Liberation of Northwest Europe
PROMOTION TO MAJOR OLMSTED. Having landed on D Day and fought with the 3rd Canadian Division HQ throughout France, Captain Olmsted was eventually assigned to regimental duty with the 13th Field, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA). A senior officer is quoted in his summary review of Captain Olmsted as saying he was “best suited for employment in close contact with fighting troops.” The 13th Field Regimental History lists the strength increase of Captain Olmsted joining the regiment in December 1944. He was promoted to Major while the regiment fought throughout Holland and Northwest Germany until the Axis surrender.
This section includes a variety of interesting stories about Major Olmsted including the regiment crossing the Rhine, leading the 78th battery attack on the town of Sneek (Holland), his Mention in Depatches on the border of Germany [still being researched], and an account of his operating post vehicle being directly hit by enemy artillery and narrowly avoiding death (near Weener). He was initially assigned to the 78th battery and eventually rose to second in command of the regiment alongside Lt. Col Baird (while Lt. Col Ostrander left to England) - acting in this capacity from April 1945 until the end of the war. Both of these men are of great interest to this research project as I know my grandfather was very close to them and maintained tremendous respect for both men. After the war my grandfather would describe his deep affection for the 13th Field, RCA - the experiences of war had clearly created unbreakable bonds between the men of the regiment.
In The Guns of Bretteville 13th Field Regiment, RCA, and the defence of Bretteville-l’Orgueilleuse, 7-10 June 1944, Marc Milner provides a useful description of how Canadian artillery units operated once landing in France. While this analysis is focused on the D-Day landings, it is assumed that operating procedures remained relatively similar as the unit moved throughout Northwest Europe. Mr. Milner’s father (Gunner W.C. Milner) was also a member of the 13th Field, RCA and would have almost certainly known Major Olmsted well.
The regiments landing on D-Day followed the standard organization of British Commonwealth artillery. The 13th RCA was composed of three eight-gun batteries (the 22nd, 44th and 78th - all militia units from Alberta), each in turn divided into two four-gun troops – giving the regiment six troops, designated A to F. Normally, a field regiment supported an infantry brigade, with batteries assigned to provide fire support for each of the brigade’s three battalions. During a battle, the artillery regiment’s commanding officer served at brigade HQ and co-ordinated fire support from all guns within range – not just his own regiment. The regiment’s second in-command ran the regimental HQ in the rear. Forward Observation Officers (FOOs) and their parties operated with battalion headquarters, while over a dozen regimental officers were attached to neighbouring units to help coordinate artillery across the front…
It is important to observe that a field regiment was both a discrete combat unit and the tentacles of the artillery apparatus of the army in the field – division, corps, army and army group. The regiment provided immediate on-call support to its brigade at the front, but artillery regiments remained part of the whole “regiment” of Royal Artillery, with access to every gun in theatre through a dedicated artillery communications net. The FOO, his battery and regiment, therefore, served as the conduit through which forward infantry units could access fire support on a vast scale. This is what ultimately made the artillery fire of British Commonwealth armies so devastating. It was possible for any FOO or even a “gunner” – an artillery private – to deliver the fire of everything from his own battery to that of all guns of the Corps onto a single grid reference in a matter of minutes. Under the British system you fired first and asked questions later…
Normandy-NW France. June-November 1944. After landing on Juno Beach with the 3rd Canadian Division HQ (9th Infantry Brigade) Captain Olmsted is believed to have remained with this unit, likely supporting Canadian artillery units (12th, 13th, and 14th Field Regiments). This is an area for further research and will be further detailed with the regimental war diary.
Ghent. 4 Nov. 44.
The 13th Field, RCA regimental convoy entered Ghent in the evening of November 4. By last light today, from reports received, the entire regiment is in agreement that Ghent is a fine place for an operation like "Relax"…Their hospitality and kindness will always be remembered by the men of the regiment. At first they were a little bewildered by the rough, boisterous, breezy habits of the Canadians who had just come out of a tough battle. But as they got to know them better they understood them and liked them. And the soldiers liked the Belgian people too.
On November 10 the regiment left these happy surroundings and moved to the Nijmegen area… That day Capt GOTHARD with his OP crew crossed the German border to establish - an OP overlooking the flats beside the Rhine, thereby claiming themselves as the first Canadian soldiers of the war to step on German soil.
On November 17 Lt-Col C. R. OSTRANDER took over command of the [13th Field Regiment]. Before his service there he had been with 1 Canadian Field Regiment, RCHA during its brief period of action in France in 1940, and with the beach group of 2 Canadian Infantry Division at Dieppe. For his service at Dieppe he was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
The regiment was in the Nijmegen salient for almost three months. During that time two gun positions were occupied, five alternative positions surveyed and another three positions were surveyed for future operations. A limited amount of firing was done... Although the OPs were overlooking an area occupied by some 2000 Germans it was very seldom any movement could be observed.
