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

    To eliminate the threat of the Hoch Elten feature it was saturated with shellfire. The enemy positions on the hill were submitted to a heavy artillery program, involving all of 2nd Cdn Corps artillery, including the 1st Cdn Rocket unit, and a "pepper-pot". In addition the feature was targeted several times by medium bombers (Mitchells). The hill was swamped by the shelling, which was so heavy that in some places its contour 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 especially proved its efficiency and effectiveness.

    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: though heavily damaged the St.Vitus Church braved all shellfire; a postwar image.

    Foto Hoch Elten.jpg
    Above and below: Two views of the Hoch Elten feature nowadays

    Hoch Elten.jpg

    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: Jan 29, 2022
  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.

    The village of Elten (church spire in the foreground) situated at the backside, or 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: Sep 24, 2020
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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 fatal casualties for this period.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
  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 building 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 it was ready General Crerar would take 2 Cdn Corps back under his wing and assume responsibility for the northward thrust of the Canadian forces 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.

    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).

    The Melville Bridge under construction

    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.

    Bailey bridge Emmerich.jpg
    Picture of the MacLean Bridge

    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.

    Some impressions of the bridge building at Emmerich (courtesy LAC Canada):
    Emmerich 4.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
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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:

    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:

    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)

    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. The big convent is to the left, not visible behind the trees (photos courtesy Bevrijding - Berghapedia).

    Same spot as previous pictures nowadays (courtesy Street View)

    Sherman Heerenberg.jpg
    A Troop of Sherman tanks enjoying a rest pause in the Hofstraat at 's Heerenberg (photo courtesy: Vrijheidsspecial '75 jaar vrijheid' - Stichting Herdenken Bevrijding Bergh)

    Sherman Heerenberg now.jpg
    The Hofstraat area today; the road leads up to the castle (courtesy Google Street View)
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2021
  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 effectively marked the end of the bridgehead battle, which on March 28th, the day 2nd Cdn Corps took over command, seamlessly transferred into 'Operation HAYMAKER'. From April 1st onwards, the operation focused on the breakout, 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

    Last edited: May 28, 2022
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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

    This picture, of Canadian soldiers taking a rest, was taken at the same spot where now the monument is (photo courtesy Bevrijding - Berghapedia).
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
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  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Map of the Canadian operations (2nd Cdn Corps) on the left flank of the Rhine Bridgehead (courtesy of www.canadiansoldiers.com)
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
  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 Patron

    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 Patron

    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 Division was fighting for Emmerich another large Canadian formation entered the Rees bridgehead: the 2nd Cdn Inf Division of Major-General A.B. Matthews. The 2nd Cdn Inf Division after a journey across the Rhineland from neighbourhood of Nijmegen, where it had been resting and refitting, started to cross the river on the night of 28 - 29 March. The planning of Operation "PLUNDER" visualized 2 Cdn Inf Div to become the spearhead of 2 Cdn Corps' northern advance, a drive all the way to the North Sea behind (east of) the enemy's prepared IJssel line with 4 Cdn Armd Div and 3 Cdn Inf Div on the right and left respectively (Op HAYMAKER).

    First to cross was the 6th Cdn Inf Brigade Group, under command of Brigadier J.V. Allard, which moved into the bridgehead west of Rees. The Brigade Group, including a field company R.C.E., an anti-tank battery, a squadron of 8 Cdn Recce and 10 Cdn Armd Regt (Fort Garry Horse), by 02:30 hrs of the 29th had concentrated 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' division headquarters followed in the wake of the leading brigade in the morning of the 29th. The other elements of the division followed closely; 5 Cdn Inf Bde came across "Blackfriars Bridge" later in the day, 4 Cdn Inf Bde crossed early next day.

