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

    First to start on the morning of the 29th were the 5/7th Gordons. They cleared the wooded area on both sides of the main road to Anholt against slight opposition and finally seized the road junction near Kamps farm, where they met with a battalion of the 130 Bde, of the 43rd Wessex Division, which had just taken Anholt from the NW. Another battalion of the 130 Bde at the same time, moving across country, had seized the settlement of An der Regniet and continued on to the bridges over the Aastrang to the NW of it. A sizable group of enemy troops, which had attempted to fall back across the Aastrang to Dinxperlo, now was trapped between the 152 Bde and the 130 Bde on the wrong side of the river. There was no escape for them and in the course of the afternoon POW's began to arrive in ever growing numbers. Many gave up without a fight. 'D' Company of the 5/7 Gordons at the estate of Peenekamp accounted for 60 - 70 POW's, who, according to the War Diary: "in small groups of 4 to 5 men, came in to surrender from all directions".

    Fragment of the War Diary of 5/7th Gordons for the 29th:
    5.7 Gordons Anholt 1.jpg 5.7 Gordons Anholt 2.jpg

    The 2nd Seaforth moved out from Isselbrug shortly after the 5/7th and cleared the area up to the Aastrang, capturing first 30 POW's at Hagesfeld Farm, many of them wounded, and finally rounding up another 130 at Sielhorst and Bramkamp. Again most of them surrendered without a fight.

    Account of the action for the 29th from the War Diary of 2nd Seaforth:
    2nd Seaforth Aastrang.jpg

    Together with the 106 POW's taken by the 5th Seaforth at Brüggenhütte earlier that morning, the total bag of POW's for March 29th amounted to at least 336. Most of them belonged to the 16th FJ Regiment of the 6th FJ Division. This was a severe blow for the battered FJ Division, whose total combat strength had dwindled from 4.920, on March 22nd (see post #33), to a mere 1.000 - 1.400 men, as estimated by the Allied Intelligence on the 28th.

    Even more significant was that by the capture of the bridges over the Aastrang and the subsequent fall of Dinxperlo (which will be discussed below) the defense of the II. FJ Korps, which had been stretched to the limit, finally snatched. The British advance by now had driven an irreparable wedge between the 6.FJ Division, which was responsible for the defense of Dinxperlo, and the 8.FJ Division, deployed further to the southeast, around Werth. Over the following days British 30 Corps started to pour through and tore a gaping hole, not only between the two FJ Divisions of the II.FJ Korps, but also between the 1.Fallschirm Armee and the 25.Armee of Heeresgruppe H, holding the line to the west, in Holland. General Blaskowitz of Heeresgruppe H with a view of the imminent collapse of the left wing of his command, had already sounded the alarm the previous day, 28 March. On that date he simultaneously sent a situation report to OBWest and to OKW , thus passing his immediate superior. In his message Blaskowitz suggested, in order to preserve the integrity of the German front, to retreat his entire command to North West Germany, anchoring on a new defensive line that ran from the River Weser to the North Sea coast somewhere in northern Holland. This meant that the Heeresgruppe had to give up the positions held by 25. Armee in the western part of Holland. Otherwise, he argued, the Allies might easily cut off and isolate the 25. Armee in Holland, where it was of little use to the defense of the Reich. Predictable, the immediate and rigid reply of the OKW was that under no circumstances ground may be given. Instead the OKW ordered a counterattack. An attack by II. FJ Korps from the north, in conjunction with an attack by the XLVII. Panzer Korps from the Ruhr Industrial area in the south, was to close the gap created by the Allied advance across the Rhine.
    To all, but the German High command, it was obvious that the situation could no longer be saved. Not even with desperate measures, like the creation on April 1st of a new conglomerate force under command of the paratrooper General Kurt Student, which carried the grotesque name of 'Armeegruppe Student'. It was to General Student that the OKW entrusted the execution of the projected counterattack, rather than to the 'untrustworthy' General Blaskowitz. That the counterattack never substantialized is hardly surprising. While the II. FJ Korps, with 7. and 8. FJ Divisions with the rest of 1. Fallschirm Armee fell back to the NE, towards the interior of Germany, the detached 6. FJ Division was driven back to the N and NW into Holland. The FJ Division eventually was subordinated to the LXXXVIII. Armee Korps of 25. Armee and shared its fate with that of the 25.Armee, bottled up in the western part of Holland, just as Blaskowitz had predicted.

    Mopping up Anholt - Aastrang River 29 March a.jpg

    See for the operation of the 130 Bde, of 43 Division: RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Area of 152 Bde action today

    Longwood.jpg
    The stretch of wood to the right of the Isselburg-Anholt road, aka Longwood, that was cleared by the 5/7th Gordons. In the background the two farmsteads of Kamps and Engels along the Anholt - Brüggenhütte road (the white car in the middle between both farms is heading for Brüggenhütte)

    Haus Peenekamp.jpg
    Situated on the northern edge of Longwood is the old mansion of Peenekamp, which was occupied by 'D' company of the 5/7th Gordon Highlanders. Here, according to the War Diary of the battalion, small groups of 4 -5 men came in to surrender from all directions; in the end the company bagged 60 - 70 POW's.

    Road Junction Anholt.jpg
    The road junction near the Kamps farm, where the road to Brüggenhütte branches off, nowadays is a traffic circle. The farmsteads of Engels and Kamps were occupied respectively by 'C' and 'B' Coy of the 5/7th. The Germans had cratered the main road somewhat further down the road in the direction of Brüggenhütte; yet another uncalled-for job for the RE's, who already were under great pressure to get the main axis for the Guards Division open: clearing mines, building a number of bridges, removing roadblocks and now also filling a large crater.

    Bramkamp.jpg
    The largest bag of POW's was rounded up by 'A' Coy of the 2nd Seaforth in the afternoon of the 29th at the farmsteads of Bramkamp, Demkers and Sielhorst. Two of the farmsteads; view from the west, the River Aastrang is in the far background.

    For an eye-witness account of the Rhine Crossing by one of the soldiers of the 5/7th Gordons ('C' Coy), see: BBC - WW2 People's War - WW2: MY TEENAGE YEARS, 1939 TO 1945 (Part 3)
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Night attack on Dinxperlo, 154 Bde (29/30 March 1945)

    The last task remaining for the Highland Division was the capture of Dinxperlo. In the evening of 29 March the 154 Bde launched a three battalion attack on the village. The operation was preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment, including several salvoes of Land Mattresses, which caused considerable damage to the Dutch town. Though later on the severity of the bombardment was regretted by the Highlanders, there was great urgency to get on. That night the Guards Armoured Division was set in motion for the break-out and Dinxperlo was needed as a springboard for the armour. There also was ample reason for caution. Throughout the day enemy S.P.guns had been roaming around in the area. Two of these lurked near the factory building along the Heelweg, occassionaly taking pot-shots with their guns at the British bridgehead position. Nonetheless, that evening the town was seized against slight opposition; about 80 POW's were taken, most of them in SE part of the town by the 1st Black Watch. Having survived the deluge of shells and rockets, all were only too happy to surrender.

