205. Cold wet dread and distress
On 16th and 17th November 1944, a battle takes place to secure a
bridgehead at the drainage canal and Noorder vaart canal. The Allies fire grenades at the German positions and although the German troops are weakened by rain, cold and sleep deprivation, they manage a fierce response. A tragic misunderstanding then causes the Germans to open fire on their own positions…
The autumn of 1944 was cold and wet, and the Germans in the Dutch-German border region were doing all they could to repel the Allied advance. From their positions to the west of the Maas river, they put pressure on the parts of the southern Netherlands that had already been liberated,but proved powerless against the contstant advance of new Allied troops and supplies.
German morale in the wet, cold foxholes out in the open fields started to sink further and further. Some troops even considered deserting, with only the fear of retribution at home, where their wives and children were, as enough to keep them there.
Then, on 17th November 1944, the Scots of the 5th Cameron Highlanders Battalion managed to establish a bridgehead at the Beringe drainage canal. They suffered heavy losses here too, and people were killed and wounded on both sides.
Whilst the Camerons fought for the bridgehead and the continuance of the Allied advance, a young German soldier, Theodor Kremer, was burdened with the task of removing the dead and wounded from the battlefield. He trudged backwards and forwards across the boggy fields with a wheelbarrow to retrieve his comrades’ bodies, or bring them to safety. As he did so, he started to wonder what on earth he was doing. He realised how pointless all of the fighting was, and decided to escape.