Op Veritable: the Canadian attack on Wyler & Den Heuvel, 8 Feb 1945

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by stolpi, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    1. Wyler strongpoint

    This thread has been long in the making. In February last year I travelled the area together with Bedee, the resident expert who thrives best in this twilight zone between Holland and Germany. Together we took pictures and worked out some maps, but because of other pressing activities, a thread was never started. The highest time therefore ... and thank you for your patience, Bedee.

    Although the main role in Operation Veritable, scheduled to begin the morning of 8 Feb 1945, was to be played by the British Divisions under 30 Corps, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions were to take part on the northern flank. The 3rd Cdn Division was to clear the waterlogged floodplains up to the Waal and Rhine River (see also:3rd Canadian Division in Op Veritable) ; the 2nd Cdn Division was to protect the left flank of the 15th Scottish Division, take out the enemy strongpoint at Wyler and secure the Wyler - Kranenburg stretch of the main Nijmegen - Cleve road which was to serve as main supply road for the attack north of the Reichswald.

    The new GOC of the 2nd Cdn Infantry Division, Major-General A.B. Matthews (Foulkes had been assigned to Italy to command the 1st Cdn Corps), gave the job to Megill's 5th Brigade. Megill, in turn, ordered the Calgary Highlanders to take Wyler itself while Le Régiment de Maisonneuve would protect the Highlanders right flank and capture the hamlet of Den Heuvel, the keystone to the German defensive network to the southeast of Wyler.

    Under command of 5th Brigade for the operation were "C" Squadron 13/18th Hussars (8th Armd Bde) and 18 Cdn Fd Ambulance; in support of the brigade were: 3 Tp "C" Sqd 1 Lothians ("Flails"), one Tp 617 Aslt Sqd 42 Aslt Regt RE (AVRE's), all field artillery of 2nd Cdn Infantry Division, 4th Cdn Medium Regt, Toronto Scottish Regt (MG), less one MMG Coy, 7th Cdn Field Coy RCE and Tactical ASSU. As a result of the terrible state of the ground, not all of the 13/18th Hussars tanks could be brought up in position and the Flails and AVRE's were held back at the village of Berg and Dal.

    Op Order 2nd Cdn Inf Div.jpg
    The mission of Megill's 5th Brigade was to take out the enemy strongpoints in the Wyler area, open the main road Nijmegen - Kleve and the Oude Kleefschebaan, a secondary road which ran from Berg en Dal over Im Thal to Wyler and on to Kranenburg, the opening of the latter road, code named 'Pearl Black' and used as one of the main supply roads for the 15th Scottish Division, had first priority (Op Order from the War Diary RCA 2nd Cdn Infantry Div - courtesy JvD).

    Since the Scottish Division's success in the attack towards Cleve would depend on the speed with which the 5th Brigade could achieve its objective, the pressure on the Canadians to take their objectives quickly was enormous. For the role of 15th Scottish Division see: VERITABLE: 15th Scottish & 43rd Wessex Divisions in the Reichswald battle (Feb 1945)

    DefOverprint_GroesbeekB b.jpg
    Defense overprint showing the German positions at Wyler; the triangular defensive system formed by Wyler - Den Heuvel and Hochstrasze, was regarded as the northern anchor of the enemy's front line. It barred the main road running from Nijmegen, via Kranenburg to Cleve. Canadian Intell identified two forward defensive strong points at Wyler and Den Heuvel and a lesser one at Hochstrasze. On basis of this Intell the 5th Brigade operation plan was drawn up (map courtesy Bedee).

    Excerpt from the Intell Summary of the 2nd Cdn Infantry Division :
    Int Report Veritable 2nd CIDiv.jpg

    Operation Order 5th Brigade for the attack on Feb 8, 1945:
    Op Order 5th Bde 1.jpg Op Order 5th Bde 2.jpg Op Order  5th Bde 3.jpg Op Order 5th Bde trace Y.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
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  2. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Estimated enemy strength at Wyler according to 2nd Division's Intelligence:

    Enemy strength.jpg
    According to this overlay one battalion with three infantry companies of the 1051 Regiment, of Generalmajor Heinz Fiebig's 84th Infanterie Division, was in position in the Wyler strongpoint, while another battalion, with two identified companies, extended the line to the south (Bedee projected the overlay on the Defense overprint).
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Modern Geo map of Wyler with the contemporary roads of 1945 in yellow:

    Geo map Wyler.jpg
    The elongated village stretches along the shallow rise overlooking the floodplains to the north, a low spur of the much higher ground to the west in the direction of Nijmegen. At the junction with the Alte Heerstrasse the Hauptstrasse makes a sudden and steep ascent towards the center of the town, to the crossroads with the Oude Kleefschebaan (or Wyler X-roads), from here it descends in the direction of Kranenburg. The Alte Heerstrasse follows the floodpain at the foot of the spur. The road gradually rises to the south-east until it converges with the Hauptstrasse. Beyond Wyler the Hauptstrasse makes a dip toward Kranenburg (map courtesy Bedee).

