Capture of Goch and concluding stages of Operation Veritable
Goch, Reichswald, 20th - 28th Feb 1945
CAPTURE OF GOCH AND CONCLUDING STAGES OF OPERATION "VERITABLE", Taken from "The History of 154 Infantry Brigade in North West Europe"
20th February 1945 to 28th February 1945
The attack against Goch, an important communication centre in the Siegfried Line, was now started by the other two Brigades and determined enemy resistance was encountered. On 20th February the Brigade Commander was ordered to put one Battalion under command of 153 Brigade to assist in the final capture of the town, and 7th Black Watch were detailed for this task. After a night of heavy and unpleasant fighting in the southern built-up area of the town, the Battalion captured the objectives allotted to it but in doing so suffered heavy casualties, including a number of experienced officers and senior N.C.O.s, who, at this stage of the campaign, were very hard to replace. Very early on 21st February the Brigade was ordered to take over the final clearance of the southern and: eastern parts of the town and 7th Black Watch reverted to Brigade command. Whenever 7th Black had captured their objective, which lay astride the main road running south from the town to Weeze, 7th Argylls were passed through 7th Black Watch and captured the eastern outskirts of the town, meeting only minor opposition. 1st Black Watch took over, from 5th Black Watch, a position just south of the town on the night of 21st/22nd February. 53rd Division passed through the Brigade on 23rd February and started an attack south on the axis of the main road to Weeze.
On 24th February the Divisional Commander informed the Brigade Commander that the Division had been ordered to clear the area south-west of Goch and to open up the next west to east lateral road across the Corps front. Between Goch and this lateral road the River Kendel, another tributary of the Maas, flows in a series of large loops. This river, like the Niers, was in considerable flood, and as a result, much wider than usual. The Divisional Commander ordered (a) 153 Brigade to advance down the axis of the road running south-west from Goch and to capture Siebengewald on the lateral road referred to and (b) 154 Brigade to attack across country from the left and, after capturing Hulm and Winkel, to capture Boyenhof, which lies south of the River Kendel and also on the lateral road and thereafter to join up with 153 Brigade at Siebengewald. Owing to the fact that the Kendel in this area flows in a series of large loops, it was necessary for units of the Brigade to cross the river three times in the carrying out of the task allotted to it. The Brigade plan was as follows:-
First Phase.-(Night 25th/26th February) 7th Argylls were to start the Brigade attack and after crossing the Kendel near the inter-Divisional boundarv with 53rd Division, were to capture Hulm. On completion of the Argylls' task 1st Black Watch were to capture Winkel, which lay in the next bend of the river, and thereafter cross the river again and clear the next loop of it and join up with 153 Brigade who were attacking from the north.
Second Phase.-(Night 26th/27th February) 7th Black Watch were to pass through 1st Black Watch and attack south and capture Boyenhof. 7th Argylls were to capture Kerkenhof which lies on the lateral road and due south of Hulm.
The attack started at 22.00 hours on 25th February and within two hours 7th Argylls had crossed the Kendel and captured Hulin after meeting only slight opposition. 1st Black Watch started their attack soon after midnight and by 02.00 hours they had two companies across the river. By 03.00 hours they had made contact with 5th Black Watch of 153 Brigade and were firmly established in their final position.
The attacks by 7th Black Watch and 7th Argylls the following night were also successfully carried out. 7th Black Watch, in addition to meeting rather more determined opposition, encountered a deep anti-tank ditch, the crossing over which was opposed by the enemy. After overcoming this opposition the Battalion pressed forward into Boyenhof but again encountered stiff enemy resistance. Very shortly after this, however, it was possible to complete a crossing place over the anti-tank ditch and to send tanks forward to support the Battalion. With the aid of these tanks, the Battalion forced its way into Boyenhof and was soon in possession of all the objectives allotted to it and had linked up with 153 Brigade on the right. 7th Argylls' attack, with one company, against Kerkenhof also met stiffer opposition than the Battalion had encountered during the previous night but it was also possible to send tanks forward to the assistance of the company carrying out the attack and soon after their arrival, Kerkenhof was successfully captured. About one hundred prisoners were taken during the second night's fighting. There was a considerable amount of enemy shelling and mortaring during the night, and the early morning of the 27th, and the Brigade suffered a number of casualties. Later in the morning, however, the enemy shelling modified considerably and it appeared that the enemy was withdrawing.
During the day, plans were made for the relief of the Brigade by 156 Brigade of 52nd Division which took place after dark that night.
During the twenty days of Operation "Veritable" the Brigade had been involved in the heaviest and most continuous fighting in which it had taken part since Alamein. Practically every day and night was spent either in actual fighting or planning for and preparing for the next battle. During the operation the Brigade had suffered twenty-eight officer and almost four hundred other rank casualties. The prisoners captured by the Brigade during the operation totalled about two thousand.
During the first week of March the Brigade stayed in the Goch area re-organising and re-equipping. On 4th March the Division was visited by Mr Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister, and Field Marshal Montgomery. Mr Churchill complimented the Division on the part it had played in the recent operation and indicated that the next operation would involve the crossing of the Rhine.