Hochwald: Fort Garry Horse, 1945
When the Canadians launched their attack on the Hochwald on the morning of February 26, 1945, they couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t much of a forest. Yet, the short, densely-packed trees shielded the Germans’ last major line of defence; they weren’t going to allow the Allies to cross the Rhine without a fight. The Canadian veterans who fought at Hochwald later described it as the “toughest scrap of the war.”
As the Canadians advanced along sodden dirt roads they met with hidden machine guns and thick minefields while being continuously shelled. By March 3 they were exhausted. The sky was overcast, and the freezing rain had changed to snow. On the flat terrain there was nowhere for the Canadians to take cover from the shelling. Those who tried to hide in the trees found themselves crushed under shrapnel covered branches. Confusion ruled the battlefield, so much so, that at one point a bewildered German dispatch driver stopped to ask the Canadians for directions.
The fierce five-day battle finally ended on the evening of March 4 when the Germans withdrew leaving the forest floor littered with German dead and the shells of disabled tanks. The Canadians spent the next few days clearing the woods and preparing to continue their advance into German territory.
To learn more about The Rhineland Campaign of which Hochwald was a part, check out Veterans Affairs.
Main photo: Troopers of The Fort Garry Horse reading mail on a couch in their slit trench in the Hochwald, Germany, 5 March 1945 (Credit: Capt. Ken Bell / Canada DND / LAC / PA-137456).