Battle of the Scheldt
Overview
The Battle of the Scheldt was a series of military operation
Military operation
Military operation is the coordinated military actions of a state in response to a developing situation. These actions are designed as a military plan to resolve the situation in the state's favor. Operations may be of combat or non-combat types, and are referred to by a code name for the purpose...

s of the Canadian 1st Army
First Canadian Army
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps...

, led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds
Guy Simonds
Lieutenant General Guy Granville Simonds, CC, CB, CBE, DSO, CD was a Canadian Army officer who commanded the II Canadian Corps during World War II. He served as acting commander of the First Canadian Army, leading the Allied forces to victory in the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944...

. The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II from 2 October-8 November 1944

By September 1944, it had become urgent for the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 to clear both banks of the Scheldt
Scheldt
The Scheldt is a 350 km long river in northern France, western Belgium and the southwestern part of the Netherlands...

 estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 in order to open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping, thus easing logistical burdens in their supply lines stretching hundreds of miles from Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 eastward to the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of the Scheldt was a series of military operation
Military operation
Military operation is the coordinated military actions of a state in response to a developing situation. These actions are designed as a military plan to resolve the situation in the state's favor. Operations may be of combat or non-combat types, and are referred to by a code name for the purpose...

s of the Canadian 1st Army
First Canadian Army
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps...

, led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds
Guy Simonds
Lieutenant General Guy Granville Simonds, CC, CB, CBE, DSO, CD was a Canadian Army officer who commanded the II Canadian Corps during World War II. He served as acting commander of the First Canadian Army, leading the Allied forces to victory in the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944...

. The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II from 2 October-8 November 1944

By September 1944, it had become urgent for the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 to clear both banks of the Scheldt
Scheldt
The Scheldt is a 350 km long river in northern France, western Belgium and the southwestern part of the Netherlands...

 estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 in order to open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping, thus easing logistical burdens in their supply lines stretching hundreds of miles from Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 eastward to the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
The original Siegfried line was a line of defensive forts and tank defences built by Germany as a section of the Hindenburg Line 1916–1917 in northern France during World War I...

. Since the Allied forces had landed in Normandy, France on D-Day
D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

, 6 June 1944, the British 2nd Army had pushed forward into the Low Countries and captured Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 and Antwerp, the latter with its ports still intact. But the advance halted with the British in possession of Antwerp, while the Germans still controlled the Scheldt Estuary.

Nothing was done about the blocked Antwerp ports during September because most of the strained Allied resources were allocated to Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

, a bold plan for a single thrust into Germany which began on 17 September. In the meantime, German forces in the Scheldt were able to deploy to meet them.

In early October, after Market Garden had failed with heavy losses, Allied forces led by the Canadian 1st Army
First Canadian Army
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps...

 set out to bring the Antwerp ports under control. But the well-established German defenders
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 staged an effective delaying action. Complicated by the waterlogged terrain, the Battle of the Scheldt proved to be a challenging campaign in which the losses suffered by the Canadians exacerbated another conscription crisis
Conscription crisis
A conscription crisis is a public dispute about a policy of conscription, or mandatory service in the military, also known as a "draft". A dispute can become a crisis when submission to military service becomes highly controversial and popular revolt ensues...

.

After five weeks of difficult fighting, the Canadian 1st Army—bolstered by attached troops from several other countries—was successful in clearing the Scheldt after numerous amphibious assaults, obstacle crossings, and costly assaults over open ground. Both land and water were mined, and the Germans defended their line of retreat with artillery and snipers.

The Allies finally cleared the port areas on 8 November at a cost of 12,873 Allied casualties (killed, wounded, or missing), half of them Canadians.

Once the German defenders were no longer a threat, it was an additional three weeks before the first ship carrying Allied supplies was able to unload in Antwerp (on 29 November 1944) due to the necessity of de-mining the harbours.

Opening the Scheldt

On 12 September 1944, the Canadian 1st Army
First Canadian Army
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps...

—under temporary command of Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds
Guy Simonds
Lieutenant General Guy Granville Simonds, CC, CB, CBE, DSO, CD was a Canadian Army officer who commanded the II Canadian Corps during World War II. He served as acting commander of the First Canadian Army, leading the Allied forces to victory in the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944...

