19 Field Regiment RCA: 55 Battery-63 Battery-99 Battery
7 October 1944: Orders were received for Operation "Switchback". They called for the Regiment to make a secret move to an area near Sluiskil, in Holland. Guns were in postion by 14.00hrs but no firing was to be done until the timed programme in support of 9 CIB's waterborne assualt on the Schelde began. Security was kept at a high level and a minimum of movement also about the gun area was permitted. H.Hour for "Switchback" was orignally set for 01.30hrs Oct 8 but after several postponements due to foggy weather D.Day was finally set back 24 hours. A civilian who had been following 99 Battery from one of the gun position to another was picked up and taken to Div HQ for questioning.
H.Hour for phase 3 of "Switchback"was set for 02.00hrs mext morning and 50 minutes earlier 19th Field opened fire on the time programme. At 02.07hrs Captain Murdoch reported HLI's and North Nova Scotians had commenced to beach on the Schelde Estuary and that opposition was very light. Main trouble was in getting vehicles off the beach which was soft and boggy. This slowed down the operation considerably and debarkation was not completed until 06.00hrs. The attack from the sea undoubtedly had taken the enemy by suprise but he recovered quickly and from then on it was a grim struggle. Numerous counter-attacks developed but each was beaten off and our troops went forward steadily. Heavy German guns on the island of Vlissingen opened up and shelled the bridgehead.
Meanwhile, 19th Field as firing steadily on all types of target, both pre-arranged and observed. As the advance was going well, orders were received from Div HQ for the Regiment to move forward to a new gun area near Hoek, almost on the sea shore itself, guns being ready for action at 16.05hrs. for the next 24-hour period, authorization was received for the Regiment to fire 100rpg exclusive of DF. CB and Div fire plans. At 18.00 reports came in that the situation generally was good but that almost continuous artillery support would be necessary. Consequently the Regiment kept firing on all types of tasks. Captain Stewart occupied an OP overlooking the narrow strip of water that separated us from the enemy, to observe shell and mortar fire coming in. Lt-Col Clarke came back from Div with details of a fire plan to support an attacks by the Algonquins at 03.00 next morning. Two such attempts were supported by the 19th Regiment but both proved unsuccesful. 9 CIB was still finding the going very sticky and our FOO's with them kept calling for fire. Reports came in that our rounds were falling dead on the targets and that the infantry was extremely pleased with their artillery support. Most of the time the three batteries were engaged on different targets as calls for fire were coming from everywhere. The Regiment was dealt a severe blow at 12.00hrs when news came from the wireless that Captain Murdoch had been killed.
Captain Murdoch had been regarded as one of the best FOO's of the Regiment. He was absolutely fearless and always accompanied the first wave of infantry so as to be able to better observe enemy positions. His OP crews swore by him as he never asked anyone to do anyting which he himself would not try first. On the occasion when he fought his last battle, his crew was being pinned down by a nest of snipers and a bothersome machine gun post. Capt Murdoch first tried to eliminate these with fire from the regiment but was unable to properly observe the fire due to to the fact that both he and the enemy were in position behind parallel dykes.The fire continued so. Murdoch told his crew that he was going to the top of the dyke in front of him to see if he could observe better. They tried so dissuade him, saying that is was suicide but he laughed and set out. He was wearing the jaunty little wedge cap which had come to be known as his trade-mark. Striding to the top of the dyke, he directed fire which wiped out the machine gun and was just switching to the snipers when he was mortally wounded. His crew rushed forward and brought him back to safety but is was too late to be of any help to him.
Capt Stewart went over the water to replace him and the shells continued to pour into the ranks of the enemy. The constant pounding was beginning to shake up his defences and prisoners were starting to come in in ever increasing numbers. The town of Biervliet was taken and Major Mewburn and Capt Stewart occupied an OP there.
The fierce struggle to clear the approaches to Antwerp raged on for days, our troops going forward steadily as fresh brigades were thrown into the battle. 19th Field continued to fire until Oct 15 when the front moved beyond extreme range of our guns. That same day A Echelon moved up into the gun area and recce parties were warned to be ready at first light of Oct 16 for a move to a concentration area at Schilde, near Antwerp.
