The Rhine Crossing to VE Day.
The Staffordshire Yeomanry now returned to the Brigade. Since the break up of the 27th Armoured Brigade in Normandy they bad been back to England to convert to DD tanks under the 79th Armoured Division. Lieutenant-Colonel Eadie, after being awarded his second D.S.O., left to take up the appointment of Chief Instructor at Sandhurst and his place was taken by Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Farquhar, M. C. On their return to the Continent B Squadron had supported 52nd (Lowland) Division in the assault on South Beveland. This involved a swim of seven miles which was carried out without a casualty. The mud and dykes proved impassable to the Shermans however and only three tanks of this gallant squadron were able to proceed inland with the infantry.
After a winter spent in training on the Maas the Regiment, now under command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Trotter, had rejoined their old Brigade, to lead them across the Rhine.
A week before the crossing Lieutenant-Colonel Bill White M. B. E. succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Edwardes M. B. E. who had commanded the 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps since August 1944. Lieutenant-Colonel White had been wounded on D-Day whilst commanding one of the battalions of 50th (Northumbrian) Division supported by 8th Armoured Brigade.
The 8th Armoured Brigade, now with four Armoured Regiments, was to support 51st (Highland) Division, commanded by Major-General T. Rennie, D. S. 0., in the Rhine crossing.
At 1700 hours on 23 March a tremendous air and artillery programme began. As at Nijmegen, every possible weapon took part. By artificial moonlight, at 2100 hours, the leading elements of 51st (Highland) Division crossed in assault craft just North of Rees. They were followed shortly by the DD tanks of C Squadron Staffordshire Yeomanry who experienced a certain amount of difficulty with mud on the far bank. The remainder of the Regiment crossed at first light and were up with the infantry before any enemy counter-attack could be launched.
At 1000 hours on that memorable morning the 6th British and 82nd Airborne Divisions streamed overhead to drop away to the East' in the enemy's gun area. This tremendous spectacle was observed by the Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, and General Montgomery from a hill just behind Brigade H.Q.
The shambles which was Rees held out longer than was expected with the result that bridging operations had to be carried out by the Royal Engineers under direct fire from the East bank. Tank ferries were established by the evening of the 24th and the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards began to cross; they were followed in the next two days by the l3th/l8th Hussars and the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry. On the 27th Brigade H.Q., the 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps and the Essex Yeomanry, who had been supporting operations from the West bank, made the crossing over the very fine Class 40 bridge.
For seven days the Brigade supported 51st (Highland) Division, 43rd Division who had come up on the left of the former, and the 9th Canadian Brigade in heavy and continuous fighting within the bridgehead, fighting that was characterised by bold use by the Germans of SP guns and very heavy mortar concentrations. It was in one such concentration that Major-General Rennie was killed white visiting forward Battalions on the East bank.
On the 28th Ijsselburg was captured and the road from Anhoh to Gendringen was in our hands. The enemy were beginning to have had enough and some were induced to surrender after appropriate harangues on the tank "Loud Hailers". Away to the right the 7th Armoured Division had broken out and the Guards Armoured were about to go.
On the 30th March the Brigade with under command 4th Somerset Light Infantry in Kangaroos was loosed on Operation "Forrard On"; though as usual a break out battle had to be fought which lasted all day. 4th Somerset Light Infantry advanced on the right axis with 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps on the left both supported by 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. By evening the outskirts of Varsseveld were reached and 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps on the left were in Silvolde. In Varsseveld both bridges had been blown and the river could not be crossed till the evening of the next day. Orders were received to push on with all speed to seize a crossing of the Twente Canal at Lochem. At 2300 hours, assisted by artificial moonlight, the advance continued, the order of march being 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards carrying 4th Somerset Light Infantry, Tac Brigade H.Q. and Essex Yeomanry. As dawn broke a sharp action took place at Ruurlo, but the advance continued to Lochem where considerable opposition was encountered and the bridge found blown. The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps were brought up to assist. Twenty-five miles had been covered during the day.
Fresh orders now arrived. The Brigade was to capture crossings South of Delden away to the East. Having handed over the Lochem area to 129 Brigade and 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, the force was under way by 0400 and, headed by two troops of the Royals, covered 15 miles at a remarkable speed. The bridges, however, were blown but a crossing seemed possible by a lock gate Southwest of Delden. B Company 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps put in a very bold attack but found the position to be strongly held with well-concealed Spandaus and heavy mortar fire. After a most gallant attempt in which severe casualties were suffered the Company was withdrawn. The 130th Brigade with Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps under command, was now brought up and directed upon Hengelo by way of Enschede which stood at the head of the Twente Canal. Hengelo offered little resistance and the Brigade consolidated in that area. One of the V.2 supply routes into Holland had thus been cut. The 12th Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps pushed out in the evening towards Delden, patrolled during the night, and in the morning linked up with the forward troops of 4th Canadian Armoured Division advancing from their bridge-head over the Twente Canal.
While plans for the further advance were being made Lieutenant-Colonel Phayre, commander of the Essex Yeomanry, was promoted to C.R.A. 11th Armoured Division, and his place was taken by Major Bob Hodges.