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Operace Blockbuster

Operation Blockbuster

     
Název:
Name:
Operace Blockbuster
Datum:
Date:
22.02.1945-11.03.1945
Válčiště / Fáze:
Theatre of Operations / Phase:
Západoevropské válčiště
Místo:
Location:
oblast mezi městy Goch a Xanten
GPS:
GPS:
51°39'21.38"N 6°21'07.2"E
Účastníci:
Belligerents:
 
Strana A:
Side A:
Kanada
Velká Británie
Strana B:
Side B:
Velkoněmecká říše
Velitelé:
Commanders:
 
Strana A:
Side A:
Harry Crerar
Strana B:
Side B:
Alfred Schlemm
Síly:
Strenght:
 
Síly strana A:
Forces Side A:
1. kanadská armáda
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
 
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
-
Síly strana B:
Forces Side B:
1. výsadková armáda
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
 
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
-
Ztráty:
Losses:
 
Ztráty strana A:
Losses Side A:
VERITABLE + BLOCKBUSTER:
1 049 důstojníků
14 585 příslušníků mužstva
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
 
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
-
Ztráty strana B:
Losses Side B:
VERITABLE + BLOCKBUSTER:
22 000
+
22 239 zajatých
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
 
Zobraz detail:
Show Detail:
-
Cíle a výsledek:
Objectives and Result:
 
Typ operace, strana A:
Type of Operation, Side A:
útok
Typ operace, strana B:
Type of Operation, Side B:
obrana
Cíle, strana A:
Objectives, Side A:
obsadit západní břeh Rýna severně od Geldern - splněn
Cíle, strana B:
Objectives, Side B:
udržet předmostí na západním břehu Rýna - nesplněn
Výsledek:
Result:
vítězství strany A
Poznámka:
Note:
-
Zdroje:
Sources:
www.canadahistory.com
Charles Perry STACEY: Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume III. The Victory Campaign, The Operations in North-West Europe 1944-1945, 1960
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INTRODUCTION


Battle of the Rhine
Operation BLOCKBUSTER was performed by 1st Canadian army in the area between the Rhine and the Mass on the Dutch-German border. The operation followed the operation VERITABLE. These two operations together with Operation GRENADE, carried out by the American 9. army in the area between the rivers Rour and Mass on the one hand and the Rhine on the other, were part of the Battle of the Rhine, which took place in February and March on a wide front from Nijmegen to Rastatt. Both armies fell under the command of Montgomery's 21. Army Group, which provided the northernmost part of the conquest of the left bank of the Rhine. In the evening of February 21, 1945, the units of the 1st Canadian Army managed to clear the city of German troops after overcoming stubborn German resistance in the Reich Forest Goch and take a position by the road from this city to Kalkar. This ended operation VERITABLE and could start operation BLOCKBUSTER, the core of which was a fight 4. Canadian Armored Division with German 116. tank division a gap between the Hochwald and Tüschenwald forests (which formed the northwestern tip of the Balberg Forest).


Position of the 1st Canadian Army
Commander of the 1st Canadian Army had two corps - II. Canadian Corps on the left wing between Gochem and the Rhine and the British XXX. Corps on the right wing between Gochem and Maas river. II. Corps had on the left wing between the Rhine and the road Kleve - Kalkar - Xanten 43. (Wessex) Infantry Division, in the direction between Kalkar and Uedem were 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Behind them, they prepared to attack 4th Canadian Armored Division and 11. Armored Division. XXX. the corps had on its right wing 52. (Lowland) Division, located northeast of Afferden. Southwest of Goch was located 51. (Highland) Division, which, however, did not intervene in the fighting, as it had to go to the reserve and prepare for the crossing of the Rhine. Southeast of Goch, along the railway line Goch - Geldern was 53. (Welsh) Division. To her left stood 15. (Scottish) Division and on the left wing was 3. infantry division. Commander of the XXX. Corps also had Guard armored division. The Canadian part of the battlefield was narrower, but there were more units operating and the toughest fighting took place, including the most significant point of the operation - the break through the Hochwald intersection.


Position of units of the German 1st Airborne Army
German Commander 1. airborne army Alfred Schlemm had four corps. On the right wing was located XXXXVII. tank corps and the area between Uedem and Weeze was hold by II. airborne corps. On the line Weeze- Venlo was LXXXVI. Army Corps and south of it defended the area between the cities Venlo and Roermond LXIII. Army Corps. XXXXVII. tank corps consisted of 6. parachute division (north of Keppeln), reinforced 116. tank division (around Keppeln) and the 7th Airborne Regiment (in Uedem). II. airborne corps consisted mainly of the 7th Airborne Division, which was relatively well prepared for combat. In contrast, the 8th Airborne Division was halfway and full of inexperienced soldiers. 15. tank grenadiers division and 84. the infantry division were no better off, on the contrary. The Germans could rely in part on the Schlieffen line, which was between Kehrum and Sonsbeck formed by three rows of infantry trenches and anti-tank trench. However, it was far from finished everywhere and the terrain was not always favorable. Although General Schlemm strengthened the defensive line with fifty 88mm cannons, their operators were not overflowing with experience and combat morale.