Meanwhile, Canadian Legion had been showing movies in a barn and the men were getting about and making their first attempts at speaking Dutch. Canadiens were proving fully as popular in Holland as they had been in France and Belgium. Capt E.D. Bell organized 7th Victory Loan bond sales within the regiment and reported the men were eager to invest their money. Objective given the 19th was $ 22,986.
All FOO's and reps were recalled Oct 16 and the regiment moved at 0645 next morning. The convoy travelled without a stop, passing through Antwerp and arriving at Schilde about noon. Here it was found that 4 Div, including 19th Field Regt was to come under command of 1 British Corps for operation "Suitcase" which involved, first, a push forward to provide a firm base for a 2Cdn Div attack on South Beveland and Walcheren islands, then a swing north toward Bergen op Zoom, Steenbergen and the line of the Maas river. H Hour for Phase 1 was 0730 Oct 20 and the regiment moved to a position near Fort d'Ertbrand for the initial attack. Enemy restitance was light, however, and 19th Field was not called upon for supporting fire. Next day we again moved, this time to Calmpthout where warning was given to beware of mines and booby traps which were reported to be thick in the area. Lts F.K. Brown and P.K. Griggs were promoted to the rank of Acting Captains and Lt O.M. Lockhart assumed the duties of IO.
Positions allotted for Phase 1 of "Suitcase" had been reached and consolidated and our troops were steadily capturing those of Phase 2. Plan was for 4 Div to push north-west to Dorp and then be relieved by 104th American Infantry Div. Prisoners being taken were a motley collection of old and young men, coming from service corps, marines artillery, etc.
The regiment was moving frequently as the Canadians pushed forward and the worth of self-propelled artillery became readly apparent here. Our fire was taking a heavy toll of the enemy. By Oct 28 Bergen of Zoom was in our hands and we were still going ahead.
Sales in the 7th Victory Loan ended Oct 25, 19th Field Regt., including attached troops, subscribing a total of $ 53,400. 232.31% of its objective. It was a record to be proud of.
With the forward troops approaching Steenbergen, the regiment moved into the area of a large mental hospital just north of Bergen op Zoom. The Germans were fighting desperately now to hold open their escape route over the Maas at Moerdijk, giving ground stubbornly and leaving behind scores of mined and booby traps. Steenbergen became the focal point of the fighting and several of our attacks proved unsuccessful.
On one of these, Capt Roberts went in with the forward company of the Alogonquins, accompanied by Bdr G.A. Gray and Gnr A.W. Curphy. L bdr C. Cook and Gnr J.L. Dynes remained with the OP tank to operate the 19 set.
Advance guard of the Canadians worked their way forward against increasing opposition and finally were forced to halt. Capt Roberts and his party, together with an officer and an section of infantry, took cover in the basement of a house. Enemy counter-attacked with infantry and SP guns, surrounding the building. Surrender would perhaps have been the best policy but the Canadians elected to fight it out. Through weight of numbers the Germans closed in and soon a fierce close-quarter battle was being waged, SP guns were firing pointblank at the house while a ring of machine guns kept up a deadly fire. Our troops fought back with Stens, rifles and grenades until they saw there was no hope of holding the enemy off, then decided to make a break for their own lines. They poured out of the building through doors and windows, fighting every step of the way. Many were mowed down but a few managed to win through. Capt Roberts was wounded in the leg but with gut en determintion kept going and finally reached Canadian lines. Bdr Gray came out inscathed. Gnr Curphy, however, dit not return and what happened to him remained a mystery. (He is since known to have been killed) German hold on Steenbergen lasted until Nov 4 when they were forced to withdraw by infantry and tank attacks in conjunction with a devastating artilley barrage in which 19th Field took part. The same day news came through that Canadians had cleared the remainder of the Breskens area and that the entire south bank of the Schelde estuary was in Allied hands. 2 Div was also making rapid progress on Walcheren after having cleared South Beveland.
On Sunday, Nov 5, 25 personnel from each battery and RHQ, under Major Mewburn, attended a church parade and march-past in Bergen op Zoom. Brig Lane, CRA, read the text. That same afternoon the regiment received orders to move forward to a position north of Steenbergen and were ready there at 1550 hours. During the night and next day considerable fire was laid down on the Willemstad area as the enemy strove to withdraw over the Maas river. Advice was received late in the afternoon that the regiment would probably be re-concentrating in the Bergen op Zoom area so Major Peene went back to reserve our former area in the asylum which was occupied next day. 63 Battery had an unfortunate accicent, three casualties being caused by men experimenting with an unexploded enemy shell.