    The Brigade plan of attack is described by the 154 Bde War Diary:
    154 Bde WD 29 March 1.jpg 154 Bde WD 29 March 2.jpg

    The 154 Bde used the small 5th Seaforth bridgehead as jump-off position. The 1st Black Watch opened the attack at 21:00 hours (the War Diary 1st BW mentions 20:30 hours as opening time) and pushed on into the SE part of the village; followed an hour later by the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who cleared the township of Beggelder, to the west of Dinxperlo, where they took 30 POW's, all of them Luftwaffe soldiers who had only just arrived on the scene. For the 7th Black Watch, who had to take the NE part of the Dinxperlo, two alternative routes of advance were open, one leading into the village from the south, through the 1st Black Watch position, the other one from the west, passing through the 7th Argylls. Since no serious opposition was encountered the left route, the easier one, was taken. After a short artillery preparation of 15 minutes, the 7th Black Watch moved in at 23:15 hours and was firm on all objectives by 01:15 hours. The Battalion became somewhat disoriented in the darkness because the local railway line, already out of use before the war but still indicated on the maps, had been decommissioned during the war; the Germans had confiscated the rail bars for the Eastern Front. The leading troops as a result overshot their target; or as the War Diary of the 7th Black Watch puts it mildly: "the Bn's chief difficulty was to find its way through the streets of the deserted town which had been devastated by the shelling". The Germans shelled from time to time but there were no casualties and by dawn the main road into and through the town was cleared of mines and debris.

    Below a sketch map of the operation; the axis of the Guards Armoured "Club Route" has been marked in orange:
    Dinxperlo taken 29.30 March 45.jpg

    Part of the original operation map of the 154 Bde, which was left behind at Dinxperlo, carefully preserved by one of its inhabitants. It clearly shows the alternative routes for the 7th Black Watch:
    Operation Map 154 Bde.jpg

    Rietstap.jpg
    The small Seaforth bridgehead also encompassed the tiny township of Rietstap.

    Rietstap kerk a.jpg
    Though Rietstap still exists, it is now completely swallowed up by a low class local business park; all idyll has been beaten out of this once lovely place. Even the small church has been moved from its original site, to make room for a warehouse, that by now stands empty; modern near-sightedness.


    Dinxperlo 1 Tapijtfabriek.jpg
    The (now derilict) factory at the western outskirts of Dinxperlo, where the two SP's were lurking, still exists. Picture taken with a view to the west in the direction of the Seaforth bridgehead, which was just around the corner.
    FietstoerFabriek.jpg
    The plant, a carpet factory, was 'Typhooned' on 26 March 1945, because enemy activity had been sighted in and near the company complex.


    IMG-20161120-WA0000.jpg
    One of the SP guns, a Jagdpanzer 38 (T) Hetzer, that had been active during daytime near the factory was found knocked out further eastward inside the village, at the road junction of the Heelweg and Allee. It is unknown how the tank, which was named 'Hannelore', was destroyed, probably hit by shellfire. The crew was found killed inside the tank (courtesy DPL1945).

    Another picture of the disabled SP gun:
    IMG-20161009-WA0003.jpg

    The 7th Argylls & Sutherland Highlanders lost the following men at Dinxperlo:

    001 ARNOTT SL 14515182 7TH BN 30/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
    002 FERGUSON JP 2986698 7TH BN 29/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
    003 KENNY N 14825072 7TH BN 30/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
    004 O'MAY NIM 2987360 7TH BN 30/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
    005 ROBINSON J 14691752 7TH BN 29/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
    006 SIMON T 3459866 7TH BN 29/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS
    007 SPENCER EG 14366840 7TH BN 29/03/1945 ARGYLL AND SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS

    The four Argylls, killed on the 29th, most likely became victim of 'friendly fire' that fell in the battalion's concentration area just north of Herzebocholt in the early evening. The 7th Black Watch likewise was hit by, as the regimental history states, "several very heavy shells of doubtfull origin" causing three casualties (WIA) in the second-in-command's harbour party. Of the three Argyll victims on March 30th, 1945, two were killed in a mine-accident, when the Battalion's adjudant jeep ran over a mine. The other one was killed in the tankincident at De Heurne north of Dinxperlo (discussed below).

    WW2talk member DPL1945's research reveals that two members of the 128th Field Regiment (RA) also were killed on the 29th; they were:
    001 HOPCROFT W 914122 128 FIELD REGT 29/03/1945 ROYAL ARTILLERY
    002 MINGHAM W 940165 128 FIELD REGT 29/03/1945 ROYAL ARTILLERY

    Both probably were victims of the shelling of a forward O.P. of 128 Field Regt RA, in which the troop leader was wounded. Major Ian S. Beaton who was present immediately took over the O.P. and earned a MC for his action:
    Beaton 128 FRgt RA Isselburg.jpg

    Two young frightened Fallschirmjäger at Beggelder escaped imprisonement or worse, when they let themselves be persuaded by the old farmer, whose farmstead they occupied, to give up the senseless battle. He offered them civilian clothes. In the barn they changed in to civvies and made off. The camouflage smocks the two left behind were hidden by the old man; one finally found its way to a local collector; the other one was lost. Picture of the camouflage smock that has been preserved (photo courtesy WW2Talk member 6FJ):

    IMG-20161111-WA0009 a.jpg

    IMG-20161111-WA0012.jpg IMG-20161111-WA0011.jpg IMG-20161111-WA0010.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5-5-inch-firing-operation-plunder.jpg
    5.5 inch artillery firing in support of the British advance across the Rhine, March 1945 ...

    5-5-inch-firing-operation-plunder night.jpg
    ... day and night; picture of the same gun emplacement as the one above

    While life at the gun positions was not as hazardous as for those in the forward areas, it was, however, relentless work. Whereas infantry battalions took turns out of the lines, the gunners would normally be in action all the time, day and night, snatching sleep when they could – frequent moves, so as to support fully the infantry meant that new fire plans had to be worked out, command posts and gun-pits dug and telephone cables re-laid.


    LandMattress-Reichswald1945-B.jpg
    'Land Matresses' of the 337 Bty, 102 LAA Regt RA, were used in the bombardment of Dinxperlo. The battery had 12 (Meyer Dunsford) launchers which could fire 30 rockets each, so 360 rockets in one salvo. A battery salvo could neutralize an area of 730 square metres. Each rocket had a 13 kilo warhead, but was considered to be as effective as a 5.5 inch (45 kg) shell. The 337 Bty fired two salvoes in support of the 154 Bde's attack on the hapless village of Dinxperlo. One salvo, fired at 20:10 hrs, fell in the SE part of the village, the section that had to be seized by the 1st Black Watch, another fired at 20:30 hrs hit the area just north of the church, to be taken by the 7th Black Watch.