American advance in the south
On February 23, good news came from the southern American 9. army. At half past three in the morning, finally launched Operation GRENADE. After the opening barrage, her two corps attacked and began to cross the Rour River. They were supported on the right wing by the American 1.army that attacked in the Duren area. The Americans advanced relatively quickly, thanks to the fact that part of the German forces were moved to positions against the Canadian army.


Advance of parts of II. Corps
II. canadian corps had three options. The first option was to proceed north from the forest along the road along the Rhine, which led from Kalkar via Marienbaum to Xanthen. However, the road was very damaged and the spilled Rhine made conditions worse here. In addition, it was the shortest route and the Germans expected an Allied advance here. The second option was to proceed south of the Tüschenwald Forest by road Uedem -Kervenheim- Sonsbeck-Xanten. However, this was how XXX. corps plan to advance and the road would be congested. General Simonds therefore decided for the third option - to walk along the railway line through the intersection between Hochwald and Balberg ( Tüschenwald) forest. Corps units were first to occupy the ridge between the cities Kalkar and Uedem, from here continue on the saddle towards the intersection between the Hochwald and Balberg forests, break through this section, then occupy the town Xanten and finally take a position on the banks of the Rhine. According to the survey, the saddle was not mined and the track body could be used for supply columns after removing the top.


Roadmap of II. Corps
II. Canadian Corps was scheduled to leave on the morning of February 26. The initial strike was to be led by the brigades of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, which, with the support of two regiments of the 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade, had crossed the road Goch-Kalkar and attack towards the plateau south of Kalkar. This in itself was an important position, the conquest of which in the Germans should also give the impression that the Canadians would try to move north. The Allies hoped that the Germans would strengthen this part of the battlefield at the expense of positions at Uedem. South of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was to set out from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Her task was to occupy the heights north of Keppeln, which lay about halfway between Uedem and Kalkar. After securing the northern part of the ridge, the 8th Brigade was to occupy Keppeln itself. An assault point in the form of the 4th Canadian Armored Division was then to stretch between the two infantry divisions in the direction of Todtenhügel. Then the attack was to continue south. The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was to set out on Uedem, which was to be threatened also the 4th Canadian Armored Brigade of the 4th Canadian Armored Division. In the meantime, the 11th Armored Division, which had been assigned here as a reinforcement from the British 2nd Army, was to advance south of Uedem towards Kervenheim and take up positions in the Gochfortzberg area, which was the southern tip of the ridge. This was to be followed by an eastward strike by the 4th Canadian Armored Division, which was to set out from the area north of Keppeln across the saddle between Uedem and the Hochwald Forest to the area of the intersection between the Hochwald and Balberg Forest. In the meantime, the 11th Armored Division was to advance and conquer Sonsbeck.This would secure the ridges southeast of the Balberg Forest. Both Canadian infantry divisions were to advance on the wings of the 4th Canadian Armored Division. The 2nd Division was to pass through the Hochwald Forest and the 3rd Division through the Balberg Forest. After passing through the passage, an attack on Xanten was to follow.


Artillery and Air Support
The advancing units were to have strong artillery support. The initial barrage was to be provided by twelve field, six medium and three heavy artillery regiments in the case of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, and seven field and two medium artillery regiments in the case of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. In case of an encounter with a significantly strong position of the enemy, strong artillery support should be available on request during the fighting. In the late stages, the armored divisions had the support of three field and five medium artillery regiments each. 25 important targets were pre-selected for air strikes. Fighter bombers targeted 18 of them in the area between the ridge and the western tip of the forest in advance of the ground units. Medium bombers also spoke. Targets north of Kervenheim and in both forests were covered with anti-personnel bombs. In addition, they carried out dam bombing in the southern (area near Sonsbeck) and the northern wing (area near Kehrum and Marienbaum). In general, however, bad weather limited air support. In addition, the area under the West Bank under German control continued to shrink, which required more and more caution in selecting targets for attack, and in addition, there was a higher concentration of anti-aircraft artillery in the rest of the bridgehead. During the operation, air support was provided sporadically and, in the end, virtually no air support was provided.
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PROGRESS
Initial progress of XXX. corps
On 22 March, the 15th (Scottish) Division attacked into the wooded area northeast of Weeze, followed by the 53rd (Welsh) Division on 24 February. The latter was tasked to move south, take Weeze and continue southwest. After securing the right flank, units of the II Canadian Corps were put into motion on 26 February, tasked with moving through the Hochwald Forest area to the town of Xanten and taking up positions on the Rhine.