It was an opportunity to do some reviewing of artillery work and to learn the new changes in ·procedure. The junior officers also received very valuable OP training in the static OPs. The period was good from a social point of view. The regiment had had no breaks from the battle since they landed in France except for a busy time at the reorganization area near Bayeux and the few days at Ghent. Now the officers and men had the chance to become acquainted with those in the other batteries. This was particularly beneficial to the officers who, in most cases, had not been with the regiment during the training days in England…
Captain Olmsted is listed as having joined the regiment on December 9. It’s interesting to note that Lt. Col. Ostrander had also just recently joined the unit essentially a month beforehand to the day.
On December 19 the batteries moved to a new gun area near the monastery where RHQ was situated. Gun and ammunition pits were dug and ammunition was dumped on the position in preparation for the big attack. The details were very secretive but everyone knew that this was the beginning of the much talked of push across the Rhine.
Military intelligence revealed that the Germans intended to make a thrust from the north in the direction of Antwerp following the success of their operation farther south. This would threaten the Nijmegen salient and might even cut it off. In preparing stronger defences switching of troops followed and part of 2 Canadian Infantry Division came under operational command of 3 Canadian Infantry Division Headquarters whose responsibility was the defence of the Nijmegen salient from the Rhine to the Reichswald Forest.
It is possible that this German counter offensive is a contributing factor leading to Captain Olmsted’s selection for Regimental duty with the 13th Field Regiment, RCA.
Infantry were positioned beside the guns and dug in. Anti-tanks guns were sited and some of the 25 pounders were moved to a better position in an anti-tank role. Barbed wire was erected and the engineers placed mines in areas to the front and flanks. In addition to these precautions, tank hunting teams were formed from the men of the regiment in order to deal with the enemy tanks at close quarters if they broke through. These teams each consisted of a Piat section of two men and a mine section of three men. Two handled a bracelet of No. 75 grenades to be pulled in front of the tank as it passed… The orders were to hold the gun position to the last man and last round; there was plenty of artillery and small arms ammunition available for the job.
The most noteworthy operation of the winter from an artillery point of view was Operation "Plum" on Jan 8. This operation was a daylight raid of company strength by the North Shore Regiment. Its purpose was to obtain prisoners for interrogation…A company was to penetrate the enemy forward defence lines at Wyler and sweep the area in a circular movement to the left, driving the enemy before it back into our own lines… The raid from an artillery point of view was conducted very well, the fire plan being well controlled giving effective protection. As a whole however it was considered to have been only partially successful although it did achieve its objective of taking prisoners of war.
Most of the days at the gun positions were very similar. The daily visits of the ration trucks with the mail were always an important event along with the nightly issue of rum to the men…On January 30 the batteries moved back to the gun positions by the monastery in preparation for the offensive which had been postponed in December. The stage was being set for Operation "Veritable" - the clearing of the approaches to the Rhine.
The Push for the Rhine Crossing
Operation "Veritable" was the name for the offensive of 30 British Corps, attacking through the Reichswald Forest with the intention of pushing the enemy from the east bank of the Rhine between Nijmegen and Wesel and if possible effecting a crossing of the Rhine in the area of Wesel.
3 Canadian Infantry Division was under command of 30 British Corps for the operation. Their task was to attack and destroy the enemy in the flats below Nijmegen. Of this 8 C.I.B. was to attack and destroy the enemy in the towns of Leuth, Zandpol, Kekerdom, Zyfflich and Millingen.
13th Field Regiment, RCA “Breakthrough and Rhine Crossing“ indicates location of Regimental positions in Eastern Holland and Germany [REF]
The artillery for the commencement of the artillery for the commencement of the operation consisted of 1040 guns.... This was the largest concentration of artillery ever to support an attack… The 13th Canadian Field Regiment was to take part in the initial artillery preparation in immediate support of the 8 C.I.B. attack in the evening. After that it would be necessary for the regiment to deploy forward to continue to support the brigade as it advanced across the flats to Millingen.
Before the attack the regiment had over 40,000 rounds of ammunition dug in, ready to be used. The briefing was completed and the Reps and FOOs departed to their battalions. With the Queens Own Rifles of Canada were Major J. D. Ross, Capt A. L. LEE, and Capt W. C. MILLER all of 22nd Battery. With the Regiment de la Chaudiere were Major W. B. HANCOCK, Lieut J. P. GRENIER, and Capt E. A. OLMSTED of the 78th Battery. All the FOOs and Reps were equipped with Weasels in place of carriers, and were accompanied by their crews of ables, signallers and drivers.
