Bank control on Rhine March 1945

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by alberk, May 17, 2022.

  1. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello,
    I am starting this thread to discuss in more detail some of the photos I found on Flickr quite a while ago.

    Crossing the Rhine, March 1945 | Flickr

    They were posted in 2007 by an individual going by the name ajw423uk. According to him the photos were taken by his grandfather who served in the 1st Royal Dragoons which in March 1945 were "deployed on the bank" of the river Rhine as it says in the Flickr post.

    Controll post_b.jpg

    Some photos seem to have original captions which are quoted in the Flickr post, other photos seem to have captions added by ajw423uk. I tried to get in touch with him - but to no avail...

    Anyway, some of you may know the pics - but they are interesting because they come from a series and provide context relating to Operation Plunder. Furthermore, they are a valuable addition to the pictures available in the IWM collection. For some pictures I will be able to give further information - others raise questions that I would like to discuss.

    They all show scenes in the 30th Corps sector during Operation Plunder. I found out that the 1st Royal Dragoons were a recce unit equipped with scout cars - by 1944 each troop had two Humber and one Daimler armoured cars. However, for Operation Plunder the 1st Dragoons were apparently "dismounted" and assigned the task of doing "bank control" between March 23rd and March 28th.
    Source: Microsoft Word - DFV-File Part D003a-RAC-COL Dragoons (daimler-fighting-vehicles.co.uk)

    Bank control also meant that the soldier who took the photos had a chance spent some time in one place and had plenty of opportunities to observe how the operation to cross the Rhine unfolded.

    I will post some of the pictures in this thread in order to find out more - or to share what I found out...
    Thanks for your interest!
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
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  2. P-Squared

    P-Squared Well-Known Member

    I’m looking forward to it. I’d never thought about ‘bank control’ before.
     
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  3. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Here`s a photo I need some help with. The caption says:
    "Waiting to Cross the Rhine
    Probably my grandfather's unit- D squadron 1st the Royal Dragoons. Normally an armoured car unit, they were deployed here without their cars."

    Waiting soldiers_b.jpg
    I have my doubts whether these are soldiers of the 1st The Royal Dragoons. Rather, they look like fully equipped (infantry?) troops waiting for orders - the standing figure on the extreme right appears to wear a Tam O`Shanter - or am I mistaken?
    I have a feeling that they are still on the left bank of the river, i.e. the "friendly side". Many are standing - not much concern about incoming... The order of the series is only of limited help - some previous pics are clearly on the left (west) bank of the Rhine, but there is also one I would place on the right bank.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
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  4. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Just to give you an idea of where we are - this photo shows a church spire.
    Hoennepel.jpg

    This is the church of the village of Hoennepel, a bit south of Calcar. The church in Hoennepel was the only one left with an intact church spire. All others had been blown by the Germans before they retreated or destroyed by German artillery once the British had taken up positions along the Rhine - this was to prevent British artillery observers from getting a good view across the Rhine. The wife of the Hoennepel sexton was in charge after her husband had been drafted into the army. When a German demolition party showed up at the end of February she invited them for a good dinner and got them drunk - that won her some time and the German soldiers spared the church because they had to run when suddenly the British approached. So the story goes...
    Hoennepel is circled red on the map below. It also shows where I suppose the 1st Dragoons set up shop - at the Mahnenburg farm, circled in blue.
    Karte mit Hoennepel - Kopie.png
     
  5. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    While I am unsure where the picture of the waiting soldiers (see above) was taken, I am relatively sure that the photo below was taken on the east bank of the Rhine. I would identify the buildings as the Mahnenburg farm (see blue circle on the map above):
    Dozer and Stores_b.jpg
    The caption on Flickr was:
    "Engineers' stores
    For the crossing of the Rhine, March 24th 1945"
    To me this sounds like the original caption given by the photographer.

     
  6. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    I just noticed that the two sitting soldiers could be the same in two of the above photos:
    Waiting soldiers_b.jpg Dozer and Stores_crop.jpg
    The angle has changed a little, but the men have not changed their posture. So both pictures are showing a scene after crossing the Rhine.
     
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Last edited: May 17, 2022
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  8. P-Squared

    P-Squared Well-Known Member

    I agree - the trees are similar as well (accepting the change of angle.)
     
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  9. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    A fascinating thread and one to which I can offer little.

    The reconnaisance units certainly provided small groups with a wireless set for Crossiing Control and Dispersal Control. These consisted of four men plus an engineer officer. As I understand it Bank Control was the large organisation responsible for the river bank areas on both sides of the river. Crossing Control was responsible for calling forward serials when the bridge or ferry could accomodate them. The engineer officer ensured that bridges and ferries were not overloaded. Dispersal Control ensured the smooth dispersal of serials on the far bank and informed Crossing Control of any delays and congestion.

