Crossing the Rhine – 70 Years Ago Today – In Pictures!

On March 24th 1945, near Xanten in Germany, the Rhine River was crossed in one of the biggest attacks launched in western-Europe. The attack consisted of an Airborne assault (Varsity) and an Amphibious assault (Plunder), two Divisions of airborne soldiers and four infantry divisions were used in the initial assault.

Operations Varsity was a joint American, British and Canadian airborne operation, it involved more than 16,000 paratroopers of the American 17th Airborne and the British 6th Airborne divisions. They were flown in by several thousand aircraft, it was the largest airborne operation in history that took place on a single day and in one location.

In Operation Plunder the British 2nd Army (The 51st Highland Division and the 15th Scottish Division) and the US Ninth Army (30th and 79th Division) crossed the River Rhine in an amphibious assault.

All of the units involved from both operations were part of the 21st Army Group commanded by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

These are some the pictures taken during the two operations!

Buffaloes of 4th Royal Tank Regiment being transported forward in preparation for crossing the Rhine [via]
Royal Artillery 7.2-inch howitzers mounted on modified US 155 mm Long Tom carriages being brought up to provide support for the Rhine crossing [via]
32d Troop Carrier Squadron Douglas C-47A-15-DK Skytrain 42-92862 taking off from Poix Airfield (B-44), France, during Operation Varsity, 24 March 1945 [via]
Handley Page Halifaxes and Short Stirlings tow Airspeed Horsa gliders over the French countryside shortly after crossing the English Channel, en route to the landing zones east of the River Rhine [via]
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 [via]
Sherman DD tanks crossing the Rhine [via]

Men of the 1st Cheshire Regiment crossing the Rhine in Buffaloes at Wesel [via | via]
British Commandos on the outskirts of Wesel [via]
Crossing the Rhine 24 -31 March 1945: C-47 transport planes release hundreds of paratroops and their supplies over the Rees-Wesel area to the east of the Rhine. This was the greatest airborne operation of the war. Some 40,000 paratroops were dropped by 1,500 troop-carrying planes and gliders [via]
US Glider troops after landing near Wesel [via]
An Achilles tank destroyer on the east bank of the Rhine moves up to link with airborne forces whose abandoned gliders can be seen in the background [via]
British paratroopers in Hamminkeln, 25 March 1945 [via]

Churchill, Brooke, and Montgomery on the German-held east bank of the Rhine. 25 March 1945 [via]
M22 Locust light tank in action during Operation Varsity, March 1945 [via]
Airborne troops study a sign outside Hamminkeln during operations east of the Rhine, 25 March 1945 [via]
Airborne troops with a 6-pdr anti-tank gun in Hamminkeln, 25 March 1945 [via]
Bursts of German anti-aircraft fire fill the sky above Wesel, Germany, as 80 Avro Lancasters of No. 3 Group attack the town in preparation for the 21st Army Group’s assault across the River Rhine, (Operation VARSITY) on 24 March 1945. Photograph was taken from the British positions on the west bank of the River [via]
A Class 40 Bailey bridge over the Rhine nears completion [via]
British Polsten triple 20mm anti-aircraft mounting on the banks of the Rhine, 25 March 1945 [via]

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.