Joe's Bridge, October 2002.
The Irish Guards Battle Group had actually captured the bridge across the Schelde-Maas canal on 10th September 1944, when Lieutenant Colonels J.O.E.Vandeleur and G.A.D.Vandeleur (cousins), launched a combined infantry-tank assault with artillery support located in the nearby factory complex. The main road bridge had been blown by the Belgian Army in 1940, but the Germans had placed a wooden pontoon bridge to the west of the original bridge structure, guarded by an 88mm tucked alongside a nearby house.
The wartime position of the pontoon bridge; the house opposite was there in 1944, and was the position of an 88mm when the ground was captured on 10th September.
The bridge taken, the Royal Engineer's set about a repair while the Irish Guards secured a bridgehead on the road to Valkenswaard. The bridge became known as 'Joe's Bridge', probably after Lt-Col Vandeleur, but also possibly because a troop of 615th Field Squadron RE was known as 'Joe's Troop' - and it was they who made the bridge secure.
It was from here on the afternoon of 17th September 1944 that XXX Corps began its advance, with tanks of 2nd Irish Guards leading the way. A heavy bombardment had been made of the known German positions, but information was sketchy and numerous elements of the Kampfgruppe that lay before them had survived. This included both SS and Falschemjager (Paratroop) personnel. German anti-tank guns lept into action and within minutes, all the lead tanks were knocked out. Lt-Col Vandeleur then called in an airstrike from the 'cab-rank' of Typhoons that were swarming above the column. This silenced the resistance, the road was cleared by armoured bulldozers, the infantry mopped up, and the whole event now set a pattern for the rest of the operation.
Memorial plaque to Irish Guards, Joe's Bridge.
The road bridge was rebuilt after WW2, but the ground is very much as it was in 1944. A memorial exists below the southern edge of the bridge recording its famous name, and the Irish Guards Memorial is on the north bank, reached down a side-road from N69 to Valkenswaard.
ŠPAUL REED 2002