In January 1945, British and American forces pushed back the German Army from the Ardennes to the German border after the failed ‘Battle of the Bulge’ December 1944 offensive.
To mark the 75th Anniversary of this event the Belgium War Heritage Institute (which is a similar organisation to the British Imperial War Museum) is organising the ‘Liberation Column South’ from January 17 to 21, 2020.
A convey of restored World War Two Allied vehicles, armoured and soft skinned will follow the historic route of liberation. This follows the very successful ‘Liberation Column North 2019’ event held last September that celebrated the September 1944 Allied advance from Mons in Belgium, through Brussels and onwards towards the Dutch border.
The Belgium War Heritage Institute (WHI) has a large collection of World War Two historic vehicles. Many are kept at the Bastogne Barracks and maintained by the Bastogne tank workshop. Some are kept in a driveable condition. In recent years vehicles like their Sherman Firefly tank and Soviet IS-3 tank have been transported to military vehicle events outside the country to promote the WHI Military History Museums in Brussels, Bastogne and the Gunfire Museum in Brasschaat, Belgium.
In January 1945, to erase the bulge in the Allies front line, the First US Army attacked from the north and northwest of the bulge on a line from Hotton, Malmedy to Elsendborn. They advanced towards La Roche-en-Ardenne, Houffalize and Saint-Vith. The Third US Army in the south and southwest advanced north and northeast wards to meet up with the First US Army. During this advance the German siege of Bastogne was broken.
The British 29th Armoured Brigade, two battalions of the 6th Airborne Division, 51st Highland Division and the 23rd Welsh Division were given orders to push the Germans back at the tip of the bulge on the western flank of the First US Army.
The winter conditions were awful. Tanks stalled on icy hillsides as their tracks could not get a grip. Some slid off slippery frozen cobbled streets, down embankments or into ditches. Lorries towing anti-tank guns or artillery howitzers skidded and jack-knifed. Some collided with other vehicles or buildings after skidding. Roads were block during recovery operations, causing delays to the advance.
In January 1945, Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons, when talking about the Battle of the Bulge stated: “It was the greatest American Battle of the war and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever famous American Victory”.
He reminded members of Parliament when referring to British involvement in the battle: “The Americans have engaged 30 to 40 men for every one we have engaged and they have lost 60 to 80 men for every one of us.”
If you want to see this spectacle the Liberation Column South will move out from Bastogne on January 17, 2020 and head towards Houffalize.
The column will progress through La Roche-en-Ardenne, Hotton, Manhay, Vielsalm, Stavelot, Spa, Malmedy and finally conclude at Elsenborn on January 21, 2020.
If you own a World War Two Allied vehicle and would like to take part in the Liberation Column South January 2020 event, send an e-mail to William.email@example.com