Account By Major Pilcher, Officer Commanding C Company, 5th Black Watch.
The Ardennes, January 1945
Major Graham Pilcher commanded "C" Company 5th Black Watch. Major Pilcher MC, is now Trustee of the 51st Highland Division and Rs Bequest. His account picks up events starting on 12th January.
"While Major Sandy Leslie's Company was trying to outflank the enemy resistance by moving on the left, I was at Battalion's Tac HQ with the CO, Lt.Col Bill Bradford. It was reported that the two remaining Sherman tanks were stopped with mechanical breakdown. At that point the Brigadier (Roddy Sinclair) came on the air to the CO: "Bill why can't you get on, you're getting bogged down." This made the CO furious, as he was already under severe pressure with all that was happening. He retorted: "If you want to know, I suggest you come up here and see for yourself!" It was some time before "B" Company reported back.
"After considerable exchange of fire they had dislodged a machine gun post by setting a haystack on fire with a PlAT bomb. The enemy withdrew from the area and a full 30 were also seen to leave the Ferme du Vivier. "B" Company was now in a firm position and had secured a line on the left flank from which it could give covering fire for my Company.
"Under 'B' Company's covering fire and artillery support from our gunners my Company moved forward on either side of a track through the woods. As it was dark the platoons had to be in easy reach of each other to keep control. Nr.14 platoon of Lieutenant Dick Stewart moved in front, closely followed by Company HQ, then followed Nr.13 platoon of Lieutenant Alan Foster and last was Nr.15 platoon commanded by Lieutenant Philip Smythe. I was forward with the leading platoon, leaving CSM Geddes in charge of Company HQ.
"All went well for a while with our advance, when two shells from our own artillery came whistling overhead and airburst right over my Company HQ, killing two of my most experienced signallers and my ever-willing and faithful batman, L/Corporal Alex Grubb. Our C.S.M. Jock Geddes was wounded. This was a severe blow to all of us. After calling forward the stretcher-bearers, we pushed on and within minutes bumped into a German Panther tank, closed up for the night.
"Under the circumstances there was no way we could deal with the German tank, so we by-passed it and made for our objective on Contour 400, which we consolidated without further trouble, occupying trenches found or digging into the snow. The Company now was in open ground. On consolidation, Battalion Tac HQ and the antitank guns moved into the Company area. Later 'A' Company came through."