Paesi Bassi / Campo di battaglia

Polish forces cross the border



Indicazioni stradali

The first Allied soldiers to enter Zeeland were Poles, part of the First Canadian Army. On 16 September 1944, they crossed the border at Koewacht. The First Polish Tank Division, commanded by Major General Stanislaw Maczek, had been ordered to take eastern Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and advance towards the ports of Terneuzen. These were used to move the German 15th Army from France and Belgium across the Western Scheldt. The war had passed almost silently by the border village of Koewacht. That changed when a large force crossed the border from Belgium via the Nieuwstraat.

The villagers had never seen anything like it before. Many tanks, armoured cars, trucks and cannons of the First Polish Armoured Division landed in the village. This made Koewacht the first village in Zeeland to be liberated. In the course of the day most other villages south of the Axel-Hulst line would also fall into Allied hands. The Poles advanced from Koewacht with the aim of breaking the German resistance around Axel and advancing towards the port of Terneuzen.

The advance was accompanied by heavy artillery shelling. What started as a simple border crossing developed around Axel into a fierce battle with many casualties on the Polish side. During this fighting at Fort Ferdinandus Jan Gasiorowski was killed. He is buried in the cemetery to the left of the Catholic church. It was not until 20 September that the Poles reached Terneuzen and were able to take the town and its harbours.

Kerkplein, Koewacht