—was given the task of clearing the Scheldt. Under command at that time was Canadian II Corps
II Canadian Corps
II Canadian Corps was a corps-level formation that, along with I Corps and I Canadian Corps , comprised the First Canadian Army in Northwest Europe during World War II.Authorization for the formation of the Corps headquarters became effective in England on...

, with the Polish 1st Armoured Division
Polish 1st Armoured Division
The Polish 1st Armoured Division was an Allied military unit during World War II, created in February 1942 at Duns in Scotland. At its peak it numbered approximately 16,000 soldiers...

, British 49th
British 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division
This military division was formed on 1 April 1908 as the West Riding Division in the Territorial Force of the British Army.- First World War :...

 and 52nd Divisions attached, as well as British I Corps.

The plan for opening the Scheldt estuary involved four main operations conducted over daunting geography.
  • The first task was to clear the area north of Antwerp and secure access to South Beveland.
  • Second was to clear the Breskens pocket
    Breskens Pocket
    The Breskens Pocket was a pocket of fortified German resistance against the Canadian First Army in the Battle of the Scheldt during the Second World War. It was chiefly situated on the southern shore of the Scheldt estuary in the southern Netherlands, near the Belgian border...

     north of the Leopold Canal ("Operation Switchback").
  • Third, dubbed "Operation Vitality", was the capture of South Beveland.
  • The final phase would be the capture of Walcheren Island ("Operation Infatuate"), which had been fortified into a powerful German stronghold. As part of the Atlantic Wall
    Atlantic Wall
    The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain.-History:On March 23, 1942 Führer Directive Number 40...

    , Walcheren Island was considered to be the "strongest concentration of defences the Nazis had ever constructed."

On 21 September, the Canadian 4th Armoured Division
4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
The 4th Canadian Division was created by the conversion of the 4th Canadian Infantry Division at the beginning of 1942 in Canada. The division proceeded overseas in 1942, with its two main convoys reaching the United Kingdom in August and October....

 moved north roughly along the line of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal
Ghent-Terneuzen Canal
The Ghent-Terneuzen Canal , also known as the "Sea Canal" is a canal linking Ghent in Belgium to the port of Terneuzen on the Westerschelde estuary in the Netherlands, thereby providing the former with better access to the sea.-History:The canal was constructed between 1823 and 1827 on the...

, given the task of clearing an area on the south shore of the Scheldt around the Dutch town of Breskens
Breskens
Breskens is a harbour town on the Westerschelde in the municipality of Sluis in the province of Zeeland, in the south-western Netherlands. Its population is 4,280 ....

 called the "Breskens pocket
Breskens Pocket
The Breskens Pocket was a pocket of fortified German resistance against the Canadian First Army in the Battle of the Scheldt during the Second World War. It was chiefly situated on the southern shore of the Scheldt estuary in the southern Netherlands, near the Belgian border...

". The Polish 1st Armoured Division headed for the Dutch-Belgian border further east and the crucial area north of Antwerp.

The Canadian 4th Armoured advanced from a hard-won bridgehead
Bridgehead
A bridgehead is a High Middle Ages military term, which antedating the invention of cannons was in the original meaning expressly a referent term to the military fortification that protects the end of a bridge...

 over the Ghent Canal at Moerbrugge
Moerbrugge
Moerbrugge is a village in the Belgian province of West Flanders, in the municipality of Oostkamp. It was the site of a bridgehead that the Canadian 4th Armoured Division used to cross the Ghent-Bruges Canal during the Battle of the Scheldt on 10 September 1944.-See also:*Battle of Moerbrugge...

 to find themselves the first Allied troops facing the formidable obstacle of the double line of the Leopold and Schipdonk
Lys River
The Leie or Lys is a river in France and Belgium, and a left tributary of the Scheldt. Its source is in Pas-de-Calais, France, and it flows into the river Scheldt in Ghent, Belgium. Its total length is ....

 Canals. An attack was mounted in the vicinity of Moerkerke
Moerkerke
Moerkerke is a town in the Belgian province West Flanders and a part of the city of Damme-External links:*...

