Antwerp Bridge

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Lieutenant Colonel David Silvertop (OA30): Remembered: On the 4th September 1944, Lieutenant Colonel David Silvertop (OA30) who served with distinction in World War 2 as a tank commander was killed in action while on route to relieve troops held up in the Dutch city of Arnhem, after liberating the Belgium city of Antwerp.

David Silvertop attended the Ampleforth College and later was educated at Magdalen College at Oxford University. He decided to join the Army and served with the 9th/12th Lancers.

Silvertop served with the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment and later in the 14th/20th King’s Hussars. He was awarded the Military Cross after being injured at the crucial battle of Medenine in Tunisia in March 1943 after which he spent three months in hospital. he was later promoted to Captain and then Major whilst serving in Africa.

After he returned he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was given command of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (11th Armoured Division). After D-Day he took part in the July 1944 operation near Caen and then the breakout and rapid advance into Belgium. For his role in Operation Goodwood he was recommended for the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

After the liberation of Antwerp Lt. Col. Silvertop and his unit received orders to cross into the Netherlands.

The authors of the books ‘Autumn Gale’ and ‘Kampfgruppe Walther and Panzerbrigade 107’ (Jack Didden and Maarten Swarts) wrote the following about the death of Silverstone. In the book ‘Autumn Gale’ on pages 271 and 272:

Five SdKfz 251/21 Hanomag half-tracks from the 107 Panzerbrigade, which were equipped with MG 151 Drilling triple barrelled machine-guns, were sent straight to Oploo, a few kilometres northwest of Overloon to guard the crossroads there, the rest of the Kampfgruppe followed a more covered route, this move took place just hours before the British tanks headed off in roughly the same direction.

Service Number: 51903 Rank: Lt. Colonel Corps: Royal Armoured Corps Regiment: 14th/20th King’s Hussars Date of Death: 25/09/1944 Age: 32  (Click to enlarge)

After some skirmishes near Bakel and Gemert the Shermans and Cromwells rumbled on towards St.-Anthonis without meeting any serious resistance, but this relatively peaceful advance would end in horror for the British tanks.

By 18.30 hours the majority of the 29th Armoured Brigade reached St.-Anthonis while the 129th Brigade was fast approaching. Suddenly the leading British troops came upon the five German half-tracks along the road from Gemert. A brief exchange of fire followed, but soon the Hanomags drove off in the direction of St.-Anthonis but before they reached the village three were knocked out, the two survivors increased their speed and ahead they suddenly noticed, to their horror, British troops, blocking their escape route in sheer desperation they turned right on to a parallel road, the Lepelstraat, south of the church.

The Germans now decided to try and shoot their way out even though the Lepelstraat was jam packed with British vehicles their crews were as surprised as the Germans were and with blazing guns the two half-tracks raced ahead, on the corner where they were to turn left Brigadier Roscoe Harvey (29th Armoured Brigade) had just called an O Group. Four British officers were hit by the heavy machine guns Harvey and his Brigade Major were wounded and Colonel David Silvertop (3rd Royal Tank Regiment) and Colonel H. G. Orr (3rd Monmouthshire Regiment) were killed outright.

The two German vehicles did not make it very far, one crashed into a house and the other was knocked out while trying to escape via a country lane.”In the book about Kampfgruppe Walther on pages 250-254. On page 253 and 254 they wrote: “It was 16.30 hours. In St.-Anthonis Brigadier Harvey, accompanied by his Brigade Major, J. Thomson had just got together for a brief conference with the two Battalion Commanders because there was some confusion about the exact position of the leading troops.

The meeting with Lieutenant-Colonel David Silvertop (the ‘Liberator of Antwerp’) (3rd RTR), and Lieutenant-Colonel H.G. Orr (3rd Mons), took place at a T-junction where the Lepelstraat turned south towards Oploo. As the conference went underway the German half-tracks were fast approaching that very junction. The officers were no strangers to the sounds of battle and initially ignored the firing, Harvey was the first to notice that they sounded like German machine-guns but it was already too late.

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A Panzer Grenadier fired the triple 1.5 cm machine-guns with deadly effect as the half-track came racing toward the fork in the road. Bullets flew at the officers, Silvertop was killed on the spot and Orr was so seriously wounded that he died at at the Casualty Clearing Post. Reputedly his last words were, “It was foolish of me to be standing there at the crossroads, I should have known better.”

Thompson and Harvey were both wounded. Thompson was shot through one of his lungs, but Harvey was only wounded lightly……The incident was a heavy blow to the two Regiments and both officers, beloved, highly decorated and skilled professionals, were sorely missed.”Silvertop received the DSO posthumously. 

For many years the importance of his role in the liberation of Antwerp remained a mystery in his homeland, while in Antwerp, Silvertop has a street, a block of flats, a tram stop and even a supermarket named in his honour.

Paul

www.1420kh.co.uk

A regimental website for veterans of the 14th/20th King's Hussars

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