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

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

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    My thanks to you both!!
     
  2. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Just thought I would mention that the book "Look to Your Front... Regina Rifles a Regiment at War 1944-1945" by Gordon Brown and Terry Copp is available here: http://saskhistoryonline.ca/islandora/object/usask:2329#page/201/mode/2up Starting at page 185 is quite a detailed personal account of the fighting for Emmerich and beyond, by Lieutenant J W Keith.

    I assume from the website, which is run by USask, that this is legal and so on.
     
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  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi all,

    I've been trying to establish circumstances around the first Archers + anti-tank guns being sent across in the 51 Division area and looking up map coordinates in anti-tank war diaries and now understand that (of 51 Division's anti-tank regiment) 241 Battery's tactical HQ was set up smack dab in one of 7BW's locations at 0800 on the morning of the 24th. (Pottdechel, listed as a C company position in post #4). This corresponds with the date of a photograph of an Archer going on what must be a class 50/60 raft on that date which has also been posted in the thread.

    This part of 61 Anti-Tank Regiment's Operation Order No 5 explains some things:

    61AT.jpg

    The regiment's batteries were 241, 242, 243, and 193. 193's Archers had been involved in the
    overnight barrage, and also some of the towed 17-prs. I'm afraid I have to go so I have to cut this short for now. But I believe 73 Anti-Tank Regiment was the corps regiment and it is interesting to see some of the coordination here. First, the corps unit was setting up 17 prs on the near side of the Rhine to cover the flanks. Also, 234 Battery (of 73 Anti-Tank Regiment) was put under command of 61 Anti-Tank Regiment for the crossing and given a higher priority than 193 Battery (not shown). My suspicion is that 234 Battery was probably equipped with M10Cs with 17-pounders.

    241 Battery setting up in the 7BW area - or at least its HQ - makes sense in conjunction with orders to coordinate anti-tank defence on the 'north' bank.

    PS stolpi, is there any mention of anti-tank forces reinforcing 7BW in their war diary?


    edited PS: I suspect I would need something like message traffic like the Canadian brigade war diaries, and I don't think those exist in British records.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2022
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  4. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Bienen south.png

    Hi Chris,

    I made a timeline of the actions involving German Sp guns at Bienen. I am telling this in my own words but it is based on the War Diary of the 7 ASH, the War Diary of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, the war Diary of 115th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the article "Mar. 25 Anniversary of Bienen" in "Mayflower" (regimental news journal of the NNSH, published on March 24, 1946 in Varel/Germany) and the accounts of Bienen residents. I know the article by Lee Windsor but I find it a bit confusing with too much fluff...


    24 March
    Maria Kleinpass, nee Epping, lived in the Winterkamp area in Bienen and gave this account in 1980:
    „The next day, March 24th, in the morning German tanks appeared. They ploughed through our garden and took up positions with their guns pointing towards Esserden and the area of the dyke. The tanks opened fire, apparently there was an attempt to retake Esserden. ... A truck arrived at our house. Loaded with ammunition that was supposed to be stored here – apparently it was ammunition for the tanks. We protested against this so the truck moved on to a barn nearby. ... One of the three tanks positioned near our house was damaged by a shell. One of the crew – who had taken cover beneath the tank – was killed. The other two crew members were injured by shell fragment."

    Maria Tepahs, nee Becker, told me this in 1994:
    "Early on Saturday we heard the sound of tracks of heavy vehicles. German tanks and assault guns came. The house was vibrating. They took up positions protected by the houses around the Kirchplatz (church square). One drove into a dung pit between Aryus and Koester, using its tracks to dig itself into the dung in oder to improve its cover. Our father tried to keep them from taking up these positions between the houses – but he couldn’t do anything about it. Immediately afterward English fighter bombers appeared and shot up everything and threw bombs. The tank near my parents’ house received a direct hit and caught fire. Fortunately the one in the dung pit was not hit, otherwise the Aryus’ house – where we were at the time – would also have caught fire.“

