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

    The Hoch Elten feature was submitted to a heavy artillery programm, involving all of 2nd Cdn Corps artillery, including the 1st Cdn Rocket unit, and a "pepper-pot". In addition it was targeted several times by medium bombers (Mitchells). The hill was swamped by the shelling, which was so heavy that in some places the contour of the feature had noticeably changed, and little but stumps and shattered trunks remained of the heavy growth of trees which had covered the hill. Over a period of a few days the area had approximately four million rounds on it. The 1st Canadian Rocket Battery firing on this feature proved its efficiency and effectivenes.

    Hoch Elten church.jpg Exterieur_vanuit_het_noord-westen_-_Hoog_Elten_-_20318274_-_RCE.jpg
    "The target singled out for the heaviest treatment by the massed 2nd Corps artillery - a Victor target involving every gun in the Corps every ten minutes - is Hoch Elten. When the three-days continuous bombardment of the hill begins, it is thickly covered with forest. Gradually barren spots begin to appear. By the time the last instalments of some four million shells are exploding on it, Hoch Elten resembles the badly shaved head of a female collaborator" : George J. Blackburn in "The Guns of Victory. Above left: a postwar picture of the barren hill with the damaged St.Vitus church on top. To the right: the heavily damaged St.Vitus Church, a postwar image.

    Foto Hoch Elten.jpg
    View of the Hoch Elten feature nowadays


    Hoch Elten Geo Map.JPG
    Modern Geo Map of the Hoch Elten feature and the village of Elten. Still visible are the German trench systems and dug outs, some of these actually date back to WW1 when German troops guarded the border against the (neutral) Dutch Army. The purple line in the south western corner op the map represents the Dutch-German border (courtesy Bedee).

     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    8 Cdn Inf Bde passes through toward Hoch Elten, 30/31 March 1945

    With the ruins of Emmerich in Canadian hands the task of passing 8 and 9 Cdn Inf Bdes through to the west and north began on 30 March 1945. 8 Cdn Inf Bde had moved up behind Brigadier Gibson's battalions in readiness to take on the Hoch Elten feature north-west of the devastated city; 9 Cdn Inf Bde, faced with clearance of the wooded area of the Mühlenbergerweg, already had North Nova Scotia Highlanders positioned in the area bounded by the railway and the tramway tracks leading north from Emmerich. In this somewhat forward assembly area, the North Novas went about the job of house-clearing to ensure a start line for their drive to the north. Due to the persistent enemy resistance encountered by the 7 Cdn Inf Bde on the western outskirt of the town throughout the 30th, the start of the 8 Cdn Inf Bde's operation was delayed and commenced at 2200 hours when Régiment de Chaudiere moved forward from a line connecting the two concrete factories and the railway.

    The enemy did not offer much resistance and by 0150 hours the French-Canadians were in Hüthum, half-way between Emmerich and Hoch Elten. The reserve companies then passed through; one to take the small woods immediately north of Hüthum, while the other thrust half a mile south-west to In der Klei. (W.D., R. de Chaud, 30 March 45; also 3 Cdn Inf Div Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serials 11 and 14). By 0730 hours 31 March the battalion was consolidated along the road which runs at right angles to the railway from In der Klei to the small woods north of Huthum, and had 70 prisoners "in the bag". All this time (since 0200 hours, 31 March) Queens Own Rifles of C. had been moving up steadily on the right of the Chaudieres, with the intention of taking the Hoch Elten feature from the north-east while the French-Canadians attacked from the south. At 0400 the Q.O.R. of C. had taken 24 POWs, the majority of them were from 858 Gren Regt. At 0525 hours the riflemen had yet to encounter opposition, and as R. de Chaudiere consolidated south of the railway, Q.O.R. of C. held one company close on their right flank on the north-easterly extension of the same wood near Ingenhof.