Taking the northern part of the Kalkar-Uedem plateau
As darkness fell on the evening of 25 February, units of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division began to move to designated forward positions southwest of Kalkar. On the division's left flank was the 5th Brigade with the Regiment de Maisonneuve and the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), while on the right flank was the 6th Brigade with the South Saskatchewan Regiment, Mont-Royal Fusiliers and the Queen's Own Canadian Cameron Highlanders. The movement of troops was noted by the Germans and the Canadians were not infrequently shelled by mortars. Early on the morning of the second day, moreover, German paratroopers, supported by several tanks, attacked the 4th Brigade, which was holding positions through which the attacking regiments of the 6th Brigade were to pass. A German success would have jeopardized the proper start of the offensive. However, Company D of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Regiment, with the help of artillery support and tanks of the 10th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, managed to repel the counterattack. Just in time, a massive artillery preparation was about to begin in a few minutes. At 03:45 the guns boomed, their barrage to open the way for the attacking bodies of the 6th Brigade and 2nd Armoured Brigade. They moved out at 04:30. The Physillars had their target closest, just off the Kalkar-Uedem road. It didn't take them an hour to reach the target. The South Saskatchewan Regiment also managed to reach the first objective - the heights near the Kleve railway line -Kalkar -Xanten. Cameron's regiment encountered resistance and diverted to the axis of the Fusiliers' advance. In addition, the regimental commander was shot by a German sniper. However, the regiment managed to reach the eastern edge of the ridge despite stiff resistance. By noon on 26 February, the 6th Brigade had accomplished all the objectives of Phase I. Regiments of the 5th Brigade moved into the area southwest of Kalkar. Regiment de Maisonneuve captured most of its objectives without much difficulty, but the capture of the woodland at the junction of the roads from Gochu and Kleve was hampered by stiff German resistance and the absence of armoured vehicles, which were concentrated within the brigade at Black Watch, which had to keep pace with 6 Brigade. Resistance was broken shortly after the arrival of tanks and Wasp mobile flamethrowers.



In the 3rd Division section, the advance of a regiment of the Queen's Personal Canadian Rifles was stalling. The German paratroopers were tenaciously defending several farms, notably Mooshof, which stood on the road up the ridge, and the soggy ground made it impossible to deploy tanks. The Germans even attempted an unsuccessful counterattack. It was only when a tank was able to reach here that the German resistance was overcome. The riflemen then proceeded to their targets, the Steeg and Wemmershof farms. These nests of resistance were also neutralised. This time with the support of Wasp flamethrowers. At the moment, when in this area between the regiments of the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions passed the tanks 4th Canadian Armoured Division, the riflemen were still clearing some cellars in which the most determined of the Germans were held. By about five, all the objectives of the first phase were secured and the Corps could move on to the second phase - the attack on Keppeln.


Taking the southern part of the ridge and capturing Keppeln
After the riflemen secured the aforementioned positions on the edge of the ridge, the remaining two regiments of the 8th Brigade attacked along the Kleve-Uedem road to Keppeln. The Northshore (New Brunswick) Regiment and the Regiment de la Chaudière had to attack in the open, flat countryside. German mortar fire soon pinned the Northshore members, who were attacking north of the road without armour support, down, and only an artillery counter-attack prevented major casualties. The Canadians then awaited the arrival of the tanks, which would no longer be needed by the Queen's Rifles after the capture of the farmsteads on the edge of the ridge. Regiment de la Chaudière, advancing south of the road, sent in an infantry attack supported by a squadron of tanks of the 2nd Armoured Brigade. Their nearest objective was the Hollen homestead. However, the advance of de la Chaudière's regiment was slowed by the halt in the advance of the Northshore regiment. In addition, three Panther tanks appeared on the scene, whose fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Canadians. After the Northshore Regiment managed to resume its advance following the arrival of a squadron of tanks from the 1st Hussars of the 2nd Armoured Brigade, de la Chaudière's regiment managed to capture Hollen. Thereafter the regiment advanced quite easily thanks to the exemplary cooperation of the infantry with the tanks and artillery. The Northshore Regiment also benefited from this cooperation and captured Keppeln.


While the 8th Brigade was fighting for Keppeln, the 4th Armoured Division, or rather its TIGER battle group, managed to secure the northeastern part of the Kalkar-Uedem ridge. The 2nd Infantry Division's infantry brigades had not yet occupied all the objectives, and the TIGER group formations moved out in the area between the 6th and 8th Brigades. The advance of the tanks was difficult, the terrain was soggy and the German Panzerfausts found their victims. However, the Canadian tankers managed to neutralize the German positions. After securing Todtenhügel, Task Force SMITH, still held in reserve, headed south to seize the heights northeast of Uedem, i.e., Paulsberg and Katzenberg, among others. At dusk they captured Paulsberg, but the Germans immediately counterattacked. However, by seven in the evening this hill was firmly in Canadian hands. Within the next two hours, Katzenberg was also captured. The plateau from Kalkar to Uedem was in Canadian hands. This completed Phase II of the II Corps attack.