A smoke generator laying a smokescreen to hide the movements of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during Operation VERITABLE, Wyler, Germany, 15 February 1945.
The 13th RCA was composed of three eight-gun batteries (the 22nd, 44th and 78th - all militia units from Alberta), each in turn divided into two four-gun troops – giving the regiment six troops, designated A to F. The majority of the guns that originally landed on D-Day were American-built M7 Priests with 105 mm guns (168), while the rest were Canadian-built Sexton SPs with 25-pounder guns (72).
First Canadian Army “The Rhineland: Operation Veritable“ indicates location of Canadian units during Operation Veritable. [Note UNIT LOCATION][ REF]
At 0500 hours February 8 the artillery opened up. With the guns of the many artillery regiments so close together the noise "Veritable" was terrific. Field, medium, heavy, super-heavy, light ack-ack and heavy ack-ack were firing in unison on a timed program. At 1ooo hours the regiment had finished firing in the pre-bombardment phase and were employed in counter battery fire for the next 30 minutes… [The] regiment commenced a smoke screen firing one round a minute for six hours. The screen, which was put down by many other regiments as well, was 4000 to 5000 yards long stretching across the entire front…
Such a thorough preparation showed results when the attack of the North Shores and Chauds was launched. The regiment fired 500 rounds per gun during the day. The infantry moved ' forward in Buffalos and canoes with most of the FOOs and Reps in Weasels…
The Chauds landed after the North Shores from canoes and attacked up the road and dyke to the right towards . The strong current from the Rhine, through the gap in the dyke blown by the Germans, caused difficulties in navigation by canoes and Weasels, but these were surmounted. By the time the units had crossed the open stretch of water and reached their part of the dyke, their strength had been greatly depleted by the loss of boats which either had broken down, run on obstacles in the water or were temporarily lost in the darkness.
The attack progressed favorably during the night and by morning on February 9, after an impatient. period of waiting, the town of Wyler had been cleared and the regiment moved to the new area. The deployment in the mine-studded fields and among shell torn houses was both unusual and tragic. Major BAIRD led the recce parties in with his typical boldness and brevity. The command post officers and ables ran back and forth across the minefields and past boody traps, trying to find suitable places for the guns which were following up behind them… The unit had been the first Canadian artillery regiment to deploy in Germany.
The work of the forward artillery parties in the two day amphibious operation was excellent. The Weasels in which they travelled gave considerable trouble… [Several weasels were put out of action alongside their occupants]… Captain OLMSTED's Weasel was punctured by the top of a submerged telephone pole and barely managed to reach a high piece of ground near Leuth. There he and his crew 8 were stranded for 48 hours until rescued by a passing Buffalo. This included [Easy Troop OP crew, which consisted of] Captain Olmsted, Gnr Mayes, W. J., Gnr Lochart, and Gnr Brandon, A. B.]
Following the capture and consolidation of the 8 C.I.B. area the FOOs and Reps were withdrawn with the exception of Major Ross and Capt MILLER and their parties who established themselves in Millingen and directed artillery fire on the far bank of the Rhine. Tac Brigade Headquarters also moved to Millingen along with the Queens Own Headquarters. The flooded condition of the town created a strange situation where transportation from one house to another was by means of boat. The air OP plane dropped mail to the artillery group a number of times with varying success.
For days the regiment occupied the gun position at Wyler firing a large programme every night onto the far bank of the Rhine. As the position was the best one available in the area, the regiment was left there while the remainder of 3 Canadian Infantry Division moved on beyond Cleve and 43 (W) Division took over the patrolling of the Rhine.
Captain Olmsted would later be assigned to the 43 (W) Division as a Canadian representative, to help coordinate the advance of Canadian and British units situated on each others’ flanks.
On February 23rd the regiment moved, passed through the Reichswald forest and deployed beyond Cleve near the village of Luisendorf. Preparations were now being made for Operation "Blockbuster". The 3 Canadian Infantry Division, now directly under 2 Canadian Corps, was to attack and destroy the enemy in the area of Keppeln and Udem, following an advance by 2 Canadian Infantry Division on the left and preparatory to a follow-up by 4 Canadian Armoured Division and II British Armoured Division…The artillery available to 8 C.I.B. for this operation was the largest yet. It included in addition to 6 field and 4 medium regiments the use of 7 heavy artillery batteries…
The fire discouraged the enemy from falling back to the strongly prepared defences of Udem and kept them in the Keppeln area until they were either killed or captured. The second part of the artillery plan, that of close support, was provided by two medium regiments and field regiments of the division which were also controlled throughout the operation by the Reps at brigade headquarters. Infantry attacks and artillery support were arranged and coordinated by them throughout the day as the need arose… On February 24 the gun positions were subjected to continuous enemy harassing fire…
On the evening of February 27 the regiment moved in the direction of Udem along congested roads. As there was only one available road for the deployment of the attack the regiment went into a concentration area during the night as close to Udem as possible. The next morning the guns moved on to Udem….
