History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

The Rhine

The Rhine was  a battle honour awarded for units participating in the assault crossing of the Rhine River (Operation PLUNDER), the associated airborne action(Operation VARSITY), and the immediately subsequent operations on the far side of the Rhine, during the Final Phase of the North-West Europe campaign in the Second World War.

Background

The Rhine River has traditionally been a major obstacle to armies operating in central Europe, and the Roman Army in antiquity considered the river an effective frontier between their civilization and the Germanic tribes of "barbarians." In modern times, the Rhine became a bulwark between France and the German states, the song "The Watch on the Rhine" dating back to the mid-18th Century symbolizing its importance in this context. Operation MARKET-GARDEN in September 1944 had been an attempt by the Allies to gain a rapid foothold over the river in hopes of expediting an end to the war.

With that course denied to the Allies, victory in the Ardennes in December 1944 and in the Rhineland in February and early March 1945 nonetheless demonstrated the German Army in the West was exhausted. On the Eastern Front in March 1945, Soviet troops had crossed the Oder and were threatening Vienna, making a junction of western and eastern Allies seem inevitable.

Final Phase

The Rhine – Emmerich-Hoch Elten – Twente Canal – ZutphenDeventerArnhem, 1945Apeldoorn –  GroningenFriesoythe – Ijsselmeer – Küsten CanalWagenborgenDelfzijl PocketLeerBad Zwischenahn –  Oldenburg

Despite the optimistic military situation, fundamental disagreements over grand strategy had remained. The Combined Chiefs of Staff met at Malta at the end of January 1945 to prepare for the eventual meeting of the U.S. and British leaders with Soviet leaders at Yalta. There was once again disagreement as to how to proceed across the Rhine, whether to stay the course with the "broad front" strategy employed on the continent, or permit a "single-thrust." (Another item discussed at Malta had been the need to reinforce the western front at the expense of the forces in Italy, a discussion leading to the redeployment of 1st Canadian Corps from Italy.) The Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, General Eisenhower, presented a tentative plan in which two bridgeheads were seized across the Rhine, one north of the Ruhr near Emmerich-Wesel and the other near Mainz-Karlsruhe.

(General Eisenhower) realized that a heavy attack in the north offered the quickest means of eliminating the Ruhr industries and reaching the most favourable terrain for mobile operations. However, suitable sites in the Emmerich—Wesel sector were restricted to a 20-mile frontage on which only three divisions could be initially employed, leaving an Allied attack vulnerable to a quick German concentration. On the other hand, between Mainz and Karlsruhe there were sites for at least five assaulting divisions, with less danger of effective opposition. Eisenhower therefore planned a secondary crossing here. The British objection to these proposals, stated by Field-Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, was based mainly on fear of dispersion. Just as in the dispute the year before over the invasion of southern France, the British argued for greater concentration of effort, while the Americans urged the advantages of a large-scale diversionary operation. Specifically, the British Chiefs of Staff felt that there was insufficient strength for two major operations across the Rhine. In their opinion the advantages of concentrating Allied effort in the northern sector—nearer the Antwerp base and in a better position to menace the Ruhr—far outweighed any benefits which might be expected from an attack in the south, unless the latter was clearly subsidiary to the main thrust. Brooke and his colleagues were also concerned about the Supreme Commander's evident intention to close up to the Rhine throughout its length before advancing into Germany. This, they felt, might result in undue delay.

In the background of the strategic problem was a further complication continuing controversy on the need or otherwise for a commander of all Allied ground operations, under the Supreme Commander, with powers similar to those exercised by Montgomery during the Battle of Normandy. The British were still convinced that such a commander was necessary; the Americans still rejected the suggestion, and when Mr. Churchill proposed, as he had lately done, that Field-Marshal Alexander should replace Air Chief Marshal Tedder as Deputy Supreme Commander, they saw in this, probably rightly, an attempt to achieve the desired change. The proposal, incidentally, was not supported by Field-Marshal Montgomery. After protracted discussion the Combined Chiefs of Staff disposed of the problem by somewhat amending General Eisenhower's draft plan of operations. The amendments were slight, but in accepting them General Eisenhower gave assurances intended to satisfy the British.1

Eisenhower was confident that the Rhine crossings in the north could be seized with minimum delay and expressed a desire that such operations commence without forces drawing up to the river along its length.

