The Netherlands / Story
Walcheren was of great strategic importance due to its location at the mouth of the Scheldt and the strong Atlantikwall. In order to be able to use the Port of Antwerp, the Allies had to conquer Walcheren. In preparation for an invasion and to minimize the risk of large numbers of casualties, it was decided to flood Walcheren by bombing the dykes.
After the commander-in-chief of the Allies, General Eisenhower, had authorized the bombing of the Zeedijk at Westkapelle, on October 2, two aircrafts were used to drop leaflets, warning the population of flooding caused by bombing the enemy forces and installations. However, the German occupying forces did not allow people to leave the island. Therefore, evacuation was not an option for the population.
The first bombs fell in the afternoon of October 3 at Westkapelle. The intention was to breach the sea dyke, but the attacks destroyed a large part of the village instead. A second raid did have the desired effect. The villagers could scarcely get themselves into safety. A group of people who had fled to the Windmill of Theune survived a full hit on the mill, however they became trapped behind the debris and drowned when the tide came in an hour later.
Because the water did not rise quickly enough, the Allies bombed the sea dykes at Flushing and Fort Rammekens four days later. This was more effective. On October 11, the Allied bombs also created five more holes in the dyke near Veere.
On October 17, Allied aircrafts once again bombed the dyke at Westkapelle. Almost three-quarters of the island was already flooded. The people of Walcheren fled and found shelter in the last dry places. Middelburg’s city centre was crowded with evacuees. Following the ultimate surrender of German Forces in Zeeland, many residents of Walcheren were evacuated to other parts of the Netherlands.
Only when the rest of the Netherlands had been liberated could Walcheren's floodings be tackled on a large scale. In the autumn of 1945, the breaches in the dikes at Westkapelle, Veere and Flushing were closed. The gap near Fort Rammekens was not closed until the beginning of 1946.
Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.
Zuidstraat 154-156, 4361 AK Westkapelle