The Chauds were to open the attack for 8 C.I.B. from the railroad working south through the Balberger Wald. The attack was quickly teed up, Lt-Col OSTRANDER being informed of the plan only four hours before the attack began. The list of targets was passed on to the Reps simply from a single marked map. At this time Major HANCOCK was temporarily acting as second in command and Captain OLMSTED was acting as Brigade Commander (BC) of the 78th Battery.
[On March 1] the Chauds started the attack at night preceded by a small fire plan of artillery. From then on the artillery could do very little. The FOOs had difficulty in seeing their targets before they were right up to them, and it was impossible to fire accurately in the woods where the trees would stop a shell short of its target and create a dangerous airburst. The Chauds made little progress during the night attack, the battle developing into a hand-to-hand fight, with the Germans using infiltration tactics in the darkness.
On March 5 Gnr W. J. MAYNES of the 78th Battery, a driver, distinguished himself under enemy fire by driving away from a burning tank two carriers and a jeep. He tried to drive away another jeep but the fire had gained too much headway. He was only able to escape before it blew up. For this action Gnr MAYNES was awarded the Military Medal. Heavy vehicle casualties had recently been suffered in the forest fighting. The saving of the two carriers was of immediate assistance to the operation, one of them containing the FOOs communication for artillery support.
This action by Gunner W.J. Maynes would have been while Captain Olmsted was acting as Brigade Commander. Gunner Mayes is a person of interest and it is hoped that his family can be contacted.
The March 7 attack on Xanten was made by 2; Canadian Infantry Division, the regiment taking part in the line barrage followed by cones. A total of 412 rounds per gun were used. The regiment was standing by ready to move across the Rhine in case of a break through at this point, but it did not materialize.
Crossing the Rhine
The rest at Cleve [March 11] was one of those affairs typical of the army where everybody talks about a rest, no one has a rest and at the end of the time everyone feels much better for the change… Preparations were now being made for Operation "Plunder". Reece parties had gone out to the new area. The location of the new area and the plans of the operation were kept very secret. Only a few officers knew the plans until the regiment had completed the move.
Wissel, 21 March. The artillery was to support the crossing of the river and then to harass the enemy on the Hoch Elten feature. The I3th Field Regiment had this in addition to their usual task of providing close support for 8 C.I.B. Once Emmerich and its approaches had been secured, a bridge would be built opposite the town where the guns of the regiment would cross… To support the crossing at Rees the regiment was to take up gun positions at Wissel…The guns and vehicles were concealed in and beside buildings and camouflaged as well as possible. The whole area was screened off from the enemy by a smoke screen which extended along the Rhine for 30 miles. The gun area was surveyed and mathematics completed down to the necessary target data for each gun. All that remained was for the gun pits to be dug, the guns rolled into them and put on their zero line.
March 23. At 1700 hours our guns opened up in the initial firing of the pre-assault artillery preparation. Counter battery targets were engaged for an hour and five minutes. At 2030 hours the fire plan was fired in support of the assault of 51 (H) Division. The closeness of the guns in the small gun positions, the fast rate of fire and the many incoming shells contributed to a very noisy and unpleasant evening. The North Shores pushed through towards Millingen on the far side of the Rhine assisted by a large artillery lifting barrage flanked by "boxes" of smoke on either side. Once the town was taken, 43 (Wyvern) Division came through and made a break to the north. Captain OLMSTED had been serving as Rep with 43 (W) Division [a British infantry division] until they went through 9 C.I.B.
On March 28 the regiment moved to a gun position north of Cleve so as to be able to support the infantry as they moved through Emmerich… The battalion crossed the river by ferry at Rees and swung left towards Emmerich… Capt GOTHARD was able to observe the infantry as it fought its way towards Emmerich and the effect of our artillery concentrations on Hoch Elten. This OP was very unusual in as much as observation was down the Rhine watching our attack come up the other side towards it, thus looking at the backs of the Germans.
