Siege of Walcheren Island
On the same day that Canadian troops finally launched the final stage of the Battle of the Scheldt (Oct. 31, 1944), Canadian war correspondent Ralph Allen published an article suggesting that the Scheldt would become one of the most controversial battles of the Second World War. For the troops fighting the battle it was easier to describe the Scheldt as “hell on earth.”
When the Allied forces drove into Antwerp in September 1944 the Germans had already been chased out of the city by the Belgian resistance. However, the Germans were far from defeated. While they had been driven out of the city they still controlled the West Scheldt estuary, a twelve-mile long span of river that connected Antwerp’s ports to the North Sea. Until the Allies cleared the estuary, Antwerp’s ports were useless and further advances into Holland and Germany were unthinkable.
The First Canadian Army was tasked with clearing the channel ports and would spend the next two months battling to complete the job. They found themselves facing “some of the strongest defences in the world” and battling stoic German soldiers who believed that their orders to fight to the last man came from Hitler himself. In fact, some of the fiercest fighting in the entire battle was the siege of Walcheren Island itself.
The island was a German stronghold and the only land approach was a long, narrow causeway. On October 31 an attack was launched on this narrow strip of road to distract that Germans while the Canadians’ planned amphibious attack was finalized and they prepared to surprise the Germans from the rear.
Main hoto: Personnel of 2nd Canadian Infantry Division Signals with Personnel of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, examining a Ford three-ton truck which sank into a ditch on the Beveland Causeway, Netherlands, 27 October 1944. (Credit: Lieut. Ken Bell / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-142071)