In the closing months of the Second World War in Europe, T Force was assigned the task of securing enemy military, scientific and industrial sites of interest to Allied intelligence. The following history written by the T Force teams after the end of hostilities documents these attempts at capturing the Germany's technological secrets.
HISTORY OF 'T' FORCE ACTIVITIES IN 21 ARMY GROUP
- History of 'T' Force Activities in 21 Army Group
- Appendix 'A' - Staff Organisation and Order of Battle
- Appendix 'B' - Chief of Staff, HQ 21 Army Group Policy letter on Securing of Special Targets by 'T' Force
- Appendix 'C' - 'T' Force pass and special authority for 'T' Force guards
- Appendix 'D' - Details of CIOS Groups
- Appendix 'E' - 'T' Force activities in Second British Army
- Appendix 'F' - Story of First Canadian Army 'T' Force
- Appendix 'G' - Activities of reconnaissance platoon of 5 KINGS during the closing days of the campaign
- Appendix 'H' - A diary of 'T' Force operations in KIEL
THE FORMATION AND ACTIVITIES of FIRST CANADIAN ARMY 'T' FORCE
PHASE I - FORMATION
It all started one day towards the end of February 1945 when Lt Col WREFORD BROWN breezed into our spacious offices at St. Jean Barracks, BRUSSELS, carrying an enormous sheaf of papers; these he declared to be highly secret and confidential and asked the Adjutant to lock them up for him whilst he had tea.
We knew the commanding officer 5 KINGS of old, and we also knew what 5 KINGS were doing at the time; this sudden burst of security mindedness on the part of the officer commanding made us curious and without further ado we tackled him on the subject.
"Haven't you heard?" he said, obviously confident that we hadn't. We reassured him that the secret was not yet out.
"Where can we talk?" he queried, in his best cloak and dagger style, at the same time glaring suspiciously at the host of officers innocently munching buns and drinking tea. His infectious spirit gripped us at once, and nodding knowingly we led him away to the commanding officer's den.
Once inside and after a furtive glance around to ensure there were no hidden 'mikes' or that Adolph himself was not listening at the keyhole, he relaxed, and plunging his hands into his pockets whispered "'T' Force".
We held our breath but said nothing, hoping we didn't seem to appear too stupid.
"'T' for 'Target'" he explained, interpreting our rather codlike expression correctly.
"Ah" we replied guardedly, hoping this was not his last word on the subject. It wasn't.
From this point onwards Lt Col WREFORD BROWN's mood became more expansive and less like Sherlock Holmes trying to educate Watson in the art of deduction. After twenty minutes he had put us in the picture - roughly - over his own battalion's activities, and had thoroughly whetted our appetite for further particulars. There was, it seemed, a chance of our being made into a 'T' Force also. Hope had been born anew.
On 27 February 1945 we were officially informed by Headquarters L of C that we were to constitute one of the 'T' Forces of 21 Army Group in the near future, and that there was to be a conference on the subject at 5 KINGS headquarters on 2 March 1945.
The commanding officer, the adjutant, all coy commanders and coy seconds-in-command duly attended the conference where our future was unfolded in a series of short talks by the staff of the branch at 21 Army Group known as "G(T) & CW" - we noted these initials as they sounded impressive.
We left the conference late that afternoon, our heads swimming and our arms full of papers and "Bibles", but quite clear on the following facts:-
(a) That we were to be the Second Army 'T' Force;
(b) That we had under our command:-
805 Smoke Coy Pioneer Corps;
810 Smoke Coy Pioneer Corps;
845 Smoke Coy Pioneer Corps;
19 Bomb Disposal Coy RE;
(c) That there was a lot of preliminary work to be done;
(d) That time was short.
It became obvious at once that the intelligence section was going to be the hub of the whole thing, and we immediately set about building it up. The Pioneer sergeant was detailed to make enormous mobile map boards, giant drawing desks with all their myriad drawers and shelves were somehow 'acquired' and in short time things were really humming.
The indications were that all coys, and probably platoons, would be widespread, so signing became a top priority. Hundreds of signs for all coys were prepared by the untiring Pioneer platoon. Small and compact they had to be rather than large and bulky, so as to ease the transport problem.
Conferences were held with commanders of smoke coys and the bomb disposal coy; G1098 problems were thrashed out, the pooling and general distribution of transport throughout the force was agreed. That thorny problem 'communications' was discussed over and over again; line would obviously not be practicable, but we had 19 and 22 sets and plenty of despatch riders. Would the distances be too great for wireless? No-one could say, but the chances were that they would. Every possibility was explored and experiments carried out. Meanwhile the intelligence had prepared their maps and had pin-pointed our targets; briefs were prepared for platoon commanders and the various types of targets were studied by coy commanders and all concerned.
Local coy exercises were prepared by the second-in-command and carried out by all coys in turn. These were chiefly concerned with taking over factories and testing out means of communication, and general coy operational and administrative arrangements. Excellent facilities were afforded by some empty factories which we discovered locally, and valuable lessons were learned.
While all this was going on, a serious problem had arisen over transport. The GSO2 called in and delivered the bombshell personally, thus spoiling what had started off by being a rather lovely spring day. It seemed that smoke was going to be used right up to the last in support of the advancing armies and that in consequence our allotted smoke coys might not be available to move with us. This would completely stymie us for transport, as the large amount of transport owned by the smoke coys was to be allotted evenly to all coys to make them self supporting and completely mobile. However, at present it was only a possibility which had to be borne in mind.
Apart from this possible difficulty everything seemed to be running smoothly. The Intelligence section got its information room crammed full of interesting data and marked maps, on which we followed our proposed line of advance. The signs were ready, three interpreters had arrived, and the coys had all had a limited amount of training for the tasks ahead. It was now a question of polishing off final details and waiting for the starter's pistol.
One fear that had been lurking in the backs of our minds was that with all our commitments in BRUSSELS, when the time came for action - the notice we knew would be short - we should not be able to disentangle ourselves quickly enough from the BRUSSELS web. We knew that our counterpart, the 5 KINGS, were uncommitted and ready at a moment's notice and efforts were made to put ourselves in a similar position. As time went by, however, and the big crossing of the RHINE took place, we were still heavily committed with no prospect of relief, and we became greatly alarmed at the possibility of being left at the post.
The blow finally fell at 2145 hrs on 28 March 1945 when the commanding officer was summoned to 21 Army Group for an urgent conference and told of the big switch-over. The Second Army 'T' Force was wanted at once in view of the rapid advance; our presence was demanded. There was only one solution. We were not immediately available, and 5 KINGS were. Thus it came about, literally overnight, that we ceased to be Second Army 'T' Force, and became First Canadian Army 'T' Force.
The issue was not in fact as clear-cut as that, as it was decided, in view of the immediate heavy 'T' Force commitments for Second Army, compared with the more long-term 'T' Force commitments of First Canadian Army, to put under command 5 KINGS, two coys of 1 BUCKS plus the second-in-command as detachment commander. By 2300 hrs that night, therefore, First Canadian Army 'T' Force consisted of the headquarters and two rifle coys 1 BUCKS, plus an unknown number of smoke coys and a bomb disposal coy - which smoke coys and which bomb disposal coy had not been decided at that time, but it was probably that there would be a similar change-over as between the two 'T' Forces.
Feverish activity took place everywhere. The Intelligence Section had to set up completely new sets of maps and briefs for the Canadian sector and hand over our own to 5 KINGS. Second Army flashes were painted out of the signs, people rushed in and said things couldn't be done and were told shortly that they had got to be done; said people then rushed out again mumbling unkind words about a lot of other people; altogether things could be said to be moving. Time was short and speed was obviously, as one comic writer once put it, 'of the essence'. This was indeed the 'essence'.
