Attack on Goch, 5 Black Watch, from "The Spirit of Angus"
Goch, Reichswald, 18th February 1945
THE FOLLOWING DESCRIPTION OF THE 5th BLACK WATCH ACTION AT GOCH IS TAKEN FROM "THE SPIRIT OF ANGUS" by JOHN MCGREGOR
"Life for the most part is underground in Gennep. The Germans are still making the town, which was a key place in their water defence line, an unhealthy place to live in, and shell it regularly. 'C' Company Commandeer, Major GA Pilcher MC of GOWS, Invergowerie, nr Dundee (centre) utilises one of the German built cellars as his HQ. With him is his 2nd in command, Captain AL Campbell of 9 Woodburn square, Douglas, Isle of Man (right) and 13 Pl Commander, Lt D P Smyth of 38 Herriot Row, Edinburgh. C Coy, 5 Black Watch, 153 Brigade" - Words and Photograph by Sgt Silverside, 14th February 1945.
IWM - B 14622
"Next morning, 18th February, Brigade issued an Order for the Battalion to move to a concentration Area at Asperden with a view to a night attack on the town of Goch.
This town was a major link in the Siegfried Defensive Line and, although frequently bombed, it was still in enemy hands. The plan was for the 2nd Seaforths from 152 Brigade to attack South from Hervuist and cross the Anti-Tank ditch. Once they had secured the ditch the Battalion would pass through their positions and advance on Goch. The Battalion moved to Asperden in TCVs and from the Assembly Area the Recce Parties went forward to study the ground. After an evening meal the Battalion moved to the Assembly Area just North of the Anti-Tank ditch.
The Seaforth advance was successful; H-Hour was set for 0100 hours on the 19th, and the Artillery programme was due to commence at 0045 hours. It was subsequently discovered that the Germans had expected that the attack would come up the line of the main road from the South. Instead the Battalion had come down from the North, more or less along the banks of the River Niers, and was into the outskirts of the town before the Germans, sheltering from the barrage, realised what was happening. 'D' company captured the crossroads, some 300 yards short of the first row of houses, with only light resistance; Major Sandy Leslie and 'B' Company then passed through and secured the next crossroads in the town, capturing several prisoners.
It was then the turn of 'C' Company (Major Pilcher) to push through and capture the factory and one side of the street, closely followed by 'A' Company (Major Mathew) on the other side of the street. Most of the houses were in ruins from the heavy bombardment and many had cellars which were frequently found to be occupied by Germans. One method previously used was to open the cellar door and toss down a grenade, but that proved messy, if effective, and so a new technique had been adopted, said to be from an idea by Sergeant Maxie MM, of 'D' Company. Instead of a grenade a large stone was tossed down the cellar steps which invariably had the desired effect of producing a scramble of Germans anxious to surrender. Goch posed another problem; some houses had empty cellars but determined enemy were dug-in in the gardens behind the buildings.
During the initial stages of the attack there was a hold up when it was discovered that the temporary bridge over the Anti-Tank ditch could not take the Jeeps and they had to be manhandled, across on hastily improvised ramps.
This detailed map taken directly from "The Spirit of Angus" illustrates the actions of the 5th Black Watch.
At 0600 hours the CO, having established his HQ in 'C' Company area, pushed Patrols from 'A' and 'C' Companies up to the Main Square, which was reported clear. He ordered 'D' Company to move through 'C' Company and secure the church and hospital. Whilst this move was getting organised, 'B' Company killed some Germans who came into their area from the Right.
It was a very dark night and, in making his way forward to catch up with his leading Platoon, Major Brodie overshot the side street and with his Company Runner, Pte McInnes MM, a tough Dundonian, found themselves approaching a group of shadowy figures. Expecting that they were some of' C' Company, Major Brodie called out. There was a moment of silence, then words in German and bullets flew. The Major and the Corporal did a very fast move back down the street where they found the correct turning and their lead Platoon. This Platoon had been fired upon from the church and the courtyard in front of the hospital, and had returned the fire, driving the enemy out of the church and into the hospital building. As soon as his reserve Platoon, led by Lt Ian MacDonald, arrived, he ordered them to follow him into the building to clear the ground floor.
It was obvious that all the Germans had taken refuge in the large area of the hospital cellars. When the stone trick did not work, real grenades were used, without immediate effect. Only after some Sten gun fire down the main cellar steps was there any sign of movement: a rather shaken German Lieutenant came up with his hands aloft, shortly followed by a Major bearing a white flag and closely behind him a Colonel who was OC Troops in Goch and some 18 soldiers. The German Colonel had been wounded by one of the grenades and was sent back on a stretcher. It was daylight by this time and as the German Colonel was carried away by his own men and their escorting Jocks, the 'D' Company men saluted him, and this gesture persuaded more enemy to come out of the surrounding buildings in surrender.
'A' Company took over from 'D' Company to secure the North-West half of Goch, but by now the Battalion was coming under shell fire and snipers were active. Battalion HQ was established in a good cellar in the main street, the Anti-Tank guns were sited and other essential Transport arrived in Company areas. The total of POWs taken had risen to 406 since 8th February.
At 0730 hours the 5/7th Gordons advanced through the area but almost immediately met very strong opposition and were pinned down. Heavy shelling continued throughout the day and following night, interspersed with mortar fire including 'Moaning Minnies'. Movement amongst the ruins was difficult and kept to a minimum. By the afternoon the Pioneers had cleared the main North bridge of mines and had made contact with the 8th Royal Scots, 15th Division, on the other bank of the River Niers.
