Bunde (Holland) and New Year 1945
On the 27th December the Worcesters moved again this time to the small village of Bunde, about five miles north-east of Maastricht and roughly half-way back again towards Brunssum. The Battalion still retaining its counter-attack role on the Meuse. In addition to this they spent the last few days of 1944 and the first ten days of 1945 preparing defensive positions in the Brunssum vicinity against the possibility of an enemy thrust at Geilenkirchen for, although the Ardennes Salient was now under control, the threat remained.
Strangely, the Dutch folk viewed these precautions with some dismay. They did not object to slits being dug in their gardens but they found the thoughts of the Germans returning most alarming. At times it was funny as they stood around and watched as Worcester men hacked away at the frozen, snow-covered ground. At this time representatives of the 6th (Guards) Armoured Brigade arrived and counter-attack measures on various features and localities were planned and rehearsed.
On the 3rd January 1945 the Second-in-Command (Major G. G. Reinhold, M.C.) and the seconds-in-command of Companies with representatives of normal supporting arms (Armour, Field Guns, Anti-Tank Guns and Medium Machine Guns) set out in the early morning and motored to Eynatten, south-east of Aachen, and laid out a Battalion defensive position which could be manned in the event of a serious break-through from the south, at the time it was rumoured that Von Rundstedt had promised Hitler that he would retake Aachen for a New Year present. The party drove through this city of Aachen on its way there and back and saw for the first time the appalling destruction. Bulldozers had to be used to make a path through the streets, which were filled with rubble. No building had escaped without some damage. The twin spires of the damaged Cathedral stood out in all the surrounding destruction of war.
The Worcesters took up defensive positions in Meerssen, Nuth and Schinveld
Field-Marshal von Rundstedt
From the 4th to the 10th of January, the business of precautionary reconnaissance and defensive digging continued. A Divisional 'Layback Line' was sited (as an alternative to the Brunssum one), and the Battalion scratched holes in the ground around the villages of Meerssen and Nuth. The weather was extremely cold but the days were bright and clear. There had now been no snow since New Year. However, on the 8th January snow began to fall in blizzards.
By this time Von Rundstedt, having stuck out his neck, was now in danger of having it severed as Montgomery in the north and Patton and Bradley in the south advanced towards each other. The tip of the salient had crumbled and the epic stand of the American 10th Airborne Division at Bastogne had paralysed the enemy's communications. The Worcesters remained at short notice to move and did a little training. By now the atmosphere became less tense and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
It was on the 10th January that a warning order arrived that Worcesters would relieve the 4th/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers in the area Tripsrath-Hochheid-Hoven Wood on the following morning.
This was not allowed to interfere with the Officers' Dance, which had been laid on for that evening in a café in the small Dutch village of Meerssen, local Dutch people had been invited to attend. It proved a great success and the rum punch concocted by the Second-in-Command, Major Reinhold, was of unrivalled potency. Lieut.-Colonel Vickers (Commanding Officer) was in great demand amongst the local females, but had to leave with the Intelligence Officer at 21.30 hours to attend a Brigade 'O' Group in connection with the relief, and the party, which might easily have continued until dawn, had to finish early at midnight for a Battalion “O” Group at 00.30 hours.
Not surprisingly, the Worcestershire Battalion 'O' Group was a light-hearted affair due in part due to alcohol drunk that evening!!
At 06.30 hours (11th January) an 'R' Group moved out on the frozen roads towards Niederheide, followed four hours later by the remainder of the Battalion.
German troops pulling out of the village of Meerssen (September 1944)
(photo Stan Procter - 214 Brigade Signals Section)