138 Field Regiment RA

Counter attack at Benvignante.

The main defences of the Argenta Gap had just been breached. 6 RWK were fighting for Boccaleone, 8 A&SH for Consandolo and 5 Buffs were in reserve.

The final rout of the Hun was beginning and he was fighting desperately wherever he could stand.

Route 16, a fine road running north from Argenta, was the main enemy axis on this sector.

On the afternoon of 18 April, a Task Force, consisting of 5 Buffs, with under command one Squadron Churchills, one Mobile Bridging Unit, one company REs and Support Group Mortars, was ordered to proceed up Route 16 and to seize and hold all bridges.

5 Buffs were to “marry up” with the Tanks, a few hundred yards, east of Boccaleone at first dark. This was accomplished without exceptional incidents, the Battalion having been lifted in 3 tonners to a remarkably forward de-bussing area. The intended route, via Boccaleone, was impassable since 6 RWK were still fighting for part of the village and a liberal mixture of our own and enemy artillery appeared to be coming down from everywhere. The only alternative was cross country and, in spite of encounters with apparently impassable bogs, ditches and dykes, the column proceeded into the night.

Things went well – by last dark, about 100 extremely surprised Kraut and a few guns and vehicles had been picked up from various L of C houses on route and the two leading companies had reached Benvignante, where they were meeting some opposition.

Eight miles of Route 16 was now held intact.

The CO decided to consolidate at Benvigvante. Two companies concentrated in farms to the north of the small village and one company in the village. Daylight revealed various vehicle and enemy tanks all too fresh to be treated lightly. It was flat open country and lightly wooded and, since we were open on all flanks, the CO wisely decided to establish Tac Bttn HQ with the Company in the village. Local small arms exchanges encouraged them not to waste time in the process.

Whilst we were still sorting ourselves out, the local Company Commander suddenly reported on his 18 set that 100 Kraut and 2 tanks were approaching through the trees about 200 to 300 yards away to the west and asked for an artillery FOO. The only FOO was already deployed with the most northerly company and could see nothing of our local excitement. Fortunately, the guns were able to provide 2 of the 15 DF tasks, which ringed the village but it left much to be desired since Field Artillery Regiments were in the process of moving by batteries and, for some mysterious reason, the remote control of 359 Battery Commander’s wireless set chose this particular period to start misbehaving.

The situation developed rapidly. The enemy was already established in some houses on the opposite side of the road and was firing practically point blank with an SP through an archway from one of the houses, at the group of buildings housing part of the Company and Tac Bttn HQ and was inflicting considerable casualties. The most northerly company now reported more enemy and two more tanks approaching from the north west.

At this stage, a Medium FOO appeared at Bttn HQ, having parked his vehicle, a Churchill, in the road outside and enquired whether there was anything he could do. He was extremely rapidly briefed and set round the houses for an OP. By some miracle (or perhaps just quiet efficiency), he produced the accurate fire of two Medium Regiments and, working in conjunction with the Field FOO, the results were both deadly and decisive. The Hun was put to rout in screaming panic. Incidentally, whilst the excitement was cooling off, two of the Gunner Drivers went out to the back of the house and returned with two more very frightened Kraut, who had been hugging a slit trench in the yard.

Rum and cha rounded off a touchy one and a half hours and, soon, the visitors began to arrive. Next afternoon, 6th Armoured Division flooded through and, in a matter of minutes, this outpost became a base area.

The battle had moved on !

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