A near run thing

Patrol into no man's land: October 1944


After the fierce fighting in the sector above the Antwerp-Turnhout canal, the British 49th (west riding) infantry division, also known as the 'polar bears' got the task of holding an area all the way from Poppel to Brecht. More than some 20 miles was too wide for a regular infantry division with a shortage of infantrymen. Besides the normal fighting echelons (146 and 147 Bgd), two composite forces of non infantry personnel were formed due to that shortage. They each carried the name of their commanding officer, 'eykyen' and 'bob' force. We will focus on the second one of the compositeforces, namely bobforce. They consisted of various units of the division, like the 89th Light aircraft artillery (LAA), the 49th Reconnaissance, some batteries of anti tank artillery, some engineers, half of the 2nd Bn Kensingtons (MMG Bn), etc. Sometimes even assisted by parts of the local Belgian white brigade. Their job was to hold and patrol in the sectors that they had been given. So even when most of 'bobforce' were artillery or machinegun gunners, they did perform some excellent infantry work and held the sectors allocated.

Now, a composed party of machinegunners of the 2nd Kensingtons is formed to patrol in the nearby sector. The area between Rijckevorsel and Hoogstraten is, due to the extensive fighting and shelling, a no man's land between both British and German lines. Farmhouses situated in that area could be German one day and British the next.


Behind the lines, in a bivaque, the squaddies equipment is checked and loaded only with necessities. Only light battle order will be necessary, so the small packs are left behind.

"Again one of these rotten jobs". Since the front stabilised, some two weeks ago, soldiers are tired. Heavy losses were taken. It seems the glorious advance from Normandy is far away now. Conditions are damp, cold, muddy... Not the best place to be right now...

Various soldiers acquired some of those German 'Wendejackes' when the factory of E.Reitz located in Merksem around Antwerp was taken. The corporal says that we're leaving at 0830 hrs. "Be sure to leave that jerry coat behind, for friendly fires' sake!"

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