Capture of Uedem
The move could now move on to the capture of Uedem, which would allow the 11th Armoured Division to advance south of the town and then attack through the Hochwald Forest. Uedem was to be defended by the 116th Panzer Division. The 180th Infantry Division, which was to be moved there from LXXXVIth Army Corps, was to assist on 28 February. At 20:30 the guns were fired and after a half-hour barrage the 9th Infantry Brigade attacked Uedem with its Highland Regiment of Canadian Light Infantry on the left flank and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highland Regiments on the right flank. The infantry was to have tank support, but the 2nd Armoured Brigade was still deployed in the northern part of the battlefield and initially its squadrons could not arrive. Nevertheless, the regiments managed to advance relatively quickly to the town, where, however, the resistance of the paratroopers of the 7th Airborne Regiment had increased considerably. The defenders eased off only around 4am. The two regiments then captured the northern part of the town and then the North Nova Scotia Highland Regiment set out to capture the town proper. The German snipers proved to be a vague problem and the brigade commander therefore ordered a regiment of Canadian light infantry to help the Nova Scotians clear these pockets of resistance. At about half past nine on 27 February, the regiments reported that they had succeeded in capturing positions along the Goch-Xanten railway line in the south-eastern part of Uedem. After the arrival of tanks, the southwestern part of the town was also captured. In the afternoon the brigade could report the completion of the tasks. The capture of Uedem enabled the 11th Armoured Division to move along the southern part of the town towards Gochfortzberg in the area north of Kervenheim. Phase III of the operation was therefore carried out in accordance with the prepared plan. Around midnight on 26-27 February, members of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division occupied positions in the Todtenhügel area, freeing up TIGER Group of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division to continue offensive operations.


Advance of the 43rd Division on the left flank of II Corps
The 129th Brigade of the 43rd (Wessex) Division, which had been operating to the left of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division on the corps' left flank, took up positions south of Kalkar, freeing up regiments of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade to move to the next attack. In addition, it was itself attempting an attack in the direction of Kehrum to keep up the advance with the 2nd Division, thus protecting the left flank of the corps. The 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment entered Kalkar in the afternoon unopposed. A little farther southeast, units of the 214th Infantry Brigade moved to positions captured the previous day by the 6th Infantry Brigade. The 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment crossed the Kalflach Canal on the evening of 26 February and captured Wissen without a fight. The next day it also secured Grieth and Hönnepel. Thus the territory north of Kalkar was occupied. In the following days the regiment continued operations between the Kalkar-Marienbaum road and the Rhine.


Attack on the pass
In the middle of the II Canadian Corps combat zone, forces intended to break the Schlieffen Line were massed early in the morning of 27 February. At 4:30 a.m., a LION group was formed to attack at Kirsel, located less than two kilometres north of Uedem. Its assault spearhead consisted of the 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment and the Algonquin Regiment, both of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. The group was soon to be augmented by infantry battalions now stationed with TIGER. To the left of the 4th Armoured Division formations, units of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade were preparing to attack in the Todtenhügel area. The LION Group was to cross the valley between the plateau and the Hochwald Ridge and attack the circular hill at the western end of the pass between the Hochwald and Balberger forests, Hill 73, now designated ALBATROSS. After an initial two-hour barrage led by three field and five medium artillery regiments, the 25-pounder guns continued to shell the defensive lines, and the medium guns showered their projectiles on the pass area. Artillerymen also used tracer ammunition to help maintain the orientation of the attacking troops. However, some units of the Algonquin Regiment did not arrive in time, making it impossible to launch the attack on schedule. This had unpleasant consequences. At five in the morning, the Germans began shelling the area near Kirsel. And in less than an hour, it would be dawn. At quarter to six, the order to attack was finally given. The Germans were taken by surprise by the attack at first, and the Canadians managed to get through the gaps created by the artillerymen in the anti-tank trenches and minefields before daylight. When the frontal 100ths managed to breach the last line of defence in front of ALBATROSS, the Germans launched counterattacks. Thanks to the presence of tanks and the artillery fire called in, the Canadians managed to thwart these German attempts for the time being. But the situation was not the best. The LION group was driven into an enemy position and thus exposed on the flanks. Neither the 2nd Division in the north nor the 3rd Division in the south had yet moved forward. The Germans were thus able to concentrate all available guns and mortars on LION, resulting in an increase in casualties. At six o'clock in the morning the diversionary attack on the starboard flank began. A smaller column of armor moved out of Kirsel and rounded Uedem, but lost its bearings behind it. It crossed the railroad right at Uedem and entered an area not yet cleared by the 9th Infantry Brigade, and then, in addition, encountered an eminence at the southern end of the ridge not yet occupied by the 11th Armored Division. Here the Germans had a position of 88mm anti-tank guns which destroyed most of the armour. The rest were reached by German infantry with their panzerfausts. This was both a disaster for the dead Canadians and a major complication for the LION assault spearhead group, which was thus left without a covered right flank.


