Canadians in the Netherlands: Arnhem Mayhem! Part 1 - Panthers and Tigers and Shermans, Oh My!

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After the events of Operation Market Garden and the success of the Battle of the Scheldt’s, the Canadian’s were ready to embark on one of there final missions. The Canadian 1st Infantry who were led by the British 49th Infantry and supported by the 5th Armoured Division would be tasked with taking the city of Arnhem once and for all!


Brief History


The Canadian push for the liberation of Arnhem wasn’t the Allies first attempt. At the beginning of September 1944, the Allies had conducted Operation Market Garden, where forces of primarily British and American paratroopers were parachuted into the Netherlands. This Operation was thought up by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery with assistance from Generals Brereton and Williams. Once dropped from the planes the troops were to then advance their way across to the River Rhine for a later offensive into Germany. They would be capturing and liberating many Dutch towns along the way, including the city of Arnhem. During this time, 9 bridges were to be captured including the John Frost bridge which is where the infamous Battle of Arnhem Bridge took place.


A 14-second clip of soldiers dropping into the Netherlands for Operation Market Garden

Throughout the days to come, the Allied troops were met with countless logistical problems and heavy German opposition and were forced to retreat and halt operations. This eventually led to Operation Market Garden being deemed a failure. The Allies suffered heavy casualties but fought bravely and made a name for their units and their experiences in Market Garden will be touched upon in upcoming blogs.


Canadian Campaign Leading up to the Battle of Arnhem


With the recent disaster of Operation Market Garden, new plans would have to be drafted to continue the Allied push into Germany as well as liberating the rest of the Netherlands. At the beginning of February 1945, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was to conduct Operation Veritable using the Canadian 21st Army Group to secure strategic positions and later link up with U.S troops in Operation Grenade. These Operations would make up the overall Operation known as BlockBuster.



During Operation Veritable, or “The Battle of Reichswald” the first Canadian Army would fight alongside the British XXX Corps and would need to secure the Rhine’s flood plains in order for the American’s to advance with lesser opposition. The Canadian’s and British would be met with heavy German Resistance in the Riechswald forest and would be hindered by water as the German would constantly open up the dams further up the line. With an early arrival of Spring weather, the melting snow water accompanied by river overflows would submerge the fields underwater and make it impossible for the Canadians to advance. The troops would resort to moving along dry roads which made them a large target for the Germans. The 3rd Canadian Armoured Division was brought in to be used to take the Rhine flood plains as the environment was perfect for their amphibious vehicles. The objective was broken down into 3 main phases where each advancement meant capturing lines and connecting solid communication between towns. The troops were to break through the German’s second line of defence from the south and east and eventually capture Xanten Bridge. Once Xanten was captured, the American's could continue their way into Germany and the Canadians could liberate Arnhem.


In this Map, you can see the River Rhine with the two main objectives mention in the blog, "Calcar Ridge" and "Udem". Once they have been captured by the Allies, the tanks can move pass Reichswald Forrest and toward Hochwald. Between the two forests of Hochwald is a narrow path known as Hochwald's Gap and is the last passage between the Allies and Xanten Bridge.

The German's fighting style was a lot different now as they were protecting their own country and would defend the Fatherlands by any means necessary. By this time, most of the German's had lost their homes and were ready to fight to the death as they had nothing else to live for. One German tank commander put it as "our men wanted to bring a few more enemies to their graves".



Operation Grenade was heavily delayed, but eventually, the Canadians were able to secure the area and link up with the U.S troops. But not before fighting one last battle to bring a completion of Operation Blockbuster. The last fight would entail the battle of Hochwald Ridge and would become one of the greatest tank battles of WW2.











 

Into The Reichswald Forest

 

With the success of Operation Veritable, the Canadian's had one mission left! They would be required to capture a few more objectives until they managed to make it to Xantan Bridge. Once at Xantan Bridge, the objective of having the Rhine river under Allie control would be complete and would allow the Canadians to move North to Liberate Arnhem.