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Layton, D.H. 6030842

Town :
Regiment : 5th Battalion Dorset Regiment, 130 Brigade,30 Corp
Landed in Normandy : Gold Beach
4 May 1945 Normandy (Gold Beach) to Berlin RHADE THE LAST ATTACK We leave Tamstedt after a bitter fight with the SS. Finished up using flame throwers. The huge mine that blew a hole thirty feet deep and ninety feet across took one of our 30 ton kangaroos and several vehicles and comrades. Captain P. I. Thorpe was killed by a sniper. The sniper was dealt with. Sergeant Mockeridge was also hit, but survived and received the Military Medal. We carried on our push towards Bremerhaven. I was travelling in a bren carrier, surrounded by dozens of 3" mortar bombs. Another vibration mine like the last and a vacuum cleaner would not find me. We pushed on, taking the towns of Hepstedt, Bredorf and Hanstedt. We arrived at this town or village, Rhade, a long straight road lined with trees, soft marshland on either side, impossible for tanks. The road had huge craters, created by huge mines. Our Sappers had to rig up Bailey Bridges under cover of darkness and mortar fire. At the end of the road was high ground, held by our friends, the Panzer Grenadiers plus the Hitler Youth. A very tough combination. As the road entered the high ground or ridge there was a massive road block consisting of pine logs, in filled with sand. Our guns and mortars are pounding the ridge. The road is now empty, and MacNamara and myself make our way with a bren machine gun to dig-in below the ridge. We remained there most of the day, eating boiled sweets to stop the mouth becoming too dry , as it does on these occasions. The ridge is still being pounded and we send in a fighting patrol. They do not return. C Company launch a full scale attack up past the road block. It is now dark and Mac and myself have withdrawn with our machine gun to the side of the road, a hundred yards from the road block, to cover C Company should things go wrong. It is now about 11 pm. All at once night turns into day. Half the World lifts up, taking the road block with it. Something smashes into my tin hat, then my left hand. The pain is unbearable. Mac calls for stretcher bearers. Up roars a jeep, I am bundled into it, and we roar back over the bridges. The road is no longer empty. There are tanks, guns and trucks all waiting to move forward. I wonder if they felt sorry for me! We have a good doctor and he straps up my hand and gives me pain killers. I retire to the large farm house and my hand begins to throb again. Mortar bombs are crumping down outside. There is a nice big fire. The sergeant asked if I would do guard duty as they were short of men. I sit on the stairs all night with a sten gun on my lap. Daylight comes and they will take me to a military hospital, 70 miles away, at a town called Uelzen. But first the jeep took me to see my brother - they have recaptured our patrol - also my friend Kelaway. I return to the blood wagon that awaits me. Sitting in this thing was another patient, an old man of 35 years. We exchange greetings. He has in his possession a six-gun that they used to call The Big Iron long barrel, quite sought after today. He wished to exchange it for my beloved Luger. I remarked that I did not want that old thing. Ignorance is bliss! We resumed our journey, the first overnight stop, stinking Belsen. The pits are full of the rotting dead. One night was enough. Onward next day to this place Uelzen - I think it's spelt right - there I remained for six weeks being repaired. The doctor asked me if I would like to go back to England or rejoin my Unit. Like a twit I said "Rejoin my Unit". I was informed that they were stationed in a town called Tostedt, about forty miles from Hamburg. So I made my way, stopping overnight with any army units I came across. They fed me and laid on a 15 cwt. truck to get me back. It was a different World - then we looked after each other. On arriving at Tostedt, I was greeted by RS.M. Horton. A good man. I was dressed like a tramp with my old fighting clothes on. He never said a word. The War had been over for five weeks. Better join S Company at Todlusingen Dennis! I settled back in with all my good friends, took a driving course and drove a truck and trailer to Berlin, loaded with jerry cans filled with petrol. We got held up overnight at Helmstedt, before we could enter the Russian sector. We preceded to Berlin the next day. We drove into Berlin to the other side of Spandau. We did guard duties with the Russians at Spandau Prison and were based in a German Army military camp at Zeppelina Strasse. There we remained for three months. This was long before any Berlin Wall was dreamed of. The place still stunk, the sewers were being steamed out. Once again we returned to Tostedt, then to Luneburg for disbandment. My brother went on to Britannia Barracks in Norwich, Norfolk, to become an instructor. Here endeth the lesson. I sit here and write it. It is finished, but remains with me.
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