    As March 29th dawned, an overcast day with frequent rain, the 2nd Cdn Inf Division found itself located in a narrow bridgehead that was already completely packed with the men and equipment of the three divisions that had spearheaded the 30 Corps assault crossing of the Rhine - the 51st Highland, 43rd Wessex and 3rd Cdn Inf Divisions The 6 Cdn Inf Bde Group was fitted into the bridgehead by relieving 9 Cdn Inf Bde in the Bienen sector, with Fus M.R. taking over Hueth Castle and the Camerons of C. assuming responsibility for Zu Bienen. The supporting tanks of the 10 Cdn Armd Regt (Fort Garry Horse) harboured on the edge of Speldrop. (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). The conditions in the bridgehead reminded the Canadians of the crowded sites in Normandy. "What we need in this bridgehead is to get out and get more elbow room", one of the War Diaries noted (W.D., HQ 5 Cdn Inf Bde, 29 Mar 45). Originally the 6th Cdn Inf Bde had expected to go forward at first light with 8 Cdn Recce Regt out ahead, but the 43rd Wessex, engaged in the crossing of the Oude IJssel near Landfort and the fight for Anholt, blocked the axis at Megchelen. The Canadian operation therefore was postponed. (W.D., Camerons of C., 29 Mar 45). Only in the afternoon of the 29th, the 6th Cdn Inf Bde moved some 2000 yards farther north across the Dutch frontier and took over the area around Megchelen, just vacated by the 43rd Wessex. The Camerons of C. took up position on the left near the Schriek Farm, just inside the Dutch frontier, with their headquarters at the farm, the Fus M.R. were 1000 yards to the east around Asbroek, and the S. Sask R. and 8 Cdn Recce Regt concentrated in a reserve position at Megchelen. These moves were completed by 18: 00 hrs. The enemy dropped a few shells along the main road to Megchelen but otherwise the front was quiet (Ibid; and AEF: 45/2 Cdn Inf Div/C/D: Trace 2030 hrs, 29 Mar 45). Meanwhile 5 Cdn Inf Bde started to cross the Rhine into the bridgehead and took up positions near Esserden on the east bank of the Rhine.

    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 at Megchelen was shielded by 'A' Squadron of the 43rd Recce Regiment, who had taken up positions around the village in the afternoon of 28 March to cover the left flank of the 43rd Wessex Division. Pending the arrival of the Canadians, the 43rd Recce Regiment in the morning of March 29th dispatched armoured car patrols 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 the township of Wals and captured some POWs - three members of the Volksturm and four Fallschirmjäger. When the Troop, led by Lt. Laverty, moved north from the township they found the enemy dug-in around the village of Gendringen and withdrew, shooting up some enemy horse transport. By 11:00 hrs, a heavy armoured car of No.1 Troop was lost during a reconnaissance along the Zwanenburgseweg, the main road to Gendringen. The Humber IV of Lieutenant Jackson, the No.1 Troop CO, was hit by a German AT-gun and knocked out when it approached the village. Lieutenant Jackson was not injured, but his two other crew-members were wounded. The AT-gun, located at the crossroads south of Gendringen, was immediately targeted by artillery and knocked-out, but this incident had effectively ended the probe towards the village. Elsewhere, at the Schriek farm, the Recce men surprised eight enemy Fallschirmjäger and took them prisoner. These POWs revealed that Gendringen was defended by an unknown German unit, who came from the west of Holland. It was obvious that Gendringen was defended and it would require a coordinated attack to seize the place. During the evening the Recce cars harbored in the 'A' Squadron HQ area, although no. 2 and 3 Troops maintained OP's on the enemy positions.

    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

    88 mm huls Maarten.jpg 88 mm huls Maarten 2.jpg
    There are no images of the German AT-gun along the Zwanenburgseweg on the edge of Gendringen, but later a shell case was found on the plot of land of the Lubbers Farm where the gun had been. This makes it possible to identify it with certainty as a 88mm gun. Probably one of those that also were deployed in this area, see below RHINE CROSSING 1945: The Rees bridgehead (30 Corps in operation 'Turnscrew') (courtesy MKijs).

    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: May 5, 2022
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Task of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde:

    The mission of the 2nd Cdn Inf Division was defined at a conference held on 29 March at Lt-Gen Simonds' Tac Corps HQ at the Zu Rosau mill: the division was instructed first to expand the lodgement area by clearing the west bank of the Oude IJssel river and protect the right flank of the 3rd Cdn Inf Division's attack on Emmerich, second to gain a crossing over the Oude IJssel, which cut diagonally across the divisional sector, and clear the east bank up to Terborg and thridly capture Doetinchem and press ahead to the Twente Kanaal.

    Leading the Division's attack, the 6th Cnd Inf Bde was to perform the first two tasks which would create a base for the further advance of the 2nd Cdn Inf Division to the north. The brigade was to clear the west bank of the Oude Ijssel by neutralizing the enemy resistance at Netterden on the brigade's far left, seize the villages of Wieken and Gendringen (square 0564) in the center and clear the area up to the line Azewijn - Ziek - Etten. If practicable the brigade also had to cross the Oude IJssel river and clear the eastern bank toward Terborg, which then would serve as a jump off towards Doetinchem and beyond for the 5th Cdn Inf Bde next in line. The 8th Cdn Recce Regt, which was in support of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde was to cover the brigade's left flank. The Recce Regt was to relieve 6 Cdn Inf Bde in Netterden as soon as the village was secured. They then had to use the village as a firm base to reconnoiter along the Netterden - Klein Azewijn axis, with the objective of covering the brigade's left flank and make contact with 3 Cdn Inf Div. The latter formation pressed ahead along the Rhine river to Emmerich to the south of the Landwehr Canal, a drainage ditch which emptied into the Rhine at Emmerich. Maintaining contact would prove difficult. The lock in the Landwehr at Emmerich had been closed by the enemy and the dammed up water turned the large tract of low lying ground on either side of the Landwehr, known as Hetter, into a swampy area, inaccessible for vehicles.