At the Yalta Conference (4-10 February 1945), President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin and their advisers discussed ways and means of increasing coordination between the three major allies. The Americans and British presented the plan for crossing the Rhine, and the Soviets agreed to try and take action if possible to assist operations in the west, even though these operations would likely occur between the periods earmarked for the Soviet winter and summer offensives.

Operation PLUNDER

The task of crossing the Rhine was given to the British 2nd Army. Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey’s headquarters had studied the problem even before Operation VERITABLE, the clearing of the Rhineland by 1st Canadian and U.S. 9th Armies west of the river, had begun. This detailed study was code-named Operation PLUNDER.Rheinberg, Xanten, Rees and Emmerich were examined as possible crossing sites. Emmerich was considered especially risky owing to the high ground to the north-west which afforded observation and firing positions at Hoch Elten as well as the wide flood plains and poor approaches to the river. Emmerich and the Hoch Elten high ground would nonetheless need to be taken, if not by amphibious attack, than from an attack from the landward side. The PLUNDER plans included alternate deployments, of either two British corps, attacking with one division each, or a single corps attacking on a two-division front. The target date for PLUNDER was not set until mid-February, as 31 March 1945. Emphasis was placed on taking Wesel, a communications centre, and Emmerich, an industrial site, early in the operation. Responsibility for Rheinberg was given to the U.S. 9th Army, with the British 2nd Army controlling crossings at Xanten and Rees. The proposed assault at Emmerich was to be carried out as a raid by 1st Canadian Army simultaneous to the main Rhine crossing, as a diversion, “only...if opposition is judged to be light and if equipment for it can be made available without prejudice to the main crossings further south.” The Canadians were asked to explore the feasibility of crossing the lower reaches of the Lower Rhine, to assist in clearing a path to Emmerich.

In early March, the target date was advanced to 24 March, and on 9 March army commanders were briefed by Field Marshal Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief of 21st Army Group, who outlined PLUNDER. The assault was to go across between Rheinberg and Rees with the 9th Army on the right and the 2nd to their left. Wesel would be taken first, and the lodgement expanded north, so the river could be bridged at Emmerich. The 1st Canadian Army would join the bridgehead in the second phase, permitting 21st Army Goup to develop operations in any direction ordered by Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).

To that end, the 1st Canadian Army received only limited tasks for the first phase of PLUNDER, namely holding the line of the Rhine and the Meuse from Emmerich west to the sea, and ensuring security of the bridgehead over the Waal at Nijmegen. Security at Antwerp, the vital port for which the Battle of the Scheldt had been fought to open the seaways into, was also considered of vital importance.

In the second phase, the Canadians were ordered to attack the German defences along the Ijssel River from the rear (east), take Deventer and Zutphen, cross the Ijssel and capture Apeldoorn and the intervening high ground before Arnhem, bridge the Lower Rhine at Arnhem and open communications and supply routes on a path Nijmegen-Arnhem towards the north-east to support further operations. The 2nd Canadian Corps was tasked with the first of these tasks, with 1st Canadian Corps ordered to secure a bridgehead over the Lower Rhine and the capture of Arnhem.

The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade was to be the first Canadian formation across the river, and came under control of the 51st (Highland) Division prior to the assault crossing. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division came under operational control of the 30th British Corps and the 2nd Canadian Corps passed under operational control of the 2nd British Army on 20 March 1945.

The Second Army was to cross the Rhine between Wesel and the western outskirts of Rees with the 12th Corps on the right and the 30th on the left. General Horrocks' (30th) Corps was to capture Rees and Haldern, and establish a lodgement deep enough to permit bridges to be built. This assault was to be carried out by the Highland Division on a two brigade front, the 9th Canadian Brigade having a "follow-up" role immediately behind the 154th Brigade on the left.

