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Piron Brigade


Campaign of Normandy Return in Belgium Campaign of Holland 1944 Campaign of Holland 1945 Occupation in Germany 1945

Reorganization of the Brigade (November,17,1944 - April,4,1945) and 2nd Campaign of Holland (April, 4 - May,8,1945)

November 17, 1944, the " 1st Independent Group " is relief and goes in the area of LEUVEN.

The " Group " is dissolved.

The Armoured Squadron moves to DENDERMONDE to form an armoured regiment.

The Artillery Battery becomes also a regiment and takes its districts between ALOST and VILVORDE:
- the Staff in WOLVERTEM
- a battery in MERCHTEN
- a battery in STEENHUFFEL
- a battery in OPWIJCK

The Engineers Company moves towards DUINBERGEN to be incorporated into the 1st Battalion of Engineers Army which are there in formation.

Then, the First Belgian Group is reconstituted in an Brigade of Infantry according to the English model thanks to the incorporation of 2500 volunteers.

The 3 Motorized Units will form the cores of a battalion of infantry:
- The 1st Battalion is confined in SAINT-NICOLAS
- The 2nd Battalion in HAMME
- The 3rd Battalion in TEMSE.

Following this complete reorganization, the 1st Brigade of Infantry receives the denomination " LIBERATION " and is organized as follows:

- a Staff

- a Staff Company including amongst other things a detachment of troops of transmissions and a repair shop
(weapons and vehicles).

- THREE battalions of infantry including each one:
    - a Staff company
    - FOUR companies of fusiliers (A, B, C,D)
    - a company of support of FOUR groups
    - a group of 6 mortars 3 inches
    - a group of anti-tank guns of 6 pounds
    - a group of pioneers
    - a group of 13 Bren Carriers

- an independent company MMG (Medium Machine Gun) which includes 12 machine-guns VICKERS and 6 mortars 4.2 inches
- a transport and supply company (RASC)
- a company of repair (REME)
- a Field hospital
- an MP company
- a British liaison

January 2, 1945 begins the instruction of the brigade in Belgium and Great Britain.

During this period, a flying bomb V1 falls down on the barracks of SAINT-NICOLAS. A corporal is killed and ten soldiers are wounded.

At the end of March 45, the whole Brigade is in operations IN the camp of BEVERLOO. During a exercise, a anti-tank grenade (PIAT) explodes causing the death of 3 soldiers (Louette, Larochette and Blomme) and a lot of wounded.

The Brigade is ready to return to the front line.

April 01, 1945. Movement towards the area of LOMMEL. The Staff of the Brigade is established in the castle of EMSENS, in the small village of STEVENSVENNEN, close LOMMEL where settles also the MMG Company (Medium Machine Gun). The 1st Battalion takes its districts in NEERPELT. In the afternoon, the 2nd Battalion arrives by train in OVERPELT and takes there possession of its new quartering in the professional school.

April 02, 1945, becomes the order to return on the frontline. The Brigade is informed that on April 4, it will pass under the command of the 1st Canadian Army and that its staff with two battalions will have to make movement towards NIJMEGEN in HOLLAND.

April 03, 1945, the Brigade passes under the command of the 5th Armd Div of the 1st British Corps. The 2nd Battalion is detached from the Brigade and will be affected in an another sector. The decision surprises this unit.

April 04, 1945, in the morning, Recce Groups (recognitions) take the road. The Brigade leaves a few hours afterwards. The channel of WESSEM's veterans join again with the sludge and the new ones discover it in all its extent. But it will not be right of the enthusiasm of the ones and others.

April 05, 1945. The Brigade is in position on southern bank of the Waal. Its staff confines in ALTFORST. The 1st Battalion occupies the localities of LEEUWEN and DRUTTEN where it installs its PC. More on the West, the 3rd Battalion holds the sector of WAMEL. Each battalion put in line three companies, each one equipped with a 3" mortars section, a company being held in reserve. Between the two battalions, the MMG Company makes the junction. The Brigade defends a front of 11 kilometres. Opposite, the line of defence of the adversary skirts the Northern bank of the river.

April 06, 1945, the HQ settles in PUIFLIJK.

April 07, and 08 1945, activities of patrols and some enemy artillery fires.

April 09, 1945. During the night, the 1st Battalion undertook successfully a first patrol on the WAAL even. It did not consist in crossing the river, but moving an officer and six men between two of its posts on the Southern bank Survivors of the " Market Garden " operation of September 1944 and hidden since by the inhabitant, British parachutists pass by again in the lines of the Brigade to the favour of the night.

