Walcheren 1944: Storming Hitler's Island Fortress by Richard Brooks

By Richard Brooks

Walcheren is a saucer-shaped island within the estuary of the river Scheldt, commanding maritime entry to Antwerp, the biggest port in Western Europe. The Allies captured Antwerp intact on September four, 1944, yet their eyes have been at the Rhine crossings at Arnhem, no longer the decrease Scheldt. The failure of Operation Market-Garden later that month introduced domestic the Allies' logistical weak point. As autumn gales drew close to, each shell and petrol tin had nonetheless to be landed at Cherbourg or around the Normandy shores. whole US military divisions have been immobilized for loss of shipping. It was once important to re-open Antwerp. the continuing German presence on Walcheren, even if, avoided Allied delivery from getting into the Scheldt.In the autumn of 1944, Walcheren had the main seriously fortified beach on the planet. Its seaward defences consisted of 30 coastal and box batteries, mounting 50-60 weapons from 75mm to 220mm in quality, manned by means of top of the range naval team of workers at the back of immense concrete emplacements. helping strongpoints had anti-aircraft weapons, flame-throwers rocket-launchers and Goliath distant managed demolition autos. The sand dunes preserving the low-lying island from the North Sea have been laced with barbed twine, mines and dragon's tooth. protecting infantry got here from Generalleutnant Wilhelm Daser's 70.Infanterie-Division, a 'white bread department' inclusive of males with gastric difficulties. Allied intelligence envisioned the complete garrison at 4,000, yet 8,000 finally surrendered.On November 1, 1944, in a double-pronged assault, the lads of 52nd (Lowland) department plus No. four military Commando seized Flushing (Infatuate I) whereas within the west 4th distinct carrier Brigade with 3 Royal Marine Commandos and No. 10 Inter-Allied Commando may take Westkapelle, and struggle their manner north and south alongside the dunes, taking the coastal batteries as they went (Infatuate II). All this was once to be supported with HMS Warspite and 15-inch gun displays; the help Squadron japanese Flank (SSEF) with 25 really good touchdown Craft with weapons and rockets; 350 military weapons south of the Scheldt, such a lot of them heavier than 25-pounders; and the hurricane and Spitfire fighter bombers of eighty four staff RAF.In struggling with defined through one survivor as 'worse than Dieppe and D-Day prepare' the military and Royal Marines compelled their approach ashore, supported via really good armour and tracked autos, and over the following 8 days cleared the positions in their German defenders in sour road struggling with. the 1st Liberty ships unloaded at Antwerp on December 1, simply over a fortnight ahead of the Ardennes offensive started. If Walcheren had no longer fallen while it did, commencing Antwerp simply in time, the Allies could were difficult pressed to resist the German assault, or exchange the gasoline shares misplaced in its beginning days, not to mention go the Rhine within the following spring, and meet the Russians at the Elbe. The Walcheren crusade was once now not simply a dramatic mixed operation pulled off opposed to the percentages; it helped make sure the process the conflict and the form of the post-war international.

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P Troop moved northwards to engage W15 with small-arms fire. S Troop set up its machine guns to suppress any fire directed from the southern edge of the village at subsequent landings in the gap. The armoured assault teams did less well. Intending to beach simultaneously, in the event they approached in successive pairs. One of the leading craft was hit repeatedly. One shell brought down an AVRE bridge on top of the Flail tank in front; another set fire to the other AVRE's fascine. A naval rating was killed, and several sailors and commandos wounded.

Assault groups followed supporting mortar fire closely, trusting to the sand's deadening effect for safety. Despite the pressure of time, officers from the SSEF came over from England to witness a demonstration, learning how best to support the ground troops. Destined for Vlissingen, 4 Commando studied aerial photographs, climbed sea walls, and practised street fighting in the ruins of Ostend. Neither time nor landing craft were available for a full-scale rehearsal, but troop- and Commando-level exercises were carried out, including liaison with tanks.

The crisis of the battle was over by llOOhrs. The BEXHILL blocking position stopped the Germans from reinforcing their isolated positions in the Old Town, particularly at BRIGHTON, the Napoleonic bastion by the Western Harbour, or at HOVE and WORTHING. The mountain battery landed soon after llOOhrs, losing one gun and detachment whose LCA took a direct hit. The other seven howitzers were manhandled ashore in pieces, quickly assembled, and run up the street with drag ropes to engage machine- LEFT The Vissershaven looking east from the Western D o c k s entrance.

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