February, 1945. With the Canadians ten miles into the Siegfried Line on 10 February, despite unfavourable weather and ground conditions, the General Staff decided that more was to be gained than lost by adding the weight of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division in the drive to the Rhine. So in they went, through the Reichwald and into the Hochwald against steady enemy resistance.

The 2nd and 4th Canadian Divisions now advanced roughly abreast into more heavy forest; The Hochwald, Tüschenwald and Bambergerwald, running along a low ridge and with positions improved by the Germans for the previous two weeks. The 2nd Division went straight into the Hochwald while the 4th Division aimed for a narrow gap in the woods. Two attacks went in, and it was made apparent an armoured division was not able to simply blast through; the Germans had a wide variety of close-range anti-tank weaponry, the tanks had trouble negotiating the mud, and the Canadians didn’t have enough infantry to clear a path for the tanks. The battle for the Hochwald Gap lasted from 27 Feb to 3 Mar and advances were measured in hundreds of yards. But still relentless pressure was maintained and slowly but surely the enemy defences were rolled back. Calcar, Udem and Keppeln became smoldering heaps of rubble.

During this advance to the Rhine the New Brunswick Rangers had been designated to play the role of Brigade Reserve and it was not until the final stages of the offensive that they were again called into action. The 10th Brigade were battling furiously for the town of Veen when the machine guns and mortars were given the task of screening the left flank with a curtain of fire. Not once during that four day battle did the enemy molest our troops from that area, and observers reported later that a small forest had been reduced to a cratered shambles from the constant pounding of the 4.2” mortars.

Finally, during the night the enemy withdrew, and by mid-morning of 9 March the 10th Infantry Brigade was firm in Veen. For two days and nights the 10th Independent Machine Gun Company (The New Brunswick Rangers) had guarded the left flank with continuous fire on the Latzen Busch, a small wood north of the Algonquin positions. They fired 135,000 rounds of Vickers, and with 2720 mortar bombs reduced the wood to what their C.O. described as “a series of holes joined together by bits of mud”.

Credit: Royal New Brunswick Regiment (https://www.facebook.com/TheRNBR)