German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

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daverpol
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German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by daverpol » 30 Jul 2008 23:46

Firstly, I would like to apologize if I've posted this in the wrong place!

I'm trying to obtain information on German units which were in the Gheel area of Belgium in September 1944.

My father was serving as a private in the 6th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry in Gheel when his Company was attacked by a German unit.
They split up & re-grouped at a farm outside of the town. They were then attacked by Infantry & Armored units & taken prisoner. This was Sunday, September 10th, 1944.

Could anyone please let me know if it is possible to discover which German units were involved?

Thanks,
Dave.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 31 Jul 2008 19:56

Dave,

I believe they were from a Luftwaffe Training Regiment supported by some self-propelled guns from a Tank Destroyer Bn. I will have a look at some sources and see if I can identify a more detailed response.

Regards

Tom O'Brien

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cerial killer
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by cerial killer » 01 Aug 2008 19:20

I've read that in the centre of the town one Panther was destroyed and 4 british tanks of an unspecified type were disabled. So some armor must have been in the area. Or the Panther could be a misidentified SPG. I'll see what I can dig up.

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RFPB
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by RFPB » 01 Aug 2008 20:23

Tom from Cornwall wrote:Dave,

I believe they were from a Luftwaffe Training Regiment supported by some self-propelled guns from a Tank Destroyer Bn. I will have a look at some sources and see if I can identify a more detailed response.

Regards

Tom O'Brien
Interesting that they would send a Luftwaffe Training Regiment to attack a city full of allied infantry? That is hard to believe (I mean it could be so, but it doesn't sound so smart from a German military perspective). What are your sources, just curious?

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: German Units in Gheel, Belgium,1944.

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 Aug 2008 20:36

Dave,

Information on armour from "Operation Market Garden - Then and Now" by Karel Margry: Four jagdpanther tank destroyers were knocked out in Gheel (Geel) - they were from 1. Kompanie, schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 559.

Information on Luftwaffe training regiment being used at the Gheel bridgehead comes from a variety of sources including Stuart Hills autobiography "By Tank into Normandy" and the divisional history of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. I believe that some troops from the Training Replacement Regiment "Herman Göring" also fought at Gheel. If you search on line for "Durham Light Infantry Gheel [or Geel]" you will discover a wealth of online sources ranging from Commonwealth War Grave details to personal stories.

Regards

Tom

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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by Martin Block » 01 Aug 2008 22:38

Dave,

By 10.9.1944 the sector in the area of Gheel/Geel was held by what was left of the 85. Inf.Div.. This Division had suffered heavy losses in the weeks before and received some replacements from various branches of the German Army including Luftwaffe ground personnel with poor infantry training. There is a quote from the war diary of the LXXXVIII. A.K. dated 8.9.1944 in the battalion history of the s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt. 559 which states: "Own units especially in the sector of the 85. I.D. are very jumbled, many splintered units unwilling to fight ("kampfunlustig"), elderly men from all branches of the army. The younger men from the Luftwaffe are for the most part recruits, unexperienced in combat. Energetic leaders are lacking, no self-confidence."

About noon on the 10.9.1944 the 1. Kompanie of the schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 559 (equipped with the Jagdpanther tank destroyer) received orders immediately move to Gheel/Geel and support the 85. Inf.Div. in stabilizing the situation there. The company arrived during the late afternoon/early evening and 2 of its Jagdpanthers supported the first small counterattacks by elements of the 85. Inf.Div.. Apparently during these probing actions for the re-taking of Gheel/Geel planned for the next day your father was taken prisoner.

The next day, 11.9.1944, a more serious counterattack was launched by the II./Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 6 (Oberst v. d. Heydte) supported by the Jagdpanthers of the 1./s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 559. This time the Germans made it to the town center of Gheel/Geel before they were stopped with serious losses including 4 Jagdpanthers.