    The morning was taken up by aggressive patrolling, in the course of which R. de Chaudiere reached the power Station (9261) on the Rhine 2000 yards south of Hoch Elten village (ibid, Serial 32; 2 Cdn Corps Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serial 19). This power station is only 300 yards from the Dutch frontier and it was not occupied by the enemy. By 1300 hours Q.O.R. of C. had improved their holdings on the right and had companies firm at Ingenhof (9462), Lohhof (9463) and Hassent (9463). By that time they had taken about 50 POWs. The reserve battalion, N. Shore R., which had been concentrating in the vicinity of Laarfeld (9562), sent elements to seek contact around the village of Borghees (9663). The Chaudieres had also gained ground and had reported the curved line of railway track to the west clear from the power station up to its junction with the railroad about 700 yards south of Hoch Elten (9264). It was planned that Q.O.R. of C. should proceed in a north-easterly direction to capture Vorthuizen (9464), cross the stream there (the Grenskanaal) and firm up south of the autobahn, between Vorthuizen and Ritbroek (9365). At the same time R. de Chaudiere would approach the Hoch Elten area from the south-west. Two troops of "B" Squadron, of The Sherbrooke Fusiliers, were in support of each of the infantry battalions. The North Shore R. was to rest in reserve ready to exploit any success (3 Cdn Inf Div Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serial 62).

    Probing and thrusting with two battalions the 8 Cdn Inf Bde felt its way forward to the feature which had dominated the minds of commanders (as well as the Rhine lowlands) for so long. While R. de Chaudiere adjusted its forward line of troops, the Queen's Own went on to Vorthuizen. No opposition was encountered on the way, but as the troops were digging in to hold their gains a heavy mortar and artillery concentration raked them and inflicted several casualties. The situation, however, improved quickly and by 1600 hours "B" Coy (of Q.O.R. of C) attacked from Vorthuizen; lunged across the stream and carried the advance on up the slope. The enemy was sniping very active, making the advance very slow. The Coys reached their objectives with aid of tanks and flame throwers which had been providing excellent covering fire. Meanwhile on the left, R. de Chaudiere were gradually closing in on the village of Hoch Elten and H.Q. 3 Cdn Inf Div was asked what further steps should be taken towards the objective. At 1625 hours the answer came back, "Go on to Hoch Elten".

    Huthum Map.jpg

    Within half an hour it was reported that 8 Cdn Inf Bde was attacking the Hoch Elten feature by sending patrols forward, then building them up, though it was not considered possible that the final attack would be made until at last light. (First Cdn Army Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serials 99, 104). Now that the Queen's Own were at the foot of the feature and R. de Chaudiere equally far west nearer the river, resistance was slackening somewhat, but it was "still hard going" (ibid, Serial 109). The advance continued throughout the late afternoon and evening against intermittent shell fires, and by 2315 hours R. de Chaudiere had entered the feature from the south, and N. Shore R., having passed through Q.O.R. of C. were 1000 yards east of them. The men of the brigade found the feature devastated and deserted, a tribute to the effective engagement by artillery, the "pepper-pot", and the R.A.F. Mitchells. During the early morning of April 1st the Chaudieres entered the village of Elten, below the western summit of the hill, and rounded up another 51 POWs of the 858 Inf Regt.

    20180519_115751a.jpg
    The village of Elten (church spire in the foreground) is located to the west of the Hoch Elten feature. The St.Vitus church steeple is visible on the hill. Beyond the hill, to the right, is the town of Emmerich (not visible on the picture).
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Hoch Elten 2.jpg

    Another image of Hoch Elten with the destroyed railway tracks in front. This probably is part of the railway which branches off to the river and, because of the riverflats, ran over a concrete elevation which made it highwater proof.

    The capture of Hoch Elten had not gone without cost to the 8th Cdn Inf Bde, though the casualty toll for winning the feature was far lighter than had been expected - one officer and sixty four other ranks were killed or wounded. The fatal casualties for the R. de Chaudiere were:

    001 AUGER PE E/101633 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XX. B. 3.
    002 BRANCONNIER R B/631797 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XX. G. 11.
    003 CAISSY R E/6098 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XX. B. 4.
    004 GALLANT D F/31522 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XX. G. 15.
    005 MARTEL GA B/627417 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XX. B. 2.
    006 PARISIEN NA B/155392 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XIV. A. 6.
    007 RIOUX B B/110109 - 30/03/1945 LE REGIMENT DE LA CHAUDIERE, R.C.I.C. XX. B. 1.