 The Canadians' task would be to thrust towards Emmerich, securing control of the area Vrasselt—Praest—Dornick, as a preliminary to further operations by the 3rd Canadian Division directed against Emmerich. Alternatively, the Canadian brigade might be required to capture Millingen. The Army plan included vital missions for specialized troops. The 1st Commando Brigade was to assault Wesel immediately after heavy bombing by the R.A.F. Airborne forces were given their third important task of the campaign: under the code name "Varsity", the 18th United States Airborne Corps (comprising the 6th British and 17th U.S. Airborne Divisions) would drop on important ground east of the Rhine, help to disrupt the defence of the Wesel sector and assist General Dempsey's operations in the bridgehead. The 6th Airborne Division, which still included the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion as part of the 3rd Parachute Brigade, was to capture the village of Hamminkeln, the high ground at Schneppenberg in the north-west corner of Diersfordt Wood and bridges over the Issel River nearby. This time the airborne attack was to follow, instead of preceding, the assault by ground forces. Moreover, profiting by the experience at Arnhem, the commanders decided to land smaller tactical groups on or near the objectives (rather than attempt massed landings at a distance) and to land formations complete in one operation. Looking to the possibility of bad weather interfering with "Varsity", some consideration was given to alternative plans by which the airborne troops would be dropped farther east if it should be decided to proceed with the first assault without them.2

PLUNDER was to be a meticulous set-piece, consistent with the other major operations conducted by 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe. Allied aircraft had been conducting a program of interdiction raids to isolate the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland, from the rest of Germany for a long period before the amphibious landing. Heavy attacks against communication and transportation centres were continued in the first three weeks of March, and immediately before PLUNDER commenced, airfields, anti-aircraft sites and gun positions were heavily targeted by air forces. The British 2nd Army estimated some 3,411 guns of all types participated in the opening bombardment (including anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns and rocket projectors) and included divisional artilleries from Guards Armoured, 11th Armoured, 3rd British, 3rd Canadian, 43rd (Wessex) and 51st (Highland) Divisions, as well as three AGRAs (Army Group Royal Artillery). The fire plan included counter-battery preparation, counter-mortar tasks, preliminary bombardment (to which the guns of 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division also contributed), harassing fire and smokescreen during the crossing itself. A diversionary fire plan was executed by 2nd Canadian Corps guns not otherwise allocated.

By way of comparison, Montgomery used 980 guns at El Alamein; 1060 “of all kinds” supported the Eighth Army in the Liri Valley; and 1034 (excluding anti-tank and certain anti-aircraft guns) fired in "Veritable". The Ninth U.S. Army history states that 2070 guns supported that Army in "Plunder"; apparently this included tank, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. The 21st Army Group calculated that Ninth Army's assaulting corps was supported by 624 guns of 25-pounder or larger size.3

German Defences

German resources had been severely depleted during the Rhineland fighting, and reserves of personnel and equipment had been exhausted. There had been time in the opening weeks of March, however, between the end of the fighting in the Rhineland and the onset of PLUNDER to organize defences east of the river.

The east bank of the Rhine from Emmerich to Krefeld was the responsibility of the 1st Parachute Army. Opposite 21st Army Group between Emmerich and a point opposite Xanten was the 2nd Parachute Corps, with the 86th Corps to its left covering Wesel. The 47th Panzer Corps was in Army Group "H" reserve to the northeast of Wesel, headquartered at Silvolde, with the 15th Panzergrenadier Division and 116th Panzer Division under command. Neither formation was up to full strength. Reinforcements were "untrained", ammunition was "desperately short" and "troops and commanders alike lacked confidence." The entire corps may have numbered just over 12,000 men, less than the full authorized strength of a single parachute division. Moreover, the 47th Panzer Corps, by one estimation quoted in the Canadian Army's official history, mustered only 35 tanks between its two constituent divisions. The corps commander estimated 80 field and medium guns in his artillery arsenal and 12 self-propelled guns, though 60 8.8cm dual-purpose anti-aircraft guns were available.

