Holandia / Pole bitwy

Tragedy of 's Gravenpolder




After the Canadians had crossed the Canal through Zuid-Beveland at Vlake and the Scots were slowly but surely gaining ground in the pocket of Zuid-Beveland, the German commander decided that further resistance in Zuid-Beveland was futile. He gave orders to withdraw his remaining troops to Walcheren. Unaware of the enemy's intentions, the Royal Regiment of Canada was ordered to descend from the canal bank into the hamlet of Eversdijk. The staff officers laid their maps on a large table and drew with lines the next attack targets. This time, the names of famous writers were used to mark the unpronounceable polder and dyke names. The advance began with Shakespeare and ended in tragedy for 's Gravenpolder .....

As shells whipped up white columns of canal water, small rickety assault boats were rowed across the Canal through Zuid-Beveland with all their might. A few hours earlier, another Canadian battalion had crossed the canal, but they had not yet managed to silence the German artillery. It was around noon on Saturday 28 October 1944 and the rowing soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Canada had orders to advance from the banks of the Canal through Zuid-Beveland to 's Gravenpolder that afternoon, to make contact with the Scots in Hoedekenskerke.

The soldiers entered enemy territory from Eversdijk. On the staff map, each kilometre was marked by a line with the name of a well-known British, literary grandmaster. Thus they went from 'Shakespeare', through 'Dryden' to 'Kipling'. There was little literary about the reality on the ground. The chilly Zeeland wind cut through the soldiers' uniforms, disarming one cold German soldier after another and sending them behind the front. There were 22 counted in the evening, as well as a booty of 14 horses and all manner of weaponry.

A little after five o'clock, the Canadian advance guard arrived at the corner of the Zaaidijk. 's Gravenpolder was a stone's throw away. A brief skirmish possibly ensued here, in which Private Richard Atchison lost his life. He was an anonymous newcomer who had joined the battalion four days earlier. Private Clarence Shaw was evacuated with wounds; he too did not survive. Atchison was buried the next morning by the chaplain at the church in 's Gravenpolder, Shaw found a temporary grave in Goes.

The losses made the company commander decide to use other means. While, out of sight of the attackers, the German occupation had already withdrawn from the village, heavy artillery opened fire from East Zeeland Flanders. A screeching sound approached from afar and huge explosions broke the silence of the evening. Thirty houses were completely destroyed and a dozen residents were killed. A monument in 's Gravenpolder recalls the dramatic night.

After peace had returned, the first Canadians arrived in the village after midnight. A few hours later, a scout made contact with Scottish soldiers just outside Hoedekenskerke. Mission accomplished, but the suffering in 's Gravenpolder was great.

Hoek Zaaidijk-Haagdijk, 's Gravenpolder