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Instructions regarding War Diaries and Intelligence Summaries are contained in F.S. Regs., Vol. 1. and the Staff Manual respectively Title pages will be prepared in manuscript.

Army Form C.2118
Unit: 2nd Bn The Royal Ulster Rifles
Month and Year: December 1944 (Erase heading not required). Commanding Officer: Lt. Col. I.C. Harris
Place Date Hour Summary Reference
855254 1   Zero hour for this, the second attack on the WANSSUM pocket, was fixed at 0100 hrs. At 2100 and 2300 hrs the previous evening the gunners had shelled known Bosche localities but the actual attack was to be silent except for some harrassing fire on more remote targets by 4.2 Mortars and MGs.
1   Punctually to time "B" Company arrived in the forming up position, having passed through the gaps in the wire made by "D" Company in the earlier attack. Once again, however, the brilliant moonlight proved to be the downfall of the expedition. The ground was extremely flat and visibility was about 250 yards so that any movement across this flat country could be seen at great distance. So the leading platoon had advanced about 300 yards when a spandau opened up from the direction of WANSSUM. It was vigorously engaged by our leading section, but, at that moment, three more machine guns began firing, the platoon was effectively pinned to the ground. Then two verey lights were shot into the sky by the German positions and down came his defensive fire. The 2" mortar of the leading platoon was busily employed in trying to silence the MGs but all was to no avail because they were too well dug in and at least one of the guns was firing from a building. The shooting was low and accurate and at least one of the enemy MGs was a Bren Gun.
1   Meanwhile the other two platoons had come up. The Company Commander, Capt H.M. Gaffikin, had originally intended to pass one of them around the left flank, but soon it became evident that such a committal would involve very heavy casualties and, without much greater support, Capt Gaffikin did not feel justified in so doing. The forward platoon had made another attempt to get forward, but in the attempt had suffered casualties. Capt Gaffikin therefore sent forward the order to disengage and dig in back with the rest of the Company. This was carried out after a long and arduous crawl by the remainder of this platoon throughout under fire from Machine Guns and shells. Casualties in the Company were six men killed and 13 wounded.
1   Further North, "D" Company had a similar experience when, synchronized with the "B" attack, the Company attempted to cross the WANSSUM – BLITTERSWYCK road to capture objectives on the Northern side. A dismounted section of the Carrier Platoon had been brought up to release "D" Company from commitments on their Southern flank and "A" Company had already taken over "D" positions on the N.W. of BLITTERSWYCK so that the whole Company was ready to go forward. As it happened, only one section actually traversed the road and as its men dropped into the gully on the far side of the road, spandaus opened up from the front and from the left along the gully so that the whole section was effectively pinned. Two of them, one the Section Commander, were wounded and this evoked a most courageous action from L/Corporal Rossiter volunteering to go to the assistance of the wounded, he ran forward into the open, crossed the road and picked up Corporal Carroll the Section Leader. Placing him over his shoulder and calling to the rest of the stranded party to follow him, L/Corporal Rossiter ran back across the open to the cover of the wood. Throughout the whole incident he was under heavy and sustained MG fire, but both he and his charge escaped further injury.
1   By now, the Commanding Officer had decided to call off this operation for that night. Difficulties, however, still remained. Flooding had made the approaches to BLITTERSWYCK passable only to a Weazel and evacuation of casualties to the RAP on such restricted transport provided just one of the problems. Shelling and Mortaring from the other side of the river was another, and casualties were inflicted upon several of those occupied with the passage of the wounded to the RAP, or of food, greatcoats and ammunition forward to the companies. "D" Company lost their Colour Serjeant and NCO in charge of the Stretcher Bearers, both wounded and evacuated. Everyone now realised that further progress was impossible without the co-operation of tanks; or if possible, it could only be carried out by suffering casualties out of all proportion to the significance of the task in hand. Accordingly the Churchill tanks of the 4th Grenadier Guards were co-opted to assist in reducing this pocket, and operation was provisionally arranged for first light on 3 Dec. 2 Dec was to be spent in reconnaissance by the Squadron and Troop Commanders and in joint conferences with their opposite numbers. Altogether the tanks were to deploy two squadrons, one operating from the Windmill, in support of our Battalion, and the other, on the left, operating Northwards in support of an attack from MEERLO to be launched by 1 KOSB.
