- Grunewaldstraße, 47533 Kleve, Allemagne
The Reichswald Forest War Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in Germany. It holds the remains of 7.654 soldiers, mostly airmen from the Royal Air Force and paratroopers. The cemetery is situated in the Reichswald, an ancient forest on the Dutch-German border that was the scene of heavy fighting in February 1945.
The Reichswald Forest War Cemetery serves as a lasting reminder of the vicious fighting that took place in the Rhineland during the last months of the war. The cemetery is situated in the thick woods of the Reichswald. In this vast forest the British and Canadians suffered 6.000 casualties, but of the 7.654 soldiers buried here, 4.000 were airmen from the Royal Air Force. These men were killed in action between 1940 and 1944. Their remains were brought in from cemeteries and isolated sites all over the area. Most other graves contain the last remains of Commonwealth soldiers who died during Operation Plunder (the actual crossing of the Rhine) and Operation Varsity (the large airborne operation in support of the Rhine crossing).
The fighting in the Reichswald was part of a broader battle that took place along the entire length of the river. Both sides suffered heavy losses in this battle for the Rhineland. It took the Allied forces just as long to negotiate the last 30 kilometers to the Rhine as it took them to cross the next 300 kilometers into the heart of Germany. The German forces were well aware of the fact that the Rhineland offered the last chance of setting up an effective defense. They clung on desperately, inflicting as well as suffering heavy losses. Of the Allied soldiers who died in the Reichswald forest, only a small number are interred in this cemetery.
Germany offers a wealth of culture and history and many opportunities to better comprehend its troubled past during WWII. A must-do while in the country is to visit the memorials built on the sites of former German concentration camps, for
The crossing of the Rhine: Operation Plunder and Operation Varsity
The final hurdle of the Rhineland Offensive was the Rhine itself. The crossing near Wesel (Operation Plunder) was one of several coordinated Rhine crossings. A million Allied soldiers participated. In support of the crossing, 14.000 paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines (Operation Varsity). The operations were a complete success. Hitler’s days were numbered.