Martin Block

daverpol
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by daverpol » 02 Aug 2008 01:34

Martin,

Thank you very much for the information, I appreciate it.

I can remember my father telling me about the time they were in the farm house & they saw a German soldier crossing the field to the front. They had decided to move out & capture him & the next thing they knew the field was "Swarming" with German soldiers & tanks.
It was what you could call "Bad Luck" I suppose, to move out of cover at the very same time as a German counter attack is starting!

Thanks again,
Dave.

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 03 Aug 2008 19:25

Martin,

What are the details of the 559 battalion history?

Regards

Tom

Martin Block
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by Martin Block » 03 Aug 2008 23:03

The history of s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt. 559 has only been privately printed and distributed in a very, very limited edition by Franz Kopka, himself a veteran and CO of the 3./559, in 1995. Apparently he sent copies to a few selected libraries in Germany and some former comrades and interested friends. Years ago I found it by chance in the library of the Bundesarchiv in Freiburg. It has no ISBN number and I have so far never noticed it offered for sale anywhere, not even on e-bay.

Martin Block

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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by Jan-Hendrik » 04 Aug 2008 17:44

If I remember correctly the library of Helmut Schmidt-Universität / Universität der Bundeswehr Hamburg has one copy, yoi can get it via http://www.subito-doc.de/ :D

Jan-Hendrik

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 04 Aug 2008 19:07

Gents, Thanks for the info, I will see if I can borrow it.

From what I've read it appears that the Durham Light Infantry were very few in numbers by the time they got to Geel. Hills in "By Tank into Normandy" talks about supporting a company of only about 30 men who suffered heavy casualties on the way in. I guess they were pretty much running on empty by now, and it wasn't long before the DLI battalions were disbanded IIRC.

Dave, Had your father served with the 6 DLI for long?

Regards

Tom

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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by dompilmac » 06 Aug 2008 19:26

I4AM 81 YEARS OLD.i HAVE LIVED IN GHEEL(Geel) and have passed the whole war as a youngster,living on the Market Place.
I have observed the battles during the whole period of time and after the famous 10th september ,we were forced out by the german troopers from Modell, to leave the center because so they said a very big counter attack was upcoming.so we went through the fronlines 9 kilometers farther to Kasterlee.
That nighy of the sept 10 there were four shermans stationed at the strategic points of the market.One at the corner direction of Mol, the second near the townhall and the St Amandschurch, the fourth was in front of our house, mid market, has turret turned backwards, to the street were the sherman from capt Robinson came.
During the night a giant of a pantherattack tank without a turret came exactly from the side of the English.
The panther had a sharp turn to make in order to reach the open market,saw the sherman and shot, straight into the corner house of the market. The Sherman replied illico but his bullet got in the other corner of the market house on the opposite,the panther shot back and hit the second sherman, the first one in front of our house shoot back and hit the panther in the right axel making the big animal to a stop.
The boys in the sherman yelled victory and the gunshooter came up and was shot down .Another was killed, the soldiers brought the capt and the wounded in our house to be cared off. I have letters of the capt who was first brought to the hospital and later turned back to London, he wrote me a couple of letters
as to the Sherman positioned towards Mol i went to look and saw a german in the street hidden away.
The tankcommander was quietly listening to something in his earphones when i told him to be very carefull, he didn't take any notice. A while later his tank was shot down and the whole corner set a fire.
During the night german soldiers came with a british brencarreer from the english side, behind the german panther to evacuate the occupants and set the tank a fire, the whole cornerhouses were burned out.
I have several pictures of the scenes, also the one with british soldeers taken prisoner, evacuated by the germans.
That same day a very heavy mortarbomb was fired on the center so heavy as one told in your story but even more, at each breath i took four to five bombs exloded around us.
I had a look on the market place and saw that german troopers were fleeding away near the park but they were stopped by FeldPolizei who chased them backwards into the battle but at that moment a mortarbomb fel just in the middle several deads and wounded, I assisted in the evacuation and one of the soldiers was still alive but so badly heard his chin was gone, a big splinter in his head and he was put with the dead on a little waggon to be evacuated.
I could go on for hours but have written o 200 pages book with the war events.

