Tour of Northeast Holland

Discussion in 'WW2 Battlefields Today' started by 17thDYRCH, Aug 27, 2015.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    In the afternoon we visited Zutphen on the IJssel River, with its nice historical town center.

    Zutphen town.jpg

    In 1945 it was the scene of much bitter fighting between the 8th Cdn Inf Bde and a Parachute Training Bn of the 3rd Parachute Division. We visited the bridge on the NE side of the old town center which was taken by the North Shore Regiment on April 8th, 1945; then named Larebrug but renamed after the war as the "Canadian's Bridge". It played a key role in the liberation of the town. For the location of the bridge see Canadian's Bridge Zutphen - Zutphen - TracesOfWar.com

    Zutphen - Canadian's Bridge- April 8'45 3rd Div   NSR.jpg

    Liberation of Zutphen:




    The Cdn 3rd Inf Div covering the left flank of 2nd Cdn Corps swept the area immediately east of the IJssel River, but did not manage to capture intact any of the bridges across this river. The bridges at Westervoort, Doesburg , Zutphen, Deventer and Zwolle all were destroyed by the retreating Germans. Thus the 1st Cdn Corps, responsible for clearing western Holland, later, on April 11th, 1945, had to make a River Crossing assault.

    Map of the operations along the IJsel:
    Zutphen - Deventer.jpg

    Moving up to the Holten War Cemetery we passed through the villages of Bathmen and Lettele. Both have a small memorial/plaque dedicated to the Canadian soldiers who fell during the liberation of the locality. They are exemplary for the many more scattered all over NE Holland.

    Bathmen:
    Memorial at Bathman NL.jpg

    The monument at Lettele, with the foundation blocks of a V1 launching site which was located in the nearby woods. The village is not far from Holten. There were several of these V1 - and even V2 - launching sites nearby, built in October 1944 to fire their deadly loads towards Antwerp. See also Memorial Fallen Canadian Soldiers - Lettele - TracesOfWar.com and Lanceerplaats V1 Lettele - Lettele - TracesOfWar.com
    V1 foundation blocks - Lettele NL.jpg Lettele - Memorial to Royal Canadian Dragoons.jpg

    Last visit of day 3 was the Holten Cemetery and the Information Center next to it. More on the latter: http://www.canadesebegraafplaatsholten.nl/ENG/index.html
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Day 4 - We stayed that night at Dalfsen, a small village hard east of the larger town of Zwolle.

    Dalfsen Vecht.jpg

    Dalfsen was taken by the Highland Light Infantry of Canada (9th Cdn Inf Bde) in the early morning of April 13, 1945. The Germans had blown the bridge across the small Vecht River, that seperated the town from the advancing Canadians, but then had vacated the area. By now the Germans were on the run, fleeing either to the west, to the still occupied parts of western Holland, or to the north-east towards the Reich. With the help of two Dutch peat boats the Canadian troops were ferried across the Vecht River. Here a delirious population who had assembled on the northern river bank gave them a great reception, according to the War Diary of the HLI of C even the town's brass band turned out to the riverside.

    010-foto.jpg
    Soldiers of the HLI of C embark on one of the peat boats:
    Dalfsen.jpg

    Fragment of the War Diary of the HLI of C (courtesy Dryan):
    HLI Dalfsen.jpg HLI Dalfsen 2.jpg

    Brigadier J.M. Rockingham was photographed in the center of Dalfsen conferring with officers of the 9th CIB and the Royal Canadian Engineers. The latter worked untill midnight to bridge the Vecht River. On the 14th of April the move to the north towards Zwolle, Meppel and Steenwijk continued.

    While in haste, we were unable to retrieve the exact location of the picture, which must have been taken somewhere around the church in the center, so took this then and 'now' of Dalfsen:
    Dalfsen Rockingham.jpg Dalfsen NL  9th Brigade HQ.jpg

    At Dalfsen we left the footsteps of the 3rd Cdn Inf Div and headed for Groningen. By the evening of April 13, 1945, the 2nd Cdn Inf Division, advancing to the north on a somewhat more easterly axis, had already reached the outskirts of Groningen, which was (and still is) the major town in northern Holland. On their way to Groningen the Canadians passed by Westerbork.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
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  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Westerbork - Liberating a Concentration Camp

    Westerbork.jpg

    Westerbork was the most notorious of camps in Holland, being a transition centre for Jews or as the Germans called it a "Durchgangslager". From the camp 107.000 men, women and children, including Anne Frank and her family, were deported in box-cars to extermination. Only 5.000 returned. Today there is a telling memorial at the spot where so many left on their final journey to the death camps in the east.