1   Nothing more could be done that day (1st), but during the night, patrols were sent out to discover whether the Germans had remained in the positions he was known to occupy. "C" Company searched the HELLING area carefully, but found no trace of Bosche anywhere. On the other hand, in the early hours of the morning, a German patrol tried to enter the wood in the Northern extremity of "D" Company’s position. Our men opened fire upon the intruders, and wounded one of them who was subsequently captured though he died in the RAP. The patrol withdrew and as it did so, called down DF fire upon our positions by firing a red verey light. Afterwards it seems that this patrol was simply a blind, to cover the withdrawal of the Bosche from the area, though this was not known at the time.
2   During that morning close reconnaissance was carried out by the Brigade Commander and his two Battalion Commanders, and also by the Commander 4th Grenadier Guards and his two Squadron Leaders. In the end, however, this proved unnecessary because when the Commanding Officer returned to Battalion Headquarters, he heard from a civilian that the Germans had left WANSSUM the previous evening. Patrols were organized to enter WANSSUM, and also to explore the woods of the North side of the woods beyond "D" Company. By 1400 hrs it was clear that no Germans remained on this side of the river, and the attack was called off. At 1430 hrs, Major E.M. Murphy began to move "C" Company into WANSSUM. By 1600 has he was in position.
2   "D" Company moved back to "C" Company’s old positions in MEERLO, and "B" Company returned to their old billets in MEGELSUM. All these moves were completed by nightfall.
2   Weather throughout the first two days was cold but fine.
3   Weather continued fine and cold. Floods in Bn area beginning to subside. "I" OP at 872273 manned but nothing to report other than civilian movement on opposite side of river. The Carrier Platoon, under Capt W.E.S. Sturgeon, took over W. WANSSUM from the Carrier Platoon of 1 KOSB and a capok bridge across the canal was built by Div sappers to connect the two parts of WANSSUM. BLITTERSWYCK received intermittent shelling during morning. Two Recce patrols from "C" Company visited woods in area 8528 during the night 2/3 and reported them clear of enemy.
4   Commanding Officer's conference held at 1200 hrs. Capt W.E.S. Sturgeon, OC Carrier Platoon and a signaller disappeared from billet during night 3/4, believed taken prisoners of war. Brigadier visited "B" Company area at 1230 hrs. Bn HQ area had a quiet day but "A" Come any area received heavy shelling and mortaring at intervals throughout the day and East WANSSUM experienced heavy shelling between 1400 and 1500 hrs. A Presbyterian Church Service was held at 1100 hrs and Roman Catholic at 1500 hrs. Recce patrol again went to woods in area 8528 during night 3/4 but had nothing to report.
4   A party visited a cinema show at GEMERT during afternoon. Weather cold and inclined to be stormy.
5   "B" Company cleared houses on road 875264 to 882257 and in the evening moved to that area. "C" Company, on being relieved in WANSSUM by a Company of 1 KOSB, moved to "B" Company's old position in MEGELSUM. A search was carried out for a suitable OP near to the river bank. All civilians were evacuated from WANSSUM during morning. Two recce and a contact patrol were out during night 4/5th. "A" Company recce patrol visited houses at 864274 but had nothing to report. Recce patrol from "C" Company were not able to reach house at 859288 as they discovered the wood at 857286 occupied by enemy. Patrol from "B" Company made contact with Rifle Brigade at 1700 hrs and 0700 hrs. Weather again stormy.
6   The Commanding Officer attended Corps Commander's Conference. "I" OP was established at 868269 but had nothing to report. A party left Bn HQ at 0900 hrs for 24 hours at the Divisional Club and another party went to "A" Echelon, spending the night there prior to proceeding to BRUSSELS on the following day for 48 hours leave. During the night 5/6th four patrols were out. One recce patrol went to wood 864278 but had nothing to report; another recce patrol visited houses in area 8826 and reported them clear of enemy. A Standing Patrol went to Wood 858285 and house 859288 but saw or heard no enemy. Contact Patrol met Rifle Brigade at 0630 hrs. Stormy weather continued.