Morale was low, not aided by an early refusal by Hitler personally to permit the construction of defences on the east bank of the river. When defences were finally permitted, they consisted only of a narrow band of rifle and machine-gun trenches near the water's edge at probable crossing sites, and defence in depth was not achieved. German commanders also disagreed on where these probably crossing sites would be.

The Crossing of the Rhine: The Assault

The 21st Army Group's Rhine Crossing was to be the main Allied effort, but in actual matter of fact, despite best German efforts, PLUNDER was not the first crossing. Through a series of accidents, the 1st U.S. Army managed to secure an intact bridge at Remagen, near Bonn, on March 7th when attempts to demolish it failed. Farther south, the 3d U.S. Army made a quiet crossing a day in advance of PLUNDER, sneaking assault troops over under cover of darkness. The Remagen bridgehead continued to serve as a diversion, drawing German reserves away from the main crossing site at Wesel-Rees.

The British assault began at 21:00hrs on 23 March following heavy aerial and artillery bombardment marked by massive ammunition expenditure. Enemy artillery activity was sporadic and retaliatory fire from the feared Hoch Elten high feature was "practically negligible" and described as "light harassing fire." The river, 500 yards wide and with a swift current, was crossed in darkness by a variety of vehicles. Duplex Drive (DD) tanks, of the kind that had proved so useful on the Normandy invasion beaches, were utilized, as was a carefully orchestrated "Bank Group" organization to keep crossings moving by priority and congestion to a minimum. Naval Force "U" of the Royal Navy, organized into three squadrons, each of a flotilla of LCM and a flotilla of LCVP, participated, the landing craft being transported overland via Antwerp and Nijmegen. Initially planned for use as ferries, other vehicles were used with such success they were used for patrolling and erecting bridges instead, the LCMs also later being used in the capture of Arnhem.

The assault phase went quickly, and just six minutes after the 51st (Highland) Division launched its assault to the west of Rees, the leading wave was ashore east of the Rhine. Opposition only stiffened when British troops approached Speldrop, a mile and a half inland. Rees was outflanked and the 30th Corps rapidly expanded its bridgehead, having lost 3 supporting tanks of The Staffordshire Yeomanry (Queen's Own Royal Regiment) sunk in the Rhine.

To their right, the 12th British Corps established itself near Wesel when the 1st Commando Brigade crossed at 22:00hrs, then paused as 201 aircraft of Bomber Command dropped close to 1,100 tons of bombs on the town at 22:30. The Commandos were nonetheless obligated to fight for Wesel in order to clear it of German defenders. The 15th (Scottish) Division faced spottier opposition in its own attack between Wesel and Rees early on the 24th. To the south, American troops of the 9th Army crossed the Rhine in good order as well.

Operation VARSITY, in support of the water crossings, began at about 10:00hrs on the 24th, utilizing 1,589 paratroop aircraft and 1,337 gliders. Enemy aircraft were virtually non-existent but light anti-aircraft guns were plentifuly, particularly in the British glider landing zones at Hamminkeln. Two airborne divisions - the U.S. 17th Airborne and the British 6th Airborne - were dropped, the former seeing its first combat action, the latter being a veteran formation that had landed on "D-Day" in Normandy, and included among its units the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. The Canadians landed with the 3rd Parachute Brigade north of Diersfordt Wood, widely spread due to fast moving transport aircraft attempting to evade heavy anti-aircraft fire. Enemy fire was also intense once on the ground, from machine guns and small arms, but objectives at the north end of the Schneppenburg feature assigned to them were cleared by 11:30hrs, and prisoners were so plentiful they constituted a problem, outnumbering the Canadians. Casualties included 23 killed, including the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel J.A. Nicklin, found hanging from a tree in his parachute harness, 40 wounded and two captured. Corporal F.G. Topham, a battalion medical orderly, was nominated for, and later received, the Victoria Cross for his actions in rescuing wounded men under fire despite being wounded himself.



