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Fred Bowden interview: On to Brussels



Well, the fighting in Normandy was over, then we began the advance across the Seine at Vernaux [check this] in France going eastwards and continued. We advanced to Brussels. We did 100 miles to Brussels in one day and we were the first troops, the Welsh Guards. We were the first troops in Brussels. We relieved Brussels and 40 years - no 50 years - after, we went there and had a special Welsh Guards old comrades march through the Grande Place in Brussels to celebrate the occasion. And we were welcomed by the mayor and various dignitaries and then from Brussels we went on further east and we stopped at a place called Hechtel [check this] which is a little, unknown village in Belgium, east of Brussels, where there was a powerful German force hanging on there and there was … The general advance of the British Second Army couldn’t stop. They had to keep going. We were dropped off to deal with this, The Welsh Guards had to take this village and it took us four days, between four and five days, to take it with the loss of about another 35 killed and finally the village was completely wrecked. But we go there now every year for a memorial thing in the village church etc. Then we went on from there to the Rhine but when we got to the Rhine…I forget the name of the place, but on the Rhine…we had a last minor involvement, really backing up. We had to come out, we were taken out. We couldn’t… there were no more recruits, we couldn’t function as a battalion anymore. They sent us back home.

Our place was taken by another unit, another Guards unit, and we came home from there.  We handed in all our weapons and we disarmed ourselves. We left there and we came home to Scotland. But as far as me personally was concerned, I had an accident. I tripped over some weapons, some ammunition boxes and dislocated my elbow and that was me being stupid. And I was taken to a hospital in France and then to a convalescent place somewhere in Belgium. Whilst I was there, the war finished in Europe. VE day occurred and eventually I caught up with the battalion, came back to Scotland. The battalion was split.

Well my group was number 30.  I was group 30 and one to 29 stayed in this country. Group 30 onwards formed the new battalion and we went out to Palestine.