One man versus three machine guns

The destruction of these three machine gun posts singlehanded by Sergeant Eardley, carried out under fire so heavy that it daunted those who were with him, enabled his Platoon to achieve its objective, and in so doing, ensured the success of the whole attack. His outstanding initiative and magnificent bravery were the admiration of all who saw his gallant actions.

Churchill tanks and infantry advance during the attack by 3rd Division on an enemy pocket near Overloon, 14 October 1944.
Churchill tanks and infantry advance during the attack by 3rd Division on an enemy pocket near Overloon, 14 October 1944.
A 5.5-inch gun of 77th (Duke of Lancashire's Own Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery being manhandled into position to fire in support of 3rd Division advancing on Venray, 16 October 1944.
A 5.5-inch gun of 77th (Duke of Lancashire’s Own Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery being manhandled into position to fire in support of 3rd Division advancing on Venray, 16 October 1944.

Operation Market Garden had opened up a salient in the German lines in Holland. The Germans had fought hard to retrieve their position and had established a bridgehead on the west bank of the River Maas. Now the Allies attacked again in a bitter confrontation that saw heavy casualties.

The Battle of Overloon saw the US 7th Armoured Division beaten off, before the British 11th Armoured and 3rd Infantry Divisions took over and eventually succeeded. It was by far the largest tank battle fought on Dutch soil and at the time was compared to the struggle for Caen, fought in Normandy earlier. Today it is much less well remembered.

Private (acting Sergeant) George Eardley VC, The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Private (acting Sergeant) George Eardley VC, The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry

Many Victoria Cross citations are concerned with lone attacks on machine gun nests, all too often awarded posthumously. Private George Eardley must be regarded as very lucky, as well as incredibly brave, for his actions:

No. 6092111 Private (acting Sergeant) George Harold Eardley, The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (Congleton, Cheshire).

In North-West Europe, on 16th October, 1944, during an attack on the wooded area East of Overloon, strong opposition was met from well sited defensive positions in orchards. The enemy were paratroops and well equipped with machine guns.

A Platoon of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry was ordered to clear these orchards and so restore the momentum of the advance, but was halted some 80 yards from its objective by automatic fire from enemy machine gun posts. This fire was so heavy that it appeared impossible for any man to expose himself and remain unscathed.

Notwithstanding this, Sergeant Eardley, who had spotted one machine gun post, moved forward, firing his Sten gun, and killed the occupants of the post with a grenade. A second machine gun post beyond the first immediately opened up, spraying the area with fire. Sergeant Eardley, who was in a most exposed position, at once charged over 30 yards of open ground and silenced both the enemy gunners.

The attack was continued by the Platoon but was again held up by a third machine gun post, and a section sent in to dispose of it, was beaten back, losing four casualties. Sergeant Eardley, ordering the section he was with to lie down, then crawled forward alone and silenced the occupants of the post with a grenade.

The destruction of these three machine gun posts singlehanded by Sergeant Eardley, carried out under fire so heavy that it daunted those who were with him, enabled his Platoon to achieve its objective, and in so doing, ensured the success of the whole attack.

His outstanding initiative and magnificent bravery were the admiration of all who saw his gallant actions.

Privates V Studd and J Rowlandson of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment eat apples in their slit trench during the fighting for the town of Venray, 16 October 1944.
Privates V Studd and J Rowlandson of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment eat apples in their slit trench during the fighting for the town of Venray, 16 October 1944.
Men of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry march back from the front line for a four day rest , Sint-Jozefparochien of Duerne, Holland, 26 October 1944.
Men of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry march back from the front line for a four day rest , Sint-Jozefparochien of Duerne, Holland, 26 October 1944.

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