    Battery of rocket launchers.jpg

    See also the attached Canadian Army Newsreel (from 08:58 onwards) for images of the Land Mattresses:


    Attached a fragment from the War Diary of the 102 LAA Regt RA; from the Diary it transpires that the 337 Bty of the 102nd LAA Regt supported the 51st HD from March 21st until the 30th. On the 29th it was placed under command of the division and crossed the Rhine by the end of the morning. The battery set up in the area south of Isselburg. After firing two salvoes on Dinxperlo the battery had run out of rocket ammunition. Next day it returned under command of 1st Cdn Army and proceeded back to Nijmegen. In all the Bty fired 17 mission during the Rhine Crossing operation, using up a total of 6.120 rockets (courtesy of Ramacal).

    102 LAA Regt RA.jpg

    One soldier of the 1st Rocket Unit was killed in this period:
    001 KNEZOVICH WA K/15376 1 ROCKET BTY 29/03/1945 ROYAL CANADIAN ARTILLERY XVII. D. 7.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Dinxperlo then and now

    Dinxperlo suffered heavily under shellfire and aerial bombardments. German artillery units, supporting the frontline units further south, were active in the area and thus the village and its surroundings, starting in the days preceding the Rhine Crossing, attracted the attention of the Allied air and were almost continuously subjected to long range counterbattery fire from across the Rhine. Moving about in the open became pretty hazardous and most of the inhabitants lived in their cellars for over a week. Nevertheless, twenty-two civilians were killed. On the evening of March 29th, the 154 Bde's attack was preceded by a very heavy artillery preparation, including two salvoes of rockets aka Land Matresses, which had a very devastating effect upon the village. Some impressions (all photos courtesy of 6FJ):

    IMG-20161009-WA0006.jpg
    The village main street, called Hogestraat, then ...

    and now ...
    IMG-20161113-WA0004.jpg


    IMG-20161009-WA0005.jpg
    A side alley of the Raadhuisstraat, near the village church. The area just north of the church was a target for one of the salvoes of landmatresses.

    6FJ succeeded to make a photograph of the same spot now, by climbing with great risk to himself on to the roof of a nearby building ...

    IMG-20161119-WA0000.jpg

    IMG-20161009-WA0004 a.jpg
    The village church then ...
    .. and now. To the right side of the church tower nowadays is the 51st Highland Division memorial.
    20160323_171428.jpg 20161112_121057 a.jpg thumbnail_FietstoerKerk.jpg


    IMG-20161009-WA0000.jpg
    The Kwikkelstraat at Dinxperlo then .. and now
    IMG-20161113-WA0006.jpg

    Hetzer Dinxperlo.JPG
    The Heelweg running east-west on the southern edge of the village. This road was, and still is, a curiosity, since the Dutch-German border runs in the middle of it; the houses to the left hand side of the road are Dutch, those on the right hand side German. Immediately after the war a roll of barbed wire was laid on the German side of the road to delimit the frontier, despite the fact that the people on both sides of the border could get well along with each other.

    ... the site has changed beyond recognition but for the road junction ....
    IMG-20161113-WA0013.jpg

    Dinxp 2.jpg
    Another view of the Heelweg in a westward direction from about the position of the KO'd tank. The building in the background standing at right angles to the main road, is the junction of the Heelweg with the Kwikkelstraat. The area also suffered from one of the salvoes of Land Matresses, aka as target P.130. Note the high fence forming the demarcation line between Germany and Holland.


    Dinxp 1.jpg
    Same area now. The fence has gone; one of the more pleasant aspects of the European Union? At least we have free access to the German buns, which are quite popular around here.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Operation 'FORRARD ON' (30 March 45)

    30 March 1945, Good Friday and a fine spring day, was D-Day for operation 'FORRARD ON', the 30 Corps breakout from the Rhine bridgehead. The Guards Armoured formed the right Corps wing; they were supported on the left by the 43rd Wessex, with the 8th Armoured Brigade under command. The 51st Highland Division would remain in reserve in the Rees - Isselburg - Dinxperlo area and get some days to rest and refit.

    After a long night drive over chaotic roads the Guard Armoured reached the concentration area in the afternoon of March 29th in the area Weeze - Uedem, with the head of the division at Marienbaum. In the very early hours of the 30th the Guards moved forward. Crossing the river in darkness over "London Bridge" the Guards passed through the shattered town of Rees and moved on along the main road to Isselburg and the Kamps road junction east of Anholt. The bridging operations at Brüggenhütte, which had been underway since the afternoon of the 29th, had been completed at 03:00 hours. A Class 40 and a Class 9 passage (the restored Rietstapperbrug) were constructed by the engineers over the Holtwickerbach. The main road to Dinxperlo was reported clear shortly after, though scattered mines in side streets were not yet lifted and caused some casualties. The Guards Armoured now had a clear run to Dinxperlo and at 05:45 hours the head of the column started to pass through the 1st Black Watch position in the village. By 06:30 hours, according to the 154 Bde War Diary, "the mass of traffic left little doubt that an Armoured Division was passing through the Bde position"; the time to "crack about the plains of northern Germany chasing the enemy from pillar to post", as Montgomery had put it in his instructions, finally had come.

    The German effort to contain the bridgehead had failed and even a most ardent Nazi commander, as General Meindl, CO of II.FJ Korps, in his postwar study, admitted that "[once] the fighting began to assume the character of mobile warfare (...) everyone of us knew that we had lost the war".

    Fragment from the Story of the Guards Armoured (Rosse/Hill):
    Guards to the Rhine 1.jpg Guards to the Rhine 2.jpg

    Rees 3.jpg
    Aerial of London Bridge (left) at Rees which was used by the Guards Armoured; view across the Rhine on the home bank, Rees is in the foreground. The big farm building in the centre, just across the river, is the 'Reeserschanz'. Beyond the farm a stretch of scattered farm buildings is visible, which together form the village of Nieder Mörmter. To the right, only partly visible, the Westminster Bridge which opened up on March 29th, at 18:00 hours. A long line of vehicles crosses the latter (photo courtesy Brigadier Oswald Yates Hibbert).
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The tank incident at De Heurne

    While the Guards Armoured headed towards the village of Aalten to the northeast of Dinxperlo on March 30th, an armoured reconnaissance was carried out to the north of Dinxperlo by the recce platoon of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, under command of lieutenant Stuart Hill. The platoon had to recce up to the boundary with the 43rd Wessex Division, which was attacking NE along the axis Anholt - Sinderen - Varsseveld. Following the main road north out of Dinxperlo, the light tanks (Honey's ) of Lt. Hill, after about a mile, reached a road fork just north of the Aalders farmstead. Here Hill split up his unit, sending one tank section under Cpl Morris to the NW, in the direction of Klein-Breedenhoek, and another section under Cpl Slater to the NE, towards De Heurne. Hill with the rest of his recce troop remained at the road fork. Soon after both sections had departed, Hill received a radio message that the tank of Cpl Slater had been ambushed near the creamery at the southern outskirt of the township of De Heurne. Hill immediately went down the road to investigate. Cpl Slater's section had bumped into an enemy strong-point of infantry backed up by three SP-guns and 20-mm AA guns. The leading tank, Cpl. Slater's, had been knocked out by a Panzerfaust. While the rest of the crew had bailed out of the tank, the driver was still inside, it was unknown whether he was wounded or killed. Because of the accurate fire and the close proximity of the enemy it was not possible to approach the Honey tank nor could the remainder of the reconnaissance section extricate itself from the battle. Sgt. Pollard made a daring attempt to rescue the tank under fire; the first time the tow rope failed to grip; but at the second attempt, aided by a smoke screen, he managed to get the tank away.

