The Royal Scots Fusiliers enter Bremen

Hampden Mark Is, AE257 ‘KM-X’ and AE202 ‘KM-K’, of No. 44 Squadron RAF based at Waddington, Lincolnshire, in flight. Both aircraft were lost on raids over Germany, AE257 on the night of 21/22 October 1941 flying to Bremen, and AE202 over Hamburg on 26/27 July 1942.

Hampden Mark Is, AE257 ‘KM-X’ and AE202 ‘KM-K’, of No. 44 Squadron RAF based at Waddington, Lincolnshire, in flight. Both aircraft were lost on raids over Germany, AE257 on the night of 21/22 October 1941 flying to Bremen, and AE202 over Hamburg on 26/27 July 1942.

An Avro Lancaster of No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron flying over the smoke-covered target area during a daylight attack on the oil refinery and storage depot of the Deutsche Vacuum AG at Bremen by 133 Lancasters of No. 1 Group and 6 De Havilland Mosquitos of No. 8 Group.

An Avro Lancaster of No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron flying over the smoke-covered target area during a daylight attack on the oil refinery and storage depot of the Deutsche Vacuum AG at Bremen by 133 Lancasters of No. 1 Group and 6 De Havilland Mosquitos of No. 8 Group.

Shipyards, oil refineries, and U-boat pens had all contributed to make Bremen one of the top targets for the RAF and USAAF. Bremen was first bombed by the RAF in May 1940 and would be revisited almost 30 times. Bremen was one of the targets for the early RAF 1000 bomber raids and saw several more large raids from the US 8th Air Force. As a consequence Bremen had concentrated anti-aircraft defences, as well as concrete re-inforced U-boat pens that were immune from bombing until the ‘Grand Slam’ bombs arrived towards the end of the war.

Former slave workers in Bremen welcome the arrival of British Churchill tanks, 25 April 1945. BU 4309 Part of WAR OFFICE SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit Midgley (Sgt)

Former slave workers in Bremen welcome the arrival of British Churchill tanks, 25 April 1945.

Infantry of the King's Own Scottish Borderers engage the Germans with rifle and Bren gun fire in a street in Bremen, 25 April 1945.

Infantry of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers engage the Germans with rifle and Bren gun fire in a street in Bremen, 25 April 1945.

Captain Peter Reynier had been awarded the Military Cross following a report from the French soldiers he was attacking during the British invasion of Madagascar. After recovering from wounds sustained in that incident he returned to the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Captain Peter Reynier MC

Captain Peter Reynier MC

On the 25th April he was with the leading section probing the outskirts of Bremen, near Verden, when he had a lucky escape, he and most of the men had got out of the Universal Carrier just before it was hit by an 88mm gun. The driver of the carrier was decapitated. The whole letter is worth producing, illuminating his main concerns at the time – not least of which was the taxman:

Captain P.B.Reynier MC
Support Company
4 / 5 Royal Scots Fusiliers
BLA

4th May 1945

Dear Father

As usual when I write to you it always seems to be because I am wanting something. This time it is the income tax bogey. I haven’t seen any payslips from the army since my last leave over a year ago so I don’t quite know what I am getting from the government for “bumping off” the late Hitler’s SS bodyguards. If they paid me her head of live Jerry caught I’d be quite a rich man by now. However the book-keeping thus involved would be much too simple for the army so I am sending you the necessary bumpf and perhaps the bank will be able to complete same and dispatch it to the assessor of income duty. When this has been done would you notify me.

You will have heard from the wireless what our past activities have been. For us it has been a long hard battle and the carrier platoon has been right in front all the way. We were the first to break into the suburbs of Bremen and once again my guardian angel has been with me all the way. We have been operating out in front of the battalion, and the battalion was leading the advance of the Division.

We have had our little excitements (we got cut off and surrounded once) and my own carrier, on another occasion, got a direct hit from an anti-tank gun at about 700 yards. We had just left it to search a wood when a well-camouflaged gun firing from the outskirts of town knocked it for six. With it went my new pair of spectacles and all my personal kit which I was carrying at the time i.e. my washing and shaving tackle, writing materials and one blanket (army issue). Could you possibly replace same? A decent shaving brush and razor, shaving soap and some writing stuff as per last time. I am using the army stuff at the moment but it is not much good day these days.

Bremen is a fine testimonial of the accuracy of the RAF. Those areas that have been military targets are well and truly flattened in to bricks and rubble. After the barrage we sent over it was quite impossible to decide, as leading troops, which was the street and which the buildings. Everything was burning merrily that could burn and what couldn’t was just another dump of rubble and mortar. It was equally easy to walk over what was once a factory in error for what one thought might be a main street or what one thought might be a square. And yet in purely residential quarters most of the windows were not even cracked let alone the houses damaged. The cathedral which is only a couple of streets away from the main railway station (a military target) lost all its windows but suffered very little other damage. Hats off to Bomber Command they have done a great job and their last raid, the night before we attacked, was a magnificent if terrifying sight.

Amongst my souvenirs collected I number a dozen bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc 1920, and a couple of dozen Piesporter Grafenburg 1937, a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1911 and a miscellaneous collection of port and liqueurs. With the aid of the above life has almost become bearable.

Well, father, so much for now and more later on. Would you tell Yvonne that my Glengarry has not yet arrived although I received the rest of the stuff O.K. Everyone here is at the top of their form and all are hoping that this, at last, is the end. I think there is no doubt about it and I am proud to have had a very small part in these momentous doings.

Love to all and keep some 1878 for me.

Peter

Reynier’s father was a wine merchant – which explains his particular interest. Very many thanks to Mark Reynier for allowing me to reproduce his father’s letter.

A Sherman tank and infantry advance into a heavily-bombed area of Bremen, 26 April 1945.

A Sherman tank and infantry advance into a heavily-bombed area of Bremen, 26 April 1945.

Lorry-mounted 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns in action against German positions in Bremen, 26 April 1945. BU 4428 Part of WAR OFFICE SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit Crocker (Sgt)

Lorry-mounted 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns in action against German positions in Bremen, 26 April 1945.

Oblique aerial view of part of the devastated Walle district of Bremen, looking south-east towards the Altstadt. Note the large, undamaged, public air-raid shelter (Luftschutzbunker), standing on Zwinglistrasse in the foreground. Between the nights of 17/18 May 1940 and 22/23 April 1945, Bomber Command dropped over 12,800 tons of bombs on the city. CL 3259 Part of AIR MINISTRY SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL  Royal Air Force official photographer

Oblique aerial view of part of the devastated Walle district of Bremen, looking south-east towards the Altstadt. Note the large, undamaged, public air-raid shelter (Luftschutzbunker), standing on Zwinglistrasse in the foreground. Between the nights of 17/18 May 1940 and 22/23 April 1945, Bomber Command dropped over 12,800 tons of bombs on the city.

The effects of a RAF 'Grand Slam bomb on one of the  re-inforced concrete roof of a U-Boat pen in Bremen.

The effects of a RAF ‘Grand Slam bomb on one of the re-inforced concrete roof of a U-Boat pen in Bremen.

German prisoners, led by senior naval officers, are marched into captivity in Bremen, 26 April 1945. In the background is a huge reinforced concrete air-raid shelter.

German prisoners, led by senior naval officers, are marched into captivity in Bremen, 26 April 1945. In the background is a huge reinforced concrete air-raid shelter.

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