History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Xanten

Xanten was a Battle Honour granted to units participating in the fighting at Xanten on 8-9 Mar 1945, during the Battle of the Rhineland, a phase of the North-West Europe campaign of the Second World War.

Operation BLOCKBUSTER, whose objective was eliminating the last German soldiers west of the Rhine, had failed to meet its objective after heavy fighting in the Hochwald. General Simonds, commanding II Canadian Corps planned Operation BLOCKBUSTER II to capture Xanten and high ground overlooking the Alter Rhine. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division with a brigade of the British 43rd (Wessex) Division were to carry out the operation.

The operation would be the last act in the struggle to destroy the "Wesel Pocket" into which German forces west of the Rhine had retreated into.

Battle of the Rhineland

The Rhineland – The Reichswald – Waal Flats – Moyland Wood – Goch-Calcar Road – The Hochwald – Veen – Xanten

Plan

The 2nd Canadian Division planned "an elaborate set-piece attack" with the British 129th Infantry Brigade and 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade ordered to capture Xanten, with 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade to push through and onto the high ground once the town was taken. Support included a smokescreen to mask observation from across the Rhine, tank support in the form of The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment and flamethrowing Crocodile tanks of the British 79th Armoured Division, and the artillery of two entire divisions as well as corps artillery assets.1

The 129th Brigade was to use the road and railway from Calcar as their axis of advance, and seize the main part of Xanten and the neighbouring villages of Lüttingen and Beek. To their right, the 4th Canadian Brigade was to capture the western part of Xanten, establishing a Start Line for the 5th Brigade, who were to then seize the high ground south and east of the town.

 

German Intentions - the Wesel Pocket

 

The 1st Parachute Army had been given contradictory instructions in the first days of May; while reports came in of growing Allied presence on the west bank of the Rhine, General Alfred Schlemm - the commander of the army - had been ordered to hold the Rhine in order to keep the supply of coal moving to the naval facilities on the North Sea. Schlemm realized the danger of US forces attacking from the south into his rear and by the first week of Mar Schlemm had relocated his headquarters twice - from Xanten, which was heavily bombed from the air, to a village near Rheinberg, and then the second time to the east bank of the Rhine near Wesel. He designated the Wesel Pocket as a new defensive position, bounded by a U-shaped bend in the Rhine. His line would start at Xanten, curve along the Boenninghardt Ridge (the last stretch of high ground before the river), and circle back to Rheinberg opposite the Americans. Two bridges and a ferry at Wesel were the only means Schlemm had left of keeping communications and movement flowing across the river.2

Forces

German forces in the Xanten-Sonsbeck area consisted of:

  • XLVII Corps

    • Parachute Division 6

    • Panzer Division 116

    • Infanterie Division 180

 

The Battle

129th Brigade

The attack started in darkness and driving rain, behind large artillery concentrations. The 4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry attacked on the left behind Flail and Crocodile tanks. Their plan was to cross a wide anti-tank ditch on the Calcar road before sunrise, with the flame-throwing tanks covering them. Once crossed, a prefabricated Bailey Bridge was to be thrown across to allow supporting tanks to cross. However, heavy machine gun fire stopped the attack cold, and the Crocodiles were unable to quiet the guns. The artillery barrage lifted as scheduled, leaving the infantry forced to go ahead alone.

There was no alternative but for each section of the leading company, small groups of riflemen, to work forward to the ditch and cross it covered by the fire of their light machine guns. This they proceeded to do, then attacked and destroyed each of the enemy machine-gun teams in turn - classic infantry fighting. 3

While the Bailey Bridge proved to be twenty feet too short (measurements had been done from an air photograph), a scissors bridge fortuitously sent ahead by the division commander spared the SLI the prospect of house-to-house fighting without their armour support.

Ninety-eight percent of the historic city - the legendary birthplace of Siegfried - was destroyed as the Germans fought savagely to maintain their last foothold on the west bank (of the Rhine)...The German paratroopers (in Xanten) fought with such tenacity that when the battle finally wound down, Brigadier Joe Vandaleur, commander of 129th Brigade, saluted the German survivors as they were marched away to POW cages.4

4th Canadian Brigade

On the south side of the main road and highway to Calcar, the 4th Brigade had also set off in darkness and rain. Starting from a road 2,000 yards west of the road from Sonsbeck, the Essex Scottish (on the left) and Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (on the right) advanced steadily; the Essex reached the town by noon, having paused only to clear paratroopers from farms on the outskirts of the town. The RHLI, however, had been stopped cold. Advancing up a secondary road, two companies bypasssed a 55-foot wide crater past well-concealed German troops lying in ambush. They brought down artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire on the Canadians, killing two company commanders and capturing a third after his company was cut off. Heavy fire also came from Die Hees, a hilltop forest to the south of Xanten.

