Battle for Tripsrath - Schinveld 24th November 1944

On the 22nd November 1944, news was received that the Worcesters were to be relieved that next day by 5th Wiltshires, who had been holding the village of Birgden for the last twelve days. This was welcome news for the Worcester men who suffered continuous shelling in their forward positions in Tripsrath and Rischden.

The relief was carefully planned by the two Commanding Officers and by 04.10 hours on November 23rd the 5th Wiltshires had taken over all the positions.

The enemy still held a few houses at the extreme North-West corner of Tripsrath, which were to prove difficult for the 5th Wiltshires to clear in the coming days.

Lieut. Peter Wade, (11 Platoon, ‘B’ Company), recalls the time: "After being relieved by the 5th Wiltshires, I sat on the steps of Tripsrath church with Major Jerry Clover the much loved commander of ‘C’ Company, awaiting transport to take us back to the rest area. We spent an hour enjoying the occasional swig of ‘medicinal’ rum, and chatting about the misfortunes of war. After a few swigs, Jerry — many years older than me (age 38) said, 'Seriously, Peter, I’m really getting too old for this lark!' "

Tripsrath, inside St. Anna Church
The church at Tripsrath was surprisingly little damaged despite the artillery barrage put down by both twenty five pounders and mediums to cover the late, (delayed) advance of ‘A’ and ‘D’ Companies to take the village, and the heavy retaliatory shelling which lasted some five days.
    (photo Louis Scully collection)

Later that night, once the handover was completed, the men of the Worcesters made their way down the muddy and bomb cratered tracks to Bauchem where TCV’s (Troop carrying Vehicles) were waiting to transport them back to the relative safety of Schinveld, a small village just over the frontier back into Holland.

The Worcesters were eventually received in the small hours of the 24th November by the people of Schinveld, a small village in Holland very close to the German frontier and about two miles north of Brunssum. It absorbed the Battalion with a hearty welcome despite their mud-plastered, unwashed and unshaven condition.

1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 11 Platoon ('B' Company) men
enjoying the rest and having fun snow balling
(photo Louis Scully collection)

The Adjutant, Captain W. L. Leadbeater, had preceded the Battalion by some six hours and had warned the people in the village of the Worcesters pending arrival. As the troops arrived in the village the Company Colour Sergeants met their Companies and distributed them amongst the various houses in the village.

Private Thomas Scully (‘A’ Company) recalls: "We had just crossed the Dutch/German Frontier and arrived in the small village of Schinveld at about 06.30 hours on the morning of 24th November 1944, as we entered the we were directed to our billets. I and two other men from 'A' Company were billed with Keulers family home (31 Eindstraat), which was the first main street as they entered the village. Mr. Keulers was the village policeman and they had two children. They made us most welcome giving us clean sheets and their best beds to sleep in. They also insisted in taking away our muddy clothes and boots, returning them later cleaned and dried. For the past days the Keulers had been sleeping in their cellar for fear of bombing"

Worcestershire Battalion route to rest area at Schinveld (24th November 1944)

The Battalion spent 24th, 25th and 26th in Schinveld resting and enjoying the company of the local Dutch folk who went out of their way to make them feel welcome. Regular transport was also arranged to convey the troops to and from the coalmines at Brunssum where they could enjoy the delights of hot baths.

Eindstraat, Schinveld – house where some of the Worcestershires were billeted
The Keulers house is on the lefthand side halfway down the street

(This photo taken in August 2000, but the houses remain mainly unchanged)
  (photo Louis Scully collection)

Private Scully remembers the kindness of the Keulers very well, a typical Dutch family, as he and two of his comrades shared the small family terraced home together with their teenaged daughter Truus and son Jozef. Mr. Keulers the local police officer in the village, a very proud man who had resented the German occupation of the past few years, told stories of the German troops taking items of furniture, food and farm animals and transported them back in to Germany. As a result the villages had experienced severe shortages of fresh food, but the little they had they willingly shared with the British troops. Because of his standing in the village Mr. Keulers was able to provide some details of the German movements.

                       Mr. and Mrs Keulers                                        Private Thomas Scully note book
        Mr. Keuler was the village police officer            Notes written in by the Keulers family wish him Good Luck
                                                            (Photos Louis Scully collection)

Mr. Keulers’ son, Jozef was 16 years old at the time and looked up to the British troops with admiration. He spent a lot of time listening to the stories about the battles the Battalion had fought since landing in Normandy. One day while in Schinveld, Private Scully let Jozef borrow the coat of his officer Captain Huxter, and wearing the coat they both walked up and down the street outside his home. The men of the Battalion saluted Jozef as he passed pretending that he was an Officer, it was so funny to see, a light-hearted distraction from the horrors of war. Some 55 years later Jozef Keuler still recalled this event when Private Thomas Scully’s son visited him, now living in with his wife in Maastricht.

As to the rest of the Worcesters, the Battalion Headquarters was located in the village school, and it was here that Lieut.-Col. A. W. Vickers (King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) arrived to assume command of the Battalion on 26th November.

Captain Percy Huxter (2nd-in-Command of 'A' Company) recalls his time at Schinveld:
"I was billeted with 2nd Lieut. Brian Bagley, we were made most welcome by a Dutch family and given their main bedroom to sleep in. Strange as it may sound, I shared a large double bed with Brian it was the best nights sleep we had had for some time. The next morning I had trouble waking up Brian. When he eventually woke he was complaining of severer pain in his foot. It turned out he had suffered frostbite in his toes"

Jozef Keulers
    (photo Louis Scully collection)

On the 27th November orders were received to relieve 4th Dorsets in the woods west of Tripsrath (Dorset Woods). A Battalion Recce Party, which went forward that morning to see the position, on their arrival the woods were being very severely shelled by enemy heavy guns of the Siegfried Line. It seemed that on the previous day, for some obscure and purely local reason, the Dorsets had laid an artillery smoke screen in front of their positions. This had made the enemy extremely nervous thinking that it was to cover some sort of troop movement or concentration and was the prelude to another attack. 
The guns of the Siegfried, affording Tripsrath a temporary respite, raised their elevation by about another 1000 yards and for eight hours hurled everything they had at the unfortunate Dorsets. Despite the fact that they were well dug-in, the Dorsets received many more casualties than usual from shells bursting in the trees, and large sections of the trees themselves were stripped of their branches or even cut in half. After this event these woods were referred to as ‘Dorset Woods’ because of the heavy casualties they suffered.