From Bastogne to Vielsalm

We continue our tour through La Roche-en-Ardenne and head for Hotton and Vielsalm. We follow the boundary more or less the German troops reached during the Battle of the Bulge. .


On September 10, 1944, La Roche was liberated by the Allies, but December 21 of the same year, Germans were marching once again through the town. This brought American artillery to come down into La Roche. Until January 11, 1945, some 70.000 grenades flew into the city, which destroyed around 80% of the buildings. In the morning of January 11, British troops, coming from Hotton, entered La Roche. The British 153rd Infantry Brigade of the 51st Highland Division made contact here with the advancing Americans of the 84th US Infantry Division.

La Roche-en-Ardenne, meet up between Highlanders and Americans

La Roche is beside her war-history also a great place to visit. It is situated in a valley where the river Ourthe makes a swirl. It is possible to look into town from above the ridge on the other side of the river. Located in the centre of the town, at Rue Châmont 5, is the very impressive 'Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes'.

An MP38, Schmeisser, 9mm, with left a Mauser 'Luger' P08

Inside are three floors with original items related with the Battle of the Bulge. The owner is a serious collector with a great eye for detail. Everything is displayed in a neat order and is far from a ‘dusty’ shed as many museum can be.

Opening hours:
From April till December: daily from 10.00 till 18.00 hours, except on Monday and Tuesday.
January, February, March weekdays closed, open in the weekends. Closed on 1/1, 25/12.
Other possibilities for groups and guided tours after reservation (from 20 pers.).

Entrance fees :
Adults: 5,95 Euro
Children (4-12 year) : 3,00 euro

Behind the museum is a large square, the Place du Gravier. Until 2004 an M26 'Pershing' tank stood here on display. It’s predecessor, the T26 was brought to Europe when the Battle of the Bulge was evolving. The demand for 90mm guns was great and the T26 was equipped with such a gun. In 2004 the M26 was swapped for an M4A1(76)W Sherman tank. The M26 went to le Camp Roi Albert in Marche. The Sherman on display is a victim of war. The penetration of a shell at the front, which killed the crew, is still visible.

The M4A1 Sherman with 76mm gun and the heavy damage at the front

Leave the square and drive upon the ridge opposite the square (follow the sign ‘Hotton’). From the ridge you have a great view of La Roche. At the crossroad (next to the large hotel) you find an Achilles Tank-Destroyer Mk10. This vehicle was once owned by the 'Battle Museum' (now gone) in Aywaille. The Achilles was restored by the owner of Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes.

The Mk10 Tank Destroyer Achilles

After our visit to the Achilles (on our right) continue the road down towards La Roche. In La Roche, cross the bridge over the river Ourthe and go left to Samrée.

To Hotton

From La Roche-en-Ardenne we drive some 8 kilometres to the north, heading Samrée, on the N89. After a great climb to the top of the hill, turn right into Samrée. Make a short stop near the church to have a look at the plaque which commemorate the killed men of the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion, part of the 2nd Armored Division. Return and cross the N89 and drive into Dochamps.

The plaque on the church wall in Samrée.

In Dochamps some well known pictures were taken during the 'Battle of the Bulge' and they were published in many books. The picture below shows the American 2nd Armored Division entering Dochamps.

Dochamps, Then and Now

Continue the route towards Amonines. In this village we go left to Beffe. In this sector Task Force Hogan, the 3rd Battalion, part of the 3rd Armored Division was in heavy fighting. Completely surrounded by three German divisions, the Task Force fought from December 22 1944 with very few supplies. But this did not stop them from penetrating the German lines to Marcouray. On December 25 december the Task Force were out of fuel and had to destroy their vehicles. On foot they infiltrated the German lines once again and joined the 3rd Armored Division.

An M4A3 Sherman tank with a 76mm gun, but without it’s tracks, stands as a monument in the village of Beffe to commemorate the Task Force Hogan. The tank stood for years next to the road between Samrée and Amonines and was decaying. Now it is preserved in the centre of Beffe.

The Sherman of Beffe

The pictures below are shot near the where the Sherman is located. The wall on the picture is from the local cemetery. The situation is still the same after more then 60 years. Only missing thing is the destroyed Jeep which was hit by German fire.

Troops of the 290th Regiment, 75th Division march through Beffe

Drive on towards Hotton that is located some 10 kilometres to the west.

Near Hotton is the Commonwealth Cemetery. In these ground are 666 military men who were killed fighting under the Union Jack, and one Belgian victim. Not only killed men from the Battle of the Bulge are resting here, but also soldiers from the fighting in May 1940 were buried here after the war.

The Commonwealth cemetery near Hotton

During the Battle of the Bulge, This was the sector of the British XXX Corps which stopped the German advance around these parts of Belgium. Units of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division and supporting tanks managed to stop the Germans before they could cross the bridges across the river Maas, near Hotton. To commemorate these events a monument in the shape of a turret from a Sherman Firefly can be found next to the road N 807 (Hotton/Erezée). This road marks also a boundary how far the German advance was during the Battle of the Bulge (one exception was the ‘long finger’ from Marche-en-Famenne tot aan Celles).

The turret from a Sherman Firefly

Take the N 807 and drive towards Erezée and on to Grandmenil and Manhay. In this area operated units of the American Seventh Corps. In the centre of the village of Grandmenil you can find one of the few surviving Panther tanks. In the seventies of the last century the tank was painted pink (a ‘funny’ gesture to the movie Pink Panther?). But nowadays the tanks is in a reasonable state. The Panther Ausf G belonged to the 2 SS Panzer Division. When it ran out of fuel it was abandoned on December 26, 1944 in a meadow around these neighbourhoods.

The Panther of Grandmenil

For the final part to Vielsalm,