    Westerbork 2.jpg

    Westerbork 3.jpg Midden-Drenthe-20150918-00305.jpg

    The original wooden house of the Camp commander just outside the gate:
    Midden-Drenthe-20150918-00306.jpg

    Box cars at the railway ramp inside the camp:

    box cars Westerbork.jpg

    On average 50 to 60 people were stowed into each box car. There was a thin layer of straw on the floor, no food or water and one bucket as a sanitary facility, which overflowed within the first hour. Trains, each about 20 boxcars long, left the camp on an almost weekly basis. Between July 1942, the start of the Entjüdung (or dejudaization) of Holland, and September 1944 a number of 93 trains left the camp. The Frank family was deported on 3 September 1944 to Auschwitz with one of the last trains to leave the camp. Nearly 35.000, one third of the deported people, went directly to the notorious camp of Sobibor and to certain death.

    The former centre court of the camp, where the roll cals were held each day, is now turned into a monument with 102.000 small stones symbolizing the camp prisoners who stood here at the call over and were deported never to return:

    Midden-Drenthe-20150918-00309.jpg

    Westerbork 2.jpg

    Midden-Drenthe-20150918-00310.jpg Midden-Drenthe-20150918-00311.jpg Midden-Drenthe-20150918-00309.jpg

    When the Canadians liberated the camp on April 12th, 1945, there were 876 people inside. 500 of them had seen the last train leave, the rest had been interned during the last months of the war.

    Major George J. Blackburn also passed by the camp in his carrier. Blackburn: "In a moment you are surrounded by men and women of all ages yelling and whimpering, their eyes full of pure, raw joy. Skinny arms reach out to touch you. Weak hands clutch at a sleeve of your battledress and stroke the side of the carrier as though reassuring themselves you are real".

    For further impressions of the camp site: Kamp Westerbork - Wikipedia and Waar ligt Nationaal Monument Kamp Westerbork - Hooghalen - TracesOfWar.nl and in Beeld en Geluid Version: 0.28
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
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  4. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    THE BATTLE FOR GRONINGEN, April 13 - 16, 1945

    Lt_-Dave-Heap-kijkt-naar-het-bord-van-de-stad-Groningen-aan-de-Paterswoldseweg_1.jpg

    The battle for Groningen lasted from late afternoon of April 13th until the morning of April 16th. Possession of the city, an important road-hub that controls most of the communications in the north, effectively would sever Holland from Germany. Groningen therefore had to be taken.

    During our tour we covered the advance into the town's southern suburbs by the 4th Cdn Inf Bde and the mopping up of the old inner city by the 6th Cdn Inf Bde. While the balance of 2nd Cdn Inf Div fought its way into the city center from the south, the 5th Cdn Inf Bde outflanked Groningen to the west and moved into the northern part of the city, eventually cornering the German garrison in the city center. The plan was to rent a bicycle, but, much to the delight of DYRCH ;), as we arrived at the local bike-shop there were no bikes left.

    Sketch map of the battle for Groningen:
    Battle for Groningen.jpg

    The battle for the town opened in late afternoon of Friday, April 13th, along the main access road from the south, the Paterswoldseweg. Leading the 4th Bde advance were the RHLI, supported by Sherman tanks of the Fort Garry Horse. One Sherman was knocked out by a Panzerfaust and came to a halt against the wall of the houses bordering the road, setting a whole appartment block on fire.

    Groningen - KOd Sherman Paterswoldseweg.jpg Groningen-20150918-00314.jpg

    Nowadays a plaque attached to the house commemorates Trooper Butterworth, the driver of the Sherman tank, who fell as one of the first victims in the battle for the city.
    Groningen-20150918-00313.jpg Groningen - Paterwoldseweg- April 13'45 FGH  Butterworth KIA.jpg F.Butterworth FGH.jpg

    It took the RHLI until next morning, the 14th, to clear up the enitire area along the Paterswoldseweg. Note how the overjoyed civilians seem totally oblivious of the dangers of the still ongoing fighting. The Niemeijer tobacco plant, across the railway overpass, still exists. The building still is painted in white. The Rileys however failed to secure the 'Parkbrug' across the Hoornse Diep canal, which gave access to the other southern suburbs and the railway station area. The bridge, which was still intact, the Dutch bridge keeper had not heeded the German order to open up the bridge but instead had fled the scene, was defended by well sited machine gun positions in the houses on the opposite bank of the canal.
    Groningen - Paterswoldseweg.jpg Niemeijer.jpg

