ARCHIVED - Brigadier General Turner During The Second World War

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Article / January 26, 2015 / Project number: 4cdndiv-ar-0126

The Destruction of an Enemy OP at Bienen, following the Crossing of the Rhine

On 23 March 1945, all the divisions of the 21st Army Group were now in position to support the 15th Scottish Lowland Division and the 51st Highland Division, the two divisions allocated to the actual crossing of the Rhine. The crossing was somewhere near Rees. All the guns of the 21st Army Group were allocated to support the two divisions doing the crossing. The Rhine River was about 500 yards wide at the point selected to cross the Rhine.

We were issued a map of the area with several hundred targets printed on it. We spent the better part of two days plotting these targets on our artillery boards and working out the “line and range” for all these targets and recording them on target records. All we had to do then was keep them up to date with the latest corrections for meteor (temperature, wind speed and direction, etc). This was done every four hours.

The artillery consisted of about 1,400 guns of all calibres - super heavy, 9.2 inch, 5.5 inch and 25 pounders. A representative from each artillery formation reported to the Brigade Major Royal Artillery (BMRA) of the 51st Highland Division who was controlling the fire. I was sent as the representative of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. I reported to the BMRA who directed me to a tent attached to his Command Post. There must have been over 20 officers in the tent, each representing the various artillery formations in support of the crossing. I found a table and chair and directed my signaller to bring the radio remote into the tent. I spread out the large map with the Rhine crossing area and with all the targets plotted on it. We were located about 1,000 yards from our side of the Rhine.

As the battle for the crossing proceeded we were fully engaged in firing “Yoke” (Army Group) targets as ordered by the FOO’s who crossed the Rhine with the leading troop formations. There were also FOO’s 7 who who parachuted in with the airborne troops. It was a busy but very exciting time.

At one point the CO of the Black Watch (British) called the BMRA on the radio and said he was completely pinned down. Every time they moved forward they were fired on by enemy artillery. He thought the enemy fire was directed by an enemy OP located in the church tower in the small village of Bienen. He asked for one medium gun to try to bring down the tower. The BMRA asked him how far his battalion was from the tower. The CO replied “about 400 yards.” The BMRA told him to keep their heads down and don’t move. He then turned to everyone in the tent and ordered “Target No. 1234 - all engage, scale one. Time on Target (TOT) in 7 minutes.” (He gave the actual time.) Each of us in the tent passed on these fire orders to our respective artillery formation. This meant, in this case, that approximately 1,400 HE rounds would land at exactly the same second on the church tower in Bienen – or somewhere near it! We in the tent listened and at TOT minus 40-45 seconds, we could hear the super heavy’s, the 9.2 inch guns, followed by the medium guns and then between 10 and 15 seconds before TOT, the 25 pounders opened fire.

At exactly TOT we heard all 1,400 rounds explode on the village in a huge crump. The BMRA waited about a minute and then called the CO of the Black Watch on the radio and asked him if we had been lucky and hit the church tower. The CO replied “hit the tower – my God, the whole fucking village has disappeared and there isn’t much left but a pile of rubble.” Bienen had been a pleasant little village on the far bank of the Rhine.

Our advance continued and gradually we all crossed the Rhine and continued our advance into Germany. My Regiment crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge named “Uncle Stanley’s Bridge.” (Named after our C.C.R.A., Brigadier Stanley Todd.)

On one of our family holiday tours when we were stationed with the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in Germany, we drove through Bienen. The church tower and the church had been rebuilt using many of the original bricks. The village was now rebuilt and expanded into a larger village.

Note from the Editor: Brigadier General (Ret’d) WW Turner was Colonel Commandant of the Royal Canadian Artillery from 1979 to 1986. He trained with 7th Toronto Regiment prior to deploying overseas in the Second World War.

He retired from active service in 1977 and currently resides in Kingston, Ont.

Tablet at Bienen

Today, a memorial tablet still stands near the church in Bienen where Brig.-Gen. Bienen called in his fire mission in 1945.

This tablet has been placed by a group of surviving canadian veterans of the north Nova Scotia Highlanders, 3 Canadian Infantry Division, in proud and grateful memory of those forty members of their regiment who fell in battle at Bienen, Germany on sunday, march 25, 1945 and in memory of those fellow combatants of 9 Canadian Infantry (Highland) brigade and 51 British Highland Division who died in the same battle and in the same cause and, as well, in respectful memory of those adversaries in the german army who died on that same fateful day. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. Errected at Bienen on the 55th anniversary of the event.

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