In the meanwhile the remainder of the Brigade was withdrawn and came under command 52nd (Lowland) Division, and the l3th/18th Hussars were pushed through to exploit the success of the other two Regiments. Snow and frost had now returned and for six more days the battle continued in temperatures as low as 12 ° of frost. Village after village fell to our attacks and the operation culminated in the capture of Heinsberg, where brilliant work by the Air O.P., Captain Mollison, destroyed 3 Panther tanks which were covering the forward slope leading into the town.
News of great Russian advances was now being received and their leading troops were reported 100 miles East of Berlin on 29th January. On this day the Essex Yeomanry came out of action for the first time since 14th of November.
The next big operation was already being put into motion; six divisions were concentrating in the Nijmegen area to drive East through the Reichswald Forrest. The Brigade reverted to the command of 30th Corps and moved North via Turnhout. Within a week the concentration of troops was complete and at 0530 hours on the morning of 8th February the greatest “Pepper Pot” in history was opened up. Every type and size of weapon took part in a bombardment which lasted five hours. All tanks of the Brigade fired an average of 300 rounds per gun.. The weight of metal sent over exceeded that of the preliminary bombardment at Alamein. Good progress was made on all fronts for the first six miles but the 53rd Division failed to capture, Cleve and the important Marterborn feature. 43rd Division with the Brigade in support were brought up and after a sharp fight, in which Sherwood Rangers’ tanks hunted German S. Ps round the houses, Cleve was in British hands.
The 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards came up on the left with 214 Brigade and after a very sticky night fought an immaculate action through- Marterborn, past “Tiger Corner” -to the ground overlooking the Cleve — Goch Railway. The 13th/18th Hussars temporarily remained in Nijmegen.
German reaction to this operation was immediate; dykes along the Rhine were blown and huge masses of water swept across the great flat valley carrying all before them. Hundreds of cattle were drowned, villages isolated, subsidiary dykes burst and ‘finally that last ‘link with Nijmegen, the road through Kranenburg, was flooded to a depth of 3 feet. Two divisions in the Cleve area were now completely isolated and here great credit must go to the 552 Company Royal Army Service Corps and the gallant “Windmill Platoon” who contrived to have available at Cleve no less than 700 25 pounder rounds per gun for the Essex Yeomanry. Amphibious supply was quickly organised and a fleet of DUKWS could be seen sailing across the flooded fields between the tree tops.
The stiffest fighting of all was now to begin. To the East of the Cleve — Goch road lay a series of ridges which had been highly organised for defence, being the lay back position for Goch, the hinge pin of this portion of the Siegfried Line. During four days and four nights, the Brigade supported each Infantry Brigade of the 43rd Division in turn in a continuous assault on this position; 13th/18th Hussars followed the Sherwood Rangers in the assault and their place was taken by the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. Enemy shell and mortar fire was the most intense since the days of’ the Bridgehead and casualties were heavy. On the fifth day the German resistance broke and the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards with 214 Brigade took over 1000 prisoners. The tanks and infantry now stood on the escarpment above Goch and that well known heap of rubble quickly fell into the hands of 15th (Scottish) Division. Throughout the last 10 days the G. A. F. had produced their first jet-propelled ME 262s Day Bombers.
The Brigade was now teamed up with the 53rd (Welsh) division and on 24th February operation “Leek” began. The intention was to drive Southeast astride the river Niers and to capture Weeze. The 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards supporting 71 Brigade were on the right and l3th/18th Hussars in the woods with 160 Brigade on the left. The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry who had suffered heavy casualties in the last operation were resting in Cleve, as were the 12th Battalion The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, who had until now had all their Companies detached to the Armoured Regiments. Going was difficult and the enemy defences were reinforced by Panther tanks; some progress was made but, as both flanks of the advance were open, it was decided to call a halt till the 51st (Highland) Division on the right and 3rd British on the left came up level. Two days later, the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and 12th Battalion The King’s Royal Rifle Corps having rejoined, a further assault upon the, Weeze defences was launched supported by flame-throwing tanks. By dark the town was surrounded on three sides and during the night patrols entered the outskirts. By 1000 hours on the 2nd of March information came that the town had been evacuated which, coupled with the news of the, rapid American advance Northeast from the Roer, gave grounds for belief that the enemy were pulling out completely. The Corps Commander arrived at Brigade H.Q. a few minutes later and gave permission for the 8th Armoured Brigade to follow up with all speed.
The Brigade less 13th/18th Hussars and with under command 1st Ox and Bucks were rumbling through Weeze by the early afternoon. Disappointment was ahead; the enemy had completed a scheme of demolitions which, in this marshy ground, brought the force to a standstill. All night long craters were being filled in and mines removed but progress was seriously handicapped by lack of Sappers. After superhuman efforts the Brigade entered Kevelaer early next morning and the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards with 1st Ox and Bucks pushed on to Geldern. Kevelaer was the first town to be entered in Germany which was not a complete ruin. After overcoming more demolitions the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and B Company, 12th Battalion The King’s Royal Rifle Corps encountered tank fire on the outskirts of Geldern to which they replied hotly before discovering that their opponents were the leading elements of the United States Army. This constituted the first link-up between the British and American forces. By 1000 hours on the 4th March the “blow” in Geldern had been filled in and the hunt continued to Issum with the Sherwood Rangers now in the lead. Here again all bridges were blown and under observed shell fire: however, the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Bulldozer and the Scissors Bridge solved the problem between them in spite of the continual shelling and by the afternoon a bridgehead was established. All attempts at progress further East were hotly resisted and it became evident that the enemy intended to hold the bridgehead Xanten – Kappellen - Rheiuberg while the Para Army evacuated its heavy equipment across the Rhine.
The enemy dispositions were perfect; they held the line of a tree-covered escarpment dominating a flat coverless plain with a river running through it. The going in the bottom would scarcely carry tanks. After two night attacks and one smoke covered day assault the escarpment was in British hands, and the advance continued in face of fierce resistance across the table land on top. The work of the Air O.P., Captain Mollison, was quite spectacular throughout the whole advance from Weeze: on net to the leading tanks he hunted Panthers, spotted 88s, gave engineer information, recced alternative routes, and directed the fire of both medium and field artillery at the same time.
On the 9th March’ the l3th/l8th Hussars stood on the escarpment looking down upon the Rhine valley with Americans coming in from the South and the Guards Armoured from the North. The remnants of the German Army were either dead, prisoners or East of the Rhine. After exactly a month of continuous action during which every yard of 50 miles had been hotly disputed, the Brigade was at last relieved by the 34th-Tank Brigade and went out to rest.
The following day the Brigade Commander attended a conference at which General Horrocks unfolded the plans for Operation “Plunder”, the crossing of the Rhine.