    Former paratroop Sergeant Hans Hessmer told this to Bienen historian Josef Becker in 1994:
    „On Saturday March 24th in the course of the morning the tanks around the church square were attacked by enemy figher bombers with rockets. We were taking cover but after they had made a turn we saw what the effect was. A tank crew member – I suppose the tank commander – had taken cover outside of his tank. Desperately he called for a crowbar. His tank had received a hit and the hatch could neither be opened from the inside nor the outside. We heard the desperate shouts of those inside, and fume was rising from the inside. Shortly afterwards there was an explosion – the ammo inside had gone up. We knew then that we couldn’t save anyone. The house nearby, which had been our quarters, caught fire.“

    afternoon:
    B Coy 7 ASH attacked farm 054563 (Rossmueller farm or “Argyle farm” in British accounts). When it approached the farm SP guns on the southern edge of Bienen and many machine guns positioned along the dyke opened fire and offered heavy resistance. B Coy eventually withdrew back to Rosau. The SP guns were likely the ones in the Winterkamp area mentioned by Maria Kleinpass.

    20.00 hrs
    D-Coy 7 ASH tries to attack farm 054563. Machine gun positions around the farm were taken by the point of bayonet. The farm was taken, 60 German POW, mostly 115th Pz Gren Reg

    25 March
    02.30 hrs

    A-Coy 7 ASH with one troop of Staffordshire Yeomanry ordered to advance from area of Rosau farm to the southern edge of Bienen via farm 054563 held by D-Coy. Meanwhile Bienen was subjected to heavy artillery concentrations. When A-Coy advanced further from farm 054563 it came under heavy fire from SP guns and machine guns which were observed to be mostly firing from southern edge of Bienen. Commander of DD-troop of Staffordshire Yeomanry was killed. All possible means to advance were tried, among those a flanking movement to the right. It was planned to reach the crossroads at 058564, where at least one SP gun and several machine guns had been observed. Under heavy machine gun fire the leading platoon had to stop after little progress had been made. The Brigadier decided that is was impossible to take Bienen with two companies, A-Coy withdrew to 054563.

    05.00 hrs
    Enemy launched a counterattack against farm 054563, German infantry, supported by SP guns advanced along the dyke towards the farm (this means that they came from then north, i.e. the centre of Bienen). They were subjected to heavy defensive fire and the attack was broken up. No more enemy attacks were attempted but the area was subject to accurate fire from German mortars and artillery. The remnant of two companies of 7 ASH held on to the farm 054563. All in all 7 ASH had lost 103 men KIA, wounded or missing at Bienen.

    08.00 hrs
    North Nova Scotia Highlanders supposed to attack with two companies – they have to make their way from Rosau to the farm 054563 – but the approaches were exposed and the cover afforded by the farm very restricted. Both Canadian companies decided to advance to the left of the dyke but come under fire when rounding a a slight curve short of the farm. Under machine gun fire they had to cross over the crest of the dyke. A troop of tanks of the Staffordshire Yeomanry got up to them at the farm, the area was to be the start line for the attack.

    9.00 hrs
    When the attack started heavy machine gun fire from the right pinned down the right company, the left company was fired on by machine guns from their front. No ground was gained, the two companies (A and B) were pretty well used up. Now C and D Coys move up to the farm at 054563 – which is getting quite congested with troops and becomes a favourite target for German fire. This discourages the tanks and they keep their distance from the farm. A smoke screen for the right flank is ordered.

    14.30 hrs
    The attack by C- and D-Coy of the North Nova Scotias started. D-Coy went north along the dyke accompanied by DD-tanks of the Staffordshire Yeomanry, C Coy to the east along the road to Winterkamp, accompanied by Shermans of 4th/7th Dragoons and a section of Wasps - and apparently by Canadian SP anti-tank guns.

