The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market-Garden

15th Scottish division near Oisterwijk

Dr. Frans, Anton, Willem, Marie, de Sain
1888-1959
Josephus M.M. V. Kemenade
Pastor St. Petrus Banden
Deken van het Dekenaat Oisterwijk
1897-1967

Doctor de Sain and pastor van Kemenade were able to contact troops of the 15th Scottish Division who had a commandpost on the ‘Hondsberg’ grounds in the Oisterwijk woods during the night of 25/26 October.

The 15th Scottish Division had been resting and rearming itself in Helmond during the month of October.

On the 20th the division was ordered out of Helmond and brake out of the corridor to the west.

Under codename ‘Pheasant’ they were ordered to advance to the city of Tilburg by means Oirschot.

After the town of Oirschot was reached the Scots advanced on to Moergestel which they liberated on 25 October.

Here plans were made to advance straight on to Oisterwijk, liberate the village and advance further on to the eastern part of the city of Tilburg.

 

The 2nd Glasgow Highlanders, also part of the 15th Scottish Division, were following the road to Tilburg from Moergestel with tanks of the Scots Guards.

After they had reached a monastery a few miles west of Moergestel they planned to dig in for the night.

However, when they where almost settled they heard the sounds of mortar and machine gun fire coming from the direction of Oisterwijk.  

At that time the 7th Seaforth Hihglanders, also part of the 15th Scottish Division, were in a skirmish with Germans at the outskirts of Oisterwijk.

The 7th Seaforth Hihglanders where send from Moergestel to Oisterwijk earlier that evening and were backed by a group of Churchill tanks.

They were tasked to advance to Oisterwijk, take the town and bridges across the stream called Voortse Stroom and push through to the eastern outskirts of Tilburg.

 

When they reached Oisterwijk they were attacked by a German force that had build a defensive line behind the river and the advance of the Seaforths was haltered.

The road from Moergestel to Oisterwijk was blocked by with trees and the bridge across the Voorste Stroom appeared to be destroyed.

Soon heavy fighting took place which resulted in several Scots becoming severely wounded.

The stiff German resistance soon gave the Scots the impression that the Germans would do everything to defend Oisterwijk and they believed the village to be evacuated of its civilian population.

Meanwhile the tanks of the Scots Guards, dug in at the monastery west of Moergestel, were called away at 20.00 hrs and send to Oisterwijk to support the assault of the 7th Seaforth Hihglanders.  

 

About one o’ clock at night Dokter de Sain was called upon by pastor van Kemenade to treat a wounded person that appeared to be found wounded somewhere along the moergestelseweg.

The pastor decided to go along with the Doctor for security reasons and the two left into the direction of the moergestelseweg by taking a small footbridge behind the Catharinenberg convent.

This small bridge wasn’t destroyed by the Germans and could be crossed by them very easily.

The two men, not familiar with the situation on the other side, crossed the bridge and went trough a gate at the convents yard to reach the Moergestelseweg.

In the pitch dark they then stumbled upon a tank of the Scots Guards together with its crew and a wounded civilian.

The tank commander ordered both men to identify themselves which they did and then they explain their intentions.

They told the commander that they had come to get the wounded civilian and treat his wounds.

The also told him how they had been able to leave the village, cross the river to reach the road.

The tank commander was surprised with this unexpected valuable information about the small intact footbridge.

He ordered both men to accompany him to the Command Post at the ‘Hondsberg’ grounds were Lieutenant-Colonel Campbel, commander of the 2nd Glasgow Highlanders and Lieutenant-Colonel Hunt, commander of the 7th Seaforth Highlanders were planning their assault on Oisterwijk.

 

When the men arrived in the Command Post the doctor soon showed the two commanders a little map and his notes that he had made earlier about German positions.

He also informed them that about one battalion of enemy soldiers was tasked to defend Oisterwijk.

The commanders were further told that Oisterwijk was not evacuated of its civilians at all and that refugees from surrounding villages were staying in the village.

About 5000 refugees had taken shelter in Oisterwijk since operation Market-Garden had started and together with the Oisterwijk population this meant that the town now counted a populated 13000 people.

 

Earlier that evening, during the last ‘O’ group meeting at 22.00 hrs, Lieutenant-Colonel Hunt had made up his plan of attack after extensive patrols by his men.

The doctor and the pastor told Lieutenant-Colonel Hunt about two other possibilities to enter the village by means of two intact bridges over the Voortse Stroom.

One was the small footbridge that they had used themselves which was situated about one hundred yards east of the destroyed bridge at the Catharinenberg convent.

The other bridge was a small road bridge that could only handle light armoured vehicles.

That bridge was situated near the Gemullehoekenweg, one mile east of the road bridge at the convent.  

 

With the words ‘that’s going to change our plans a little bit’ Lieutenant-Colonel Hunt immediately changed his tactics for the assault on Oisterwijk.

He gave new orders to his artillery and infantry troops for the assault on the village.

These last minute changes prevented a heavy artillery barrage on Oisterwijk and saved the village from heavy destruction.

Because the doctor and the pastor provided this valuable information to the Scots the saviour of Oisterwijk is to be thanked to those two men.

 

Lieutenant-Colonel Hunt suggested to cross the two bridges early in the morning with one rifle company each supported by a group of vehicles and tanks from the Scots Guards.

His intention were to make a small bridgehead between the river and the railroad in the village so to cover the engineers that were bringing in a "class-40" Bailey bridge.

Only after this bridge was in place heavy tanks could cross the Voorste Stroom and enter Oisterwijk.

The doctor and the pastor were then ordered to stay in the Scottish camp for the night and not to return to Oisterwijk.

About that time their patient was already on transportfor treatment so the two men stayed in the safe consignment of the Scottish camp as the two first free Oisterwijk residents.

Doctor de Sain during a red cross exercise on the rail road area in Oisterwijk in 1938.
Pastor van Kemenade
The situation of Allied forces around Oisterwijk during the end of October 1944.
A Sherman tank crew during their thee brake before the assault on Oisterwijk somewhere in the Oisterwijk woods.
The "class-40"- Bailey bridge over the Voortse Stroom.
15e Schotse Divisie bij Oisterwijk