    Chaud Branconnier.jpg Chaud Gallant.jpg Chaud Rioux.jpg

    The Queens Own Rifes of Canada lost the following men KIA:
    001 BLENCOWE RW B/63868 - 30/03/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 2.
    002 DAVIES HE B/621145 - 31/03/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. B. 6.
    003 JONES FL B/155174 - 31/03/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 6.
    004 MEARNS J D/114787 - 30/03/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. A. 9.
    005 PATRICK JH D/139783 - 31/03/1945 QUEEN'S OWN RIFLES OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. A. 7.

    QOR Davies.jpg QOR Jones.jpg QOR Patrick.jpg

    The North Shore Regiment, which was held in Bde reserve for most of the day, had no KIA for this period.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Canadian bridges across the Rhine - MELVILLE BRIDGE, March 31/April 1, 1945

    At the Headquarters of First Cdn Army the message at 2300 hours, March 31st, that "at least one company of infantry are now on top of Hoch Elten feature", was heartily welcomed. This was indeed good news, for 1 Cdn A.G.R.E. had begun the task of bridging the Rhine at Emmerich at 1030 hours that morning. The completion of the low level class 40 bridge could now go ahead without fear of observation and shelling from the enemy on those dominating heights. The completion of the bridge was eagerly awaited by the Canadians. The moment of its completion was the time at which General Crerar would take 2 Cdn Corps back under his wing from General Dempsey's Second Army and assume responsibility for the northward thrust from the western end of the bridgehead, as laid down-by the C.-in-C. in his directive. It was now becoming apparent that the conditions for the return of 2 Cdn Corps to First Cdn Army were being fulfilled.

    Bailey bridge Emmerich.jpg

    Instructions to begin work on the bridge were received from 2 Cdn Corps early on 31 March 45. Bridging operations actually commenced at 1200 hours. 2 Cdn Army Tps Engrs began work and estimated time of completion of the bridge at 1800 hours on 1 April, but this was later set back to 0600 hours on 2 April and then advanced to 2352 hours, 1 April (First Cdn Army Ops Log 31 Mar 45 Serials 128 and 156; and 1 Apr 45, Serials 5, 24). Assisting units were 40 Pnr Coy, 96 Pnr Coy, Carpenters Detachment of 2 Bn, 2 Cdn Fd Svy Coy and a Detachment of "J" Sqn, "J" Force, R.N. with L.Cs.V. (P) which were used as tugs and ferries. In the meantime the weather was causing anxiety too for the bridge builders, for at 1325 hours high winds and choppy waters on the broad expanse of the river looked as though they might jeopardize the early completion of the structure (ibid, Serial 68). Yet in another five hours the sappers, ever conscious of the urgency of the moment, had advanced the estimated time of completion to 2100 hours (ibid, Serial 121).

    11056438_948753378492063_8285468009215021947_o.jpg
    A Detachment of "J" Sqn, Royal Navy with L.Cs.V. (P) which were used as tugs and ferries. The Royal Naval personnel belonged to Naval Force "T" which was tasked with assisting movement of Allied Operations on the Rhine during Operation Plunder.

    But for a 10-foot error in calculation the bridge would have been completed at 1800 hours 1 April. However the bridge was finished at 2025 hours and opened for traffic at 2100 hours 1 April 45. The bridge was named Melville Bridge after Brigadier J.L. Melville former C.E. First Cdn Army. (Hist Sec File; 143.113013(D1) BRIDGING OPS; Report on construction of bridges over Rhine, by Maj G.L. Bodwell, B.M., 10 May 45).

    024 aa.jpg
    Aerial of the Canadian bridges at Emmerich. In the background the low level Class 40 MELVILLE BRIDGE. This 1348 feet long bridge was completed on April 1st, 1945 ('Good Friday'). The high water level bridge in the foreground, called MacLEAN BRIDGE was constructed three days later - it measured 1757 feet.

