First Canadian Army Begins Advance North from Antwerp
On October 2, the 2nd Canadian Division began its advance north from Antwerp.
Stiff fighting at Woensdrecht ensued on October 6, 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 October 13, 1944, what would come to be known as "Black Friday," the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade's Black Watch 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 October 16, 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 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 Second Army attacked westwards 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 October 24 Allied lines were pushed out further from the neck of the peninsula, ensuring German counterattacks wouldn't cut off the 2nd Canadian Division, by then moving west along it towards Walcheren Island.
On October 2 the 2nd Canadian Division began its advance north from the Antwerp area with a view to closing the exit from South Beveland and advancing along the South Beveland Isthmus. Initial progress was good, despite the fact it was made in the face of stiff opposition. By October 6, with the town of Woensdrecht less than five kilometres away, the objective of the first phase seemed within grasp.