April 10, 1945. A visit of Colonel PIRON to General MURPHY (1st Canadian Armoured Brigade) has as an aim the question of a patrol beyond the WAAL. Carried out successfully by the 1st Battalion, a patrol noted traces of the enemy in the position that this one had just abandoned. This encourages this battalion to prepare an operation to cross the WAAL by two companies if the 11th Canadian Bde progressed sufficiently. The bridgehead considered is located somewhat on its left, in the south of ECHTELD. In NEERPELT (Belgium), the 2nd Battalion passes under the command of the 4th British Commandos Brigade and receives the order to move the next day to MIDDELBURG. In this unit, this news is accommodated with as much more joy than it had been made wait.

April 11, 1945. The 2nd Battalion leaves NEERPELT to MIDDELBURG, on the WALCHEREN's island, in the afternoon. There, they relief the 4th British Commandos Brigade and the Dutch Brigade " Princes Irene ".

April 12, 1945. The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade takes the command of the sector. It transmits in the evening its instructions for the relief of the units and their movement towards the concentration zone in the north of the WAAL. The relief will be done as from this evening to finish the 14th. Small groups of Dutch SS, Wearing civil clothes search information, make incursions in HEEREWAARDEN, but are intercepted.
On the evening, in the north of the WAAL, the fire of the IJZENDOORN church illuminates the sky.

April 13, 1945. A detachment of an officer and 50 Canadian soldiers comes to reinforce the MMG Compagnie which relieved the 3rd Battalion.

April 14, 1945. The HQ settles in ZETTEN. The MMG Company relieves the C and D companies of the 3rd Battalion. The 1st Battalion relieves the Ross Force. The 7 LAA relieved the 1st Battalion in LEEUWEN. During the night, the 1st Battalion sends a patrol to DE TEMPEL
and occupies this position with D Company. On the morning, the A Company occupies NIEUWLAND. The 3rd Battalion executes 2 patrols towards OPHEUSDEN. On the other side of the Rhine, the troops discover an apocalyptic landscape which testifies to the extreme violence of the combat delivered between German and the allied airborne troops during the battle of ARNHEIM. All is devastated there, without life.
Bodies and cattle exhale a nauseous odour there. It is in this conditions that, in the face of the west, the 1st Battalion, in the south, its left supported on the WALL, and the 3rd Battalion, to north, will start their progression to take again the ground lost by the allies. Making profitable the darkness, the first patrols leave as a preliminary to recognize the No man' s land particularly lugubrious. Follow them, the companies will take possession of the localities and the strategic points left by the enemy. The 1st Battalion occupies, one after the other, DODEWAARD, DE TEMPEL and, at dawn NIEUWELAND.

April 15, 1945. The advanced posts of the 3rd Battalion have the contact. A Company of the 1st Battalion occupies NIEUWLAND. Each battalion has two troops of tanks in support (SHERMAN). A patrol of the 3rd battalion announces that the position is occupied by an enemy section. In Belgium, the RASC Company and the Brigade Workshop receive the order to leave SAINT-NICOLAS to join the Brigade. A patrol of the 1st Battalion announces that ELDIKSENHOEK is unoccupied but that there are many mines. Other patrols recognize the routes towards OCHTEN. As for the 2nd Battalion, it passes under the command of the 116 Royal Infantry Marines Brigade and leaves the island of WALCHEREN to CAPELLE, it relieves there the 48th Commando and occupies southern bank of BERGSE MAAS on a front of more than 6 kilometres, in the west of ' S HERTOGENBOSCH.
April 16, 1945. PANNENHUIS is re-occupied by the enemy then taken again by the 3rd Battalion. The groups of pioneers are activated with perilous work of mine clearance of the routes and, then, of their marking out. In CAPELLE (2nd Battalion), the first patrols leave in the twilight to recognize their No man' S land. The men are full with energy and hustle themselves to form part of it.

April 17, 1945. In CAPELLE, the 2nd Battalion passes under the commands of the 33th Armoured Brigade and receives in support a battery of the 112 HAA Regiment and another one of the 358 Battery of the 90 Field Regiment RA. In the sector of ZETTEN, the Staff of the Brigade informs its units that the attack of the 49th British Division began the morning along LEK (NEDER RHINE).

April 19, 1945. Without disabling, the companies consolidate their new positions, while the pioneers continue their work of mine clearance and fill the enormous craters which strew the roads. In the south, the 1st Battalion undergoes many artillery fires. During a patrol, the soldier Frans DEWAET is wounded; he will not survive his wounds and will die on July 12 1945. The B company counts casualties and acts of bravery are announced. Are distinguished there in particular, the sergeant Gerard BALLIN, casualty, and Corporal Marius VILAIN who succeeds in saving the soldiers Edouard MOURETTE and CORDIER, also wounded. The bell-tower of RENEN, which, in the north of LEK (NEDERRIJN), is used as observatory to the enemy, is hits by British artillery.