, crossing the canals and establishing a bridgehead before counter-attacks forced a withdrawal with heavy casualties.
The 1st Polish Armoured Division enjoyed greater success to the east as it advanced northeast from Ghent. In country unsuitable for armour, and against stiffening resistance, the Division advanced to the coast by 20 September, occupying Terneuzen
Terneuzen
Terneuzen is a city and municipality in the southwestern Netherlands, in the province of Zeeland, in the middle of Zeelandic Flanders. With over 55,000 inhabitants, it is the most populous municipality of Zeeland.-Population centres :...

 and clearing the south bank of the Scheldt east toward Antwerp.

It became apparent to Simonds that any further gains in the Scheldt would come at heavy cost, as the Breskens pocket
Breskens Pocket
The Breskens Pocket was a pocket of fortified German resistance against the Canadian First Army in the Battle of the Scheldt during the Second World War. It was chiefly situated on the southern shore of the Scheldt estuary in the southern Netherlands, near the Belgian border...

, extending from Zeebrugge
Zeebrugge
Zeebrugge is a village on the coast of Belgium and a subdivision of Bruges, for which it is the modern port. Zeebrugge serves as both the international port of Bruges-Zeebrugge and a seafront resort with hotels, cafés, a marina and a beach.-Location:...

 to the Braakman Inlet and inland to the Leopold Canal, was strongly held by the enemy.

Fighting North from Antwerp

On 2 October, the Canadian 2nd Division began its advance north from Antwerp. Stiff fighting at Woensdrecht ensued on 6 October, the objective of the first phase. The Germans—reinforced by Battle Group Chill—saw the priority in holding there, controlling direct access to South Beveland and Walcheren Island.

There were heavy casualties as the Canadians attacked over open, flooded land. Driving rain, booby traps and land mines made advance very difficult. On 13 October, what would come to be known as "Black Friday", the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade
Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade
The 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade was mobilized on 1 September 1939 as part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The brigade was formed before the declaration of World War II, and the battalions were promptly fleshed out by volunteers. Further expansion of the brigade was hindered by a...

's Black Watch
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
The Black Watch of Canada is a reserve infantry regiment in 34 Brigade Group, Land Force Quebec Area. The regiment is located on rue de Bleury in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and is currently commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bruno Plourde...

 was virtually wiped out in an unsuccessful attack. The Calgary Highlanders were to follow up with a more successful action, and their Carrier Platoon succeeded in taking the rail station at Korteven. Heavy fighting at Hoogerheide also ensued, but by 16 October, Woensdrecht was secured, cutting the land link to South Beveland and Walcheren. The Canadians had achieved their first objective, but suffered heavy casualties.
At this point, recognizing the opportunity, Field-Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, issued a directive that made the opening of the Scheldt estuary the top priority of 21st Army Group. To the east, the British 2nd Army attacked westward to clear the Netherlands south of the Maas River, securing the Scheldt region from counter-attacks.

Meanwhile, Simonds concentrated forces at the neck of the South Beveland peninsula. The 4th Canadian Armoured moved north from the Leopold Canal and took Bergen-op-Zoom. By 24 October, Allied lines were pushed out further from the neck of the peninsula, ensuring German counterattacks would not cut off the 2nd Canadian Division, by then moving west along it towards Walcheren Island.

Operation Switchback

The second main operation of the Battle of the Scheldt opened with fierce fighting to reduce the Breskens pocket
Breskens Pocket
The Breskens Pocket was a pocket of fortified German resistance against the Canadian First Army in the Battle of the Scheldt during the Second World War. It was chiefly situated on the southern shore of the Scheldt estuary in the southern Netherlands, near the Belgian border...

. Here, the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division
3rd Canadian Infantry Division
The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the Canadian Army from 1940 to c.1945.- History :The formation of the division was authorized on 17 May 1940...

 encountered tenacious German resistance as it fought to cross the Leopold Canal.

An earlier failed attempt by the Canadian 4th Armoured Division at Moerbrugge
Battle of Moerbrugge
The 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade was tasked to cross the Ghent Canal about five kilometers south of Bruges at a small village called Oostkamp in early September 1944. Directly across the canal from Oostkamp was another small village named Moerbrugge. The canal is about 20 metres wide and very deep...

 had demonstrated the challenge they faced. In addition to the formidable German defences on both the Leopold Canal and the Schipdonk Canal, much of the approach area was flooded.