It was now decided to allot us the following coys under command:-
810 Smoke Coy;
803 Smoke Coy;
5 Bomb Disposal Coy.
It was also made clear at the same time that these coys would not be moving with us but would join up with us later in a concentration area. We could not therefore rely on the smoke coy transport to move us. As soon as we had digested this piece of news, we received orders to move into a concentration area in the Canadian Army zone. We were given a large area to choose from in the neighbourhood of GRAVE and we straightway despatched an advance party.
30 Advanced Unit RN
A few hours later came our first real news of that fine body, 30 Advanced Unit RN. Hitherto they had been only a name to us, a band of nautics, we understood, who did splendid work everywhere and would be co-operating with us on our 'T' Force role.
"Where are they now?" we had asked when they were first mentioned, with a view to making our number.
"Well actually we're not quite sure" came the candid reply, and later in the campaign on looking back over our experiences, we realised that this statement fairly accurately summarised the position at any given moment.
Now, however, at this crucial time a signal was 'made' to us stating that representatives from 30 Advanced Unit RN advance party would report to our headquarters at BRUSSELS and move off with our own advance party. Here was something as near concrete as we had ever had from that quarter, and we were considerably heartened. Came 0700 hrs 1 April - no 30 Advanced Unit RN. The advance party moved off without them. Their departure was followed an hour later by a message saying 30 Advanced Unit RN had gone off independently and would meet us up there. Was this the shape of things to come?
From then on things moved quickly. We handed ever command of the barracks to the incoming unit and freed ourselves of all commitments. We fixed transport from 4 L of C to move us to our new location, promising to return it the following day; word was received from the advance party that we were to go to OVERASSELT and we were soon all ready to launch into our new role, leaving BRUSSELS on 3 April 1945.
A message from 21 Army Group warned us of the arrival of twenty assessors who would be accompanying us. Now would come the big test. The thought of assessors had haunted us since the first conference. Our ideas had been rather hazy on the whole. Would they be aged professors with longish beards? Would they have any kit - we knew they should but still that query persisted, would they? These and many other questions had been worrying us, and now at last we were to know the worst.
The assortment arrived at 0800 hrs on 3 April 1945 at our headquarters.
It must be stated at this stage that the following account of our first meeting with the assessors and any subsequent clashes we had with them - all confined to the early stages - is written entirely without malice, no doubt when they in turn write their own history of their activities, we ourselves shall not escape chastisement.
Once we were all on the same net, had overcome our mutual teething troubles and understood each other's ways and ideas, we could not have asked for a better crowd. They were most amenable, appreciated our difficulties, were first class at their job, extremely helpful and above all, congenial company. Nevertheless, we feel that no history of the 'T' Force would be complete if our assessor troubles were not faithfully recorded, and we trust therefore, that, should any of these worthies ever read this, they will accept it in the spirit in which it is meant and not take offence.
We viewed them from a first floor window; no beards at any rate and all were dressed in one of the three coloured uniforms generally associated with His Majesty's Services, so far so good. Masses of baggage appeared too, including bed rolls we noticed with joy in our hearts. We almost beamed. Things obviously were not going to be as grim as we imagined.
We greeted them cordially, so we thought - taking time off from controlling and supervising the great pack-up of the battalion and the preparation for the move. Bodies were milling around in the usual seemingly chaotic manner. Scarcely had we extended our welcome, told them we were leaving at 11 o'clock and apologised that there was nowhere for them to sit down except on their kitbags as the battalion was loading, than we realised that all was not well with that strange collection of gentlemen.
Angry voices were raised at once complaining bitterly that it did seem a lot of damned nonsense getting them up at 6 o'clock to report here at 8 o'clock to move off at 11 o'clock. Several harsh words and phrases were directed at the general Army administration and the difference between what they had been told would happen in the United Kingdom, and what was actually happening seemed difficult to believe according to their accounts. Had we not been well versed in these matters we would have said that the White Slave Trade had been revived in the old country. Things were not going too well really but after a further loud explosion when they were asked to travel in a 3-tonner, and a lot more patient listening to how they had been definitely promised staff cars etc, etc., we managed to hustle them in, put up the tailboard and yelling at the loading driver - one must take it out of someone after all - we gave the order to move off.
Thus did we forsake the old role and commence our new one. Our 'T' Force days had at last begun.
PHASE II - LIFE AND DEATH
The Flying Squad
We had appreciated, we are convinced correctly, that the 'T' Force headquarters set-up was going to be all important. We should have to deal not only with staff officers from all levels, but also with every breed of assessor and/or investigator, and therefore the lay-out of the headquarters must obviously receive careful attention.
To this end we had devised a lay-out which seemed to us to be just right in theory, and had laid all our plans accordingly to try it out in practice on our first move. Apart from the actual lay-out we realised that the headquarters must be set up with all speed on arrival at any location and in fact must be a priority task.
We had therefore evolved a very excellent scheme whereby all the regimental police, plus the RSM, plus all the tents and signs and an adequate number of bodies were sent on slightly ahead of the main column in a small convoy of their own, with the object of getting all this preliminary work under way at the earliest possible opportunity. Tactically unsound maybe, but for all practical purposes ideal.
Just to show our independence we had also managed to persuade Q (Movements) at all levels to let us move under our own steam without being burdened with all their mumbo jumbo about convoy numbers, tea halts, petrol refilling points, speeds and densities and reporting to CMP posts every so often en route. We had got away with this by promising to move in small columns of not more than five vehicles at a time and at 15 minute intervals between columns. This suited us admirably.
The upshot of all this was that the 'Flying Squad' as the Force headquarters setting-up-outfit was dubbed, set off from BRUSSELS at 0900hrs all on its own and was soon speeding hell for leather for OVERASSELT, guided by maps, route card, the RSM and faith.
Keeping at the specified distance the main body followed on in an orderly manner. This orderly manner was maintained throughout the journey except in the case of one column which unfortunately got hopelessly entangled in another convoy altogether just south of GRAVE, and was carried along merrily in the wrong direction for quite a long way. Eventually initiative was seized by individual drivers who all independently managed to get back on the right road, and in due course arrived at the new headquarters just before dark.
So much for the main body. The 'Flying Squad' meanwhile had reached it's destination less one truck containing the bodies constituting the working party, which had broken down en route. This was not too good. Nevertheless the RSM was at the helm and having contacted the Quartermaster who had led the advance party and duly been allotted the field where the headquarters was to be erected, he gave explicit orders for the erecting of the tents on the pre-arranged lay-out. He then shot off on his motor-cycle to attend to the hundred and one other things which were his allotted responsibility in the early stages.
Having satisfactorily carried out these other tasks he returned to the original site about one hour later only to find to his horror that nothing had been erected whatsoever.
The 160 lb Tent
On entering the field he saw a sight that saddened him deeply. Four men were wrestling with one 160 lb tent. Two of them were pulling at the guy ropes to what purpose seemed a trifle obscure, one appeared to be underneath the canvas - completely hidden, his presence there only betrayed by a mobile bulge and muffled shouts, whilst the fourth man - seemingly the planning type - was standing aside gazing at the scene obviously baffled by this bundle of mystery.
At this moment the commanding officer arrived.
The bellow which the RSM let out not only startled the birds who flew off the surrounding trees en masse all of a twitter, but completely paralysed the working (?) party - even the bulge became temporarily static. However, that was the last time anybody was static that afternoon till it was too dark to see any more. Tents simply shot up left and right with a speed which would have shaken Henry Kaiser himself and by 2000 hrs that evening the headquarters was ready for action.
While all this was going on more trouble came bounding up the road in the shape of our old friends the assessors. Where, they would like to know, were they expected to sleep? What about some food? Who was going to look after them? No-one seemed to care as far as they could see. They had been here half an hour now and nothing, absolutely nothing had been done. If this was the sort of treatment they could expect, they stormed loudly, well, with a shrug of the shoulders and a helpless gesture of the hands, they were sure they didn't know, they concluded rather lamely,
This seemed to conclude the opening phrases, and taking advantage of the pause we were just about to launch our counter-offensive when one of them suddenly said "What about my trousers?"