    Groningen - Paterswoldseweg 2.jpg Niemeijer 2.jpg

    In two days the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry lost 11 men killed in action:
    001 COLFORD LM F/9639 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    002 DES ROCHES N G/5195 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    003 DUCLOS JEE B/59171 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    004 GRANT WH F/64768 - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    005 HAWKE CW B/625542 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    006 HAZLETT SA B/159256 - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    007 HERMAN T - - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    008 KENNEY HA G/24242 - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    009 LOOSER WJ B/158882 - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    010 MACLEOD JT F/45568 - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C.
    011 SOLOSE JJ B/628567 - 13/04/1945 ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY, R.C.I.C
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Am enjoying this thread but would be nice to see some pics of the intrepid battlefield explorers too. ;)
     
  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    TOWARDS THE INNER CITY (APRIL 14TH)

    Two hours after midnight, on the 14th, two companies of the Royal Regiment of Canada silently crossed the dark 'Hoornse Diep' canal in small boats at the local shipyards to the south of the 'Parkbrug', so as to outflank the German strongpoint at the bridge. They immediately started to clear the blocks of houses on the other side of the canal, working their way up to the bridge and the main railway station. This again involved much house-to-house fighting.

    Parkbrug Groningen.jpg

    The Parkbrug fell to the Royals just before dawn, though it was still covered by fire from an enemy quadruple 20mm Flak gun positioned at the eastern end of the Parkweg, which fired straight down the road on anyone attempting to pass over the bridge. Later that morning the Flak gun was knocked out by a Canadian 17-pounder gun of the 2nd AT Regt in a direct gun battle. Lt. Herbert P. Croome, leader of "B" Troop, 2nd AT Regt, earned a MC for this action.

    Groningen Croome.jpg

    Picture below: the bridge and houses beyond were on the receiving end of the German ack-ack.
    Groningen Parkbrug 1.jpg

    Parkweg Bridge - Groningen  RRof Canada April 14'45.jpg

    [​IMG]On the bridge keeper's house is a small plaque commemorating Pte McCormick, one of the (young) Royals who fell during the fighting on the 14th; see also Gedenkplaat Parkbrug - Groningen - TracesOfWar.com:

    Plaque in memory of Pte McCormick RR of Canada  April 14'45.jpg

    The Royal Regiment of Canada lost 8 men killed in action on that day:
    001 ESSERY FJ B/126826 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    002 MATVICHUK S M/1415 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    003 MCCORMICK TJW D/142898 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    004 MILNER C B/117461 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    005 MULVIHILL TP B/142765 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    006 REID GC B/123543 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    007 WALLACE RR B/158208 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.
    008 WILSON JH M/5885 - 14/04/1945 ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADA, R.C.I.C.

    Groningen Main Station.jpg
    When the Royal Regiment of Canada reached Groningen Railway Station it faced the moated inner city. The canal in front of the station, the Verbindingskanaal, blocked all further advance. Picture of the railway station (brick building in the background) and the Verbindingskanaal as seen from the Heerebrug.

    The railway station is another of the Major George J. Blackburn sites we encountered. From his hide-out inside one of the outbuildings of the station he spotted some activity on the boulevard, known as Ubbo Emaussingel, beyond the canal. Major Blackburn: "Immediately you spot, in a tree lined street just beyond the canal, two German camouflaged staff cars sitting in front of a large house. As you give the map reference to Kotyk for transmittal back to Doherty manning the big 19-set in the carrier, who will send it back to the guns as a Troop target, you see a German rush out to the car with a package and rush back in. Obviously this is some sort of headquarters and they are packing up to leave (...) shortly you hear the shells whinig in from the left. Instantly the tree-lined street is filled with flashes and dust,and when it settles, a whoop of delight goes up from the infantrymen who have collected to watch, for one car is burning fiercely (maybe both), sending up black columns of smoke".