The 9th Brigade Beyond the Rhine

At 04:25hrs, the first Canadians began crossing the Rhine. All four rifle companies of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada made the trip across the water in LVTs ("Buffaloes") of the 79th Armoured Division, under "sporadic shelling." The battalion was attached to the 154th Infantry Brigade of the 51st Highland Division. The unit went straight into an assembly area northwest of Rees. The brigade had met heavy resistance at Speldrop, and the divisional commander, Major-General Rennie, had been killed in the brigade area that morning. The HLI was ordered to secure Speldrop. Elements of the British Black Watch were cut off and surrounded in Speldrop when the HLI's attack went in during the late afternoon, advancing through the outskirts of Speldrop into stubborn resistance from German paratroopers. Despite being forced to attack over open ground, heavy supporting fires from six field regiments, two medium regiments and a pair of 7.2-inch batteries assisted the HLI forward. Fortified houses within Speldrop could only be taken by the use of Wasp flamethrower carriers and artillery concentrations, and fighting there continued into the morning of 25 April. The trapped Black Watch men were relieved at a cost of 10 HLI dead and 13 wounded.

As the first Canadians across fought through Speldrop, the remainder of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade crossed to the east side of the Rhine, which relieved the 154th. Brigadier John M. Rockingham, with the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment reinforcing his brigade, fought the 9th Brigade forward to try and open an exit out of the pocket which formed from the Alter Rhein to the northwest of the town of Rees. Operations centred on the villages of Grietherbusch, Bienen and Millingen. The brigade temporarily found itself under the command of the 43rd (Wessex) Division which now also entered the bridgehead, part of the 30th Corps commander's plan to develop the attack on a three-division front with 51st, 43rd and 3rd Canadian from right to left.

The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders found themselves on the left of the entire Allied enterprise, and captured Grietherbusch with little problem. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders faced stronger enemy resistance at Bienen on 25 April, in fact, the area of heaviest resistance in the entire British bridgehead, by chance the location where reserves of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division had been deployed to secure the Alter Rhein exit and road junction at Bienen. Despite heavy fire support from artillery and The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa's machine guns, the North Novas were pinned down by automatic weapons fire and mortars. Renewed attacks with tanks and Wasp carriers managed to gain partial entry into the town, but with a loss of 114 casualties, including 43 killed. The HLI had to move in to clear the northern end of Bienen with assistance from a troop of self-propelled 17-pounder guns from the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment, RCA, and fighting lasted into the morning of 26 April when the last armed German was cleared from Bienen.

Millingen lay a mile to the north-east on the Emmerich-Wesel railway line, and The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment attacked it at 12:00hrs on 26 April with artillery and armour support, securing their objectives that afternoon. Lieutenant-Colonel J.W.H. Rowley, commanding the North Shore, was killed early in the attack by a shell.

A news story in the Halifax Herald of April 18 read: "The North Shore Regiment added the town of Millingen, east of the Rhine River, to the many conquests it has made since D-Day. Their casualties were moderate and they captured 387 Germans, killed a considerable number and accounted for 35 machine guns, 1 self-propelled gun, 3 75mm guns and 7 automatic rifles. They lost their commanding officer, Lt.-Col. John Rowley, who had been with them since the beginning of the year, a brave and highly respected officer. The New Brunswick soldiers advanced along the road and across the fields on either side. German defences consisted of 600 paratroopers supported by self-propelled guns, 75s,tanks and machine guns, but the North Shore swept along behind a tremendous barrage. 'A' Company, commanded by Major L.S. Murray, was on the right flank, and Capt. Harry Hamley led 'B' Company on the left. These men actually went too far and came under a barrage intended for another company's attack but escaped with only four casualties. 'We were a bit too ambitious,' said C.S.M. C.J. Craig. 'We didn't have anyone killed but we sure found out what our shells sound like. Only a couple of the Germans we met put up a scrap and we took 58 prisoners."4

The Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders attacked to the west at the same time, and the build-up in the bridgehead continued as The Canadian Scottish Regiment crossed over, also under control of the 9th Brigade. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division established a tactical headquarters on the eastern side of the river on 27 April while the 7th Brigade joined the 9th. At 17:00hrs, the division took over the left sector of the 30th Corps line. The final brigade of the division, the 8th, crossed to the east side of the water on 28 March, and at noon, 2nd Canadian Corps took the division back under command as it assumed control of a portion of the bridgehead, while still remaining itself under 2nd Army control.

