Paesi Bassi / Storia

Twist over the bridge over the IJssel



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After Operation Cannonshot kicked off on April 11, 1945, the primary objective was to build a bridge over the IJssel River, allowing the Canadians to dislodge the Germans in the Veluwe region. The construction of the bridge faced intense German resistance, but also sparked disagreement among the Canadian troops. There was an internal struggle among the Canadians over the naming of the bridge. Would the bridge be named 'Poco Poco' or 'Can of Worms'?

After Canadian infantrymen crossed the IJssel with the Buffaloes at half past four in the afternoon, Canadian engineers began constructing a pontoon bridge at six o'clock. A pontoon bridge consists of separate floating platforms (pontoons) connected to form a bridge. At eleven o'clock in the evening, the commanding officer of the engineering company, Major Charles Train Gray, gives the code word indicating that the pontoon bridge is ready for the first light vehicles. This achievement surprises everyone. Gray later receives a military decoration, the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), for his excellent leadership during the construction of the bridge over the IJssel.

However, the Germans on the west bank of the IJssel have also realized that a bridge is under construction. The location is in open terrain and comes under heavy German artillery and mortar fire. Two Canadian fatalities occur.

During the bridge construction, Lance Sergeant Andrew Stanley Leathwood leads a section of engineers responsible for building the nearby river approaches and the riverbank. Leathwood understands the vital importance of his task and personally oversees every detail of the work carried out by his section during the intense bombardments. His calm leadership and determination ensure that the work is completed in a very short time, and he is awarded a Military Medal for this. To enable the heavy Canadian tanks to cross the IJssel as well, engineers work all night on assembling rafts strong enough to transport tanks. The following day, on April 12, at early daylight, the first tanks cross the IJssel and report to the front line of the infantry troops on the west bank at eight o'clock in the morning.

The naming of the bridge causes division among the Canadians. At the headquarters of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, the bridge has already been given a name: 'Poco Poco'. However, the engineering company constructing the bridge believes that they should choose the name because their company is doing the hard work. It is decided to name the bridge 'Can of Worms'. This would better suit the crossing point as it resembles a 'can of worms' due to the maze of infantry troops, engineers, and Buffaloes around the crossing.

Despite the decision to name the bridge 'Can of Worms Bridge', it is found on April 13 that all signs display 'Poco Poco'. This irritates the men of the engineering company. Major Gray orders a sign with 'Can of Worms' to be placed at the bridge. However, the next day, the sign is removed, and the bridge is named 'Poco Poco' again. Despite the squabbling over the bridge's name, the bridge is of vital importance for the advance towards the still-occupied Apeldoorn. Thanks to the bridge builders, the liberation of occupied Western Netherlands is one step closer.

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