Official history of the Canadian Army Chapter XV: Planning the Battle of the Scheldt
Two visits to IJzendijke: Read the Martin Reagan story
The clearing of the Scheldt Estuary and the liberation of Walcheren
By 26 September 1944, after a disorganised retreat from France, the Germans had managed to re-establish a solid front in the Scheldt region of Belgium. Their lines ran from near Antwerp, west along South Beveland, and onto Walcheren island, and extended down onto the estuary’s southern bank around Breskens. In the previous three weeks, the Germans had extricated their Fifteenth Army from potential encirclement south of the estuary. This command used improvised boats and rafts to evacuate 86,000 troops north across the estuary to recreate a cohesive front. At this time the Allies were still optimistic after their previous successes, and many – including Montgomery – underestimated the difficulties involved in opening the Scheldt.
* As long as the Germans held control of the sea approaches and the long winding estuary, Allied shipping to the port would be impossible. Thus, the mere occupation of Antwerp was not enough. The task went to the First Canadian Army. Watch the video
* Battle of the Scheldt: Hulst 1944.
Watch the video
THE CLEARING OF THE SCHELDT ESTUARY Outline Plan
5.. The plan to clear the SCHELDT estuary may be divided into three parts:
First: To seal off the isthmus leading to SOUTH BEVELAND, and to clear the BRESKENS “island”.
Second: to clear SOUTH BEVELAND by an advance along the isthmus, in
conjunction with an assault across the estuary from the SOUTH.
Third: To clear WALCHEREN by concentric assaults from the EAST, SOUTH and WEST. This involved a second crosslng of the estuary, and a seaborne expedition from one of the Channel Ports. It was decided to neutralize the fixed and heavy defences of WALCHEREN by bombing the sea dykes and floodinq the island.
Read the reports on the website of the Calgary Highlanders about the conquest of the Walcheren Causeway
* The movement down the South Beveland Peninsula began on 24 October 1944 when the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division advanced westward from their hard-earned gains at Woensdrecht. Mud, mines, and strong enemy resistance dashed hopes of a quick advance, and the Beveland Canal - bisecting the peninsula - proved to be a major obstacle which had to be defeated by an amphibious landing by the British 52nd (Lowland) Division. With British troops now behind the Canal, the 6th Canadian Brigade attacked the canal head on in assault boats, and engineers managed to establish a crossing on the main west-east road. Once positions on the Beveland Canal were cleared, German resistance on South Beveland collapsed and remnants of the German forces there withdrew to Walcheren Island.
* On the 24th of October the 4th Brigade had led the advance west down the isthmus of South Beveland, thus beginning Operation "Vitality". The entire German force west of the isthmus consisted of the weak 70th Infantry Division, less one grenadier regiment, with some other troops and naval coast artillery units.
To dislodge enemy rearguards from the line of the Beveland Canal, General Simonds mounted another amphibious operation. Carried in some 120 tracked landing craft, the 156th Infantry Brigade of the 52nd Division crossed from Terneuzen on the night of October 25-26th, landing in South Beveland.
* On the afternoon of October 22, Major-General Foulkes, as acting commander of the 2nd Canadian Corps told the 2nd Canadian Division that the start of Operation Vitality, the operation to take the South Beveland peninsula, had been pushed forward by two days by the "express orders from Field Marshal Montgomery who had placed this operation at first priority for the British and Canadian forces in this area". Major Ross Ellis of the Calgary Highland Regiment told Foulkes that the men were tired after the hard fighting earlier in October, only to be informed that the operation would go through. Morale in the 2nd Division was poor, with only the Royal Regiment of Canada, the Essex Scottish Regiment, the Cameron Highland Regiment and the Calgary Highlanders being anything close to assembling four rifle companies. The attack was to be led by the 6th Brigade consisting of the Cameron Highlanders, the battered South Saskatchewan Regiment and the even more battered Fusiliers Mont-Royal, who despite being very under-strength were assigned to lead the attack on the centre. This third major operation opened on October 24, when the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division began its advance down the South Beveland peninsula. The Canadians hoped to advance rapidly, bypassing opposition and seizing bridgeheads over the Kanaal door Zuid-Beveland (Canal through South Beveland), but they too were slowed by mines, mud and strong enemy defenses.
Bron: Wikipedia: Battle of the Scheldt
* When the Canadian 2nd Division resumed its advance on 7 October, therefore, its soon found itself brought to a swift and abrupt halt. In front of the village of Woensdrecht lies the village of Hoogerheide, and it was against this that the Canadian 2nd Division committed the Black Watch of Canada, with orders to take the village and drive forward toward Korteven, just 1 mile (1.6 km) to the north on the road to Bergen-op-Zoom. Severe fighting flared up around Hoogerheide, and the Black Watch of Canada found itself checked and then driven back to its start line.
Dutch civilians reported large numbers of armoured vehicles and guns near Korteven, and during that night the Germans sent in a major counterattack, with another on the following day, and some of the Canadians had to be withdrawn. It was now clear that the paratroopers of the Kampfgruppe ‘Chill’ were prepared to fight to the bitter end to hold Woensdrecht and the vital isthmus.
NORTH SHORE (NEW BRUNSWICK) REGIMENT, 16 OCTOBER
The 16th October was a clear but cool day, with some showers that afternoon. At 05:30, no reports were made by the divers patrols that went out; everything was quiet. The target to clear for today was the area south of the Passageule, between the main road towards IJzendijke and the blauwe hofstee, code named ‘Burgundy’.For this day A-troop of 33rdAnti-tank Battery of 6thA/T-Regiment, equipped with M-10 tank distroyers, came available for the coys. Further support was provided by the heavy machine guns of 8thplatoon B-coy of the Camerons of Ottawa who had a position on the western edge of the Angelina polder.
* Canada at War - Battle of the Scheldt
Kort filmverslag van de (Canadese) militaire operaties in de Slag om de Schelde.
Read a report on the invasion of the island of Walcheren (1944); source: website Combined Operations Command