On the left flank, before dawn, units of the 5th Infantry Brigade finally set off across the valley. Around 9 o'clock the Calgary Highlanders broke through the German defensive lines and reached the Schmachdarm farmhouse, where they were pinned down by German artillery fire. The anticipated Black Watch attack through the Hochwald Forest further southeast had to be postponed until the morning of 28 February. When the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders returned from their engagement with TIGER, the commander of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Armoured Division, deployed them to attack where members of the Algonquin Regiment were dug in. However, German shelling forced even them to stop and dig in. The commander of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division needed to resume the offensive and therefore ordered 10. Infantry Brigade to attack again at the head of the pass, clear the northwestern tip of the Balberger Forest (Tüschenwald), through which the railway line passed, and secure the area between Uedem and Tüschenwald so that the engineers could modify this route and then the Canadian Grenadier Guards Armoured Regiment and the Upper Lake Motorized Infantry Regiment could move forward to attack further east. A new attempt by the 10th Infantry Brigade to go on the offensive was scheduled for 2 a.m. on 28 February, after a previous heavy artillery preparation. The Argylls were to occupy positions along the road running perpendicularly through the pass, and the Lincoln and Welland Regiment was then to secure the railway line and the Tüschnewald. The infantry attack was to be supported by one squadron of the 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment. Before three o'clock the Argylls succeeded in taking ALBATROSS and reaching the lateral road. Here they repulsed several attempts to counter-attack, which were led by, among others, a fresh battalion of the 24th Parachute Regiment. At 12:30 the Lincoln Regiment was to go on the attack, but before completing formation two companies of it came under heavy artillery fire and suffered heavy casualties, leading to the withdrawal of the attack. The situation was at least improved by the fact that one company of the Algonquin Regiment managed to cross the railway line and secure the Uedemerbruch. However, in the area of the 4th Armored Division, the situation still seemed to be that units of the 4th Armored Brigade were still behind units of the 10th Infantry Brigade. The addition of two more armoured regiments of the 4th Brigade was out of the question due to the soggy terrain and German shelling of the embarkation areas.


Situation at other positions
While the situation on the tip was not at all as planned, on the flanks it was more cheerful after all. On the 2nd Infantry Division's section, units of the 4th Brigade went on the offensive against the northern tip of the Hochwald Forest. The Royal Canadian Regiment had finished clearing the area around Todtenhügel on the evening of 28 February, and now the Essex Scottish Regiment, whose companies were wedged into the western side of the northern end of the forest, moved forward at 2100. On the right flank of the corps the 11th Armoured Division was set in motion, and on the afternoon of 27 February it took Gochfortzberg and from there advanced slowly over the soggy ground to the Schlieffen Line south-west of the Balberg Forest. XXX Corps, on the right flank of the 1st Canadian Army, maintained constant pressure on the German defences. Although the Welsh Division had not yet succeeded in capturing Weeze, the 3rd British Division relieved the 15th Scottish Infantry Division and cut the Uedem-Weeze road. The 52nd Division captured Groote Horst on 28 February and 1st Brigade Commandos advanced along the Meuse. In addition, the 1st Canadian Army's positions were rapidly approached from the south by units of the US 9th Army, which successfully expanded the conquered territory between the Roure and the Rhine. It was also positive that the weather improved on 28 February. This allowed the arrival of fighter-bombers of 84th RAF Group, which provided direct air support and attacks on more distant targets such as Sonsbeck. However, the weather soon deteriorated and made raids irregular.


Situation on the German side
The advance of the American 9th Army gave General Schlemm a lot of trouble. At the beginning of the fighting, his main concern was that the XXXXVIth Tac and II Airborne Corps prevent the advance of the 1st Canadian Army. Now he had to ensure safe passage to the right bank of the Rhine, as his army was threatened with encirclement. Schlemm therefore proposed the withdrawal of 1st Airborne Army units to the Marienbaum-Kevelaer-Geldern-Kempen-Krefeld perimeter, which Hitler approved on 28 February, but only after personal assurances from the Supreme Commander West, Field Marshal General von Rundstedt, that this was the most appropriate solution. Schlemm first had to reinforce the southern part of the perimeter, where the LXIII Army Corps was stationed. Thanks to reinforcements from the 25th Army, he could move the 2nd Airborne Division south, where it was to secure the area between Krefeld and the Rhine and reinforce the 84th Infantry Division and the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division at Kempen.


Schlemm also began to prepare in advance a narrower perimeter of Xanten-Alpen-Mörs, which was being prepared by the reserve and supply formations. Meanwhile, the headquarters of the LXXXVIth Army Corps was moved across the Rhine. The II Airborne Corps took over the 190th Division and extended its operations as far as Kempen. In addition, Schlemm was responsible with his own life that no bridge over the Rhine in his area would fall into the hands of the Allies, but he was allowed to have them blown up only at the last moment. He was also forbidden to send men and equipment to the right bank without Hitler's permission. Thus Schlemm could not have damaged equipment or those with running out of ammunition sent to the other bank. It was similar with the soldiers, only the wounded were allowed to cross the river, so that those who did not have the necessary equipment and gear, mostly from the rear units of the destroyed units, remained. Although the American advance forced Schlemm to strengthen the left flank at the expense of the right, it left a stronger force on the right flank in the Hochwald Forest area. Here he deployed his best reserve units, such as an assault battalion of paratroopers. The artillery was also stronger here than in other parts of the battlefield.