    De Heurne.jpg
    Site of the ambush at De Heurne. The knocked out Honey tank was next to the creamery, which has been replaced nowadays by the modern company building on the left side of the road. It was knocked out by a German with a Panzerfaust who was hiding at the farm to the right. The wooded area in the right background is where the township of De Heurne is located. Here German SP's with 20-mm AA guns were active.

    Attached a picture of the old creamery (courtesy of 6FJ):
    boterfabriek Dxplo.jpg


    A company of infantry ('D' Company of the 7th Argylls) and Sherman tanks of 'C' Squadron of the Sherwood Rangers were sent to the rescue. Only by the evening the tanks, less two non-runners, and the infantry were able to extricate themselves and return to Dinxperlo. The Argylls during this operation lost one man killed in action and four men wounded. Among the latter was the Coy CO, Major J.S. Corcoran DSO, MC, who was severly wounded, losing a foot. One of the Shermans that came to the rescue was disabled. A burst of 20 mm hit the front of the tank, severely injuring the co-driver Trooper Ernest Duckworth. Another Sherman was lost, when the tank, while reversing around the corner of a farm building, fell backwards into the slurry pit in the farm yard. Though the crew of the tank escaped unhurt, they later had a very smelly job in retrieving their personal belongings from the ditched tank.

    IMG_0322 a.JPG
    The tank driver of Cpl Slater's Honey, the young Trooper Sidney H. Southam, was killed in the ambush at De Heurne. He was laid to rest on the 31st at the local cemetery of Dinxperlo, where his grave can still be found, well looked after by the local population. The date of death on the headstone is incorrect, it should be 30 March 1945.
    IMG_0323.JPG

    154 bde 30 March.jpg 154 bde 30 March 2.jpg 154 bde 30 March 3.jpg
    Fragment of the154 Bde War Diary for the 30th.

    Detailed research by WW2talk member DPL1945 revealed that at least two more names should be added to the list of 51st HD casualties at Dinxperlo: Trooper Ernest Duckworth, age 25, who succcumbed a day after he sustained injuries at De Heurne and 18-year-old Pte A.B. McNaught, of the 7th Black Watch, who died in a mine accident on April 2nd.

    001 DUCKWORTH E 3388139 NOTTINGHAMSHIRE YEOMANRY 31/03/1945 ROYAL ARMOURED CORPS
    002 MCNAUGHT AB 14497137 7TH BN 02/04/1945 BLACK WATCH (ROYAL HIGHLANDERS)
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The action at De Heurne on the 30th, signalled the end of the bridgehead battle for the 51st Highland Division. With the other elements of 30 Corps moving northward deeper into eastern Holland, the division found itself in the Corps' rear and remained near Isselburg and Dinxperlo until April 5th as a Corps reserve. On that date it moved north to Enschede to take part in the last battles for NW Germany.

    The Rhine Crossing had been a tough fight for 51st HD and the losses at least equalled those of operation Veritable. In seven days the Highland division had suffered well over 900 casualties. The total number of infantry casualties alone, for the period of the 23rd until the end of March, amounted to 908. According to the Bde War Diaries, these were broken down as follows:

    152 Bde: KIA 63; WIA 241; MIA 0
    153 Bde: KIA 34; WIA 150; MIA 12
    154 Bde: KIA 74; WIA 295; MIA 39

    To these must be added the casualties of the supporting units of the division. I have no exact numbers for the latter, but the number of killed, died of wounds or missing (excl. wounded in action) of the 51st Highland Division for the last phase of the war in NW Europe is given as 360. Most likely the balance of these were suffered during the bridgehead battle:

    casualties 51 HD.jpg

    The 9th Cdn Inf Bde lost 18 Officers and 241 Other Ranks killed, wounded and missing during 23 March and 1 April 1945. The bulk of these casualties were probably caused during the battle for the initial bridgehead. I have no exact numbers of the casualties suffered by the other units attached or supporting to the Highland Division, such as the 8th Armoured Bde.

    The German losses are an unknown quantity. What is sure is that the 51st HD took 2.668 POW's, including 324 POW's taken by the 43rd Wessex and 175 through medical channels. Most likely an equal number was killed or wounded during the battle. A detailed break-down of the POW's is given in the Intell Sum of the 51st Highland Division no. 334 of March 30th:

    POW's  Turnscrew.jpg

    Rees 1946.jpg

    German War Cemeteries related to the Rhine Crossing can be found at Rees, Westring (109 burials), Bienen (90), Haldern (871), Diersfordt (581), Anholt (84), Emmerich (903 among these are also the civilian casualties of the air bombardment) and Emmerich/Elten (34). Scattered across the smaller municipal & church cemeteries in the area more casualties were buried; around Haldern and Rees these contain about of 85 German war graves. The German soldiers who were killed on Dutch soil (Megchelen, Dinxperlo, 's Heerenbergh and Gendringen) found a final resting place at the large German War Cemetery at IJsselstein, Holland. For more info see: Listenansicht Kriegsgräberstätten | Volksbund.de
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  9. Dear Stolpi,

    Another two names of casualties in order of the Roll of Honour Dinxperlo
    can be added to he list.

    ROYAL ARTILLERY CORPS 128th Field Regiment.
    Gunner Hopcroft W.
    Bombardier Mingham W.

    43WESSEX
    These men KIA at Beggelder Dinxperlo on the 30th of March 1945 Halftruck got a direct hit
    from SP on the open flank at Beggelder 2 miles south of Sinderen.
    12Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps. They were buried in the front garden of a Farmhouse called Hordenslag.
    Rifleman Bolton A.
    ROYAL ARTILLERY CORPS - 94 Field Regiment
    Gunner Mennell M.L.
    Gunner Groves T.W.

    2Bn. Royal Ulster Rifles Heelweg Dinxperlo mine incident
    1st of April Kia buried at Suderwick near Dinxperlo
    Rifleman. Waller A.
     

