Table of Contents
An email from Christine
On 27 may in 2013 the Scouts received this email from Christine;
My mother and I are travelling to the museum on Tuesday, specifically to visit the tank ‘the Jackal’
This was the tank that my father Jonathan Lambert of the Coldstream guards was in when it went over the landmine
He lost both his legs in the explosion, but went on to live a very full and wonderful life.
I noted in one of the web sites he was not mentioned in the information about the crew.
We would like the opportunity to speak to someone to put the history right.
My mother would also like to lay a poppy wreath on the tank as my father has now died.
We look forward to visiting your museum,
The photo she referred to, is a Churchill tank left behind in the Dutch city of Overloon during operation Aintree after it hit a German Riegel mine. LandmarkScout, unknowingly of it’s history, took photo’s of the Jackal tank while visiting the museum.
We received the email on Monday, May the 27 in 2013. The day after Christine and her mom, both from England, would visit the War museum in Overloon.
The LandmarkScouts, unfortunately, do not own a museum. We had to guide Christine to the War Museum in Overloon where the photo was taken.
On such a short notice, we decided to contact the museum director directly. After explaining the request from Christine to the director of the museum Erik van den Dungen, he got in touch with Christine and her mom. Even though he had a very busy schedule the day after, he managed to welcome mom and daughter personally and guide them to the Churchill tank, the Jackal on Tuesday the 28th.
A Churchill tank called “The Jackal”
The Jackal, as the crew called this particular Churchill-tank, was in the second squad HQ troop commanded by Captain Dick Mc Dougal. On the October the 12th in 1944 it fell victim to the newly developed German Riegel mine. After the explosion the Jackal burst into flames. The explosion tore out the bogies on the left side and penetrated the thick belly plate causing heavy casualties to the crew. Captain Mc Dougal lost a leg, Bob Dare suffered severe burns and Jonathan Lambert lost both his legs, two other crew members lost their lives in the explosion.
After the War Mr. Lambert learned from other Coldstream guards that the Jackal was on display in the museum in Overloon, he and his wife went to see it in 1972. The Churchill still carries the scars of the explosion from this day in 1944.
Prelude to the battle for Overloon
The 4th Battalion of the Coldstream Guards originally was an infantry unit, later it became part of an armoured division. Mr. Lambert was a driver-mechanic on a Churchill tank. He landed on Juno beach 14 days after D-Day. He and his battalion joined the 6th Guards Tank brigade and advanced into Northern Europe.
The Battalion went into action at Caen in Operation Goodwood and saw action at Overloon in the Netherlands to clear a path for an American advance. The three day battle at Overloon started at the 12th October 1944, the same day the Jackal hit the Riegel mine.
The fighting in the Overloon area was bitter; the Dutch meadows were like bogs for the tanks and heavy equipment. The fields were full of mines and tactical placed anti tank guns. The German Fallschirmjäger from General-Oberst Kurt Student together with the 107th Panzer Brigade defended the area fiercely. Their objective was to hold the line and pin down as much Allied forces as they could.
Note: the rank of General-Oberst is a German rank, above General and below Field Marshall.
Operation Herbstnebel / Wacht am Rhein, or the Ardennes offensive, was in full preparation. Therefore it was of vital importance for the German Wehrmacht to hold the line and lure as much Allied forced lured out of the Belgium Ardennes as possible.
The Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) and 107 Panzer Brigade prepared an operation to the North of the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Wanssum Bridgehead (Schneeman).
Operation Nordwind (north wind), a trust to the south of the Ardennes offensive into the French Vogese, was strengthened by the Gebirgsjäger division which just arrived from Scandinavia.
It is not widely known that the Ardennes offensive was bigger than the attack into the Ardennes. With these three combined thrusts the operations had to achieve the recapture of the port of Antwerp and to cut off the Northern Allied forces in the Netherlands and take them out of action. The northern and southern operations followed the Ardennes offensive with a slight delay, Nordwind would start on 31 December 1944, and the Wanssum Bridgehead would start at in beginning of January 1945.
The Battle for Overloon
26th September 1944 – 16 October 1944
The Battle for Overloon has many names, “The forgotten Battle”, “The tank battle at Overloon” or “The second battle of Caen”. The battle of Overloon is a part of Operation Aintree.
