The Battle of Reusel Church

This page contains the memories of fighting that took place in Reusel Church, the Nederlands, as part of Operation Market Garden in September 1944. The accounts are from members of the 4th Battalion, Welch Regiment.

The battle, as described by 14331379 Lance Corporal Arthur Mantle

“ I served with ‘D’ Company, 4th Battalion Welch Regiment, 160 Brigade, 53rd Welch Division, XXX Corps. The events that I took part in on 22nd September 1944 remain very clear in my mind.

Orders came around 4 o’clock to move into Reusel. Sixteen Platoon, of which I was part, advanced along the left hand side of the main road. We moved in and out of the various buildings using them as cover until we came to a large warehouse which we entered through the rear door. The main door lead to a loading platform.

Our objective was the church across the other side of the road, and some distance away. From what remained of the tower, we would be able to get a good view for miles across the flat Dutch landscape.

We entered the church, via the main front doors. Above the main entrance was the organ loft, and forward at the far end was the church altar. To the left of the altar was a long corridor, about six feet wide, leading to the Pastor’s quarters.

The windows alongside both sides of the church were high up, so we were unable to use them for firing points. The enemy had now occupied the area at the other end of the corridor, and started to throw hand grenades along the corridor. A few bursts of the Brensoon put a stop to the grenade problem.

Water was our main problem. My water bottle was nearly empty, for by then we had been away from Company Headquarters for two and a half days.

Around 4 o’clock (16:00 hrs) a verbal message was shouted across the road to evacuate as the artillery would be laying down a barrage, for us to leave the church. I was one of the last to leave the church main entrance.

Spandau opened up and the man some yards in front of me fell. I half carried and half dragged him to shelter where some of the men helped care for him. Private Taylor, our Company Runner, died of his wounds.

Soon after Typhoons of the Canadian force came in at roof top level to stop the harassing fire from the German area.”

The battle as described by 14659090 Emrys Davies

‘D’ Company, 4th Battalion Welch Regiment, 160 Brigade 53rd Welch Division, XXX Corps

“I served with ‘D’ Company, 4th Battalion Welch Regiment. This is a brief account of a fierce battle that took place in the village of Reusel, that the 4th Battalion Welch Regiment were involved in. This battle took place from 24th to 27th September, 1944.

The village had to be held by us for at least three days, because it was on a main supply route for the Germans. We needed to hold the village to allow men, tanks and supplies to get up to Arnhem, during the battle that took place there.

The village was held by us for the required time, and then we were given orders to ‘pull out’.

As Lance Corporal Mantle states in his account of the battle, he was part of a section that was trapped inside the church. ( His account is a very modest one, and does not account all the details of what happened there).

Every time orders were shouted inside the church, they were understood by the Dutch SS troops that we were fighting. So orders had to be given to our section in Welsh; that is how we managed to extract them from the when we were ordered to pull out of the village.

There were about 600 Dutch SS troops at the start of the battle of ‘Reusel’, and only 200 of them left at the time we pulled out. This action was one of many battles that the 4th Welch was involved in that took place during an operation that was called the ‘Lommel Bridgehead’.”

See also Emrys’s account of the Lommel Bridge Crossing.

The battle as described by Major Arthur “Zonk” Lewis

“For three days the 4th Battalion Welch Regiment grimly cleared Reusel; house-to-house, street-to-street, house-to-house, room-by-room. There were many casualties in that time.

The SS Paratroopers defending Reusel ( 600 strong) formed themselves into battle groups of around 20 strong, and were constantly infiltrating our positions. Houses were burning as fighting took place in them.

The fighting became very confused. The smallest movement drew enemy fire, and mortar bombs seemed to be bursting everywhere. Sections were burnt out of houses by Panzerfaustand phosphorous grenades. The stores were burnt and reserve ammunition exploded. Our Battalion Headquarters had great difficulty controlling this confused battle.

The enemy was now all around us, and a ‘runner’ dashed in to say he had seen them entering the basement of our Company Headquarters.

We dislodged them and made a dash to the next house where we received similar treatment. Three times we were ‘burnt out’ during the afternoon, before finally reorganising the Company around a nunnery and school close to the cross roads.

At one point ‘D’ Company held one end of the church, and the Germans the other.

Close quarters fighting continued for three days. When the 4th Welch were ordered to withdraw, half a section were cut-off in and around the church. They had no wireless. The Dutch SS troops probably spoke English, so orders were shouted to our troops in Welsh. The section and remainder of the Battalion were, during the day, successfully withdrawn under cover of our Artillery.

A flight of rocket firing Typhoons dived at the church firing their rockets. Anti tank guns and 17 Pounders of the anti-tank regiment fired at the church, and brought the steeple down, but the SS paratroopers fought on.

Many people believed in the protection of God during that withdrawal: we certainly seemed to be protected by some divine power.”

The 4th Welch withdrew from Reusel on the 25th September and the 6th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers found Reusel empty on the 3rd October.