Holandia / Pole bitwy

Bloody battle for a bridgehead




West Brabant was liberated by a truly international force: General Crerar's First Canadian Army commanded British, American and Polish units in addition to Canadian divisions. Polish soldiers fought for two days at a small bridgehead near Nieuwe Veer, but in the end, their sacrifice was in vain.

Two days after the liberation of Breda on 29 October 1944, elements of Major General Maczek's 1st Polish Armoured Division raced north; their objective was Moerdijk and the vital bridges there. However, before this could be achieved, the Cromwell tanks of the reconnaissance unit, 10 PSK, had to cross the River Mark. At Nieuwe Veer, just south of Moerdijk, they attempted to do so, but both the brand new road bridge and the railway bridge had been blown up. It was therefore decided to send the infantry, the 8th Battalion nicknamed the 'Blood Shirts', across the River Mark in boats. The result of this was the formation of a small bridgehead on 31 October.

Polish bridgehead

The opposing forces, the 245 Infantry Division of Lieutenant-General Sander, did not take long to respond, and soon German counterattacks followed one after another. The German response was so fierce because the road to Moerdijk had to be kept open as long as possible for the retreating troops. During the following night, reinforcements were brought in via floating bridges in the form of eight Sherman tanks and two M-10 Self Propelled Guns, and on 1 November the Polish forces managed to enlarge the bridgehead somewhat. However, the German troops launched a renewed counterattack and pushed them back again to near the Mark.


One Sherman tank after another was knocked out, and at 6pm the decision was taken to abandon the bridgehead. Around midnight, all Polish troops were back on the south bank of the Mark. The battle had been short but extraordinarily fierce, and Polish losses were considerable: 16 killed, 40 wounded and eight missing. Two days later, Maczek's troops successfully crossed the Mark canal near Ter Aalst, and on 9 November Moerdijk finally fell into Polish hands.

Nieuwveerweg 2, Prinsenbeek