19th Field remained here until Nov 9 when it moved through Holland to the new 4 Div area, stopping overnight at another mental hospital near Tilburg before going on to the Loon op Zand area on the Maas river. Regimental frontage here was the greatest yet encountered, covering in all 4.5 miles. Div policy was to be "If you don't fire, we won't." In other words no push over the Maas was contemplated.
At 1815 hours Nov 10, the regiment was advised that CRA Brig Lane had been seriously injured in a minefield to the west. Capt Hertzman, MO, immediately set out to give treatment but was prevented from reaching him by a blown bridge. Brig Lane subsequently died from his injuries.
Nov 11 Lt-Col Clarke left for Main 4 Div HQ to become acting CRA. The same day approximately 100 gunners and officers under Major Hetherington attended an impressive funeral ceremony for Brig Lane.
Meanwhile orders had been received for 19th FIeld that it would be leaving 4 Div and would come under command of 2 Armoured Brigade. Major Peene left to recce a position west of Nijmegen just south of the Waal river, returning with the news that we would be taking over a position presently held by the 147th (Essex Yemanry) Regt RA. Our regiment was to be part of a holding force which included 2 Armd Bde, KRRC, 8th Recce Regt and 165 Dutch Regulars. Artillery support was to be supplied by 19th Field with under command 43 Battery 12 Field Regt and 5 Bty of 3 Medium Regt. The regiment left the Maas sector and was ready in the new area at 1410 hours Nov 12. Major Peene was acting as CO in the absence of Lt-Col Clarke, who had remained with 4 Div as acting CRA.
Officers and men soon settled down to what was to prove their longest stay in one position thus far. The front was comparatively quiet, both sides seeming content to hold the line of the river with occasional patrol activity. As many men as possible were billeted in civilian houses and quickly became fast friends with the people. Canadian Legion soon had movies arranged almost nightly and a few army shows also played for personnel. Bath parades were held in Nijmegen frequently.
Meanwhile, 19th Field had setup a small counter-battery office of its own and was taking on suspected enemy gun locations. FOO's were also out along the Waal river, engaging targets of opportunity. Ammunition expenditure was strictly limited, however.
Capt Roberts, who had been wounded near Steenbergen, returned to the regiment and 4 other officers also arived as reinforcements. Capt Allen Goodman, Cdn Dental Corps, was attached to the regiment along with his staff and began to hold regular parades. Nov 19, Capt Stewart was promoted to the rank of acting major and Lt Lockhart to that of acting captain. Marjor Stewart went to 23rd Field Regt, Capt Lockhart taking over "C" Troop of 63 Bty. Lt Ian Fraser came to RHQ to assume the duties of CO.
The regiment continued with its counter-battery work, also giving covering fire to numerous "Kangaroo patrols" of the 101st American Paratroop Div. An enemy railway of SP gun was giving us some trouble but not inflicting serious damage. Frequent bearings were taken on V-2 smoke trails over the river and reports made to 2 Armd Bde HQ.
Brigade had organized a 48-hour leave centre at Louvain, Belgium, near Brussels and the regiment was getting allotments for both officers and men. Liberty trucks were also run into Grave and Nijmegen to provide personnel an opportunity of seeing Cdn Army Shows playing at those places.
Nov 26 news received that 19th Fiels would come out of action at 0800 hours the following morning and that FOO's and reps were to be called in at that time. Lt D. Aitkens, LO from 4 Cdn Div arrived next day with information that regiment was expected to rejoin his formation as and when it became operational. In the meantime we were to sit tight and organize a training and recreational programme laid down by 4 Div. A calibration troop was to work on our guns which had not been properly calibrated since drawn at Bayeux in August.
Inspection of all wireless and telephone equipment was carried out by an officer and drew of RCEME. They turned in a glowing report on the condition of the equipment, marvelling at its state of efficiency considering its long usage and the type of action it had come through. It was a fine tribute to the RCCS section of the regiment.