    Attached Files:

  10.  
  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2.2 The 43rd Wessex Division crosses the Rhine (March 25, 1945)

    The 43rd Wessex Division was the first of the divisional 'follow up' formations to arrive in the 30 Corps' bridgehead. At 16:00 hours, March 25th, 43 Division took over command of the left sector of the bridgehead from 51st HD. At the same time the 9th Cdn Inf Bde, already across and heavily involved in the battle for Bienen (see: RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')), passed to command of the 43rd Division.

    The first unit of the 43rd to cross to the eastern bank of the Rhine was 130 Bde. In the course of the 25th the Brigade, followed by tactical Divisional HQ, moved from marshalling areas near Marienbaum and Calcar to assembly areas closer to the river. From here, the 5th Dorsets started to cross first. By 18:00 hours the battalion had completed the river crossing and assembled in the fields near Esserden. The battalion was to carry out an operation that night against the village of Androp, north of Speldrop. The other formations of 130 Brigade moved across the river in the evening and night of the 25th. They received the mission to clear the area to the SE of Millingen.

    Fragment from the War Diary of 5th Dorsets re the river crossing:
    5th Dorsets 1.jpg 5th Dorsets 2.jpg


    Buffaloes unloading on east bank Rhine 3.jpg
    Soldiers of 'C' Company of the 5th Dorsets move in Buffaloes towards the Rhine River in the afternoon of the 25th (Photo © IWM (BU 2451))

    Dorsets cross Rhine.jpg
    Moments later the Buffaloes dip into the river and move across the Rhine. The 51st Highland Division and the attached 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade are still battling on the far bank; the battle for Bienen reached its climax that afternoon and the town of Rees was not yet entirely cleared (Photo © BU 2452)

    Buffaloes unloading on east bank Rhine 2.jpg
    Unloading of the 5th Dorsets infantry of 'C' Coy on the east bank of the Rhine (photo © IWM BU 2454)



    43rd Wessex to Aastrang.jpg
    Engagements as discussed in this thread:
    1. Uncorcking the 'Bienen Gap' : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    2. 130 Bde - clearing up 'Millingen Pocket' 26 March : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    3. 129 Bde - 4 & 5 Wiltshires firm base N of Millingen 27. 0900 : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    4. 214 Bde - 1 Worcesters & 7 SLI attack autobahn & Vehlinger Berge 27.1200 : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    5. 214 Bde - 5 DCLI battle for Megchelen night 27/28 March : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    6. 130 Bde at Landfort and crossing of River Issel 28/29 March : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    7. 130 Bde - 4 Dorset seize Anholt 29 March : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
    8. 130 Bde - 7 Hampshires over the Aastrang River 29 March : RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Uncorking the 'Bienen Gap': Canadian operations in the Rhine Bridgehead

    operation-plunder-map.jpg


    From Special Report No 32: OPERATION PLUNDER prepared by 9 CDN INF BDE (Courtesy of Klambie)

    1. At 04:00 hrs 24 March 45, HLI of C crossed the river Rhine and assembled in the area of MAHNENBURG. As 154 Bde found the opposition extremely stiff it became necessary to commit HLI of C earlier than was originally planned and preparations were made for an attack on SPELDROP 0654. At 16:00 hrs the attack went in and after heavy fighting, HLI of C had secured its objective (see this thread: RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (30 Corps in operation 'Turnscrew')).

    2. When HLI of C vacated their assembly area, SD&G Highrs were ferried across and relieved 7 Black Watch in area of REESERWARD 0354. Following the SD&G Highrs the Nth N S Highrs crossed the river and concentrated in the original HLI of C assembly area.

    3. On 25 March 45 the SD&G Highrs captured the area of GRIETERBUSCH 0356. Opposition was light at first but became stiff from paratroopers who made suicidal stands at 044563, 043566 and 044577. On the same day Nth N S Highrs moved up behind the A&S Highrs of 154 Bde who were endeavouring to get into BIENEN 0556. The enemy resisted stubbornly and as the A&S Highrs had suffered many casualties it was decided to pass Nth N S Highrs through to capture the town. By 20:45 hrs the southern half of the town had been cleared after bitter fighting, the line of forward troops was then from rd and track junc 054564, eastward to 063565. The fighting had been extremely hard with determined enemy paratroopers resisting to the last (see this thread: RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (30 Corps in operation 'Turnscrew')).

    4. At 16:00 hrs 9 Cdn Inf Bde passed from under command 51 (H) Div to under command 43 Div in order to clear the way for the pasing through of this formation. During the night of 25/26 March HLI of C were ordered to capture the remainder of BIENEN and by 05:00 hrs 26 March most of the enemy had been cleared from the town. A heavy barrage pausing in lines as long as required proved most effective. HLI of C had then reached the ATk ditch stretching across the northern outskirts.

    5. By this time N Shore Regt had crossed the river and come under command of the Bde. At 12:00 hrs N Shore Regt passed through HLI of C to the NE with the object of capturing AM STEVERT 0757 and MILLINGEN. A heavy box barrage "flattened" any enemy resistance and the attack went very well, many PW were taken and the objectives were secured before dark.

    6. During the afternoon of 26 March Nth NS Highrs relieved SD&G Highrs in order to release them for an attack through HLI of C on to the area ZU BIENEN 051584 and HUETH 062583. This operation was quite successful and all objectives were secured by 21:00 hrs. In the meantime 1 C Scots R came under command of the Bde and took up a position in the area of WARDMANNSHOF 036545. This was considered necessary as it was quite possible that the enemy might try to infiltrate towards the bridge site from the NW.

    7. The bridgehead was now sufficiently large for the passing through of 43 Div which took place on 27 March 45. At the same time 7 Cdn Inf Bde passed through to the west with a view to capturing EMMERICH 9760.

    Attached photographs of Canadian troops of the HLI of Canada near Speldrop and Klein Esserden:
    Cdn germany_speldrop.jpg B Company, Highland Light Infantry of Canada.jpg Cdn Speldrop 11 Plt B Coy HLI of C.jpg

    For his leadership of 9th CIB during the Rhine crossing operation, Brigadier John M. Rockingham, earned a bar to his DSO. An award, which according to a caption, was "strongly recommended" by the Corps commander, General Brian G. Horrocks. The recommendation can be considered as a reflection of the collective valour of the men of the Cdn Inf Bde and the decoration served to draw attention to the actions they fought and the sacrifices made.
    Rockingham 9 Cdn Bde 1.jpg Rockingham 9 Cdn Bde 2.jpg

    Canadian Army Newsreel: Rhine Crossing (from 6:47 onwards):
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The North Shore Regt seizes Am Stevert/Millingen, March 26th 1945

    Am Stevert N Shore Regt.jpg

    With Bienen firmly in hand the next obvious objective were the localities of Millingen and Am Stevert occupying an advantageous position between the northern end or Millinger Meer and the railroad. The capture of these communities would give 43 Division a firm cornerstone for subsequent operations northwards to the autobahn.

