This week sees the Anniversary of Operations Plunder, (River Crossing), and Varsity, (Air Landings), which were the allied effort to cross the final obstacle into the German heartland and seal the fate of Hitler and his war machine. Op Plunder began late at night on the 23rd March 1945, when landing craft and amphibious vehicles (‘Buffalo’ & DUKW) began ferrying British and US troops across to the North bank of the Rhine, under heavy fire from the enemy bank. The operation had been preceded by 4 days of smoke screening and heavy aerial bombardment and was covered by heavy supporting artillery fire. By the early hours of the 24th a massive air-landing assault began to capture positions in depth and allow a bridgehead to be established by the crossing forces. Lessons from Op Market Garden at Arnhem the previous year had been learned, and realistic link up objectives had been set for both sets of forces, all airborne elements being reached by the 26th. Against fierce fighting the bridgeheads were established and the crossing of follow on forces secured. The way ahead was now clear for the final defeat of Nazi Germany.
Antecedents of The Rifles took part in both Operations; Op Plunder: 4th & 5th Battalions The Dorset Regiment, 4th & 5th Battalions the Wiltshire Regiment, 5th (Hackney) Bn The Royal Berkshire Regt, 4th & 7th Battalions The Somerset Light Infantry, 5th Battalion The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, and the 1st Battalion The Ox & Bucks Light Infantry. The 5th (Hackney) Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment acted as a beachhead Battalion for the 15th Scottish Division, having been selected by General Dempsey because of their experience as a beach Battalion on Juno Beach during the Normandy landings. In Op Varsity the air landing, 2nd Battalion the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, 12th Battalion The Devons and the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion all took took part.
To find out more on the part they played in this moment in history, why not visit their Regimental Museums, members of The Rifles Museums Network. Details available on theRifles Museums tab on the website.