At noon, with the Essex in the town and the RHLI held up, Brigadier Cabeldu sent the Royal Regiment of Canada through the Essex to assist both the RHLI and the Somersets on the left. Fighting in the town was almost finished by late afternoon, and the SLI pushed forward to Beek. To the north, 5th Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment had advanced over open fields to Lüttingen into a costly house-to-house fight, hampered by the Germans' ability to bring reinforcements in from the east.

Major-General Bruce Matthews of the 2nd Division sensed that the critical moment of the battle had arrived. Although the situation in Xanten was not clear, the time had come to strike for the enemy's most vulnerable point, the road and rail crossings of the Winnenhalter Canal at the edge of the Alter Rhein. He ordered the 5th Brigade to attack through Xanten as soon as they could move into position.5

5th Canadian Brigade

At 22:45hrs, Le Régiment de Maisonneuve drove through Xanten mounted on Kangaroos, with tanks and Flail tanks in support. Capturing 118 prisoners, they established a base on tree-covered hills south of Beek in the early minutes of 9 Mar. The Black Watch passed through to capture a road junction 1,000 yards further on. Brigadier Megill, commander of the 5th Brigade, passed the South Saskatchewan Regiment through Xanten to occupy the near side of the Die Hees forest while the Calgary Highlanders moved east to take high ground overlooking Birten and the Winnenhalter Canal crossings. Their objectives were taken before dawn under heavy shelling but light resistance.

The Maisonneuves moved through the Black Watch toward the canal crossings also against growing opposition; a captured paratrooper resulting from a firefight told of a 300-man force forming in nearby woods intending to cut off one of the lead Canadian companies. The Maisonneuves organized an attack supported by tanks and Crocodile and Wasp flamethrowers. With two troops of gun tanks isolating the woods and the flame vehicles setting trees and buildings aflame, the fight was over in short order and 200 more Germans surrendered. By the evening of the 9th, the Calgary Highlanders were able to resume the advance, and crossed the canal without opposition.6

Canadian armoured vehicle at Klever Tor, the entrance to Xanten, in Mar 1945. LAC Photo. Klever Tor photographed in 2004. German Wikipedia Photo.

End of the Rhineland Fighting

The thought of "bouncing" the Rhine River now occurred to Canadian commanders; in the event, it was as unsuccessful as the plan to bounce the Walcheren Causeway the previous Oct. As a force of infantry, tanks and engineers were assembled to made a dash over the bridge at Wesel in the early morning on 10 Mar:

...suddenly, the operation was "off." From the direction of Wesel came two loud explosions as the Germans blew the last bridges over the Rhine.7

A handful of German parols were left on the Allied side of the river, and on the 10th the Canadians linked up with the British 52nd (Lowland) Division near Ginderich. On the 11th, Fort Blücher, opposite Wesel, surrendered to American troops.

The last battles of the bridgehead were fought by 52nd Lowland Division and a regiment of the US 35th Division. The Germans completed their evacuation on the night of 10-11 Mar and blew the Wesel bridges as ordered. This minor triumph could not hide the fact that what had been saved in men and equipment was hardly enough to offer a serious defence of the river line. On 11 Mar Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, who had so successfully slowed the Allied advance in Italy, was placed in command of all German forces in the west. The task he faced on the Rhine would be a far different proposition.7

 
Canadian troops in Xanten on 9 Mar 1945. LAC Photo by Ken Bell Canadian troops pass German refugees near Xanten, 9 Mar 1945. LAC Photo by Ken Bell.

Battle Honours

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Xanten" for participation in this action:

 

79th British Armoured Division

 

2nd Canadian Division

  • The Toronto Scottish Regiment (MG)

 

4th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Regiment of Canada

  • The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry

  • The Essex Scottish Regiment

 

5th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada

  • Le Regiment de Maisonneuve

  • The Calgary Highlanders

 

6th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada

  • The South Saskatchewan Regiment

 

2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment

Notes

  1. Copp, Terry. The Brigade: The Fifth Canadian Infantry Brigade, 1939-1945 (Fortress Publications Inc., Stoney Creek, ON, 1992) ISBN 0919195164 p.182

  2. Whitaker, Denis & Shelagh Rhineland: The Battle to End the War (Stoddart Publishing Company, Ltd., Toronto, ON, 1989) ISBN 0773753907 pp.263-264

  3. Williams, Jeffery The Long Left Flank: The Hard Fought Way to the Reich, 1944-45 (Stoddart Publishing Company, Ltd., Toronto, ON, 1988) ISBN 0773721940 p.249

  4. Whitaker, Ibid, p.275

  5. Williams, Ibid, pp.249-250
  6. Ibid, pp.250-251
  7. Ibid, p.251
  8. Copp, Terry. "The Battle for Xanten", article in Legion Magazine May/June 2003.

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