The operation started on the night of 23 March 1945, by the British 2nd Army commanded by Sir Miles Dempsey, and the US 9th Army under the command of Lieutenant General William Simpson.
The overture for the operation started at 15:00 with a 4,000 cannon barrage and a massive smoke screen, while British aircraft pummeled ground targets both night and day on the 23rd of March. At 21:00 hours, the British 51st Highland Infantry Division (2nd Army) followed by the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the 15th Scottish Division, initiated their landing.
At first there was no real opposition, although as the night wore on, they ran into fierce resistance. However after considerable violent battle, the 1st Commando Brigade managed to enter the Wesel and establish a foothold on the other side of the Rhine. The US 30th Division (9th Army) and the US 79th Division managed to land south of Wesel without major difficulties. By the evening of the 24th of March, the US forces had already built a pontoon bridge across the river.
Together with operation Plunder, the allies started operation Varsity on the 24th of March with the aim to disrupt enemy communications. It was carried out by the British 6th Airborne Division and the US 17th Airborne Division, who were in charge of capturing the towns of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln, clearing part of the Diersfordter Wald of German forces, and securing three bridges over the Issel River.
Occurring also on the 24th of March, Winston Churchill crossed the Rhine River in an LCM (landing craft, mechanised), setting foot on the eastern bank of the river, symbolising the crossing of the top British political leader over the traditional border of Germany that no foreign army had crossed in 140 years.