Sunday, 7 November 2010

27th March 1945 - Crossing the Rhine

For two days after the crossing by 51 Highland Division, we remained in our positions, though now of course we were relieved of our operational commitments.

We basked peacefully in the sun, and the hardier spirits bathed in the river. But on the 27th. this rest was rudely disturbed, for at 1600 hrs. the Battalion was ordered to cross the river by the bridge at Rees immediately, to relieve a Battalion of 51 Highland Division that night.

This caused some concern at first because some days before the assault the bulk of the Battalion transport had been ordered back to St Anthonis, on the West side of the Meuse, in order to clear the roads for the assaulting troops, and it had not yet rejoined us. We moved however, without further ado, although the transport did not join us until much later.

We crossed the Rhine on the class 40 bridge into Rees, and once over, spent some time in sorting ourselves out of the shambles of destruction and traffic that we found there.

Eventually we came to Groin, a little village two miles North East of Rees, where we relieved the 5th. Seaforths, releasing them to continue the advance further North next day.

Groin lay on the right flank of the 51st. Highland Division, whose main thrust had been directly North from Rees, and none knew what effect this threat had had upon any enemy in Haldern opposite Groin. Equally, no one knew now far forward 15 Scottish Division had reached from their crossing of the Rhine South of Rees, or what effect if any, their thrust had had upon Haldern.

Next morning two patrols set out to find out the answers to these problems. Capt. Baudains with a patrol from his Carrier platoon probed well into the town, while further North a patrol from "B" Company under Lt McCart pushed almost to the main road running North out of Haldern.

These two excellent patrols reported the town clear and Lt McCart brought back three straggling paratroopers who confirmed that their unit had pulled out of Haldern the previous night. They also said that extensive mine laying had been undertaken by the Germans before their departure.

Meanwhile a massive two battalion night attack on Haldern, supported by six field regiments had been planned, but it was swiftly abandoned when the information of the patrols was known. 9 British Infantry Brigade, with 2 RUR leading, was now to move forward as fast as it could along the axis Haldern - Werth high ground just west of Bocholt.

We started at 1700 hrs. and by 2000 hrs. the same evening were on our objectives, five miles higher up the axis. No contact had been made with the enemy, but Reigel mines had been extensively laid in the road, so that essential vehicles were compelled to make detours into the fields, and finally had to be left behind until a way could be cleared.

The Infantry Engineer Platoon under Sjt Genovese pulled at least 200 mines from the road that night, and the Sappers, later, were to pull many more.

Off the road great work was done by Capt. Baudains with members of the Carrier and Anti-tank platoons in constructing a class IX bridge over a little stream which was preventing the passage of vehicles over the cross country route. Our losses in men and vehicles were nil that night, though next morning a carrier and a 15 cwt. were blown up on two mines concealed in the verges.

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