This seemed a little incongruous amongst all these major worries.
"What about them" we retorted rather sharply, for we resented the fellow's tone.
"They are my service dress trousers and they are simply covered in coal dust from sitting in that 3-tonner."
This just added the spark to our powder and we really did let ourselves go on that one. After that we tried to explain our difficulties and asked for their co-operation and patience. Everything would be done for them as quickly as possible, if only they would be content to wait a little longer.
The battle raged to and fro for a while, but finally we got them all settled in. The billets were not luxurious but they were at least clean and dry. At 2300 hrs we turned in, feeling that it had been a trying day.
Returning the Transport
Fortunately the following morning showed promise of a fine spring day. The sun was shining and all those frightful problems which had stirred us to fury the previous evening seemed stripped of their horror by this warm sun, and actually appeared rather amusing.
The first thing we had to do was to return all this borrowed transport which had lifted us here. This indeed tempted us, like Mr Carrol's Carpenter, to shed a bitter tear. We were now immobile and about to launch into what would probably be the must mobile role we had been allotted since D-Day.
We gave the order for the convoy to move off, and as the last truck whistled round the corner in a cloud of dust, we reassured ourselves in that true English manner with the theoretically and basically unsound, but extremely comforting thought, the standby of all actors of drama, that "it would be all right on the night".
Our Staff Officers
The GSO2 (Major BLACK) and the Liaison Officer (Capt STEVEN) arrived shortly after this and made their number with us all. This was the first time we had really been introduced to these two worthy Canadians as, being Second Army 'T' Force until very recently, we had not had occasion to come across them. The commanding officer had of course already met them both at a high level, but this was their first appearance at 'T' Force headquarters and to the rest of us, seeing then approach, these two figures, who were afterwards to become practically two of the battalion, were just, to quote one of them "a couple of guys in duffle coats".
After giving us the latest tactical information in First Canadian Army, they took the commanding officer off to Main Headquarters, there to introduce him and at the same time to announce our arrival, location, and chief worries.
Meanwhile the Intelligence Officer had set up his information-room, and marked maps were appearing all over the tent, with pins stuck in showing targets, etc, etc. Masses of signs had been erected and our treasured lighting plant had been set up and every tent had electric light supplied to it. The headquarters really looked quite business like. The lighting set was something new for a battalion headquarters and we really felt rather important.
The Coys 'A' and 'C' had been allotted accommodation in the area, and 30 Advanced Unit had turned up and taken accommodation about three miles further down the road, so it now regained for us to link up with 5 Bomb Disposal Coy and the two smoke coy's who were still employed with Canadian Army, to complete the Force.
The next few days were spent in preparing for our forthcoming targets - ARNHEM looked like being the first one at this stage. Contacts were made at divisional and brigade levels and briefs were prepared for platoon commanders.
Gradually staff officers at all levels began to understand what this queer organisation called 'T' Force was all about. At Army level, the privileged few who were in the picture welcomed us warmly from the start, while the others at that august headquarters looked rather doubtful when we approached, queried the name, glanced round at others working in the same tent hoping for guidance, and when no such guidance was forthcoming - the others were obviously not going to be drawn into this quiz - referred us to some other department where they were quite confident someone would be eagerly awaiting our arrival.
At divisional and brigade levels the same air of mystery seemed to surround us, but as soon as we made it clear that we were going to take over the guarding of some of their objectives, their help and co-operation could not have been bettered.
In a very short time therefore we considered ourselves to be on net with all those who really mattered, and once wireless and telephone communication had been established with Canadian Army, we were fairly happy that everything was going along smoothly.
Meanwhile on the Home Front a minor "Yalta" had been issued to the assessors and a peace treaty had been drawn up and signed. Capt EYLES, our armoured car commander, had been detailed to look after them and had worked wonders. Some of the less gloomy ones could be seen almost beaming with benevolence, and everyone declared everyone else to be a good chap, and all agreed that there must be give and take on both sides. They 'took' quite a lot of our whisky in the general 'back-slapping' but 'gave' us in return, peace of mind. It may have meant our cut but it was certainly a good deal!
The vexed question of transport was still troubling us sorely. It seemed unlikely that we should get our smoke coys for a long time yet and we accordingly worked out a plan whereby we could just make our two rifle coys mobile (as coys but not as platoons) by dividing amongst them the whole of battalion headquarters and "headquarters" Coy transport, less two duty 15 cwts, one jeep and the commanding officer's car. This was a drastic measure as it would leave the Force headquarters completely immobile, and we hoped we would never be forced to put it into effect.
However, it was no good relying on something turning up, so the plan was prepared and we just had to hope that the situation would improve and something would arrive to rescue us. Scarcely had we completed the plan and rounded off our silent prayer for help, when Lt Col BLOOMFIELD (GSOI, G(T) & CW 21 Army Group) arrived in his staff car.
As an Alf's Button answer to the transport problem this was a little disappointing, but in his capacity as our vital link with the all-highest his dramatic arrival was inspiring. There was no need to tell him our troubles, he knew them already, and as always, fully understood our side of all the difficulties. He assured us that G(T) & CW would move heaven, and if it came to a pinch, earth as well, to get the smoke coys released. He could naturally make no promises as we readily understood, but now that our problem had been so speedily and fortuitously communicated to our masters, we were content to let it rest there for the present.
5 Bomb Disposal Coy
No 5 Bomb Disposal Coy had turned up by now, and had acquired accommodation further down the road near 30 Advanced Unit. The officer commanding, Major EMLYN-JONES, quickly reported to our headquarters and announced his arrival. We were soon reassured that if we had been worried in the past about unexploded bombs, booby traps, mine lifting, diving operations or safe breaking, now was the time to relax; 5 Bomb Disposal Coy were on the spot and ready for anything.
This was no less than the truth as we found out afterwards; a more keen or versatile collection of specialists it would be hard to find and we very quickly became extremely attached to our Bomb Disposal Coy and its crib-cracking commanding officer - after a short Cloak and Dagger course at the School of Burglars or whatever they call it, he boasted that he could now open his own safe in his coy office in 5 seconds; on querying his transport position, we found to our delight that his coy was self supporting by platoons for all practical purposes, though if we had any transport to spare, he ventured innocently, he could do with two 3-tonners for his headquarters, which were not strictly speaking, mobile at present.
When the pain in our side had eased a bit and we had wiped the tears from our eyes, we explained our transport difficulties and were gratified when he classified his requirements as 'low priority'.
30 Advanced Unit Again
Since our arrival at OVERASSELT the officer commanding 30 Advanced Unit and several other officers both Naval and Marine, had visited us and tied up details with us over targets. Certain targets were going to be dealt with by them and others by us, so close liaison was essential. We only had a small force of 30 Advanced Unit with us and the officers were usually out seeking information either inside the German lines or as a secondary source from leading platoons of our own troops. This seemed to us a rather hazardous business if not a trifle foolhardy, and we said as much to one of the liaison officers - Capt CUNNINGHAM, on one of his frequent visits to our headquarters.
"I quite agree" he said, sipping our whisky, "the trouble is no-one can tell us where the enemy are. One simply goes on until an unfriendly incident occurs. Most unnerving" he added, refilling his glass. Charles as he soon became to most of us, was indeed a character, though he would be the last to admit it.
In view of the quickening advance of Canadian Army to the EAST, it soon became apparent that MEPPEN would shortly be taken. The big ARNHEM push for which we had been waiting, still showed no signs of materialising, and our attention was accordingly diverted to the seizing of KRUPPS factory and testing ground at MEPPEN, one of our most important targets.
