65 years ago: Operation Veritable

Reichswald War Cemetery, Germany

Reichswald War Cemetery, Germany

65 years ago this month British and Canadian troops were fighting hard in Operation Veritable, the battle of the Reichswald Forest.

The battle of the Reichswald was brought about by the legacies of Operation Market Garden and the Ardennes offensive. After the failure at Arnhem the allies were only left with the option of crossing the Rhine east of the Reichswald forest. This entailed taking the area between the Rhine and Maas rivers. Veritable had originally been planned to take place in January 1945, but had to be delayed due to the German Ardennes offensive. Allied forces earmarked for the battle had to be redeployed to stem the German attack.

The Battle was fought by the Canadian 1st Army, along with significant reinforcement by British Divisions. The operation started on 8 February 1945 with large aerial and artillery bombardments, including one of the biggest artillery barrages of the war, by over 1,000 guns and lasting 5 hours, and a large smokescreen. On the night of 7-8 February 1945 a force of 285 Lancasters led by 10 Mosquito Pathfinders ‘took out’ the German town of Kleve, close behind the German lines.

The battle was largely a hard, infantry slog through dense woodland, in the depths of a particularly cold winter and was finally over by 10 March, with the Allies firmly on the Rhine.

Local men who fell in the battle of the Reichswald include:

Private Edward Searle was serving with the 7th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, in the 43rd (Wessex) Division. 21 and from Stamshaw, he was killed on 15 February 1945 and is buried in Reichswald War Cemetery, Germany.

Fusilier William Moore, 18 and from Milton, was killed on 26 February 1945. He was serving in the 7th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 53rd (Welsh) Division. He is buried in Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Holland.

Lieutenant Robert Milne was serving with 151 Field Regiment, a Territorial Royal Artilley unit that provided artillery support to the 11th Armoured Division. 20 and from Southsea, he was killed on 1 March 1945. He is buried in Groesbeek War Cemetery, Holland. The 11th Armoured Division had been transferred across the Maas to reinforce XXX Corps as the battle progressed.

Some years ago I went on a coach tour of the countryside between the Maas and the Rhine, leading up from the German city of Duisburg to the Dutch border near the Reichswald, taking in town of Xanten, Kleve, Goch and Kevelaer. Although it seemed very nice in June, I can imagine it seemed very different in a cold February.

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31 Comments

Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, World War Two

31 responses to “65 years ago: Operation Veritable

  1. Andrea

    I have been looking for information on my grandfather who died also on 15 Feb 1945 and is buried in Reichswald forest. His name was Lance Sgt Charles Sherrington Dobbing, who served in 7th battalion Seaforth Highlanders. Died age 29. I was searching for info on how me might of died and now have some idea.
    Thanks

    • James Daly

      Hi Andrea, I’m not sure how much you know so I’ll start with the basics, and apologies if I repeat anything you’ve already done!

      Your first port of call should be his service record, which as you are an ancestor you can obtain from the MOD – there is a section on this on the Veterans Agency website. It costs £30 and there is a wait of around 6 months.

      The 7th Seaforth’s war diary for the period should be in the National Archives – their catalogue is searchable online. This might not mention him by name but will give you information about what was going on with the Battalion in general.

      The Highlanders Museum at Fort George near Inverness might also be worth contacting to see if they have anything. I’ve had a look on amazon to see if there are any books about the seaforths but I cannot find anything I’m afraid.

      The 7th Seaforths were a war-raised battalion, and were part of the 15th (Scottish) Division.

      I hope this helps!

      James

    • Niki

      I think my grandmother’s first husband (George Chisholm) served and died together with your grandfather. He also served in the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders and is also buried in Reichswald forest and died on 15 Feb 1945.

      A number of years ago I emigrated to The Netherlands, and where I live is about 30 minutes drive to the Reichswald Cemetary , so I get to visit his grave regularly. If you wish I can also visit your grandfathers grave for you.

  2. edward milward

    Hi Andrea, my uncle Harold was killed on the 27 March 1945 and i taking my dad and mum over in March of this year to visit his grave so they may well be comrades. My uncle is buried in Venray cemetery. Have you tried Flickr.com to see if anybody has taken a picture of his grave stone. i only found this by accident so best of luck.

    thanks for the other info James

    Ted

    • James Daly

      Hi Ted you’re welcome, I’m glad to be of assistance. Flickr is worth checking as some of the Dutch CWGC cemeteries have been photographed and put online.

  3. chrissy mills

    Does anyone know how many people were killed on the 1st of March 1945and what happened?

    • James Daly

      Hi chrissy, I’m without proper Internet access at the moment but I know how you could find out. I’ll explain as soon as I can.

  4. malcolm c.s.dobbing

    on 15th feb 45 my dad charles s dobbing was killed leading his platoon on this day 19 seaforths including him where killed.next grave lies private norman weaver.

  5. Operation Blockbuster

    Main article: Operation Blockbuster

    Once the Reichswald had been taken, the allied forces paused to regroup before continuing their advance towards the Hochwald forested ridge, plus Xanten to the east of it, and the US 9th Army. This stage was Operation Blockbuster. As planned, it would start on 22 February when the 15th (Scottish) Division would attack woods north-east of Weeze, to be followed two days later on the 24th when the 53rd (Welsh) Division would advance southwards from Goch, take Weeze and continue south-westward. Finally, the 2nd Canadian Corps would launch, on 26 February, the operation intended to overcome the German defences based on the Hochwald and then exploit to Xanten.[6]

    By the time the waters from the Roer dams had subsided and the Ninth Army was able to cross the Roer on 23 February, other Allied forces were also close to the Rhine’s west bank. Rundstedt’s divisions which had remained on the west bank of the Rhine were cut to pieces in the Rhineland and 290,000 men were taken prisoner.[citation needed]

    After the battle, 34 Armoured Brigade conducted a review of its part in the phase of the battle in the forest itself, in order to highlight the experiences of the armoured units and learn lessons.[7]
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