    Ubbo Emmaussingel.jpg

    The Ubbo Emmaussingel opposite the Railway Station then and now:

    [​IMG]
    Staff Car location as called in by Maj. George Blackburn MC  April 14_45.jpg

    Meanwhile, having knocked out the German ack-ack, the Essex Scottish moved forward along the Parkweg and slowly cleared the build up area in the direction of the Heereweg. This again involved much house-to-house fighting. When this was accomplished it was decided to try to jump the big moat of the Verbindingskanaal by crossing the Heerebrug. In late afternoon one infantry company of the Essex Scottish Regiment, mounted in Kangaroos, stormed across the Heerebrug and, after a fierce battle, managed to establish a tiny bridgehead across the Verbindingskanaal. One of the Kangaroos was KO' d by a Panzerfaust. Thus the Essex gained a foothold within the moated inner city, which could be exploited next day, April 15th, by the infantry of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde.

    The action at the Heerebrug yielded Major Douglas W. McIntyre, CO of 'A'Company, of the Essex Scottish Regiment, an immediate DSO:
    McIntyre Essex Groningen.jpg McIntyre Essex Groningen 2.jpg

    Four members of the Essex Scottish fell on April 14th,1945:
    001 DUNCAN WG A/104626 - 14/04/1945 ESSEX SCOTTISH REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    002 SANDS RE A/50594 - 14/04/1945 ESSEX SCOTTISH REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    003 TASKER WD A/110665 - 14/04/1945 ESSEX SCOTTISH REGIMENT, R.C.I.C.
    004 WRIGHT MM A/116480 - 14/04/1945 ESSEX SCOTTISH REGIMENT, R.C.I.C

    Groningen - Herebrug.jpg
    The Heerebrug then and now; the body of a killed German soldier is still lying on the sidewalk. Probably killed by the Royals at the Railway Station, while attempting to flee across the bridge to the inner city . The bridge is a little out of joint by the impact of the Kangaroos that dashed across it.

    Groningen - Heere Bridge April 15 ' 45.jpg

    That night the old historical inner city of Groningen was burning, many of the fires being deliberately set to the buildings by the Germans.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 15, 2018
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  7. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    GRONINGEN BATTLE FOR THE INNER CITY (15 AND 16 APRIL 1945)

    [​IMG]

    On the 15th the 6th Cdn Inf Bde, supported by tanks of the Fort Garry Horse, started mopping up the Germans from the inner city of Groningen. This involved another day of large scale street-fighting, a slow and difficult process. The 6th Brigade operated on a two battalion front: the South Saskatchewan Regiment cleared the westerly half of the city and advanced in the direction of the Vismarkt, Les Fusiliers Mont Royal cleared the easterly half of the city up to the main square, the Grote Markt, with the 96,8 metres high church tower, known as the Martini Toren.On the 16th the last of the German garrison surrendered.

    We followed the route of the Fusiliers Mont Royal.

    Harbour area of 'B' Squadron of the Fort Garry Horse at the Parkwegschool, a school building located along the Parkweg, scene of the heavy street-fighting of the previous day (the Parkweg bridge is visible in the background of the 'now' picture below). From here the Squadron's troops of Sherman tanks sallied forward to support the infantry in the street-fighting in the inner city.

    Groningen - Parkschool.jpg

    Parkwegschool.jpg

    Scenes of the fighting & aftermath of the battle:


    and
    Bevrijding van stad Groningen



    Heresingel/corner Rademarkt
    Radesingel FMR.jpg
    Heresingel hoek Rademarkt.jpg

    Radesingel
    Radesingel FMR2.jpg
    Radesingel FMR2 now.jpg

    Verlengde Oosterstraat
    Groningen - Oosterstraat.jpg
    Groningen - Oosterstraat April 15' 45.jpg

    Gedempte Zuiderdiep/corner verlengde Oosterstraat
    Groningen Oosterstraat - Grote Markt.jpg
    Groningen Oosterstraat - Grote Markt now.jpg

    Oosterstraat
    Groningen - Oosterstraat 1.jpg
    Groningen - Oosterstraat 1 now.jpg

    Grote Markt with Martini Toren
    Grote Markt 1945.jpg
    Grote Markt 1945 now.jpg

    Guldenstraat
    Groningen - Guldenstraat.jpg
    Groningen - Guldenstraat now.jpg

    When Major George Bergeron, CO of 'A' Coy, Les Fusiliers Mont Royal, fell on the 15th, Lt.Col Jaques A. Dextraze, immediately went forward and personnaly led the attack. His handling of the operation earned him a Bar to his DSO. Next day, Colonel Dextraze negotiated the surrender of the last of the German garrison. When two German adjudants of the garrison Headquartes approached the Canadians waving a white flag, Dextraze, accompanied by an interpreter and two privates, went back with the officers to the German HQ and in a ten-minute talk convinced the garrison's commander of the futility of the German position. Some 600 Germans gave up the fight and surrendered.
    Dextraze 1.jpg Dextraze 2.jpg

