RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (30 Corps in operation 'Turnscrew')

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Nov 23, 2013.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Gendringen and Veldhunten (30 March 45)

    At 08:15 hrs, on 30 March, while the fight for Netterden was still ongoing, Brigadier Allard held an 'O' Group at his tactical HQ, which had moved froward to Megchelen. Here he discussed the Brigade plan of attack for that day with his commanders, which was as divided in three phases:

    6th Bde (30 March 0815 hrs):

    The intention is to capture the line from Terborg to Etten and Ziek [and cut the road and tram line between these locations]. Method: 6th Cdn Bde will carry out a three phase attack consisting of (1) Fus MR attacking Wieken [and Gendringen] (2) 8 Recce Regt (14 Canadian Hussars) are to take over the present Camerons of C. positions in the town of Netterden (3) on consolidation of Fus MR, Camerons of C. to take out Veldhunten. This completes Phase I.
    Phase II - S Sak Regt to pass through Camerons of C. along road to objective Etten. 8 Cdn Recce Regt to move [via Papekampseweg and Eerlandsestraat] to Azewijn. This completes phase II.
    Phase III - 6th Cdn Bde to cross the Oude IJssel and take the town of Terborg.

    During the night the Fusiliers Mont-Royal (Fus M.R.) had conducted patrols in the area to the south of Gendringen. On basis of these reconnaissances, Lt. Col. Jaques A. Dextraze, the battalion CO, decided to launch an attack on Gendringen from the southwest, from the direction of the township of Wieken. The Eikelboom farm, which was secured by a platoon of the Fus MR during the night, would serve as Start Line for the attack. Two Troops from 'C' Squadron of the Fort Garry Horse (10 Cdn Armd Regt) would provide tank support. Because of the prolonged battle at Netterden, on the Brigade's left flank, the attack of the Fusliers MR, which was scheduled to start at 08:00 hrs, at the request of Lt. Col. Dextraze was postponed until 11:00 hrs.

    When that hour arrived the Fusiliers moved in, with two companies forward, 'A' and 'C' Coy, each supported by a Troop of Sherman tanks, and with 'B' and 'D' following. At 11:45 hrs Dextraze reported that his forward units were within 100 yards of the first objective, but were heavily mortared and shelled and for the moment were unable to advance. The situation, he added, was under control; the area from which the enemy mortars were operating was located an subdued to C/B fire and the infantry and tanks were systematically picking out the enemy mortar OPs. Apart from enemy shells no other resistance had been met until then. Within half an hour the situation had changed. At 12:15 hrs Dextraze reported that both forward companies had occupied Wieken and taken two POWs, who belonged to the 30th Festung MG Battalion. They claimed that their battalion consisted of 170 man and was reinforced by a detachment of the 'Volkssturm'. While 'A' Coy turned left, to secure the crossroads at the western edge of Wieken, the other companies started towards Gendringen. At 13:00 hrs Dextraze reported that 'A' Coy had seized its objective and that the other companies were now meeting resistance from some very persistent snipers, which had opened fire from the houses on the western edge of Gendringen. "We probably will have to fry them", Dextraze grimmly added.

    c. Gendringen Fus MR 30.03.1945 13.05 aa.jpg
    The attack on Gendringen on March 30th , 1945, was conducted by the French Canadian battalion Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal. The infantry was supported by two Troops of Shermans of the Fort Garry Horse.

    As the infantry pressed on, reports came back that enemy infantry was sighted leaving the village on foot and with horse carts, all indications that enemy started buckling under the pressure. The battalion immediately called for air support. That enemy morale was fast declining is also illustrated by the story of Lt.F. Birth, a tank commander of one of the 'C' Squadron tanks. A group of 20 POWs surrendered to his tank. When he directed them back towards the rear across a field, the amount of prisoners had almost doubled before they reached the far side. From everywhere in the field enemy soldiers came out of their trenches to join the group in surrender. "They were popping up out of their holes like scared rabbits", according to Lt. Birth. The situation in the meantime was not without danger and before the village was completely cleared by the end of the afternoon the Fusiliers lost five man killed in action, the number of wounded is unknown. The French Canadians captured 113 POWs, among them 38 members of the 'Volkssturm'; Hitler's equivalent of the 'Home Guard'. A patrol was sent towards the bridge over the Oude IJssel river in the road to Anholt, but found it destroyed by the enemy.