It was decided to send a platoon of 'C' Coy to deal with this target - we only had two coys to play with, and we must therefore conserve manpower. We were loath to commit the whole coy to that area at this stage until we could see more clearly how the battle was likely to develop.
Officer commanding 'C' Coy with the GSO2 were accordingly sent up to reconnoitre the area on 6 April 1945, and the platoon plus one section of 5 Bomb Disposal Coy, one section of armoured cars and the necessary assessors warned to stand by from 0800 hrs the following morning.
Late that evening the liaison officer from Canadian Army arrived to say that a message had been received from the GSO2 telling the platoon to rendezvous at LOCHEM preparatory to moving into MEPPEN as soon as it fell.
At 1100 hrs the following day, the intelligence officer briefed the platoon commander and attached section commanders, and at 1200 hrs the party moved off to LOCHEM. This accounted for two of our precious 3-tonners.
Meanwhile officer commanding 'C' Coy and GSO2 had contacted 4 Canadian Armoured Division and arranged for the party to be under them for administration. Contact had also been made with the brigade detailed to take MEPPEN and a list of priorities for road movement included 'T' Force, as high up as possible. MEPPEN was eventually entered on 9 April 1945, and the 'C' Coy party with its section of armoured cars leading, moved in at 1330 hrs and seized their target according to plan, while the assessors who had moved with them all along, got on with the job of assessing and reporting. We were committed at last.
Now that part of 'C' Coy was away at MEPPEN and in view of the direction in which the battle was moving it became a point of discussion as to whether Force headquarters ought not to be moved. We were already out of touch by wireless with 'C' Coy in view of the distance involved and our only link with that party was by liaison officer. The problem was where to move to. We were in the peculiar position of being in the middle of two outward thrusts, one into GERMANY and the other into HOLLAND. If we followed the GERMANY push and set up shop alongside 2 Canadian Corps we should quickly be out of touch with our DUTCH commitments. Whereas by remaining where we were we would possibly be out of touch very shortly with any deployment of coys we might have to make in GERMANY. We were faced with the advantage of being near Army Headquarters and incidentally our Dutch targets, and the disadvantage of lengthening communications, with consequent delay in receiving and passing information, with our deployed forces in GERMANY, the only ones at present employed.
It was finally decided that we must stay with Army Headquarters at any rate until it could be seen how the battle for HOLLAND was likely to progress. This decision was considerably influenced by the fact that even now we could only have moved the headquarters with a shuttle service of our remaining transport which was undesirable. The headquarters therefore stayed put.
By 10 April it looked as though OLDENBURG might fall at any moment as the Canadians were driving on out of touch with the enemy at that time. The balance of 'C' Coy must obviously be moved up in that direction ready for the new targets in that area. The coy plus balance of the platoon of 5 Bomb Disposal Coy and more assessors were accordingly warned to stand by to move the following day.
Meantime the commanding officer set off armed with the OLDENBURG briefs to contact officer commanding 'C' Coy at MEPPEN, and warn him of the coy's approach on the morrow. Unfortunately officer commanding 'C' Coy decided at this very moment to visit our headquarters, and of course he and the commanding officer crossed and missed each other. This was but one of the many irksome examples of lack of good communications.
We put him in the picture over the latest move and he decided to go back to MEPPEN early the following morning in advance of the main body to ensure everything was tied up before their arrival. He told us meanwhile that the KRUPPS factory was taken over with very little sabotage on the part of the employees. The local Home Guard had apparently been detailed to defend it, but had unanimously decided against any action, and had stacked their arms! The assessors had found some extremely valuable but most odd looking shells etc, quite intact there. All documents later than 1939 had been previously destroyed, however.
The next morning the remainder of 'C' Coy, etc moved off to MEPPEN, and took with them four more of our 3-tonners. Still no sign of the smoke coy transport, and it began to look as though we really should be down to drawing rations for headquarters in the commanding officer's car before long.
It had been noticed recently that messages kept on arriving at our headquarters addressed to Force 'T' and forwarded by Canadian Army. They seemed to be concerned with Naval matters on a rather high level, and after we had returned several of them to Canadian Army Headquarters we happened to attend a conference there one day when several high ranking nautical gentlemen were also present. We raised the question of Force 'T' and pointed out the confusion that had arisen between the similarity of our designations, and asked whether something could be done about it.
Someone rather rashly suggested that Force 'T' might change its nomenclature, whereupon this fine body rose rather menacingly to its collective feet and glaring fiercely round the room demanded to know just how long 'T' Force or whatever it called itself, had been formed, adding significantly that Force 'T' had been in existence before D-Day,
Nobody said anything as it was obvious from the ever increasing size of the gold-braided speaker who was taking on board a fresh consignment of breath, that there was more to come. It duly came, with the suggestion, which we had feared all along would be made, namely that 'T' Force change their name. With a final Naval grunt Force 'T' sat down.
We dared not look up but doodled hard all over our notes, praying fervently that the matter would be dropped. We always had been frightened by the Navy when brought face to face with them.
The matter to our great relief was dropped, but tactful action must have been taken behind the scenes somewhere, because we never received another message for Force 'T' after that.
Whilst we were concentrating on the German targets that seemed likely to be uncovered at any moment, and thinking out how best to employ the meagre force at our disposal, we were suddenly switched back to HOLLAND by a visit from the GSO2 who announced that the ARNHEM push might flare up shortly and that the town might even be taken tomorrow 12 April 1945. Our one remaining Coy was accordingly warned and the officer commanding briefed on targets to be seized.
Although ARNHEM had originally been considered as a coy target because of the large number of separate targets in the area, it had recently been reduced in importance owing to the military necessity of flattening the rubber factory by courtesy of the RAF. It was apparently heavily fortified, and the enemy were making it into a strongpoint.
We duly protested, though rather mildly and more as a matter of form than anything else as we had to confess that it was only a priority 'B' target. Our protest was, in the circumstances quite rightly, overruled, and so we wrote off our biggest commitment there.
Officer commanding 'A' Coy was sent off to liaise direct with "I" at 49 Division, while the problem of transporting the coy across the RHINE was worked out. We found we could just manage it by using one shuttle only. Once 'A' Coy had gone then the HQ would be quite static, left only with our two duty 15 cwts, one jeep and that old standby the commanding officer's car.
As far as ARNHEM itself was concerned, the supply problem would not be difficult, as the distance involved was only short, and providing traffic over RHINE bridges was not limited to certain vehicles only, then the coy could if necessary be supplied from Force headquarters.
On the return of officer commanding 'A' Coy from 49 Division the picture became clearer. H hour was fixed for 2240 hrs 12 April. The area was scheduled to he cleared in two phases, the first of which would only reveal one of our targets plus one other which was also due to be bombed by the RAF. It seemed unlikely that 'A' Coy Reconnaissance party would be able to get into the town before pm 13 April with the possibility of the main body moving in on the following day - Saturday 14 April.
As our targets were going to be uncovered by easy stages, it was decided to send initially two platoons 'A' Coy, two sections 5 Bomb Disposal Coy, assessors and documents NCO. Officer commanding 'A' Coy was provided with an armoured car for his reconnaissance, but the remaining section of armoured cars was to be held in reserve at Force headquarters pending developments. At 1940 hrs 12 April we heard the barrage start and continue as one long rumble for the next three hours - till H-hour. We thought rather soulfully of our targets.
Officer commanding 'A' Coy had returned to 49 Division that night with a 19 set in his armoured car, with instructions to wireless back to our headquarters his movements, and to let us know when he wanted the main body to move up. The next day we heard nothing from officer commanding 'A' Coy. There was a certain amount of trouble with the wireless over the distance involved but a link set was sent out and the trouble was soon rectified. Finally, late that evening we received a message to the effect that there was still fighting in the town and he had not been able to complete his reconnaissance yet. The main body, however, would definitely not be required until the following day. We accordingly agreed to close down until 0800 hrs next morning.