    Emmerich Melville Bridge site.jpg
    Site of the MELVILLE BRIDGE today as seen from Emmerich. The small road on the opposite bank runs up to the former position of the bridge. On the far right the ramp of the new postwar bridge.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Across the border into Holland: operations of 9 Cdn Inf Bde, 30-31 March 1945

    Meanwhile as 8 Cdn Inf Bde slogged its way up the wooded slopes of Hoch Elten, the battalions of 9 Cdn Inf Bde had made excellent progress against limited resistance in their drive to the north. Lack of contact on the previous night had indicated that the enemy was withdrawing. As Nth N.S. Highlanders consolidated south of the woods below and to the left of Muhlenbergerweg, Brigadier Rockingham, anxious to keep S.D. & G. Highlanders abreast of the Nova Scotians, ordered the Glengarrians forward at 0030 hours. By 0560 hours the battalion was up level with Nth N.S. Highrs, awaiting H Hour, which had been set at 0700 hours 31 March (W.D., S.D. & G. Highrs, 31 Mar 45). At the allotted time the two battalions moved across the start lines and in an hour Nth N.S. Highlanders reported that they were firmly established on the north side of the wood, having taken some prisoners but meeting no opposition (W.D., H.Q. 9 Cdn Inf Bde, March 1945: Appx 3, Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serial 42). At about the same time S.D. & G. Highrs reported a successful advance ending in consolidation on the north side of the wood (Ibid, Serials 43 and 44).

    The next phase of the brigade's advance was a job for H.L.I. of C. The battalion passed through Nth N.S. Highlanders and thrust northward toward the junction of the `s Heerenberg - Emmerich road with the autobahn. (2 Cdn Corps Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serial 22). At 1035 hours they found their objective mined, and the road blocked (W.D., H.Q. 9 Cdn Inf Bde, March 1945: Appx 3, Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serial 58). This obstruction was by-passed, and the battalion worked its way forward once more. All this time 7 Cdn Recce Regt had been patrolling northward from Klein Netterden and had contacted the H.L.I. of C. near the autobahn junction. (Ibid, Serial 78). The task of probing to the right and front of 9 Cdn Inf Bde was assigned to "A" Sqn, which Lt-Col Baerman had placed at Brigadier Rockingham's disposal, while he himself established his own tactical Command Post at the headquarters of 9 Cdn Inf Bde. At a little after noon, 31 March, the two units, closely attended by some tanks of "A" Squadron of the 27 Cdn Armd Regt, had reached the Grens Kanaal (aka Bergsche Wetering), that formed the border with Holland, hard south of the small Dutch town of `s Heerenberg (2 Cdn Corps Ops Log, 31 Mar 45, Serial 29). By 1400 hours, however, it was clear that the enemy intended to hold `s Heerenberg. H.L.I. of C. then reported to the brigade that it would be necessary to bridge the "anti-tank ditch" bounding the canal, in order to get supporting tanks forward to root the enemy out of the town. (W.D., H.L.I. of C., March 1945: Appx 5, Int Log Diary, 31 Mar 45, Serial 20).

    Most of the opposition in front of H.L.I. of C. was coming from a large monastery on the southern edge of 's Heerenberg. Although the buildings were clearly marked as a hospital the Germans were using it as a strong point. After some time a bridgehead was established, and the monastic fortress was finally occupied at 2200 hours (31 March). (W.D., H.L.I. of C., 31 March 45). Another company ("D" under Major Allan K. McTaggart) was then passed through to take up positions on the left side of the road protecting the bridgehead, and by midnight the engineers received orders to put up a bridge. (First Cdn Army Ops Log, 1 Apr 45, Serial 28).

    Thus the month of April began with 3 Cdn Inf Div beyond Emmerich on a two brigade front. On the left 8 Cdn Inf Bde was in possession of the coveted heights of Hoch Elten, and on the right 9 Cdn Inf Bde was about to begin clearing `s Heerenberg. Thence the brigade would go to Zeddam and Kilder, which lie on the eastern and northern edge of the great Stokkummer Bosch, the forest which streams up into Holland from the Hoch Elten pinnacle.

