Military History Library

The Walcheren Causeway

The Walcheren Causeway

Each autumn marks the anniversary of the events of the Battle of the Walcheren Causeway. The members of The Calgary Highlanders would resiliently defy the odds here while etching their legacy upon the Second World War.

By October 1944, the Allied advance had made significant gains in the Netherlands and would require new logistical lines. This necessity made deep-water ports, like the one in Antwerp, highly valued assets. Unfortunately, the Island of Walcheren, which guards the English Channel/North Sea entrance to Antwerp, was still heavily defended by German batteries. To make matters worse, the Sloe Channel that separated the island from the mainland, had only one crossing point. It was an easily defendable, narrow causeway that was surrounded by deep mud at low tide. These conditions, along with a crater blown into the causeway, made any invasion of the island very difficult.

After plans for an amphibious assault on the island were scrapped, the Allies were left with only one option: to access the island via the Walcheren Causeway. On October 31st, the members of the Canadian Royal Highland Regiment, or the Black Watch, would assault the causeway while raining artillery shells upon the German defences. They would make it half way across before being repelled by the German defences. That same day, The Calgary Highlanders would also attempt to storm the island, but they would make it no further than the crater. Those two setbacks would not stand for long.

At dawn the next day, "D" Company (of The Calgary Highlanders) would attack and secure their western objective by 09:33 hours. As the fighting continued, "D" Company would suffer heavy losses, including all of its officers, but the company would hold its position. By the end of the day, the Highlanders would be ordered to hand over their bridgehead to the Le Regiment de Maisonneuve and they would be pulled from the island.

The Calgary Highlanders would lose 64 men during the Battle of Walcheren Causeway, but the event would stand a testament to regiment’s courage, determination, and endurance.

 

Photo: A wounded member of The Calgary Highlanders sharing a smoke after the Battle of Walcheren Causeway. (Credit: Walcheren Causeway/ The Calgary Highlanders)

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