It was decided that the best place for an assault would be immediately east of where the two canals divided: a narrow strip of dry ground only a few hundred metres wide at its base beyond the Leopold Canal (described as a long triangle with its base on the Maldegem-Aardenburg road and its apex near the village of Moershoofd some 5 km (3.1 mi) east).
A two-pronged assault commenced. The Canadian 3rd Division′s 7th Brigade
7th Canadian Infantry Brigade
The 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade , along with the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade and the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade , formed the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, which was a Canadian Army formation during World War II...

 made the initial assault across the Leopold Canal, while the 9th Brigade mounted an amphibious attack from the northern or coastal side of the pocket. The assault began on 6 October, supported by extensive artillery and Canadian-built Wasp Universal Carrier
Universal Carrier
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War...

s, which were equipped with flamethrowers. The Wasps launched their barrage of flame across the Leopold Canal, allowing the 7th Brigade troops to scramble up over the steep banks and launch their assault boats. Two precarious, separate footholds were established, but the enemy recovered from the shock of the flamethrowers and counter-attacked, though they were unable to move the Canadians from their extremely vulnerable bridgeheads. By 9 October, the gap between the bridgeheads was closed, and by early morning on 12 October, a position had been gained across the Aardenburg road.
The Canadian 9th Brigade conducted an amphibious operation with the aid of Terrapin
Terrapin (amphibious vehicle)
The Terrapin "4-ton amphibian" was a British-manufactured, amphibious armoured transport vehicle of the Second World War. It was first used at Antwerp in 1944, and to great effect during the Battle of the Scheldt....

 (the first such use of this vehicle in Europe) and Buffalo
Landing Vehicle Tracked
The Landing Vehicle Tracked was a class of amphibious vehicles introduced by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Army during World War II. Originally intended solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they rapidly evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles as well...

 amphibious vehicles, crewed by the British 5th Assault Regiment from the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

. The brigade planned to cross the mouth of the Braakman Inlet in amphibious vehicles and to land in the vicinity of Hoofdplaat, a tiny hamlet in the rear or coastal side of the pocket, thus exerting pressure from two directions at once. In spite of difficulties in maneuvering vehicles through the canals and the resulting 24-hour delay, the Germans were taken by surprise and a bridgehead was established. Once again, the Germans recovered quickly and counter-attacked with ferocity; however, they were slowly forced back. The Canadian 10th Brigade—from the 4th Armoured Division—crossed the Leopold Canal and advanced at Isabella Polder. Then the 3rd Division′s 8th Brigade
8th Canadian Infantry Brigade
The 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was an infantry formation of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during World War II-World War II:After training in Britain, the 8th Brigade formed part of the assault forces on D-Day, at Juno Beach...

 was called to move south from the coastal side of the pocket. This opened up a land-based supply route into the pocket.

The 3rd Division fought additional actions to clear German troops from the towns of Breskens
Breskens
Breskens is a harbour town on the Westerschelde in the municipality of Sluis in the province of Zeeland, in the south-western Netherlands. Its population is 4,280 ....

, Oostburg
Oostburg
Oostburg is a town in the south-western Netherlands. It is the largest town in the municipality of Sluis, in the province of Zeeland. As of 1 January 2005, its population is 5,008. It received city rights in 1237....

, Zuidzande
Zuidzande
Zuidzande is a village in the Dutch province of Zeeland. It is located in the municipality of SluisZuidzande was a separate municipality until 1970, when it was merged with Oostburg.-External links:*...

 and Cadzand
Cadzand
Cadzand is a town in the Dutch province of Zeeland. It is located in the municipality of Sluis, about 8 km northwest of Oostburg. The village contains 804 inhabitants . Better known to many visitors is the nearby beach at Cadzand-Bad....

