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From the Rhine to the Teutoburger Wald

by Ray_Griffiths

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Ray Griffiths
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12 February 2004

The 11th Armoured Division was generally made up of the following units; 159 Infantry Brigade comprising the 1st Battalion The Herefordshire Regiment, the 3rd Battalion, the Monmouthshire Regiment, the 4th Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and later the Cheshire Regiment. The Royal Armoured Corp, comprising the 2nd Fife and Forfar Yeomanry the 15/19th Hussars and The Inns of Court Regiment and the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment.

These units together with all their support groups were part of the Allied Forces who crossed the River Rhine at Wesel during the night of 27th/28th March 1945 and together with the 7th Armoured Division on their left and the 6th Airborne Division on their right swept across the Westphalian Plain of Germany towards the metropolis and communications centre of Osnabruck.

Enroute, after capturing the hamlets and towns of Mesum, Metelen, Rheine, Burgsteinfurt, Riesenbeck and Birgte, progress was halted at the demolished bridges of the Dortmund/Ems canal, beyond which one could see the formidable feature of the Teutoburger Wald. The date was now 31st March 1945.

The 4th K S L I and the 3rd R T R crossed to the eastern side of the canal, the water level of which had been greatly reduced due to the bombing in previous months by the Royal Air Force and they formed a small bridgehead from where it was noted and reported that the enemy forces were in strategic positions on top of the Ibbenburen-Riesenbecker Berg ridge and at the point where the road to Ibbenburen crossed over the ridge. The enemy forces were in great strength at these positions and were prepared to defend them and prevent the capture of the town of Ibbenburen.

The 1st Herefords together with the support of the 2nd Fife and Forfar had by now also crossed the canal and taken up positions around a small quarry on the open farmland at the lower edge of the forest, in full view of the entrenched German forces. They were then deployed to attack the enemy force to the left of the road and the top of the ridge. After reaching the top of the ridge through the most difficult terrain their “A” and “D” Companies were counter attacked three times and finally surrounded, suffering many casualties. Their other supporting Companies were reforming in the forest and while doing so suffered further casualties from “friendly fire” and were withdrawn to the lower slopes. The date was now April 1st 1945 Easter Sunday.

The following day, the 3rd Monmouths were deployed to seize the feature at the top of the Riesenbecker Ridge further to the West but also met heavy resistance and suffered many casualties against SS Officers and Cadet Officers and NCO’s, who had travelled earlier from their base camp near Hannover. So many casualties had occurred during this period to both sides that a TRUCE was eventually arranged and the wounded and dead from both sides were cared for by the 3rd Monmouths medical staff.

While all this was going on, the bridge over which most of the Division had crossed was being repeatedly attacked by enemy aircraft, several of which were jet propelled. Four or five of these were shot down by small arms fire and the bridge remained intact despite several near misses.

Much bravery and self sacrifice was shown by the Officers and other ranks of the 3rd Monmouths and the 1st Herefords during these actions and the awards of a VICTORIA CROSS to Corporal E Chapman of the 3rd Monmouths and the Military Cross and Military medals to Officers and other ranks of the 1st Herefords were later made.

Through the heavy casualties incurred by the 3rd Monmouths it was decided that they would cease to be considered a front line fighting unit and their place in the Division would be taken by the Cheshire Regiment. While all these actions were taking place during the 1st April to 3rd April, other units of the 11th Armoured Division had moved southeast towards Brockterbeck and Tecklenburg where at Brockterbeck the 15/19th Hussars attacked with great skill and courage up the hill and through the gorge of the second road which crossed the ridge towards Ibbenburen. After turning westward on the reverse slope of the ridge they then travelled over soft farmland towards the area where the 1st Herefords and the 3rd Monmouths were in action, all this without infantry support.

The 11th Armoured Division had meantime advanced through Tecklenburg and headed for the Osnabruck area leaving the 7th Armoured Division to clear the Teutoburger area and to capture the town of Ibbenburen. The Cheshire Regiment had by this time taken over from the 3rd Monmouths and together with the 1st Herefords rejoined with the 11th Armoured and continued with them Northeastwards towards the north coast and ports of Germany and Denmark. This route took the Division around Osnabruck, across the rivers Weser, Aller, Leine, to the Concentration camp of BELSEN, across the Luneberg Heath and the river Elbe into Lubeck and finally to Bad Segeberg where the war finally ended. The date was 3rd May 1945.

This short resume is a foretaste of the later and more detailed account of the story which is in 3 parts and entitled “The Teutoburger Wald Story 9AD and 1945” by Ray Griffiths.

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