- Contributed by
- People in story:
- A Surry
- Location of story:
- France, Belgium, Holland, Germany
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 June 2004
Transcript from the War Diary of
Driver A. SURRY 2115302
I started my journey to France on the 19th June 1944, leaving Victoria Docks at 13:00 hours, after leaving our last English Harbour area at Wanstead Flats two days previous. It certainly filled us with delight to see the spirit of the Cockneys of East London who, on our journey to and from the Flats, showered us with cigarettes and sandwiches as our large convoy passed through.
I guessed we must have followed in the steps of the invasion force of D-Day June 6th, however the lads and I were in high spirits and I think fairly confident.
We landed on the beaches between Le Havre and Cherbourg on the 27th June after having a fairly good crossing on a merchant ship, (Fort York) an American tub, which was doing regular journeys as an MTV. I was surprised, to say the least at the absence of the Luftwaffe, as I certainly expected to see some dog fights, but now our allied air forces controlled the skies it seemed, which was all for the best eh?
At the time of writing I have been here in France 8 days, today is the 5th July and have seen some of my first soldiers graves, the first four I saw were those of our own soldiers namely from a Highland regiment. Since then I’ve seen graves belonging to Welsh regiments and on e of a K.O.Y.L.I. who was on his own, buried in a much- bombed church cemetery in the Bayeaux area. It seemed he had, with his comrades, cleared the church of snipers. He seemed to be the unlucky one there.
Now I have had the pleasure of seeing Jerry graves. Maybe I’m a little hard, but after seeing those first graves, this is making up for it. They belonged to six young Germans of 18 who had been killed apparently trying to defend a chateau against the mighty bombs of the A.A.F., yes killed in bombing raids, they must have been, as they had been buried by the NAZI’s on March, 44 and on their graves were the German crosses, and their steel helmets which are left to honour the dead even though they were the enemy.
Since we arrived on this French soil we also have been working hard, and up at advanced positions, making the roads usable again for supplies to be brought up for the tanks before they, led by ‘Monty’, make the big assault on CAEN, quite an important town, which we must take at all costs, and so as you can guess we are being under shell fire quite a lot, but are well dug in and the Wireless operator and myself have dug a hold large enough for the two of us, and drive our light RECCE (Armour Plated) over us, we, through that feel fairly safe from Mortar fire and flying shrapnel which it seems have caused most of the graves on both sides.
Today we had our first casualty. A three-ton truck knocked out by mortar fire. Luckily the driver, who was one of my mates, was not in it, but he lost most of his belongings and equipment.
Today, also while I was in a forward area, I found some German equipment that some jerry had left who was in a hurry you bet. I retained the belt off it, which will come in useful to me. Well except for seeing dead animals, cattle and ruins, don’t think there’s much more to say yet so I’ll just do my guard watch for 1 hour 20 minutes and then sleep and start tomorrow the 6th July to make this a diary, my diary, and it should prove interesting to the reader. A. Surry, In Caen Area,
SIX JULY ‘44
Today we moved a little further to the front line at a place named MOUEN where we continued road making and where the shit here is more heavy but we are still progressing. The weather now seems better than usual, it’s hot and the roads are dusty, a contrast to the hard rain we have been having since we arrived. That, I think has stopped us from advancing more.
Today saw Jerry Tiger Tanks burnt out after meeting our 19 pounder. More ruins and dead cattle.
SEVENTH OF JULY
After a heavy barrage all night we arise to find it quiet and the sun trying to come out from behind the rain clouds. Today we move from the forward area to an area comparatively quiet, where we can do jobs such as washing clothes, cleaning trucks and bathing ourselves, feels good. No casualties yet.
EIGHTH OF JULY
Spent a quiet day in our new harbour resting up ready to go forward again in a day or two. Last night saw A.A.F drop 2000 tons of bombs N of Caen. We are now about 12 miles from there. A quiet game of solo then to bed 21:00 hours.
SUNDAY NINTH OF JULY
Another restful day. We are all glad to hear Caen has fallen, looks bad for Jerry now. I expect they’ve left it mined with booby traps everywhere, we are prepared for it.
MONDAY TENTH OF JULY
Some of our troops go out on job of road making. The rest, including myself, stay in harbour. Nothing exciting to write today.
