5th DCLI MEMORIAL, DRIEL
5th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) were part of 214th Brigade, 43rd (Wessex) Division. They had landed in Normandy, and fought on Hill 112 before the breakout and advance into Belgium. During the Seine Crossing in August they distinguished them selves by knocking out a King Tiger at Le Plessis. They had also lost two commanding officers killed in action, but by the time of Arnhem they were led by Lieutenant Colonel G.Taylor, who would survive the war.
43rd (Wessex) Division was also one of the elements of XXX Corps, and passed through the Guards Division at Nijmegen, pushing on towards Arnhem. Sadly the nearest they would get would be in the ground from Elst to Driel. A good account of their action in the so-called 'Dash to Driel' on 22nd September 1944, comes from Major General H.Essame's The 43rd Wessex Division at War 1944-1945 (William Clowes and Sons Ltd 1952):
Meanwhile 5th DCLI had been moved forward to the shelter of the Bund, where Lieut-Colonel George Taylor had established his headquarters within fifty yards of those of Lieut-Colonel Borrodaile [7th SLI]. He was thus ready to exploit the success of the 7th Somerset.
Picture, therefore, Lieut-Colonel Taylor, dressed in a parachutist's smock and wearing a despatch rider's helmet, with his company commanders in a ditch by the Bund. Oosterhout is burning and the country ahead is wreathed in smoke. The ripple of Spandau fire and the spurts of Bren are dying down. Prisoners, many of them wounded, are streaming back, a pitiful sight. It is five o'clock and already the light is fading. B Company of the DCLI had deployed with orders to clear the western exits of the village. Lieut-Colonel Taylor has been ordered to thrust forward ten miles to Driel on the banks of the Neder Rijn, get in touch with a Polish gliderborne brigade reputed to be on the south bank, and firmly make contact with the 1 Airborne Division and to deliver to them two DUKW loads of ammunition and medical supplies. To this end he has organised his force into two columns, one armoured, the other of soft vehicles. There are convincing reports of enemy tanks ahead. The armoured column consists of Lieut-Colonel Taylor's command group, B Squadron 4/7th Dragoon Guards (Major Richards), D Company (Major Fry), A Company (Major Parker) and a machine-gun platoon of 8 Middlesex. The soft-vehicle column comprises C Company (Major Kitchen) and B Company (Major Hingston). Night is fast approaching. The Airborne Division are known to be in desperate straights.
Faced with this situation, Lieut-Colonel Taylor gave the order to advance with all speed. With the armour leading, the column roared ahead along the Bund. Slijk Ewijk was soon reached and the column turned north towards Valburg. Here the astonished Dutch went wild with joy as the armour crashed over the cross-roads and headed for Driel. As the light faded, the leading tank blew up on a mine at the entrance to the village. The journey had been accomplished in less than thirty minutes. All however was not well behind. The despatch rider, dropped at Valburg Crossroads to direct the soft-vehicle column, reported that he had signalled on a number of tanks and then realised they had black crosses on them. As it was now dark Lieut-Colonel Taylor felt that the rear companies could be relied upon to deal with opposition of this type on their own and turned his attention to the problem ahead. By the light of a burning building, contact was made with the armoured cars of the Household Cavalry Regiment who had slipped through in the early morning mist. Lieut-Colonel C.B.Mackenzie, the G.I. of 1 Airborne Division, having swum the river now arrived on the scene. He reported that their losses had been so heavy that barely sufficient men remained to man the perimeter, and that they were faced by enemy in great strength especially in armour, tanks and S.P. guns. No news had been received from the heroic battalion at the bridge [Arnhem Bridge] for thirty six hours... A proposal by Lieut-Colonel Taylor to advance on the bridge was nevertheless discussed and reluctantly abandoned. The headquarters of General Sosobowski, the commander of the Polish Brigade, was then found. Arrangements were put in hand for ferrying the sorely needed supplies across the river.
The memorial placed on the outside wall of Driel Roman Catholic church was placed there by the Old Comrades Association of the 5th DCLI.
ŠPAUL REED 2002