In successive phases, the 49th Division was then to advance through Gouda, take The Hague, and attack Rotterdam from the west, while the 1st Division advanced on Amsterdam via Leiden and Haarlem. Lieutenant-General Foulkes, commanding the 1st Canadian Corps, issued a mandate to his formations of setting up civil administration in the western Netherlands and feeding the population as soon as possible after liberation.
But on the same day on which General Foulkes issued these instructions a change occurred in Allied strategy. Field-Marshal Montgomery came to General Crerar's headquarters at Grave and outlined his plans for the advance to the Elbe and operations against Bremen and Hamburg. High Allied authorities, considering the situation in the western Netherlands, had, we shall see, decided against an immediate operation to liberate the area. Although its people were in desperate straits for food, there was hope of relieving them without exposing them to the dangers of battle
Field Marshal Montgomery, commanding 21st Army Group, defined his policy as follows:
Present operations in the Arnhem area will be designed with the object of securing and opening the Arnhem route to the North. Only two divisions are allocated for securing the flank South of the Zuider Zee [Ijsselmeer]. If they can advance Westwards on, their own resources they will do so, but no additional engineer units or transport are available until a later stage, and their advance must therefore stop when the limit of their own resources has been reached. After Canadian Army has completed its higher priority roles [clearing the north-eastern Netherlands and the Emden-Wilhelmshaven peninsula, and dominating the Weser below Bremen and the Elbe Estuary below Hamburg] .. . resources will be switched to Western Holland for the completion of the liberation of Holland.
The instructions were passed on by General Crerar, commanding 1st Canadian Army, to the two Canadian corps commanders, on 12 April, and they were confirmed to the divisional commanders in writing by 15 April. The task of 1st Canadian Corps was no longer "clear(ing) the Germans out of Western Holland", but rather, as General Foulkes wrote to his divisional commanders, "clear(ing) enemy from Western Holland between the Ijssel and the Grebbe Line."
The Grebbe Line fortifications, stretching from the Ijsselmeer to the Lower Rhine, had been taken over by the Germans for their use after fighting over them in 1940. Intended for defence against attack from the sea, they were " a system of field fortifications between the Ijsselmeer and the Neder Rijn, based on the Eem and Grebbe rivers, and pivoting on the Neder Rijn at the extremity of a ridge called the Grebbeberg, just east of Rhenen." Unfortunately for the Germans, they pointed in the main towards the west.
On 13 April, 1st Canadian Corps again took 1st Canadian Division under its command. The division was finding harder going east of Appeldoorn, unlike the British 49th which had taken Arnhem so relatively easily. That being the case, the corps commander chose to push the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division through the bridgehead of the 49th Division and drive 30 miles north to the Ijsselmeer, with Otterloo, Barneveld, Voorthuizen and Putten as targets, all with the code name Operation CLEANSER.
Following CLEANSER, the division would pass to control of 2nd Canadian Corps for employment in the north-eastern Netherlands, with 1st Canadian Corps then only consisting of 1st Canadian Division and British 49th Division. The latter was ordered to open the road Arnhem-Zutphen, turn west to liberate Wageningen and Ede, and clear the right bank of the Lower Rhine up to the Grebbe. The 1st Division was ordered to take Apeldoorn and advance on a parallel axis towards Voorthuizen to relieve the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division in its positions between Voorthuizen and Barneveld.
It will be seen that the effect of these instructions was to project the 5th Division at right angles to the other divisions' main lines of advance and in rear of the German defences based on Apeldoorn. Throughout these operations the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade with the Belgians under command would continue to hold the line of the Neder Rijn and the "western approaches". (Much of the brigade's tank strength was in fact employed in the more active operations north of the Neder Rijn.) This directive set the pattern for the 1st Corps' final operations in North-West Europe.
Capture of Apeldoom
The Germans initially defended against Operation CANNONSHOT with troops from the 162nd Naval Infantry Regiment; this hastily improvised formation was easily pushed aside, but more capable opposition from the 953rd Grenadier Regiment and its parent formation, the 361st Volksgrenadier Division, stopped the 1st Canadian Infantry Division east of Apeldoorn.
On 13 April, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade crossed the Ijssel to join the division on the west side. While the 2nd Brigade cleared the area of the initial bridgehead, the 1st and 3rd Brigades continued to advance west toward Apeldoorn in the angle formed by railways connecting Apeldoorn and Zutphen and Deventer.
The 1st Brigade, supported by tanks of the 1st Hussars (6th Canadian Armoured Regiment), attached to the 1st Division from 6 April, faced moderate resistance, artillery and mortar fire on the right flank. The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment approached Teuge, three miles east of Apeldoorn, at noon on 13 April, with the RCR keeping abreast on the left. By midnight the brigade had closed up to the Apeldoorn Canal, running north-south through the eastern portion of Apeldoorn itself, and The Royal Canadian Regiment was running patrols in the suburbs. That night a squadron of the 1st Hussars and a company of RCR tried to cross the canal, but were rebuffed with the loss of two tanks.
The 3rd Brigade, meanwhile, made good progress versus light opposition on the southern divisional flank. Despite stubborn resistance from a few strongpoints, the Germans withdrew under cover of sniper and self-propelled gun fire. Late on 13 April the 3rd Brigade held positions around Achterhoek, four miles east of Apeldoorn, its front two-and-a-half miles east of the Apeldoorn Canal.