    The jubilant inhabitants of Gendringen apparently were less aware of the dangerous job the soldier had to carry out. The War Diary of the Fus M.R. states: "Civilians were there as usual cheering like mad and becoming a nuisance with their grateful demonstration".

    The French Canadians didn't get long to rest on their laurels, at 21:00 hrs that evening the battalion concentrated at Wieken to get ready for the next phase of the operation. The village of Gendringen was taken over by 'C' Squadron of the 8th Cdn Recce Regt. Probing in the direction of Ulft, one Recce car was knocked out with two Recce men killed.

    The War Diary of the Recce was a bit milder about the population: "The people seem to be quite happy about being free of the Jerries [...] The boys are being pestered again for 'Cigarette for Pappa, and chocolate'".

    FusiliersMont-RoyalTacticalHQ29April1945.jpg
    Picture of the 25-year-old Lt. Col. Jaques A. Dextraze (third from the left) and his Tac HQ at a kitchen table. The Tac Bn HQ was a small forward CP with some staff, signal and supplemented with liaison officers of supporting weapons, such as artillery and tanks.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Eikelboom.jpg
    The small road towards Wieken, just past the Eikelboom Farmstead, most conveniently called Eikelboomseweg. The leading companies of the Fus M.R. were heavily mortared when they approached Wieken over this dead flat ground. The church tower of Gendringen is visible to the right (courtesy Google Street view).

    Weeze © IWM (B 15060).jpg
    Allied troops pass the lifeless body of a fallen German paratrooper while moving forward along a ditch in an attack (photo: © IWM B 15060)
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Setback at Veldhunten (30 March 45)

    Meanwhile, on the left, things had gone awry. Whilst the French Canadians were fighting for Gendringen the Camerons of C. were to make a flanking attack west of the town towards the township of Veldhunten. This attack started at 15:00 hrs with 'A' Coy in the lead. The company gained its objective, the crossroads west of Wieken, by 16:10 hrs, without meeting much opposition and captured 30 POWs on the way. The next phase of the operation, a two company attack, carried out by 'B' and 'D' Coys, from a Start Line at Milt, however ran into heavy machinegun fire after about 600 yards. The enemy occupied a line in a semi-circle behind the Roode Wetering and took the Canadian infantry under fire from both flanks. Caught in this crossfire on dead flat ground both companies were pinned down.

    Due to the ground conditions it was impossible to deploy the tanks of the Fort Garry Horse, so the Carrier Platoon was tasked to assist "D" Company. Engaged by a German self-propelled gun or AT-gun while attempting to move up, the Carrier Platoon was unable to reach the forward companies. The enemy gunfire came from the direction of Azewijn, it might have been the same SP gun that also was encountered by 'B' Squadron of the 8th Recce Regt to the north of Netterden earlier on. Both infantry companies were on their own in a vulnerable position. When after some time the ammunition also began to run out, the decision was made to pull back. By the end of the afternoon in gathering darkness both companies, not without difficulty, extricated themselves and fell back on Wieken. In particular 'D' Coy, who had come closest to Veldhunten, had to abandon a large quantity of material. The War Diary of the Camerons of C. states: "it was about the stiffest enemy resistance encountered this side of the Rhine". The Fus MR took over the positions around Wieken. Six Camerons were killed that afternoon, the number of wounded is unknown but must have been a multiple of the number of fatalities.

    d. Camerons of C. 30.03.45 NM.jpg

    With the setback at Veldhunten the day of 30 March, which had started so promisingly, ended somewhat in disappointment. It is true that Netterden and Gendringen were captured and over 315 POWs taken, but the 6th Cdn Inf Bde had not completed Phase I of the plan of attack. Veldhunten remained in enemy hands and the ultimate goal, the line of Etten - Ziek had not been attained (Phase II). Let alone that a crossing of the Oude IJssel had been secured (Phase III). The bridge at Gendringen was found destroyed and from information gathered from the local population it appeared that the bridge at Ulft, the next village downstream, also had been blown. On the left the 8th Recce Regt as a result of the inundations of the Hetter Landwehr had been unable to establish firm contact with the 3rd Cdn Inf Div, which at this time was heavily involved in the battle for Emmerich. To the north the Recce Regt was not successful either, owing to enemy SPs which were roaming near Azewijn. Judging from the gun flashes, observed that night by forward troops of the Camerons of C., at least four enemy guns seemed to be active in that area. Later that night the menacing roar of tank engines and the rattling of tracks emanated from that direction and for a moment there was fear for an enemy counterattack. A troop of Shermans of the Fort Garry Horse was hastily called forward from the bivouac area at Megchelen, but no enemy attack materialized.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Veldhunten 'D' Coy.jpg
    The area along the Weteringseweg where 'D' Coy of the Camerons of C. was pinned down. Veldhunten is straight ahead just beyond the farmstead. Heavy enemy machine gun fire emanated from the houses to the right. These are located on the other side of the Roode Wetering. Again the flat countryside offered little cover for the infantry which left them very vulnerable.