    14.45 hrs
    C-Coy has reached first houses on the southern fringe of Bienen (Winterkamp). A and B Coys passed through C-Coy and advanced into Bienen, tanks stayed on the fringe and brought down heavy fire on centre of the village.

    15.30 hrs
    The war diary of 115th Panzergrenadier-Regiment records at the same time: "Enemy attack supported by tanks on both sides of Bienen-Speldrop road, supported by tanks."

    The Canadians report that the tanks fired at the houses while C-Coy reached a waterfilled ditch that went through Bienen. More houses were cleared and occupied, some Germans surrendered, now C-Coy had a solid defensive base inside Bienen. But the fire coming from the northern edge of Bienen was still intense. The anti-tank guns took up position near a cornerhouse and fired at a building that apparently held a German position. One tank of B-Squadron of Staffordshire Yeomanry was "bazooka-ed" (as reported in the war diary of British 8th Armored Brigade for March 25th)

    17.00 hrs
    C-Coy to push forward and clear remainder of CLAW (WD NNSH, 25 March).

    17:45 hrs
    C-Coy to continue to WING (WD NNSH, 25 March)

    18.15 hrs
    C-Coy reports two halftracks or tanks in WING and that two Shermans were knocked out and one of the SP guns knocked out. Enemy SP guns had penetrated the leading platoons of C-Coy and the company fell back to A Coy positions to dig in and prepare for counter attack (WD NNSH, 25 March) The account in the "Mayflower" article probably refers to the same engagement: "Some time after dark the Germans organized a counterattack supported by two tanks. They regained some ground and knocked out one of the tanks but lost one of theirs and were forced to withdraw by C Coy."
    Bienen Nord.png
    24.00 hrs
    By midnight a firm line had been formed across the middle of the village and the HLI of Canada passed through.

    26 March
    Until the morning the HLI had cleared all of Bienen. The new frontline was now north/northwest of Bienen to the southwestern of Millingen. In the afternoon the Canadians attacked Millingen.

    13.30 hrs
    Germans have withdrawn the majority of their shattered units to the northern edge of Millingen. But still a counterattack was ordered - so one German SP gun accompanied by 50 infantrymen moved through Millingen towards a column of tanks and Canadian infantry approaching on the winding road from Bienen (Millinger Strasse). The German SP gun fired some shells at the Canadians and stopped their advance for the time being. The 115th Panzergrenadier-Regiment was supposed to leave the area and deploy south of Bocholt, further east. But the German unit could not leave until another unit (18 Paratroop Regiment) had replaced them. Later that evening the 115th Pz Gren Regiment was released and redeployed further to the east.

    17.00 hrs
    The Canadians attack Millingen and take the village

    Finally, the relevant page from the "Mayflower"-article:
    Mayflower p 2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2022
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  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Two thoughts on SPs (the only thing I am qualified to comment on really!) -

    What was your source for Canadian SPs supporting the attack at 14:30 on the 25th? I do have from the Battery war diary (which I've now sent you, sorry I didn't mention it before) "I Tp moved up toward Bienen with the NNSH" on 25 March although no time is specified. I assumed it was later because the recorded action in which they took part was in the night, but it does seem possible that they were there in a supporting role, maybe firing on buildings. (I Troop was the SP troop, G and H had towed guns)

    I am alert to any mention of SPs and saw the mention of one being knocked out at 18:15. I see the original text in the NNSH war diary which does not specify Canadian or German... but there is no mention of a loss in even the Canadian Battery war diary so I would lean on it probably being a German one. Is that your interpretation?
     
  6. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Chris,
    I have my doubts now about the 14.30 htrs attack regarding 17 pdr SP guns.

    Stacey in the Victory Campaign writes this on p 539:
    "...with the help of armour and Wasps, Lt.-Col. Forbes mounted a new attack against the village. By the end of the day his men had penetrated the southern portion; but their casualties had been very severe-114, of which 43 were fatal. As the North Nova Scotias' diarist wrote, it had been "a long, hard, bitter fight against excellent troops who were determined to fight to the end". Helped by a troop of 17-pounder self-propelled guns of the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment R.C.A., The Highland Light Infantry of Canada now took over the task of clearing the rest of Bienen."