Continued fighting for the pass
On March 1, regiments of the 6th Brigade replaced the regiments of the 10th Brigade. The regiments of the 4th Brigade fought their way through the northern part of the Hochwald Forest. Here the Essex Scots encountered fierce resistance from German paratroopers and had to repel a number of enemy counter-attacks. In the south, units of the 3rd Division attempted to clear Tüschenwald and Balbergerwald, but without much success, the Regiment de la Chaudière being repulsed. It was not until the morning resumption of the attack, supported by tanks of the 1st Hussars, that success was achieved. Regiment de la Chaudière took a foothold on the edge of the forest, and its success was then built upon in the afternoon by two other regiments of the 8th Brigade, the Northshore Regiment and the Queen's Own Canadian Rifles, which began clearing the southern forest of the enemy. In the area of the 2nd Division the attack of the 4th Brigade continued. A regiment of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry took the baton from the Essex Scots and advanced towards Marienbaum. At the pass, the commander of the 4th Armoured Brigade also took command of the Algonquin Regiment, and together with his Canadian Grenadier Guards tanks and infantry tracers Kangaroo of the Upper Lake Motorised Regiment, attacked from the cross-road eastwards to a group of buildings on the Marienbaum-Sonsbeck road, against the positions of the 24th Parachute Regiment and the Parachute Assault Regiment. Only some of the infantry reached the buildings, as the tanks and armoured vehicles suffered heavy losses from German Tigers, self-propelled guns and anti-tank guns of the aforementioned airborne units, and the overall 116th Panzer Division. The Algonquin Regiment's advanced infantry spearhead was subsequently the target of devastating German counterattacks. The 2 March attack failed. The 4th Armoured Brigade's position in the salient was taken over by units of the 5th Infantry Brigade.


On the morning of 2 March, while disaster was looming in the pass, a regiment of the Queen's Personal Canadian Cameron Highlanders of the 6th Infantry Brigade passed the Mont-Royal Fusiliers and attempted to advance deep into the woods, but was soon halted. Navc, until the 5th Brigade took up a position in the pass, the 6th Brigade could not continue its attacks. The only positive aspect was that the Canadians had occupied the eastern part of the Hochwald Forest to a depth of less than two kilometres. In the south, it took the 8th Brigade two days to clear the Balberger Forest after de la Chaudière's regiment had captured the Tüschenwald Forest on 2 March. The area was heavily mined, and the advance through the forest was hampered by the impossibility of effectively deploying armor in the wooded terrain, in addition to conveniently located machine-gun nests with good manning. The division experienced its heaviest fighting on the second of March while crossing the Schlieffen Line near the southern tip of the Balberger Forest. The armoured division had not yet entered Sonsbeck itself, as the approach road from the west was in poor condition and very well defended. The division therefore halted and waited. In the meantime, units of the 3rd Infantry Division attacked in the direction of Hammerbruch, which lay on the ridge coming out of the Balberger Forest and stretched all the way beyond Sonsbeck.


XXX Corps advance
On the XXX Corps battlefield, the effect of the American advance to the south on the German defenses began to become noticeable. The 3rd British Division captured Kervenheim on 1 March, Winnekendonk on 2 March, and on the following day occupied positions on the Schlieffen Line at Kapellen without a fight. Units of the 53rd Division entered the deserted Weeze on 2 March and proceeded quietly to Kevelaer. On 3 March a junction was made between units of this division and units of the American XVI Corps at the village of Berendonk, four miles north of the town of Geldern. On the corps' extreme right flank, the 1st Brigade Commandos captured Langstraat on 2 March and Well on 3 March. On 4 March they linked up with the American 17th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron at Walbeck. Other units of the 52nd Division captured Wemb without a fight.


Situation on the German side
Around noon on 3 March, the XXXXVII Panzer Corps was ordered to withdraw 116th Panzer Division to Alpen. Around midnight, the 180th Infantry Division took over its area. On the right, the 6th Airborne Division withdrew to a position about three kilometers east of the Hochwald Forest. In the southwestern part of the battlefield, II Airborne Corps withdrew the 190th Division to the Alpen, leaving only the 7th Airborne Division and the remnants of the 8th Airborne Division to face American-British pressure. These changes allowed the 2nd Canadian Division to capture the Hochwald Forest, including the pass. On the far left flank, the 43rd Division advanced. Its 214th Infantry Brigade captured Kehrum on 3 March and entered Marienbaum the following morning. By evening it had managed to secure Vynen and reach the outskirts of Wardt. Xanten, some three kilometres away, was in sight. Meanwhile, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division at Hochwald was regrouping for a parallel attack on Xanten. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had cleared the Balberg Forest and its 9th Infantry Brigade the heights at Hammerbruch. While the 7th Infantry Brigade was to advance south from there to Sonsbeck, the 4th Armoured Division was to take up the direction of Veen.


Further advance of XXX Corps
Horrocks' XXX Corps on the southern flank of the 1st Canadian Army began to turn northeast. His area of operations was now narrower, and only his two divisions, the Garda Armoured Division on the left and the 53rd Welsh Division on the right, advanced. The Welsh Division advanced in the direction of Geldern-Issum-Alpen. The Garde Armoured Division passed through the 3rd Division's position at Kapellen and attacked east towards Bönninghardt. At noon on 4 March the Welsh division succeeded in capturing Issum. The Garda Division, or rather its 5th Armoured Brigade, took Hamb before nightfall. In the road to Bönninghardt the division was faced with a wooded high ground which was heavily occupied by German paratroopers supported by self-propelled guns. The pouring battle for this area lasted two days, and on 6 March the division wrested Bönninghardt from the hands of the 8th Airborne Division. That same evening the 53rd Welsh Division captured the Leucht Forest south of Alpen, with a view to relieving the 52nd Lowland Division. The American XVI Corps of the US 9th Army fought for Rheinberg on the morning of 6 March. The northern flank of the 1st Canadian Army was also advancing, although not at as fast a pace as the southern flank.


