The Western Front, 24th March 1945

The Western Front, 19th April 1945

The Advance to the Baltic



The 9th Parachute Battalion, near Brelingen

Freed Polish prisoners of war

A Cromwell tank of "B" Squadron, 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment

Canadians in Kolkenhagen on the 29th April


The 15th (Scottish) Division now passed through to champion VIII Corps' push through Germany. The Brigades of the 6th Airborne Division were allowed to remain stationary for days at a time to rest and re-equip, gradually following after the Scots to tidy up what pockets of resistance they had left behind.


To aid the 15th Division's assault on Uelzen, which was strongly-held by the enemy, the 6th Airborne Division was ordered to apply pressure to the flanks of the town by occupying a series of positions to cut-off any withdrawal by the defenders. The 6th Airlanding Brigade duly advanced on the 16th April and were soon involved in several skirmishes with the enemy. Meeting only light resistance from snipers and self-propelled guns, the 12th Devons occupied Stederhof at 12:30, but were delayed for a time by a four-foot hole that had been blown in the bridge here. Once across, "C" Company approached Esterholz and found it to be well-held by the enemy, but their attack into the rear of the position broke resistance without incurring any losses, accounting for 6 enemy killed and 68 taken prisoner. The Battalion had intended to complete their advance by seizing Lehmke, but as a consequence of their being delayed at the blown bridge, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles were ordered to seize it instead, which they did without a struggle.


The 3rd Parachute Brigade were on the move at this time. At dawn on the 17th April, the 9th Battalion attacked into the woodland on the outskirts of Rätzlingen, killing 12 of the enemy and taking 4 prisoners without loss. They then turned their attention on the village itself, but the enemy situated here did not melt away as some of their fellows had done in recent days. Instead the paratroopers were forced to battle their way through the streets and gradually subdue resistance. Whilst they were doing so, a few Canadian tanks appeared and came under fierce fire, but to very little effect, from a body of Germans carrying panzerfausts. The tanks retaliated and, aided by the 9th Battalion, put this group to flight. By 07:00 the fighting was over. The Battalion had lost 2 killed and 5 wounded during the action, but had taken 57 prisoners.


The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion now moved through Rätzlingen and, with tank support, advanced on Riestedt, to where the surviving enemy had withdrawn. A brisk action followed but the Canadians captured the village without much difficulty and began to dig-in, as they had been warned to expect a counter-attack. Their positions were shelled later in the day, but no such attack materialised. A group of 25 enemy were subsequently observed in nearby woodland, but these, having first been mortared, were quickly rounded up by a two-man patrol.


At midnight, the 6th Airlanding Brigade moved through Rätzlingen and advanced in the direction of Rosche. The 12th Devons began their attack on it at 01:30, with "B" Company capturing the bridges to the rear of the village whilst "D" Company attacked through it and cleared the enemy away. Suffering just two casualties, Rosche was in the hands of the Devons by 09:00, having accounted for 51 prisoners, a considerable number of the enemy killed, and a self-propelled gun destroyed.


The 15th (Scottish) Division duly captured Uelzen, and on the 19th April the first units of VIII Corps arrived on the western bank of the River Elbe. Although the River was designated as the place where the British and American armies would halt, the need to spare Denmark the joys of liberation by the Red Army demanded that a crossing be made here.