    A plaque at the former German HQ building commemorates the final surrender of the town: Plaques Former Archives - Groningen - TracesOfWar.com

    Major Bergeron now rests on the Holten War Cemetery:
    Rijssen-Holten-20150917-00301.jpg

    The 2nd Cdn Inf Div lost 209 men at Groningen, including 43 killed. The Germans lost about 130 men killed, some 2.400 were taken prisoner. The large-scale street fighting inside the densely populated areas inevitable took a toll among the civilians; 110 civilians lost their lives during the fighting, even though the Canadians acted extremely cautious, making minimal use of their heavy weapons, especially artillery.

    After concluding our visit to Groningen we moved across the border to Germany to the town of Leer.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018
  8. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Stolpi,

    Great find with the you tube clip.
     
  9. Pieter F

    Pieter F Very Senior Member

    Amazing posts Stolpi and 17thDYRCH. Very interesting!
     
  10. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Fantastic job by both of you, as usual.
     
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  11. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    One of the stories of the 7th Recce Regiment comes from the WD dated April 25, 1945.
    A three man patrol led by Cpl. H. Goldberg was patrolling near Driever, Germany.

    From the WD:

    A foot patrol of three men under Cpl Goldberg was sent from Driever to investigate the building at MR 787125. As they approached the buildings they came under small arms fire and were also on the receiving end of some grenades. They went to ground and returned the fire. They finally decided to withdraw. In the meantime an enemy patrol had worked around behind them and our patrol had been split. The two troopers returned to Driever, but Cpl Goldberg who had been slightly wounded in the leg was missing. The Squadron could not advance beyond Driever due to small arms and 75mm fire from the area MR803130. At 2215 hours a strong fighting patrol, twenty men under Lieut Lefebvre, went to check the buildings at MR787125 and to see if they could find any trace of Cpl Goldberg.
    When they found that the enemy had evacuated the buildings they pushed on to Kloster-Muhde Square 8012. Slave labourers told them that the village was clear, but due to artillery shelling the town the patrol returned to Driever.

    From the Regimental History:
    The next day, as the troops moved forward, they moved through the ill fated postion at which Cpl. Goldberg was reported wounded and missing. A little further on they came across his grave and after some investigation it was established the this excellent N.C.O had died of wounds and had been properly buried by the Germans.

    One questions whether or not is was customary for Germans to bury Allied soldiers. And, more research is underway to determine the circumstances of Goldberg's demise.
     

    Attached Files:

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  12. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    David,
    Again...thank you for the WD's. They came in handy.
    And, resident expert Stolpi creates a great scene of the battlefield then and now.
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Randy

    All of the story so far has been actions of Canadian 2nd Corps - and before the 1st Corps joined them from Italy in the early spring of '45 in Belguim

    They did a fair bit of fighting as well

    Cheers
     
  14. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    No offence to the part 1 Canadian Corp played in the Liberation of the Netherlands, but Randy is following his Father's journey and his unit did not serve with them.
     
  15. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Ramacal

    Thought Randy was just outlining the liberation of Holland…..!

    Cheers
     
  16. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Tom

    Roger that. I did cover part of 5th Canadian Armoured Division during the 2012 tour. As you know, my wife's second cousin served with the Perth Regiment which, along side the Irish Regt., Westminster Regt, and Cape Breton Regt. were instrumental in clearing the Germans from the Delfzijl Pocket ( Stolpi knows I still cannot pronounce Delfzijl )
     
  17. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Tom,
    We are already discussing the 2016 tour which will cover in more detail the 1st Corp's actions around Arnhem and Appeldorn.

    Cheers
     
  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Please gents, have a little patience. We've covered part of 1st Corps actions on our last day... yes, our focus was 3rd Cdn Inf Div, because of DYRCH's father. We drifted a bit off to Groningen, because that's my old stomping ground :pipe:

    BTW Randy you pronounce it as: Delve-sale (Delfzijl)

    The other difficult ones were:

    Do-tin-gum (Doetinchem)

    Suit-van (Zutphen)

    Day-van-terr (Deventer)

    Grow-nyn-an (Groningen)

    A-duh (Ede)

    Waah-guh-nyn-an (Wageningen)
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018
  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    The morning of Day 5 was dedicated to Operation Duck - the River crossing of the 9th Cdn Inf Bde at the German town of Leer, April 28th, 1945.