After operation Market Garden a small stretch of the Netherlands was liberated between Eindhoven and Arnhem. Slowly this stretch of land was widened and the advance towards the town of Overloon was swift.
On 26th of September 1944 the American 7th Armored Division reached Overloon, where the German 107 Panzer Brigade had dug in. The first 4 days both army groups hit each other with artillery. On September the 30th the Allied assault commenced. It was the beginning of one of the fiercest battles of Western Europe.
For nine days the Allies tried to breach the German lines with Sherman tanks. Again and again they were repelled by the German defences. Mine fields, 88mm anti tanks guns, Panther tanks, Nebelwerfer artillery and infantry seemed too strong for the assailants. The German snipers tied themselves to the trees, in case of getting hurt they would be held up in the trees so they could fight on as long as possible.
On the 8th of October the worn out American forces pulled back to be replaced by fresh British troops.
After a few days of relative peace on the battlefield a new assault should commence, but due to bad weather it was postponed for another day. The surrounding meadows of the town of Overloon had turned into a big mud pool causing the tanks to get stuck in the fields. House to house fighting in Overloon and man to man combat in the woodlands by infantry was the result with a staggering high loss of men. The Germans however did not surrender, even after they shot their last bullet they charged with their bayonets. On October the 14th the last German stronghold in Overloon eventually fell into British hands. The last 20 SS soldiers in the town, who fought from the church were overpowered. Around one hundred German Soldiers surrendered this last day.
German resistance wasn’t broken after the loss of Overloon, in the woods surrounding the town German forces regrouped and fought on. The British forces slowly moved forward. Near the village of Molenbeek the fields lay strewn with mines. The German army even placed mines at the bottom of the Loobeek creek. Due to bad weather the small brook was now 6 meters wide. The German Army prevented the British soldiers to build crossings over the creek for a long time, but they eventually succeeded. After the tanks crossed the bridge they got stuck in the muddy fields on the other side. Under a murderous gun fire the British infantry tried to get to the other side of the creek, using the bridge or wading through the mine filled brook. The brook coloured red with their blood and was called ‘Bloedbeek – blood stream’ thereafter.
On the evening of October the 16th they succeeded and massively crossed the creek. Three days later they liberated the city of Venray after heavy house to house fighting.
A Bitter Victory
A destroyed town of Overloon was left behind.
In and around Overloon some 2500 men died, making it one of the bloodiest battles in the Netherlands during World War Two. To give you a small comparison of the numbers; between 1500 to 1800 Allied soldiers were killed during Operation Market Garden and about 2500 Allied soldiers were killed on D-Day (numbers originate from 2012).
The Allied forces lost 3 planes, about 40 tanks and near to 2.500 men, and 300 civilians. A civilian from Overloon suggested that the battleground with the demolished armoured pieces should be left behind as a base for a museum. This was the start of the War Museum at Overloon. General Whistler, commander of the British forces, opened the museum on the 25th of May in 1946.
Two memorials stand on the battle site today. The Norfolk monument can be found on the bank of the Loobeek creek, where the road from Overloon to Vernray crosses the infamous creek. It is dedicated to the Royal Norfolk Regiment. The liberation of Venray is one of their battle honours. The other memorial is to be found on the museum grounds. The memorial in the museum park reads the following;
Take pause visitor, and consider that the ground you now occupy was once one of the most fiercely contested sectors of the Overloon Battlefield. Bitter hand-to-and combat ensued here. Many young lives, having escaped from the battlefields of Nettuno and Normandy met their ends under these trees.
The jackal Tank Crew After the War
After the war Bob Dare returned to civilian live as police officer, Dick Mc Dougal returned to London and Jonathan Lambert took up work as an inspector with the General Electrical Company.
He kept on riding motorcycles and was well known for his involvement with the Borehamwood branch of the Royal British Legion. Unfortunately he left us a few years ago.
Visit the Jackal at Overloon War Museum
You can visit the Jackal in the Overloon War Museum. It stands together with other victims of the battle, like a Cromwell, a Sherman Crab (flail tank) a Panther and a Nebelwerfer, all left behind on the battlefield in or around the city of Overloon.