At 1000 hrs next day 14 April, after a lot of interference we received the message over the air that target A8 had been fought over and was still being shelled and mortared by the Boche. There seemed no point in taking foolhardy risks over a priority B target, so officer commanding 'A' Coy was told to wait till midday and report again then.
By midday the target was reported clear and the main body went in. No sooner had they moved off when officer commanding 'A' Coy came up on the air again to announce that his armoured car had been hit by a mortar bomb and the engine put out of action. He sounded very cross. A replacement armoured car was despatched at once.
For the next two days we heard little of the ARNHEM party; wireless was useless in view of the interference, and so great was the volume of traffic across the bridges that it was quite impossible even for a jeep to get across out of turn. However, the targets were duly seized and guarded and assessed, and it was not long before reports came trickling back, ARNHEM from a 'T' Force angle could be said to be satisfactorily under way.
That untiring figure, the GSO2, still in his duffle coat, dropped in to tell us that the likelihood of our getting any smoke coy transport was still remote. As a harbinger of glad tiding give us the GSO2 every time! At the same time he broke the news that Canadian Army were due to move EAST shortly and that we were to go to HAAKSBERGEN just on the DUTCH-GERMAN border.
"How?" we queried simply.
"Well, there's my jeep" replied the GSO2 rather naively. You simply can't repress the Canadians. We sighed, and wondered if we really ever would see the smoke coy transport. Still, as long as Canadian Army knew the position we could not do more, but in the meantime we could and did send off an advance party to reconnoitre the new area.
Before they left we managed to glean the definite information that 810 Smoke Coy would be coming with us, and its transport would definitely be available to lift us - just when, nobody could say with certainty, but it was believed that the day would not now be far distant. The advance party armed with that information set off.
After consultation with GSO2 Canadian Army, it was decided to move the whole of 'A' Coy over to ARNHEM, which was to act as a base for its future activities, and temporarily to make that Coy responsible for all targets in HOLLAND.
This sounds a tall order as we had a considerable number of Dutch targets, but most of them were well on towards the west coast, whilst those that were likely to be uncovered shortly by any immediate advance, were very few and not very important. The policy was always subject to review, but as the general trend of offensive action seemed to be towards GERMANY, rather than HOLLAND, we deemed it wise to allot two coys ('C' Coy and we hoped, 810 Smoke Coy) to that area, leave one to hold the fort in HOLLAND and one smoke coy (803) in reserve.
This brought us to the question of the smoke coys, and we were delighted to hear there and then, that 810 Smoke Coy was going to be available to move us in three days time, on Thursday 19 April - this year! Smoke had apparently had its day at last, and they were free. The question of 803 Smoke Coy was still undecided, but it was thought that we should get one platoon under command shortly.
We found it difficult to refrain from rubbing our hands with glee and actually singing as we left the sanctum. At last it really looked as though we might resemble 'T' Force as originally planned, rather than as a depleted battalion plus some sappers with no transport.
810 Smoke Coy
Contact was immediately made with officer commanding 810 Smoke Coy (Major CHITTENDEN) at NIJMEGEN, and arrangements made at once for their Essos (smoke generators) to be dumped. The distribution of their vehicles to 'A', 'C' and 'Headquarter' Coys 1 BUCKS and 5 Bomb Disposal Coy, was also fixed, and it was agreed that all such transport, less that for 'A' and 'C' Coys, would report to Force headquarters on 18 April. Transport for 'A' Coy was to report direct to their headquarters at ARNHEM and that for 'C' Coy would be sent on once 810 Coy arrived at HAAKSBERGEN. Both 'A' and 'C' Coys were to receive eight 4-tonners each so as to make all platoons mobile.
Last Days at OVERASSELT
'A' Coy had completed its targets at ARNHEM - all those that were as yet uncovered, and one platoon had returned to billets. Officer commanding 'A' Coy was notified of arrangements made and having been given briefs for all targets in HOLLAND, took his whole coy over the RHINE and set up in his headquarters in ARNHEM again. Canadian Army moved up near ENSCHEDE on 18 April, so we were now left high and dry, but as it would only be for 24 hrs we were not unduly concerned.
Transport from 810 Smoke Coy arrived as planned and very soon everybody was busy packing up once again. Headquarters transport loaned to 'A' Coy was returned to headquarters, and once the reshuffle of transport had been made with 'C' Coy, all coys would be back to normal.
All seemed strangely quiet that evening as we sat on upturned boxes, polishing off all these half empty bottles - somebody said it would ease the packing problem if we were to drink it now. Most of the tents had been struck and were already loaded on the 4-tonners which stood like giant shadows all round the field. We felt like patting each one fondly on the bonnet, so long had we waited for them. Maybe it was the drink - ah well.
At 0900 hrs 19 April 1945 Force headquarters plus 5 Bomb Disposal Coy plus 30 Advanced Unit (yes - they were still with us - just) set off on a carefully timed programme for HAAKSBERGEN.
Once again the journey was uneventful except that the essential vehicle in the 'Flying Squad' carrying the signs this time, repeated its parlour trick and broke down en route. Instead therefore of having no working party as before, we now had all the men but no signs etc. However life would not be worth living if it were not for these amusing though intensely irritating pinpricks. Despite this, the lessons learned on our arrival at OVERASSELT had not been in vain, for the headquarters was made ready in record time, with telephone lines laid and contact made with Canadian Army by 1800 hrs.
We seemed to be fairly well situated here, quite close to Canadian Army, in good billets, a good garage and plenty of space for all those smoke coy vehicles. 30 Advanced Unit were in the town itself and 5 Bomb Disposal Coy just outside.
The GSO2 arrived that evening with the latest news of the battle. Nothing was happening right now of immediate concern to us, the battle for HOLLAND seemed to be temporarily at a standstill, and the advance in GERMANY had slowed down, and it did not look as though any fresh targets would be uncovered anywhere for at least several days.
We accordingly took time off to take stock and to settle ourselves in. We were now situated practically midway between our two coys ('A' and 'C') and it seemed, despite long distances involved in either direction to be the answer. It was at any rate the best solution while events were shaping as they were at present.
Just before we left OVERASSELT we had heard that Second Army had taken over a part of the Canadian Army sector. This was now definite, and meant that Second Army 'T' Force would have to deal with certain targets for which we at present hold the briefs and all details. It also meant that we could now assess more accurately the total force we should require to deal with targets still left to us in GERMANY. We concluded that approximately the equivalent strength of two rifle coys would suffice centring eventually round WILHELMSHAVEN and EMDEN.
The Hand-over to Second Army
On the afternoon of 21 April our second-in-command arrived, having raced all the way over from Second Army 'T' Force headquarters to collect the briefs. He stayed overnight. The following day we duly handed over the briefs and after he had told us just how hard Second Army 'T' Force were working and what a hell of a rush it had all been up to now with things likely to get more hectic every day, and had shown rather marked impatience we thought, as we unfolded the thrilling story of First Canadian Army 'T' Force, he announced he must be off at once.
"Got to do 250 miles before dark" he said, shaking his head and staring at us as though he expected us to stagger back appalled.
"A long way to go" he added, just in case we had not quite got his meaning. We agreed.
"Well I'm off" he announced loudly, obviously displeased that we had not remarked on his wonderful powers of endurance, and tucking his precious briefs under his arm he leapt into his jeep and was quickly whisked off down the road out of sight.
We learned later that a few miles further on the driver ran slap into a tree! No-one was hurt luckily, and he eventually got back safe and sound.
Policy in HOLLAND
We were now told that there was likely to be little action on the Dutch front, as it had been decided to polish off the German sector first and then if necessary clear up HOLLAND. It was hoped that it might be unnecessary to fight all through HOLLAND because of the sad plight of the Dutch people.
