Mike Strachan’s e-mail journal — Entry #28, from Germany
Received 21 May 2008
Travels for May 18/08 — Germany
After breakfast I head for Germany. There are groups of bicycle teams and motorcycles going in both directions. The only visible evidence that one has entered Germany is different coloured-town signs and street signs in German.
I bypass Kleve to find the Reichswald forest where both the 1H and QOR harboured in 1945. I think I've found it, but it turns out to be the suburb of Reichswalde. Further down the road I find the Reichswald Commonwealth war cemetery. It is very large, containing 7,549 graves, of which 706 are Canadian, many of them members of the RCAF. Almost all of the foreign nationals listed were members of the Polish Air Force.
A drive through the forest puts three km on the odometer. It's a mixed forest, mostly deciduous with some evergreens. People are bike riding and horseback riding on the trails.
Both the 1H and QOR used the Reichswald as a bivouac location. After the QOR and another regiment cleared Milligen in early February 1945, both regiments moved into Germany here to push eastward. Several towns and villages were captured during the last week of February — Kalkar, Uedem, Keppeln, Steeg, Mooshof, and Lookerhof. I can't find the latter two and they are not on my map.
Early March was the time that QOR "A" company Sergeant Major Charlie Martin received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Also in early March an attack was launched against the Hochwald (High Forest). It is here that I think my father was captured. His unit was on the left flank, ran into heavy fire, and lost many tanks. He went to a prisoner of war camp, and he later escaped to make his way back to friendly lines. On March 7, 1945 the 1H were part of an attack on Xanten, Sonsbeck, Veen, and Winnenthal (I can't find these latter two either). Both regiments then harboured in the Reichswald again, and the QOR crossed the Rhine back into Holland at Emmerich on Mar. 28, and the 1H followed on April 2. I have driven in a large circle in Germany to see the lay of the land, particularly where my father was captured, and I eat lunch nearby.
It's a pleasant drive back to Millingen. While passing Kleve I decide to gas up, as the prices are €1.45/l — €0.15 less than in Holland.
Back in Millingen I drive up onto the dike that runs along the Rhine. From here you can see where the Rhine splits into the Wall and the Pannerdens canal which runs northwest to Arnhem to Join the Ijssel to become the Upper Rhine.
On my way back to the hotel I get a photo of a thatched-roof house, the first one I have seen. Virtually all houses have tile roofs, although I saw one in Germany covered in solar panels. There are a lot of wind turbines in Germany too.
Again I treated myself to a very nice dinner in the hotel, then early to bed, as I have to get the rental car back in Nijmegen at 10 AM.