    On 26 March 1945, The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment, temporarily under command of 9 Cdn Inf Bde, was ordered to take the western part of Millingen, aka Am Stevert. Three companies advanced along the road, while one company moved on the left flank. The attack was supported by tanks of 'A' Sqd 4/7 Dragoon Guards and was covered by an artillery barrage. 'A' Coy was ordered to lead off with No.1 and No. 2 Platoons up and No. 3 Platoon in reserve. The Start Line was at the far edge of Bienen passing through the HLI of Canada. The artillery barrage was to lift on order of the Coy commander. 'B' Coy advanced on the left to protect the flank of the battalion. 'A' Coy, advancing down the road was to make the first bound, about 600 yards, 'C' Coy then was to move through to Am Stevert, and finally 'D' would bound through to consolidate. The battalion was heavily shelled while moving to the Start Line and 'A' Company had some casualties when one of the platoons was hit by shellfire. One section had only one man standing.

    Rowley.jpg
    Lt-Col John William Rowley, CO, the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. Rowley was killed by shellfire on the outskirts of Bienen during the preparation for the attack. He was awarded a DSO for his daring action on 26 Feb 1945 in Operation Blockbuster at Keppeln, Germany.

    The attack jumped off at noon. 'A' Coy on the right quickly took its objective and 'C' Coy then passed through. It had to attack over 1500 yards of level ground with no cover, but the artillery and tank support proved decisive. Or as the Coy CO Major Oulton later stated: "I had all the artillery at my command along with British tanks from the Royal Dragoons. We walked in under the barrage and guns of the tanks and in very short order the Germans came flooding out of the houses and trenches [...]. The defences were good and the guns were there but the platoons were on them before the Germans could lift their heads. For those who couldn't be dealt with at once, I called up the tanks, and soon we were solid". Oulton's company had the toughest fighting. Especially around a group of houses which were cleared by a platoon led by Lt. Jack McKenna. There was a 75 mm gun beside the first house and 15 POW's were captured when it was cleared. The platoon captured two German trucks around the houses, one a signals vehicle the other loaded with ammunition.

    While consolidating at Am Stevert the Coy was very heavily fired at by MGs from the houses to the front, across the small stream of the Landwehr, at Millingen proper, and an enemy SP gun appeared around one of the corners of the houses. It was during this action that Sergeant Joseph L. Hennigar, earned a M.M.:

    On the left 'B' Coy ran into heavy machine-gun fire from a group of houses off to the left flank (most likely the Grewenshof, see map). For subduing this enemy resistance and then continuing on to the original objective the Coy CO, Capt. Harry L.Hamley, won the MC:

    Corporal Reginald A. Shepherd, earned a MM for clearing out the enemy stronghold on the left flank and capturing 23 of the defenders (Shepherd unfortunately was killed in action on 5 April 45 at Zutphen):
    'D' Coy passed through for the final assault and quickly cleared the rest of Am Stevert. By 17:00 hrs the battalion had consolidated on its objective.

    In the attack 38 POW's were taken. The battalion reported the loss of 25 man wounded and three men killed, among them the Battalion CO, Lt-Col. Joh W.H. Rowley, who was killed by shellfire prior to the start of the attack. Major Neil Gordon, the 2 i/c, took over command of the battalion. Apparrently three of the wounded later succumbed to their injuries, as there are six fatal casualties registered in the CWGC records for March 26th:

    001 DE MERCHANT LW G/53549 - 26/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    002 HAY AG G/61030 - 26/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    003 HUMBY BP F/36426 - 26/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    004 KEEL CC F/3887 - 26/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    005 MCINTOSH LA A/106907 - 26/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    006 ROWLEY JWH - CDG 26/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.

    Groesbeek cmty Rowley a.jpg

    A probable seventh victim of the action at Bienen/Am Stevert was Pte Joseph S.C. La Violette. This 21-years old died of wounds on March 28th and was temporarily buried at Bedburg-Hau, site of the Military Field Hospitals:
    007 LA VIOLETTE JSC G/23566 - 28/03/1945 NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, R.C.I.C

    20171224_162509_001.jpg

    Groesbeek cmty DeMerchant a.jpg Groesbeek cmty Hay a.jpg Groesbeek cmty Humby a.jpg Groesbeek cmty Keel a.jpg Groesbeek cmty McIntosh a.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Am Stevert/Millingen area today

    20180630_112051.jpg
    Millingen as seen from the eastern edge of Bienen. The house in front is adjacent to the Millinger Strasse.

    In the attack on Millingen the North Shores were supported by the Sherman tanks of 'A' Squadron of the 4/7 Dragoon Guards who succesfully engaged the church tower in Millingen. The War Diary of the 8th Armoured Brigade claims that the tanks knocked down the church tower, but this was not true. The sturdy tower was damaged, but did not collapse. Later the Dragoon tanks moved up to Im Stevert in support of the infantry to assist them in shooting out enemy snipers at Millingen.

    Am Stevert.JPG
    The war damage is still visible on the wall of this barn on the edge of Millingen. The gable is facing to Am Stevert, towards the Canadians.

    Millingen Church.jpg
    Post-war picture of the damaged and partly repaired steeple of the church of Millingen
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5th Dorsets at Androp, night 25/26 March 1945

    During the night to the 26th the 5th Dorsets mopped up the village of Androp, the main village on the southern bank of the Millinger Meer, which had been by passed in the advance by the 9th Cdn Inf Bde. The village was taken without opposition. A few POW's were taken from a cellar of one of the houses and a ditched 7.5 mm SP gun was found, which was left behind by the enemy; probably one of the SP guns that had been in support of the 115th Panzergrenadier Regt's attack on Speldrop. With Androp taken all the ground to the south of the abandoned river channel of the Millinger Meer had been cleared.

    One man was lost during the action:
    001 DAVIES H 1643948 5TH BN 26/03/1945 DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT

    War Diary 5th Dorsets:
    5th Dorsets 1.jpg 5th Dorsets 2.jpg 5th Dorsets 3.jpg

    5th Dorsets 4.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018
  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Clearing the 'Millingen Pocket', 130 Bde, March 26th.

    After the Canadian North Shore Regiment had cleared the road leading from Bienen to Am Stevert, 130 Bde passed 7 Hamps and 4 Dorsets through with the object of clearing the southern part of Millingen and gaining control of the ground between the Millinger Meer and the railway track to the east. The operation converged with an attack by 154 Bde, 51st HD, at Empel. 4 Dorset was in the lead, it had a company of the 7th Hampshires under command, plus some tanks of the 13/18th Hussars. 'A' Coy crossed the Landwehr stream just north of Millingen and making a 90 degree turn captured the western face of Millingen and the bridge site. 7 Hampshires followed closely behind overcoming considerable traffic problems and started clearing to the south of the 4th Dorsets. This went on for most of the evening and night, and, according to the War Diary of the 130 Bde, "was not made easier by a Bde of the 51st (H) Div approaching our advance from the east". The enemy defense along the northern bank of the Millinger Meer was completely rolled up by the 130 Bde and 154 Bde coming in from east and west. Squeezed in between both attacks the defenders were unable to retreat and were forced to surrender; nearly 400 POWs were 'put in the bag'.