7   A Court of Inquiry was held in the afternoon regarding members of the Bn believed to have been taken Prisoners of War during operations on 1st. A party visited a concert at GEMERT. Weather again cold and stormy throughout the day. During night 6/7th a Standing Patrol again went to Wood 858285 but had nothing to report. Recce patrols went to Woods 861277 and 888258, neither patrol having anything to report. Contact was made with Inns of Court at 1700 and 0630 hrs.
8   Weather continued to be wet and cold. "I" OP established at 876277 and observed some enemy movement. A party left for 24 hrs at the Divisional Club and another party visited a film show. Three patrols were out during night 7/8th. "A" Company Standing Patrol lay up in house 876277 for offensive action in the event of enemy approaching, but they had nothing to report. A recce patrol from "B" Company went to house 876263, they, too, had nothing to report. A second recce patrol from "B" Company went to 886254 for offensive action if enemy approached along BLITTERSWYCK — NACHTEGNAL Road but nothing was seen or heard of any enemy.
9   Snow fell during morning and rain in the evening. "I" OP manned but observed little enemy movement. During the night 8/9th a recce patrol from "A" Company went to Wood 865278 and house 863283 but their visit revealed nothing. "B" Company provided a Standing Patrol at 883259 whose object was to prevent enemy infiltration from Wood 887256 but they had nothing to report. Another patrol went to 885260 and 876264 and again there was nothing to report. "C" Company patrol went to 874247 and made contact with Inns of Court at 1730 and 0700 hrs.
10   Major W.D. Tighe-Wood, MC, rejoined the Battalion from being wounded and became OC "B" Company, Capt H.M. Gaffikin becoming 2 i/c "B" Company and Capt W.H. Baudains, MM, OC Carriers to replace Capt W.E.S. Sturgeon. The Commanding Officer visited all Rifle Companies. "D" Company carried out a recce of "A" Company's positions in BLITTERSWYCK prior to taking over. Church services were Held for C of Es at 1200 hrs and RCs at 1500 hrs. "I" OP was moved to 877274 and saw a certain amount of enemy movement in WELLERLOI. The Commanding Officer held a conference at 1430 hrs. During the night 9/10th "B" Company Standing Patrol went to 887258 but had nothing to report. "A" Company recce patrol went to 876277 and 877274 they, too, having nothing to report. Rain fell throughout night 9/10th, weather during the day was quite fine but cold.
11   During the morning the Comd Offr and IO went to DEURNE and lectured officers of 4th Grenadier Guards, of 6th Guards Tank Brigade, on "taking over the line." "D" and "A" Companies changed over positions in the afternoon while "C" Company carried out a recce of "B" Company's position before taking over on the 12th. A party went to a concert at GEMERT. A ten days signal course was held at Bn HQ under the supervision of the SO for Company Signallers. Three Standing patrols were out during night 10/11th, lying up in houses 882257, 876277 and area WIGNIEHOF 876263 each patrol having nothing to report. Weather dull inclined to be wet.
12   An "Officers Day" was held, programme as per appendix. During the afternoon "C" and "B" Companies changed positions. OPs reported sporadic MG and Rifle fire which appeared to be at no particular target, little enemy movement was observed. Parties attended Cinema show at "A" Echelon. Weather again dull and wet. Recce, Standing and Contact Patrols were out during night 11/12th but revealed nothing.
13   Recce party left Bn at 1000 hrs for GEMERT. Six Officers and Six Serjeants from 4th Grenadier Guards visited the Bn for the purpose of studying Infantry methods. Parties visited film show at "A" Echelon and a concert at EINDHOVEN. OPs reported usual MG and Rifle fire during the day end there appeared to be no particular targets, enemy simply firing at random. Two Recce and a Contact Patrol were out on night 12/13th but had nothing to report. Weather cold but fine.
14   Thick fog at 0600 hrs clearing at 1000 hrs except for the area of the river where fog didn't clear until 1300 hrs. Fog limited observation to the afternoon only but OPs again reported enemy MG and Rifle fire at intervals throughout the day. The Armourer carried out an inspection of Bn weapons. A party visited a concert at GEMERT given by Belgiun artists. Major C.R.P. Sweeny, MC, was today summoned to an appointment on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief. Major W.D. Tighe-Wood, MC, now went back to Command "A", his old Company. Capt H.M. Gaffikin resumed Command of "B" Company with Lieut J.A. Phillips as his 2 i/c. During the night 13/14th. two recce patrols were out visiting Wood 864279 and house 876263 - neither patrol had anything to report. Weather remained fine but still cold.
