"Elves are very good at board games, and I'm NOT an elf!"
Back in late September, Darren and I met up to play another game of Memoir '44 (A Bridge Too Far? Maybe. But, we've had a Breakthrough at our gaming sessions!).
We chose to play the Arnhem Bridge scenario, because Darren's father was in the 2nd Paras during the late sixties and he felt that it would be a fitting tribute to him, even though his father, of course, did not actually take part in WW2.
However, I had a relative that did take part in WW2. In fact, he was killed in action. He was my Great Uncle Kenneth. I was named in memory of him, my middle name being Kenneth. I began to wonder about his life and ultimately, his death.
Details are sometimes difficult to come by. I knew his name, Kenneth William Warren; his date of birth, 20 March 1923; and his date of death, 30 March 1945. That was all. However, these days I have a very special friend that comes to my aid in times like these; his name? Google.
It wasn't as easy as just typing in his name and voila, there was all the information I needed; it still took some time. By the end of my Google searches, I had his regiment, The Kings Royal Rifle Corps; his service number, 14436257; and where he was buried, Uden War Cemetery, Netherlands.
Upon visiting the website for the Uden War Cemetery, I found quite a few documents which I was able to download and a link to a photographer who could help me get a photograph of the grave. I paid a small fee and received the photograph.
Now onto the battle in which my great uncle was killed. I done some more searching and found out that Kenneth had served in the 8th Armoured Brigade, stumbling upon this fascinating extract from a chapter of an online history book:
On the 28th Ijsselburg was captured and the road from Anhoh to Gendringen was in our hands. The enemy were beginning to have had enough and some were induced to surrender after appropriate harangues on the tank "Loud Hailers". Away to the right the 7th Armoured Division had broken out and the Guards Armoured were about to go.
On the 30th March the Brigade with under command 4th Somerset Light Infantry in Kangaroos was loosed on Operation "Forrard On"; though as usual a break out battle had to be fought which lasted all day. 4th Somerset Light Infantry advanced on the right axis with 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps on the left both supported by 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. By evening the outskirts of Varsseveld were reached and 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps on the left were in Silvolde. In Varsseveld both bridges had been blown and the river could not be crossed till the evening of the next day. Orders were received to push on with all speed to seize a crossing of the Twente Canal at Lochem. At 2300 hours, assisted by artificial moonlight, the advance continued, the order of march being 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards carrying 4th Somerset Light Infantry, Tac Brigade H.Q. and Essex Yeomanry. As dawn broke a sharp action took place at Ruurlo, but the advance continued to Lochem where considerable opposition was encountered and the bridge found blown. The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps were brought up to assist. Twenty-five miles had been covered during the day.
This was the only battle that the King's Royal Rifle Corps were involved in over that time period.
I decided that I would speak to the family historian in my family, which in hindsight, would have been a better place to start. I telephoned my uncle in Southampton. We had quite a long telephone conversation, which resulted in my uncle being able to confirm quite a few of the facts that I had discovered myself and he also mentioned that he had visited the grave himself. However, my uncle was very interested to hear of what I had found out; some of the details he was not aware of.
However, this was not satisfying me because I really wanted to play a scenario that was honouring to Kenneth and so I searched the Memoir '44 scenarios. The closest scenario I was able to find was a 'Scenario from the Front' (a fan created scenario), Operation Varsity. That would have to do.
Before I left the Memoir '44 pages, I thought I'd ask if any experts would be able to shed some more light on the battle, posting a request for help on the forums, giving some of the above information that I had found out. Imagine my surprise when Jacques 'jdrommel' David replied, offering his help.
Well, two weeks later and I am sitting writing this blog entry with a copy of an actual scenario in front of me entitled, 'The Queen's Westminsters at Silvolde', and dedicated to Kenneth William Warren. Jacques David had kindly spent his time and effort researching the battle, and putting together this scenario, especially for me to play in honour of Kenneth and all those forgotten heroes that also lost their lives. I can't thank him enough for doing this (http://www.daysofwonder.com/memoir44/en/editor/view/?id=1703...).
I made a trip to a family member who gave me some photos of Kenneth, along with a letter that was penned to my grandparents in December 1944. This was an important piece of evidence as it proved, due to the service number, that the Kenneth Warren that I had discovered and was looking into, was indeed my great uncle Kenneth.
Well, it wouldn't be right just to file this away in my scenario folder, would it? No, of course not! This scenario demands to be played...
So, Darren and I met on Saturday evening to pay tribute Kenneth William Warren and play for the very first time, 'The Queen's Westminsters at Silvolde - March 30, 1945'
I played as the Axis. I found it quite difficult for the Axis artillery to get many rounds in. The Heavy Anti-Tank Guns require line-of-sight and the forest hexes in the centre flank were an obstacle I could have done without. Still, I was picking off the Allies one-by-one. However, the Allies were able to do the same.
One bit of hilarity during the game was when Darren rolled for his 'Their Finest Hour' card - it ended up not being the British' finest hour at all - a 'yahtzee' on grenades!
Eventually, the Allies fought through the Axis defences, moving into Varsseveld and securing the victory - a great day for the British, leaving the Germans with a single remaining artillery battery on the field!
Swapping around, it was my chance to be in command of Operation Forrard-On. Darren pulled his forward units in the centre flank back towards his baseline, leaving me to slowly move up the flanks to engage. I was careful to avoid the Axis artillery by keeping out of it's line-of-sight.
To begin with, it was another tit-for-tat battle with both Axis and Allies securing medals, but soon, I was in control and my Armour moved towards Varsseveld.
At last, I was able to knock out the German artillery and now I could move in for the British (12th King's Royal Rifle Corps) advance to Silvolde. The British would have moved in and captured Silvolde the following turn if it had not been for the stella work of the British fighting in Varsseveld, on the other side of the board, who took out the remaining infantry in the town to seal the victory!
Thank you to Jacques for creating this scenario; thank you to Darren for playing the scenario; but most of all, thank you to great uncle Ken and all his comrades for being part of the real life scenario, giving their lives in the forgotten battles of the Second World War.