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Author Topic: WW2 Battles in the Netherlands (1944) Venlo and Meusse river  (Read 8028 times)
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« on: 2 December 2011, 16:07:18 »

After the battles for Overloon, Meijel, and Blerick the Scottish 15th infantrydivision was victorious in operation Nutcracker.
Its goal, to drive the Germans back across the river was succesfully met.
But with the Germans firmly entrenced on the eastern bank at Venlo their wasnt time to setback and relax.
The coming 7 weeks would see a dramatic finale, the Germans werent going to rest.

Civilian population

Hitler ordered an expansion of the Westwall towards the south of Holland.
This affected mostly the people living on the eastern banks of the Meusse river.
The leaders of the German provinces of Dusseldorf and Essen were to take the neccesary actions.
The Dutch cities were taken over and all local Dutch leaders were replaced by Germans.
All Dutch males between age 16 and 60 in Venlo had to report for duty to build fortifications and dig trenches.
Because nobody showed up the Germans started to round up people, they also took many local prominent people in custody and thretened to shoot them if nobody would report.
This helped for a while.
In Roermond German major Ulrich Matthaeas ordered that all males should report before december 18th. As was the case in venlo here nobody showed up either.
Therefore 14 people were shot on x-mas day.
The population reacted in shock and nearly 2800 people reported for duty, they were carried away by train to germany.
Local SS units and gendarmerie soon joined the operation, everywhere in Limburg men (16 to 60) were rounded up by Razzias or arrested and sent to slave labor in germany.
Many died during airattacks on the trains carrying them or from hunger.
All other people in the cities in Limburg were eveacuated to the north of the Netherlands.
Within a few days there were no civilians anymore on the eastern banks of the Meusse.

Military situation:

Shortly after liberating Blerick the 15th infantrydivision dug in along the western bank of the Meusse river, they would stay there untill january 21st 1945.
Meanwhile Montgomery was preparing for the battle of the Rhineland.
The 1st Canadian army, with the famous 30th corps, was to be the main unit tasked with this battle.
As soon as 8th and 12th corps finished their operation Monty started shifting units to the 30th corps.
Among them were the 15th, the 43rd and the 53rd infantrydivisions.
But in the midst of these operations Von Rundstedt started his Ardennes offensive, this lead to a new cancellation of Monty's plans.
Monty set up 30th corps in defensive positions between Brussel and Liege in case the Germans might break through the US lines towards Antwerpen.
Because the 51st (Highland) division was in reserve it took over the 15th divisions place in 30th corps.
15th division was to stay in the Blerick/Venlo area, this wasnt going to be a very pleasant time as the men would soon find out.

Cat and mouse:

The Germans on the eastern bank were first class paratroopers of the 7th Fallschirmjaeger division.
During the fight in Blerick they managed to salvage a lot of their equipment and weapons, together with most of their supplies.
Everything was ferried across, this gave the Germans a very dominant tactical superiority because the Scotts had no boats.
The Germans had the advantage and they were very agressive, patrols were sent out to harres the allied troops and to take prisoners.
This lead to an anticlimax among the men, specially after the victory at Blerick.
Allied high command had to make overtime to keep the morale of the troops high.
The tactics employed were to ambush German patrols.
But the Germans managed to land time after time covered by darkness at night and fog during the early morning, skillfully led they caused havoc among the allied defenders.
The 15th division was spread out over a distance 20 to 30 miles wide.
Therefore the initiative remained with the Germans, only once did the allied troops capture a German patrol.
Another problem which made live bad for the allied soldiers was nature itself.
The weather got bad throughout december and in many spots their wasnt any protection against the weather or against enemy fire.
Blerick for example offered housing and shelter but further down the river towards Grubbenvorst no such cover was available.
The troops in their foxholes and trenches spent very cold and unpretty nights.
On the other bank of the river the Germans had good fortified positions and terrain offered good concealment, the Germans could spot every allied movement of troops.
Generally the snipers were having a good day, and every now and than artillery or mortarfire kept the men alert.

Visitors, R & R

During december the 15th division was honored with visits from important persons like Montgomery.
He said: "In this battle no division did its job better than this one, we dont expect anything less from you but still its a high honour."
Another visitor was EJ Hagan, head of the Scottish church who fought in the division in the great war.
The best event of the month though for the weary troops was on the 16th.
Several soldiers were allowed to go on leave back to England.
X-mas was quite and on new yearsday the first group of soldiers went on R & R.
That day again high visit came by, this time it was the Luftwaffe which tried to draw away allied airassets from the Belgian front.
Heeresgruppe B lead heavy losses when the weather cleared. Several planes were brought down by AAA fire.
On january the 16th the US forces had managed to stop the Germans in what Monty reffered as: The fighting power of the US GI.
Now the German attack was spent and 6th panzerarmee was sent to the eastern front Monty could think again for planning an attack on the Rhineland.

Final attack
The waiting period at the Meusse river ended on 19 january when the divisions first brigade (227th) was replaced by commandoforces.
Monty started the operations for the battle of the Rhineland, this time there would be no delay.
During the reorganization the 15th division was ordered to move to the Tilburg area.
On the 22nd both the 46th and the 227th brigade were replaced by the 6th airborne division.
The brigades set up 3 assemblyareas, at Tilburg, Goirle and Merxplas.
On january 28 the 44th brigade came back from Grammont, completing the division again.
February 8 in the early morning operation Veritable started followed by Grenade for the 9th US army.
The Germans retreated fearing they might got surrounded.
In north and centre Limburg allied troops found no more resistance but they found an empty and desolated area.
Several weeks later the battle for south Netherlands was over.
But the war wasnt for the 15th division, The Rhine crossing and the Elbe were waiting for them.
Next day after a day off the brigade replaced the 44th brigade, this unit had to be sent back to England to recuperate.

Source: Strijdend Nederland, magazine of the Stoottroepen regiment.

« Last Edit: 2 December 2011, 21:20:08 by stoffel » Logged

My topics are about my personal opinion, my thoughts and what I think. They do not reflect the official opinion of the ministry of defense of the Netherlands.
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