    Oude Ijsselstreek.jpg
    Sketch of the operations of the 2nd Cdn Inf Division (blue lines) on the right flank of the 3rd Cdn Inf Div (grey). The 2nd Cdn Inf Division entered the basin of the Oude IJssel river an area nowadays known as the Oude IJsselstreek.

    Brigadier Allard 6th Cdn Inf Bde.jpg
    Brigadier Jean Victor Allard DSO CBE (b. 1913) was in charge of the 6th Cdn Inf Bde since March 24th, 1945, replacing Brigadier Keefler, who a few days previously was promoted to Maj.Gen and became GOC 3rd Cdn Inf Division. Before that the Francophone Allard was commander of the Royal 22e Régiment. After the war he rose to Chief of the Defense Staff of the Canadian Army. The picture was taken on April 7th, 1945.

    An intell sum as of March 29th, 1945, issued by 5th Cdn Inf Bde:
    Intel Sum 5th Bde 29.03.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2022
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  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Netterden (Good Friday, 30 March 1945)

    Upon arrival at the Schriek Farm, a Carrier section (Bren Carriers) of the The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada (Camerons of C.) was sent in the direction of Netterden to feel out the enemy defense of the village. The section moved out at about 17:30 hrs and at first advanced along a farming track close to the border. After meeting a party of the 43rd Recce Regt near the crossroads of the Jonkerstraat/Nieuweweg the Bren Carriers moved on along the Jonkerstraat to a group of houses just west of the Otten Schriek farm. Here the patrol dismounted and searched the buildings. One prisoner was taken, who claimed to be a former member of the 17. FJ Regiment who had been remustered into the Wehrmacht as a cook. He had been left behind when his unit retreated 24 hours before. Since he was dressed in a paratrooper uniform, he probably did not convince his captors. As was so often the case, the POW probably tried to downplay his role by posing as a insignificant soldier, in this case a Wehrmacht cook who had been let down by his mates. He most likely was a Fallschirmjäger. Tough and fanatic soldiers who still didn't want to see that they were fighting for a lost cause. The Carrier section proceeded down the track a little further to the west, before returning to the start point. They were not fired on from Netterden, which suggested that the village was only lightly held.

    During the night of 29 to 30 March both forward battalions of 6 Cdn Inf Bde started to reconnoiter the enemy lines. Patrols of the Camerons of C., under command of Lt.Col. A. A. Kennedy, went under the cover of darkness towards the Beenenberg farm ('B' Coy), the township of Wals ('A' Coy) and the village of Netterden on the far-left ('D' Coy). The 'A' Coy patrol yielded 8 POWs. The 'B' Coy patrol returned with an incredulous number of 64 POWs, more than half of them captured single-handedly by Sergeant John Ruczak, who received a Military Medal. The details of this action are revealed by the citation to his award:

    Ruczak MM 1.jpg Ruczak MM 2.jpg

    At the same time 'D' Coy's No. 17 Platoon, under Lieutenant Garbut, sneaked through the dead of night towards Netterden on the battalion's far left flank, with the mission of probing the enemy defense and securing the village if lightly held. At 03:50 hrs the patrol signaled that it had reached the farm building on the edge of the village (Monniksgoed), but further reconnaissance established that the place was strongly held by enemy paratroopers estimated at company size (1). The paratroopers had set up a perimeter defense in the build up area to the south of the village church. Major D.D. Sweeting, the 'D' Coy CO, immediately understood that he needed his entire company for the capture of the town. He therefore called his two other platoons forward and told Lt. Col. Kennedy that he would postpone the attack until first light. Lt. Col. Kennedy agreed and sent 'C' Coy to the north-east of the village to cut of the enemy escape and support the attack. At 06:50 hrs 'C' Coy reported that it was in position and at 08:00 hrs both companies simultaneously started the assault on the village. Sweeting committed his other two platoons, No. 16 and 18 Platoon, in the attack on Netterden, while No. 17 Platoon remained in reserve at Monniksgoed.