8 C.I.B. then pushed on to Houtoum… Little opposition was encountered due to the terrific weight of artillery which had been fired into the hill. So heavy was the shelling that in some places the contour of the feature had been noticeably changed, and little but stumps and shattered trunks remained of the heavy growth of trees which had covered the hill. Over a period of a few days the area had approximately four million rounds fall on it…
Early in the morning of April 1, after most of the regiment had been up all night expecting the order to move, the guns took up position close to the Rhine near Emmerich to be in readiness for crossing the river as soon as the bridge was built. The recce parties started out for the new gun area by way of Rees.
That evening under cover of darkness the regiment moved across the Rhine. As if the thrill of crossing the mighty barrier was not sufficient in itself, the German airforce took the occasion for a hurried visit so that the crossing was made with the active assistance of searchlights and ack-ack guns. Over the rocking pontoon bridge, through the battered ruins of Emmerich and out into the country on the far side, the convoy groped its way. It was a great feeling to be across the river which had been an obstacle to victory for so long. There had been many changes in personnel since the time when the Falaise pocket was closed and the regiment was dashing up the coast of France but the same feeling was with the men now, the sense of relief, the spirit of hope, the contemplation of an early victory.
Once across the river 8 C.I.B. had their last use of large groups of artillery with exception of a few fire plans on Zutphen. From now on they would have to rely entirely upon their own divisional artillery. Captain OLMSTED temporarily took over command of the 44th Battery while Major O'SHEA went on leave.
Late that night [1 April] the regiment went into a concentration area in the forest beyond Zeddam; back into Holland and everyone was glad of it.
Pushing North of the Ijssel Meer River
13th Field Regiment, RCA “NORTHERN HOLLAND“ indicates location of Regimental positions in NORTHERN HOLLAND [REF]
The following morning the guns moved again. The news of the fighting was good. The enemy were withdrawing quickly. Our infantry, artillery and recce regiments were passing each other in their eagerness to push ahead…[Over the next day the regiment traveled by Kilder, Wehl, Laag Keppel, Zutphen, Baak, Doesburg, Achterwehl.]
From [the Zutpen Road] the regiment fired many Mi¼:e. targets on the enemy across the river near Doesburg and took part in a large harassing fire programme in support of 9 C.I.B. who where advancing to Zutphen. A great amount of firing was done from this position. Enemy artillery was active too, making the 44th Battery position, which was located near a church, a very hot spot.
On April 7 the regiment moved to gun positions near Joppe and started off the firing with many battery targets taking in an arc of fire from 80 to 360 degrees... On the outskirts of Zutphen preparatory to making the attack It was to be a two battalion attack by the Chauds coming in the southern part of the town and the North Shores taking out the northern section above and along the railway tracks.
The fire plan started at 0400 hours and consisted of three lifts, stopping at the approaches to the town. Only the Third Division artillery took part. The Infantry then moved in. The Chauds encountered bitter hand to hand fighting among the closely packed houses. The use of artillery was difficult on such close targets. However tanks were able to take over and were very effective, firing at close quarters into the houses. The German artillery was very active, firing indiscriminately into the town and killing many civilians. About 20,000 civilians remained in the town during the battle and their presence made fighting difficult.
The North Shores advancing beside the railway track over exposed ground ran into heavy fire and had part of a company cut off for sometime. Capt RUMBLE, advancing with the leading company, came upon a soldier of the North Shores fighting desperately in a hand to hand tussle with a German who was trying to get his pistol ·into position to shoot the Canadian. Capt RUMBLE ran to his assistance and ended the fray by shooting the German.
By the third day of the attack on Zutphen the town, including the factory area, had been cleared. The OP's then moved up to the edge of the Ijssel River and engaged targets on the far bank.
Late in the afternoon on 12 April of the following day, with the Wezeppe targets now out of range, the regiment moved to a village below Wezeppe. The enemy had pulled back quickly and the chase was on again.
[On April 13] the regiment moved again to position themselves for the attack ·on Zwolle. This place was expected to offer resistance, as it was a key town in the German escape route from the south. Late in the evening, just in time to record zero lines before darkness fell, the regiment deployed near Wytmen. Again there was no firing…
Early the next morning the Chauds moved into Zwolle and "consolidated'' among the happy, cheering people. In the afternoon, the regiment skirted the north end of the town moving slowly up the wide road, while the infantry, not far ahead, took on the small groups of resistance. Late in the evening, the guns halted and went into positions south-east of Meppel. Again the guns did not fire, as the resistance was not large enough for artillery work.
The guns moved next morning [April 15] beyond Meppel and parked along the side of the road many hours, while the infantry moved forward. When the regiment finally did get under way, the convoy travelled quickly going through Heerenveen to gun positions near Joure.
