The Netherlands / Story
On October 1, 1944, 247 Lancaster bombers targeted the sea dyke and the village of Westkapelle with the aim of flooding the island of Walcheren. This would silence the German guns and save Allied human lives. The unimaginable destruction and civilian casualties were considered collateral damage.
Due to the altitude of the area, the bombing did not have the desired effect. Therefore, on October 7, the sea dykes at Flushing and Ritthem were bombed. Four days later, 62 Lancasters bombers performed another bombardment on the dyke just west of the old town of Veere. A total of 374 tonnes of bombs were dropped during this mission.
After this attack, seawater flooded into the lower lying parts around Veere through five enormous breaches in the dyke. A large part of the population left hearth and home to dryer parts situated east of Veere and in the direction of Middelburg.
After the liberation, the area around Veere would remain flooded for a long time. It was not until October 1945 that the painstaking task began to close the breaches with millions of pounds of sand and stone and stacks of wood. After closing the holes, the draining of water began. The following weeks, 25 million litres of water were pumped from the lands. The inhabitants finally got rid of mud, shellfish, salt and seaweed.
The bombs had not only destroyed the dyke, but also had created deep craters in the country. The creeks these created are still there. Returning farmers had a difficult time. Walcheren was a desolate, bare plain, the cattle had died and the fields were drenched with saltwater. However, in the spring of 1946 the farmers started working again. Although potatoes and onions did not grow in the salt-soaked soil, oats and winter corn, among other things, proved to be quite capable to do so. Emergency farms were built to get farmers back to work quickly. Slowly, but steadily, Walcheren recovered from the disaster.
Only eight years after the inundations of the war, the water would come again. In the night of January 31 to February 1, 1953, the fragile dykes in Zeeland broke again. The Big Flood of 1953 killed nearly 1900 people and was the direct reason for the Delta Plan. Only a few kilometres from the former breach in the dyke at Veere, the first closure of a sea channel in Zeeland would be accomplished with the completion of the Veerse Dam.
Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.