Holandia / Pole bitwy

Bridge to the final opposition in Knokke




After the liberation of Oostburg on 29 October 1944, the Canadians were left with one last obstacle; the drainage canal near Retranchement. The Hickman Bridge, built by the Royal Canadian Engineers, was named by the engineers after their fallen sergeant. After the completion of the bridge, Canadian troops were able to eliminate the last pockets of resistance around Knokke, finally liberating all of Belgium on 4 November. Operation Switchback was thus successfully completed.

Despite their work remaining unknown, the supporting troops made a contribution to the Canadian victory that could not be underestimated. For example, the engineers worked day in and day out to make the roads passable. The work was extremely dangerous due to the many mines and booby traps. For example, the commander of 6th Field Company Royal Canadian Engineers, Major T.R. Murphy, was injured on 31 October 1944 while building the bridge over the drainage canal 'Uitwateringskanaal' near Retranchement. The tragedy began with No. 2 Platoon checking the road from Zuidzande to Retranchement for mines. Without much trouble they reached Retranchement.

However, the place where the bridge over the drainage canal was to be was full of mines. No. 3 Platoon made a more extensive reconnaissance of the spot where the bridge was planned. They soon came under enemy fire from across the canal. Despite the dangerous conditions, the bridge was built. As a result of continuous German shelling of the construction site, engineers Harvey, Scott, and Slak were wounded. Genist Williams was unlucky enough to jump into a foxhole that contained a mine. Both his feet were badly mangled. Sergeant John L. Hickman died as a result of the explosion of a mortar shell near him. The Bailey Bridge over the 'Uitwateringskanaal' was named after him by his comrades. A monument commemorates the Hickman Bridge today.

With the completion of the Hickman Bridge, the Canadian units could advance to the last part of Belgium that had not yet been liberated, the area around Knokke. The commander of the German troops in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, Major-General Eberding, together with his staff, was captured in Knokke on 31 October 1944. On 2 November, the last German support point in western Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, Stützpunkt Cadzand-Badhuis, fell. The last German units surrendered at Zeebrugge in Belgium on 3 November. The battle was finally over!

Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.


Hickmanbrug, Zwintstraat 17, 4525 AC Retranchement