On the other side of the market place i found a german in themost realistic picture one can imagine of a soldier let it be german or british
indeed he feld flat on the ground in his left hand his rifle in the other hand a handgranat, his helmet was next to him and I saw in splendid gothic letters his name "Letzkov", i took his helmet and last it later, i have tried to find where to contact someone but failed
My name is:Ray Lepoudre, 26 rue des Floralies,26, Brussels 1200
phone 32 02 770 4208.
Requests welcome in english, german,french and flemish

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gunslinger
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by gunslinger » 08 Aug 2008 04:55

Thanks for sharing your eye-witniss report , aspecialy from a civilian point of view its fasinated, i realy like that.

best regards

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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by dompilmac » 09 Aug 2008 15:16

Tnx for your reaction "gunslinger"
with regard to the tank-battle in the center of Geel(formerly Gheel) I do confirm that the german monstertank, was an 8.8cm Panzerjaeger (Jagdpanther of which only 230 have been produced, the weight is 44.8 ton).
with regard to this piece, one needed two shermans to throw the burned out tank away into the park, mid of the market.
Further to my input I made a little mistake in the spelling of the captain's name:
have diggedup his letters and read
S.S.M.Robson,W.F.
"A" Squadron,
sherwood Rangers Yeomanry.B.L.A. (British Liberation Army)
His family address home was
W.F. Robson
"East View"
Dimmington
Newcastle on Tyne
England

On april 17th,45 i got another letter in which he tells me
quote
I wonder if i may ask you to do me a great favour,Raymond; You remember my Tank being knocked out at Geel and that my Wireless Operator was killed. I have since leanr that he is burried on Geel churchyard. His name is JOHN GREENAN, Could you please have a look at it for me and see that it is nice ...unquote.

But as said, soon after that bad day,--on sunday we started an extremely quiet moning, hesitating the first people of the market place came out the basements, looking anxiously towards the several streets ending up on the market place,
the side walks were full of broken glass and tiles and the ground was almost covered with a carpet of shell-splinters,
on the overside laid the body of the german soldier LETZKOW, near the bakery a little boy shot in the belly,
Yes it was quiet and calm untill striking ten a rateling noise far away behing the Albert Canal made people jump back in shelter of the basements, hundreds of mortar bombs and gunfire arrived upon the center and the neighbours.
( my uncle, living behing the canal was nearby the british batteries and told :"where this falls down, nothing will be left over")
It lasted until nearly 16h00 and then we heard tanks arrive, the first four Shermans arrived from the the left of Market, followed by troopers on both sides of the street.
As usual i was curious and out and went to distribute maps of the Center, made by my brother. and when i addressed a soldier in my school-english: he showed me his shoulder on which a little belgian flag, and he told me in french:"Je suis Belge" and I seemed not to understand he once more showed his sign and went on.
this was the prelude to the battle later that evening...
Ray Lepoudre
dompilmac

daverpol
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Re: German Units in Gheel,Belgium,1944.

Post by daverpol » 16 Aug 2008 01:23

Tom from Cornwall.
As far as I can remember my Father telling me, the 6th DLI were virtually wiped out by the end of September 1944.
The Battle Honours of the 6th Battalion after Normandy include, Villers Bocage, Tilly-sur-Seulles, St.Pierre la Vielle & Gheel.
My Father served in the 6th DLI from June 1943.

Ray Lepoudre (dompilmac)
Thank you so much for sharing your memory of the 10th September 1944, it was fasinating to read.
Could you please let me know if it is at all possible for me to see the photograph of the British Soldiers that you mention?
I'm not sure exactly how many were taken prisoner, but there may be a chance that my Father is on the photo.

Thank you,
Best Regards,

Dave.

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