Canadian Infantry Begins Attack on Walcheren Causeway

"C" Company of the The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada took heavy casualties on the afternoon and evening of 31 October 1944 in an attempt to "bounce" the Causeway.

During their attack, the existence of a deep crater on the causeway was discovered; this crater had been blown by German engineers as an anti-tank obstacle. It was later utilized by the Canadians as a company command post during the battle as it developed.

"B" Company of The Calgary Highlanders were ordered forward just before midnight and were similarly stopped halfway down the causeway.

A new fireplan was drawn up and Major Bruce McKenzie's "D" Company inched forward under intensive gunfire, reaching the west end, and securing it, at dawn on 1 November.

German counter-attacks were heavy and prolonged, and included the use of flame weapons on the Canadians. At one point, all Calgary Highlander officers in one company were wounded or killed, and the brigade major, George Hees took command of a company.

Company Sergeant Major "Blackie" Laloge of the Calgary Highlanders was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at Walcheren Causeway, at one point throwing back German hand grenades before they could explode amongst his men.

Two platoons of Le RĂ©giment de Maisonneuve took over the bridgehead on Walcheren Island on 2 November, but were forced back onto the Causeway. A battalion of Glasgow Highlanders were ordered to pass through, but they also were unable to expand the bridgehead on the island.

Antwerp was 80 kilometres from the sea, connected to it by means of a broad estuary, the West Scheldt. North of the estuary lay the former island of South Beveland joined to the mainland by an isthmus. Beyond South Beveland lay the island of Walcheren, fortified into a powerful German stronghold. The south bank of the estuary, flat polder country, was below sea level and also well-suited to defence. As long as the Germans held control of the sea approaches and the long winding estuary, Allied shipping to the port would be impossible. Thus, the mere occupation of Antwerp was not enough.