At the same time 'A' Coy informed us that all targets had been assessed and completed in ARNHEM, and that they were now just standing by. The commanding officer then went over to 'A' Coy and warned them that they would probably be withdrawn from ARNHEM and sent to help out 'C' Coy in GERMANY probably round about the MEPPEN area.
On 22 April 1945, 810 Smoke Coy arrived at HAAKSBERGEN as scheduled, and eight of their 4-tonners were duly despatched to 'C' Coy who by now had moved on to BORGER - less one platoon which remained at KRUPPS in MEPPEN. 'HQ' Coy transport loaned to 'C' Coy for their original move was returned and at last the transport situation had sorted itself out.
A conference was called of all company commanders and the following deployment of coys was laid down:-
(a) 'A' Coy plus two sections 5 Bomb Disposal Coy with headquarters at MEPPEN to look after all targets in NORTH WEST GERMANY including EMDEN.
(b) 'C' Coy plus two platoons 810 Smoke Coy plus one section 5 Bomb Disposal Coy with headquarters at BORGER to look after all targets in NORTH EAST GERMANY but including WILHELMSHAVEN.
(c) Two platoons 810 Smoke Coy plus two sections 5 Bomb Disposal Coy plus one platoon 803 Smoke Coy (when it arrived) in reserve at HAAKSBERGEN.
The two platoons 810 Smoke Coy at once joined 'C' Coy and on 23 April 1945 'A' Coy moved to MEPPEN.
The 'I' Office
All this time reports had been coming through from the various assessors, both in respect of original and opportunity targets, and all these reports had to be sifted, logged, indexed, typed and duplicated by the 'I' Section at Force headquarters.
Up to now the work had not been too heavy, but it was soon to increase several hundred-fold. A spacious office was allotted to the section at the headquarters on arrival at HAAKSBERGEN, but it quickly became inadequate. Recruits were required and found to cope with the work. Nine men were fully employed all day typing, duplicating and sorting. 50 copies of all reports had to be run off. Assessors rushed in and out all day and every day, demanding all sorts of things, from copies of their reports to their own personal mail, which latter continued to be a source of trouble right up to the end.
In addition to all this the 'I' Office was the storing place of every odd piece of equipment which assessors brought back with them from targets for eventual evacuation to UK. The place was soon littered with every conceivable type of instrument, shell case, camera etc, etc. Unfortunately the system of evacuation at that time was not too watertight or clear, with the result that too little, if any, information was given by assessors or asked for by us, as to how it was to be packed, or where it was to be sent. Consequently there was always a whole collection of isolated items in the office, with which nobody knew how to deal. Even the assessors were hazy as to who ought to have it back in UK. They rather expected us to know it seemed. We soon put them right on that point.
Gradually the position eased and clarifying instructions were issued at frequent intervals by G(T) & CW. Procedure was regularised and systems unified, but at all times throughout the existence of 'T' Force the 'I' Office has had to shoulder the bulk of the work with the intelligence officer and his gallant staff working all hours of the day and night. (The intelligence officer asked us to make sure this was made quite clear in any report we might consider writing!)
During the next seven days very little happened in the way of new targets appearing, KRUPPS was still the main source of joy to the assessors and tons of equipment were being crated by our Pioneer platoon and sent back for evacuation. Odd opportunity targets cropped up here and there and assessors were duly despatched to give them the once over.
'C' Coy were given the job of locating a number of German prison and concentration camps in PAPENBURG area. Their reconnaissance revealed two large groups of camps - one group consisting of seven camps around PAPENBURG and another group of eight subsidiary camps in MEPPEN area. Guards were posted on the camps and documents teams were sent over to see what they could find. A lot of documents were finally unearthed and before we left the area the guarding of these documents was handed over to the local Military Government.
The horrors of these camps would make grim reading, and while 'A' and 'C' Coys were in that area compulsory tours of the camps were made so that everyone might see for themselves the gruesome details. It had a very good effect on the men, and made the non-fraternisation rule unnecessary.
We had been told that one of the camps contained 1700 Polish women, but we were unable to locate this. We found out however that the Polish Armoured Division had swept through that area recently and so we abandoned the hunt, as we considered it unlikely that the Poles would overlook 1700 of their young womenfolk however hot pursuit of the enemy might be. There could be little doubt as to the question of priorities!
OLDENBURG and BAD ZWISCHENAHN looked like falling at last and EMDEN might soon be within 'T' Force range. This meant that our communications would become too slow if we remained where we were, so it was decided to move an advance headquarters - commanding officer, adjutant, and clerk, to MEPPEN. The move was to take place on 1 May, the day 'A' Coy moved to their new headquarters at LEER.
Signs had been prepared for marking the new headquarters and all was ready when we were suddenly told on 30 April that 30 R BERKS would be coming under our command for dealing with targets in WEST HOLLAND. Pending the tying up of details with 30 R BERKS therefore, the move of advance headquarters to MEPPEN was postponed.
30 R BERKS
It appeared that 30 R BERKS were committed to holding part of the line SOUTH of the MAAS and it was not likely that they would be released for three or four days yet. The intelligence officer visited them and gave them copies of briefs of targets in HOLLAND and generally explained what 'T' Force was all about, and it was arranged for six 3-tonners to be sent to them to help them move once they were released from their present commitments. They were to rendezvous at ARNHEM pending further instructions.
Meanwhile things had been moving swiftly. 803 Smoke Coy less one platoon were suddenly put under our command w[ith] e[ffect] f[rom] 4 May. 'C' Coy had moved into OLDENBURG where our big target was a ration store, but on arrival had found, like Mother Hubbard, that the cupboard was bare. 'A' Coy were just waiting to go into EMDEN. 30 Advanced Unit popped in to say they were off now and promptly disappeared. The Brigadier phoned up and asked if we knew what was going on. This frankly puzzled us but to such a direct question the well trained officer can only say "Yes", for the opposite can only lead to financial embarrassment and possibly an ill fitting suit.
With calm and steady voice, so essential when trick questions are suddenly flung at one on the telephone, we assured him that everything was under control, at the same time wondering what had caused our lord and master to doubt our efficiency or our ability to know what we were doing after all this time.
Then as though all this movement, new plans and 'puzzle corner' were not enough, the Field Marshall sent us a message saying it was all over.
The New Plan
In view of this new development, and as by 5 May 30 R BERKS had still not been released, it was decided to hold all targets in HOLLAND with a composite platoon of "HQ" Coy, support platoon, two platoons 810 Smoke Coy and one platoon Bomb Disposal Coy, until they could be taken over by 30 R BERKS. Advance headquarters instead of going to MEPPEN was now to move to UTRECHT, and the GSO2 would be responsible for looking after 'A' and 'C' Coys who would shortly be in EMDEN and WILHELMSHAVEN respectively.
At that time we had on our plate 117 targets in WEST HOLLAND ranging from UTRECHT to AMSTERDAM, ROTTERDAM, DELFT and as far north as DEN HELDER, The area was divided equally according to strength over those taking part, and on 6 May we were ready to move off. In view of some hitch over the local surrender terms the great advance did not start until 7 May and on that date leaving HAAKSBERGEN at 1300 hrs advance headquarters moved off to UTRECHT.
Advance into HOLLAND
The triumphal entry into WEST HOLLAND was a sight not to be missed. Crowds of rejoicing people lined the roads for mile after mile all waving and shouting and displaying hundreds of flags. Whenever the column stopped, they swarmed all over every vehicle and as we approached UTRECHT, the vehicles were so bedecked with boys and girls that it was dangerous to proceed at more than 5 mph, chiefly because the driver could not see, but also lest the attachments might fall off and be hurt.
