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THE CAOF ERA

March 5 2014 at 10:34 AM
Anonymous 


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By late Summer/early Fall 1945 the military responsibilities in the former 2nd Canadian Corps area had very significantly reduced

The majority of the former Wehrmacht POWs had been screened and permitted to go home to help start rebuilding their shattered homeland though there remained a prison containg former members of the Waffen SS in the Delmenhorst area which required a Rifle Company sized Guard Force. Similarly the Canadian Commitment for the provision and Organisation of Transit Camps, particularly south of Wilhelmshaven, where former Russian and Polish POWs, former Slave Labourers and members of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (the latter often very reluctantly) commenced the long journey by train to their homelands throughout Europe. The creation of a very basic form of local civilian administration including police also relieved the Canadian units of the more mundane manpower intensive tasks.

In addition to the above Canadian units were still involved in
a. The provision of Key Point Guards, particularly the security of the numerous ammunition depots and their contents
b. The security and fair distribution of essential food rations to the civilian populace without which many would have starved.
c. Canadian Sappers especially, the restoration of road routes including damaged bridges. The manpower was often increased by the use of former German soldiers but working under Canadian supervision.

In late July 1945 at the time of the handover between the outgoing 2 Canadian Infantry Division and incoming 3 Infantry Division (CAOF) the numbers involved had reduced to the equivalent of one Canadian Division plus British enhancements. Operating under command HQ 21 Army Group (future HQ BAOR) through HQ 30 Corps the Canadian plan was to divide their area of resonsibility into four Brigade Sectors. Headquarters 3 Infantry Division, as already stated, was in Bad Zwischenahn. To the west 2/7 Infantry Brigade were in Aurich, in the centre (Wilhemshaven) were 2/8 Infantry Brigade and in the east (Varel area) were 2/9 Highland Brigade with the British 4 AGRA (under Canadian Command) to the south in Oldenburg Delmenhorst. There was fifth smaller British Artillery Brigade, in what was known as the Wilhelmshaven Enclave, Headquarters Artillery with two RCA Regiments also moved from the moated manor house to the Luftwaffe Air Base at Jever which they promptly renamed MacNaughton Barracks.

With the onset of Winter there was an urgent need to provide secure, relatively warm, weatherproof working and living accommodation for the majority of units. On the evidence available to Dan and I this was the case, either the substantial brick built late 1930s era conventional, refurbished where neccesary,barracks or particularly in the heavily bombed and therefore destroyed Wilhelmshaven wooden build hutted camps but with shower blocks and eating/canteen facilities. There were exceptions, notably in the east where both HQ 2/9 Highland Brigade and the HLI of Canada remained in requistioned accommodation through their time with the CAOF (to the latter's evident disgust)

I have also recently seen extracts from the War Diaries for the North Shore Regiment for January-April 1946. Battalion Headquarters and the Headquarter Company were based in a small wooden hutted camp in Hooksiel on the northern outskirts of Wilhemshaven, the three Rifle Companies were on detached duties. Two, one on each, on the offshore islands of Spiekroog and Wangerooge, the third at a large former Kriegsmarine Ammunition Depot south of Wilhelmshaven. "Les Chauds" had carried out this task from October till December 1945. No mention of any official name for the Hooksiel Camp but I was amused to note that in mid March 1946, having been relieved of their Occupational duties and prior to their return home, the entire Battalion concentrated in and occupied the former British Cotswold Camp in Wilhelmshaven proper, which they promptly (and unofficially?)renamed Camp Muskox, a name which is shown every subsequent entry in the Unit Diary.

So far as Leer is concerned I need to return to the British National Archives in Kew (London) and reread the Regiment's War Diary for the CAOF era which I last saw four years ago. I know for certain the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, an Armoured Regiment under command 2 Canadian Independent Armoured Brigade were in the vicinity of the town on VE Day (8th May)but left the next day. I have yet to identify their replacement, probably a unit under command 2 Canadian Infantry Division. 17 DYRCH arrived in mid July and were to remain throughout the CAOF era. Whilst I accept many of the comments made by the Stadt Archivist I am certain the CO DYRCH would have demanded secure area(s) with hardstanding in which to park up his A vehicles, live ammunition and fuel. His Regiment would also have expected covered facilities in which to carry out the appropriate unit maintenance and repair tasks. Von Lettow Vorbeck Kaserne, in all or part, would be the obvious solution.

I believe the Regiment were not replaced when they left in March 1946, the now empty Barracks would undoubtedly been used (like many others throughout Germany) as emergency accommodation for the many ethnic German refugees displaced from their former homes in Eastern Europe.

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