Training and maintenance on vehicles was carried on day after day, both being difficult under the wet and muddy condition existing in that section of Holland. Leaves to Brussels were coming in slowly and arrangements were started to take the whole regiment to Ghent for a two day holiday, 63 and 99 Btys going on Dec 5 and 5 Bty and RHQ to follow Dec 7. Both officers and men waited tensely as negotiations progressed and were wildly jubilant when they were finally completed. Personnel had been in action a long time and could use a good "fling". They had it! Men were billeted in homes and ate in a central regimental mess. Everyone enjoyed themselves to the full amd fine reports were received on the dress and conduct of the men while on leave.
On Dec 6, while part of the regiment was still in Ghent, Lt-Col Clarke was inspecting 63 and 99 Btys. He first passed onto them a message from Gen Eisenhower and then gave the startling information that this little talk was in the nature of a farewell speech as the powers-that-be had ordained he go elsewhere. Dec 8 was the last day the CO was with the 19th and he spent it inspecting 55 Bty, RHQ and A Echelon including RCASC platoon. At each he gave a short talk in which he thanked officers and men for the fine co-operation afforded him while in charge of 19th Field Regt. The Regt here lost a great CO.
At 0700 hours Dec 9 Major Peene left with recce parties to reconnoitre the area previously occupied by the regiment on the Maas river. The convoy moved later in the day and was completely in action by 1600. RHQ was situated in the small village of Vlijmen, 99 Bty on the left at Drunen, 55 in the centre at Nieuwkuijk and 63 on the right in the outskirts of Vlijmen. FOO's and reps were immediately sent out to battalions of 10 CIB which was holding the line of the river.
Late that afternoon, Lt-Col R.D. Telford arrived to take over command of 19th Field Regt. The new CO met officers of the regiment next day, followed by a battery commanders conference. Arrangements were made for Lt-Col Telford to inspect the men and also for a parade to be held for the GOC in the near future.
The regiment soon settled down in their new area, officers and men alike again being billeted with civilians. The Canadians were showing a marked propensity for making friends on the continent and each country quickly overcame the language barrier. A card game was something to hear in these days, the boys bursting out from time to time with exclamations of mixed French, Dutch and plain English.
There was still no push over the Maas contemplated and for the most part the regiment fired only in support of patrols and on hostile battery of mortar positions. Our forward elements on the river banks came under mortar fire occasionally but our gun positions received practically no shelling.
Severval officer promotions came through in the regiment Dec 10. Capt Bell was promoted to acting major, taking over command of 55 Bty from Major Mewburn who went to 4 Div as counter-mortar officer. Lts. G.M. Bourke and N.R. Allen rose to acting captains.
Lt-Col Telford formally met the men of the regiment at battery parades Dec 14. At each inspection the CO introduced himself and spoke a few well chosen words. He was well satisfied with the turnout and urged the men to do as well for the GOC's parade next day.
Maj-Gen Vokes arrived early next morning, inspecting the batteries and RHQ individually. He gave each a few words of encouragement and praise, adding that he was impressedd by the steadiness on parade of the entire regiment.
Throughout Dec 14, a calibration troop worked on our guns, calibrating them by the photo-electric method.
The night of Dec 15 saw the beginning of what was to prove an endless stream of V1's or robot bombs pass overhead. The next day from 35 to 40 were counted and from then until the day the regiment departed, they never stopped coming. Many fell in surrounding fields but is was not until Dec 21 that one landed directly in the village about 400 yards from RHQ. No casualties were suffered by the regiment but 15 civilians were reported killed. Canadians led the rescue parties that dug the injured from the wreckage. From then on the civilians were terrified at each appearance of a V1 and it was only the apparent unconcern of the Canadian soldiers that kept panic from spreading. The people seemed to think that so long as they were with a Canadian, they were safe-at least our presence in their midst gave them great mental comfort. Probably our fear was as great as theirs but the men took great pains to conceal it.
Dec 20 orders were received that 4 Div was going out of action and would be relieved by 1 Polish Armoured Div. 19th Field would remain under command of 1 British Corps and support the Polish Div in the same manner as it had done 4 Div. 63 and 99 Btys moved to alternative positions and fired extensive HF tasks the night the change-over took place, returning to their original positions the next morning.
Considerable difficulty with communications was experienced during the hours that the power was on but the RCCS section was able to overcome most of this with high-powered phones. Switchboard operators had a tough time working to our Polish friends whose knowlegde of the English language was strictly limited. This condition was remedied to some extent when an English-speaking Polish officer was attached to the regiment as LO.