TUESDAY 18 JULY
For the last week, longer than we expected, we have still been resting. But today, is another D Day for us, we are moving at 12 M. N. and at 6am in the morning, we, with the Desert Rats of the 7th and the 11th Armoured Div, ourselves of course G.A.D, three powerful A.D’s to make an initial assault on areas well past Caen.
I had some very good luck, my Morris truck has done 1,000 miles and the gearbox is expected to go any mile now and it has gone, but, thank Christ, at 2am in the morning, before the assault and consequently a mile or two outside our harbour area. The lads continue on. We are in a field waiting for the breakdown squad, that’s me, my Operator and Gunner. It’s risky, but we are anxious to know how our mates faired, we’ll know soon now.
SUNDAY 23 JULY
Today at last R.E.M.E workshops 12 CPS. Have decided to take my truck to their crock park and see what can be done, in the meantime my two pals have been taken to the Stragglers Post or reception centre where there, they hope to join the mob. As for me, I don’t know what they intend to do. I hope to find out soon.
WEDNESDAY 26 JULY
Well, I’ve been 3 days here in the Crock Park, alone. R.E.M.E here don’t know whether to get me a new truck or try and repair my own. I hope they soon make up their minds as I am getting fed up with no mates, and no mail, although I’ve just found out that my old mob the 70 Field Coy are only two fields away, it’s good to know that anyway and I can go and visit them all. It will be a change, although would sooner be with my mob.
THURSDAY 27 JULY
Today I got to thinking of home, (I guess this being alone makes you a little homesick) and it only makes me hope more than ever that this war will end soon and then? Nothing new happening today, still waiting.
SATURDAY 29 JULY
Well since being towed in from Coloumbs I have stayed in this ere Crock Park at Pronay and it is remaining pretty quiet. I am now part of the 2nd line troops, still no news of the lads or mail from home. I hope my unit don’t post me as MISSING as I have now been away 10 DAYS. I don’t think they’re out of action yet. I have just been able to buy a bottle of good old Barclays Lager, the real McCoy straight from London, it’s the 1st good beer I’ve seen here up to now and as it’s Saturday night I’ll make the most of it, and think I’m drinking it where it was made, in smoke, a good 15 Francs worth.
SUNDAY 30 JULY
Today a D.R was sent out from here to try and CONTACT my unit; he failed but came back with a neat bullet hole in the mask of his headlamp. The sniper was as good a shot as D.R says he was doing 40mph. Shook him a little though. No more sent out, have decided to write to my unit and give them all the details. I should soon hear from them now.
SATURDAY 5 AUGUST
No information about my unit as yet, still trying though. This last week has shown a big improvement on all fronts and what with Rommel out it looks even rosier for us than it has been, since we landed. KEEP GOING (BACK) JERRY. Will now sit back for good drink of BASS, YES SIR, BASS.
SUNDAY 13 AUGUST
Well I am still waiting to hear from my unit, can’t imagine why this mob cannot contact them. Wrote a week ago and have had no reply, therefore no mail either, this is a nuisance, even though since I’ve been here I have seen 3 picture shows and 1 ENSA show I guess I won’t really be content until I contact my own mob. The weather for the last week or two has been very hot which, although it’s best, makes the roads thick with dust, which makes you, when you’re on the move, filthy and gives you a bad throat. We have moved today, to an area S.W of Caen that’s been in our hands for some little time, it’s quiet here now although there are quite a few mines left around, and booby traps in any empty house or barn, so the motto is TAKE CARE. I guess with these 5 MINES you only have to make 1 mistake that’s all. I am wondering if Pat is over here yet, I hope not, but I keep my eyes peeled for his unit all the time. If he’s here it will be good to meet him, if not perhaps its all the better eh?
FRIDAY 18 AUGUST
Today a truck was sent from my unit to bring me in, my truck was classified U.S and so I go back minus a wagon, got a shock to find my best pal Bill Cain had been KILLED IN ACTION, it’s ironic, as he was the only fatal case, but my mob were very lucky to get off so light all told as they have, from what I’ve heard, been in 2 DRMD BATTLES, that is up the front with the guards of our Div, and the shit was flying. Bill died on 11th of August from a shrapnel wound through his chest and heart, he suffered small pain and the words he used were an example of high courage, which the lads won’t forget. They were just “don’t panic lads”, which must have helped them understand their 1st comrades death, I’ll do my best to avenge him, God give me strength.