April 20, 1945. In the north of LEK, the 49th British Division starts its attack and reaches WAGENINGEN, enough in withdrawal compared to the Belgian positions. In the sector of OPHEUSDEN, on the most advanced breach of the 3rd Battalion, the group of the B Company is taken under the fire of one 88 mm German gun. A shell wounds corporal CONEN, as well as the privates Charles HAMELS and Axel WAEGHE. The place has the disadvantage to be dominated by the GREBBEBERG which offers to the enemy an excellent observatory.

April 21, 1945. Guided by Colonel PIRON, the Minister for Belgian National Defence, Mr MUNDELEER, visits the Brigade's positions as well as the B levels and the services. Sergeant TATHACHE of the 3rd group of the B Company of the 3rd Battalion, takes the head of a patrol made up of the privates Henry BILLEN, DECYPERE and Edouard DEPREZ, all volunteers.

The sergeant and DECYPERE leave to recognize a house and the neighbourhoods. BILLEN and DEPREZ must be maintained along the path. It is there that one draws to them above. BILLEN is reached by a bullet in the bottom of the belly. In impossibility of helping it, his comrades painfully see him trainer backwards. His transport to the 3 CAN GEN HOSP in NIJMEGEN will be useless, he will die there the following day.

April 22, 1945. On the evening, a team of seven men of the 2nd group of the B Company of the 3rd Battalion is located by German artillery. A projectile of 88 mm explodes right in the middle of the group. The private Emilius VANDEN BOSCH is killed. Andre DEBONNEZ and Andre DELOBEL are seriously wounded. They are charged on a Bren Carrier and are then transferred to the 3 CAN GEN HOSP in NIJMEGEN. DEBONNEZ will die there on April 24 and DELOBEL on April 25. In CAPELLE, in same time, another tragedy proceeded. A patrol was to discover if the enemy were always present on northern bank of the Meuse. One second patrol was taken under the fire of Spandau. The sergeant BIESMANS and privates SPETH, HAUZEUR, VAN GOETHEM, COOPMAN and MARTENS lose the life there.

April 23, 1945. The last enemy attack, on the C Company of Captain G COURMONT is pushed back easily.

April 24, 1945. At the request of the Brigade, the " TYPHOONS " of the " TACTICAL AIR FORCE " decapitate the bell-towers of OCHTEN, KESTEREN and RHENEN, observatories from which the enemy directed its shootings skilfully. In front of OCHTEN, a company of the 1st Battalion undergoes a violent artillery fire, during which the private Joseph DERBOVEN is killed on his post.

April 25, 1945. The Brigade receives the visit of the military heads of Dutch and Czech mission.

April 26, 1945. The Brigade learns that negotiations would be in hand, between the Allies and the Germans, in order to ensure the supply of the Dutch population at the edge of the famine.

April 29, 1945. To the advanced post of HET ZAND of the 1st Battalion fall the last killed : the private Andre VANDEN BERGHE. Two other privates are wounded there.

May 01, 1945. At midnight, in CAPELLE, the 2nd Battalion receives the order to cease any offensive operation on its front.

May 02, 1945. The 2nd Battalion is attached to the " MEARSFORCE ", under the command of General G.G. MEARS.

May 03, 1945. The head of the French mission in the 21th Army Group visits the 3rd Battalion's positions.

May 05, 1945. To 00.35 a.m., the order to cease fire from 08 a.m. is given. The Brigade receives the order to move forwards, but the command is deferred to May 7.

May 06, 1945. The movement will be done by road in the north of the LEK towards CULEMBORG. The mission of the Brigade will be to keep two of the zones of concentration where the German armies will be disarmed to be directed on Germany. In presence of the available personnel of the 1st Battalion and A Company, Chaplain SEVRIN celebrates, at 11 o'clock, a religious office in the abandoned church of DODEWAARD, whose cemetery keeps the bodies of comrades fallen into this sector. The 2nd Battalion will have to join later the Brigade in the area of MUNSTER in Germany.

May 07, 1945. The HQ of the Brigade and 1st and 3rd battalions move towards CULEMBORG.
May 08, 1945. The WEHRMACHT capitulates without condition on all fronts.

May 09, 1945. The first German columns arrive in the camps which are intended to them. They will be engulfed there after being disarmed by the Brigade. 1st and 3rd battalions, as well as MMG company will disarm there the 20th German Brigade and the 361st German Division. Number of German prisoners: 7400.

May 10, 1945. The Germans flow per thousands. Their weapons and their materials are accumulated, while whole parks abound in disparate vehicles which they brought. The spectacle is extraordinary and the men of the Brigade they remember with bitterness May 1940, when the roles were reversed. More than 4300 disarmed German prisoners.

May 13, 1945. 1st and 3rd battalions are relieved. They concentrate respectively in GORINCHEN and HIEN.