, as well as the coastal fortress Fort Frederik Hendrik. Operation "Switchback" ended on 3 November, when the Canadian 1st Army liberated the Belgian towns of Knokke
Knokke
Knokke is one of a group of communities that are all grouped in the administrative community Knokke-Heist, in the province of West Flanders in Flanders, Belgium. Knokke itself has 15,653 inhabitants .Knokke-Heist has 33,818 inhabitants ....

 and Zeebrugge
Zeebrugge
Zeebrugge is a village on the coast of Belgium and a subdivision of Bruges, for which it is the modern port. Zeebrugge serves as both the international port of Bruges-Zeebrugge and a seafront resort with hotels, cafés, a marina and a beach.-Location:...

, officially closing the Breskens Pocket and eliminating all German forces south of the Scheldt.

Operation Vitality

The third major operation of the Battle of the Scheldt opened on 24 October, when the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division
2nd Canadian Infantry Division
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was an infantry division of the First Canadian Army, mobilized on 1 September 1939 at the outset of the Second World War. It was initially composed of volunteers within brigades established along regional lines, though a halt in recruitment in the early months of...

 began its advance down the South Beveland peninsula. The Canadians hoped to advance rapidly, bypassing opposition and seizing bridgeheads over the Beveland Canal, but they too were slowed by mines, mud and strong enemy defences.

An amphibious
Amphibious warfare
Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

 attack was made across the West Scheldt by the British 52nd (Lowland) Division
British 52nd (Lowland) Division
The British 52nd Division was a Territorial Army division that was originally formed as part of the Territorial Force in 1908.- World War I :...

 to get in behind the German′s Beveland Canal defensive positions. Thus this formidable defence was outflanked, and the Canadian 6th Infantry Brigade
6th Canadian Infantry Brigade
As part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division mobilization started on 1 September 1939, even before the declaration of war, and the battalions were promptly fleshed out by volunteers. However, further expansion was hindered by a temporary halt in recruitment and uncertainty about overseas deployment...

 began a frontal attack in assault boats. The engineers were able to bridge the canal on the main road.

With the canal line gone, the German defence crumbled and South Beveland was cleared. The third phase of the Battle of the Scheldt was now complete.

Operation Infatuate: Capture of Walcheren Island

As the fourth phase of the Battle of the Scheldt opened, only the island of Walcheren
Walcheren
thumb|right|250px|Campveer Tower in Veere, built in 1500Walcheren is a former island in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands at the mouth of the Scheldt estuary. It lies between the Oosterschelde in the north and the Westerschelde in the south and is roughly the shape of a rhombus...

 at the mouth of the West Scheldt
Scheldt
The Scheldt is a 350 km long river in northern France, western Belgium and the southwestern part of the Netherlands...

 remained in German hands. The island's defences were extremely strong: heavy coastal batteries on the western and southern coasts defended both the island and the Scheldt estuary, and the coastline had been strongly fortified against amphibious assaults. Furthermore, a landward-facing defensive perimeter had been built around the town of Vlissingen to further defend its port facilities should an Allied landing on Walcheren succeed. The only land approach was the Sloedam—a long, narrow causeway from South Beveland, little more than a raised two-lane road. To make matters more difficult, the flats that surrounded this causeway were too saturated with sea water for movement on foot, but had too little water for an assault in storm boats.

To hamper German defence, the island′s dykes were breached by attacks from RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

: on 3 October at Westkapelle
Westkapelle (Netherlands)
Westkapelle is a small city in the municipality of Veere on the island Walcheren, in the province Zeeland of the Netherlands. On 1 January 2005, it had a population of 2,671...

, with severe loss of civilian life; on 7 October at two places, west and east of Vlissingen; and on 11 October at Veere
Veere
Veere is a municipality and a city in the southwestern Netherlands, on Walcheren island in the province of Zeeland.-Population centres :Aagtekerke , Biggekerke , Domburg , Gapinge , Grijpskerke , Koudekerke , Meliskerke , Oostkapelle , Serooskerke , Veere , Vrouwenpolder , Westkapelle...

. This flooded the central part of the island, forcing the German defenders onto the high ground around the outside and in the towns, but it also allowed the use of amphibious vehicles.