    Geo Map Reichswald 1.jpg

    042a Alte Heerweg.jpg
    The Alte Heerstrasse which runs along the lower edge of Wyler. View in the direction of Kranenburg. To the right the village church.

    057a Alte Heerweg AT Ditch.jpg
    Picture of the Alte Heerstrasse taken further down the road, now looking back towards Nijmegen. This is about the point where the German AT-ditch crossed the road. To the right the floodplain of the Rhine/Waal River
    Oude Kleefsebaan - 4 Wyler Grens.jpg
    The X-crossing of the Oude Kleefschebaan/Wylerbaan and the Hauptstrasse (to the left). View to the east, down the Hauptstrasse towards Kranenburg. This area, known as Lagewald, was code named "ASPEN" in the plan of attack and was an intermediate objective of 'C' Coy. This point is the bordercrossing, the two cars in the foreground are about to cross the border; the dark one into Germany, the light one turns off the Hauptstrasse into Holland - no passport control! (courtesy Google Street View)

    Picture of the Hauptstrasse looking in the direction of Kranenburg, just beyond the car on the road is the point where the road dips toward the Kranenburger Bucht (low lying area which became flooded).

    ... same road at the SW end of Wyler looking back to the X-roads. Even nowadays the village consists of scattered freestanding houses and farmbuildings mostly built along the main road, except for the area around the church where there is a small cluster of buildings, which makes it hard to capture it in a photograph.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

    Good to see you back Stolpi - have missed your threads

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  5. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    2. Plan of attack of the Calgary Highlanders

    Air reconnaissance, ground patrolling to the front of Wyler and a 3rd Division raid on the village in the first week of January 1945 had provided a wealth of information about the position. Especially Wyler had been turned into a fortress and no one could have thought that taking the village would be easy, or as Brigadier W.J. 'Bill' Megill, the CO of the 5th Cdn Infantry Brigade, termed it: "from the beginning of the operation Wyler would prove to be the hardest nut to crack".

    Thinking the Germans would expect any attack on Wyler to be a frontal one along the Nijmegen - Cleve road, Lt.Col. Ross L. Ellis, the CO of the Calgary Highlanders decided to avoid a thrust along the obvious route and instead ordered the battalion to bypass the village to the south, cut the road behind it and then attack the village from the rear. For this Ellis would use three of his companies. The first phase of the attack would be executed by 'A' and 'D' Coy, who were to advance astride the partly unpaved Waldgraaf road. 'A' Coy was to capture a row of farm houses along the Wylerbaan just south of Wyler, called Vossendaal (codename BIRCH), and directly push on to the south-eastern end of Wyler (codename ELM). 'D' Coy was to move to the left of 'A' Coy until it reached the anti-tank ditch, then work its way back into the village from the south-east (codenam OAK). If successful, the battalion would not only surprise the Germans in Wyler, but also would cut off their line of retreat. 'C' Coy, following in the wake of 'D', would swing north through the Lagewald area towards the X-roads in Wyler (codenamed ASPEN) and, together with 'D' Coy, would clear the remeinder of the village (codename LUBLOW). 'A' Coy meanwhile had to make contact with the Scottish troops near Kranenburg; 'B' Coy would remain in reserve.

    Wyler map objectives CH.jpg
    Codenames of the objectives: Vossendaal or BIRCH was to be taken out by 'A' Coy, which then was to continue across the AT-ditch to ELM, the southeastern exit of Wyler. 'D' Coy's objective was OAK, while 'C' was to capture ASPEN or the X-roads inside Wyler. Both Companies then were to advance on LUBLOW.

    Map attack on Wyler a.jpg

    053a Waldgraaf axis.jpg
    The unpaved Waldgraaf road leading towards Vossendaal, which served as axis for the attack of the Calgary Highlanders. 'A' Coy advanced to the right of the road and 'D' to the left. Picture with view to the east towards Vossendaal, which is at the bottom of this shallow valley.

    056a Start Line.jpg
    The start line and the Forming up point (FUP) of the Calgary Highlanders. One of the advantages was that the approach to the FUP ran through deep woods and offered a good cover even though all trees were leafless at that time of the year ...