The Dutch underground, indicated that the area [west of Heerenveen] contained small groups of enemy with a limited supply of artillery andno tanks. The Brigadier called together the senior officers. The next objective was to be Joure. "One moment sir", said Major BAIRD. "That will not be necessary. The 13th Field has already taken up gun positions there." Later on the regimental ration truck made a slight map reading error near Joure. The party arrived at a bridge well covered by Jerry small arms fire and when the enemy opened fire the 60 cwt truck went through evolutions which would shame a jeep, and left there forthwith…
Assault on Sneek
8 C.I.B. was in possession of the most recent plans of the defences of Sneek, as well as information as to the telephone communications and water supply. This valuable information, which was provided by the Dutch underground, is only one example of the assistance given by them to the unit throughout the fighting in Holland. For the manoeuvres, the battalions were to operate separately with the artillery splitting up into batteries, each battery moving with their battalions along with tanks and engineers.
The Regiment de la Chaudiere, moving with the 78th Battery under command of Captain OLMSTED, were to capture Sneek and clear the enemy from the area south of Sneek inclusive of Lemmer. The North Shore Regiment, with the 44th Battery under command of Major O'SHEA, would then move through Sneek to Bolsward. Once this place was secured, they were to swing south to clear out the enemy down to the Ijssel Meer. Following close behind, would be the Queens Own Rifles of Canada, with the 22nd Battery under command of Major LAWSON. They were to push through Bolsward to the causeway connecting Friesland and North Holland. The enemy was expected to make a stand somewhere along the route.
That night the Chauds sent out a fighting patrol to Sneek, consisting of three 60 cwt vehicles, 2 flame throwers, 2 machine gun carriers and an OP carrier. As they reached each bridge, along the road, personnel were dropped behind to guard it from being blown up. The patrol successfully reached the outskirts of Sneek, found no opposition there, but the Dutch underground in control. The remainder of the battalion soon followed. Shortly after midnight the guns of the 78th Battery were ordered to move forward approximately five miles to the eastern outskirts of Sneek. It was a pitch black night, no daylight recce had been made. Yet the battery was able to advance, take up position and within three hours of the receipt of orders consolidate the Chauds in Sneek…
16 April. RHQ moved into Bolsward late in the morning and quickly swamped the cigarette market. Nearly all the guns positions had a similar story to tell about the crowds of people who invaded their area to look in wonderment at the equipment, to ask for cigarettes and chocolate or just to be near activity. It was the people's first day of liberation, and they made the best of it. Baker Troop was a typical example. Here the crowds around the guns and the command post were so great that BSM HOOPER was forced to rope off restricted areas so that the troop could function properly. Even at that, some pretty "young thing" was sure to trip over the tannoy wire and break communications to one of the guns. Of course, the kitchen was a great attraction. To see what the men ate and, perhaps, obtain some of it! Many had never seen white bread for five years, nor tasted the weird and wonderful dishes which were just another monotonous meal to the soldiers. Two of the feature events for the spectators were the firing of the guns and the rides in the exchange crew carrier.
The Chauds had moved south from Sneek in the direction of Woudsend, with the guns of the 78th Battery trailing along the road ready to go into action. They were held up by a blown bridge and forced to turn around. Capt ETHIER, who had parked in his carrier near the destroyed bridge, had quite a going over for a few minutes by machine gun fire from across the river. He reported the carrier to be absolutely bullet proof. That night the battery deployed in the old position at Joure, while the infantry crossed the Schrasterbuig canal supported by very effective observed artillery fire, which caused many German casualties. During the night most of the Germans in the area had left by boat from Lemmer.
17 April. In the morning the Chauds moved down towards Lemmer accompanied by engineers to construct bridges where necessary. The guns of the 78th Battery were no longer needed there, and moved from Joure to join the 22nd Battery near Longerhou. Capt ETHIER and Capt :BURROWS were commended by Lt-Col TACHEREAU for the effective close support they had provided the Chauds during this most hectic period. Brigadier ROBERTS sent his compliments to the 78th [under command of Captain OLMSTED] Battery for their good work. The North Shore that day had extended their patrols farther south, this time the guns of the 44th Battery, moving with them and carrying the weary men forward. On reaching Koudum, the battery deployed to cover the patrols working to Stavoren and the stretches of land south-east. No enemy was encountered, so the column turned back, the infantry stopping at Exmora to be in position to advance towards Makkum the next day, the artillery moving up late that night to rejoin the other two batteries. The batteries again came under the immediate control of RHQ.
