The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market-Garden

The Battle for ‘s-Hertogenbosch from the German perspective

Documents for 24-10-44 and 25-10-44

712 I.D.
712 I.D.
The German documents with the outcome of the battle for 24 and 25 October 1944.
(Click on the documents to enlarge)

24-10-44      Though it was apparent that the artillery partly fought a lost battle

during close combat with tanks and infantry and the infantry also was defeated,

the Division Commander decided to defend his command post and to fulfil his

assignment until the end. Only after orders by the General Command the

command of the HQ, the remainder of the communications division and the

staff of Art.Reg.1712 left the burning remains of Hintham by foot parallel

the attacking British around 06.15 hrs on 24-10-44 and organised a new

defence in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

 

                 Arriving within 's-Hertogenbosch the Division obtained knowledge

that a strong British force had attacked en taken the large road bridge along the

main north-south-road passage. The battle commander had already initiated the

first steps for the retaking. The General Command had therefore ordered the

remaining Sturmgeschutzen of the 2.(sturmgeschutz)Pz.Jg.Abt.256 to support.  

During their push the British were driven back and many enemy soldiers were

brought in as prisoner after the battle.

 

                 It now was important to be build a new MLR along the Zuid-

Willemsvaart. The forces to our disposal were: Company Zetzman (Company

build out of scattered-troops), the Recruit Company of Battalion-Ewald and

further added local Company’s of the 59th Infantry Division. Further more was

to be counted with remainders of Field Battalion 347 around 10.00 hrs who,

without being attacked, occupied the defensive position between the canals

south-west of Berlicum from 22.10 hrs in the evening. Battle ready sections

of 712 Infantry Division were not available during this period. Several little

groups were able to retreat whilst fighting. Also 3 artillery pieces and 60-70%  

of the Artillery Division personnel could partly retreat whilst fighting in

close combat. Orders by the Commanding General of 88 Army Corp to the

address of the Battle Commanders explained there also had to be foresight in

expanding a second defensive line at the north-south canal that in a later stage

could be expanded into a MLR. Also the west bank of the ‘s-Hertogenbosch-

Maas canal (north-west of the city) should be occupied and build in to a MLR.

The Division established a collecting point for soldiers. Battalion Wittstock

was shifted from Het Gewande passing Empel to the south behind Hedel in the

defensive canal position north-west of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. He was again and

again provided with all the small detached Divisions Infantry groups that

fought their way back to the lines. There was the following section structure:

a) Section Battle Commander ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

b) Section Battalion Wittstock from the north-west exit of the city until the

    canal fork centre north of Engelen.

c) Section Battlegroup Fuchs with Bridgehead Hedel and Maas Section.

                

                 There were successful shock troop attacks deployed in the part of

the city east of the Zuid-Willemsvaart. During this day altogether 2 senior

lieutenants and 44 men were brought in as prisoners.

 

                 The enemy constantly gave harassing artillery fire and small artillery

attacks in the city parts west of the Zuid-Willemsvaart. Moreover he closed in

with strong forces of infantry and armour.   

 

                 During the day the following artillery was brought back into position:

The remainder of I./A.R.159 and I./A.R.1712 that had shifted north went into

position north of the Maas while the compiled battery of II./A.R.1712 went to

the sector Vlijmen.  

 

                 During the evening the following Artillery reinforcement was ordered:

4./A.R.185, that already had taken position in the section Hedel, was again ordered

to section Vlijmen by means of Hedel and also 5./A.R.185 was newly positioned

here, so that in the sector Vlijmen an Artillery Group was created existing out of  

4./, 5./A.R.-185 and 6./A.R.1712, while north of the Maas I./A.R.159 with

1./A.R.159 and 1./A.R.1712 and the newly introduced Artillery Section Ubel,

(I./A.R.347) with 2 s.F.H. (heavy.Field.Howitzer) and one 1st.F.H.Battery were

placed in position. Still to be expected was IV./A.R.256 with 2 Batteries each

with 6 s.F.H.18. Field Howitzers.

 

                  The difficulty was the command of this Artillery and because the  

Artillery was positioned north of the Maas the Division decided against the

command by the Art.Reg.Stab (Staff of the Artillery Regiment) in Hedel as is

normally the practice, but give direct orders to Artillery group Kratzer itself

because technical communication problems were to be expected. However, that

the Command of the Artillery in its whole failed almost completely in adequate

communications was not foreseeable. Though troops were deployed to construct

a phone line connection between Division-Art.Rgt. it lasted 25 hours before one

was created in the afternoon of 25.10. but was destroyed again 3 hours later

because of permanent artillery fire and a connection could only be constructed

again after 39 hours by completely redirecting the lines route and changing the

command posts location! Thus the division had to relay on encrypted radio traffic

with the artillery. V.B. accounts (Vorgeschobene artillerie Beobachter, forward

artillery observers) could not be sent to the threatened sectors because also they

were without communication equipment. Also the Communication Division

could not help out because they possessed no more cable. The few remaining

artillery radios -as already was known for weeks- mostly did not function at the

decisive moments. Thus the Division could only give the Infantry’s battle artillery

support by giving prearranged artillery fire though the tense ammunition situation

of 24. and 25.10. was still complicated though decreased after some time.

It became eminent that for the battle not only the number of Batteries and Guns

are decisive but that an artillery division fully equipped with observing and

communication equipment and abundant ammunition supplies can support

the troops far much better then 4 sections that can only give prearranged artillery

support after radio requests by the Division.

                 These problems have collaborated decisively in the Battle for

‘s-Hertogenbosch.

