One question we’re asked regularly is ” … but after Normandy, and after MARKET GARDEN, what happened next in Europe?” Whether or not you have family connections to Scotland, our Walking with the Jocks tour should satisfy the curious and beyond.
The Allies were now fully committed to the invasion. It was decided to commit the 52nd (Lowland) Division to the North West of Europe. Montgomery’s mountain-trained forces had spent the last couple of years getting up to speed in the Cairngorms and acting as a decoy, in Fortitude North.
A strange choice? On the face of it, perhaps. The first challenge, for example, was as part of the combined assault force retaking Walcheren to open up the port of Antwerp. Very little snow there. But the Division had an exceptional set of unique skills: this is a great source of ‘but what if?’ discussions about what might have been in the Italian campaigns! The Jocks set forth at pace on clearance missions: moving east from the low countries, across the Dutch-German border, crossing the Rhine, and then sweeping north-east to the Hanseatic town and port of Bremen. That’s the arc of our two-part tour, and both parts are superb opportunities to learn how the British Army was, perhaps, now working at its peak in the European theatre
In October 2024, we’ll be following in the footsteps of the Division as it clears the Roer Triangle during Operation BLACKCOCK and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in particular. Many of you will know this story as it was narrated by Captain Peter White in his war memoir, ‘With the Jocks’. Our resident experts, Andy Aitcheson and Merryn Walters, make sure the strategy is as crystal clear as the men’s personal stories are vivid, and most of these stands have never been visited before on a tour.
In particular, we’ll see the platoon commander’s view, getting right into the foxholes made (and attacked) by men on the ground at Tripsrath and in Afferden Woods. At Waldfeucht we’ll also see how to clear a town and take out a rogue Tiger Tank (from the incumbent s.Pz.Abt (Fkl) 301) with a PIAT – which didn’t happen every day.
For the most part, the British Army fighting is smartly and rapidly now, although it’s also true that hard lessons were still being learned. Take the experience of young Fusilier Dennis Donnini, for example, whose personal courage at Sittard, aged just 19, led to the redaction of phosphorous grenades and the award of a VC. It wasn’t all plain sailing, even though there was a keen sense in the ranks that the writing was now on the wall. That said, by now, the British were also cycling men into those ranks where need was greatest. Many weren’t of Scottish extraction, so this is definitely not just a tour for those with an interest in the Scottish soldiers.
This is a fascinating slice of ‘what happened next?’ in the European campaign, and a cracking insight to the close working relationships between tired but motivated infantry, mechanized troops, and the strategic intent of war-weary commanders looking across bitterly-cold, open plains towards the Siegfried Line. Anyone who’s ‘done’ Arnhem, or ‘been there’ to the beaches of Normandy would do well to consider Walking with the Jocks: working our way across the Roer Triangle from Operation BLACKCOCK to Operation VERITABLE, with a nod to both VARSITY and PLUNDER, getting an understanding of the how and the why when it came to clearing the Rhineland.