    054a Moesveld.jpg
    ... the low spur to the left of the Waldgraaf, nowadays known as Moesveld, also had the advantage that the advancing troops would be kept out of sight of the main defense of Wyler, almost until they debouched on the Wylerbaan at Vossendaal. Wyler is situated on the left beyond the crest.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018 at 1:08 PM
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  6. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Stacey's well known sketch map of the 5th Bde operation, which also gives details of the Maissonneuve's attack directed at Den Heuvel:

    Map attack on Wyler Stacey.jpg

    Excerpt of the War Diary of the Calgary Highlanders re the days just prior to the attack:
    DSCF1800a.jpg DSCF1801a.jpg DSCF1802a.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
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  7. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Major-General A.B. Matthews

    Bruce Matthews did not follow a military career but rose from the Militia. He sailed for England with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. In March 1940, he was commander of the 1st Medium Regiment, and in September, of a newly created unit, the 5th Medium Regiment; at that time he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. In September 1942, he joined I Canadian Corps as Counter-Battery Officer. On January 15th, 1943, Matthews was promoted to Brigadier and Commander Royal Artillery, 1st Canadian Division. When Simonds was appointed Commanding Officer of II Canadian Corps in January 1944, he immediately asked that Matthews become his artillery commander. Matthews took up his post on March 14th, 1944, thus becoming the second higher-ranking artillery officer of the Canadian Army, quite a feat for a militia man.
    Matthews was in charge of the firing plan for Operations Atlantic, Spring, Totalize and Tractable, sophisticated manoeuvres aimed at breaking German defences around Caen, and advancing towards Falaise to prevent the enemy from retreating. On November 10th, 1944, after the Battle of the Scheldt, Matthews was promoted to Major-General and put at the head of the 2nd Infantry Division, which he commanded successfully through the Rhineland Campaign and until Germany surrendered.

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  8. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    3. The opening stage: 'A' and 'D' Companies cut off Wyler

    Excerpt of the Regimental History of the Calgary Highlanders, "Battalion of Heroes, the Calgary Highlanders in WW2", by David J. Bercuson:
    021a.jpg 022a.jpg 023aa.jpg

    057a A Coy advace on Vossendaal.jpg
    Some 1.2 km from the Start Line, at about 11:00 hrs, the men of 'A' Coy came under mortar and machine gun fire and found themselves in an area heavily sown with 'schu' mines. The machine gun fire might have come from the houses to the left. Lance Corporal Robert A. McMahon, who was in command of the lead section and saw all his men wounded in the minefield, rushed the farm houses and silenced the machineguns, thereby making 23 German prisoners. As McMahon took out the enemy position, Platoon Sergeant Carol E. Anderson crawled forward to give first aid to the wounded lying in the minefield. Anderson then notified his company commander, Major Delbert O. "Deb" Kearns, of the location of uncharted minefield. 'A' Coy suffered 24 casualties, most of them in the minefield.

    060a Vossendaal.jpg
    Just beyond this point the houses of Vossendaal, along the Wylerbaan, are visible. Alerted by Sgt. Anderson, Major Kearns altered 'A' Coy's line of advance so the following platoons could avoid the minefield and clear the rest of the houses of Vossendaal.

    Close up from the same point as the picture above. Before the infantry went in, Vossendaal had been hit by a salvo of 'Land Mattresses'. In the distance the high ground of the Reichswald, with the round top of the Brandenberg in the center.

    Both McMahon and Anderson were put up for a D.C.M. for their actions, which unfortunately were downgraded to a M.M. somewhere along the line:
    McMahon Calg H 'A' Coy 1.jpg McMahon Calg H 'A' Coy 2.jpg

    Pte Anderson Calg H 'A'Coy 1.jpg Pte Anderson Calg H 'A'Coy 2.jpg

    wounded Calgary Highlander.jpg WIA evacuated.jpg
    German prisoners help carry wounded Canadian soldiers during the Battle of Wyler, 8 February, 1945. By early afternoon 30 casualties of Shu mines had been evacuated to the C.C.P. by German POW's.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
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  9. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Images of the small, but malignant German Schu Mine 42, the mine detectors cannot pick up ...... Named for the shoebox they resemble, these anti-personnel mines were the scourge of the allies Infantry troops. Made from wood to conserve valuable metals so scarce late in the war, the Germans, as well as the Allies soon discovered these were virtually invisible to mine detection technology of WWII. The Schu-mine 42 (Shoe-mine) consisted of a simple wooden box with a hinged lid containing a 200-gram (7.1 oz) block of cast TNT and a ZZ-42 type detonator. A slot in the lid pressed down on the striker retaining pin, sufficient pressure on the lid caused the pin to move, releasing the striker which triggered the detonator. The Schu mines were buried, or used with a tripwire like a modern Claymore mine. These packed a lot of punch into a small package. The mine measures approximately 6 & 3/4 x 4 & 1/4 x 2 7 3/4 inches (19 x 11 x 7 cm).
    The Schu mines was not made to kill but to maim, when stepped on it would explode, causing a traumatic amputation of the foot or lower leg, and severe injury of the other leg, genitalia and arms of the victims. At Vossendaal the field was laid out in diabolical precision. Several rows of mines lay quite openly on the ground, but trying to avoid them the troops detonated others that lay hidden below the surface.

