Canadians in the Netherlands: Arnhem Mayhem! Part 2 - The City of Ruin!
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An Allied Sherman Tank supporting a Flail attachment to detonate landmines. A.K.A The Crab!
Continuing off from the last blog…
An illustration of the Hochwald Gap, showing the winding hills creating a narrow path with a forest on both sides and small barns scattered throughout the landscape.
After the Canadian took Calcar Ridge and the events of the tank assault in the town of Udem. The tank units would now enter the Hochwald Gap. The battlefield would consist of the forest a narrow muddy pathway surrounded by dense forest on either side.
The Canadians would only get halfway up the Gap until being bombarded by enemy fire from the sides. This meant the tank unit would have to venture into the forest and clear out any enemy positions in order to continue. Travel in a wooded area for tanks isn’t favourable as it forces the tanks to stick close together and open to ambushes. One of their biggest fears was the single German infantry solider that wielded a rocket launcher. These rocket launchers, or Panzfaust’s, would destroy tank easily with one shot. Heres and demonstration of the devastation a single shot can deal on a tank!
The tanks were having trouble clearing the forest and would have a large array of artillery bombardment strikes clear out the remaining German defensives in the forest. The Canadians would then get back the Gap and continue the fight forward. The Germans would fight back fiercely and fight back with their own waves of far superior tanks, the battle would last days and light up the night skies with tracer rounds and explosions.
Luckily the Canadians were aided by Allied Typhoon bombers from above. The planes would dive in with deafening roaring engines and shoot their rockets at the enemy. In the heat of battle, there were also reports of Typhoons firing upon their own Allied tanks by mistake. With the recent assistance with air support, the Canadian Infantry and Tank units were able to knock out the remaining enemy tanks and drove the Germans back into the city of Xanten.
Examples of Typhoon Fighters shooting rockets at ground targets.
With further aid from air support, the Canadians and the British were able to capture the city of Xanten and its surrounding bridges. The German fought back hard but later succumb after intense allied aerial bombardment leaving 85% of the city in ruin.
Allied Canadian and British Troops in Xanten after capturing it.
The Canadians could now place attention back on the Netherlands and allow the British and Americans to venture further through the Rhineland into the heart of Germany. Their next objective was the city of Arnhem…
The Battle of Arnhem
The city of Arnhem would be one of the very last cities that was left to be liberated in the country of the Netherlands. The task would be carried out by the 1st Canadian Army, 5th Canadian Armoured Division and the 49th British infantry.
This overall mission would be known as Operation Anger, and after being shelved many times, would come into full effect mid-April 1945. There would be 3 phases of the liberation with the first task being a successful cross of the landmine fill River Ijssel from the East. Once across, any enemy opposition would need to be taken out and a bridge is to be made in order for heavy armour to cross the river. While the bridge is being built the British troops could secure the surrounding perimeter of the city starting from the North. And with phase 3, once the perimeter was secured the British troops could meet the Canadian infantry inside the city in order to take out the remaining German troops. Once inside the city, the Canadian 5th armour division along with some British Tanks would advance through the city destroying anything the infantry couldn’t in their own mission, Operation Cannon shot.
The Ontario Regiment and other Allied troops would cross the river using amphibious Buffalo IV’s. The journey down the river to the east end of the City of Arnhem was met with heavy resistance in the start but was soon be conquered as the Germans were heavily outnumbered this late into the war. The surrounding banks were covered in land mines and required special amphibious armour vehicles to detonate them to allow the waves of troops onto the land safely. All throughout the night, the Canadians Engineer regiments would be building the bridge for Armoured vehicle crossing and after 12 hours was completed. During this time the British would go through with the second phase.
Troops getting off of amphibious Buffalo VI's on the banks of the River Ijssel.
City of Arnhem
When reaching the outer city limits the Allied forces were extremely shocked by the sight of the city. Arnhem was already left in complete ruin during its first liberation attempt and continued to crumble as they made their way through. The first battle of Arnhem would stick with the British soldiers quite heavily as the British press held the original soldiers in Market Garden in high regard. The city stood as a reminder of their determination and as they reached further into the city, they could still see the graves of the first British soldiers who were there before them.
All the houses were either completely destroyed or entirely empty as the German’s previously took any furniture and goods months beforehand. The soldiers would describe the liberation as that of “entering an ancient tomb”. To aid the Allied infantrymen, artillery bombardments were conducted throughout the city to destroy German defences. And whatever the artillery couldn’t destroy the airforce consisting of over 35 Spitfires and over 80 Typhoons would finish the job. The initial artillery barrage was one of the largest conducted by the 1st Canadian Army and had them use over 30,000 smoke shells alone.
Example of ariel bombardments done over cities during night raids.
After the third day of fighting and over 85% of Arnhem being flattened, the Germans would finally surrender. The city was finally liberated but at a large cost. The soldier who fought there would describe the newly liberated city as “a deserted burning shell” and how “a town had never been more wantonly destroyed”.
Commemorate With Us
With the 75th Anniversary of Canada’s Liberation of the Netherlands, let us join together in celebration and thanks for the Canadians who sacrificed so much for us. In their honour, we travel to Normandy and Holland for the 75th Commemorative events. Join us to remember the bravery and vigour of our boys on the battlefields during those fateful days. Embrace the Netherlands that we know and love today, and help us honour the sacrifice endured by keeping our Canadian story alive. If you would like to join us on the upcoming program commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Canadians in Holland, or if you would like more information in regards to the events taking place in France/Holland for the anniversary, Click Here