Attack on the Wilhelmina Canal
18th September 1944
A Squadron of the 2nd (Armoured) Battalion Irish Guards, under temporary command of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, advanced to cross the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son. They were followed by infantry companies of the Grenadier Guards in armoured half-tracks.
As the first tanks began to cross the bridge there was an enormous explosion and the lead tank tumbled into the canal. The bridge was wrecked.
A radio message was sent immediately to HQ 2nd Irish Guards advising them of the situation and requesting that they should force the railway bridge crossing and then move east towards the main “Club” route to clear the enemy from their defensive positions north of the canal.
As the first tanks crossed the rail bridge, one was knocked out by a 50mm AT gun of 59th Infantry Regt. The Irish Guards turned on the enemy and soon removed the problem. At the same time the US parachute infantry securing the bridge removed their guns to allow free passage for the British tanks.
The Grenadier Guards, having orders to clear the approach road for the Royal Engineers Bridging Column, moved to their right and debussed south of the canal, taking up defensive positions and establishing their mortars for a potential assault. One company moved left to assist the tankers of 2nd Irish Guards.
The 2nd Battalion Irish Guards pushed eastwards along the north canal bank, encountering small pockets of German infantry and pushing them away from the canal, but without inflicting serious damage. The Germans pulled back to establish defensive positions further north.
By 11:00 the Irish Guards had reached the main road again. An alternative route towards Arnhem had been secured, but the diversion would have consequences for supply unless a new bridge could be established in place of the one that had been destroyed.