    Veldhunten Brickworks.jpg
    View of Veldhunten from the Azewijnsestraat near the brick kiln. This is the area where 'B'Coy became pinned down. Again the open ground left the infantry extremely vulnerable (courtesy Google Street View).

    Sergeant Pleun Adrian Rylaarsdam, the patrol leader of a Scout Platoon patrol towards Veldhunten, received the Dutch Award of the Bronze Cross, for saving three wounded Canadians that were left behind on the battlefield. Rylaarsdam was of Dutch origin. Though the citation puts the action on the night of 29/30 March, I'm pretty convinced that it must have taken place during the night of 30/31 March 1945:
    Pleun Adriaan (2).jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019 at 5:08 PM
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Etten and Ulft captured (31 March 1945)

    The setback was only temporary and the sustained delay would be made good that same night. In late afternoon of 30 March the uncommitted South Saskatchewan Regiment (S.Sask.R), under command of Lt.Col. V. Stott, was called forward and at 17:00 hrs took up position at Wals. The S.Sask.R. were to accomplish Phase II of the 6th Bde plan of attack as soon as the Camerons of C. had captured Veldhunten. Because of the setback at Veldhunten plans had to be adapted. For that purpose Lt. Col. Stott at 21:15 hrs visited Brigadier Allard's HQ. The capture of Etten and Ulft was given priority. Col. Stott now was to pass through the line held by the Fus M.R., bypass Veldhunten and exploit towards Etten - Ziek on his own. The Fus M.R. were given Ulft as objective. When later that evening patrols discovered that the enemy had abandoned Veldhunten - hence the disturbing engine sounds during the night - Brigadier Allard decided to act and ordered Stott to commence the operation at once.

    By 01:00 hrs the S.Sask.R. moved out and slowly but steadily gained ground in the direction of Etten against slight enemy resistance. Initially only mines and enemy shellfire were encountered. Shermans of the Fort Garry Horse gave support. In gathering daylight, as the battalion approached Etten, enemy resistance increased. The battalion encountered machine gun and mortar fire as well as AA fire. A dug in 75 mm AT-gun, which was threatening the battalion flank, was knocked out single handedly by Pte Maurice Dowhy, a Brengunner in 'B' Coy. After that he took out an enemy strongpoint with his gun and when it developed a stoppage continued on using his grenades successfully. Dowhy received a Military Medal for his acts.

    Dowhy MM 1.jpg Dowhy MM 2.jpg

    Another Military Medal was won by Pte Robert F. Morrow, a 2-inch mortar member, for maintaining a smoke screen, despite a painfull injury, thus enabling his company to advance forward unobserved towards Etten and capture the place.

    Morrow s.Sask.R MM 1.jpg Morrow s.Sask.R MM 2.jpg

    At 14:30 hrs Lt. Col Stott reported that the S.Sask R. had reached Etten. One hour later he reported his battalion was firm on the objective. The S.Sask.R found the bridge over the Oude IJssel at Etten destroyed by the enemy. In the operation the Saskatchwans had lost three men killed and fifteen wounded. A number of 83 POWs was taken and at least nine Germans had been killed.

    e. Etten Ulft 31.03.1945.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    In the meantime the Camerons of C., at 10:00 hrs on 31 March, seized Veldhunten which had been abandoned by the enemy during the night under cover of heavy shelling. The Germans left behind many mines and a small rearguard. Approaching the township, the leading platoon of 'C' Coy encountered two enemy MG-posts, which were both knocked out by Sergeant Robert H. Pearcey. The first one by an outflanking move of his platoon, the second, some 200 yards to the left of the first one, single-handed by the sergeant in a direct assault over open ground under cover of the Coy's 2-inch mortars.