    Many thanks to JohnS who wrote an excellent book on the operations in and around Leer. It came in handy as a guide.

    After the 3rd Cdn Inf Div had cleared the westerly half of northern Holland up to the Afsluitdijk, the division was turned to the east, across the the axis of the 2nd Cdn Inf Div, and started to advance into Germany. Not far across the border the division found the River Ems flowing astride it's path. Though the river line had been breached further downstream, the town of Leer, protected by the junction of the Ems and Leda, an eastern tributary, was still firm in German hands. Leer was the key to the north. The town controlled the roads to Emden and Aurich and therefore had te be taken. The assignement went to the 9th Cdn Inf Bde. It was decided to attack the town in a river assault with storm boats from three different sides ('Operation Duck'). Map of the crossing points:

    Leer Op Duck.jpg

    At Leer the Ems River and its eastern tributary form a real estuary and are tidal rivers. We visited the rivers in the morning at low tide. The large clay banks that fell open would have been impassable for the infantry and the receding water would have sucked the assault boats out towards the sea. An incoming tide also could endanger the operation, with the assault boats drifting away by the strong current. The most favorable moment to cross the river, it was figured out, would be when high tide reached its summit, which was at 15.00 hours - in broad daylight! A heavy artillery programm therefore was called for with ample of smoke screens to protect the infantry when they were at their most vulnerable out in their open boats on the water.

    (1) Crossing site of the River Leda at Esklum, where the North Nova Scotia Highlanders made a succesfull crossing. View from the German bank. Esklum is beyond the bund. Note the heavy clays.
    River Leda at Esklum.jpg

    (2) Leer Ort: the landing site of the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, they started the crossing somewhat further upstream on the Ems and landed on the spit of ground at the confluence of Ems and Leda, called Leer Ort. The Ems is on the left; the Leda in front.
    Leerort where HLI crossing on Apri 28 on the attack on Leer.jpg

    (3) The SD&G Highlanders crossed the Ems west of Leer. They launched their boats from the Bingumer Canal a small branch of the Ems river.
    Area where SDG's launched boats on the attack on Leer Germany Apri 28th.jpg Bingum Canal looking to the EMS  SDG crossing April 28.jpg

    .. they had to cross the much broader expanse of the Ems river and landed on the dykes across. The pictures were taken from the bridge, that is visible on the photo in the background of the Leer Ort crossing point.
    Ems SDG crossing point.jpg EMS dyke SDG landing point.jpg

    The Stormont Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders had an especially difficult time and lost 19 men killed in the crossing operation. Several of them drowned in the Ems River, when their storm boats were sunk by enemy fire:

    001 BIERNASKI FJ C/34053 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    002 BROOKS WJ B/127618 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    003 BROUGH LG D/175599 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    004 GRAVELLE SJ C/1977 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    005 HINDS JG C/122922 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    006 JOSLIN EH C/612040 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    007 LANGILLE IC F/86580 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    008 LAWES CA C/612520 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    009 MOORE MC C/121815 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    010 MUNROE FE F/57852 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    011 OSLUND SA B/155242 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    012 POWELL SD C/115150 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    013 SAWATZKY J B/116108 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    014 SMITH ED F/4948 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    015 SPENCER FW C/124540 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    016 STEWARD JA C/63815 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    017 SULLIVAN JE F/2515 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    018 THACKERAY RI B/117047 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    019 WAKELY GS C/123972 - 28/04/1945 STORMONT, DUNDAS AND GLENGARRY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
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  20. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    We leave Leer and proceed to Aurich Germany.

    It should be noted that the last two weeks of the war produced a large number of Canadian casualties including 490 fatalities. Of these, 114 died in May, including 12 on the last day of the war in Europe.

    With regard to the 17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars, the last two soldiers to die one day before the end of the war in the Netherlands were hit by sniper fire from a farm house very near the Ems - Jade Canal. With the aid of Owen and the War Diary we were able to locate the farmhouse and the road on which the patrol carrying Cpl Morrison and Sgt Dabbs was hit by a German sniper.

    We parked the car and walked around the area. A family was in the yard preparing a picnic. I was going to go over to them and tell them the significance of the farmhouse. But, decided that would be inappropriate. They were quite curious as to why all the photos were being taken.
     

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