Index » World War II » Content
Capitulation of Germany
 

The Battle of the Rhineland

For Operation Veritable, the First Canadian Army had to leave the Nijmegen area and move towards the southeast to take over the Rhineland, a narrow strip of land between the Maas and Rhine rivers. The Dutch-German border followed the Maas in that sector. For the first time, fighting was to take place on German soil and a fierce opposition was expected. Three defence lines protected the area: the first one was a series of outposts, then the Siegfried Line that ran through the Reichswald Forest, and finally the series of fortifications through the Hochwald Forest. To slow down the Allies' progress, the Germans destroyed dykes and flooded the area. February's milder weather and thaw softened the muddy ground, hindering the advance of armoured vehicles and artillery.

Under command of General Crerar and the First Canadian Army were the divisions of II Canadian Corps, as well as nine British divisions, some Belgian, Dutch, Polish and US units. It was the largest military force under Canadian command ever.

The operation was launched on February 8th with aerial bombings and powerful artillery offensive. Fighting under the First Canadian Army, XXX British Corps marched towards the Reichswald Forest. On its left flank, the 3rd Canadian Division, nicknamed "the Water Rats", had to clear the flooded region north of the Nijmegen-Calcar road. For that purpose, the Canadian infantry used Buffalo amphibious vehicles, but could not count on any artillery or tank support.

The Germans, for their part, could rely on excellent defence installations - antitank ditches, networks of trenches, fortified positions - as well as an apparently inexhaustible supply of weapons and ammunition. They were now fighting for their homeland and that thought increased their determination. In addition, it rained most of the time; the humidity and the cold created uncomfortable combat conditions. In spite of all this, the operation was off to a good start with the advanced positions falling on the first day and the Siegfried Line broken as early as February 10th.

On February 16th, the 7th Brigade met with unexpected opposition near the Moyland Wood, towards Calcar. The infantrymen encountered machine-gun, mortar and shell fire. After a few days of violent combat and high casualties for the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the Canadian Scottish, the 7th Brigade organized a systematic assault to clear the forest of the remaining enemy. On February 21st, the wood was captured but the six days of fighting cost the division 485 men, killed, wounded or captured.

In the mean time, the 4th Brigade was involved in bloody action along the Goch-Calcar road: the tanks and Kangaroo troop carriers were halted by the mud in which they got bogged down and by fire from hidden 88-mm guns along the road. On the 19th and 20th, violent attacks and counter-attacks followed one another. Driven back, the 4th Brigade managed to regain some ground but it had lost some 400 men, including several captured by the enemy.

After the slow advance of the last few days, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds believed a concentrated attack could capture Xanten and the Hochwald. This was operation Blockbuster and it started on February 25th. II Canadian Corps made good progression and seized Keppeln, Üdem and the Calcar Ridge. The struggle for the Hochwald Forest, bitterly disputed to the First German Army, lasted from February 27th to March 3rd. The Canadians captured Xanten, east of the Hochwald Forest, on March 10th.

Meanwhile, the Ninth US Army moved from the south towards Wesel. To avoid getting trapped between the two Allied armies, the Germans retreated in good order to the opposite bank of the Rhine. On March 11th, the 21st Army Group occupied the Rhine's left bank: the Battle for the Rhineland was over.

 Photo Gallery
A signalman of The Royal Regiment of Canada with a No.18 wireless set near Dingstede, Germany, 25 April 1945.
Infantrymen of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles in a Buffalo amphibious vehicle taking part in Operation VERITABLE en route from Niel to Keeken, Germany. February 9, 1945.
Trooper M.E. Lucy of the South Alberta Regiment examining damaged German 75 mm. self-propelled gun near Xanten, Germany, 7 March 1945.
Infantrymen of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada in their dugout in the Hochwald, Germany. March 5, 1945.
Infantrymen of "B" Company, Highland Light Infantry of Canada, in their Universal Carrier. March 24, 1945, Speldrop, Germany.
Personnel of the Regina Rifles preparing to attack enemy in Moyland Wood near Calcar, Germany, 16 February 1945.
Pte. G.A. Playford, 2 Canadian Infantry Division, sorting captured German weapons. 3 Mar 1945, Hochwald Forest, Germany.
Infantry of the Chaudière Regiment going along dyke during the clearing of the flooded area near Cleve, Germany, February 10th, 1945.
Infantrymen of Support Company, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, supported by a Sherman tank of The Fort Garry Horse, advancing south of Hatten, Germany, 22 April 1945.
Rifleman J. Boehm of the Regina Rifle Regiment in position among the ruins of Zyfflich, Germany, 9 February 1945.
Infantrymen of the Regina Rifle Regiment, Zyfflich, Germany, 9 February 1945.
 