These few days had been particularly noteworthy, because it was one of the few occasions when the artillery work took on a semblance of artillery practice, as written in the well known pamphlet 2B. The junior officers, getting away from being a small cog in the big wheel of Mike, Victor and Yoke concentrations, large barrages and fire plans, were now part of a more intimate battery show. Here the gun areas were selected, zero lines chosen, and administration carried out on a battery level. The fighting, too, became a battery and battalion affair, and information, received as to the progress made, was easier to obtain and more enthusiastically received.
The following day the resistance in the area was ended with the capture of Makkum and the approaches to the causeway. The artillery, which had been supplemented by a battery from 3 Canadian Medium Regiment, RCA had been used extensively on both places. Near the causeway were the remains of one 75 mm and twenty-six 20 mm enemy guns which had been destroyed by our gun fire. The enemy had retreated to fortifications out on the causeway and the artillery engaged them a number of times during the night. At midnight, operation "Plunder" which began with the crossing of the Rhine, officially ended.
13th Field Regiment, RCA “Approaches to Emden“ indicates location of Regimental positions in NORTHERN HOLLAND and NW Germany [REF]
On April 19 the regiment went out of action, and moved to a concentration area at Gorredijk where maintenance and general cleaning was to take place. The town was a marvellous spot, because of the friendliness of the people, who did everything to make the short stay pleasant, and, because of the picturesque location on either side of the canal. It was ·not long before the men were comfortably billeted. They had made themselves "at home", which included wiring the houses for electricity, supplied by the army chargers, and . installing radios in convenient places… word came through that the brigade was needed to relieve elements of I Polish Armoured Division which had been held up in Germany in an area unsuitable to the use of heavy armour… The journey was a long one, going through Leeuwarden, Groningen, Winschoten, across the border into Germany below Rhede.
…The regiment instead [took] up gun positions at the end of the day in Brual about 1000 yards from the FDLs. Harassing fire was immediately laid on and engaged as battery targets. The plan was to clear the enemy out of the area flanked on the north and east by the Ems river and on the west by the stretch of water known as the Dollard… The battle was strictly a delaying action by the Germans as was the rest of the fighting until the end of the war. The enemy effectively used airplane bombs to blow large craters in the road slowing up the advance considerably. Most craters were so large bridges had to be erected before vehicles could get through. Throughout the advance the FOOs worked on foot with their carriers moving forward as each crater was bridged. The infantry part of the battle was difficult because of the heavy shelling to which they were subjected both from field guns and from heavy artillery (including ack-ack in a ground role) from gun emplacements around Emden.
The advance began on April 23. The North Shores moved forward first, then the Chauds and Queens Own went through advancing up parallel roads. Just as the attack of the Chauds had started a concentration of heavy enemy shells landed near Major Olmsted and his crew. Two of the party L/Bdr JOSEPHSON and Gnr MACDONALD were killed and the others (Gnr Knight, W. E and Gnr Jeffries) knocked down by the blast but unhurt. The vehicle was badly damaged and communications disrupted for some time.
A blog post describes this research lead in greater detail. Graves of both killed soldiers are going to be visited, and research is underway to identify their respective families.
E.A. Olmsted Mention in Despatches
The Queens Own were assisted by a fire plan in the morning and reached the approaches of Weener late that afternoon. Then the North Shores proceeded to go through them. Their leading company was held up by heavy fire at the road block guarding the entrance. They were forced to pull back and call for artillery support. The artillery shelled the position for IO minutes after which the North Shores were able to walk in with few casualties. Reece parties of the regiment were not long in following into the town to pick out suitable gun positions. In the meantime the Chauds had pushed into a wood farther to the west. Late that evening, after taking circuitous routes to by-pass the large craters, the guns moved Weener into position around Weener and reported ready shortly after midnight.
The next day the Chauds took Bunde and moved through it, striking heavy opposition on the far side of the town. Bunde The 78th Battery moved up in the morning to support this advance while the remainder of the regiment stayed behind to give support to the Queens Own and North Shores. A number of shells landed on the 22nd and 78th Batteries' positions. Sgt SCOTT of the 22nd was wounded. Capt BURROWS and Capt ETHIER with the Chauds were under shell fire the entire day. Capt BURROWS was observing from one window when a shell came in the other window and took away the side of the house.
April 25:...[The Chauds worked] through Holtgas and Jemgun. A strong enemy force was situated at Hatguin but it quickly surrendered after the artillery had put down 5 rounds of gun fire on a number of places in the town… The North Shores were now firmly established in the towns of Bingum and Bingumgaste which had been taken after a short fight. Capt CAMPBELL had an OP in Bingum overlooking the town of Leer. A day before the attack across the river, all the high ranking officers of 9 C.I.B. were observing from the OP when the enemy opened up on it with machine guns. Many people bit the dust in a hurry. The party soon left… That evening the guns moved by batteries to Mariencher. The men of the 78th Battery immediately proceeded to round up twenty German soldiers from nearby barns and haystacks and marched them off to the PW cage. The regiment was now within the area subjected to German harassing fire…The following day one of their comfortable glassed in command posts was completely wrecked forcing the command post staff to set up office in the cellar - where they should have been anyway.