15   A hard frost overnight, cold but fine throughout the day. A check was made of civilians returning into restricted areas and only people with official permits were allowed to remain. Major J.C.S.G. deLongueuil rejoined the Bn from a Staff Appointment at 21 Army Group HQ. Another party visited the concert at GEMERT. OPs reported little enemy movement and the usual MG and Rifle fire. Three recce, a contact and a standing patrol were active during night 14/15th. but no enemy movement was seen or heard.
16   Rain fell at intervals during the day. A few enemy mortar bombs fell to the right of BLITTERSWYCK at 1400 hrs. OPs reported enemy movement at 877286 and a certain amount of MG and Rifle fire, again at no specific target. A party left Bn HQ for "A" Echelon, staying there the night before proceeding to BRUSSELS on the following day. Another party left Bn HQ at 1200 hrs for a film show at HELMOND. Patrols for night 15/16th. were three recce, visiting house 862275, Wood 863278 and house 863264 but they had nothing to report.
17   Weather dull with occasional rain. Brigadier visited Bn HQ at 1100 hrs. Baths were arranged for the Bn during the day. Church services were held for Presbyterians at 1430 hrs and RCs at 1530 hrs. A three day course commenced under the supervision of the IO, instructing three Other Ranks from each Rifle Company on OP work. Five patrols were out during night 16/17th but had nothing to report, other than the sound of hammering on opposite bank of river. Enemy AA was far more active than usual against Typhoons.
18   Officers' Day held in VENRAY, programme as per appendix. Enemy jet planes flew over Bn area during the morning and were heavily engaged by AA fire. OPs were manned by personnel on the OP Course but little enemy movement was observed. During the night 17/18 "D" and "A" Companies stood to and Bn HQ was at one hours notice to move, owing to suspected enemy movement. Two Fighting Patrols were out visiting areas between forward Company positions and the river, but no enemy were seen or heard. Weather rather milder than of late with occasional rain.
19   Slight enemy air activity at 0630 hrs when a bomb was dropped; probably in the TIENRAIJ area but no reports were received. Representatives from the 1 Suffolks visited Bn HQ during the afternoon and a recce party left Bn HQ at 1400 hrs for new location. A report was received that a few enemy were at large on our side of the river which resulted in Companies clearing woods in Bn area, but no enemy were discovered. A party left Bn HQ at 0830 hrs for 24 hours at the Divisional Club. Weather was cold and misty and OPs were unable to see opposite bank of river. Patrols out during night 18/19th were two Fighting, two Standing and a Contact patrol but again nothing was revealed of enemy on our side of the river.
20   Weather again cold and misty. A recce party left Bn HQ for new area at 1400 hrs. Recce party from 1 Suffolks visited Company positions during the afternoon and in the evening two Companies from 1 Suffolks relieved "C" and "D" Companies. Fog again restricted observation and OPs had nothing to report. Five patrols were out during night 19/20th, they, too, had nothing to report.
21   9 Br Inf Bde was relieved today by units of 8 Br Inf Bde and, during the morning, the Bn moved by march route to new reserve location in HORST area, first Company leaving MEERLO at 0900 hrs, move being completed by 1400 hrs. Weather still foggy and cold.
22   Frost overnight remaining cold throughout the day. Bn began the rest, reveille being at 0730 hrs and administration was carried out during the day. The Commanding Officer held a conference at 1200 hrs. Parties visited a cinema in HORST during afternoon and evening and a party left Bn HQ at 1400 hrs for 48 hours at BRUSSELS.
23   Another hard frost overnight remaining cold. QM carried out a check of War Office Controlled Stores and Arms. Bn Transport was also inspected by MTO. At 0930 hrs all Officers, WOs and Serjeants attended a lecture at HORST given by the Divisional Commander who spoke on the War situation. Parties again visited the cinema in HORST.
24   Again a severe frost continuing cold. RC Church services were held during the day in HEGELSUM Church. The Bn soccer team played an eleven from 2 Lincolns in VENRAY, losing by one goal to nil in spite of enthusiastic support given by members of the Bn. Owing to the possibilities of the enemy making raids over Christmas time the Bn was at two hours notice from 1600 hrs until 1200 hrs 26 Dec. Officers had their Christmas dinner during the evening.
