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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Rhine Crossings

8 February to 24 March 1945 (actual crossings took place on 7, 22 and 23 March)

Theatre: North West Europe
Location: Netherlands and west Germany
Players: Allies: Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group comprising General Miles Dempsey's 2nd Army, Lieutenant General Henry Crerar's Canadian 1st Army and General George S Patton's US 3rd Army, General Alexander Patch's US 7th Army, Lieutenant General William Simpson's US 9th Army; General Matthew Ridgway's US 18th Airborne Corps, including the British 6th Airborne Division. Axis: General Alfred Schlemm's 1st Parachute Army, German 15th, 5th Panzer, 7th and 1st Armies.
Outcome: Successful crossing of the Rhine into Germany.

'Forward on Wings of Flame to final victory.' - Churchill's message in Montgomery's autograph book, March 1945

US infantry crossing the Rhine
US infantry crossing the Rhine©
Operation Veritable was launched by the Canadian 1st Army, together with 2nd Army's 30th Corps, on 8 February 1945. Canadian forces advanced along a 12km (seven-mile) front south of Nijmegen. After a hard fought advance, at the end of February the second phase of the overall operation began: Operation Grenade, an advance from the south by US 9th Army.

The Canadian and US Armies under British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's command were now attacking the last German positions west of the Rhine. While the Germans fought hard and retreated in good order, by 10 March the Allies were on the west bank of the Rhine. Veritable was over; it had cost 6,000 casualties, most of them British.

On the night of 23 March, Operation Plunder saw 2nd Army crossing the Rhine along a 20km (twelve-mile) front, with the Canadian 1st Army in the rear. The first wave across the river used armoured amphibious vehicles and tanks fitted with flotation devices. There were no serious setbacks. At 10am the next day, in Operation Varsity, Ridgway's 18th Airborne landed two divisions eight kilometres (five miles) behind enemy lines. By nightfall the airborne and amphibious troops had linked up; by midnight the first light bridge across the Rhine was complete and the way was clear for the final advance into Germany. Six weeks later, Montgomery received the unconditional surrender of German forces.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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