April 26. The area was under considerable harassing fire. From this position the regiment prepared to support the 9 C.I.B. in their attack across the Ems River to Leer. Guides were despatched to bring up 750 rounds per gun HE and smoke, which was dumped on the troop positions with much difficulty due to the narrow approaches to the fields and wet, boggy nature of the ground, thoroughly soaked by the heavy rains.
April 27. Shortly after midnight the report came through from one of the FOOs that a dyke had been blown causing the water to rise rapidly and forcing some sub units of the Chauds to leave the area… Mine detectors were put to a new use in this area. It was soon realized that the Germans had hidden many small arms under the ground, in haystacks or around buildings. The hand operated mine detectors were employed to · search for them. Soon many rifles, revolvers, to say nothing of the odd pair of binoculars, cameras and watches were uncovered.
28 April: A fire plan was engaged in support of 9 C.I.B. in their attack across the river Ems through Leer. In addition to this, many counter battery tasks were engaged to ease the enemy shelling on the gun positions. During this time Lt-Col OSTRANDER was on course in England and Major BAIRD acted as the Arty Rep at 8 C.I.B. headquarters from early April until the end of the campaign. MAJOR OLMSTED was now temporarily acting as Second-in Command of the regiment and continued to do so [from early April until the end of the campaign].
On April 29 the battle was quieter. Church parades were held which attracted a large turnout... The next day targets were engaged supporting 9 C.I.B. across the Ems and during the night a large counter battery program was fired totaling 165 rounds per gun. While this was going on an enemy patrol was reported to have crossed over the river just north of the gun area. The men were put on a 50 pc stand to but the enemy did not approach the gun positions. The regiment here, was in an area very vulnerable to attack as the infantry had now left in preparation for crossing the river at Leer. Anti-tank units operating in an infantry role were situated in strategic positions of defence, but there was little to prevent an enemy patrol crossing the river and penetrating into the regimental area. For this reason local OPs were established and extra guards were posted by the guns and vehicles… It was late at night by the time the regiment had taken up position near Brinkum [on May 1]. DF and SOS tasks were laid on'as usual but no firing was done during the night. Every one was tired after the move and were glad of the rest.
The following morning [May 2] the regiment moved to Hesel. The 78th Battery moving first and reporting ready before the other two batteries moved... The next day the guns of the regiment moved to Bagband, the batteries again moving one at a time. More targets were fired, chiefly in support of the Queens Own… The previous night a civilian had come through the Chauds outpost stating that he had been sent from Aurich to talk of surrender and asking that the town of Aurich, which had received little damage so far, be spared any more destruction. The civilian· was taken to Brigadier ROBERTS, commander of 8 C.I.B., and next morning they both went to Aurich to meet the local commander. The latter expressed his willingness to surrender his small force. Arrangements were then made to meet the commander of the area at Norden whose jurisdiction included Emden, Aurich, Wilhelmshaven and Fresian Islands.
On May 4 negotiations for the surrender of North-West Germany were completed, Brigadier ROBERTS acting for 3 Canadian Infantry Division in conjunction with arrangements being made on the right flank by 2 Canadian Infantry Division.
At 1040 hours all firing by the regiment ceased and at 0800 hours on all resistance in North-West Germany terminated… Three days later all enemy resistance in Europe officially ended… The cessation of hostilities was an anti-climax. It was difficult to realize it was all over, that the guns would no longer be needed, that the soldiers who were the enemy yesterday were but harmless individuals today. The feeling of most of the men could be summed up in the words "I made it".
Many of the old timers, who had fully realized the extent of the task before them which involved the establishment and holding of a beachead against a well organized and disciplined enemy, and the subsequent "slugging" it out until the enemy was crushed, had earnestly felt that they would not survive to the finish. To the feeling of exultation was the deeper emotion of thankfulness.
On May 5 the officers and men of the regiment gathered together in the village church at Bagband for a talk by the commanding officer. Lt-Col OSTRANDER [who had just returned 3 days prior] spoke from the pulpit flanked by many wreaths commemorating German soldiers who had died in battle. He thanked the men for the work they had done; warned them about being too optimistic concerning an early return to Canada, and told them briefly of the tasks ahead in Germany.