I will probably post up photos, but see below, which Arthur from "AIE did
_Arthur wrote:Dead Man's Ridge Walk 22 and 23-03-2014.
...in the footsteps of the 17th Airborne 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, Fox Company, Staff Sergeant John Leather (89).
So, there I went, Saturday morning 6:15 off to Bastogne for the first day of the Dead Man's Ridge Walk.
Arriving at around 8:25 at the place we stayed at (yes the roads were almost empty) in Bastogne. Getting ready and gear up for the first ceremony of the day.
Around 09:30 we took off to Flamièrge, where a monument is for the 17th Airborne Division. After some drill practicing, of course the order arms and present arms etc commands were a bit rusty between the new recruits who just came in. So they had to be practiced in order to 'do it all correct when needed'. After about 45mins waiting, practicing and enjoying the wind and the view, John Leather arrived.
He was greeted by the full platoon standing at 'present arms' and the color guard. He answered the salute, of course.
During the ceremony the mayor of the Flamièrge commune spoke some words, which were translated and some other persons. Flowers were laid and at the end of the ceremony and a group picture take together with John in our midst.
On to the Town Hall off Bertogne for a small reception.
After arrival we created a small honor guard while John entered the building, we had some small snacks and champagne as much as you wanted. John was also given a small present on behalf of the city of Bertogne. Of course some people had to say some words ;)Bertogne has created a walk/bicycle route along important sites of WW2.
We headed for Bastogne city center for a lunch. Not the amazed we went to the hamburger restaurant again.
On to the Bois de la Paix (Peace Woods), most of us know what this is, if you don't, click the link. While we waited for the other to arrive, it started to rain, heavy rain... so I took out my raincoat and was one of the few to stay fairly dry.
In this wood John's plaque at his own tree was revealed by him and his son Steven. A very emotional moment. John insisted, while we were still standing at attention, to shake us hands. And so it happened, still raining... he was grateful that we were there at this moment. We are grateful he was there 70 years ago...
We went to Houmont to prepare the hall for the next day. Putting the tables and chairs on the right spots, etc etc. After all work was done, we went to Rechrical for a short battle field tour.
At this farmhouse the Jeep is in front, in Rechrival, John took over command of his squad after his former squad leader was killed by concussion / pressure waves from incoming rounds.
Back to the place we stayed! Time for a bit relaxing and having dinner; with John and his family of course! It was a partly coincidence that I had the (small) honor to serve John the first dish.
John spoke to a lot of us, signed all sorts of stuff, was given some nice presents (like the 17th AB flag we all signed) and stayed till 11 o'clock! He enjoyed every minute his son told me!
Sunday morning 5:30AM ALARM! Euh, I mean, wake up! I managed to sneak in an extra half an hour sleep so got up at 6 and after getting dressed headed for the breakfast and after that put all the stuff back in the car.
07:30AM arrival in Houmont for the last preparations. Cleaned the M1 Garand I loaned (had nothing else to-do al that very moment) and after a bit a friend of mine showed up and shook hands and had a little chitchat.
Time for the pre-walk ceremony. It was very cold standing there all the time. Feet were more ice cubes then flesh and bones. Muscle were complaining; and we still had to start the walk! But, in the end you all know: we will survive another day... so just bear the suffering.
After a very nice ceremony, we finally took off, as almost the last ones.
We took off in the direction of Brul. First we passed the farm where the picture was taken of the medics taking care of a cow (I suppose it would be their dinner afterwards...). And the small Maria-cave, covered in snow back then, where the soldier prayed.
In the town of Chenogne we had a small break and were visited by John, he insisted to shake hands of everyone again. So we lined up and had some small words with him and of course shaking hands, as much as you wanted, he shook them. Afterwards we had a cup of coffee or tea.
Moving on to the wooded area just a bit north of Chenogne. We had some maneuvers, fired a few (blanc) rounds with the mortar, cleared the woods (some German machinery was left behind) and continued to Houmont again.
Lunch time! Had a sandwich (large bread) and switched from my Buckle Boots to my Jump Boots; which walk much better than my Buckles...
And as we thought: a lot of people only did this first part. Which was 'just' 8KMs. We still had 10 more to go.
We took off again after half an hour in the direction of Rechrival. Here John joined us again and watched us (from inside the car) entering Rechrival and walking uphill to Hubermont. In Hubermont one of the squads secured a crossroads, allowing us to cross the street, preparing us to attack Hill 460 (as far as I remember the correct number, will look it up and correct it when needed). The mortar team had the Germans eat some of our mortar rounds while we 'attacked' and pressing on the hill.
After a short walk we arrived in Renuamont. The 550th B and C co were slaughtered here by a German counterattack, after the 550th captured/liberated the small village. Of the 600 man, 200 were able to escape a pincer-maneuver of the Germans, 400 dead, captured or wounded were 'left behind'. A co and HQ were already on the high-grounds waiting for B and C to retreat, when the pressure was too high, A co and HQ retreated to Brul. The remainders of B and C were also joined up with A co and HQ in Brul.
We took the same route, from Renaumont uphill (straight going South). This was a killer route: only 650meter, but all uphill in a slight angle.
After a short rest, we had a group picture taken, together with Steve, John's son. We continued to the nearby woods where foxholes were still very visible. We moved on going through the woods and the HQ decided to take a shortcut back to Houmont; it was already around 16:15 and still 3,5K to go. The shortcut would cut down 2K km's. So only 1,5 left.
The last part of the route we went straight through all the fields and under/over a small stream and barbed wire, using the church of Houmont as guide.
We formed our platoon again and marched singing into Houmont.
Edited map of what we did 'where'.
Most pictures by Paul Costin.
If you encounter any (big) errors, let me know and I will correct them.
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great pictures.. deffo one for nxt year!
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