It was proposed to set up our headquarters in the Central Post Office and Repeater Station, and in due course we drew up in front of the building. For the purpose of seizing the target a platoon of 810 Smoke Coy had been despatched in advance, and on our arrival the somewhat harassed platoon commander showed us a whole roomful of Boche all fully armed. Those men had previously been working in the Repeater Station. This seemed scarcely good enough and we at once located the German officer in charge, whom we found also armed, and commanded that all arms be dumped centrally, and that he hand his pistol over immediately.
To our immense surprise he said that that was quite impossible as it cut right across the armistice terms which, he stated, clearly laid down that they were to retain their arms.
In our best German we told him that if he ever made another statement like that again, we would not only disarm him but would have him in chains.
"Armistice terms my foot" we growled, choosing our words carefully, "you take your orders from us and no argument".
He thereupon handed over the offending weapon and we collected all the arms of the platoon downstairs and stacked them in an empty room. Rarely, we agreed among ourselves, had we heard such confounded Teutonic cheek.
The Repeater was intact, and after carrying out a search in the basement and elsewhere for delayed action charges, we satisfied ourselves that all was well and selected the necessary offices, etc for our small headquarters.
Whilst we were settling in the Chief Signal Officer from Division arrived to have a look at the Repeater and take over the working of it. We explained who we were and during subsequent conversation we touched on the matter of the Boche being armed when we arrived, and the German officer's astounding statement. "He's quite right" he said, "those are the terms".
This really did shake us. We asked for more news, wondering if perhaps the terms also included feeding the Boche. Unfortunately we had not been warned of any terms before we set off, so this all came as quite a shock to us. However, we soon learned all about them and the reason for them, but considering it to be at the least imprudent to allow Boche to be armed while we were in the same building, we still retained their arms, and allowed them to collect them again only as they finally marched out. This seemed well within the spirit of the 'terms'.
We subsequently read the full terms in the 'Daily Herald'. If only we could get the daily papers a bit quicker we would not fall into those errors!
Flowers all the Way
Canadian Army's advance on 7 May had been limited to a line drawn NORTH and SOUTH of UTRECHT, so it had been arranged for the balance of the party detailed to follow on from HAAKSBERGEN on 8 May, when we understood the occupation troops would again be moving on. At 11 o'clock therefore on 8 May, support platoon with Capt EYLES at its head, reported in to advance headquarters for orders. We had meantime contacted the authorities at 49 Division who assured it was in order for us to push on and seize our targets.
Support platoon accordingly set off to cope with their targets at DEN HELDER. Their progress was slow and greatly hampered by the cheering crowds who smothered the armoured cars with flowers at every town and village they passed through. At one town just outside AMSTERDAM, Capt EYLES, at the request of the local Mayor, made a special diversion so as not to disappoint all the people drawn up outside the local school. The Mayor made a short speech and all the school children sang the National Anthem. Flowers were then thrown in, on and over the armoured cars, which finally managed to move off.
Just to complete the journey Capt EYLES was presented at ALKMAAR with an enormous bouquet of flowers, which he noticed after having finally driven off, bore the inscription "With grateful thanks to our Canadian Liberators". Well, after all we were Canadian Army 'T' Force and proud of it too!
Captain in Lieu
The next party to arrive at advance headquarters was the composite "HQ" Coy platoon under its commander Capt LOW. After receiving the all clear, they also set off brushing the children off the bonnets every mile or so, and made for ROTTERDAM and DELFT. Like Capt EYLES' party, they too must have outstripped the official occupying troops, as they were apparently the first people to arrive in ROTTERDAM.
Deciding to call on the local resistance movement (NBS) to seek information about his targets, Capt LOW hailed one of the resisters and asked to be directed to their headquarters. The man at once leapt on the running board and beating off the dense crowds safely shepherded the small column to the NBS Headquarters. On arrival the NBS were seen to be formed up on three sides of a square with a large crowd all around, all waving and shouting. As Capt LOW's PU drove up someone yelled an order and all the NBS presented arms.
This manoeuvre somewhat shook the gallant Captain, but after years of experience in dealing with tricky situations he appreciated in a flash that this obviously called for some sort of acknowledgment. He therefore graciously stepped from his PU and saluted.
Everyone seemed highly delighted at this gesture and general clamouring broke out afresh. This continued for some time until one of the officiating NBS asked Captain LOW if he would stand the parade at ease, as until someone gave an order they would remain at the 'present'. Captain LOW intimated he was entirely in favour of that and for general relaxation, but unfortunately he could not speak Dutch! This difficulty was soon overcome however, and the parade was quickly stood at ease.
The Mayor then read a long speech of welcome in English, which was followed by roars of applause and continued cheering and much handshaking all round.
After a while Captain LOW managed to let it be known that he sought information about certain factories, etc in the area. He very soon obtained all the information he needed and finally managed to tear himself away amid almost frenzied cheering. As the column drove off, the Brigadier and posse arrived to take, we rather fear, the reception. If only somebody would tell us these things!
The remaining platoons of 810 Smoke Coy and 5 Bomb Disposal Coy had arrived meanwhile and had been despatched to ROTTERDAM and HAARLEM and HILVERSUM and AMSTERDAM respectively. All had similar experiences with flowers and reception, and found difficulty in getting through the crowds. However they finally reached their targets and very soon interim reports were rolling in to our headquarters at UTRECHT, stating that all priority A targets had been seized and some priority B targets as well and that the Dutch Resistance were guarding all targets not yet taken over by us. So far so good.
30 R BERKS were contacted and were apparently now free. One coy arrived to take over targets in UTRECHT itself and thus relieve the platoon of 810 Smoke Coy which was required to help out at IJMUIDEN, and it was arranged for the remainder of the battalion to arrive the next day, 9 May. A suitable headquarters was found for them in UTRECHT itself, quite close to ours.
That night we heard it announced that at 0001 hrs tomorrow the war with GERMANY would be over. We gazed at a bottle of champagne we had brought, but decided to wait until tomorrow when we might he able to find a couple of glasses. Life had been a bit hectic since our arrival.
30 R BERKS arrived in force the following day, and immediately deployed into previously arranged areas, each coy joining up with one of our parties with a view eventually to taking over the whole of WEST HOLLAND. The hand-over process went on for several days, and in some cases where many opportunity targets kept appearing, both 30 R BERKS and ourselves worked the same area.
Assessors came flooding down to us now. Radar and Naval targets were the big draw and they were kept very busy indeed. To save time we had brought two of the intelligence section with us, and thus we were able to type out the assessors reports on the spot, and by borrowing a duplicator used by the civilian staff on the premises, we managed to roll off the necessary copies and despatch them all complete to HAAKSBERGEN for forwarding to G(T) & CW.
It very soon became clear that there was little of interest to assessors in WEST HOLLAND; all the important apparatus had been removed long ago to GERMANY - much of it after the airborne landing at ARNHEM in September 1944, when the Boche really thought we were through. Even so, every opportunity target had to be investigated just in case, so there was plenty to do.
Transport for the assessors had always been a thorny problem, and frequently the occasion of harsh words on both sides. We had originally been allotted six staff cars for their use, but at a very early stage these had been whittled down to four, following two major accidents due entirely to disgraceful driving (not on the part of the assessors we hasten to add) and now we only had two, as the other two were out with assessors up with 'A' Coy and 'C' Coy.
However, the assessors had by now settled down and were much more amenable, and were, if not exactly happy, then at least content to go out in 15 cwts or PUs to their targets.
30 Advanced Unit re-appear
Just as we were at last opening that bottle of champagne to celebrate VE Day, who should walk in but our old friend Charles CUNNINGHAM, the liaison officer from 30 Advanced Unit. A small party of them had come to set up headquarters with us, if as he said, we could possibly bear it. We said we thought we might, and immediately found them some accommodation in the building. They were very interested in certain targets at ROTTERDAM and DEN HELDER.