    By first light on the 27th both battalions had completed their tasks against an enemy who defended houses to the last. According to Major Caines: "There was stubborn fighting in some of the houses, and in many we found civilians packed into cellars; many at first were scared stiff of us, they just breathed a sigh of relief when we spoke to them and convinced them that they would come to no harm". Casualties were comparatively light under the circumstances; the 4th Dorsets suffered 3 slightly wounded, the 7th Hampshires lost 4 killed and 15 wounded. Both battalions took a large number of POW's, most of them paratroopers. The 7th Hampshires took 63 POW's; the bag of the 4th Dorsets was even larger and consisted of 4 Officers and 187 men. The 154 Bde for their part had taken about 130 POW's in the attack on Empel. Now that the enemy could no longer contain the bridgehead his defense started to collapse.

    L/Sergt Frank Stetch, who was a section leader of one of the platoons of 'D' Coy, 4 Dorsets, personally accounted for 30 of the enemy, which earned him an immediate Military Medal:
    Stetch 4 D MIllingen 1.jpg Stetch 4 D MIllingen 2.jpg

    Lt.Col. William Q,. Roberts, CO of the 4th Dorset, earned a bar to his DSO for his share in the operation, which entailed a last-minute improvisation for the opening stage of the attack:
    Roberts Lt Col 4 D Millingen.jpg Roberts Lt Col 4 D Millingen 2.jpg

    For the 51st HD operation at Empel, see: RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (51st Highland Div in operation 'Turnscrew')

    Millingen Pocket.jpg

    Casualties for the 7th Hampshires were (courtesy Geoff's Search Engine):
    001 ADAMS HG 1507602 7TH BN 26/03/1945 HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT
    002 ARMSTRONG GH 5826590 7TH BN 26/03/1945 HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT
    003 GILBERT CM 14767363 7TH BN 26/03/1945 HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT
    004 HARRIS RL 14769730 7TH BN 26/03/1945 HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT

    Lance Cpl Charles.G. Lief died of wounds next day:
    005 LIEF CG 14699260 7TH BN 27/03/1945 HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT

    The Operation Order of 130 Bde for the attack on 26 March 1945:
    130 Bde Op Order 26 March 45.jpg 130 Bde Op Order 26 March 45 a.jpg

    POW's a.jpg
    At Millingen nearly 400 POW's were bagged by the converging attacks of the 43rd Wessex and 51st Highland Divisions during late afternoon and evening of March 26th.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The battle for the Autobahn (1), 129 Bde, March 27th, 1945

    The next phase in the 43rd Wessex operation was to secure the line of an unfinished Autobahn north of Millingen. What was left of the enemy paratroopers had pulled back behind the raised roadbed of the unfinished Autobahn, which ran north of Millingen on an almost parallel course to the railway line. This task would be carried out by the freshly arrived 129 Bde, which had crossed the Rhine during the afternoon and night of the 26th to 27th. In the morning of the 27th, starting at 09:00 hrs, the 129 Bde went into action. Two battalions cleared the area to the NE of the railway line from Millingen, with 4 Wiltshires right and 5 Wiltshires left. The infantry was supported by a composite tank force, under command of the 2 i/c of 13/18th Hussars, made up of 'C' Squadron of the 4/7th Dragoon Guards and 'C' Squadron of the 13/18th Hussars. The 4th Bn SLI remained in reserve at Bienen.

    Opposition according to the War Diary of the 129 Bde was "negligable on the right and on the left the 5 Wiltshires met some resistance on their final objective which was soon captured". Both forward battalions signalled that a large number of enemy were well dug in behind the roadbed of the Autobahn. Despite heavy small arms and machinegun fire, the forward companies of the 5th Wiltshires by 12:30 hrs had worked forward to within 250 - 300 yards of the Autobahn. The right hand Coy had reached Grievingshof; the left hand was near Meimannshof. They encountered 6 or 7 MG posts along the south edge of the woods and west along the Autobahn. The supporting tanks were trying to deal with these.

    However, 5 Wiltshire had to give up the plan. At about 13:00 hrs 129 Brigade ordered the forward companies to be at least 400 yards south of the Autobahn by 13:15 hrs, in order to be out of the danger zone for the fireplan of the 214 Bde, which would make a fresh attack at 14:00 hrs across the Autobahn towards the north. The line running from MR 105581 to 085588 was to be held secure as the start line for 214 Bde. Casualties in both Wiltshire battalions had been light and 54 POW's were taken from 16. and 18. FJ Regiments (6.FJ Div) and some soldiers from the 104. Panzergrenadier Regt. The latter most likely were stragglers of the 15. Pz.Gren.Div; the bulk of the Panzergrenadiers had been pulled out of the line earlier on the 27th and sent to the east, to Bocholt, where the British 12 Corps had broken the enemy resistance, to restore the situation there.

    Two men in the 5th Bn were killed during the operation on the 27th:
    001 NICHOLSON S 14801739 5TH BN 27/03/1945 WILTSHIRE REGIMENT
    002 PHIPP EF 5050085 5TH BN 27/03/1945 WILTSHIRE REGIMENT

    Autobahn 214 Bde Plan of attack.jpg
    Plan of attack (redbrown colour): the 214 Bde was to capture the high ground north of the autobahn - aka Vehlinger Berge - from excl. ring countour 106592 westwards with the 7th Bn Somerset LI on the left and the 1st Worcesters on the right, each supported by a troop of tanks of the 4/7 Dragoon Guards. Once the embankement had been seized the 5 Duke of Cornwall's LI, loaded in Kangaroos and supported by a squadron of the 4/7 Dragoon Guards, was to pass through and seize the small settlement of Megchelen, just across the Dutch border.

    standard.jpg
    The British infantry most of the time had to operate in the open without adequate cover, while the enemy fought from prepared positions in and around farmsteads, or as in the case of the 129 Bde, from dug outs along the woodsline of the Vehlinger Berge and the raised roadbed of the Autobahn. Under these circumstances the success of the infantry attacks often depended on the extent to which the supporting weapons, such as artillery, tanks and heavy infantry weapons, were able to subdue the enemy defenders (photo IWM).
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Rees 1947.jpg
    Tanks of the 8th Armoured Brigade gather in Millingen waiting for their turn to support the infantry. Traffic congestion in and around Millingen by the 27th reached a climax when elements of all three brigades of the 43rd Wessex and supporting arms pressed into the small town.

    On the 26th the beautiful clear spring weather was interrupted by a spell of several days of dull overcast weather, with scattered showers on the 26th, the 28th and 29th. On the latter date the weather was dull with poor visibility. The 30th and 31st were fine and warm again.


