Canadian share in
Operation Plunder and Varsity
After the successful completion of Operations "VERITABLE " (which included "BLOCKBUSTER") and "GRENADE " on 10 March put the Commander-in-Chief in a position to enter the decisive phase of the war on the Western Front. The winter offensives of the First Canadian Army and the Ninth US Army had now given the Allies control of the entire western bank of the Rhine from the Dutch-German border to the bridgehead formed by General Bradley's 12 U.S. Army Group at Remagen about 12 miles south of Bonn on 7 March 1945. It was therefore possible to consider large-scale operations in Germany.
The northern US Army would attack the Rhine at Rheinberg to protect the right flank of the Second British Army and the bridges at Wesel. Lt-Gen Dempsey's (British Second Army) troops would cross near Xanten and Rees, while General Matthew Bunker Ridgway (XVIII U.S. Airborne Corps) would "invade" north of Wesel.
Thus, the two attacking armies would secure a bridgehead east of the Rhine within the area bounded by the towns of Duisberg, Bottrop, Dorsten, Borken, Aalten, Doetinchem and Pannerden
Since the left flank of the upcoming operations of Army Group 21 Army Group would be under Canadian responsibility, General Crerar had agreed with Lieutenant General Dempsey that the 2 Cdn Corps would be placed under the operational control of the Second Army shortly before the actual attack was launched. The Canadian formation would then be led across the Rhine in due course and used to extend the bridgehead from Rees north-west towards Doetinchem and Aalten and secure Emmerich as a communications centre and bridgehead.
Once the river was bridged at that point, 2 Cdn Corps would return to General Crerar's command.
The prerequisite for the First Cdn Army's operations was therefore the construction of a bridge at Emmerich, but this was not possible as long as the high ground northwest of Emmerich remained in enemy hands: This wooded area, known as the Hoch Elten, rises to a height of about 240 feet and covers the roughly triangular area bounded by Elten, Kilder, Zeddam and 's Heerenberg. Hoch Elten had long been a high-priority objective because of its dominant position, and it was with the special task of taking it that the Canadians had to be passed by the left side of the Second Army across the 30 Corps bridges.
The 2 Cdn Corps operation would become known as "HAYMAKER".
Operation "PLUNDER" was born and the Canadian participation in the attack across the Rhine and the expansion of the bridgehead by 2 Cdn Corps 23/24 Mar - 1 Apr 45 is thus discussed in this special tour.
The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade as part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and under command of the 30th British Corps opened the attack across the Rhine River together with the British 51st (Highland) Infantry Division in the early may of 24 March 1945.
The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion R.C.I.C. was part of the 3rd British Parachute Brigade, which was part of the British 6th Airborne Division, during Operation Varsity.
The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion R.C.I.C. landed at Drop Zone "A" (Alfa) on 24 March 1945 around 10:00h and their mission was to clear the western part of the Dieserfordterwald of enemy and provide link-up with units of the 15th Scottish Division.
In this tour, we visit the landing area of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion R.C.I.C. and discuss the actions of this unit up to the linkup with the 15th Scottish Division.
We will discuss the crossing of the Rhine and the attack of the 9th Canadian Division towards the town of Bienen where Canadian division came to the aid of the 51st (Highland) Division who were bogged down in their attack and were unable to move due to heavy resistance from the German Paratroopers.
We continue our tour towards Emmerich and the run-up to the fighting around and in Hoch-Elten.
We will look at the spot where the Canadian engineers built the bridges over the Rhine to end with the Canadian attack towards the Achterhoek