The island was attacked from three directions: across the causeway from the east, across the Scheldt from the south, and by sea from the west.
The Canadian 2nd Infantry Division attacked the causeway on 31 October. An initial attack by the Black Watch
Black Watch
The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The unit's traditional colours were retired in 2011 in a ceremony led by Queen Elizabeth II....

 was rebuffed; The Calgary Highlanders
The Calgary Highlanders
The Calgary Highlanders is a Canadian Forces Land Force Primary Reserve infantry regiment, headquartered at Mewata Armouries in Calgary, Alberta, Canada...

 then sent a company over which was also stopped halfway across the causeway. A second attack by the Highlanders on the morning of 1 November managed to gain a precarious foothold; a day of fighting followed, and then the Highlanders were relieved by Le Regiment de Maisonneuve who struggled to maintain the bridgehead. The "Maisies" withdrew onto the Causeway on 2 November, to be relieved by a battalion of the Glasgow Highlanders
Glasgow Highlanders
The Glasgow Highlanders was a former Territorial Army regiment in the British Army, it eventually became part of The Highland Light Infantry regiment in 1881, which later became The Royal Highland Fusiliers in 1959...

 of the British 52nd (Lowland) Division
British 52nd (Lowland) Division
The British 52nd Division was a Territorial Army division that was originally formed as part of the Territorial Force in 1908.- World War I :...

. In conjunction with the waterborne attacks, the 52nd continued the advance.

The amphibious landings were conducted in two parts on 1 November. Operation Infatuate I consisted mainly of infantry of the British 155th Infantry Brigade (4th and 5th battalions King's Own Scottish Borderers
King's Own Scottish Borderers
The King's Own Scottish Borderers was an infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Scottish Division.-History:It was raised on 18 March 1689 by the Earl of Leven to defend Edinburgh against the Jacobite forces of James II. It is said that 800 men were recruited within the space of two hours...

, 7/9th battalion The Royal Scots
The Royal Scots
The Royal Scots , once known as the Royal Regiment of Foot, was the oldest, and therefore most senior, infantry regiment of the line in the British Army, having been raised in 1633 during the reign of Charles I of Scotland...

) and No. 4 Commando
No. 4 Commando
No. 4 Commando was a battalion-sized British Army commando unit, formed in 1940 early in the Second World War. Although it was raised to conduct small-scale raids and harass garrisons along the coast of German-occupied France, it was mainly employed as a highly-trained infantry assault unit.The...

, who were ferried across from Breskens
Breskens
Breskens is a harbour town on the Westerschelde in the municipality of Sluis in the province of Zeeland, in the south-western Netherlands. Its population is 4,280 ....

 in small landing craft to an assault beach in the south-eastern area of Vlissingen, codenamed "Uncle" Beach. During the next few days, they engaged in heavy street fighting against the German defenders.

Operation Infatuate II was the amphibious landing at Westkapelle, also conducted on the morning of 1 November. After a heavy naval bombardment by the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, troops of 4th Special Service Brigade (Nos. 41
41 Commando
41 Commando or No. 41 Commando was a unit of Royal Marines trained as Commandos during the Second World War. They were part of the all Royal Marine 4th Special Service Brigade that took part in the Normandy Landings in June 1944 and later that served in World War II, the Korean War, and in...

, 47, and 48 Royal Marine Commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 and No. 10 Inter Allied Commando, consisting mainly of Belgian and Norwegian troops) supported by specialized armoured vehicles
Hobart's Funnies
Hobart's Funnies were a number of unusually modified tanks operated during World War II by the United Kingdom's 79th Armoured Division or by specialists from the Royal Engineers. They were designed in light of problems that more standard tanks experienced during the Dieppe Raid, so that the new...

 (amphibious transports, mine-clearing tanks, bulldozers, etc.) of the 79th Armoured Division
79th Armoured Division
The 79th Armoured Division was a specialist British Army armoured formation created as part of the preparations for the Normandy invasion of 6 June 1944...

 were landed on both sides of the gap in the sea dyke, using large landing craft as well as amphibious vehicles to bring men and tanks ashore. Heavy fighting ensued here as well before the ruins of the town were captured. Part of the troops moved south-east toward Vlissingen, while the main force went north-east to clear the northern half of Walcheren and link up with the Canadian troops who had established a bridgehead on the eastern part of the island. Fierce resistance was again offered by some of the German troops defending this area, so that fighting continued until 7 November.