    Untitled aaa.jpg

    Untitled.jpg Untitled a.jpg Untitled aa.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
  10. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    064a Vossendaal view to Lagewald.jpg
    The houses of Vossendaal along the Wylerbaan, the lateral road connecting Wyler with Groesbeek. To the right the post-war bicycle path. The Waldgraaf road debouches on to the Wylerbaan near the diamond-shaped grey road sign to the left of the road. The first houses of Wyler are visible in the background.

    024a Vossendaal - Hochstrazse.jpg
    View from the Wylerbaan to the east, from almost the same position as on the previous photo. From here 'A' Coy moved on across the anti-tank ditch to the Lagewald Farm and on to the SE exit of Wyler (objective ELM).

    View of the area between Vossendaal and the south-eastern end of Wyler. Note the patch of fir trees which is also visible on the previous picture. After clearing Vossendaal 'A' and 'D' Coys pushed on to their final objectives through these open fields, which were crisscrossed by trenches and the anti-tank ditch. It was in this area that Sergeant Anderson knocked out two enemy machine gun posts.

    Lage Wald dip.jpg
    Near the Lagewald farm there is a shallow depression in the ground, which offers a covered approach of the SE part of Wyler and most likely will have been used by the 'A' Coy platoons. Photo with view to the NW towards Vossendaal and the Wylerbaan.

    The south-eastern end of Wyler, known as the 'Hochstrasze strongpoint' or objective ELM, was the final target of 'A' Coy's attack. The Kranenburg - Wyler road runs directly behind the houses. It was about 13:00 hrs when 'A' Coy cleared the objective. The Germans in Wyler were now cut off.

    20170917_114136 a.jpg
    The same part of Wyler, but now seen from the Hauptstrasse, the main Kranenburg - Wyler road, at the junction with the Alte Heerstrasse at the southeastern edge of Wyler. View toward the center of Wyler.

    'D' Coy's lead platoon, approached Vossendaal on the left when intense mortar fire struck. The platoon commander was killed and his men driven to ground. Realizing such hesitation could be fatal, Sergeant Emile Jean "Blackie" Laloge, who commanded the second platoon, passed his platoon through the other, and, shouting to his men to keep moving, advanced through a mine field under enemy mortar fire to the road. When several men were cut down by machinegun fire Laloge realized the German position was impossible to outflank. He himself charged straight at it and gunned down the four-man crew with his Stengun. As the platoon led 'D' Coy up the road to Wyler, it was again engaged with machine gun fire. After several attempts to silence the post by fire had failed, Laloge threw a section out on the flank to infiltrate behind it, while he kept the gunner's attention fixed on himself by repeatedly moving into the open to draw fire. The section soon overran the gun and took its crew prisoner. To the amazement of his men, Laloge had not been injured despite his clothes being riddled by bullets.

    Sgt Laloge  Calg H 1.jpg Sgt Laloge  Calg H 2.jpg
    Laloge, who already held a DCM for bravery during the fight at the Causeway in the battle for Walcheren, added the M.M. to his decorations.

    Meanwhile 'D' Coy swung in along the anti-tank ditch, which ran about midway across these open fields, and by 13:00 hrs occupied a portion of the village to the left of 'A' Coy. The green barn to the right is the same as the one on the previous picture.There are no traces left of the anti-tank ditch at present.

    20170917_120849 a.jpg
    Part of the village, codenamed objective OAK, occupied by 'D' Company.

    Although not taken in the Canadian sector, this photograph was taken in the opening stage of Veritable, near the Wylerbaan, and depicts some of the atmosphere of the first day of the battle.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
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  11. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    4. Preliminary Bombardment

    The infantry went in under cover of an extensive Corps fire plan which started at 05:00 hrs.

    Fire plan opening Veritable.jpg
    Time schedule of the elaborate Corps fire plan for the opening of Operation Veritable.