    Map Heerenberg town.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Highland Light Infantry of Canada at 's Heerenberg

    From the Battle Log of 9th Cdn Inf Bde it becomes evident that the capture of 's Heerenberg took considerable time and it was not until 11.05 hours on April 1st, before the town was completely cleared of enemy by the HLI of C:

    klooster_don-rua_0003.jpg
    Picture of the big Jesuit monastery at the southern edge of the small Dutch town of 's Heerenberg. Enemy resistance from this building was not quelled until late in the evening of March 31st. View to the SE; the road connecting 's Heerenberg with Emmerich runs in front of the building.

    It was nearby, just to the south of the monastery, that Sergeant Peter J. Steinman was awarded a Dutch medal: the Netherlands' Bronze Cross:


    's-Heerenberg_brug_over_het_grenskanaal_PM07.jpg
    Picture of the bridge over the Grens Kanaal (Border Canal) at 's Heerenberg, which forms the border between Holland an Germany. View to the south towards the German bank and the German customs house. Tanks of No.3 Troop, of "A" Sqd, The Sherbrooke Fusiliers, assisted "C" Coy of the H.L.I. of C. with fire in their move forward to the customs buildings. Later tanks of No. 2 Troop, under Lt. Clout, moved right up to the blown bridge to provide covering fire for the crossing of the infantry. The bridge site was secured by late evening of the 31st. Starting in the early hours of April 1st and working all through the night, no.1 platoon, 18th Cdn Field Coy RCE, built a 70 feet Bailey Bridge across the Grens Kanaal, which was completed in just under 5 1/2 hours.

    On March 31st, 1945, in the action leading up to the capture (or liberation as the Dutch would say) of 's Heerenberg the Highland Light Infantry of Canada had the following casualties:

    001 EPPS L B/629496 - 31/03/1945 HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 11.
    002 HALL DCE B/115778 - 31/03/1945 HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 5.
    003 MORRISON FT L/64222 - 31/03/1945 HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 7.
    004 SALMONS AC A/108327 - 31/03/1945 HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 9.
    005 SMITH KW A/59957 - 31/03/1945 HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY OF CANADA, R.C.I.C. XX. E. 8.

    HLIC Hall.jpg HLIC Salmons.jpg HLIC Smith.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2018
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Sherbrooke  Fusiliers Heerenberg.jpg
    Sherman tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers ("A" Squadron) enter 's Heerenberg along the Emmeriksestraat after completion of the Bailey Bridge. The building in the far background to the left is the old Dutch customs house, a bit further down the road is the bridge over the Grens Kanaal. The large Monastery is to the left hidden by the foliage. A column of infantry is visible to the left of the road behind the second Sherman. They probably belong to the HLI of C, but could also be SD&G Highlanders who were following closely behind and passed through the HLI of C to the north of 's Heerenberg.

    Sherbrooke  Fusiliers Heerenberg 2.jpg
    .. closely followed by the units of the 9 Cdn Inf Bde. The Bren Carriers advance into the Oudste Poortstraat/Markstraat which leads to the town center (coloured photos with courtesy of Bevrijding Nederland Liberation Holland Achterhoek "Bevrijding van s'Heerenberg op 1 April 1945" Bergh.03 by Hans Hendriksen)

    Can05.jpg
    Emmerikseweg on April 1st, 1945, Easter Sunday, endless lines of infantry of the 9th Cdn Inf Bde march into the small Dutch town of 's Heerenberg (photos courtesy Bevrijding - Berghapedia)

    Can010.jpg

    Untitled.jpg
    Same spot as previous pictures nowadays (courtesy Street View)
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Excerpt from the War Diary of 9 Cdn Inf Bde (29 March to 1 April 1945)

    9 CIB WD 2.jpg 9 CIB WD 3.jpg
    9 CIB WD 1.jpg

    The 9 Cdn Inf Bde set up a skeleton or Tac HQ at the castle of 's Heerenberg, but only for a short time. Brigadier Rockingham and his small Tac Staff barely had time for a small 'toast' with the Castle Lord, before duty called again and they had to move on. April 1st for the Canadians marked the end of 'Operation PLUNDER' which on that date seamlessly transferred into 'Operation HAYMAKER', the chase of 2nd Cdn Corps (now under command of First Cdn Army) to the north. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, which started operations in the bridgehead on the 29th of March, formed the center of the 2nd Corps advance, while the 3rd Canadian Division covered the left flank towards the IJssel and 4th Canadian Armoured Division moved to the right.