    According to the War Diary of the battalion "bitter fighting ensued" which lasted well into the morning. By 11:00 hrs, a momentary lull followed, during which the two sides carried out a shouted and suspicious negotiation. The result was a local truce to allow each side to evacuate its wounded. While this was going on Major Sweeting set the enemy a stern ultimatum: either yield within 30 minutes, or otherwise "fight it out till the bitter end". He made very clear what the latter meant. Intimidated, the twenty-two surviving enemy soldiers decided to surrender before the deadline expired. Rumor has it that the German CO was shot by his own men, since he wanted to continue the fight. The POWs were identified as Fallschirmjäger of the 17. FJ Regt, 6. FJ Division. Now that the Camerons had neutralized Netterden, on the far-left flank, the 6th Cdn Inf Brigade could turn its attention to the center of the sector and endeavor to gain the villages of Wieken, Gendringen and Veldhunten, completing Phase I of the Brigade operation plan which had been formulated that morning (see below). After the fall of Netterden, the Camerons handed the village over to 'B' Squadron of the 8th Recce Regiment.

    The actions of the Camerons of C. on 29 and 30 March produced 130 prisoners, including two officers, but cost the battalion four men killed (including the adjutant who was killed by shellfire on the Bn HQ in the rearward area, 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') ).

    Killed Germans Zeddam.jpg
    The lifeless bodies of two German soldiers lie where they fell in a street in front of a house. The end of the war may have been near, but the grim reality was that people were getting killed as long as it lasted. The photo was taken in Zeddam, a village not far from Netterden.

    The Recce cars of 'B' Squadron, 8th Recce Regt, proceeded to patrol the open farm country north of the Netterden. However, not far from the village, the vehicles ran into what seemed to be an anti-tank screen: one or more enemy SP guns, operating near Azewijn. The enemy guns controlled the area and impeded any further advance. A POW of the 346. Inf Division, later taken prisoner, stated that four guns had been active in this particular area. Since they could accomplish little against them, the 'B' Squadron's Recce cars withdrew and took cover among the buildings of Netterden. The vehicles were fast and agile, but only lightly armoured and no match for anti-tank guns. All the time Netterden was heavily shelled and mortared, so much so that it was difficult to withdraw 'D' and 'C' Coys of the Camerons from the village. It was discovered that an enemy observer was directing the fire from the church tower of Azewijn. Air support was requested to neutralize the observation post. One soldier of the Recce Regiment was killed by shellfire that morning.

    5a. 18 Recce Regt Ulft.jpg
    Above and below: armoured Recce cars of the 8th Recce Regiment photographed at Ulft on 31 March 1945. The fast and agile Recce cars were only lightly armoured and no match for German tanks or AT-guns (courtesy MKijs).

    Daimler Ulft.jpg

    Azewijn Kerk.jpg
    The burnt out church of Azewijn. The building, that served as an enemy OP, did not survive the battle. It was destroyed either by shells or an air attack, some even whisper that the retreating enemy set it on fire.

    (1) Pte Edwin J. Strachan, of No 17 Platoon remembers: "Upon approaching the town, my section was tasked with clearing a house on the outskirts... we believe this would have been in the south/south east end of town [Monniksgoed]. I was left alone to guard the back door of a house, so as to shoot any Germans trying to exit that way while the rest of the section, entered from the front and cleared the house. It was pitch black with very poor visibility and I was scared to death. Not only was I afraid of being overrun by Germans but also of mistakenly shooting one of my own soldiers because visibility was so bad.

    It turned out there were no Germans in the house, only a very happy Dutch family. It was clear they wanted to give something to the us in gratitude but had almost nothing. What they did have was fresh milk and lots of it. All the guys were thrilled with such a treat as it was something we never had while in the battle zone.

    The bulk of the platoon remained in the farmhouse while a small group moved off towards Netterden to investigate. After a half hour or so the group returning at full speed to the farmhouse. Between them and the house was a pond which they ran straight through with the Piat gun on Sergeant Grantham's back leaving a wake like that of a motorboat as he scrambled through the water [Sgt Grantham was the Platoon Sergeant]. I found it amusing even at a time like that. Netterden was indeed occupied by German Paratroops. Major Sweeting, the Coy CO, decided it would be best to wait until first light to attack."
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2022
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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), situated 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 IMG-20220406-WA0000.jpg
    A small monument in Netterden commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. One Cameron, Pte Einar V. Isfeld, accidentally is not mentioned. He was severly wounded in the action at Netterden and died of wounds on April 6th, 1945, at the military Hospital in Bedburg.

    Lt.Col Kennedy Camerons of Canada.jpg
    Lt.Col Albert Arnott Kennedy, CO of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He was taken prisoner in October 1943 (then a Major) in Italy but made a daring escape many miles behind the enemy lines, and after wandering for three weeks through the mountains east of Rome, reached American positions near Venafro. Lt.Col. Kennedy took up command of the battalion on March 5th, 1945, after the former battalion CO, Lt.Col. Ernest Payson "Tommy" Thompson, had been killed in the opening phase of Op Blockbuster (26 Feb 1945). With 24-years of age Thompson had been the Canadian Army's youngest battalion commander.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2022
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