May 16, 1940 – II./AR 84 on the move

1940-05-16aAs we have seen before – my grandfather and the men in his unit have been eagerly awaiting their orders to break down their guns in Laurensberg and move on into Belgium, following the advancing units of Heeresgruppe B.

The length of the diary entry for this day shows that this is nothing that has left him untouched – it’s a long, very detailed entry that goes along with plenty of photos.

Map 01 - Vaals to MaastrichtThe diary tells us some key parts of the route – they had crossed the border at Vaals (1 in the map above). His first photo must have been taken right at the border – you can see the toll bar.

Image 01 - Border Crossing in VaalsMaybe the care we are seeing – a military car – might have been his transport, who knows? But one thing I do know is the exact place the photo was taken – thanks to Google’s Streetview.

Following what today is N278, I think they managed to get to Maastricht (2). With the bell tower in the background of the photo, I think this may be Wilhelminabrug in Maastricht.

Image 02 - Maastricht

I don’t think, however, they crossed the Maas in the city – for whatever reason, maybe because the bridges would not support the load or they did not want to move the guns through the city.

Map 02 - Maastricht to TongresInstead, I assume, they turned south and followed the river all the way to the village of Lanaye (2). At least the image of the blown-up bridge that is amongst the photos suggests that this is the bridge he is writing about as “having been blown up”.

Image 04 - Blown BridgeWikipedia holds a photo of the original bridge – from my perspective, this looks like the same structure. Which also explains the photo of the nearby Albert Canal and Fort Eben-Emael.

Image 05 - Albert CanalSo the photos fall on the map – and if we connect the dots, we can imagine the route II./AR 84 could have taken on their move to Tongres (3).

1940-05-16bWhat now follows is a tour of a war-torn country. In the days before their arrival, the area between Liége and Maastricht on the western banks of the Maas river was the stage for much fighting – the German 4. Panzer Division had moved through the area, so did some of the German Infantry Divisions, most likely the 269. Infanterie Division and the 61. Infanterie Division. In return, at least the 7th Infantry Division and the 4th Infantry Division of the Belgian forces was also retreating through the area.

According to the diary, the men of II./AR 84 reached Tongres that day – no matter what caused the destruction (and I am not aware of British forces defending their positions there), Tongres must have been in ruins – if it indeed was attacked by German Ju-87 Stukas, as my grandfather suggests, the destruction must have been immense.

Passing the destroyed city, the track of men and material must have traveled on, towards Waremme (2). From there on, it was only a small hop to the village of Cras-Avernas (3) where they were supposed to take quarters.

Map 03 - Tongres - Cras AvernasFollowing the final parts of the day’s entry, they ended up taking quarters with the mayor – assuming my grandfather’s spelling of Burgmester was only slightly off and he meant the french Bourgmestre. In which case, his host may have been Joseph Nihoul.

1940-05-16cAwaiting the rest of their column to arrive, they seem to have settled in quite well – and were, apparently, not treated in a way I would have expected soldiers of an invading force to be treated…

A final look at the overall situation for Heeresgruppe B shows the general push to the west, south of Brussels and the stability of the front between Antwerp and the Belgian capital.

1940-05-16 - Lage West HGr. B

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