    Kasteel Bergh.jpg

    DJI_0004_1.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Canadian War Memorial 's Heerenberg

    Heerenberg SFusiliers.jpg
    About 400 meters further down the main street the tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers arrive in the town center watched by the local population. This picture was taken at the entrance of the Molenpoortstraat in 's Heerenberg, near the site of the new Canadian War Monument. To the right the church tower which is also visible on the aerial of the castle in the previous post (photo courtesy Bevrijding - Berghapedia)

    Attached the same spot nowadays:
    Molenstraat Heerenberg.jpg



    To honour their Canadian liberators the people of 's Heerenberg unveiled a monument in May 2010 consisting of a Canadian 25-pounder (a veteran of WW2). See also: Ordnance QF 25 Pounder Cannon - 's-Heerenberg - TracesOfWar.com

    25 pounder Artillery Piece - Heerenberg.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2018
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Last edited: May 3, 2018
  11. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Richard Massey, Ernie Maddox and Porteous were standing talking just after a meal, They were about to leave when Massey said "I'll just get me Titfor (tit for tat = hat)" as he left, Maddox and Porteous were killed by the same shell, It haunted him for a lot of years.
     
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  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Another incredible thread, stolpi. Thank you so much for all your work!!
     
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  13. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

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  14. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Well, well, well!!! Thank you Michel and thank you stolpi! I hadn't made that connection even though I probably had all the information. It takes formulating the question and then checking...
     
  15. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Bump: At 17:00 hrs, this afternoon, the artillery of 21st Army Group opened up the bombardment for the Rhine Crossing operation (23 March 1945). First troops started the assault at 21:00 hrs.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
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  16. Dear Stolpi. The Wilts lost one soldier at Anholt.
    W.D. Brinsdon. Army No. 5735328 KIA 30.3.45. Reburial 20.1.47 at Reichswald.

    Regards, Robert.Jan
     
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  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2.4 The 2nd Cdn Infantry Division to the Oude IJssel (March 28 - 31, 1945)

    While the 3rd Cdn Inf Div was battling for Emmerich another large Canadian formation entered the Rees bridgehead: the 2nd Cdn Inf Div of Major-General A.B. Matthews. The planning of Operation "PLUNDER" visualized 2 Cdn Inf Div becoming the spearhead of the northern advance of 2 Cdn Corps, behind (east of) the enemy's prepared Ijssel line with 4 Cdn Armd Div and 3 Cdn Inf Div on the right and left flanks respectively.

    6 Cdn Inf Bde Gp, the first elements of 2 Cdn Inf Div had already crossed the Rhine west of Rees in the night of 28/29 Mar; and this group, which included a field company R.C.E., an anti-tank battery, a squadron of 8 Cdn Recce and 10 Cdn Armd Regt, was now on the east bank with the prospect of being committed on the right flank of 3 Cdn Inf Div. (W.D., G.S., H.Q. 2 Cdn Inf Div, 28 Mar 45; and 2 Cdn Inf Div Ops Log, 28 Mar 45, Serials 1975-1977, 1980 and 1981). Maj-Gen A.B. Matthews' main headquarters followed the leading brigade over during the morning, and 5 Cdn Inf Bde came over "Blackfriars Bridge" later in the day.

