203 AAA AW Battalion (SP)

 

Activated on 15 November 1942, shipped to Engeland on the 8th of February 1944. The Battalion landed in Normandy in two LST's on the 26th of June 1944.

 

The Battalion moved to an assembly area near Asten on the 1st of October 1944. Whilst the Battalion was located outside Asten, with A Battery, B. Battery and C Battery providing anti aircraft protection for Division trains. On 2nd of October A Battery and B Battery were placed on outpost duty along the canal, and halftracks went into position around the bridge which crossed the canal outside Asten. Enemy sniper and patrols were active in this area at night, and B Battery engaged unknown ground targets on two different occasions, with unknown results.

 

After the capture of Overloon, the Division went into a defensive position extending 28 miles between Weert and Duren, and outpost and road blocks were set up along the canal. B Battery was attached to Combat Command B and its tracks were placed as outpost in the northern part of the Division.

C Battery was aatached to Combat Command R and established road blocks in and around the Village of Meijel.

 

On the 13th of october, the first platoon of B Battery engaged an enemy patrol of nine men who attempted yo infiltrate through the position under cover of the darkness. Alert guards sounded the alarm as the patrol came out of the woods, and the machine guns from the half tracks sprayed the area killing one enemy soldier, while four other were captured. on the following morning, the remaining members of the patrol were found hiding in the nearby woods and taken prisoner by the battery.

 

The second section of the battery C first platoon, which was on outpost duty east of Meijel. in support of the 38th Armoured Infantry Battalion, was on the receiving end of a German Artillery barrage on the night of October 13th. When the artillery ceased firing a German infantry patrol of estimated fifty men attempted to force the position. The section immediately returned fire with small arms and hand grenades, and after a brief skirmish, the attack was beatten off, and the enemy withdrew, leaving machineguns and small arms behind. During the engagement, the M15 halftrack of this section received a direct hit from s German bazooka and was placed out of action.

 

During the following week, the Battalion remained on outpost duty and instituted a training program which included such subjects as aircraft recognition, motor maintenance and radio procedure. This training was conducted by platoon leaders while the guns sections were still on alert for enemy action.

 

On October 27th a large scale German counter-offensive designed to relieve pressure on the Germans in the Schelde Estuary. B Battery went into position around a bridge across the canal over the which the Combat command were to withdraw on Division order. For three succesive nights enemy aircraft attacked the Bridge and B Battery openend fire with a hastily conceived barrage fire which blanketed the sky above the bridge. This improvised barrage defense was quite effective in repelling the enemy aircraft, and though bombs were dropped each night there was no damage to either the bridge or to the halftracks.

Meanwhile the Battlaion moved to the vicinity of Weert, Holland and A Battery was placed on outpost along the canal near Nederweert. On the evening of the 18th of October, a gun section of the second platoon of A Battery spotted a German gun crew attempting to emplace an anti-tank across the canal. The halftrack opened fire and scored direct hits on the emplacement, knocking out the gun and injuring or killing the crew. Two days later A Battery was subjected to an intense mortar barrage which resulted in several casualties among the men on outpost duty.

 

The Division moved to a bivouac area south east of Maastricht, Battalion Headquarters was established in a apple orchard east of Eijsden and the firing batteries reverted to Battalion control, and assembled in the surrouding area.

For 3 weeks the Battalion stayed in this static condition while adverse weather conditions hamperd operations, and the continual rain and cold made life in the field almost unbearable. The mounting rate of trench foot in the Battalion caused serious concern, as the cold and damp weather produced the most favorable conditions for contracting this disease. Buzz bombs passed overhead both day and night, and the men learned to wait for the roar of motors, and "sweat out" the sound until it had passed overhead.

 

On the 17th of November, A Battery and B Battery were ordered to proceed with Division Artillery to join the newly organzied Task Force Riddle which was assembling in the Heerlenheide sector. On the same day the remainder of the Battalion moved to Moorslag, Holland, and for the first time occupied billets. Four days later, A Battery and C Battery were relieved of their mission with Task Force Biddle, and rejoined the Division.

The Battalion moved to the vicinity of Heerlen and established headquarters in a farmhouse near Heerlenheide. A Battery and C Battery were attached to Division Artillety for the coming operations. D Battery joined Combat command B and B Battery was attached to Division Trains.

 

Five Focke-Wolfe 190s circled the Division area on 1 December and were engaged by the Battery, A Battery, C Battery and D Battery. The planes were drived off with no damage done to Division installations, and D Battery claimed one plane as the result for the engagement.

A and C Battery moved to Geilenkirchen. Battalion Headquarters moved to Rimburg, Holland and established a Headquarters in a row of houses in the town. For two succesive days, German aircraft attacked in the artillery sector on bombing and strafing raids, and on each occasion A, C and D Battery engaged the planes.

On December 16th the Battalion left to an assembly area near Sint Vith, Belgium.