The Final Push, the fight to liberate the Netherlands – March 28th 1945

Men of the 15th Scottish Division leave their assault craft after crossing the Rhine and double up the east bank to their assembly point near Xanten. Image Source: Wikipedia

The story continues on our series following the liberation of the Netherlands in the final months of WW2 and the thoughts and diary of a Living History Event that follows in it’s footsteps.

These articles are written by Rob van ’t Oost, a member of Keep Them Rolling, a WWII Vehicle association in het Netherlands. They are translated by Joris Nieuwint from War History Online.

Wednesday March 28, 1945:

Sir Brian Horrocks. Image Source: Wikipedia

After March 23, 1944 the Operations Varsity and Plunder had begun and the British 30th Corps and the 1st Canadian Army Canadians were crossing the Rhine units of the two forces moved through a piece of Germany in the Rees / Kevelaer area. On Wednesday, March 28th, it was finally time, Canadian troops moved into the Netherlands at Dinxperlo and began their advance to the north.  Assisted for a while by units of the British 30th Corps under the direction of the Lieutenant-General Horrocks.

A Sherman tank of 8th Armoured Brigade in Kevelaer, Germany, 4 March 1945.
Sherman tank of 8th Armoured Brigade in Kevelaer. Source: Wikipedia

Liberation of the eastern part of the Netherlands had finally commenced, a British officer wrote in his Daily Battle Report about the weather and the condition that his men were in. He speaks of rain and hail, wet snow and frost during the night, and wet, sodden men who are tired of almost a week-long fighting in appalling conditions.

But he also mentions that the morale of the troops is unbroken and they will complete their mission.

To finally conclude with a summary of the number of dead and injured / missing within his unit.

Put this text next to photos of current, advancing British troops and watch some young faces then we understand what Liberation really means…

Sunday March 28, 2010:

In Delden, to the bivouac starts to come to live; Ed Brink comes with a Hollywood Canteen complete with decor, tents, lighting etc.

In his wake, the men of the Museum in Deelen arrive and I see a V1 coming……………

Again, warmth spreads inside me when I can conclude what only a few enthusiastic people can perform in a Keep Them Rolling event. The party is about to begin!

home_ruurlo our first castle 2
Ruurlo Castle

In the afternoon we ride in the cold and rain with a few vehicles to Ruurlo. The camp is almost ready and it makes a great impression! WW2 Vehicles and tents on the surrounding meadows of the Castle which, in September 1944, was the Headquarters of SS Brigadeführer Harmel, commander of the 10th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg” ………..

It was they who, for the most part, were accountable for the failure of Operation Market Garden in Arnhem.

We park some vehicles between an M9 Halftrack and a Scoutcar, in order to later use these vehicles for rides starting from Ruurlo. The bivouac is fuller and fuller………

That evening, the 4/5 May Committee Ruurlo organises on our request a Liberty Concert, “Tribute to the Veterans” in the Orangerie at the Castle. The mayor of the village, Mr. Flowers, speaks to the hundreds, the room filled to the brim. When they hear of a children’s choir, my thoughts go back to those busy weeks / months of preparation. My head is full of things that I need to arrange the next few days; of course there is a script, but experience shows that reality will always be different. But the most pressing question was again why I’m doing this all …………….

Rob van’t Oost