On the morning of the 14th the boundary between the 1st and 49th Divisions ran west from the Ijssel, midway between Arnhem and Apeldoorn, and roughly parallel to the Neder Rijn. It seemed certain that the enemy intended to make a serious stand behind the canal, and the 1st Division's General Staff diarist noted gloomily, "It's the Lombardy Plains all over again." The German resistance was presumably connected with a harsh order, issued over Himmler's signature on the 12th, threatening battle commanders with death if they neglected to take adequate measures for the defence of towns and significant communication centers.
General Foster's original intention was to use the 1st and 3rd Brigades against Apeldoorn, holding the 2nd in reserve. But as a result of the quick success attending the 49th Division's assault at Arnhem he was now ordered to link up with the 49th on the left and open the main road connecting Arnhem with Zutphen along the west bank of the Ijssel. Accordingly, at 6:25 p.m. on the 14th, Foster issued new orders to the 2nd Brigade, which had been clearing the Hoven bridgehead, opposite Zutphen. Brigadier M. P. Bogert was instructed to eliminate all enemy from the west bank of the Ijssel as far south as Dieren, where his brigade would establish contact with the 49th Division. The boundary between the two divisions in this area was now to be the Apeldoorn Canal. The remainder of the 1st Division would continue its operations against Apeldoorn.
With The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada protecting the Hoven bridgehead area, the 2nd Brigade set out on the morning of 15 April, making rapid progress against what the official history called "ramshackle" enemy formations between Arnhem and Apeldoorn. The 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division had also started its drive on the Ijsselmeer, cutting behind the Germans opposite the 1st Division. The 2nd Brigade cleared the left bank of the Ijssel with The Loyal Edmonton Regiment and PPCLI straddling the Arnhem-Zutphen railway. That afternoon, the Edmontons pushed south of Brummen against token resistance while PPCLI took many prisoners in the close country on the right flank on the western side of the railway.
On the morning of 16 April, the Edmontons captured Dieren without opposition while PPCLI contacted forward troops of the British 49th Division near Eerbeek. Tanks of "A" Squadron of the 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Three Rivers Regiment) were active in support of Canadian infantry in these operations.
The rapidity of the completion of the 2nd Brigade's task influenced Major-General Foster, the commander of 1st Canadian Infantry Division, in his planning with regards to Apeldoorn. He is quoted in the Canadian Army's Official History:
Engineers bridged a canal at Dieren and the Loyal Edmontons covered the construction of a second bridge near Veldhuizen, five miles south of Apeldoorn, where the remainder of the 2nd Brigade crossed in the late afternoon of 16 April, preparing to expand the bridgehead as a base of operations for the 3rd Brigade and the assault on the city.
Apeldoorn, with a population in 1939 of 72,600, is pleasantly situated in a fertile agricultural region at the foot of the ridge that runs north from Arnhem. Het Loo, the summer residence of the Dutch royal family, stands on the northern outskirts. Before the war the town was a prosperous manufacturing place. It is an important communication centre, connected by main roads and railways with Amersfoort, Arnhem, Zutphen and Deventer. On the evening of 16 April the 1st Division was ready for the decisive stroke against the town. By this time the 5th Division had cut the enemy's principal escape route from Apeldoorn to Amersfoort and the garrison's position was untenable. There was now a new urgency in the 1st Division's operations. Late on the 16th the Chief of Staff of the 1st Corps (Brigadier George Kitching) informed divisional commanders that the 5th Division would be required to concentrate about noon on the 18th in preparation for its new commitment in the north-eastern Netherlands. Consequently, it was imperative for the 1st and 49th Divisions to secure their objectives between the Neder Rijn and the Ijsselmeer before last light on the 17th.
Enemy resistance in the city collapsed on the night of 16-17 April, and though small arms fire was exchanged on the 1st Brigade front back and forth over the canal until 03:00hrs, the Dutch Resistance reported to the RCR that the Germans suddenly evacuated after a sudden quiet fell over the town.
Acting on this sudden news, the RCR captured two Germans before they could demolish the canal's lock gates, then used the intact crossing to gain a firm hold on the eastern side of town by 04:30hrs. The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment and 48th Highlanders were ordered to follow the RCR in at dawn, and by noon Brigadier Desmond Smith had established his headquarters in the recently evacuated German commander's HQ. The Hastings were firmly established in the palace grounds at Het Loo while the 48th Highlanders had secured the north-western section of the town. The south-western section was secured by The West Nova Scotia Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, coming up from the south.
Wild rejoicing greeted our troops. "National colours of the Netherlands were flying in the brilliant sunlight from almost every house and shop." Mixed with the enthusiasm of the people who thronged the streets was profound relief that the operations had caused so little damage to the town. Such scenes were repeated many times in these last days of the campaign.
In total, seven days of operations (11-17 April 1945) cost the infantry battalions of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division 506 casualties (by brigade, 184, 183 and 125 for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively). The Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.), the divisional support battalion, lost 14 men while firing mortars and machine guns in support of all three brigades.
German losses were heavier, with 40 officers and 2,515 other ranks being collected as prisoners by the 1st Canadian Division in this period.
The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Apeldoorn" for participation in these actions:
1st Canadian Armoured Brigade
2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade
8th Canadian Infantry Brigade
1st Canadian Brigade
2nd Canadian Brigade