The Battle of ’s-Hertogenbosch

Part Three — Getting into the City

The 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment and 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment of 158th Infantry Brigade were to advance along the railway during the night and get into the north eastern edge of the city by first light. The 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment was then to clear the northern part of the city and capture the River Dieze bridge (u) in the western edge while the 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment pushed into the city towards the Canal and River Aa bridge in the centre (v). Simultaneously the 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers was to push down the road and capture Hintham with a view to entering the factory area of the city from the east and capturing the Canal bridge (x) towards the eastern edge. To assist them 6th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers from 160th Infantry Brigade was to advance on Hintham from the north and occupy the village during the night of 23rd/24th October. The Artillery fired a programme involving over 200 guns in support of the renewed assault.

Plan for the capture of the bridges

Major General Ross' plan for the capture of the bridges over the River Dieze, River Aa and Zuid Willems Vaart Canal on 24th October 1944. [© Ian R Gumm, 2016]

During that night Brigadier Sugden was taken ill as he was about to deliver orders to his Brigade and Major General Ross stepped in to issue the orders himself. Brigadier Elrington of 71st Infantry Brigade took over temporary command of 158th Infantry Brigade for this assault.

The 6th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers began their advance on Hintham at 18:30 hrs and by 22:00 hrs their A Company, which had outflanked the village, entered it from the west. Here they held out through the night against continuous counterattacks aimed at driving them back out.

The 71st Infantry Brigade left of the Nijmegen — Den Bosch road faced some particularly fierce resistance, particularly in the village of Nuland.

In the early hours of 24th October the 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment and the 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment began their night march along the railway under artificial moonlight, searchlights shone onto the clouds. This went well despite the difficult going and by 04:30 hrs the leading elements had reached the north eastern edge of the city.

The 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment pushed through their AOR and a platoon rushed over the River Dieze bridge towards the western edge. This platoon was shortly thereafter engaged by a self-propelled gun which was promptly knocked out by an anti-tank gun from the 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment; the anti-tank guns of the 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment had not yet come forward. The platoon across the canal was then cut off when the bridge was blown behind them. It is not known whether the Germans managed to detonate charges under the bridge or the bridge was blown up as a result of the charges that the 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment had removed shortly after their initial capture of the bridge and left on the roadway crossing over it. Whatever the cause, the bridge was now impassable and the platoon of the 1/5th Battalion the Welch Regiment was cut-off. The platoon was then engaged by two further self-propelled guns and pinned down; many of them were subsequently killed or taken prisoner later in the day when the survivors were captured trying to get back across the river.

To their left, in the centre and towards the eastern edge of the city, 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment engaged a German column that withdrew into the city from the east along the Hintham road. They took a heavy toll before pushing onwards toward the Canal bridges. By 11:30 hrs they were joined by a Squadron of tanks from the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards that had made its way down the railway line. Supported by these tanks 1st Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment attempted to capture the two bridges over the River Aa and Zuid Willems Vaart Canal in line on the road leading from Hintham. The River Aa bridge was taken intact, but the bridge over the Zuid Willems Vaart Canal was blown. This Battalion then took up positions between the two canals.

The 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers supported by two Squadrons of tanks from the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards advanced as planned along the Hintham road and by 11:00 hrs they had passed through the village, relieving Capt Robert Marsh's hard pressed A Company 6th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Capt Marsh, a Canloan Officer attached to 6th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers, died of wounds shortly thereafter and is buried in Uden War Cemetery. The 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers continued to press on towards the factory area which they entered in the early afternoon. They then established liaison with the 1st Battalion, the East Lancashire Regiment and the two commanding officers conferred. The bridges over the Zuid Willems Vaart Canal had all been destroyed, but the lock near the bridge at the eastern edge of the city was still intact. It was agreed that the 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers would attempt to cross the canal via the lock.

At 16.45 hrs Major John Dugdale's A Company 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers supported by the flame throwing Crocodiles of Lieutenant Andrew Wilson's troop from 141st Royal Armoured Corps Regiment (the Buffs) made the mad dash across the lock. They managed to get across and overpower the enemy position in a house on the far bank.

A Coy 7 RWF crossing the lock

Major John Dugdale's A Company 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers storming the lock at 's-Hertogenbosch.

They were quickly followed by B Company 7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers and a strong bridgehead on the far bank was formed. This was held throughout the night during which the 555th Field Company Royal Engineers constructed a Class 40 bridge over the Zuid Willems Vaart Canal.