Leica The Final Thrust 1944-2016


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The Lowlands
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Early September this year I participated in one of the big WW2 living history trips organized by 2nd Armored In Europe.
This time we followed the route of the 9th United States Infantry Division "The Old Reliables" through Belgium during that first week of September in 1944. We started in the village of Cendron at the French border and ended at Eupen on the German border.
The entire column consisted of some 110 re-enactors, 3 M8 Greyhound armored cars, 17 jeeps, 2 Harley-Davidson WLAs for traffic control and 5 Trucks (GMCs, Chevy etc) for transporting the infantry, their bagage and the field kitchen.

We camped at various locations along the way; Cendron, Phillippeville, Haut-le-Wastia, Goesnes, Jalhay and finally Charneux.

I was asked to participate and keep a sort of photographic diary of the trip, like I've done on all previous trips I've been on. I was a little limited in my freedom of movement as I was also asked to bring my jeep. Driving a jeep and taking pictures doesn't really work very well.
A lady "War Correspondent" from my own living history group was assigned as my passenger, so at least I'd have some company while on the road.

On Thursday morning, September 1st, most of us arrived at Charneux where our civilian cars would be parked for the duration of the trip. From there we moved by coach to Cendron. Our jeeps and trucks were transported there by low loader.

Upon arrival the vehicles and helmets were painted up with the correct unit markings. The "A-A-A-O" markings on the 39th infantry regiment helmets denotes the slogan "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere, Bar Nothing", given to the regiment by Colonel Flint during the Sicily campaign.

My gear consisted of an uncooperative Epson R-D1, my user Leica IIIc camera, a Contax II with 8,5cm f/2 Sonnar and my Anniversary Speed Graphic with 127 f/4.7 Ektar.

I'll be sharing my photos taken with the Leica here. I shot 7 rolls of Fomapan 100 loaded in Kaiser cassettes with a Watson 100 bulk film loader.

Camera : Leica IIIc (1942)
Lens: Leitz 5cm f/2 Summitar (1939) + Y0 filter
Film: Fomapan 100 exposed as EI 80 (HC-110, B, 6min, 20C)

I noted some issues with the use of the SOOPD barndoor hood. The vignetting was quite strong in some scans. And possibly light reflected off the bottom of hood into the lens, brightening the center and reducing contrast there. made worse by the reflections in the Y0 (GBOOM) filter.

1. Here lay our camp

Most folks slept under what the British participants call 'Bashas' or 'Bashers' like this one. Others slept in or under their shelter halves and pup tens. A few slept in small wall tents

On Friday the 2nd, we left Cendron in the early hours and doubled back across the French border to arrive in the village at the same time as the American soldiers did 72 years ago. The villagers turned out for the wreath laying ceremony at the war monument.

After breakfast the column moved North-West to 'liberate' other villages, like Seloignes, Imbrechies and Macon. We ran into our first German resistance, but we drove them off with our massive combined firepower.

Towards the close of the day we returned to the monument at Imbrechies to lay wreaths for the 10 American soldiers who were killed in the area back in 1944.
We returned to Cendron for another night.

2. Chow Line

Breakfast and dinner was taken care of by the field kitchen every day. They were supported by a rotating group of 'volunteers' from the different squads to help serve out the food and doing the washing-up. The food being served was some of the best I've ever had on these trips.

3. Brake problems

During the trip some vehicles developed problems. Not totally unexpected when you're driving around 70-year old cars and trucks. My friend above found the brake peddle going to the floor without resistance on a down hill run.
One truck and one M8 suffered from ceased up brakes after overheating.
On day 2 I had a complete electrical failure due to a worn out distributor cap.
Some other jeeps had starting problems, there was a flat tyre here and there. And a couple were billowing black or white smoke from time to time.
Luckily the combined knowledge of all the mechanics kept all the vehicles running safely for the duration of the trip. We did not suffer a single breakdown that could not be fixed in the field.

4. Break near Seloignes

5. 1st Squad going on patrol

6. Taking notes

7. Mr Stumpf, son of a captain who served withe 9th infantery division in 1944

8. Germans defending Macon

9. Forming up for the group photo at Cendron

Saturday, September 3rd, the column left Cendron behind for the last time and moved towards Mariembourg, Roly and Phillippeville. Along the way the Germans sprung some ambushes on us.

10. Infantery and Recon prepare to take the village of Boussu-en-Fagne

11. Coffee time in Mariembourg

12. Escaping the sun in Roly

Sunday 4th, we were camped down in a farmer's field to the west of Phillipeville. Sometime in the night a heavy rain front moved in and continued to plague us well into the afternoon. Luckily, once we reached the Abbey of Maredsous the sun came out again. We're heading for our next campsite at Haut-le-Wastia.

13. Sergeant Ed explains it one more time

14. Anything that keeps you warm and dry...

15. ...is worth its weight in gold

16. One of the real yanks

17. Hurry up and wait

Monday, September 5th, the village of Haut-le-Wastia lies on a plateau overlooking the Meuse valley. It had seen its share of war in May 1940. Here we have a chance to dry out our wet equipment before moving Eastward toward Goesnes.

18. "Private Friction Tape"

He earned that nickname because he had to apply fresh friction tape to his shoes every day to keep the soles attached.

19. Radio Check

20. Intelligence&Recon briefing in Goesnes for the run up to Neuville-en-Condroz.

21. Italian cuisine

On Tuesday the 6th of September, we start the day with a visit to the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz where we lay wreaths at the MIA monument.
We move on to Jalhay were we meet the school children, lay a wreath at the war monument and the mayor treats us to a Vin d'Honneur.
We put up camp at the edge of the village near whats called the 'chateau'.

22. Laying a wreath at the monument in Jalhay

Wednesday 7th, the last big move before the end of the trip. We head to Raeren first where we stop at an abandoned railway station. From there we head to Eupen where our trip officially ends. After another ceremony and the handing out of commemorative coins we all head to Charneux for a farewell party, BBQ, some live music and our last night before returning to 'civilization'.

This roll of film had some scratches on it. Presumably I screwed up with the bulk loader.

23. Hungry wolves at breakfast in Jalhay

24. Pvt Coupland

25. Where the F*#K are we?

26. 3rd squad securing the Raeren railway station

27. Videmus Omnia! Recon with supporting infantry take the switching yard

28. Final prep at Raeren for the parade into Eupen

Helmet nets off, polish those boots, shave yer face and put on a tie!

29. Wreath laying ceremony at the 1st Infantry Division monument at the Friedenkirche in Eupen

30. The Honorguard

Of all the trips I've went on with 2 Armored in Europe since 2004, this one rates as one of the best so far. I met old friends and made a lot of new ones. It takes a lot out of you and I needed a few days to recover from my lack of sleep. But I'm looking forward to the 2017 Normandy Breakout Trip with these guys.

But first I got another 3 rolls from the Contax and 20 sheets from the Speed Graphic to process....not to mention all the other stuff that got added to the backlog since then.


Top Veteran
The Lowlands
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All of the main routes and campsites have been planned well in advance with approval from the communities. So usually the locals are happy to see us.

It was only in St.Malo back in 2011 that I noticed some of the older folks weren't too happy to see us. The USAAF bombed their city by mistake back in 1944.


Really reminds me of the scramble we had to get our radio shelters up to the Czech border in 1968 after the Soviets went in in August. 144th Signal Bn, 4th AD.

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