    The photo in Post 1 is almost certainly a Crossing Control but not from 1 Royal Dragoons which has an eagle as a badge. The officer on the right is Royal Engineers.

    I hope this helps clear up confusion rather than add to it.

    Mike
     
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  10. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Mahnenburg farm is quite distinctive with its two "parallel" large barns...
    This DD tank of the Staffordshire Yeomanry was lost to a mine on March 24th - to its left a destroyed Bren carrier.
    DD tank_b.jpg
     
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  11. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hello Trux, thanks for joining the discussion. Only officers had an eagle cap badge - other ranks had this:
    1st Dragoons.jpg
     
  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    Oops. Sorry.

    I may be wrong but it seems that the group in photos 3,5 and 6 are probably pioneers. We have a dozer clearing an exit road, a pile of corduroy road waiting to be laid and a group of men well equipped with spades and picks.

    Mike,
     
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  13. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    That is one possibilty, Mike - but I would expect pioniers not to idly sit by like this. But that is just my speculation.
    One other thing I know that infantry carried picks and shovels into battle to make up for the lousy entrenching tool they had...
    Best,
    Alex
     
  14. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Would you say these photos below show scenes on the east bank? Would the sign "Forward Assemly Area" make sens there?
    Bulldozer.jpg

    Forward assembly area.jpg
     
  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    That is one of the cute little dozers which were carried across the river in LVT IVs.

    From the thread on Plunder.

    A Forward Assembly Area is an area on the far bank where all vehicles are collected, reorganised and sent forward. Ideally it will be a park clear of the road but it may have to be a road junction or some other convenient point. All vehicles except those that are carried in LVTs of the Assault Wave to objectives inland will report to the Forward Assembly Area where representatives from each formation or unit concerned will be present to organise them into small formed bodies and send them forward to concentration areas under an officer or NCO.

    Initially each battalion will have a Forward Assembly Area. Later one of these will close down and the other will become the Brigade Forward Assembly Area. As soon as the Bank Unit can take control the permanent Forward Assembly Area will be established based on the Brigade Assembly Area.

    Mike
     
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  16. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Mike - great stuff. Thank you!
     
  17. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    So far we have identified that all pictures above were taken after the crossing, i.e. on the east bank of the Rhine. In the sequence on Flickr (which may represent the sequence in the original album) the pic below follows the ones with the mini-dozer.
    Bren Carriers.jpg
    The origiginal caption is:
    "Bren Gun Carriers
    At an assembly area near the Rhine, March 24th 1945"

    The pictures make a lot more sense to me now.
    Following Mike`s (Trux) information about the term "assembly area" (see post #15) I think that we can safely say that these carriers are waiting on the east bank, inside the newly won bridgehead.
    In fact, these could be the vehicles in the background of the picture showing the mini-dozer and the sign "Forward Assembly Area" (post #14 bottom pic).
    I am counting eight carriers - are these RASC carriers bringing stores? Or do they rather belong to the the infantry batallions which crossed in the previous hours?

     
  18. Tolbooth

    Tolbooth Patron Patron

    Nice diagram of the whole operation in the 79th AD Final Report showing the Forward Assembly Areas
    upload_2022-5-18_8-42-14.png
     
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  19. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Tolboth - an excellent addition!
    The detachment of the 1st Dragoons took up its position at Mahnenburg farm right between two LVT crossing points and a Class 50/60 raft was to start operations soon while a Class 9 FBE bridge was under construction. Quite a bit of traffic to be expected... Ausschnitt KARTE PLUNDER CROSSING SITES.png
     
  20. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    Well done John. I was just trying to find my copy.

    Some thoughts on the Carriers in Post 17.

    In the early stages the only vehicles allowed on the far bank were Carriers and Jeeps. The infantry battalion Carriers were used to carry reserve ammunition and other essentials until wheeled transport could cross. The only RASC involvement in the early stages was the establishment of an Ammunition Point using DUKWs.

    My assumption was that the Carriers in the photo were from the infantry battalion but the nearest Carrier on the left seems to have a diamond shaped squadron marking. Could be from a motor battalion or recconnaissance unit. I will see if I can find any such units listed.

    A pedantic note. The Carriers were often referred to as Bren Carriers. They are of course Universal Carriers.

    Mike.

    PS. It is a beautiful day and I shall spend it in the garden.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2022
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