On 6 November, the island′s capital Middelburg
Middelburg
Middelburg is a municipality and a city in the south-western Netherlands and the capital of the province of Zeeland. It is situated in the Midden-Zeeland region. It has a population of about 48,000.- History of Middelburg :...

 fell after a calculated gamble on the Allies′ part when the German commander was invited to consider surrendering only to an armoured force. Since Middelburg was impossible to reach with tanks, a force of amphibious Landing Vehicle Tracked
Landing Vehicle Tracked
The Landing Vehicle Tracked was a class of amphibious vehicles introduced by the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Army during World War II. Originally intended solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they rapidly evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles as well...

 ("Buffaloes") were driven into Middelburg, forcing an end to all German resistance on 8 November.

Meanwhile, the Canadian 4th Armoured Division had pushed eastward past Bergen-op-Zoom to Sint Philipsland
Sint Philipsland
Sint Philipsland is a village in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Sint Philpsland is also the name of the island on which the village lies...

 where it sank several German vessels in Zijpe harbor.

With the approaches to Antwerp clear, the fourth phase of the Battle of the Scheldt was complete. The Scheldt was then swept of naval mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

s, and on 28 November—after much repair of harbor facilities——the first convoy entered the port, led by the Canadian-built freighter
Cargo ship
A cargo ship or freighter is any sort of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year; they handle the bulk of international trade...

 Fort Cataraqui.

Controversy

The battle of the Scheldt today is seen as an unnecessarily brutal one, as the river could have been taken earlier on with relative ease had the allies not seen it as a lesser priority to Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

. Eisenhower's decisions have been widely criticized as they pertain to the lack of importance he placed on the opening of the Scheldt. American historian Charles B. MacDonald has called the failure to immediately take the Scheldt "One of the greatest tactical mistakes of the war." Because of the lack of early action the battle became one of the longest and bloodiest that the Canadian army faced over the course of the Second World War

Battle components

From 23 October-5 November 1944, the U.S. 104th Infantry Division experienced its first battle while attached to the British I Corps. The division succeeded in pushing through the central portion of North Brabant
North Brabant
North Brabant , sometimes called Brabant, is a province of the Netherlands, located in the south of the country, bordered by Belgium in the south, the Meuse River in the north, Limburg in the east and Zeeland in the west.- History :...

 (51.552313°N 4.65271°W) against resistance from German snipers and artillery.

Importance of the campaign

At the end of the five-week offensive, the Canadian 1st Army had taken 41,043 German prisoners. After the first ship arrived on 28 November, convoy
Convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

s started bringing a steady stream of supplies to the continent, which began to reenergize the stalled Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine. Germany recognized the importance of the Allies having a deep water port, so in an attempt to destroy it, or at least disrupt the flow of supplies, the German military fired more V-2 ballistic missiles
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

 at Antwerp than any other city. In fact, nearly half of the V-2s launched during the war were fired at Antwerp. The port of Antwerp was so strategically vital, that during the Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

 one of the primary German objectives was to retake the city and its port.

Legacy of the campaign

For the First Canadian Army, the casualties suffered in the Battle of the Scheldt approached those suffered at Normandy Thus, while around the world it is a lesser known conflict, the Battle of the Scheldt is an important one in Canadian military history. Overall it is viewed as a great military success however due to the delay in taking the Scheldt some view the campaign as a failure of the allied high command, particularly Dwight Eisenhower Taking control of the river is also generally viewed as being one of the first steps to the allied liberation of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Further reading

  • Copp, Terry 'Cinderella Army - The Canadians in North-West Europe 1944-1945' (University of Toronto Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-9522-0 (paper) or 978-0-8020-3925-0 (hardbound)
  • Moulton, James L. 'Battle for Antwerp'
  • Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Volume III: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-West Europe, 1944-1945 (Ottawa: The Queens Printer, 1960)
  • Whitaker, Denis and Shelagh Whitaker. Tug of War: Eisenhower's Lost Opportunity: Allied Command & the Story Behind the Battle of the Scheldt (Beaufort Books, 1985) ISBN 0-8253-0257-9

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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