    According to Brigadier Megill it was an excellent barrage and the counter-battery and counter-mortar preparation was exceedingly effective. It was only on the extreme right, in the rear of the Regiment de Maisonneuve, and more particular on the extreme left, in the area held by the R.H.C., that the enemy attempted to reply. Here three men of ("C" Coy) the 1st Bn The Black Watch (RHR) of Canada - that was holding the frontline - were killed and three others were wounded by enemy mortar fire.The men killed were:

    In addition to the artillery fire plan, a "Pepper Pot" saturated all enemy defences within range of specified tank, LAA and MG resources and a "Land Mattress" was most effective on the target area at Vossendaal. There were no casualties at the F.U.P.

    a) Land Mattress (courtesy of Ramacal):

    Rocket projectors of te 102 LAA Regt in position in the Hooge Hoendersbos near Groesbeek during the opening phase of Op Veritable

    Several salvoes of Land Mattresses were fired in support of the 5th Brigade. Targets were Vossendaal (tgt.ref. 1134) and Hochstrasze (tgt.ref. 1124). These salvoes were fired immediately before the infantry arrived on the objective.
    Land Matress btty  posns & target ref.jpg

    Land Matress target areas.jpg
    The target references indicated on a map. Ref.nr 1101 was directed at the Elsenhof Farm in the 15 Scottish Division sector (maps courtesy Ramacal)

    Land Mattress Report.jpg
    Excerpt from the Memo of account given by Brigadier F.D. Lace, OBE, CRA 2nd Infantry Division about the employment of Land Mattress in Op Veritable.

    War Diary of the 102 LAA Regt (courtesy Ramacal):
    Land Matress 102 LAA Regt WD Feb 45.jpg Landmattres 30 Corps Target list a.jpg Landmattres 30 Corps Target list.jpg

    b) "Pepper Pot":

    In a "Pepper pot" the massed guns of all types, mortars, machine guns, infantry guns, anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft guns and tank guns were added to the artillery barrage and used to saturate the forward enemy defensive positions. In Veritable the "Pepper Pot" tactic was used in the opening barrage. 30 Corps put the "Pepper Pot" for the entire Corps front under command of the CRA 2nd Cdn Infantry Division and provided the resources of two armoured regiments, approximately two LAA regiments and two batteries of towed 17-pounder AT guns for this purpose. This allocation of resources was in addition to the support battalions of each division. 51st Highland Division ran its own "Pepper Pot", which was coordinated with that of 2nd Cdn Infantry Division. The latter's "Pepper Pot" covered the fronts of the 15th Scottish, 53rd Welsh as well as of 2nd Cdn Infantry Division.

    Pepper 4.jpg
    Trace map of RCA 2nd Cdn Infantry Division showing the Pepper Pot deployment areas on the 2nd Cdn Infantry Division front. The TKs 2 position indicated by the red circle is my addition, this second position is the area from which the 13/18th Hussars tanks supported the infantry attack with direct fire (courtesy Bedee).

    Pepperpot Veritable.jpg
    'C' Squadron of the 13/18th Hussars were in support of the 5th Bde and took part in the "Pepper Pot" barrage, giving indirect fire from the positions indicated on the above RCA Trace Map. The tanks fired with a half-hours break until 10:30 hours, firing over 300 rounds per gun in this time. Then 2 troops (8 tanks) moved forward to give direct fire support in the attack on Wyler from the high ground near the Start Line, though they experienced great difficulty in getting to the position because of the boggy state of the ground.

    Pepperpot mortar Veritable.jpg
    3" mortars taking part in the "Pepper Pot" barrage. These mortars belong to the 1st Canadian Scottish Regiment (7th Cdn Inf Bde).

    This picture of a section of 4 Vickers machine guns (HMG) firing in support of the infantry was taken in Sept 1944. The gunners are firing at long-range targets, as shown by the extreme elevation of the barrels. During the 'Pepper Pot' the HMG's were deployed likewise.

    Major Curry, in command of the mortar company of the Toronto Scottish, was awarded a DSO for his role in organizing the Pepper Pot:
    Curry 1 Toronto Scottish.jpg Curry 1 Toronto Scottish a.jpg

    Wyler aerial 14 Jan 45.jpg
    German occupied Wyler had been in the frontline all through the winter of 44/45 and had been under constant artillery fire. This aerial from 14 Jan 45, a couple of weeks prior to Op Veritable, when the ground still was covered with snow, shows the extent of the shelling. There are still some gliders visible from the Market-Garden operation. Those that were lying closer to the Canadian lines had been almost completely cannibalized by the frontline soldiers to provide for buidling material for their slit trenches and winter quarters (photo courtesy of Bedee (aerials) & Nijmegen (compilation)).

    The Canadian Army Newsreel No.60 (1945) gives a glimpse of the massive artillery preparation; those units that had to stay in the gun areas were completely shaken up during that day:

    See also the attached Canadian Army Newsreel (from 08:58 onwards) for images of the Land Mattresses:
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
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  12. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    5. Canadian Commanders at Wyler

    a) Brigadier William J. 'Bill' Megill, CO 5th Cdn Infantry Brigade


    William Jemmett Megill DSO CD joined the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in 1923 and was assigned to posts in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

    During WW2, he commanded the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade during the Normandy invasion. By the end of the D-Day June 6, 1944, some 14,000 Canadians had landed in Normandy. Casualties numbered 1,074 of which 359 were fatal and unlike the Dieppe raid, this time the foothold was permanent. By July 23 the First Canadian Army under General Harry Crerar became operational.

