Commemorating 100 years of Canadian military in the Rhine Valley

The 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion crossing the Bridge at Bonn in 1918
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion crossing the Bridge at Bonn. The Canadian Corps Commander is taking the salute on the left. December 12, 1918. Photographer Unknown. Photo taken from Report of the Ministry: Overseas Military Forces of Canada 1918.

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By Captain Robert C.A. Fisher, SC, CD, DCO OSH(E)

On December 12, 2018, precisely 100 years to the day after Canadian military forces first crossed the Rhine, an exhibition was unveiled at the Wahn Kaserne Museum in Germany, commemorating the anniversary.

In November 1918, following the signing of the Armistice ending the First World War, Canadian troops were dispatched into Germany along an area of the Rhine River near Cologne. The first Canadians crossed the Rhine on December 12, 1918 and arrived in the village of Wahn Heide. Canadian troops occupied an area surrounding what is the present-day Wahn Kaserne shooting range.

Today, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) base at Wahn Kaserne, is home to the Canadian Operational Support Hub (Europe) (OSH(E)). OSH(E) is a 10-person intermodal transportation hub under the Command of Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC). Its operations are supported by staff and infrastructure of the German Air Force, which shares runway facilities with the Cologne-Bonn International Airport.

Image gallery

  • Members of the Canadian Operational Support Hub (Europe) and volunteer staff of the Wahn Kaserne Military Museum pose in front of the display panels commemorating 100 years of Canadians in Wahn and the surrounding area
  • The 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion crossing the Bridge at Bonn in 1918
  • Map taken from Report of the Ministry: Overseas Military Forces of Canada 1918.

The Commanding Officer of the OSH(E), Lieutenant-Colonel Andrea Keeping addressed guests at the opening ceremony of the exhibition. “The end of the War was an important time for the Canadians”, she said, adding: “For the first time, Canada appeared as an independent signatory from Britain during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.”

She described how World War I was a defining moment in Canadian history, and how the world has changed so much in the last 100 years. She said she is proud to be stationed in Wahn: “We feel like we are part of the community here. Over the past few months, we have all learned a great deal about Canada’s post-WWI involvement in Germany”.

According to retired Lieutenant-Colonel Ernst-Wolfgang Hartung of the German Bundeswehr, who curated the exhibition, “After the War ended, the Canadian military established their headquarters in Wahn but they also opened smaller offices in surrounding communities. Although Canadians only remained in the Rhine Valley for just over a month before relocating back into Belgium, the interaction between former foes during this time was respectful and often cordial.”

Lieutenant-Colonel York Heyde, Base Commander of the Wahn Air Force Barracks, praised all involved for their work and dedication in preparing the Military History Collection at the base museum. He also welcomed a former Luftwaffe pilot, LCol (retired) Dr. Karl Joachim Mahnke, who was one of the first German pilots to train in Canada in 1957. His uniform, which was donated to the museum, is embroidered with Canadian pilot wings.

On January 18, 2019, OSH(E) members also took the opportunity to attend another 100th anniversary event at the StadtMuseum in Bonn, commemorating Canadian, British and French post-war involvement in the Rhine Valley.

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