5/7th Gordons - Operation Plunder
Rhine Crossing, 17th - 28th March 1945
OP PLUNDER - MARCH 1945. EXTRACT FROM 5/7TH GORDONS WAR DIARY
17th March. The O.C. visited 12 Corps HQ for the final briefing for the next operation; all O.C.'s were afterwards entertained at Div HQ to what was aptly called "The Last Supper".
18th March. An all day recce was carried out by the C.O. for Operation "PLUNDER" as the offensive to get 21 Army group across the RHINE was to be called.
The Adjutant spent the morning having his voice recorded, together with others in the Bde who use the wireless, as parts of a deception plan for the operation.
19th March. During the afternoon the C.O. held a briefing conference for the Coy Comds in the Information Room. Normal training continued by the battalion.
Advance party, under comd Capt. D.A Thom. Left to recce the bn concentration area.
20th March. Further briefing down to Pl Comds carried out by C.O. and the Coy Comds. Preparations made to move the following day.
21st March. The C.O. attended a conference at 30 Corps HQ at PFALZDORF 9148, and afterwards drove to the bn concentration area at MARIONBAUM 0645, which was screened from observation from the east side of the RHINE by Field Marshal Montgomery's much publicised smoke-screen.
The bn column, under comd Major W.A.Muir, MC, departed from OPHOVEN at 1330 hrs, and proceeded by a very circuitous route to the concentration area, which it reached at 2345hrs. The Coys were led by their guides to their respective areas, and after bivouacs had been completed and camouflaged retired for the night.
22nd March. The weather remained perfect and boded well for the success of the great offensive. In the morning the Coy Comds and the C.O. carried out a recce on west bank of the RHINE. From an O.P. in the area occupied by a battalion of the 9th Bde, they were able to see part of the battalion's objective on the eastern bank, but visibility was limited a great deal; by the very thick smoke-screen.
A number of enemy shells fell in the bn area during the day, causing casualties. In the evening a change in the direction of the wind blew the smoke into our area and a very uncomfortable period of about 2 hours followed. In some parts respirators were worn until the smoke had dispersed.
At 1900 hrs, Brigadier Rennie, DSO, Commander of the 9th Bde of S Div, ex Bn O.C., paid a visit to Bn HQ to wish the bn the best of luck on the morrow.
Casualties: 3 other ranks wounded.
23rd March. This was 'D' Day as far as we were concerned, although it was labelled 'D - 1', 'D' day proper being the day following when the airborne forces were committed.
The weather remained ideal, and the first part of the day was spent in making final preparations and in resting. At 1700 hours, as the battalion commenced its march to the marshalling area in the woods at 0849 the artillery barrage started. Gently at first, but as the minutes passed by, more and more guns came into action, until the noise, together with that of the powerful engines of the 'Buffaloes', made it almost impossible to hear normal speech at times.
At 1900 hours the first 'Buffaloes' left the marshalling area and rumbled along the well marked and lit routes up to the river. Punctually at 2100 hours, the first vehicles, with the leading coys, 'B' and 'C' on board, entered the water at 089509 and 2 minutes later the first troops had landed on the eastern bank of the RHINE at 090613 and 092511.
The task allotted to the battalion was that of clearing the enemy from and holding the 'island' on the right of the town of REES, to the north of which the main crossing by 153 Bde was to be made. 'B' Coy. was the right hand assault coy given the task of capturing the farm called 'van Willishof' at 088512. This they accomplished within 40 minutes of landing, killing a few enemy and taking 40 prisoners in the process. 'C' Coy, assaulting on the left, was to move directly across country to the bridge at 088625, and if the bridge had not been blown were to establish a bridgehead on the far side of the river. Following this, they were to clear down the bank of the stream to point 16.8 , at 081520. This coy too reached its objective in good time, but found the bridge already blown and were unable to cross the river. 'D' Coy were next across with orders to occupy the area around the farm 'Gr.Sendenhof' at 093619. This was accomplished successfully without opposition, and on being relived of this area by the reserve coy, 'A' Coy, 'D'Coy was able to move to the right and occupy the area from 097517 to 099514. With all objectives taken the C.O. was able to send a platoon from 'B' Coy to occupy the farm 'Steppenhof' at 095501 some 600 yards due south. 2/Lt. Stephen. MM, with his platoon successfully accomplished this, taking a further 15 prisoners in doing so.
Casualties :- Other ranks - 3 killed, 12 wounded.
24th March. Daylight found the battalion with its task accomplished, and firmly settled on its objectives, but very much over-looked by the enemy entrenched on the eastern side of the river. The 'island' was extremely flat and bare and the enemy snipers were quickly active. No movement was possible and the area occupied by the forward coys, and even Bn H.Q. at 'van Willishof' was under direct observation and fire from the enemy.
During the afternoon the C.O. received orders from Bde, over the wireless, that the battalion was to cross the river during the night. The arrangements for the attack whereby made with difficulty, for wireless remained the only means of communication available,. It was possible for the Coy Comds to move from their areas back to Bn HQ, and a smoke screen to assist them to move took two hours to bring down. It was dark before the last member of the 'O' Group arrived at Bn HQ.
At 2300 hours the assault boats were taken by the carrier platoon to the selected crossing place at 095582. zero hour for the attack had to be postponed, however, owing to some difficulty concerning the artillery plan and it was 0115 hours before the first platoon of 'A' Coy, which was leading the assault, entered the water. They were met by concentred fire from many machine guns , for the enemy were obviously well prepared for this move and the bright moonlight was an advantage to them. 'A' Coy commander became a casualty and was evacuated and the leading platoon, after having several men killed and wounded were pinned down and unable to move.
Captain A.E. McIntosh wounded,
Other ranks - 2 killed, 15 wounded.
25th March. Eventually it was decided to call off the attack. 'A' Coy was withdrawn back to its original position. The company was re-organised by Lieut. Fisher, one of the platoon commanders.
Ammunition, food and water were taken up to the forward coys while darkness remained. When daylight came the enemy renewed his sniping activities with even more intensity than the previous day. The slightest movement brought down Spandau fire from several points and some casualties were caused during the day.
At 1330 hours the C.O. returned across the RHINE to the west bank to attend a conference at Bde HQ. Plans were made for the battalion to undertake a second crossing of the river, this time by the bridge in front of 'C' Coy at 085525. 5B.W., who were already in the south-east parts of REES, were to capture and hold the east bank of the river in front of 'C' coy, thus enabling 5/7 Gordons to cross without having to make an assault.
Casualties :- Other ranks - 2 killed, 5 wounded and 1 missing.
26th March. This time the operation was a complete success. Zero hour was fixed at mid-night, and the two leading coys, 'C' on the left with the farm 092527 as its objective, and 'D' on the right clearing the river bank and making its objective the farm at 094521, were both able to report themselves form by 0115 hours. The next move was made by 'B' coy who advanced through 'D', clearing the bank and making the farm at 100524 its ultimate objective. Slightly more opposition was encountered during this phase, but it was successfully liquidated and 'B' Coy had completed its task by 0400 hours. At daylight 'A' Coy, which had been left in the rear at Gr.Sandenhof, to prevent enemy infiltrating across the river, moved across to the east bank via the bridge at 101518 making contact with 'B' Coy and finally occupying the farm at 106523.
The day passed fairly quietly in the new positions. Some patrols were sent out by the coys and one patrol contacted an enemy patrol near the hospital at 101537. A few enemy deserters came in to surrender during the day and number of Russian and Polish civilians who had been forced to work at nearby farms, came to seek refuge with us.