    From February 1944 until the D-Day invasion and until the end of the campaign in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, Megill commanded the 5th infantry Brigade which was continually in action throughout the campaign in France and later.

    From D-Day June 6, 1944, to the German surrender at a schoolhouse in Reims, the First Canadian Army fought in seven major battle campaigns, namely; the D-day invasion, the capture of Caen, the Falaise Gap, clearing the coastal ports, clearing the Scheldt Estuary, clearing the Rhineland and the liberation of Holland.

    Starting during the latter part of August 1944, the 5th Brigade was the advance guard for Canadian Forces in the quick pursuit of the enemy from Rouen to Dieppe. To exploit every advantage, the brigade went forward in an independent role. Although considerable pockets of enemy resistance were encountered, Megill continued a bold and determined thrust forward to surprise and overrun enemy positions.

    He was continually with the forward elements of his units, directing their advance and carrying out quick advances. His aggressive determination, and bold tactics made possible an unusually rapid advance and resulted in the early evacuation of Dieppe by enemy forces.

    After crossing the Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, the brigade was assigned the task of advancing west to clear the north bank of heavy German forces. For four days the brigade advanced against numerically superior enemy forces, encountering strong defensive positions and continuous shell, mortar and small arms fire. The success of Megill and the 5th Brigades action opened up a bridgehead for the crossing and further advance of No. 2 Infantry Division.

    For his unlimited endurance, for his disregard of personal safety while under shell, mortar and small arms fire and for the success of his brigade’s action, Brigadier Megill was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

    For his key role in the liberation of Belgium the government of Belgium decorated him with the Croix de Guerre avec Palm and named him an Officer of the Order of Leopold with Palm. Postwar he remained in the Canadian forces and rose to the rank of major general before retiring.

    In 1959 he was appointed editor of the Canadian Geographic Journal. Over the next 15 years Megill nearly doubled the circulation of the magazine. In recognition of his dedication to making Canadians more aware of the geography of their country, the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, in 1975, awarded Megill its Gold Medal.

    Major General Megill died in Ottawa, Ontario on September 12, 1993, at the age of 86.

    b) Lt. Col. Ross E. Ellis

    Ellis Lt.Col..jpg

    c) The company commanders

    CO Plan of attack.jpg

    CO Kearns 'A'.jpg
    CO Clarke 'B'.jpg
    CO Campbell 'C'.jpg
    CO Keller 'D'.jpg

    (Courtesy http://www.calgaryhighlanders.com/history/highlanders/1939-45/companycommanders.htm)

    Cap insignia of the Calgary Highlanders (it features a beaver)
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
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  13. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member

    I see the moose of Algonquin park has not damaged your computer. Excellent thread...
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  14. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    DYRCH we covered this ground several times during our visits ...

    I unfortunately did not encounter a moose at Algonquin Park, though I saw a Loose one in down town Toronto!

    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  15. JonDodson

    JonDodson Patron Patron

    Hi Stolpi,

    the amount of work and skill involved in creating these threads is so not obvious to the casual observer. It certainly puts you in the league of the true professional. Fantastic. Such a joy to read and a real tribute to those that were involved.


    P.S. In retrospect, maybe 'joy' is not quite the right word but i know that you realise what i'm trying to express.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  16. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    6. The fight inside the village of Wyler

    Excerpt of the Regimental History of the Calgary Highlanders, "Battalion of Heroes, the Calgary Highlanders in WW2", by David J. Bercuson:
    023aa.jpg 024a.jpg 025aa.jpg

    Wyler aerial 'C'Coy attack.jpg
    A wartime aerial of Wyler

    'C' Coy had followed closely behind 'D' Coy and moved to the Lagewald area. M.R. 850577, known by the code name "ASPEN". The Coy advanced with its three platoons in line. As they closed on Wyler, several mines went off underfoot. When the platoon commanders directed their men away from the mines, they drew fire from gun pits on either side manned by Germans well armed with machine guns. A deluge of mortar fire brought the dreadful realization that the company had been herded into a killing ground. Unable to move quickly, because of the mines, the company could not escape the German crossfire. Men started falling wounded and dying. Lieutenant Kemp of no.15 platoon, and his platoon sergeant and two section commanders were all killed, and the situation became very obscure. Major John Campbell and his company headquarters gained the cover of a trench nearby. The cover it offered, however, was illusory - the entire length was exposed to fire from overlooking buildings on the edge of Wyler. Campbell was killed by a sniper's bullet and the headquarter section shredded. Lieutenant Ed Ford of no.14 platoon took over command.