SATURDAY 19 AUGUST
Visited Bill’s grave today, paid respects, the lads are having a hard earned rest, I moved into a Jerry built hospital which only needed CLEARING UP.
For the last week and more we have moved fast travelling day and night with Jerry fleeing. Today we liberated St. Leger, small French village well in France. Just my armoured truck and 6 sappers attacked a copse infantry fashion and out came 40 Jerries with small arms some are injured bad, others we search have bags of loot. French village go mad with excitement and the scenes are marvellous, everybody kissing, throwing flowers and cheering us as LIBERATORS. We have good feed mainly of eggs and chips and any and every kind of wine.
The Mayor gives a speech in the village square in our honour, it’s also grand to see these simple people so happy now and just us six TOMMIES to share it, this is a good war over here, we then join the squadron again with me taking proof back of a scoop with marks of fire powder around my visor, how a miss is as good as a mile eh? These Jerries by the way, are S.S troops. TUT-TUT.
3 SEPTEMBER 5th YR OF WAR
We are now across the Belgian Frontier and on our way straight to Brussels, which we make and take in little time. The G.A.D took this town, and my Reece Officer and I were the first ones there, as we went to look around as most Jerry had gone, and our armour stayed out until after my Reece O and myself arrived in Brussels Main Square on our own well in front of our columns at 6pm we were mobbed and after the singing and dancing finished, which was most of the night, we slept in hospital under control of FE now.
This has been the greatest moment of my life; it’s too much to put in words all I want to say. BRUSSELS IS ALL OURS AND WE SET EVERYTHING.
6 SEPTEMBER ‘44
Today we pull out of Brussels and are all sorry to go but we must move onto GERMANY VIA BERLIN so we don’t mind too much.
8 SEPTEMBER ‘44
We meet some very stiff resistance at a village just short of the HOLLAND border, a place called BEERINGEN where a bridge across the Royal Albert Canal had been blown. My officer was sent forward to recce the bridge, he took the scout car and myself, it was pretty hot as the BOSCH was shelling and mortaring the bridge approach, but we made it, came back with the details needed and within 2 hours the bridging material was with us and the sappers worked through the night to build the bridge, we are all lucky as snipers were no good seeing as it began to rain hard and visibility was nil thank Christ but it was apart from mortar fire a dirty night for us all.
At the break of dawn tanks were brought up and the guards went in for the kill, they’re fighting now on the other side of the bridge and it won’t take long I’m sure, just a stubborn rear guard action. And one strong armoured div. Can cope with it and then we can go forward again after a well-earned rest. By the way, when I first brought my officer in to recce the bridge I had the honour to dress the arm of a very pretty Flemish girl who had been hit by an SS bullet. She and her family stayed in their cellar all the time the battle was on outside, they would not evacuate NO SIR, they also helped us by telling us the verges had been mined heavily which we soon found out was true.
Prisoners are being brought in now and up to time of writing 500 have been caught and double miles by our freshing guardsman the H*n provides a sorry sight, but the inevitable is happening, our own casualties are being brought in and it’s no picnic, we know that.
Things are clearer now and soft stuff is going over the bridge with supplies for our fighting men. The Artillery say back has quietened Jerry, sending over a terrific barrage. I take a drive through the main street of the village on the other side of the bridge and the enemy have been driven out of the immediate vicinity. Being killed or taken prisoners the battle has finished and we have lost 8 tanks alone, but Jerry has suffered lots more, we have no proper estimate yet.
Since the battle of the Albert Canal we were used as infantrymen to take, with the guards an important place called ECCLES. This was also successful, after our artillery had it in flames; the Jerries came out of their cellars, which the civvies had evacuated. And, after very hard fighting we killed 3000 and took 4000 prisoners, not bad eh?
The enemy are trying hard now to keep us out of Germany at all costs, but our Div. will be there no matter how hard the opposition.
We now move on not directly through the Siegfried line, but to and through Holland where we first of all, with 12 CPS, 20 CPS and the 11 Armoured shell exterminate Jerries V2 weapon, THE ROCKET, which we know are the finest of Buzz-bombs being directed at England, but not for long, NO SIR, and then we’ll be ready for the final round.
