The Netherlands / Audiospot
By the end of 1944, the south of The Netherlands had been liberated as far as the Nederrijn (Lower Rhine), Waal, Lek, Merwede and Maas rivers. The only way the British-Canadian army could invade Germany without having to cross one of these rivers, was through the countryside between the Maas and Rhine rivers known as the Kingdom of Nijmegen (Rijk van Nijmegen). So the British-Canadian army, led by Field Marshal Montgomery and General Crerar, planned a large-scale operation to seize the left bank of the River Rhine. This was to be the British and Canadian troops' largest operation since Normandy, on the smallest of battlefields.
At the beginning of February 1945, almost half a million soldiers, more than 1000 guns and 34,000 vehicles lined the ten-kilometre-long front, ready for battle. Montgomery hoped to reach the Rhine quickly, relying on the cold of winter to have hardened the ground under foot. They started their attack with heavy artillery fire, stunning their opponents. But to their dismay, the frosts had gone and the operation turned into an enormous mud bath. During the first days de British struggled even more against landmines and mud, than the german defense.