Monday, August 01, 2005

Brit Obit as Movie Script

Say good-bye to Freddie Allen, who sounds as if he should have been portrayed by Alec Guinness in a David Lean film:

Lieutenant-Colonel Freddie Allen, who has died aged 92, won two DSOs in 1945 in the battles of the Ardennes [aka, The Battle of the Bulge] and the Reichswald.

In December 1944, the Germans broke through in the Ardennes in what was their last substantial counter-offensive on the Western front. The 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, part of the 53rd Welsh Division, was deployed in thickly wooded country interspersed with steep, icy, snow-covered tracks. The men were dug into slit trenches in temperatures well below freezing point. It was too cold to sleep, and cases of frostbite and physical exhaustion were beginning to appear.

On January 7 1945, after three days in an exposed position under accurate enemy shelling and mortar fire, the East Lancashires, under Allen's command, were ordered to attack the village of Grimbiemont. The battalion formed up in a snowstorm driven by an arctic wind, but just before beginning the attack their Advance HQ group received a direct hit.

The adjutant and several intelligence personnel were killed and the communication equipment was destroyed. Allen, who was close by and escaped injury, quickly reorganised his HQ and moved forward....

...Allen moved up to his forward companies and the attack went ahead across 1,500 yards of open ground, uphill, knee-deep in snow towards the Germans who held the summit. The inter-company wireless sets were knocked out and when a series of machine gun posts opened up, casualties mounted swiftly.

Allen directed his battalion under heavy fire from artillery and mortars, and handled his reserves with such skill that the momentum of the attack was sustained and the objective taken. The citation for his DSO paid tribute to his coolness under fire and his complete disregard of danger in a very critical situation.

.... Early in February 1945, the Allies launched operations to clear the area between the Rivers Maas and the Rhine. The Reichswald, a forest of densely packed trees which concealed the pill-boxes and bunkers that formed a northern sector of the Siegfried Line, was a formidable obstacle.

On February 11, the East Lancashires were advancing towards Klosterhufe when the leading company was held up by self-propelled guns, mortar and small arms fire. Allen went forward to help them but he was hit on the chin by a bullet and knocked out. He regained consciousness soon afterwards, however, and under his leadership his men fought their way through to their objective and arrived there after dark.

Allen reorganised his position in the knowledge that many of his fighting vehicles were stuck in the mud of the forest tracks and the enemy had cut his communications to the rear. No outside help could get to him during the night and German forces in strength were on three sides of him.

It was impossible to move food and water forward and he was unable to evacuate his casualties.
The next day, the enemy, using Panzer units, put in several fierce counter-attacks but these were beaten off with heavy losses. ....

In May, during the occupation of Hamburg, the East Lancashires were allocated part of the dock area. Late one evening, a solitary barge was observed gliding surreptitiously past on its way to the mainstream of the Elbe. At first it ignored a signal to pull in, but a burst of machine gun fire across the bows brought about a change of mind and it came in for examination. On board were cases of excellent wine and spirits that had been looted from all over Europe and were on their way to Schleswig-Holstein for the senior Nazis still holding out there. These spoils were off-loaded and, with a formal note of thanks for timely delivery, the empty barge was sent on its way to Admiral Doenitz.

When the war ended, Allen, who spoke fluent German, was involved in the reconstruction of Germany.

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