    This suggests that the Canadian SP guns entered the fight later in the evening of the 25th.

    I have a Canadian source that states something different - but I only have it in a German translation. It might be be based on an excerpt from "No Retreating Footsteps" by Will R Bird. It might have been given to us in 2001 by Major Dave Dickson when he visited Bienen. But I cannot confirm this - it's too long ago.. Can you get access to the book?

    Here's the German text, published in Josef Becker's (a Bienen local historian) book - there it is attributed to the "regimental history" of the NNSH:
    "Der Angriff sollte in weit auseinandergezogener Formation vorgetragen werden. Der 15. Zug übernahm die Führung, gefolgt vom 13. Zug und der Kompaniestabsgruppe, den Panzern und dem 14. Zug. Die Angriffsreihen sollten einander in einem Abstand von etwa 25 Metern folgen. Die „ Waps“ und die Panzerabwehrgeschütze bildeten die Nachhut. Nebelgranaten gingen immer noch im Dorf und auf freiem Feld, das vor der Kompanie lag, nieder. Rechts hielten die Mörser die Nebelwand durch ihr Feuer aufrecht.

    Als die Kompanie begann das freie Feld zu überqueren, setzte das schreckliche Rasseln der MGs ein. Einer nach dem andern wurde getroffen und ging zu Boden. Die Attacke lief weiter. Major Winhold schaute nach hinten, ein Soldat zehn Meter hinter ihm bekam einen Schuß durch die Brust. Drei Mann fielen zu seiner Linken. Doch der Angriff ging weiter. Die Panzer rollten im Schrittempo, deswegen kletterte Winhold auf eins der Kettenfahrzeuge und bat die Besatzung schneller zu fahren. Dann begann die Kompanie ihren Sturmangriff. Die Panzer eröffneten das Feuer auf die Häuser und andere Ziele und das Artilleriefeuer hörte auf, während die C-Kompanie auf einen wassergefüllten Graben stieß, der entlang einer von Nordosten nach Südwesten durch Bienen führenden Straße verlief. Der 15. Zug der von Lieutenant Myers hervorragend angeführt worden war, griff sofort quer über die Straße an und enterte die Häuser auf der andere Seite. Major Winhold rief den anderen zu, den Graben entlang bis zum Haus an der Kreuzung zu kriechen. Während sie sich so fortbewegten, erhob sich im Bereich des Dorfes ein Dutzend Deutscher mit erhobenen Händen. Zwei Mann krochen vor Winhold, sie erreichten die Kreuzung und flitzten ins Haus. Winhold folgte ihnen. Andere kamen nach, wurden an den Fenstern postiert und bekamen ein Schußfeld zugewiesen- allmählich wurde so eine verhältnismäßig solide Verteidigungsposition geschaffen, die im Falle eines Gegenangriffes, den Winhold für wahrscheinlich hielt, von Nutzen sein würde. Die Panzer standen im Feld hinter dem Haus und bestrichen das Dorf mit ihrem Feuer. Lieutenant Roper führte den 13. Zug über die Straße und säuberte die ersten drei Häuser.

    Man hatte im Dorf Fuß gefaßt, die C-Kompanie hatte sich an der Straße festgesetzt. Das Feuer vom Nordrand des Dorfes war noch immer heftig; deswegen gingen die Panzerabwehrgeschütze in der Nähe des Eckhauses in Stellung und beschossen ein Gebäude, das scheinbar eine gegnerische Stellung beherbergte.

    Im letzten Dämmerlicht des Tages erhielt die C-Kompanie den Befehl weiter nach Norden vorzurücken, um Gebäude zu säubern während die B-Kompanie nordwärts nach links vorzurücken hatte. Zwei Straßen verliefen parallel in nördliche Richtung und die C-Kompanie ging links mit dem 13. Zug und rechts mit dem 14. Zug vor, ihnen folgten Panzer und ein Zug Panzerabwehrgeschütze."

