Pays-Bas / Champ de Bataille

Hill 19.7




"The name Woensdrecht alone sends shivers down the spines of veterans of the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division." These are the words with which the official, Canadian historiography indicates the ferocity of the fighting that took place in this West Brabant village and its surroundings in October 1944. This battle is known as the Battle of Woensdrecht. Nowhere else in the Netherlands did the Canadian army have to fight so intensely, for so long, and with so many casualties. Holding this high point on the sandy ridge of Brabantse Wal, this position (named Hill 19.7) was crucial.

The Battle of the Scheldt in autumn 1944 was for possession of the access road across the river Scheldt, to the important Belgian port city of Antwerp. The city and its port had fallen into Allied hands in September 1944. However, the shipping route across the Scheldt had not yet suffered the same fate. Hill 19.7 near Woensdrecht controlled not only the access by water to the Antwerp port, but also the route to Zeeland. Its possession was essential for both warring parties.

The Canadian 2nd Infantry Division received orders to take control of the hill. They encountered unexpectedly heavy resistance from German troops in carrying out the task, especially when German high command also sent an elite unit of paratroopers in the direction of Woensdrecht. It became clear to the Canadian troops that it was going to be a fierce battle. The battle for possession of Hill 19.7, the climax of the fighting in the area, took place from 16 to 23 October 1944. On 23 October, the Canadian soldiers withstood all German counterattacks and managed to take complete control of the hill and village.

It was a very important victory for the Canadian army during the Battle of the Scheldt. Unfortunately, the price paid was very high. About 8% of all Second World War Canadian casualties in the Netherlands died in this part of the province North-Brabant. The many graves at the Canadian Cemetery on Ruytershoveweg in Bergen op Zoom are a lasting reminder of this intense battle.

Today, the lookout hill on Fortuinstraat looks out over the beautiful landscape, where little is left to recall that heavy battle in the autumn of 1944. In clear weather, the view reaches all the way to the port of Antwerp. It is hard to imagine that it took the Canadian forces no less than three weeks, coming from Antwerp, to secure this spot on Fortuinstraat.

Fortuinstraat, Woensdrecht