Canadian Legion again organized a good programme of entertainment, holding movies nightly as well as arranging for seats at army and Ensa shows in 's Hertogenbosch. In addition the men were making themselves thoroughly at home in their billets and spent many evenings with their newly-acquired "families."
The regiment celebrated its first Christmas Eve in action with a blaze of fire and glory. Fire from our guns broke up two determined enemy attempts to cross the river in strength. Ammunition vehicles were hit and large fires started, the Germans suffering heavy personnel casualties. The CRA 1 Polish Div thanked the regiment for its speed and accuracy in answering calls for fire saying it had undoubtedly saved what might have developed into a serous Merry Christmas. At 2200 hours Capt Allen reported another enmey patrol closing in on his OP, using bazookas and machine guns. 63 Bty went into action and drove them off with heavy casualties.
Splendid Christmas dinners were served to the men on the big day of the year. The CO visited eacht of the batteries RHQ and the RSASC platoon delivering his Christmas greetings personally. Most of the men organized small parties and had as good a time as possible under the circumstances. Officers of the regiment held a dance in 's Hertogenbosch Christmas night the feminine pulchritude consisting of representations of nursing sisters from 6th and 10th Cdn General Hospitals.
On Dec 27 19th Field suffered its first casualty in a month and a half. A line crew from 99 Bty was repairing an OP line at a bridge just south of Heusden when a mysterious an terrific explosion occurred. Gnr G.R. Douglas, standing on the bridge, was instantly killed and his body subsequently recovered some time later by Lincoln and Welland Regt. He was the only casualty. The mystery was that the bridge had been used for some weeks by both heavy and light traffic.
Enemy patrols were constantly crossing the river and generally making things hot for out OP's upon which they seemed to be concentrating. Fire from the guns, however, kept them from closing in.
New Year's Eve passed very uneventfully. Occasional enemy mortar fire was countered by our own artillery. 55 Bty sent the Germans a New Year's greeting by way of battery salvo at exactly 2400 hours.
First day of 1945 was quite eventful for 19t Field Regt. Early in the morning the Luftwaffe made its first appearance in some time when 12 planes swept over our area ant rooftop height. They dit not attack however. Just before noon Lt-Col Telford left for HQ RA 1 Polish Div to attend a conference of the CCRA, returning later to brief officers on operation "Trojan", scheduled to take place next' day. That evening APIS Section, 1 British Corps, phoned in some very complimantary remarks on the regiments list of hostile mortar locations.
Almost exactly at noon Jan 2, 19th had another close call from a "buzz-bomb". Men were lined up at the kitchen on meal parade when out of a foggy sky they saw hurtling towards them like a thunderbolt, a falling V1. Had it continued on its course it undoubtedly would have scored a direct hit on the kitchen and RHQ. In the last second it swooped to the left and crashed about 100 yards distant, exploding in the midst of a group of small houses. The terrific blast rocked buildings for hundreds of yards around, shattering every window in the Command Post and in the Legion Auxilliary building across the street. No serious injuries were suffered by men of the regiment, Capt Peterson and Mr. Payne, Legion supervisor, both suffering superficial cuts about the head and face. However, 15 more civilians died from this form of German horror. RHQ personnel immediately rushed to the scene of the tragedy and took charge of rescue work from panic-stricken civilians. The men gave no thought to personal safety as they crawled into heaps of precarious wreckage to bring out dead and injured. They worked calmly and quickly and their prompt action undoubtedly saved further loss of life. Trucks and jeeps were pressed into service and operated as ambulances to the hospital in 't Hertogenbosch. When all the injured had been removed, the men still stayed on to help unfortunate civilians salvage personal belongings and carry them away. If anything was needed to cement the friendship and respect of the people of Vlijmen for the Canadians, the willing and unselfish efforts of the soldiers that day, did the trick. From then on the "Canadesche Soldaten van 45" were absolutely "tops".