Infantrymen of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal loading Sten gun magazines, Munderloh, Germany, 29 April 1945.
Infantrymen of “D” Company, Royal Regiment of Canada, examine equipment taken from surrendering German soldiers during the advance from Hatten to Dingstede, Germany, 24 April 1945.
L/Cpl. J.E. Cunningham, 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade, practices firing "Lifebuoy" flame thrower in orchard. Xanten (vic.), Germany, 10 Mar. 1945.
Canadians in Germany - Cpl. Urban standing beside road sign on the road to Cleve which reads 'You are entering Germany - Be on your guard.' 9 Feb 1945, Wyler, Germany.
Wounded infantry being helped back to cover. Hatten (South of), Germany, 22/23 Apr. 1945.
L/Cpl. J.E. Cunningham, 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade, practices firing "Lifebuoy" flame thrower in orchard. Xanten (vic.), Germany, 10 Mar. 1945.
Soldier of the 2 Canadian Infantry Division looks at a portrait of Hitler hanging on the wall of a house with a knife. 28 Feb 1945, Calcar, Germany.
Canadian infantrymen passing German refugees near Xanten, Germany, March 9th, 1945.
Infantrymen of 11 Platoon, "B" Company, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (R.H.L.I.). March 24, 1945, Speldrop, Germany.
Algonquin Regiment moving forward near the Hochwald Forest, Udem, Germany, March 1st, 1945.
Infantrymen of the Regina Rifle Regiment keeping warm in the smoldering ruins of a house, Zyfflich, Germany, 9 February 1945.
Lance-Corporal A. Kerelchuk and Private H.M. Sigurdson, both of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, guarding the northern approach to a bridge across the Ems River, Meppen, Germany, 8 April 1945. Lance-Cpl. A. Kerelchuk was later killed on April 19, 1945, likely at the Küsten Canal.
 
Infantrymen of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and a Sherman tank of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division awaiting orders to go through a roadblock, Wertle, Germany, 11 April 1945.
Lieutenant W.B. Sparks of "A" Company, The Highland Light Infantry of Canada, and Captain J.D. MacFarlane of the 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), awaiting the jump-off of the attack on Leer, Germany, 28 April 1945.
Members of Queen's Own Camerons of Winnipeg looking over German marks left behind by the fleeing civilians. 9 Mar 1945.
 
Lieutenant W.B. Sparks of "A" Company, The Highland Light Infantry of Canada, and Captain J.D. MacFarlane of the 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (R.C.A.), awaiting the jump-off of the attack on Leer, Germany, 28 April 1945.
Canadian soldiers displaying a large German flag removed from a fortified house. March 9th, 1945. Xanten, Germany. Xanten, Germany.
 Xanten, Germany.
Infantrymen of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada at their dugout in the Hochwald, Germany, March 5, 1945.
Sergeant F. Beal (fourth from left), Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, talking with infantrymen of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (R.H.L.I.). March 24, 1945, Speldrop, Germany.
Infantrymen of "A" Company, Highland Light Infantry of Canada, boarding boats on the Ems River to attack Leer. April 28, 1945, Leer, Germany.
Sherman tanks of the 4th Armoured Division ready to advance near Sonsbeck, Germany, March 9th,1945.
Infantrymen of the Regina Rifle Regiment keeping warm in the smoldering ruins of a house, Zyfflich, Germany, 9 February 1945.
Infantrymen of the Regina Rifle Regiment, Zyfflich, Germany, 9 February 1945.

Last updated on Nov 24, 2006 22:00. Page viewed 66774 times.