22 SEPTEMBER ‘44
Today is the first chance I have had to make a note here since the 17th owing to us having little sleep due to heavy fighting across the Escault Canal and also forcing a crossing of the Rhine at Nijemgen where American airborne troops were dropped in thousands, exact number not known, but they lost a lot of men, although the operation was successful.
We were rafting them across with materials and needs; our casualties were slight owing to Jerry mainly only using infantrymen and grenades to keep us at bay. Prisoners taken were hundreds who were glad to be taken just before HITLERS FUNERAL.
On the way up to these battles we came through a place called Eindhoven, the first town we reach after crossing the frontier into Holland, we have another marvellous reception, being second only to Brussels, I have more souvenirs.
At Nijmengen I met, while waiting with my truck for the Sappers to finish their work, a lovely girl who had evacuated from Amsterdam. She was doing Red Cross work here. She was quite rich and self-supporting, as her parents were well to do.
I had a very nice time with her and when I went she simply said, “let me come too”, I told her, “I really wish I could”, but that’s not possible, she was 25. She asked for my address, which I proudly gave her. Will she write? MAYBE. I should have told you her parents were in Amsterdam, she, on her own.
SUNDAY 1 OCTOBER
Well, we begin another month and Jerry still fights on, only fewer now with his last dying strength.
The battles here at Nijmengen are equally as hard as the Tilly-Caen to-do was, MAYBE FIERCER.
What’s holding us up now?
This; we were going strong up to Eindhoven and then the HUN let this Armoured Column through, but when it came to supplies, R.A.S.C in soft transport, we caught them from the flanks. It’s evident he’s trying to isolate us, and the supply route keeps opening and closing hour after hour. Our supplies are scarce, but this is the laugh, we have captured GERMAN RATIONS, enough to feed us for months and months, so we concentrate on getting heavy stuff, guns and ammunition through, this we can cope with and really our danger is nil, although it may seem bad.
British Paratroopers have linked up with the American Force recently in the Arnhem Area. We must now get through to them soon to armour, which can be used so effectively as only Huns know, as to them we are Churchill’s Butchers.
We engineers can now only wait until our Guards and PBI’s force a decision, we hope and expect it soon now.
12 NOVEMBER ‘44
We are in November now and, after being in good billets, while we were making the roads around usable for tanks, and all kinds of armour to get through, we move toward Arkan, we crossed the German border on the 14th of November.
So this is Germany, where the German civilians are cringing, mothers crying, children of 12 to 16, some happy, some arrogant, they have probably lost their fathers and brothers on one of Germany’s numerous fronts. Some pitiful stories we hear but when we think of our own town and the way these same people felt when they saw in their minds almost certain victory, now it’s another story so them one and all.
The Service Corps are busy here moving them back to give us ease of movement in a long trek through that we hope will come soon, you get a queer feeling here in enemy country, sleeping in German houses and most important of all keeping your wits about you for your own good all the time.
The name of this place is Gangelt, just forward from the first German village over this section of the border Weir. Yes Germany at last after 5 years of waiting. It feels good.
XMAS DAY 1944
This is the first time I have felt like writing for a month but our work in that period has carried on, what with mine clearing in Susterselff, that’s near Gangelt, where it’s the first time I have seen dogs used for that purpose, and more road repairs, it’s work for Sappers. But I, being a driver find these times a little easier but I have my share of excitement when I go forward with my troop Officer setting traps for German Patrols as the front now is not moving much while this weather is so bad. It’s mud, mud, mud, rain, rain, rain, day in, day out, still we can wait a little longer now although there’s little time to think about it.
We have been living too, in very good billets in a place named Geleen, where among other things we had an investiture dinner, a treat we all enjoyed. Our Xmas has been spoilt now as we moved from Geleen on Xmas eve for active ops. on Xmas day, bad luck eh? And we were so will in with these Dutch people who are so near Germany, just 8 km from the border into Gangelt and Germany proper. Never mind it can’t be helped, yes we were all celebrating Xmas eve, I was lucky, kept sober (just). Most of the mob were drunk and going in the line 7am on Xmas day. It is not their fault though as this move is an emergency, as you may guess. What will it bring?
