Thirty first operation, Wesel



Thirty first operation, Wesel


A handwritten note giving brief details of the operation and a relevant newspaper cutting titled 'Today I took wine with an officer of the British Commando Brigade in the garden of a ruined house in Wesel'.

Temporal Coverage




A handwritten note and a newspaper cutting on an album page


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[underlined] Wesel, [/underlined] Sunday (delayed).
TODAY I took wine with an officer of the British Commando Brigade in the garden of a ruined house in Wesel.
In the garden was a deep, strong concrete shelter where, until yesterday, Major-General Deutsch, in command of the German anti-aircraft guns in the district, had his headquarters.
The general does not live there any more.
When the Commandos pounced into the town the general ordered his men to fight, and when they refused decided to fight on himself. It was a fatal mistake.
When he came up into the garden an officer and a sergeant in the dark green berets looked out of two windows of the house.
The general jumped behind a tree and tried to shoot down the officer. Before he could fire the sergeant had shot him in the stomach and he died in the garden.
The incident typified the battle for the town.
[inserted] X [/inserted] Everywhere the Germans, stunned and dazed by the operations of the Lancasters, were overwhelmed by the speed of the Commando attack. [inserted] X [/inserted]
This morning at dawn they decided to throw a counter attack at the spot on the river where our troops landed. They found the Commandos had vanished and their lieutenant-colonel walked into town to get fresh orders from his general.
The Commando troops let him enter the town, then jumped on him with the order: “Keep on walking brother.”
[underlined] Patrol Wiped Out [/underlined]
Last night a German bicycle patrol picked their way through the ruins and pushed their bicycles towards a factory.
When they reached it a waiting Commando Bren gun opened fire, and the whole patrol fell dead over their bicycles, and that is how you can see them now.
[inserted] X [/inserted] The town itself suffered the heaviest concentration of bombing of the whole war. Two hundred and fifty Lancasters struck it at half past ten in Friday’s moonlight. Today you can see the consequences. [inserted] X [/inserted]
What was a house is a crater, what was a road is a heap of rubble and a series of gaping holes. The houses, the shops, the streets have been wiped out.
That dreadful bombing was complete in just quarter of an hour. While it lasted the Commandos were still crossing the river.
Men who reached the far bank first formed up on the other side and when the last bomb had fallen led the way in.
They laid a trail of white tape through the town and those who followed kept to the path.
By just after one o’clock the whole brigade was established in the ruins, having suffered few casualties from small arms and mortar fire.
They began at once to hunt out surviving Germans.
There was still a lot of sniping and the troops rapidly searched the cellars.
They found German soldiers hiding under mattresses and beds. Many prisoners came in had not fired a shot.
[underlined] Women Were There [/underlined]
A party of Germans, including three women, were seen approaching waving a white flag.
They were allowed to come on, but when they reached the cover of a tottering building they suddenly vanished, and when they came out ran forward shooting rifles.
The troops opened fire and at once the white flag appeared and the survivors came in for mercy.
One bewildered prisoner said he had been one of a party of fifty troops who took cover from the intensive shelling that preceded the attack, some of them were wounded, and he decided to go for help.
The RAF arrived and a bomb fell one hundred yards away from him, throwing him unconscious into a ditch. When he recovered he found he was only one of three of his party who remained alive.
All the prisoners had hard words to say about their officers who, they declared, ran away as soon as the position became desperate.
But not all the officers are cowards, and not all the German soldiers surrender without a fight.
In a factory just outside the town a doomed battalion is still in the battle.
They must know that the airborne troops have cut off their retreat and that the Commando troops are waiting their moment to exterminate them.
Yet they go on fighting although their food and ammunition must be vanishing.
In Wesel to-day the Commando troops are putting batches of prisoners to work. One party was ordered to fill a great crater in the middle of what was once the cross-roads. They misunderstood the order and were found to be extending the crater.
Then it was learned that they had been told that the English shoot all prisoner, and thought they had been ordered to dig their communal grave.
I came back to Brigade Headquarters, where the Brigadier saw me into a Weasel and took the bumpy road through the scattered homes of Wesel back to the river bank.
As I crossed the fast-moving stream German shells began to fall into the water on each side of the lumbering Buffalo.
These splashing plumes of water were the evidence that there are still too many Germans still fighting. And fighting too well.

Thirty First Operation
Friday Night. April 23rd 1945.
Airborne hrs mins


“Thirty first operation, Wesel,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 1, 2023,

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