Kenneth Taylor’s War Diary page 7

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Tuesday 29 Aug, 44

Poured with rain all day. Prepared to cross Seine in evening and moved at 2330hrs.

Wednesday 30 Aug, 44

Crossed river at Vernon at 0100hrs in the rain. Slept in a wood. Moved at lunch time thro’ Gasny and NE to Beaugrenier and spent a pleasant night in a farm. Spent evening talking to inhabitants. Captured our first V1 site. We are now moving fast again behind the Arm’d Divs.

Thursday 31 Aug, 44

Set off 0800hrs and moved thro’ Chaumont en Vexin to Auneuil. Pleasant night in a Chateau.

Friday 1 September, 44

Moved at 0600hrs thro’ Beauvais, Breteuil, and nearly to Amiens, then East near to Villers Bretonneux. Held 2 bridgeheads over Somme at Corbie and —? People here are wildly hysterical and mostly rather drunk. There is nothing for us to do as the FFI round up all the Jerries whom the Arm’d Divs have by-passed. I don’t like the hair-shaving of collaborators.

Saturday 2 September, 44

Got up 0330 for an early move which did not materialize. Rained. Moved at midday thro’ Amiens and across the Somme nearly to Arras. The Somme country is very bleak and desolate.

Sunday 3 September, 44

Moved thro’ Arras to defensive position North of the town in a wilderness.

Monday 4 September, 44

Left Arras and travelled 100 miles to Alost in Belgium, via Vimy, Lens, and Tournai. The North of France near Lens and Lille is horribly depressing and the people all look pinched and unhealthy. Things are a little better in Tournai. In moving thro’ Belgium to Alost the welcome we received outdid anything seen before. In Alost itself was the most incredible sight. The people went absolutely crazy. It is practically impossible to travel thro’ the town as they pull you out of your Jeep and climb all over it. The sight of one motor cycle causes a whole street to turn out and cheer wildly. At the same time parties of Maquis with various weapons go tearing off into the nearby woods to produce prisoners. They are constantly asking for petrol and arms. Everything in the town is offered to us including the full use of a glorious swimming pool 200 yds from Bn HQ.

Tues and Weds 5 and 6 September, 44

Swimming and drinking and conversation most of the day and night.

Thursday 7 September, 44

After a marvellous few days ordered to move again at midday. Set off thro’ Malines towards Albert Canal and had further wild demonstrations. No trouble en route except tomato juice obscuring windscreens of vehicles. Stopped near canal South of Gheel. Told to make an opposed crossing in boats at night. Enemy not thought to be strong.

Friday 8 September, 44

Moved up nearly to canal at midnight on a dark night. Whilst waiting to cross, a chap in D Coy set off a 75 Grenade which blew his head off. I was talking to him 2 minutes earlier and had just walked away. The sight of this brought one back to reality after the last few weeks and did not induce a very happy frame of mind for the operation. We made crossing in two places with two assault boats and a few Recce boats. It was rather eerie and tense gliding silently across the water with an occasional burst of machine gun fire down the canal, but we had negligible casualties, apart from a few chaps falling in and getting wet.

Our object was to secure ground where bridge had been blown in order that it could be rebuilt before morning. D Coy reached objective but C and A Coys held up and still short of objective by daylight. Bn HQ moved up behind A Coy and we dug-in at dawn. The enemy counter-attacked heavily with machine guns and armoured cars and C Coy came streaming back thro’ Bn HQ. 7[th] Green Howards landed behind us and sent two Coys to get the necessary X rds. They also failed, with casualties. A Coy had two platoons surrounded and taken prisoner. D Coy reported over wireless that they were surrounded and scarcely any ammunition left. The C.O. was wounded and the position began to look serious – enemy counter-attacking heavily all afternoon with only B Coy and 1 Pl of A Coy keeping them back. It was very disquieting with enemy on 3 sides and only the water behnd. I thought we would have to swim or be taken prisoner. However we held all counter-attacks and by darkness the situation was more in hand.

Saturday 9 September, 44

S East Yorks made a night crossing the other side of the X rds which enabled us to advance and secure our objectives, D Coy having managed to rejoin us with not many losses. Bn HQ moved up to a position where we were machine gunned all day long. Enemy now using guns and mortars also. I.O. wounded by Spandau bullets, leaving myself and the 2nd in command at Bn HQ – the Adjutant not having crossed over. In the evening the enemy withdrew a little, 151 Bde having made another bridgehead further East. Slight shelling at night.

Sunday 10 September, 44

Relieved of our positions and prepared to take over from 8DLI, which did in the evening. A very unpleasant spot – Bn HQ is near to a pontoon bridge which is shelled all day long and treated with airbursts. We have already lost about 180 killed, wounded, and missing in this party.

The whole bridgehead is now being very heavily counter-attacked by infantry, tanks, SP guns, and mortar fire. Our own part of it seems to receive particular attention. New C.O. arrived.

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