Belgium / Battlefield
One of the main operations during the battle for the Scheldt was to clear the "Breskens pocket", the German defensive positions at Breskens. On its way to Breskens, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division grinded to a halt near the Leopold Canal, close to the Dutch border. The Canadians faced fierce German resistance when they tried to cross the canal. The battle would last for more than a week and claim many lives. Finally, starting from a second front between Hoofdplaat and Paulinapolder, the operation to liberate West-Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and the Breskens pocket was launched.
A previous Canadian attempt to cross the canal on September 12 and 13, had already demonstrated the challenges ahead: Crossing the Leopold Canal and the adjacent Leie Canal would be a daunting challenge. In addition, many areas had been flooded. The flooding concealed enemy positions. Based on a reconnaissance expedition, it was decided that a crossing was only possible in a few locations.
Ultimately, a site was chosen just east of where the two canals split/go their separate way. This was a narrow strip of land along the Leopold Canal north of the Belgian village of Maldegem and toward the township of Moershoofd. The area was only a few hundred meters wide, the northern border being the Belgian-Dutch border.
The Allied attack began on October 6 with support of artillery and Wasp carriers, flame-throwing vehicles. The Wasps launched a ‘Wall of Fire’ across the Leopold Canal. This allowed Canadian troops to cross the canal in their assault boats and climb the steep banks on the other side.
The Canadians formed two small bridgeheads on the north side of the canal. The situation soon deteriorated when the German troops launched counterattacks with the support of all available mortars and artillery. On the canal dyke both parties attacked each other with hand grenades.
The Canadian soldiers retained their vulnerable bridgeheads. The front came to a halt. Only on October 9th the gap of several hundreds of meters between the two beachheads was closed. Three days later, after a bloody battle, the Canadians reached the other side of the road to Eede and Aardenburg, just one and a half kilometres away.
Eventually the offensive ended there. Meanwhile, further north, a second front was opened after landings on the shore between Hoofdplaat and the Paulinapolder. From there, the new Canadian advance would start, liberating the rest of West-Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.
Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.
Baileybrug Leopoldkanaal, Boomstraatje, Maldegem