 

                At 16.30hrs the Battle commander of ‘s-Hertogenbosch reported that

the enemy had crossed the Zuid-Willemsvaart at the south-east exit of the city

with a shock troop of about 40-50 men and approached the 59 Infantry Divisions

position. The immediate ordered counter attack suffered from the enemy’s tactic

at the east bank by a positioned row of firing tanks that prevented our shock

troops to come closer.

 

                After orders from the Battle command, that could only dependent on

sending runners to the front, the break trough point was closed and a crossing of

further enemy forces in the vicinity of the destroyed lock bridge was neutralised.

The Division in retrospect believed that the enemy had still reinforced its self

over night. However, from 22.00 hrs the Battle Commander also called, aside its

reserves, for: the under the command of the 59.Inf.Div. Btl. Gramse, coming from

St.Michielsgestel in a westerly direction, that couldn’t gain a connection with the

59.Inf.Div. and therefore asked for the temporary reestablishment of the  

blown bridge at the south edge of the city, to make it possible for Btl.Gramse to

cross over. For this a bridge head had to be created. In doing so it was achieved

that the whole of Battalion Gramse could cross over including one light battery

and one 8,8 cm Flak gun. Following this the bridge was destroyed again.

               

                 The preparations made by the Division for a counter attack to take

place in the early hours of the morning against the enemy bridgehead in the

south-east were ready. The enemy’s brake trough had to be cleared along the

south bypass road with support of the, by the Division mandated s.Pz.Jg.Abt.

559. The Battle Commander reported to the Division at 07.05 hrs-(25.10.44)-

that looking back at the personal Corp order that he received, explaining that

the north-south canal now was the MLR and that along the Zuid-Willemsvaart

only combat outposts could be deployed, he did not execute a counter attack

because the there commanding Sturmgeschutz Commander reported on

grounds of reconnaissance reports coming from the area that they were attacked

by enemy tanks that were awaiting far away across the other side in covered

positions without really being able to help out. The Battle Commander

reported that he furthermore could dominate the crossings points flank and that

the point were the enemy had broken trough was now firmly closed. This later

proved to be not adequate enough as the enemy drove us out by smoking out

our corner-basis south of the Zuid-Willemsvaart by frontal attacking with

flame throwing tanks and anti-tank guns and able to cross further troops

under the protection of heavy artillery fire. At 10.35 hrs the Battle Commander

reported that enemy armoured vehicles were reported within the bridgehead.

When the enemy shortly after attacked our defensive position with heavy

artillery support the Battle Commander decided to create and move in a new

defensive position that ran straight trough the city. The Division was only

notified of these facts after they already had been executed. After the enemy

moved in with tanks in its extended bridgehead and used them in his attack, the

Battle Commander ordered to retreat from the entire Zuid-Willemsvaart canal

defence line that by now was systematically smoked out and cut to the rear by

an enemy attack in north-west direction to move in and occupy a new defensive

line that ran from about the St.Michielsgestel bridge, across the Markt, straight

into a north-west direction. Around 15.30 hrs the enemy attacked the combat

outposts right flank coming over the road from St.Michielsgestel with tanks and

infantry and pushed them back under heavy fire. Following this he build a crossing

again at the destroyed bridge by using a bridge laying tank, and now rolled in to

the city from the south with tanks and vehicles and pushed on determinately into

the direction of the north-south canal bridges for an attack. The battle Commander

called back the outposts in the MLR on his own initiative at 16.00 hrs and ordered

the bridges to be blown. This order was not adequate for 3 of the 4 bridges.

At the south most wide bridge however a artillery barrage from 11.00 hrs had

damaged the detonate charge and explosives. Every measure taken by the General

Command and the Division to re attache new explosives (bombs) were ineffective.

therefore a concentrated anti-tank point was deployed here, because the danger

existed that enemy tanks would try to cross the poorly blown bridge.

 

                Sadly the Staff Battle Commander of ‘s-Hertogenbosch was relieved

for another assignment in the evening of 25.10. It later became eminent that the,

by Oberst Dewald assigned replacement Major Riedel, an old reserve officer of

the Luftwaffe, in no way was adequate for this task. The Division on the other

hand was not in the position to assign a better energetic leader that could fill in

the place of Battle Commander. This person as the new Battle Commander is-

as afterthought surveys showed- the main reason of the collapsing of the

‘s-Hertogenbosch front, as this person gave withdrawal orders in contrary to multiple

orders and orders in writing, witnessed phone conversations and personal obligations

by the Division Commander. After the post office building and with it the amplifier

was blown a further commanding problem arose: Since 25.10. in the afternoon the

Division, that was without communication radio’s, could only depend on a, at the

phone line end point at Grootdeuteren dugout, and exposed heavy field cable that

because of the constant ongoing artillery fire could be used only a few minutes a day.

Because of this the Division had to relay on frequently send out communication

officers. These though often brought important messages much to late. Only after an

initiative taken by the General Command during the night of 25./26.10 a troublesome

formed communications group could be deployed in support of the Battle Commander.

 

                  The enemy brought heavy artillery attacks down on the west part of the

             city during the night of 25./26.10. This was considered in preparation for

             the expected attack to break trough to the west.

In the afternoon of 24 October men of A Comp. 7th Bat. Royal Welch Fusiliers storm the lock 0 crossing at the Zuid-Willemsvaart in the city to form a bridgehead on the other side of the lock. Later that night a Class 40 bridge would be constructed so tanks and armoured vehicles could cross in to the city.
The German Luftwaffe reserve officer Major Riedel as a prisoner of war. This Officer was ‘s-Hertogenbosch last Battle Commander after he replaced Oberst Dewald who on 25 October took over the command of the frontlines at Zaltbommel. According to these documents Major Riedel was mainly responsible for the fall of the ‘s-Hertogenbosch front.