The Drive North

On 28 March, Field Marshal Montgomery declared the Battle of the Rhine won, and made plans for a quick drive to the Elbe River, hoping to seize the north German plain in short order. The U.S. 9th Army almost immediately was returned to American operational control following the crossing. The Canadian mission was to echelon to the left of 2nd British Army with the overall goal at this late stage of the war of the 21st Army Group the complete defeat of German armies in Northwest Europe. Consideration was given to the problem of an assault crossing of the Ijssel river from east to west, opening a route through Arnhem-Zutphen to maintain the forces operating east of the Rhine and Ijssel rivers. While German opposition was not likely to be problematic, Allied planners noted the obstacle that Ijssel River itself posed, with width up to 600 feet and high floodbanks.

As the preparations for the drive north were made, 2nd Canadian Corps established its command post near Bienen, and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division crossed the Rhine on 28-29 March. Operation HAYMAKER, the advance of 2nd Canadian Corps to the north, was to be led by the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, with the 3rd Canadian Division on its left flank and 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division its right, the latter formation entering the bridgehead at the end of March.

Priority turned to securing Emmerich and the Hoch Elten ridge so that a maintenance route across the river could be established at Emmerich. The 7th Brigade opened the attack on Emmerich's eastern approached on the night of 27-28 March, and the Canadian Scottish took Vrasselt, pressing on in the dark. The Regina Rifles occupied Dornick the next morning. Both units were able to reach the outskirts of Emmerich without meeting serious resistance. Units of the 6th Parachute Division and 346th Infantry Division were established in the city, however. The 7th Brigade continued its attacks inside the built-up area and the woods to the north while the 8th Brigade was ordered to pass through and attack the Hoch Elten ridge. The 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment) went forward in support of these operations along with Crocodile flamethrowers of "C" Squadron, The Fife and Forfar Yeomanry.

The Canadian Scottish, along with a company of Regina Rifles, attempted to expand a bridgehead over the Landwehr Canal on the night of 28-29 March, managing to do so in the face of heavy fighting. Engineers managed to bridge the canal in darkness, and further thrusts into the city followed. In peacetime a city of 16,000 people, Emmerich had been severely bombed such that only a single street had intact buildings remaining. The enemy used the rubble to good effect, fortifying houses. On the morning of 29 March, the Reginal Rifles attacked into southern Emmerich with tank and Crocodile support, finding the Germans again in fortified buildings and with tank support. Progress was slow as the ruins had to be carefully searched, and road blocks and rubble made it difficult for tanks to manoeuvre. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles made steady progress in the northern portion of the city, and turned back a German counter-attack early on 30 March, the same day that the Canadian Scottish took over the lead of the divisional advance and secured a large cement works west of the city. In three days, the battalions of the 7th Brigade suffered 172 casualties, 44 of them fatal.

The 8th Brigade's task began as the 7th Brigade completed the clearing of Emmerich. Using the cement works as the start line for their operation, they set their sights on the tall wooded ridge three miles northwest of the city. As a site overlooking potential bridging sites over the Rhine, the Hoch Elten region had been severely attacked by air and artillery. The 8th Brigade was a beneficiary of these preparations when their advance began on the night of 30-31 March, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and Le Régiment de la Chaudière in the lead. There was little opposition beyond that offered by the few surviving German mortars and artillery pieces. The Chaudière occuped the village of Elten to the west of the ridge the following night while the QOR and North Shore cleared the wooded area. On the inland flank of the division, the 9th Brigade cleared the woods to the north of Emmerich and 's-Heerenberg. The clearing of the high ground permitted construction of a low level Class 40 Bailey pontoon bridge at Emmerich, and work began at 12:00hrs on 31 March. Canadian and British engineers, with assistance from the Royal Navy, completed the 1,373 foot long span by the next day. MELVILLE BRIDGE was named for Brigadier J.L. Melville, former Chief Engineer of 1st Canadian Army, and opened to traffic (including tanks) at 20:00hrs. Two other bridges at Emmerich (a Class 15 and a high level Class 40 Bailey pontoon) were erected, the other Class 40 being named for Brigadier A.T. MacLean, also a former Chief Engineer. With these bridges in place, General Crerar, General Officer Commander-in-Chief of 1st Canadian Army, was now in a position to take over Canadian operations on the far bank of the Rhine River.5