    In the meantime, 'D' Coy started to clear Wyler in the direction of the church, but in turn also ran into stiff opposition and was held up in front of a sunken lane, called Viehsteege (or Cattle Alley).

    Campbell 1.jpg Kemp 1.jpg
    Major Campbell and Lieutenant Kemp both rest at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery

    Lage Wald a.jpg
    The Lagewald area and the Wyler X-roads (code name "ASPEN") as seen from the Wylerbaan

    20170917_114929 aa.jpg
    A close up from the Lagewald area and the X-roads. Was this the row of houses taken by Ed Ford. Actually it's the only row of houses I can think of, most others are scattered individual buildings. Below: the same houses but now as seen from the Hauptstrasse, the main road to Kranenburg. View towards the Wyler X-roads, which is just beyond the second white building. The motor driver to the right emerges from the Viehsteege, the hollow road along which 'D' Coy was held up.

    20170917_114929 a.jpg

    060a Viehsteege.jpg
    Two pictures of the sunken lane, known as Viehsteege (or Cattle alley), where 'D' Coy was held up. Major Keller, who was out of communication with battalion, asked Lieutenant Ed Ford, of no.14 platoon, and acting CO of 'C' Coy, after Major Campbell became a casualty, to get word back to battalion HQ that he needed smoke and given support as his men charged across the sunken lane.
    061a Viehstege Hollow road.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
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  17. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    At battalion HQ a deeply concerned Ellis decided that he must go forward and personally determine what was happening. He had no wireless contact with either 'A' or 'D' Coy. What he knew of 'C' Coy's situation suggested that it was in grave trouble. Before he left, Ellis made arrangements for a fire plan involving "stonks" and 4.2" mortar support to assist in clearing Wyler. He also ordered the rest of Clarke's 'B' Coy to move forward and go through 'C' Coy, with the intention of coordinating the former's attack with that of 'D' Coy and the fire plan.

    Setting off alone, Ellis dodged small arms and machine gun fire and moved through the minefield to 'A' Coy, which had been relieved by a company of the Regiment de Maissonneuve and moved back to Vossendaal to give some depth to the Calgary position. He then moved to where 'C' Coy had been pinned down. Ed Ford had not yet returned, but Ellis found (acting) Sgt. Melnychanko, leader of no.13 platoon. From what he saw he decided that no further progress could be made by 'C' Coy. Yet if he could establish a viable start line for 'B' Coy the Calgaries might regain the initiative.

    In the subsequent action Melnychanko earned a M.M.:
    Pte Melnycjanko Calg H 1.jpg Pte Melnycjanko Calg H 2.jpg

    While Melnychanko had been at work, Clarke had arrived with 'B' Coy . Ellis told him to be ready to pass through 'C' Company when the creeping barrage he was calling arrived. He then headed for 'D' Coy's lines. Ellis advised Keller that the artillery and mortar fire was on the way. 'D' Coy was to push through to Wyler and support Clarke's men. Returning to 'C' Coy's lines he grabbed the wireless there and implemented the fire plan.

    At 17:25 hrs the supporting fire was brought down and 'B' and 'D' Companies were able to get forward into Wyler and clear out the remaining enemy resistance. While 'B' Coy headed for the area around the church and the road to Im Thal, 'D' Coy cleared the road towards the Wyler Meer on which the living quarters were for the enemy. Their task took them north until they were on the road below the cut bank immediately east of 'B' Coy. The men of 'D' Coy were forced to ferret the enemy out of strongly built dugouts for a distance of approximately 250 yards. It was not until 18:30 hrs that Clarke reported all resistance had ceased. It was felt that the attack on Wyler from the rear, which cut off the enemy's only hope of escaping, had a lowering effect on the morale of his troops during the latter stage of the fighting. That day the Calgaries captured 287 POW's including the battalion commander and his staff. Next day an additional number of 12 POW's were rounded up at Wyler, who had been hiding in dugouts.

    Pte Austin a runner in 'C' Coy was awarded a MM:
    Pte Austin Calg H 'C' Coy 1.jpg Pte Austin Calg H 'C' Coy 2.jpg

    Wyler aerial Last stage of attack.jpg
    The various reports describing the last stage of the operation unfortunately are none to precise (no M.R.'s). It is therefore almost impossible to draw up a map of these last actions. I nevertheless made an attempt. Judging from the German trench system on the map with the defensive overlays, with which I opened this thread, the last German defenders probably had entrenched themselves in the areas indicated in red. This resistance was overcome by the coordinated attacks of 'B' Coy, moving from the X-roads along the Im Thal road (Oude Kleefschebaan) and attacking the area to the west of the church - both moves were originally intended for 'C' Coy - and 'D' Coy moving along the slope towards the church area and beyond, digging out the defenders from the living quarters en route. It is also conceivable that the position along the Im Thal road already had been cleared by Sgt. Melnychanko's action, which afforded 'B' Coy a better Start Line.

