Ardennes, 10th January 1945
With the successful advance of 152 Brigade to Ronchamps the Divisional right flank was secure and all was ready for the assault by 154 Brigade down the Ourthe valley to La Roche. The brigade was withdrawn from its forward positions on 10th January and had a nights rest in the area of Bourdon and Hooton before the attack.
The attach was planned in three phases:
- Phase 1 was the capture of La Roche by the 1st Black watch
- Phase 2 required the 7th Black Watch to pass through La Roche and push south to capture Hives and then beyond it Lavaux.
- Phase 3 required the 7th Argylls to pass through La Roche and capture the villages of Thirmont and Roupage.
At 0600 hrs on the 11th January the 1st Black Watch moved down the road to La Roche, through the road block set up by 5th Black Watch, and down the valley towards the town. Approaching the town one of the armoured cars from 'C' Squadron Derbyshire Yeomanry who were in the lead was hit by a mine. The engineers were deployed forward to clear the route.
At the approach to the town a Panther tank provided a nasty shock before it was realised that it was abandoned. Apart from some shelling 'A' Company of 1 Black Watch reached the town with no serious opposition at abut 1100 hrs. However once in the town the battalion came under fire from a German position across the Valley on Mont Soeret accompanied by shelling. 'B' and "C" Company cleared this position in the early afternoon and the town was also cleared.
With La Roche in the hands of the 1st Black Watch, the 7th Black Watch passed through. As they advanced toward Hives they had to deal with mines and delaying positions. The supporting tanks could not manage the ground and the battalion arrived before Hives in the late afternoon without armoured support. They moved in after dark and by 1930 had cleared the village of Hives and taken 40 prisoners. However without tanks or transport they were isolated and it was decided not to exploit on to Lavaux. After a night during which the engineers cleared the road all was ready for the assault on Lavaux.
The plan for the 7th Argylls (Phase 3 was the capture the villages of Thirmont and Roupage) was cancelled and orders were issued for them to exploit through Hives and the 7th Black Watch to Lavaux and beyond. The sound of the US guns could be heard and the prospect of linking up was imminent.
A photograph of the Memorial to the fallen of the 51st Highland Division at La Roche was kindly sent to us by Didier Renard and can be viewed in the Memorials Section.