The 1st Gordons came through 'C' Company area as they attacked towards Thomashof, South-West of the town. Like their sister Battalion they met strong resistance and it was 1600 hours before they captured their objectives at Thomashof.
The Divisional General arrived at Battalion HQ around this time and explained the current situation. It was essential to force the enemy out of Goch to clear the main supply route from the South and this would be done by cutting off Goch from the South. The Battalion would attack South-East from behind the 1st Gordons positions at Thomashof and capture the strong enemy positions around Slavanien. H-Hour was set for 2100 hours and there would be Artillery support from 2045 hours.
Major Graham Pilcher and Major Sandy Leslie kept their Companies close up behind the barrage and attacked with great spirit. There was some very fierce hand-to-hand fighting before they secured their first objective around the farm buildings and cross tracks. Major Eric Mathew then advanced towards 'C' Company area, but had to hold 'A' Company in the open when both 'C' and 'B' Companies were counter-attacked. When the Germans had been driven off, about 2300 hours, Artillery fire was brought down again to cover 'A' Company's attack on the buildings at Slavanien. They also met with fierce resistance, but managed to capture part of the trench system although they were unable to penetrate the buildings. Their situation was complicated by part of a 'B' Company Platoon which had overshot their objective and were pinned down by the 'A' Company battle. Major Mathew reported that there were German Tanks and Armoured cars on his immediate front.
Whilst all this activity was going on, the Battalion Command Post in Thomashof had its own piece of the action when a German Patrol, having wounded a member of the I Section, forced the Jock to walk ahead of them towards the doorway of the Command Post. But they were driven off, leaving the Officer killed and one of their number badly wounded. The I Section man escaped further injury and was looked after in the RAP. Papers on the German Officer revealed that he was Captain Jaeger in command of a Company of Paratroopers. No sooner had the Command Post personnel dealt with this incident than there was a direct shell hit on the CO's Jeep, which knocked out both W/T sets. Colonel Bradford took Tac HQ forward to 'C' Company and, having found that 'B' Company had been unable to expand their position to the North because of the number of Spandau posts along the line of the road running into Goch, he ordered 'D' Company to attack and capture the house and trenches NorthEast of 'A' Company position.
'D' Company had been waiting in the Gordon area for some hours and when they were called forward they were all feeling cold, so Major Brodie set off at a very sharp pace, which soon extended his Company into a long line behind him. When he reached 'B' Company area he was given a brief on the ground ahead, and told that because of the close proximity of the other Companies, it was not possible for him to have the support of Artillery fire. The rest of his Company, having caught up with him, were then given a further quick brief and once again he set off at a furious pace towards the objective.
When he had gone a short distance he realized that he only had his two Company Runners, Lt Bill Chisholm and his Platoon with him, the other two Platoons were some way behind. He decided there was no time to waste and, telling the men to follow him, made towards the dim outline of the house which was their main objective. With some 200 yards to go they suddenly came under withering fire from several Spandaus and their advance was momentarily checked. After a brief pause they dashed forward again knocking out two Spandau posts before reaching the walls of the house. Several Germans were trying to get into the house and the Section dealt with them whilst the rest of the Platoon took up positions in the garden at the rear of the building. Several grenades were thrown into the house, and finally 12 Germans emerged with their hands in the air.
The rest of 'D' Company, like Marshal Ney, marched towards the gun-fire and were quickly deployed but then had to deal with an enemy position which opened fire from the orchard beyond the house. By this time Major Brodie had received several wounds, mostly in his legs, so once he had seen his Company consolidate he handed over to his 2 i/c Captain Ken Buchanan and made his way back to report to the CO. Later he went to the RAP and Captain Beetham.
Tanks and Bren carries manoeuvre in the streets in Goch. Taken by Sgt Christie. 21 February 1945
IWM - B 14778
Problems were experienced in trying to get SP guns up to the Companies, all of which were still being fired at and attacked by German Patrols. One SP gun slipped off the track into a ditch, completely blocking the route for all other vehicles until it was hauled out. Most of the urgently needed ammunition replenishments had to be carried forward but, soon after dawn, all the SP guns were sited and the roads into Goch covered.
Two German Mk IV Tanks rumbled into 'D' Company area, one fired at the SP gun and missed, then retreated rapidly. The other was struck by a Piat bomb which failed to explode, but the crew baled out and surrendered. Another SP gun in the 'D' Company area knocked out two German Tanks moving on the main road. As the light increased on the morning of the 21st, the Battalion saw large numbers of Germans moving into formations in the East and the South. They were supported by Tanks and Armoured Cars and could be seen digging in their Mortars. The Artillery, especially the Medium Gunners, had a field day. Their FOOs were calling on W/T with fresh targets every other minute and the chaos and carnage amongst the Germans was there for all to see. The enemy was broken and those who survived were seen struggling Eastwards, leaving Goch and its immediate area in Division's hands as the 7th Black Watch and the Gordons went through to clear the streets and houses in the East end of the town.
The Battalion casualties were high, including 8 killed, but the losses inflicted on the enemy were enormous. In the 3 days they captured another 220 prisoners, mostly Paratroopers, one Mk IV Tank, 3 x 88mm Guns and Tractors, 2 x 25mm Anti-Tank guns and Tractors, 2 x Flak Guns, several Half-Tracks and quantities of small arms and ammunition."