We have been briefed; this is it, a move back to Belgium to where we must fill in any gaps that appear where the Germans may break through. They have broken through once, giving the Yanks a tanning. The B***h are threatening two of our main supply towns in Belgium which we must hold at all costs, they are Nevanne and Leige, if we lose these the H*n may even take Brussels and that would mean our armies going right back to France, with no supply points left for us in Belgium of real importance, but we are all sure we can hold the Hun. So for now a MERRY XMAS from the front.
30 DECEMBER ‘44
Well we are nearing the end of the year and I can honestly say a lucky one for us. The crisis is now over on that last sector and we can all breathe again freely thanks to the Yanks and PBI’s, who were in the fray at Xmas time, and there were no gaps for us to fill, and we were left in reserve.
2 JANUARY ‘45
The New Year is in and we find ourselves in Kumtich some 20k from Louvaine, it’s quiet here, and we are still in reserve.
7 JANUARY ‘45
Today I go to Brussels on a 48 hour leave, the first leave since landing, I visit the brothels, they’re new to me and my-my I certainly find them interesting!
Well we are still Kumtich, Belgium taking it easy just doing a job here, a task there as Sappers do, we will soon be moving again, now that the weather is clearing up.
We move today into Holland, a place called Vougat, where, from there we are going in, along with the heavy armour to smash our way through the Reichswald Forest, that part of the Seigfried Line that is very heavily defended, from Vought here we for 2 days to make our final preparation.
We move up just us Sappers of G.A.D to, if necessary do any more clearing and fill in craters and generally make the big advance possible. The B***h is sending over bags of shells and mortars, he’s not kidding, our artillery are giving him twice as much back so the din is terrific you bet.
Today at last under cover of darkness, the Sappers are going forward mine clearing, my job in the light recce is to get in front of them, and with my troop Sgt. On the Bren in the turret give them any protection needed if it does get sticky, it’s sweaty work for all of us, the Sappers of course are walking, and all our other transport are staying back. I had a narrow escape, my truck leading the Sappers drove over 4 Box Anti-tank mines in the road, but as luck would have it they were dummies, I, and all of us breather again. Of course we are now in the region of the Reichswald Forest and when we have finished these tasks the armour will drive right through to strike a heavy blow at the Hun.
Today is the time chosen for the attack to go in and in we go along with the 2 Btn. Welsh Guards, for the big fight, HOW WILL IT END? At 3pm we are well in, the barrage now is terrific, us Sappers are forward, the guards on our heels just waiting for trouble, and here it is. Just on our left flank of this forest, movement has been noticed and a platoon of infantry, go out to find out what it is. They bring in a few Hun. I am driving all night tonight guiding up the mine-cleared lanes. Tipper lorries with hardcore to try and keep the lanes usable, it is hard; we naturally show no lights which makes it harder.
Well it’s now morning but still no sleep for me, my Officer wants to got to a Joe Group, after that breakfast, and then more road recce’s. I guess this job must be done so no complaints, then forward again to carry out same programme, it’s exciting never monotonous, no sir, what with the shell and mortar fire too, never a dull moment. I have just picked off a Jerry stiff, a belt with a Browning Pistol attached, it’s a corker. I am feeling tired but have felt worse many times over here. News has just come in that all our objectives were taken as planned, our casualties were very small.
Another round to us British. By the way I find time to write this in my recce car, every minute I get to spare, for 2 days I have not washed, that’s not bad considering where we are and what we’re on.
Up to date the battle has been going good; we have taken Gennep, Gommersum, Kessel and Goch.
Today the Micks, Irish Guards went it, they walked into a cunning H*n trap and 60 percent of a battalion was cut up badly, they included 2 majors of 2 companies killed as well as other Warrant Officers too bad, the place they tried to take was Vrij, pronounced vree.
While battles are going on around us, we have the job of keeping supply routs open in front here, we of course do well for food from these German Farms which although mostly rubble, still contain, Pigs, Chickens and poultry of all kinds, very good eating these days you bet.
Received word from Pat telling me he’s keen to join me, seem my O C who puts me on a months probation, as he puts it, I may be a bad influence on Pat with my old record, you see out here I am pulling my weight however the OC admits that, but wants to be sure.
