The Causeway (Sloedam) Battle, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 1944, part 2

‘I think that my experience of taking part in the Causeway battle on Halloween night and November 1, 1944 in Holland is probably the most terrible 40 hours I have ever spent…’ -the late Bill Powell, 1998

In October 1944 the Allied advance through Holland was held up by a shortage of vital supplies because the Germans controlled the entrance to the port of Antwerp although it, with all its docking facilities, had been captured intact. As Duncan’s late Bill Powell, formerly of the Calgary Highlanders, explained Wednesday, the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions were assigned the task of driving them out, the Highlanders to capture the mined Scheldt Estuary…

Bill Powell: The battle of the Scheldt started Oct. 1, 1944 at the Albert Canal and it wasn’t over until Nov. 8 when the British invaded the last obstacle, Walcheren (Fortress Walcheren as it was called), by sea. The last fighting died down by Nov. 8 and the job of clearing the mines from the Scheldt Estuary could begin, so that shipping to the port of Antwerp could commence, bringing supplies so desperately needed by the Allies.

The 3rd Division got the job of clearing the Breskens Pocket on the south side of the Scheldt. They had preliminary help from the 4th Cdn. Armoured Division and the 1st Polish Division. The 3rd Cdn. Division had a very rough time. Besides the Germans their main enemy was water. Water and dikes were everywhere. By the time they’d cleared the Bresken Pocket, they’d earned the name, “The Water Rats.” I had a good friend who was killed there. He fought with the Canadian Scottish.

The assignment of the 2nd Cdn. Division was to cut off the Germans’ escape route from the South Beveland Peninsula to Germany then to drive down to the western end of the peninsula. Cutting off the escape route involved a number of critical battles, the Albert Canal Hoogerheide and Woensdrecth, to name two. The drive to the western end of the South Beveland Peninsula took until Oct. 31. Connecting the end of the peninsula to Walcheren Island was the Causeway. The final phase for the 2nd Division was to cross the Causeway and establish a small beachhead on Walcheren. With this accomplished, we were promised a few days’ rest in Liere, Belgium.

The 2nd Cdn. Division had been in action since landing in France about a month after D-Day. The 5th Brigade, part of the 2nd Cdn. Division, consisted of three regiments, the Black Watch, the Rgt. de Maisonneuve and the Calgary Highlanders.

The Causeway leading to Walcheren Island was 1,200 yards long, 40 metres wide and straight as a gun barrel. On it ran a two-lane road, an elevated railroad track and a bicycle path. Each side of the Causeway was marshy salt flats of deep mud which were impossible to cross. Along the complete length of the Causeway there was absolutely no cover for advancing troops.

I’ll try to describe the preparations the Germans had made to hold back any attack. I’ve read several accounts of the Causeway battle; the following is an attempt to describe what awaited us.

About 500 yards from the end the Germans had blown a huge crater. The enemy was virtually indestructible in the concrete bunkers they’d built at their end and in the Walcheren dikes that ran north and south on Walcheren at the western end of the Causeway. On top of these dikes they had firing trenches. They’d sited 88 mm guns to fire down its length and had positioned two others both north and south of the Causeway.

Developed as an anti-aircraft weapon, the 88 was a deadly weapon with a very high velocity. They were mounted on their tanks [employed as field guns.] They also had heavy and light mortars and the ever-present machine guns. German artillery for miles around was also sighted on the [Causeway]. On top of all this, they had at least one heavy coast gun aimed [at] the Causeway. There were mines planted everywhere, including on the embankment. At the western end they’d built a roadblock. They’d had many months, even years, to get ready.

By Oct. 31 we’d reached the western end of the South Beveland Peninsula. The last remaining obstacle was the Causeway and Walcheren Island. The Black Watch of our 5th Brigade was ordered to advance down the Causeway and “bump” a bridgehead at the far end.

I hate the expression, “bump.” When you bump the enemy a number of men get killed and wounded. It’s as though many people in command have no feeling for the common soldier who’s doing the fighting.

(To be continued)

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

VIDEO: Lake Cowichan Minor baseball strikes back after presentation calling for ballpark changes

Lake Cowichan Minor Baseball says there is no call for thousands in renovations

Are you a Shawnigan Lake senior looking for things to do? Call YSAG and join the fun

The Young Seniors Action Group offer something for everyone so check them out and see for yourself

Strong home showing for Shawnigan rowers

Next up for local rowing teams is national championship

Shawnigan Lake senior walks for family members with MS

There’s no slowing down 72-year-old William McQueen.

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

UPDATED: B.C. man says he’ll take People’s Party lawsuit as far as he can

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Most Read