    6 Cdn Inf Bde Gp was fitted into the battle by relieving 9 Cdn Inf Bde in the Bienen sector, with Fus M.R. taking over Hueth and the Camerons of C. assuming responsibility for zu Bienen. (First Cdn Army Ops Log, 29 Mar 45, Serial 99; W.D., H.Q. 6 Cdn Inf Bde, 29 Mar 45; AEF: 45/3 Cdn Inf Div/C/G: Trace 2359 hrs, 29 Mar 45; AEF: 45/2 Cdn Inf Div/C/G: Trace 2030 hrs, 29 Mar 45). Originally the battalions had expected to go forward at first light with 8 Cdn Recce Regt out ahead, but this advance was postponed by the delay in the operations of 43 (W.) Div on the right - fight for Megchelen and the crossing of the Oude IJssel near Landfort. (W.D., Camerons of C., 29 Mar 45). In the afternoon the battalions moved forward without opposition to new positions some 2000 yards farther north across the Dutch frontier, where Camerons of C. took up position with their headquarters in a farm, at Schriek, just inside the Dutch frontier. Fus M.R. were 1000 yards to the east around Asbroek, the S. Sask R. and 8 Cdn Recce Regt were in the rear in and around Megchelen. (Ibid; and AEF: 45/2 Cdn Inf Div/C/D: Trace 2030 hrs, 29 Mar 45). 5 Cdn Inf Bde took up positions well to the rear near Esserden.

    6th Bde 29 March.jpg
    Map of the approximate positions taken up by the infantry battalions of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde in the afternoon of March 29th. The 8th Recce assembled near Megchelen. All now had crossed the Dutch border.

    The arrival of the Canadians was shielded by 'A' Squadron of the 43rd Recce Regiment, which protected the left flank of the 43rd Wessex Division. In the morning of March 29th, patrols were despatched along the roads and trails radiating out to the NW of Megchelen to gather information on the enemy's whereabouts. Armoured cars of No.2 Troop entered Wals and captured some POWs - three members of the Volksturm and four Fallschirmjäger - when the cars moved north from the township they encountered infantry dug-in south of Gendringen and withdrew. Another patrol surprised eight Fallschirmjäger at the Schriek farm, hard west of Megchelen, and took them prisoner. By 11:00 hrs, No.1 Troop lost a heavy armoured car during a reconnaissance mission along the Zwanenburgseweg, the road from Megchelen to Gendringen. The Humber IV of Lieutenant Jackson, the No.1 Troop CO, was hit by a German AT-gun and knocked out. Lieutenant Jackson was unhurt, but the two other crew-members were wounded. Elsewhere, at the Schriek farm, the Recce men surprised eight enemy paratroopers and took them prisoner. These POWs told them that Gendringen was defended by an unknown German unit which came from somewhere in the west of Holland. It was obvious that Gendringen was defended and it would require a coordinated attack to seize the place.

    43e Recce.jpg
    Above: The wreck of the Humber IV armoured car of Lieutenant Jackson, pushed into the roadside. Below: The wreck later was moved to the village center of Gendringen (pictures courtesy MKijs).
    43e Recce 2.jpg

    PS. These posts on the 2nd Cdn Inf Div stem from a chapter I contributed to a small local (Dutch) publication on the Liberation of the area of Gendringen which still is under preparation. I would like to thank Randy aka 17thDYRCH who most kindly made the War Diaries of the Canadian infantry battalions of 6th Cdn Inf Bde available.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Task of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde:

    The general task of the division had already been defined at a conference held by Lt-Gen Simonds on 29 Mar: 2 Cdn Inf Div was instructed first to capture Netterden and second, to advance along two axes so as to secure line between Etten (square 0469) and Klein Azewijn (square 0167). In addition the division was to cross the Oude IJssel and clear the east bank of the river (Oude) IJssel up to Terborg.

    In fulfilment of this task 6 Cdn Inf Bde was to clear and occupy Netterden, Gendringen and Wieken (square 0564) as a preliminary to the capture of the line Etten and Ziek. If possible the Bde was to cross the Oude IJssel and clear the eastern bank towards Terborg. 8 Cdn Recce Regt was to relieve 6 Cdn Inf Bde in Netterden and from this firm base was to reconnoitre the Netterden - Klein Azewijn axis with the objective of making contact with 3 Cdn Inf Div in the Emmerich area. Overall the task of the 6th Bde was to expand the lodgement area to the north to gain a basis for the further advance of the 2nd Cdn Inf Div towards Doetinchem and the Twente Kanaal further north.