    Fire plan Wyler 1725.jpg
    Some details of the fire plan, drawn up by Lt. Col. Ellis, are revealed by the Op Log of the RCA 2nd Cdn Infantry division. This also might give a clue about the center of the last German resistance. The target reference 1146, according to the 30 Corps artillery target lists, is MR. 78145814, which is just south of the church in Wyler. This places the area of the last enemy resistance close to the tiny build up area around the church or the Krumme Strasse. The codename given to this area was 'LUBLOW'. At 18:55 hrs the Calgaries reported to 5 Bde that 'LUBLOW' was clear and two companies were combing the area immediately north of it. This was followed by a message at 19:50 hrs that all organized resistance at Wyler had ceased, but mopping up was still going on.

    The restored Johanniskirche, the old Church at Wyler, which was completely destroyed during the war. The area was codenamed 'LUBLOW' and it was here that the last German resistance was finally overcome by early evening (courtesy Rond Groesbeek, sporen van de Bevrijding - SkyscraperCity)

    Just behind the church the ground dips toward the flood plain of the Rhine/Waal river (courtesy Rond Groesbeek, sporen van de Bevrijding - SkyscraperCity)

    041a Wyler Church - Alte Heerweg.jpg
    Another view of the church, situated on the edge of the raised ground, as seen from the Alte Heerweg, which runs along the foot of the shallow ridge.

    Wyler Foto 1.jpg
    A rare post-war image of Wyler, taken during a BFT conducted by Capt Ralph Gault in Oct 1945. The picture was taken hard west of Wyler, with a view across the shallow Im Thal valley on the part of the village that was labelled LUBLOW. In the far distance the Materborn Ridge with Cleve just behind it. Not much of the buidlings in Wyler were left standing. The buildings in the foreground belong to a group of four situated along the west side of the Haupstrasse. They are clearly visible on the aerials - I've indicated them as final objective for 'B' Coy. Across the road the remnants of the church. The Wyler X-roads are further to the right outside the photo (courtesy Bedee).
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
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  18. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    7. Conclusion

    Throughout the battle, even while under small arms fire, the sappers of the 7th Field Coy, RCE, were at work clearing the road leading from Lagewald to Kranenburg, they also managed to clear a good part of the Im Thal road (Oude Kleefschebaan), but there was a small gap that remained to be finished. After 18:30 hrs sappers started work on the last section of the road between Lagewald and Im Thal. Originally all roads were to have been ready by 16:00 hrs, but the sappers were greatly impeded by minefields, both Teller and 'schu'mines being encountered. It was estimated that the task would be completed by 19:00 hrs; but working by dark did take far more time and the road actually was not reported clear until 21:00 hrs.

    Wyler Border 2.jpg
    At the border crossing at Wyler road (at the X-roads) signs warned the unwarry that they entered enemy country.

    Wyler Border.jpg Wyler Border 1a.jpg

    The Calgaries paid a high price for the capture of Wyler on 8 Feb 45:

    025aaa.jpg 026aaa.jpg

    The front row of block V, row A, at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, is where most of the fallen Calgary soldiers nowadays rest, many of them mere teenagers or in their early twenties:
    20170917_125112 a.jpg

    According to Geoff's search machine the following soldiers fell in the fight :

    001 ABBL EE K/1463 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    002 BENBOW WM M/100810 - 10/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    003 CAMPBELL J - - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    004 CAOUETTE PE M/53898 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    005 CHERRINGTON GH M/8237 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    006 DARBY LJ M/7575 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    007 EVARTS DM M/7895 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    008 FABAS L H/14784 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    009 JONES J K/371 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    010 KEMP SL - - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    011 MOORE WJ F/52247 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    012 MYER EF M/104220 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    013 NEILSON VA M/11463 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    014 PADGET CH M/1306 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C.
    015 WALKER TL M/7824 - 08/02/1945 CALGARY HIGHLANDERS, R.C.I.C

    NB. Pte W.M. Benbow died of wounds on 10 Feb 45 and was temporarily buried at Mariënbosch in Nijmegen.

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    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  19. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

    Lt. Col. Ross L. Ellis was awarded a DSO for his conduct of the operation at Wyler:

    Ellis DSO 1.jpg
    Ellis DSO 2.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
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  20. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Any idea of total German casualties in the Wyler action?

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