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​Operation Varsity (24 March 1945) was a successful airborne operation launched by Allied forces that took place towards the end of the Second World War. It concerned more than 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand aircraft. It was the largest airborne operation in history that was carried out in one day and in one location.

Varsity was part of Operation Plunder, the Anglo-American-Canadian attack under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to cross the northern Rhine and then enter northern Germany. Varsity was intended to help the river attack troops on the surface get a foothold over the Rhine in West Germany by landing two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine near the village of Hamminkeln and the city of Wesel.

The plans called for the dropping of two divisions of the American XVIII Airborne Corps, under Maj. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, to conquer the main territory and to disrupt German defenses in general to prevent the advance of the Allied ground forces. to improve. The British 6th Airborne Division was ordered to conquer the villages of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln, cover part of the Diersfordter Wald (Diersfordt Forest) of German troops and secure three bridges over the Issel. The American 17th Airborne Division had to conquer the village of Diersfordt and free the rest of the Diersfordter Wald from all remaining German troops. The two divisions would hold the area they had captured until they were relieved by the units of the 21st Army Group, and then participate in the general advance to Northern Germany. British 6th airborne division and the American 17th airborne division) on the right bank of the Rhine were dropped near the village of Hamminkeln, near Wesel, the hills on the right bank, the road and rail bridges over the Issel and Diersfordter Wald.

Because the paratroopers were lowered close to the front this time, about 8 kilometers behind the Rhine, they were received with targeted fire and heavy losses on landing close to the German troops. Yet they managed to regroup, and after 24 hours they had their goals set.

The genius started by building bridges behind the cover of a smokescreen. German artillery fired through the smokescreen without a view. Nevertheless, a large number of bailey bridges were constructed.

The crossing was followed by the Canadian 1st Army. Within 24 hours there was a connection with the airborne troops.

The Germans still fiercely opposed Speldrop. The entire 9th Canadian brigade was needed to relieve the Black Watch here. The bridgehead was firmly established on 17 March with a width of 55 kilometers and a depth of 30 kilometers.


During the tour of Operation Varsity you will get an explanation:

  • End of Operation Blockbuster and the build-up to Operation Varsity at the old railway  bridge over the Rhine near Wesel.

  • Dropzone W (Wiskey) of 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) and the clearing of the Dierfordt forest.

  • Fighting for Dierfordt Castle an object of 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR).

  • Visit to German War Cemetery Dierfordt.

  • Dropzone A (Alfa) of the 3th Parachute Brigade and the 1st Canadian Para Battalion.

  • Hamminkeln station monument of the 52nd Light Infantry and landing zone O (Oscar) of the 2 OXF&BUCKS (2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry).

  • Railway bridge over the River Issel object of the 2 OXF&BUCKS.

  • Landing zone S (Sierra) of the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR).

  • Bridge over the Issel object of the 194th GIR.

It is also possible to book this tour in combination with a number of meeting points of Operation Plunder. Please contact me via the contact form "book a tour".

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