Bad weather caused several postponements of operation "Trojan" and it was not until the afternoon of Jan 5 that it finally got underway. Plan was for an intensive artillery barrage to open the proceedings, trying to make the enemy believe a large-scale attack was getting underway. Actually, only two 20-man fighting patrols were to cross the river in an effort to draw retaliatory fire from the enemy's artillery thus revealing its locations, and to get an accurate picture of the strength of German forces. He was thought to be building up for an attack towards Antwerp in conjunction with his Ardennes push in Belgium. Artillery to take part in the fire plan comprised one heavy regiment, three medium, two field regiments each from 4 Cdn and Polish Divs and 19th Field. Guns began firing at 1340 and at 1415 the figthing patrols crossed the Maas with the loss of only one man. Neither, however, was able to reach their final objective because of heavy machine gun fire. At intervals all our guns were silenced to enable sound rangers to obtain bearings on enemy locations. This they were able to do to a small extent but it was the conclusion that the enemy had withdrawn much of his fire power from that area and that danger of attack from there was no longer imminent.
The same day, Capt Grant, adjutant, went to 63 Bty as battery captain, Lt G.L. Laing taking over his duties. The CO held an inspection of the RCASA Platoon under Capt. J. Orme and afterwards witnessed a battle drill demonstration of the all-round defence of the platoon area.
News that 4 Div would again be taking over from the Poles brought information that 99 Bty would have to take up a new position between 63 and 55 Btys, two batteries of 15th Field Regt taking over from it. The change-over took place Jan 8. 63 Bty was then detailed as in support of 23rd Field Regt and 99 in support of 15th Field, 55 Bty began its week's training programme.
Jan 13 found the whole regiment moving west along the Maas to assist in operation "Horse" which involved storming of Kapelsche Veer, last remaining German bridgehead south of the Maas. A previous attempt by the Polish Div to capture the strongpoint had been unsuccessful. 19th Field took up position in the village of Waalwijk. Royal Marine Commandos were the assaulting troops and while they were able to get ashore on the island under covering fire from artillery, they ran out of ammunition at 0630 hours Jan 14.
It became prudent for them to withdraw and 19th Field moved back to its original position at Vlijmen.
Days went by with the regiment fulfilling its accustomed role. Flying bombs continued to pass overhead with monotonous regularity and while some fell quite close no further damage was done in the village. Patrol activity continued on both sides. Capt Lockhart and his Sig. Gnr D. Godwin, together with an officer of the Algonquin Regt were wounded Jan 24 when a mortar scored a direct hit on their OP. All had to be evacuated.
Jan 25 found the regiment again moving to Waalwijk for another try at Kapelsche Veer. This time 10 CIB of 4 Div were to make the assault. 19th Field was to fire smoke for the opening phase which it did. Initial attack by the infantry, however, was not successful. Day after day the battle see-sawed back and forth as the Canadians refused to admit they were beaten. They would take the island only to have the enemy counter-attack and drive them back. Our regiment fired fire plan after fire plan in support but for the most part was engaged in firing bombards on enemy mortar locations. 19th Field FOO's were with the forward elements throughout the battle and did valuable work. Finally on Jan 29 the last remaining German strongholds were eliminated and the island was ours. This was a high tribute to the tenacity and courage of the Canucks as they fought under terrible conditions against a strong and determined enemy. The regiment stayed in Waalwijk for two more days, firing only bombards and the occasional Mike target until it was certain the enemy was to try no further counter-attacks. When the guns moved back to Vlijmen a small party of RCCS men remained behind to run communications for the CMO until they could be relieved by 4 Div.
These two ventures at Waalwijk proved to be great morale boosters for all personnel. The old saying that "a change is as good as a rest" proved true. Spirits throughout the regiment were high especially as allotments for leaves to the United Kingdom were increasing. This was a subject of much discussion, general feeling of the men being that the whole leave situation could have been handled much better. Chief complaint was that men with much shorter service on the continent were going on leave long before members of the regiment who had disembarked on D Day. They were fair-minded enough to consider operational necessities but several worthwhile schemes were aired which would have enabled personnel to proceed at a much higher rate. However, it was all in the nature of army "Beefing" and nothing serious developed. Entertainment was frequent, Legion movies continuing to take place nightly.
The practice of having one battery out of action and doing training proved to be highly successful. Efficiency came up to a high level. Dress and general discipline of the men continued excellent.
First day of February orders were received for recce parties to prepare a position in the Nijmegen area. 19th Field Regt was to leave 4 Cdn Div and come under command of 53 (Welsh) Infantry Div to give direct support to 34 Inf Tank Bde for operation "Veritable" - cracking of the Siegfried Line and the push to the banks of the Rhine river.