1944 Nov - War Diary :

(For Period 6-13 Nov 44)
Ref Maps ΒΌ inch = 1 mile-Sheets 8, 11 and 12

The area of the proposed bridgehead on the west bank of the River Thames bounded by Drayton 9214-Milton 9312-Didcot Junction 9610-Castle Hill 0112 is flat highly cultivated terrain. The only real dominating feature is on the left flank of the bridgehead in area Brightwell Barrow point 371 0211 to Castle Hill and spur running South West to Downhill 9911.

2. South of the main railway line Swindon to Reading, the ground rises gently to 400-500 ft. This high ground however does not immediately dominate the bridgehead area and only distant observation (6 miles) can be gained from vantage points.

3. As it is cultivated land and fields vary in size. Generally fields in the vicinity of Didcot and villages on West Bank of River Thames are smaller than those at some distance from these villages. Fields are divided in most cases by hedges 6-8 feet high. The elm and beech trees found interspersed along these hedge rows may be as high as 100 feet.

4. Waterways
The area concerned, although liable to floods in months Dec Jan Feb, is well drained. The main drainage channel in the area being Moor Ditch which runs from Milton 9312 due East to Didcot and thence North East to 985138. The ditch is approx 6 feet deep and 12-15 feet wide. The depth of the water does not exceed 1-2 feet. The channel which runs from 975116 to Moor Ditch at 979131 is 10-12 feet deep but appears to contain water.

5. There is a quarry containing static water at 983124 (not shown on 1/25000 map) Depth of water is not known but is estimated at 10-12 feet.

6. All roads in area are ditched on both sides.

7. Woods and Cover
There are only 5 small woods in the bridgehead area. These are very dense. Some roads are however lined with poplars. In the vicinity of villages cover in the way of orchards, allotments and gardens is abundant.

8. Power Cables
There is one main grid power line in the area which runs from 922134 to 009109. In addition there are two subsidiary power cables which run from 975118 to Long Wittenham 9803 and from Witterham to Hill Farm 008125

9. Possible Drop Zones
Areas considered suitable for airborne landings are shown on Trace Q. See air photos.

10. Gen
In spite of tremendous Allied efforts the enemy has again succeeded in preventing the decisive breakthrough. His covering forces however cannot delay much longer.

11. The measure of the enemy's success in this situation will be judged by the fact that he has been able to reform his main forces of infantry behind the Thames.

12. There is still no sign of the development of a main defensive line comparable with the 'Roehr' or 'Gustav' positions. In any case time is not available for the construction of more than three or four concrete pill boxes in each village. On the other hand it may well be expected that every spare man will be impressed into digging fire trenches and similar earthworks. The nature of the soil will make such tasks reasonably easy even to muscles yet unaccustomed to digging.

13. Flak
The area is strongly defended by flak and will undoubtedly be thickened up on the withdrawel of enemy forces at present on the East side of the river Thames. Very thorough preparations by the RAF and by Artillery bombardment will be necessary before any Airborne operation on a large scale takes place.

14. Known heavy flak positions are shown on annotated air photos (issued separately). In addition light flak will be located in enemy defensive localities and on West bank of River Thames.

15. It is thought that the majority of heavy flak positions are in the process of being converted into ground strong points by the link up of gun positions, command posts etc. by crawl trenches.

16. Ground Forces
Known enemy defensive locatiosn are show on Trace R -see also air photos.

17. With the exception of the towns of Abingdon 9417, Didcot 9610 and Wallingford 0409 the defenses appear to be hastily prepared and in the majority of cases consist of the strengthening and fortification of villages.

18. Armour
Tank elements of 21 Panzer Division are reported in Cirencester. If they are at "Immediate Readiness" they cannot be launched in any counter attack in the bridgehead area for 15 hours after 'H' hour. Tank strength of this formation is estimated at 103 runners.

19. Infantry
Of the two infantry divisions believed to be in the area not much new has been discovered since they were last identified by contact over 3 weeks ago.

20. 96 Infantry Division is practically certain to have reorganised in to the six battalion type, but whether it has the two regiment or three regiment organisation is still unknown. Captured strength returns dated 21 Oct showed companies to have had fairly substantial losses. Only one company in foot had more than 85 men left, But since then there can be no doubt that reinforcements will have been received, possibly from GAF [German Air Force? ] or Fortress Battalions cut to pieces in fighting elsewhere, Company strength is therefore now estmated as 120 men.

21.  306 Infantry Division when last identified was already on the now six battalion basis and each of the original three regiments have been retained. Strength of companies is also estimated to be in the region of 120-130 men. There is unfortunately very little information about the actual dispositions of the bulk of this division, But it is bound to be disposed to give the bulk of the best protection to the key communications centre of Wantage. Most of the battalions will no doubt be found digging in the high ground North East of that town.

13 Nov 44

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