Joseph Arthur Withnall
1925/01/11 - Born Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire
Son of Albert and Elizabeth (nee Rayner)
1st Tyneside Scottish
At the age of 19, after eighteen months of training with 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish, Joe landed in Normandy on Gold beach on 10th June, D Day +4. Throughout June he was in action against the German enemy towards Tilley-sur-Seulles and then on 1st July, the fierce battle at Rauray.
Following skirmishes near to Caen and Mezidon the 1st Tyneside Scottish disbanded and Joe was transferred to the 7th Battalion Black Watch 154 Brigade. He was involved in the liberation of Le Havre before moving further east to become involved in the liberation Dunkirk. By the end of 1944 Joe had moved through Belgium into Holland preparing to cross into Germany. However, these plans were delayed whilst his Battalion were called back to the Ardennes.
Joe was in action in the Ardennes helping the Americans at the battle of the Bulge.
10th January - La Roche Ardennes
All was ready for the assault by 154 Brigade to La Roche. The brigade was withdrawn from its forward positions on 10th January and had a nights rest in the area of Bourdon and Hooton before the attack.
11th January 1945 - Joe’s 20th birthday
At 0600 hrs on the 11th January (Joe’s 20th birthday) the 1st Black Watch moved down the road to La Roche. Approaching the town one of the armoured cars was hit by a mine. The engineers were deployed forward to clear the route.
At the approach to the town a Panther tank provided a nasty shock before it was realised that it was abandoned. Apart from some shelling 1st Black Watch reached the town with no serious opposition at abut 1100 hrs. However once in the town the battalion came under fire from a German position across the Valley accompanied by shelling. This position was cleared in the early afternoon and the town was also cleared.
With La Roche in the hands of the 1st Black Watch, the 7th Black Watch passed through. As they advanced toward Hives they had to deal with mines and delaying positions. The supporting tanks could not manage the ground and the battalion arrived before Hives in the late afternoon without armoured support. They moved in after dark and by 19:30 had cleared the village and taken 40 prisoners. However without tanks or transport they were isolated and it was decided not to advance to Lavaux. During the night the engineers cleared the road all was ready for the assault on Lavaux.
Orders were issued for the 7th Black Watch to move to Lavaux and beyond. The sound of the US guns could be heard and the prospect of linking up was imminent
51st Highland Division diaries
An extract of the battle was found in the 51st Highland Division diaries. Joe was in the 7th Battalion Black Watch 154 brigade.
‘The weather was bitterly cold. They only had snow holes as cover.’
After this battle he ended up in hospital with severe frost nip. He was lucky as several men had bad frostbite and lost limbs as a result.
After Joe recovered he was back in Holland preparing to cross the Rhine into Germany.
This attack took place on 23 March at 21:00 hours. His Buffalo assault vehicle tippled off the bank as it entered the river and almost capsized. Luckily it tippled backwards and they were able to continue across the Rhine and successfully take their objective.
Joe was twenty years old
1950/04/01 - Married Bertha Smith at Stockport, Cheshire
2006 February - Awarded the Legion d’Honneur from the French government
27th May 2017