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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Cologne Bridgehead



The terms of the Armistice signed 11th November 1918 contained clauses as to what German Forces were to do on cessation of hostilities. Article 1 detailing the Military Clauses on the Western Front required in clause two  "Immediate evacuation of invaded countries". To provide further security, particularly at the insistence pf the French, clause five required "Evacuation by the German armies of the countries on the left bank of the Rhine."


Clause five further stipulated the establishing of "garrisons holding the principal crossings of the Rhine, Mayence, Coblenz, Cologne" and bridgeheads on the right bank of the Rhine with a 30 km (19 miles) radius.


Annex 1 to the Armistice specified a timetable for the withdrawal with defined phase lines. This would allow both sides to move out of contact with each other reducing the scope for incidents which could compromise the Armistice.



Source: Long Long Trail


Field Marshall Haig directed that the advance to the Rhine be conducted by the Second Army (Plummer) and Fourth Army (Rawlinson). The advance across Belgium would include formal entry into Mons, Charleroi and Brussels with parades, civic receptions and celebrations.


II Corps  would occupy the Cologne Bridgehead, IV Corps the area West of the Rhine. Each Army would consist of four corps of four divisions. Haig ordered a re-adjustment of British Forces in order that the forces advancing into Germany were no more than absolutely necessary. To ensure rapidity of movement and streamlining of logistics artillery and support units were minimised.


Each Corps would have a Heavy Artillery Group,  a sound ranging section and an observation group.  Air defence capability was provided by two anti-aircraft batteries per Corps.  The Divisional Artillery would consist of one Field Brigade (reduced to 4 guns per battery) and the Divisional Ammunition Column.  A series of orders were issued to transfer surplus units to Fifth, Third, and Fifth Armies.


Marshal Foch gave the order to advance on 15th November, the British started their move to Germany on the 17th November. The rapid advance of the Allied armies in the last 100 days of the war created logistical s making supply of forward troops difficult. In order not to cause further logistical problems as lines of communication extended it was decided that Fourth Army would remain in situ in Belgian. In addition the two Corps would be reduced to two divisions each, the other two divisions would remain in position.


Second Army would advance with 1st Cavalry Division leading. II Corps on the left with the 29th Division leading, followed by the 9th Division, with the Heavy Artillery Group bringing up the rear. The HA Group move was delayed until 26th November.  Canadian Corps would advance on the right  on the right, the Canadian  1st Division heading for Cologne, the Canadian 2nd Division to Bonn.


By the end of November lead elements had reached the German Border. Field Marshall Haig records in his despatches "The advance across the frontier began at 5am on 1 December 1914, spearheaded by the 1st Cavalry Division with 17th Armoured Car Battalion attached, and the 5th Cavalry Brigade of 2nd Cavalry Division. Men who had arrived in France in 1914 were put into the advanced guard to have the honour of being the first to cross into Germany."


The Canadian Corps experienced logistics problems so paused on the Belgian / German border a few days before cross into Germany on 4th December 1918.



Lt.-Gen.  Currie, commander Canadian Corps,  Maj.-Gen. Macdonell, commander of 1st Canadian Division, lead the Canadians into Germany. 


The war diary of II Corps records on 6th December 1918 "1st Cav. Div. 2nd Brigade reached COLOGNE".  To the south the 1st Cavalry Brigade  crossed the River Rhine at Bonn at 10:00 on December 12th with GOC Canadian Corps taking the salute.


On a rainy 13th December 1918 II Corps Commander General Plumer took the salute of the 29th Division and 1st Canadian Division marching over the Rhine on Cologne's Hohenzollen Bridge.



Source: IWM

Aerial view of Cologne showing the Hohenzollern Bridge [Right]and the Cathedral.






Source: © IWM Q 7219

Head of the 4-hour long column of the 29th Division (Divisional Band and pipes of the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers) reaching General Herbert Plumer, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief the British Army of the Rhine, at the saluting point on the Hohenzollern Bridge at 9.30 am on Friday, 13th December 1918.



119 Brigade RFA - 29th Division R.A. Crossing the Hohenzollern Bridge



The same day in Bonn the 2nd Canadian Division marched over the Rhine passed Canadian Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Currie who took the salute.



2nd Canadian Division crosses the Rhine River at Bonn


Units of Second Army continued to arrive  into the Cologne Bridgehead over the next three days.  Defended areas and key point defence were created, and the task of civil administration of the area commenced.  


Two Heavy Artillery Brigades of the Canadian Corps took up positions near Rosrath and Hangelar in support of the infantry. The remaining Heavy Artillery Brigades were assigned to counterbattery work and positioned at Altenrath, Walsdorf, and Rolandseck. General Officer Commanding Royal Artillery (GOCRA) directed that guns should not be deploye in action, but ready to occupy prepared emplacements and gun positions.








On 18th December the delayed II Corps Heavy Artillery Group ( 4th, 6th and 10th Brigades, R Anti Aircraft Battery RGA, 1/24/28/39 Searchlights Section RE, 3 X RE Companies, Heavy Artillery Head Quarters, "B" Siege Park ASC and 2 MT Company ASC) crossed the Hohenzollern Bridge watched by the Corps Commander (Plummer).


The advanced to the area the area Opladen, Lutzenkirchen, Schlebusch, and Weisdorf.




On the 20th December II Corps began to be re-enforced by the New Zealand Division, and began occupying areas on the east bank of the Rhine. The New Zealand Divisional Artillery moved into position on 26th December 1918.






Watch on the Rhine (The Last Phase) Canadian War Memorials


The forces in Rhineland would metamorphose into British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) which was formed in February 1919 which would remain till 1929. The occupying forces commemorated the signing of the Peace Agreement on 26th June 1919  finally bring an end to the First World War.






Edited by ianjonesncl


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Thanks for posting. Very interesting as it is my home today.


The picture "Watch at the Rhine" was 99% taken/painted at Bonn "Alter Zoll"





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Also this genre remembers me at this thread which shows a Canadian painting of the occupation forces some 10km away from Bonn opposite of "Drachenfels" mountain



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1 hour ago, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

Paragraph 2:

bridgeheads on the right bank of the Rhine with a 30 mile (19 km) radius.


It's the other way round. 30km is about 19 miles.

Dai - many thanks paragraph updated

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1 hour ago, egbert said:

Thanks for posting. Very interesting as it is my home today.

The picture "Watch at the Rhine" was 99% taken/painted at Bonn "Alter Zoll"



Many thanks for the photographs showing what the view looks like today.


I worked a lot in Dusseldorf and on one occasion travelled to Cologne by train passing over the Hohenzollern Bridge. 



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