25   An overnight frost continuing to freeze throughout the day. Church services were held during the morning, an RC service was held in HEGELSUM Church at 0930 hrs and at the same time a Presbyterian service was held in the church hall. C of E service was held in the church hall at 1100 hrs. After the C of E service, officers were entertained by the Serjeants' Mess, the Brigadier being present. At 1245 hrs everyone returned to their respective Companies to assist in serving dinner. The Commanding Officer visited each Company at dinner and made a short speech, toasting the Bn and wishing everyone the Compliments of the Season. At 1500 hrs a fancy dress football match was played between Officers and Serjeants which resulted in a rugger match, much to the spectators' amusement. Officers entertained WOs and Serjeants at 1800 hrs and a very pleasant evening was spent. Parties visited a concert in HORST given by Belgium Artists.
26   Inter-Company Soccer matches were to be played during the morning but had to be cancelled owing to the hard state of the ground. Again, there was a severe frost overnight continuing to freeze during the day and several members of the Bn seized the opportunity to skate. The Divisional Commander visited Bn HQ at 1130 hrs, staying until 1300 hrs. He called at the Serjeants' Mess, which was prepared for the Serjeants’ Christmas dinner, and was most impressed by the decorations. A dance, held in the church hall during the evening, was very well attended by many civilians and members of the Bn. Representatives from 1 Norfolks visited Bn HQ during the morning and inspected billets prior to taking over the Bn area. A party left Bn HQ at 0900 hrs for 48 hours at BRUSSELS.
27   Major B.J. FitzG. Donlea, MC, left the Bn to take over Command of 3 Br Inf Div Trg School, whilst Major T.N.S. Wheeler took over duties of Bn Second in Command and Major J.C.S.G. deLongueuil assumed Command of "S" Company. Recce party left Bn HQ for new location at 0945 hrs. Baths were arranged for the Bn. During the afternoon parties visited cinema shows in HORST and DEURNE, also a "Stars in Battledress" concert in HELMOND. Weather still cold.
28   The Commanding Officer visited all companies during the morning and spoke about the leave scheme, also giving a summary on the War situation. In the afternoon the Brigadier visited Bn HQ and presented Commendation Cards to Sjt Drumgoole, Sjt Taylor, Sit Kilding and L/Cpl Donovan. "A" Company moved to new area and took up the forward position. Two of the Bn Pipers attended the presentation of awards at 253 Fd Coy RE, and a letter of appreciation was subsequently received. Weather continuing to be cold, morning and evening being extremely foggy.
872233 29   Today 9 Br Inf Bde moved back into the line, relieving 185 Bde. Bn moved by march route to new location, the first company passing Bde SP at 0810 Hrs, and all companies were in position by 1300 hrs. "I" OP was established at 906227 but nothing could be seen, visibility being limited to a few yards owing to fog. The Commanding Officer inspected positions of "A" Company during the evening. Weather very cold and foggy throughout the day.
30   Brigadier and Commanding Officer visited positions of the Dutch Companies during the morning. OPs saw some enemy movement at 913245 and later, Artillery engaged two targets in this area. A party left Bn HQ at 0900 hrs for 48 hours in BRUSSELS. A Fighting and a Recce Patrol were out during the night 29/30th , Fighting Patrol making contact with "A" Company at KASTEEL and Recce contacted detachment at WESSERHOF. Neither patrol had anything to report. Weather again cold and frosty.
31   Rain fell during night but cold weather continued during the day. It was officially announced that Lieut Colonel I.C. Harris was leaving the Bn on 1 Jan 45 and Lieut Colonel J. Drummond was to take over command of the Bn. The Brigadier visited Bn HQ at 1230 hrs and left at 1400 hrs. Church services were held, RC service in local church at 0930 hrs and C of E at 1500 hrs in the RAP. OPs reported little enemy movement but obtained several shell and mortar reps. During the night 30/31st Fighting, Recce and Contact patrols were in operation but revealed nothing of enemy activity on this side of the river.

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Source: Jeroen Koppes, TracesOfWar.com, transcribing: Hans Houterman.

Disclaimer: This War Diary is based on its original, but typos might be corrected. Locations are calculated, so might not be in the correct place. For historical research, always check the originals.