Painting of the Walcheren Causeway fighting by Robert Johnson who fought there. (Calgary Highlanders Museum and Archives)

Canada History: Oct 31, 1944; The vicious battle for the Walcheren causeway

Share

By October of 1944 Canadians had fought their way from the Normandy beach to the French interior, then along the Atlantic coast through Belgium, capturing German rocket sites and all bitterly defended by hardened German troops. By the end of the month, they had to attack Walcheren Island. But there was only one very narrow access point, a killing zone, 1.2km long, straight as an arrow. and just wide enough for a rail line, a road, and a bicycle path.

Peter Boyle (C.D) describes the battle. He is president of Valour Canada, and holds the rank of LCol in the Canadian Forces Reserves.

Peter Boyle, president of Valour Canada, speaks about the battle of Walcheren Causeway, Oct 31,1944

After fighting through Normandy through to Caen, the Verrieres Ridge and being instrumental in closing the Falaise gap, the Canadians were given a new assignment.

Under the command of Canadian General Harry Crerar, the Canadians with British and Polish troops, had fought through Flanders  liberating cities like Furnes, La Panne, Nieuport, Ostend, Knocke-Heist, Bruges, Eecloo, and the northern suburbs of Antwerp, taking the Schipdonk and Leopold canals, Breskens and Beveland in Holland

Aerial view of the long narrow causeway. Almost 2 kilometres long, no cover, and heavily defended with sighted guns. tidal mud flats on either side. The causeway no longer exists as the land on either side has been reclaimed and the former island joined to the mainland to now become an isthmus, (via Calgary Highlanders Museum and Archives)

In costly battles to take the south shore of the estuary, Canada’s 3rd division had lost over 2,000 men.

Maj George Hees was an artillery staff officer who volunteered to go to the Walcheren battle and take over A Company, He was wounded in the arm but stayed in command. (RMC club)

Now the Black Watch (RHR Montreal), the Calgary Highlanders, and the Regiment de Maisonneuve (Montreal) were assigned an almost suicidal task.  They had to take Walcheren Island.

Major Jacques Ostiguy of Le Regiment de Maisonneuve who was just been decorated with the Distinguished Service Order, October 1944. (Credit: Library and Archives Canada

The island was a strategic point defending the Scheldt Estuary leading to the vital Belgian port of Antwerp. As long as Walcheren with its heavy guns was in German hands, the port could not be used by the Allies to deliver desperately needed supplies.

Looking eastward down the causeway from the island, tidal mud flats at right . 1.6 km with virtually no cover from German bullets and artillery 1946 (DND)

Sent forward across the killing zone of the causeway amid shot, shell, and deadly splintered stone fragments,  Canadians somehow managed to eventually cross and briefly hold the far end but could not advance from this untenable position. The bitter fighting continued in a stalemate but kept the defenders preoccupied until British forces managed an amphibious landing at Westkapelle on the Atlantic side and Vlissingen (Flushing) at the mouth of the estuary attacking from behind and forcing the Germans inland.  With Canadians to the east and south, and British to the west, the defenders surrendered by November 8.

-Pipe Major H. McDonald, Piper D.W. MacDonald and Piper W.J. Hannah at the burial of 55 infantrymen of “A” Company, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada). October 1944 in the Netherlands. ( Credit: Library and Archives Canada)

The battle is remembered by all three Canadian regiments as a battle honour and example of extreme courage.

Additional information

Share
Categories: International, Politics
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1. RCInet.ca’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. RCInet.ca reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3. RCInet.ca’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

*

One comment on “Canada History: Oct 31, 1944; The vicious battle for the Walcheren causeway
  1. Avatar J Drapeau says:

    Thanks for the historical reminder. Not many Canadians know of Canadians past exploits of courage.