Capture of Sonsbeck
The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division accomplished its assigned tasks. On the morning of 6 March, the 9th Brigade had captured enough of the heights near Hammerbruch to allow units of the Canadian Scottish Regiment to attack southwards towards Sonsbeck, which was subsequently captured by the Regimental Rifle Regiment. The latter then linked up with the 3rd British Division, which moved out of Kappelen and occupied the Winkelscher Forest between Kappelen and Sonsbeck.


Capture of Xanten
Schlemm's bridgehead was greatly reduced. It now consisted of an imaginary circle, composed of two semicircles, one fronting the Rhine arch and the other the Xanten-Veen-Alpen-Ossenberg line. Maintaining these settlements and the north-south Xanten-Osseberg road was crucial to the functioning of the bridgehead. The Canadians were going to take Xanten and Veen, the British Alpen, and the American XVI Corps planned to Rheinberg and take Ossenberg. Xanten was to be taken by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division along with the 43rd (Wessex) Division, Veen was the objective of the 4th Armoured Division. By 5 March, the 43rd Division was already holding Wardt and Wickermanshof. The 2nd Division was at the Roschhof (6th Brigade) and Birkenkampfshof (5th Brigade) estates. Early in the morning the Cameron Highlanders attacked, but their attempt was repulsed. The corps commander ordered a regrouping and assault on the town led by the 4th and 5th Brigades of the 2nd Canadian Division and the 129th Brigade of the 43rd Division. On 7 March the 4th and 5th Brigades completed the regrouping and units of the 6th Brigade occupied forward positions west of the town, and preparations for a general assault on the town were thus complete. According to the plan, the 4th Brigade was to occupy the western part of the town, while the 129th Brigade was to push into the town from the north and take the rest of it. Then the 5th Brigade was to take the heights southwest of the city between the railway line and the Rhine.
The attack on Xanten was launched at 5.30am by a massive artillery preparation led by seven field and four medium artillery regiments. Then the 4th Brigade got underway. The Essex Scots passed through the South Saskatchewan Regiment's position at Röschof and the Hamilton Light Infantry through the Mont-Royal Fusiliers' position at Birkenkampshof, and, supported by B Squadron of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers with their minelaying and flame-throwing tanks, went on the offensive while the barrage was still in progress. Initially the infantry formations approached the town relatively quickly, having already taken the farms on the outskirts of the town by seven o'clock. Now the road to Sonsbeck stood in their way. They overcame resistance here around midday after the arrival of Crocodiles, whose flames drove the Germans to flight. The situation was worse for the Hamiltonians, who were attacking further south along the railway line. Some companies encountered determined German resistance, suffered appreciable casualties and communications were cut. The advance was slowed by a large crater in the road, which a bulldozer was only able to remove under heavy fire in the afternoon. All the time the infantry were exposed to mortar and machine-gun fire from Xanten and even shelling from guns on the other side of the Rhine. Three companies lost their commanders, two were killed, one captured. In the afternoon the brigade commander sent the Royal Canadian Regiment to the attack to help the 129th Brigade in the north with the assault on the town, so that together they could relieve the Hamiltons. The attack was supported by Wasp mobile flamethrowers, as the waterlogged terrain did not allow the deployment of heavier flamethrower tanks. By the end of the day, the regiment had fought its way into the town and made contact with 129th Brigade there. However, the situation on the right flank of the 4th Brigade had not yet improved much, which threatened the plans of the 5th Brigade, which was to pass through here and attack the heights to the south. Although A Company of the Hamiltons had reached the road to Sonsbeck and had thus reached their objective, B and C Companies were south of the railway body nailed to the ground west of the road. Nevertheless, the 2nd Division commander ordered the 5th Brigade to move to the attack as quickly as possible. The 129th Brigade's attack was progressing successfully. The 4th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry Regiment advanced during the barrage and captured an anti-tank ditch, which allowed the arrival of a bridge tank which laid its bridge across the crossing, after which flame-throwing tanks went on the attack and helped to drive off the German paratroopers. The battalion then went on to capture the Beek homestead east of the town. The 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment attacked from Wardt to Lüttingen, where they encountered strong resistance and the man-to-man fighting here lasted until morning.


At 22:45 the second phase of the fighting for Xanten began. The de Maisonneuve Regiment of the 5th Brigade set off in Kangaroo armour, supported by Sherbrooke Fusiliers and mine clearance tanks along the road from Kalkar. He drove through the captured part of Xanten and halted as far south as Beek, taking another part of the town without much resistance. The Canadian Black Watch also secured its objectives. It was now still necessary to take the southwestern part of the city on the right flank. The brigade commander sent the South Saskatchewan Regiment, which was temporarily subordinate to him, to blockade the northeastern edge of the Diehee Forest. The Calgary Highlanders then took up positions between the northeastern edge of the forest and the Rhine arm. This also neutralized the enemy, who were still shelling the Hamiltonian positions. At nine o'clock on the morning of 9 March the brigade commander sent the Regiment de Maisonneuves through the Black Watch positions with the task of securing the crossing of the Winnenthaler Canal at Birten. They encountered stiff resistance there, but with the support of tanks, flamethrower tanks and mobile flamethrowers cleared the area. A number of Germans were captured, including the commander of the 17th Airborne Regiment. On the right, the Calgary Highlanders passed through and crossed the channel unopposed.