Once the formalities were over we asked Charles what he knew, to which he replied "Absolutely nothing, except that it's hideously cold riding in a jeep in shirt sleeves" and added that if we were thinking of offering him a drink, could we make it a small whisky?
"We were always such a confounded nuisance to you" he said as we handed him the whisky, "but you are always so wonderfully kind."
"No, I really mean it" he added, as we bellowed with laughter. We believe he did.
While all this was going on in HOLLAND, 'A' Coy had moved their headquarters to AURICH from where they covered all targets in EMDEN. Also on their list was "Lord Haw-Haw's Radio Transmitter" at NORDEN, to which they despatched a platoon as guard. Lord Haw-Haw was unfortunately not in residence when they arrived, nor was the transmitter working, although it was all in perfect working order. Two further wireless stations had been discovered on the island of BORKUM and another platoon was despatched there as guard. That platoon was in the happy position of having 4500 German marines to wait on them!
An amusing story is told by an eyewitness, of a strange incident concerning a certain Chief Petty Officer RN on the island, and his requisitioned car. The CPO always insisted on driving the car himself and it appears that he was not too well versed in the art of gear-changing - preferring to remain in one gear all the time, be it first, second, third or top.
One day he espied one of our soldiers walking along the road and his heart being in the right place, he decided to stop and give him a lift. Something prompted him at the same time to try a spot of gear changing with the following result.
There was a tremendous roar as he slipped the gear into neutral and accelerated, a most frightful tearing grating sound as he changed gear, more roaring as he accelerated once again - no doubt to ensure a smooth take up, and a tremendous bang as he let in the clutch. Simultaneously the radiator fell off, the bottom of the crankcase fell on to the road, and gear wheels, connecting rod, screws and bolts littered the road. He had changed into reverse!
'C' Coy meanwhile had moved to WILHELMSHAVEN on 7 May. By the evening of 8 May, 23 targets had been traced, 5 of which had been destroyed in our own bombing raids. A wireless station was located on WANGEROOGE island and a section with an officer was sent to make a reconnaissance. They were taken out in a German 'R' boat which, whether by accident or design, grounded on BAND BAR and the party had to wait ten hours for a flood tide before they could get off.
They reported that the WT station was 50% intact and that there was a lot of radar on the island. An assessor was accordingly despatched to deal with this.
Feeding the Population
Back in HOLLAND, Capt LOW with his composite platoon was becoming extremely popular with the local inhabitants because of the meals he supplied daily to several hundred starving children. In certain areas in HOLLAND, especially the country areas, we found the people in an appalling state through lack of food, and DELFT was one of the worst places.
The soldiers, always soft-hearted to children all over the world, could not bear to see these hungry children looking on while they themselves fed, so by common consent they restricted their own rations and pooled the balance to supply those poor people with one meal a day.
Of course word soon got around, and by the time they left they were feeding 300 a day. Those who were too sick to leave their beds and stand in the queue, had it taken up to them by a soldier. Practically every soldier had 'adopted' one or more of those invalids. It really was a pathetic sight to see them.
The FRIESIAN Islands
We had always understood that 30 Advanced Unit would cover the FRIESIAN Islands but we were now informed that they must be exploited by us. Support platoon at DEN HELDER was accordingly informed, and given a platoon of 5 Bomb Disposal Coy to assist.
A platoon was sent to TEXEL to guard the RADAR there and a platoon of 5 Bomb Disposal Coy was sent to TERSCHELLING. All other islands were visited and reported on by Capt EYLES. None of the remaining islands was of more than passing interest, but "the adventures of McGEE" as they are now known, are worth recording.
Lt McGEE who had been sent to assist Capt EYLES at DEN HELDER decided to liberate the Dutch Island of AMELAND. So with an RE officer and one interpreter he set off in a boat rowed by two of the 'master race'. As the beach was rather shallow and the boat accordingly grounded in 2 ft of water, they made the boatman carry them ashore 'pick-a-back'. A solitary islander saw them arrive and at once rushed off to spread the news.
By the time the party had made its way to the Town Hall, a fairly large crowd had collected, and as soon as they hove in sight, the cheering and waving started and several people threw streamers. The approach march as it were, was quite successful until the very steps of the Town Hall were reached. Then it happened.
An extremely large fisherman bent on adding his bit to the general acclamation and welcome had found a streamer - the unfurling type - and after working himself up to an almost hysterical pitch, he hurled the streamer with all his might towards the advancing heroes, determined that it should unfurl itself over them.
All would have been well had the streamer been of recent manufacture, or in a good state of preservation, but unfortunately this was not the case. Salt water or some substance had caused it to become a solid mass with the inevitable result that the thin paper broke immediately it left the hurler's hand.
At the height of the reception therefore this emblem of festivity was seen to whizz past Lt McGEE's head and, continuing its unfettered course, to strike the interpreter an extremely nasty blow on the left temple rendering the poor man unconscious, in which state he remained for two hours!
Subsequent celebrations were somewhat dampened in view of the language difficulty, though Lt McGEE assured us that he had no difficulty with his language.
One of our assessors was extremely interested in oil and spent all his days either visiting people who might be concerned in oil or else in writing enormous treatise on the subject, which the orderly room staff typed for him. He would disappear for days at a time and then suddenly pop up unexpectedly and say he had come to stay.
It was on one of these occasions that he not only turned up suddenly himself, but brought along eight other officers (Colonels and Majors) headed by a full Colonel. They were all, we gathered, oil kings and became known accordingly to the headquarters as "Shell Consolidated". They stayed the night, rushed off the next day in big staff cars, and then were never seen again. We were not surprised; we were hardened to this sort of thing. We did wonder however, if we should ever see a few bearded Russian brigadiers representing 'ROP'.
We were beginning to surmise just what our future was likely to be when once again as if by magic, though actually it was more by appointment, the GSO1 arrived at our headquarters at UTRECHT and unfolded the plan. We had to complete targets in HOLLAND as quickly as possible and concentrate the force at HAAKSBERGEN again, with a view to moving into the RUHR and taking over targets etc from the Americans.
By that time we had uncovered all targets and were merely waiting for them to be assessed and investigated. If we could be freed of the radar targets 30 R BERKS could carry on with the others, and we could then concentrate as required. This was eventually done. Netherlands District agreeing to take over the guarding of all radar targets, and after handing over all the remaining targets to 30 R BERKS we finally returned to HAAKSBERGEN on 23 May leaving 30 R BERKS in sole charge of WEST HOLLAND as far as 'T' Force was concerned.
Our Last Journey
It seemed that we were now to become one of the three 'T' Forces in the British Zone of occupation, and that our particular area would be WESTPHALIA, probably under 1 Corps District. The next few days were spent making contacts with 49 Division in whose area we were to be, so we understood, and also trying to piece together the jigsaw puzzle over targets to be taken over from the Americans.
Meanwhile we said goodbye to the last of the assessors who, having now finished all their reports were returning to 21 Army Group for further orders. We had grown to like them since those early days and we were genuinely sorry to see them go.
The same reshuffle was taking place in Second Army 'T' Force and the two rifle coys, "B" and "D", now came back under our command, ready for the next move, wherever it might be. It came on 6 June, when we forsook the friendliness of HOLLAND and took up residence in GERMANY for the first time as a Force at MENDEN.
By now we had virtually ceased to become First Canadian Army 'T' Force, but we remained so in name until 12 June, when we officially became 1 Corps District 'T' Force. And so, as that 'Travel Talk' commentator might drawl, we say "Farewell to Canada". Happily we still retain the link with them through our GSO2, and for this, coupled with the fact that they did us proud over leave allotments, we shall be eternally grateful.
[Source: TNA FO 1031/49, transcribed by www.arcre.com]