get to grips with the enemy and we always had to check when fighting flared up on their sector to be assured it was not the first-stage of a co-ordinated German attack that would involve us.

The Division now under command of the Second Army moved on 7 December 1944 to Stein, north of Maastricht. The German's Ardennes Offensive began on the 16 December and on the 17th the Battalion moved to Gillrath just three miles north of Geilenkirchen and now within the frontiers of the Reich (the first battalion of The Royal Scots on German soil). The 52nd Lowland Division was now positioned to the south of the Heinsberg salient which had to be held to prevent an 'Ardennes type' of assault which could threaten the British Second Army. The Battalion had been hurriedly moved forward to take over this sector of the line manned by a make-shift battalion of troops formed from drivers, cooks and administrative personnel. During the first few nights, enemy patrols penetrated through all our positions right up to battalion headquarters but we quickly organised ourselves to counter this aggressive patrolling with fighting patrols. It was here that we first used our two patrol dogs and whilst they would ignore dead bodies they quickly picked up other human scent and this alerted the patrol leader to take cover until he could determine whether friend or foe, giving him time to decide to intercept or not.

In Lysander over the German lines

It was during this time of intense patrolling by ourselves and the Germans [apparently German commanders had been told to keep the British troops busy and fully committed during the Ardennes offensive] that I was unable to persuade the commanding officer to allow me to try and get a seat in the Lysander aircraft based at Division HQ which regularly reconnoitered across the divisional front. He thought it was too dangerous! I had proposed to try and get answers to some of the patrol tasks that were set down for that night and hopefully to confirm the information we had about enemy positions and their defensive wire.

On 30 December we were re-deployed to strengthen the Division's defences when a major German attack was launched at Geilenkirchen. We took up a defensive position based on Bruggerhof, on the right flank of the Second British Army ('Right of the Line!') and linked up with the American Army. The C.O. had direct orders from Commander XII Corps 'no matter what happens, no withdrawal'. It was here that our forward platoons came under heavy and demoralising fire from a Nebelwefer rocket projector, referred to as the 'Screaming Minnie'. It had not been encountered too often but it must be remembered that 'rocket technology' was in its early stages of use but this formidable weapon had a range of 10,000 yards and could rapidly fire ten high explosive shells. I knew it was towed behind a half-track vehicle and its role was to dart in and out of prepared firing positions to launch surprise demoralising attacks and thereby exploit their devastating and deadly high-explosive fire power. We only located the Nebelwerfer through the alert observation of our forward infantry platoons taking compass bearings of enemy fire and in this particular case the quick reaction and appreciation of the situation by myself at Battalion HQ.


 


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