    The Rhine.jpg

    Bdier Jean Victor Allard.jpg
    Brigadier Jean Victor Allard DSO CBE (b. 1913) was in charge of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde since Feb 24th, 1945. Before that he was commander of the Royal 22e Régiment. After the war Allard rose to Chief of the Defense Staff of the Canadian Army. He was the first French Canadian officer to gain this position. The picture of Allard is post war (somewhere in the late sixties). Unfortunately I could not find a war time image of him.

     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
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  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Netterden (30 March 1945)

    During the night of 29 to 30 March both forward battalions of 6 Cdn Inf Bde sent out strong combat patrols. The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada (Camerons of C.), under command of Lt.Col. A.A.Kennedy, sent out a patrol towards Beenenberg farm ('B' Coy), Wals ('A'Coy) and Netterden ('D' Coy). The 'A' Coy patrol took 8 POWs. The 'B' Coy patrol brought back 64 POWs. More than half of them were captured single-handed by Sergeant John Ruczak, who was awarded a MM for this action:
    Ruczak MM 1.jpg Ruczak MM 2.jpg

    At the same time another patrol, a platoon from 'D' Coy, sneaked through the darkness towards Netterden. It was assigned the task of probing the village and seizing it if found not strongly occupied. At 03:50 hrs the patrol signalled back that it had reached the farm buildings on the outskirts of Netterden, but had found the place occupied by enemy paratroopers estimated at the size of a company, who had established a perimeter defense in the build up area to the south of the village church. This necessitated a concerted attack by the whole company and both other platoons were sent forward. Major D.D. Sweeting, the 'D' Coy CO, told Lt. Col. Kennedy that he would attack at first light. Lt. Col. Kennedy agreed and directed 'C' Coy to the north-east of the village to cut of the enemy escape route and help in the attack. By 06:50 hrs 'C' Coy reported that it had reached its position and simultaneously with 'D'Coy started an attack on the village.

    "Bitter fighting ensued" which lasted well into the morning. By 11:00 hrs a local truce was arranged to permit recovery of casualties. At the end of this respite a stern ultimatum by Major Sweeting, to either surrender within 30 minutes, or otherwise "fight it out tll the bitter end", persuaded the twenty-two surviving Germans to surrender. This fierce little local battle produced 130 prisoners, including two officers, but cost the Camerons of C. four killed (including the adjutant who was killed by enemy shellfire on the Bn HQ at the Schriek Farm) and ten wounded. One of the wounded, Pte Einar Victor Isfeld, of Icelandic descent, would later succumb to his wounds.

    For his actions at Netterden Major Sweeting was awarded a DSO:
    Sweeting DSO 1.jpg Sweeting DSO 2.jpg


    Netterden Tac.jpg
    Map of the fight for Netterden. The enemy garrison was made up of Fallschirmjäger of the 17. FJ Regiment (6 FJ Division). They were cornered since the hamlet of Klein Netterden south of the Autobahn under construction had already been captured by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles the previous day (see: RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (30 Corps in operation 'Turnscrew') ).

    After the fall of Netterden 'B' Squadron of the 8th Recce Regiment moved in to take over the village from the infantry. Probing north of the village the Recce cars soon ran into enemy fire. What was presumed to be an enemy SP gun operating near Azewijn made further progress on this flank impossible. Netterden was constantly shelled and mortared. One soldier of the Recce Regiment was killed by shellfire that morning.

    5a. 18 Recce Regt Ulft.jpg
    An armoured Recce car of the 8th Recce Regiment photgraphed at Ulft on 31 March 1945. The lightly armoured Recce cars were no match for German AT-guns (courtesy MKijs).
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
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  20. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Netterden GM.jpg
    Netterden as seen from the 'C' Coy position along the Revenseweg (or Papekamp on the wartime map), to the north of the village. The enemy resistance was centered in the area to the south of the village church (courtesy Google Maps).

    Netterden_Monument_Gesneuvelde_Canadese_Soldaten.jpg
    A small monument in Netterden commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
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