    Pearcey Cam of C MM 1.jpg Pearcey Cam of C MM 2.jpg

    After the capture of Veldhunten the Camerons of C. despatched one Coy to investigate Klein Azewijn, while the others cleared the area between Ziek and Etten. The Camerons encountered no further opposition and captured 20 POWs. The battalion had one fatality that day.

    The Fus M.R., for their part, were directed on to Ulft with the support of a Troop of Shermans of the Fort Garry Horse. Ulft was captured without opposition. 36 POWs were taken. The bridge over de Oude IJssel at Ulft also was found destroyed by the retreating enemy. This did not withhold the Canadians from crossing the river at this point; though the task of making a river crossing now was given to the 5th Cdn Inf Bde. In late afternoon the Black Watch (R.H.C.) made an unopposed river assault in storm boats and consolidated on the far side. That evening, at about 22:15 hrs, engineers completed a class 40 bridge and tanks an vehicles immediately were sent over. Elements of the 8th Recce Regiment crossed the Oude Issel and Aastrang further south in the 43rd Wessex sector on the 31st. Beset by congested roads, it took them until April 1st to make a juncture with the Black Watch bridgehead at Ulft.

    Next day, April 1st, the bridgehead served as a jump-off for the advance of 5 Cdn Inf Bde towards Terborg and Doetinchem. Again, April 1st for the Canadians marked the end of 'Operation PLUNDER'. On that date the operations almost seamlessly transferred into 'Operation HAYMAKER', the 2nd Cdn Corps' drive to the north - now under command of First Cdn Army.

    On April 1st, the 6th Cdn Inf Bde cleared the remaining area northwest of Azewijn - Ziek - Etten right up to the old River-arm called Waalse Water and established contact with the 3rd Cdn Inf Div on the left. The latter, after the capture of the town of 's Heerenberg, pushed rapidly northwards towards Wehl. The Germans opposite the 6th Cdn Inf Bde, in danger being squeezed by the advancing Canadian Divisions, quickly fell back to the north and in the clearing operation, which was mainly carried out by the 8th Recce Regt and Fus MR, the Canadians met little opposition, only stragglers who were well prepared to surrender. Some 30 POWs were rounded up on that day in and around the townships of Warm, Vethuizen and Heuven.

    Ulft Class 40 bridge.jpg
    The Class 40 bridge at Ulft, which was completed in the evening of 31 March, served as sally port for the subsequent advance of 2nd Cdn Inf Div on April 1st; but these operations already formed part of 'Operation Haymaker', the 2nd Cdn Corps drive to the North Sea.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Ulft infantry aa.jpg
    Soldiers of the Fus M.R. enter the village of Ulft on 31 March 1945. This picture was taken in the Ir. Sassenstraat at Ulft (courtesy MKijs).

    Vrij 3 aa.jpg
    Two 'Grognards' of the Fus M.R. at Ulft on 31 March 1945. Somewhat tired after four days of continuous action and probably happy that they have gotten away unscratched; so far, so good (courtesy MKijs).

    Vrij aa.jpg
    A visibly exhausted motor despatch rider and his happy audience. Since the 6th Cdn Inf Bde left the assembly area in the Reichswald near Cleve, in the afternoon of 28 March, the troops had been continuously in action (courtesy MKijs).

    Ulft POW.jpg
    A German paratrooper POW taken at Ulft on 31 March 1945; all, including the prisoner, seem to be happy (courtesy MKijs).

    Ulft POW 3.jpg
    Under great public interest German paratrooper POWs loaded on to a Bren Carrier to be carried off towards the POW-cage.The Fus M.R. captured 36 POWs on March 31st at Ulft (courtesy MKijs).
    German paratrooper POWs.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Battle losses

    During its short commitment in the Rees bridgehead 28 - 31 March 1945, Brigadier Allard's 6th Cdn Inf Bde lost a total of 7 officers and 104 ORs. Of these 23 were killed in action (KIA); a number of 84 wounded was evacuated from the battlefield. Two of them later would succumb to their injuries in a military hospital (DOW). The total number of casualties therefore was 25. The German losses are unknown. What is certain is that well over 460 POWs - wounded and unwounded - were captured in this period. It is unknown how many wounded the Germans managed to evacuate from the battlefield. The number of fallen also is not known, but must have been high, probably about 100. It is known that after the war a number of 160 German field graves were embedded from the community of Gendringen/Wisch to the German military cemetery at IJsselstein, near Venray.

