Setting: Rhine River, Wesel, Germany; 23/24 March 1945
The Crossing of the Rhine on 23/24 March 1945 consisted of three related operations
- ‘Operation Plunder’ – the overall amphibious crossing by British troops
- ‘Operation Widgeon’ – a subordinate operation by 1st Commando Brigade to capture and hold Wesel
- ‘Operation Varsity’ – the subordinate airborne operation involving the 17th US and 6th Airborne Divisions. .
Operation Plunder started at 1800 hours on 23 March with a barrage of 5,500 guns along the 35 km front, and bomber raid on the city of Wesel (250 Lancaster and Mosquito bombers dropped over 2,000 tons of HE on the 23rd, let alone the the raid the previous day). The 51st Highland Division led the river crossing at 2300 hours with the 15th Scottish Division to their south, Canadians crossing later 6.5 km south of Rees, then the 1st Commando Brigade 1.5 km north of Wesel. General Patton had earlier put the US 5th Infantry Division across the Ludendorff railway bridge at Remagen – a day earlier than planned – thus drawing off German reinforcements and reducing the opposition to the main landings.
Operation Varsity – launched after dawn on 24 March – was the largest and last single day airborne action of the war. 17,000 airborne troops were landed and required 1,572 aircraft, 1,326 gliders and 900 fighter to transport them. The troops dropped in the Wesel area were from the US 17th Airborne Division.
This scenario simulates the landing of the 8th Royal Scottish Battalion (44th Lowland Brigade, 15th Scottish Division, XII Corps) and their drive to link up with troops of the British 6th Airbourne Division who landed on the high ground to the east of the Rhine (the Diersfordterwald). The Brigade attacked across the Rhine south of the 51st Highland Division. 8th Royal Scots and another battalion crossed in buffalos and the third in storm boats. To make their task easier Brigadier Cummings-Bruce had earlier massed his machine guns and Bofors anti-aircraft guns on the west bank around the bend in the river from where his men were going to land; a position from where they could see behind the dyke on the German east bank. That meant that during the preliminary artillery barrage the German trenches were also covered by fire from these weapons.
8th Royal Scots formed up with A Company on the left, B Company in the middle and C Company on the right, with D Company in reserve. The battalion went across in three waves at 0200 hours on 24 March. Their buffalos also carried the Battalion anti-tank guns and carriers. Once on the far shore A company seized the enemy occupied houses at Ronduit. B company passed through them to attack a crossroads and farm at Gossenhof, but were held up by enemy fire; a platoon from D company was sufficient reinforcement to get them into the village. C company in the south was also briefly held up by Germans in another farm. The Battalion suffered little German artillery fire, however, lost their mortar platoon due to an unlucky enemy shell.
By 0815 hours the Brigade was firmly establish around Bislich however their advance was blocked by enemy forces. A squadron of DD Shermans from 44th Royal Tanks joined 8th Royal Scots at Gossenhof farm and with their support B company successfully attacked Vissel on the left as D company took Jockern – these attacks started at 0945 hours. With these villages secure the Battalion HQ was moved to Gossenhof farm. Around 1400 hours the battalion radio operator made contact with the 3rd Parachute Brigade.
The objective of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, part of 3rd Parachute Brigade, was to clear the south-west corner of the dropping zone and then seize the western edge of the woods atop the Schneppenburg feature. The later formed a ridge at the top of the Diersfordterwald, which itself contained German gun positions and tank harbours (containing only a small number of tanks, sufficient to defend the neigbouring artillery). Unfortunately, when Canadians landed at 1000 hours they dropped into the fringe of the woods, so many – including the commander – were helplessly stranded in the trees and so shot by the Germans. However, as one group of Canadians consolidated on the woods edge, C company took a small hamlet 250 metres away and subsequently fought of several German tanks. Once the drop zone was secure, a force was sent to clear a small extension to the woods. Having achieved this at 1515 hours they encountered the patrol of the 8th Royal Scots – formed from 9 carriers – sent out to link up with them.
The battle was not over, however, as groups of Germans all over the Diersfordterwald were trying to break out of the encircling Allied forces.
- The Rhine is on the short western table edge.
- The Diersfordterwald is wooded high ground dominating the eastern end of the table.
- The Schneppenburg is the highest part of the Diersfordterwald.
- The small village of Ronduit is very near the Rhine
- The town of Bislich about 1/3 of the way in from the River. Has several building sectors.
- Gossenhof farm is on a crossroads slightly to the east of Bislich.
- The small village of Vissel is in the middle of the table, toward the northern table edge.
- Jockern, another small village, is also in the middle but toward the southern table edge.
- Roads, lots of roads.
- And trees, rough, fields (out of season), crests, small hills, etc.
- The Bislicher Lay – a stream at the western foot of the Diersfordterwald. The road to the Diersfordterwald goes over it.
All “small villages” are represented by 2 or 3 building sectors. Farms have only one building sector.
German Players (Defending)
Hold all key features of the table.
Elements of 2 Fallschirmjaeger Division and 84th Infantry Division.
24 x Wire sections
2 x Bunker (2 Squad)
4 x Minefield
As many entrenchments as required
All German squads – including any reinforcements – have early Panzerfausts. One squad per Platoon (the red dot guy) has a late Panzerfaust.
All Wire and Bunkers are deployed visible, troops are hidden, mines can be hidden or visible at the discretion of the German player .
Allied Players (Attacking)
Begins scenario with initiative.
Link up the ground and airborne forces and take all the key features on the table.
8th Royal Scottish Battalion, 44th Lowland Brigade, 15th Scottish Division, XII Corps
At 0900 hours arriving on LZ:
3 x 75mm DD Shermans of 44th Royal Tanks
At 1000 hours arriving on DZ
1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 6th Airbourne Division
Command and Control: German
Type of Objective: Terrain
Scenario Special Rules
The number of assault craft is limited so the vehicles will have to do return trips. Otherwise use Special Rule 25: Waterborne Troops.
This scenario is based on the following material:
Allen, P. (1980). One More River: The Rhine Crossings of 1945. London: J. M. Dent and Sons.