Veritable to Varsity
The Allied Rhineland Offensive comprised several large-scale military operations during the last months of the Second World War in Europe. The two main objectives of these combined British, American and Canadian operations were to clear the area west of the Rhine and to accomplish the crossing of the river itself. If successful, the offensive would mean a final blow to the last German line of defense in the West.
To put an end to the war, Field Marshal Montgomery planned the Rhineland Offensive, a huge operation that was meant to conquer the area west of the Rhine and subsequently to cross the river itself. The offensive was preceded by one of the largest build-ups of Allied forces during the Second World War. In the beginning of February 1945, 500.000 Allied soldiers were assembled in the area around Groesbeek and Nijmegen in the Netherlands, together with 1.000 canon and 34.000 vehicles. It was the largest offensive ever initiated from Dutch soil and the largest operation in the Northwestern part of Europe.
The Allies greatly outnumbered the German forces, but the German military had the advantage of unpredictable terrain and bad weather conditions. In the evening of 23 March Operation Plunder was set in motion: the crossing of the Rhine with amphibious armoured vehicles and improvised floating tanks of the Allied forces. At 07:00 the next morning Operation Varsity, the last major airborne offensive of the war began.
Two divisions of paratroopers were dropped behind German lines, east of the Rhine near Wesel in support of the crossing. After crossing the Rhine, Allied tank divisions reigned supreme on the wide open plains of Northern Germany. The German army had lost its ability to wage an effective defence.
Bernard Law Montgomery
Bernard Montgomery was one of the most renowned Allied generals. He gained great popularity after his victories in North Africa (El Alamein). Thereafter Montgomery led the Allied ground operations in Normandy, The Netherlands and Northern Germany. His operational choices and
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.
Trench lines in the Reichswald
Operation Veritable was an Allied campaign aimed at driving the German army out of the Reichswald, a vast and dense forest marking the border between the Netherlands and Germany. The fighting was very intense and strongly resembled the trench warfare of the First World War.
Operation Veritable was part of an Allied pincer-movement aiming to clear the area between the Roer and Rhine rivers of German forces. British and Canadian units attacked from the north, while the Americans closed the trap from the south. By destroying dams in the Roer, the Germans tried to hamper the operation.
The main objective of Operation Veritable was to clear the area between the river Maas (Meuse) and the Lower Rhine of German forces. The first obstacle they encountered was a vast, densely wooded area, the Reichswald, just inside Germany. German units had turned this forest into a deathtrap.