    Just for fun I ran it through the "Deepl" translator - with a remarkable result. I only had two correct to expressions:
    "The attack was to be made in widely spread formation. The 15th Platoon took the lead, followed by the 13th Platoon and the company staff group, the tanks, and the 14th Platoon. The assault lines were to follow each other at a distance of about 25 meters. The " waps" and the antitank guns made up the rearguard. Smoke shells were still going down in the village and in open fields that lay in front of the company. On the right, mortars kept up the smoke screen with their fire.
    As the company began to cross the open field, the terrible rattle of the machine guns began. One by one they were hit and went down. The attack continued. Major Winhold looked behind, a soldier ten meters behind him got a shot through the chest. Three men fell to his left. But the attack continued. The tanks were rolling at a walking pace, so Winhold climbed onto one of the tracked vehicles and asked the crew to speed up. Then the company began its assault. The tanks opened fire on the houses and other targets, and the artillery fire ceased while C Company hit a water-filled ditch that ran along a road running northeast to southwest through Bienen. The 15th Platoon, which had been superbly led by Lieutenant Myers, immediately attacked across the road and entered the houses on the other side. Major Winhold shouted to the others to crawl along the ditch to the house at the crossroads. As they moved along in this way, a dozen Germans rose in the area of the village with their hands raised. Two men crawled in front of Winhold, they reached the crossroads and dashed into the house. Winhold followed them. Others followed, were posted at the windows and assigned a field of fire- gradually creating a relatively solid defensive position that would be useful in the event of a counterattack, which Winhold thought likely. The tanks were in the field behind the house and were spraying the village with their fire. Lieutenant Roper led the 13th Platoon across the road and cleared the first three houses.
    A foothold had been gained in the village, and C Company was entrenched on the road. Fire from the northern edge of the village was still heavy; therefore, the antitank guns moved into position near the corner house and shelled a building that appeared to house an enemy position.
    In the last twilight of the day, C Company was ordered to advance further north to clear buildings while B Company was ordered to advance northward to the left. Two roads ran parallel in a northerly direction and C Company advanced on the left with the 13th Platoon and on the right with the 14th Platoon, they were followed by tanks and a platoon of antitank guns."

    Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2022
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  7. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Another find: An Intel Summary of 43rd Brit. Inf Div for March 26th which I discovered in the War Diary of the Highland Light Infantry of Canada:
    Intel Summary_43rd Div_26 March - Kopie.png
     
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  8. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi alberk,

    Interesting stuff, thank you for sharing! I can get access to No Retreating Footsteps. I know have a long list of books to check at the Toronto Reference Library and I will probably visit it June 23 or 24.

    Since we're looking at all of this, I might check heritage.canadiana.ca to see if the Brigade war diary includes message traffic as that might be a useful additional source. I may have looked for that and not found it, though.
     
  9. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Chris,

    the War Diary of 9th Can Brig does not contain details that are of help or relevant in this particular case - I checked that.
     
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  10. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi all,

    I note that the 1BW war diary wrote of the battle at Speldrop: "24.0600 The situation in SPELDROP now deteriorated rapidly with a sharp counter-attack down the main road from the NORTH-EAST supported by 3 Tks and 2 SP guns." (Post #7, I think)

    Is there corroborating evidence for perhaps Mk IV tanks as opposed to SP guns? Or do you think the mention of tanks is due to misidentification/confusion?
     
  11. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Chris,
    I don't know of any corroborating sources. There is an Intel Summary of Brit. 43rd Inf Div for the time until 26 March which has some statistics on enemy org and equipment. It also includes statements by POW - one even mentions Mark V tanks - but this in not corroborated elsewhere. And I doubt that one POW's statements are a corroboration of anything, rather it's a piece of a mosaic...
    Intel Summary_43rd Div_part 2.png
     
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