On 1 April, the U.S. 9th Army met up with the 1st U.S. Army, achieving an encirclement of the Ruhr at Lippstadt. Not only was Germany's industrial heartland effectively separated from the rest of the country, but almost all of Army Group "B", including the 5th Panzer Army and 15th Army, was surrounded. Only moderate resistance met the efforts of the Americans to annihilate the forces in the pocket; by the time resistance ended on 18 April, over 317,000 prisoners were taken, and the Army Group Commander, Field Marshal Model, believing it improper for soldiers of his rank to surrender, committed suicide.

On the same day the two U.S. armies began their reduction of the Ruhr, 1 April, 1st Canadian Army Headquarters had taken control of 2nd Canadian Corps operations east of the Rhine, and the 1st British Corps, after a long association with the Canadians dating back to Normandy, returned to General Miles Dempsey's British 2nd Army.

The Army boudaries ran north from Terborg to Zelhem and General Crerar's directive to corps commanders on 2 April instructed 2nd Canadian Corps to move north with a view to forcing the Ijssel south of Deventer while the 1st Corps moved to enlarge the "island" south of the Lower Rhine and move towards Arnhem. The operations of 2nd Canadian Corps were to have priority, and in fact, had gained some momentum.

After concentrating in the Bienen—Millingen area, the 2nd Division moved forward on the 3rd Division's right, recrossing the Dutch-German frontier and clearing Netterden on 30 March. In general, "scattered clusters" of opposition were reported, with only token resistance in certain sectors.85 While the 3rd Division was capturing the Hoch Elten feature, General Matthews' troops thrust forward to Etten, seven miles north-east of Emmerich, with the Wessex Division temporarily on their right flank. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division moved in here on 1 April. General Vokes' immediate task was to occupy the Lochem—Ruurlo area and then press on across the Twente Canal to Delden and Borne.

As our formations fanned out east of the Ijssel—Rhine junction, German disorganization facilitated rapid advance. It soon became apparent that apart from Zutphen, which was well protected by water lines connected with the Ijssel, the enemy's next natural defence line would be the Twente Canal. This ran eastward from the Ijssel north of Zutphen, past Lochem and through the southern outskirts of Hengelo to Enschede, roughly at right angles to the axes of the 2nd Corps. Defending the main portion of the Canal as far east as Hengelo was our old antagonist the 6th Parachute Division. East of the Rhine the division had been reinforced by replacement and training units, together with the 31st Reserve Parachute Regiment; the latter consisted of three battalions, one of which was an artillery unit armed with ordnance of various calibres. On the eve of the Canadian attack Plocher was also reinforced by a "Police Regiment" of doubtful quality. Pressing forward through Doetinchem and Vorden, the 2nd Canadian Division was first to cross the Twente Canal. On the night of 2-3 April the 4th Infantry Brigade made the assault near Almen, four miles east of Zutphen. The speed of the attack, following a rapid 20-mile advance, caught the enemy napping. Although the Germans had blown the bridges over the Canal, their defences were still disorganized. When The Royal Regiment of Canada crossed in assault boats, their first prisoners were mainly engineers, busy preparing positions for infantry who arrived too late to oppose the crossing. Our own engineers quickly began work on a ferry, while a company of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry reinforced the bridgehead.