Evacuation of the bridgehead
In the meantime, it had already dawned on the German High Command that the days of Wehrmacht presence on the left bank of the Rhine were numbered, and on 6 March permission was given to evacuate the bridgehead by 10 March. The evacuation began the very night of 6-7 March. General Schlemm still remained on the left bank and supervised the operations of Meindl's II Airborne Corps, which had the remnants of the 6th, 7th and 8th Airborne Divisions, 116th Panzer Division and a combat group of the 346th Infantry Division. In addition, a few remnants of anti-tank and anti-aircraft units. The Canadians proved that they would not go down without a fight at Xanten.


Taking of Veen and Winnenthal
The Germans put up stiff resistance in the Veen area as well. Initially, the advance was without major problems. However, a mile before the town a large shortfall in the road halted the tanks' advance, and the infantry did not get much further either, pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire. After dark, one company made it as far as Veen, but was surrounded by German defenders, including a parachute assault battalion, and most of the men captured. It proved necessary to commit a larger force. The Algonquin Regiment, supported by the 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment on the north flank, and the Lincoln and Welland Regiments, supported by the 28th Armoured Regiment on the south flank, went on the offensive. But the advance was hampered by the soggy muddy ground, accurate antitank fire, and determined resistance from the paratroopers. They withdrew on the night of 8-9 March. In the morning, the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division was able to enter and occupy Veen.
A battle group consisting of one company of the Algonquin Regiment and a squadron of the Canadian Grenadier Guards captured Winnenthal, located east of Veen, after having fought a hard battle for a heavily defended monastery there with the help of a company from the Upper Lake Regiment. The paratroopers defending it did not surrender until the morning of 10 March. While the paratroopers put up stiff resistance, an orderly evacuation continued across the bridges at Wesel, the last one not blown up in the whole vast area. Schlemm was also helped by the fact that, although the American XVI Corps had captured Rheinberg on 6 March, it took another two days to capture Ossenberg. The next day it also cleared Haus Loo Fort, the last major position west of the Xanten-Rheinberg road.
Elimination of the rest of the bridgehead
On the evening of 8 March, XXX Corps handed over its divisions to II Canadian Corps, and its staff came under the command of the British Second Army and participated in planning further operations. On 9 March, the American XVI Corps came under the temporary command of the First Canadian Army. Many units, however, were already engaged in resting and healing wounds from heavy fighting, as they were no longer fighting in a very limited area. On the morning of 10 March, the Allies discovered that the two bridges over the Rhine at Wesel had already been destroyed and only small German formations remained on the west bank. By nightfall, the 52nd (Lowland) Division had taken Menzelen and Ginderich, which were located at the bend of the Rhine. The division remained there, holding a position between the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and the American 35th Infantry Division. Operation BLOCKBUSTER ended on the morning of 11 March when the defenders of Fort Blücher, located just across the Wesel at the bridge over the river, surrendered.
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CONCLUSION
Evaluation
If we also take into account the operation VERITABLE, a month period of heavy fighting has ended for 1st Canadian Army, which faced a determined and experienced enemy that had more than standard artillery support and recorded bad weather, which prevented the Allies from conducting effective air support. In addition, muddy terrain and broken roads limited the maneuverability of British tanks. Although progress of American troops south of the operational area 1st Canadian army drained some of the defenders, the British and especially the Canadians still had to fight hard, which caused heavy losses in their ranks. For some Canadian troops, these were the largest losses so far in the entire period of participation in the fighting of World War II. Defeat of the German 1. airborne army was de facto inevitable given the overall situation on the battlefields, but it must be acknowledged that its units put up stiff resistance and then retreated in an orderly manner. General Schlemm did what he could, despite the often meaningless and contradictory orders from above.


Losses
The losses of the 1st Canadian Army, calculated for the duration of operations VERITABLE and BLOCKBUSTER together, amounted to 1,049 officers and 14,585 soldiers. Most of them were British soldiers. The losses of purely Canadians climbed to 379 officers and 4,925 soldiers. Of these, Operation BLOCKBUSTER involved 243 officers and 3,395 soldiers. For comparison, it is possible to mention the losses of the American 9th Army from Operation GRENADE, which reached less than 7,300 people. During operations VERITABLE and BLOCKBUSTER 1. Canadian army captured 22,239 german prisoners. There were an estimated 22,000 more dead and seriously injured Germans.





SOURCES:
Charles Perry STACEY: Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume III. The Victory Campaign, The Operations in North-West Europe 1944-1945, 1960
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Veritable
www.canadahistory.com
http://canadianheroes.org/loren/hochwald.htm
http://www.104infdiv.org/grenade.htm
Battlefield I The Battle for the Rhine Episode 11 (tv documentary)
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Map of Operation Veritable and Grenade


Source: en.wikipedia.org
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