    The fallen of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde were:

    QUEEN'S OWN CAMERON HIGHLANDERS OF CANADA

    1. BOZAK, HARRY GREGORY, Private H/18546, 30 March 1945, Age 20, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 11.
    2. GLOSSOP, FRANCIS WALTER ANDREW, Captain, 30 March 1945, Age 28, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. B. 5.
    3. ISFELD, EINAR VICTOR, Private H/614129, 06 April 1945 (DOW: Died of wounds), Age 30, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIV. C. 7.
    4. KOHLRUSS, ANTON W., Private M/17381, 31 March 1945, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 5.
    5. LISSOWAY, FREDERICK, Private M/39774, 30 March 1945, Age 37, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 13.
    6. MACFIE, JOHN GRAHAM, Private H/1880, 30 March 1945, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 16.
    7. MOORE, VINCENT ALBERT, Sergeant M/51061, 30 March 1945, Age 29, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 14.
    8. OBERG, EDWARD OLIVER, Private H/22116, 30 March 1945, Age 19, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 9.
    9. PROW, WILLIAM, Private B/127658, 30 March 1945, Age 24, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, X. H. 1.
    10. SPEZIALI, ROCCO ANDREW, Lance Sergeant B/20394, 30 March 1945, Age 26, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 12.
    11. THOMAS, BERT J., PrivateH/10481, 30 March 1945, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 8.
    12. YOUNES, CHARLES JOSEPH, Private F/36144, 30 March 1945, Age 33, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 15.

    LES FUSILIERS MONT-ROYAL

    1. BARRY, ROLAND A., Corporal D/144467, 30 March 1945, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. B. 4.
    2. COULOMBE, EDMOND, Private H/615676, 30 March 1945, Age 22, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. B. 1.
    3. FORTIN, JACQUES, Private A/111192, 30 March 1945, Age 21, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. B. 3.
    4. PILON, BERNARD GASTON, Sergeant C/103386, 30 March 1945, Age 19, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XI. B. 9.
    5. ROBERT, ALPHONSE, Private G/604546, 30 March 1945, Age 21, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. B. 2.

    SOUTH SASKATCHEWAN REGIMENT

    1. HYDICHUK, PETER, Corporal L/103201, 31 March 1945, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 6.
    2. MALONEY, JAMES JOSEPH, Private L/108942, 31 March 1945, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, X. H. 6.
    3. McDERMOTT, MICHAEL JOSEPH, Private B/88202, 05 August 1945 (DOW: Died of Wounds), KILGOBBIN BURIAL GROUND (Ireland)
    4. SERNOWSKI, WILLIAM, Private L/110271, 31 March 1945, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XIX. D. 10.

    8th CANADIAN RECCE REGIMENT (14th CANADIAN HUSSARS)

    1. DUBE, LAURENZO, Trooper L/53567, 30 March 1945, Age 26, HOLTEN CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, X. H. 3.
    2. DUCKETT, LESLIE ALBERT, Trooper B/71157, 30 March 1945, Age 24, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XXII. B. 13.
    3. LAWRYSYN, WILLIAM, Lance Sergeant L/53250, 30 March 1945, Age 27, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XXII. B. 14.
    4. STEWART, WILFRED CHARTERS, Trooper B/66722, 29 March 1945, Age 22, GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, XVII. D. 6.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    This concludes the thread about Op Plunder in the 30 Corps sector a WW2talk adventure that started eight years ago in May 2011 - or rather 1998 when I visited the area with a bus full of Highland veterans. I hope it has been of interest. It has been a pleasure to construct and again many thanks to all who have assisted & contributed.

    THE END



    32 Op de achtergrond de olde Pastorie van de Petrus en Paulus kerk.jpg

    Free!! (courtesy MKijs).
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
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  10. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Very good! One question. What did you use to mark up the maps with company / battalion areas? Normal computer software?
     
  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Alex - I use the standard paint tool
     
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  12. Bedee

    Bedee Active Member

    Good job Stolpi.... well done.
     
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  13. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Stolpi,
    Bravo!
     
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  14. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Excellent high standard as usual, Thank you.
     
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