to out relief the fighting had stopped and the silence that followed was un nerving, although we had taken the outer areas there was still a lot of house to house clearance tio be done but after what seemed an age we finally dweclared the town ours and settled in for what was to be some time.
After a long rest period we began to head North again, we had to go through Holland where it seemed strange to us dirty clothed hardened soldiers that the local people looked as if the war had not effected them because when ever we entered a new villiage or town the locals appeared along the street pavements dressed in their sunday best, children clean and shining waving orange flags and calling out "Tommy".
Once through Holland and again entering Germany we began to see local German women and children waving white flags and displaying large sheets at their windows, it was at this point I began to think the worst was over and the end of the war was in sight.
This feeling was however short lived as we began to advance on the River Naas, it was 3 am in the morning and a cold mist hung over the river and the sky was dark, we began crossing the river by Pontoon Bridghes and as the odd assortment of vehicles some just making it due to damage the sky lit up with illuminations from hundreds of tracer bullets and shells, this proved that we still had a fight or two on our hands and the earlier thjoughts of the war ending soon faded quickly from our minds.
We continued to advance towards another small villiage where stiff opposition was encountered, here we had the support of Crocodile Flame Throwers, these cleared the way for our Kangaroo vehciles to continue the advance and eventually clear all opposition.
The jouney from Folkstone seemed an age away but after many hard periods of battle the message came that the war had been won and all hostilities were over. That day is still the best day of my war years.
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