    Millingen church Now.jpg
    Same spot today. The Shermans have been replaced by German cars (courtesy WW2talk member 6FJ)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The battle for the Autobahn (2), 214 Bde, March 27th, 1945

    The 214 Bde started to cross the Rhine at 00:30 hrs on the 27th. The battalions made a 'dry' crossing - moving across 'Lambeth bridge' - and by 05:30 hrs assembled in the fields near Esserden. At 09:00 hrs an 'O' Group was held at Brigade and orders were given for the oncoming operation. The Brigade, with two battalions forward, had to seize the Vehlinger Berge, the high wooded ground just north of the Autobahn, and the buildings in the area 092594, locally known as Am Kaninenberg (nowadays the village of Vehlingen); then, not later than 17:00 hrs, exploit across the Autobahn with one battalion (5 DCLI) to Megchelen on the Dutch side of the border. H-hour for the Bde attack was 14:00 hrs. The 130 Bde was to pass through later.

    The two battalions that led the attack were 1 Worcester Rgt, on the right, and 7 Somerset LI on the left. Both battalions were supported by tanks of 'A' and 'B' Squadron 4/7 Dragoon Guards respectively. The assaulting force encountered strong enemy resistance at the line of the Autobahn and it was not until well after dusk before this was finally overcome, thereby delaying the attack of the 5th DCLI towards Megchelen.

    War Diary of the 1st Worcester Rgt for the operation:
    1 Worcester War Diary 1.jpg 1 Worcester War Diary 2.jpg 1 Worcester War Diary 3.jpg

    For a detailed account of the Worcester action, though it places the battalion's position too far to the left, almost within the sector of the 7 Somersets, see: Worcestershire Regiment (29th/36th of Foot). Below the copied account of Major Peter Hall, CO 'A' Coy, 1 Worcester Rgt, taken from 27 March 1945: British infantry attack against dug in Fallschirmjäger | Notey
    According to the 214 Bde War Diary the 7 Somerset LI succeeded in establishing themselves in the general area of 094594 and 1 Worcester Rgt were firm in 103589 and 106589.

    Troop Sergeant Reginald W. Cox, of 'A' Squadron, 4/7th Dragoon Guards, earned a MM for the action at the Autobahn. His no. 4 Troop was in support of the 1st Worcester Regt:
    Cox 4.7 Dragoon  Autobahn 1.jpg Cox 4.7 Dragoon  Autobahn 2.jpg

    The following casualties were suffered by the 1st Worcesters (courtesy of Geoff's search engine):
    001 BALCOMBE H 14695420 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    002 BOWDEN RF 1437277 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    003 CONWAY RC 7344266 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    004 DAVIES GO 5254978 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    005 HEAD HF 14754168 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    006 INGLEBY AJW 14491880 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    007 JONES JO 14718392 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    008 RODDA TJ 5257838 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    009 SMITH S 14380864 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    010 SMITH AH 5254182 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    011 VEAL E 5258476 1ST BN 27/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT
    012 WALKER GA 14496639 1ST BN 28/03/1945 WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT

    FJ MG 42.jpg
    A machine gun post of paratroopers armed with a MG42. The paratroopers along the heaped-up embankment had superb fields of fire against the assaulting force and were backed by skilled enemy artillery. From the start line to the objective for the assault the distance was about 1000 yards. The British infantry had to advance over flat, open country, with practically no cover from the enemy’s machine-gun fire. An additional complication was that the ground was sodden and muddy and proved to be impossible for tank movement. A radio-intercept revealed that at first there had been confusion among the enemy and some of his troops had already ran away. Those that remained however put up a stern resistance.

    The War Diary of the 7th Somerset LI is quite summary about the action:
    7 SLI War Diary 1.jpg 7 SLI War Diary 2.jpg 7 SLI War Diary 3.jpg

    It was Cpl Anthony Comm who secured the position at the fly-over near Vehlingen. His action probably tipped the scale in favor of the 7 Somerset LI attack and quite rightly earned him a D.C.M., a decoration not lightly given:
    Comm 7 SLI 1.jpg Comm 7 SLI 2.jpg

    The battalion lost the following men killed in action:
    001 CLARKE D 14761943 7TH BN 28/03/1945 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    002 CONATY AP 5962126 7TH BN 27/03/1945 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    003 KELLOCK BA 14714599 7TH BN 27/03/1945 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    004 MACKIN JE 981617 7TH BN 27/03/1945 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    005 SEDGWICK JT 4920100 7TH BN 27/03/1945 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY
    006 TURNER RR 14672811 7TH BN 27/03/1945 SOMERSET LIGHT INFANTRY

    214 Bde positions 27 March 2359.jpg
    The above map was drawn after the Sit Rep 43rd Wessex Division of 27.23:59 (see attached). Coys names are my interpretation. The Start Lines (SL) are approximate. In the 1 Worcesters sector bad tank going was encountered by 'A' squadron 4/7 Dragoon Guards, all of the supporting tanks got stuck in the mud, but in spite of this and strong opposition both forward Coys got over the Autobahn. 'B' and 'C' Coy 1 Worcesters cleared the wooded area north of the Autobahn in the early hours of the 28th and captured many enemy paratroopers who had deserted and were hiding in the forest. Most of the POW's were from 18.FJ Regt and the 6.ATk-gun battalion of the 6.FJ Division. Tank going on the right was equally difficult, two of the supporting tanks of 'B' Squadron got stuck in the mud at the small stream of the Bielehorster Landwehr. By nightfall the enemy resistance along the road bed had largely crumbled. The 7 Somersets accounted for 92 POW's according to the War Diary of the battalion. How many were killed is unknown. The local German graveyard at Vehlingen later contained 51 casualties found in the vicinity.

    Sit Rep 43rd Div:
    Sit Rep 27.2359.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Autobahn area today

    Autobahn Google maps.jpg

    Hegeshof Autobahn 2.jpg
    View of the Autobahn which runs parallel with the trees; see the car and the metallic colored guardrails. Beyond the Autobahn are visible the first houses of modern Vehlingen. The 7th Somersets were to advance across these open fields to reach their objective. The picture was taken at the level of a small country road, halfway between the Bielehorster Landwehr stream and the Autobahn (courtesy WW2talk member 6.FJ).

    Hegeshof Autobahn 3.jpg
    Same spot now looking back to the south, towards the Hegeshof farmstead. The trees and pollard willows in the foreground mark the course of the Bielehorster Landwehr which with its soft banks formed a real barrier to the advance of the tanks. To the right the Anholter Strasse, the main road connecting Millingen and Anholt (courtesy WW2talk member 6.FJ).

    Hegeshof Autobahn 1.jpg
    Another picture of the same area taken from the fly-over in the Anholter Strasse. View to the south. About twenty men of 'B' Coy under Major K.J. Whitehead succeeded in reaching the great concrete fly-over butress of the Autobahn. It was here that Cpl Comm earned a DCM; see previous post (courtesy WW2talk member 6.FJ).

    Autobahn (1).jpg
    View of the Autobahn looking east from the fly-over
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018

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