About midnight the enemy reacted vigorously, beginning "a most intense mortaring and shelling of the proposed ferry site" and temporarily stopping the engineers' work. Nevertheless, they soon had rafts operating across the Canal and, during the next day, these carried armoured cars of the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars), selfpropelled guns of the 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment R.C.A., and tanks of the 10th Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) to the infantry's support. The Germans mistakenly believed that the Canadians used amphibious tanks. Although the enemy launched spasmodic counterattacks, and continued to interfere with bridging and rafting, the bridgehead was consolidated and expanded on 3 April. At the end of the day The Essex Scottish Regiment was preparing to join the remainder of the brigade north of the Canal and the way was clear for the 5th Brigade to continue the northern drive. The 4th Brigade's losses had been comparatively light. Meanwhile, the 6th Brigade had eliminated resistance on the left flank, closer to the Ijssel River.6

The quality of German troops was noted by one brigade war diary as decidedly substandard and enemy tactics as "almost juvenile".

West of Delden, 20 miles east of the 2nd Division's crossing points on the Twente Canal, the 4th Armoured Division created a second bridgehead, and on 2 April tanks and motorized infantry reached the canal at Lochem where they relieved British troops of the 43rd (Wessex) Division, though no suitable crossing of the canal could be located and sizeable numbers of enemy troops on the far bank inflicted losses on the Canadians. The next evening, 3 April, two companies of The Lincoln and Welland Regiment crossed the canal while a company of The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) created a diversion with an attack on the lock gates 1,000 yards west of the main crossing. The enemy responded with scattered small arms fire and only moderate machine gun and mortar fire, and his counter-attacks were driven back with the aid of artillery. The most dire problem was in getting bridges across the canal in a timely manner, able to bear the weight of tanks and carriers of the 4th Armoured Brigade. The Lake Superiors discovered a 30-foot gap at the lock gates suitable to a bridging operation and in two hours and fifteen minutes, the 9th Field Squadron, RCE was able to bridge it and have vehicles of the brigade moving across. The operations of 3-4 April cost the Lincoln and Welland 67 casualties.

Aftermath

On 5 April 1945, Field Marshal Montgomery noted that the 9th U.S. Army had returned to the control of 12th Army Group at midnight 3-4 April. The British 2nd Army was therefore instructed to secure the line of the Weser river, capture Bremen, and cross the Weser, Aller and Leine on the way to the Elbe River. The tasks of 1st Canadian Army did not change, and with the east bank of the Rhine firmly in Allied hands, Zutphen, Deventer and the Ijssel now became the immediate objectives.

Canadian military historians have generally paid slight attention to the operations carried out by First Canadian Army in April 1945. It is almost as if the great battles of February and March in the Rhineland exhausted the historians, just as it wore down the men who fought there...April is instead remembered as the month of the liberation of Holland, 'the sweetest of springs.' But April was also the cruellest month, for if the war was all but won, the killing had not stopped. The military cemeteries in the Netherlands contain the graves of 1,191 Canadian soldiers killed there in April...7

Battle Honours

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "The Rhine" for participation in these actions:

6th British Airborne Division

  • 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

Image:2gif5bde.gif 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada

  • The Calgary Highlanders

Image:2gif6bde.gif 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal

  • The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada

  • The South Saskatchewan Regiment

Image:3gif.gif 3rd Canadian Division

  • 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars)

  • The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG)

Image:3gif7bde.gif 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles

  • The Regina Rifle Regiment

  • The Canadian Scottish Regiment

Image:3gif8bde.gif 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

  • Le Regiment de la Chaudiere

  • The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment

Image:3gif9bde.gif 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Highland Light Infantry of Canada

  • The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders

  • The North Nova Scotia Highlanders

Image:2tankbde.gif 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment)

Notes

  1. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume II: The Victory Campaign
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Bird, Will R. North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment (Brunswick Press, Fredricton, NB, 1963) pp.537-538
  5. 2nd Canadian Corps Troops preceded these bridges with BLACKFRIARS BRIDGE on 26-28 March in the Rees area, an 1,814 foot low-level Class 40 Bailey pontoon bridge, one of five bridges that were constructed in the British area

  6. Stacey, Ibid

  7. Copp, Terry Cinderella Army: The Canadians in Northwest Europe 1944-1945 (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON, 2006) ISBN 978-0-9522-0 p.261


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