Have now been in action more than 3 weeks, it’s been very shifty for us, the roads and verges so thick with mines that we must go in front mine clearing. Lost 2 Sapper pals through shell and mortar fire, 2 more seriously injured, yes it’s been hard the last month for us all, but we’re slowly progressing to our objectives, that is, Wessel Bridge across the Rhine. We have heard of course that all the Rhine bridges have been blown.
It’s queer when you think of it, last night we were again so close to the H*n while we were bridging a 50 ft gap that our 19 sets could easily hear the Jerry sets, it only goes to prove how necessary it is to send all your messages in code form, incidentally the worst offenders of this essential rule are the Officers who quite frequently don’t bother about code but just give over an ordinary message, which is very bad security. We have been shelled and mortared badly lately apart from casualties through mines; we should go back for a rest any day now.
Yesterday my pal Joe caught 2 prisoners while he had his trousers down shitting, was he surprised, found out later they both had loaded rifles. Truth?
We withdraw for a rest from this hell of a Hochwald Forest through to Wessel, which was our objective, and which we took.
Sees us in Kessel
Still in Germany, a town blasted to the ground, but we find, among the ruins furniture and other domestic utensils, with them, in what is let of these houses we make our homes for a while.
I lost my scout car to another driver after falling out with my MT corporal, never mind perhaps through that, I can get a better rest as it has been no picnic believe me. I think I’ll try D.R’s work now for a change.
We move today and this is roughly the plan. A set of 3 bridges have been built over the Rhine by Corps troops and our job is to punch over and get through any opposition that may be there, we crossed the Rhine on the morning of 1 April, not a fool’s day for us. As yet we have not met much hard fighting.
The last week has seen us in very hard fighting, the worst since Normandy Days. From the Rhine where we crossed at Recce for a few miles, all was okay and then it happened we find we are up against a German Brachute Armies the 5-6 and the 26th and now after heavy fighting in which we have lost 5 more men and 2 vehicles through point blank shelling, we have built six bridges that way and are now only 30 miles from Bremen. We have lost lots of guards but have so badly mauled the Jerries that the 5-6 has withdrawn leaving the Brachute Army to hinder us with demolition.
There’s lots of food here, these Jerries are far from hungry and they look fit, we are eating eggs, bacon, pork, milk and much more than we need, the only worry is time to eat it, and in a safe place as there are shells and mortar in plenty. I am spare man at present, but am kept busy one way and another.
We moved up some 8-mile today nearer Bremen, not bad eh? And the G.A.D are forcing them back, hard and fast.
I have omitted saying that when we left Kessel on the 28th of last month, a new Officer joined us who was a smashing chap as our old Officer was promoted and left us for Intelligence Corps.
Now our new Officer is dead. It happened like this. We were forward troops, that is to say, up with the tanks and infantry to clear any obstacles. I was driving my truck again, as this Officer was pleased with my work. I had been by his side al day, and then we went in front of all to look and measure a crater that would need filling in by the Sappers before the tanks could proceed. A sniper had him, shot him right through the head, he didn’t suffer, I could do nothing for him but pull him out of the way and apply a dressing to his head. I was very lucky this — LUCK HOLD OUT! We were all sorry to lose him so early.
The place we were after Rottenburg is now in our hands, at least the 53rd Division took over just as we were going looking, too bad for us. Before this we took Visselhoyde and took 1000’s of prisoners, we are now sitting on the main Bremen Hamburg Autobahn, a two days rest, then Bremen, which is no more than a few kilometres along this main highway, which we have cut.
Today we lost another good pal who was very unlucky. He was walking along a tank track about a foot deep and he trod on an S mine, he did not suffer though thank God, any of us might have done the same. I took his job over; he was buried in the Div. Cem at Zeven.
In the last 2 days we liberated a P.O.W camp at Westakempe, where we released 7000 Yank and British Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen. We then went to Saintorstel to another camp which was disease ridden, only the medical were allowed in.
1 MAY ‘45
I am just about to go on leave away from all this, what a treat!
I go home on the 4th as my birthday was on the 3rd and had a very good time, also was glad to be home on V.E day, that was the 8 May ’45 everybody went mad, yes sir, and now I go back to occupy in Germany, but with no shells or shit flying.
We have fought and won on this side, but the cost has been heavy so just a thought for our comrades who fell by our side, and who helped to make this possible for us.
GOD BLESS THEM
Dvr Surry A
19 June ‘44
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.