The Netherlands / Battlefield

Grenades bounce across the Sloedam




The main target in the Battle of the Scheldt were the coastal batteries in the dunes of Walcheren. To silence these guns, the island was flooded and attacked from three directions. At Westkapelle and Vlissingen, British units carried out landings by sea. Near Arnemuiden, the Canadians attempted to reach the island along the Sloedam causeway. On the night of All Saints' Day, 31 October to 1 November 1944, the Calgary Highlanders made an attempt to cross the causeway. The German defences braced themselves and a veritable barrage erupted.

Corporal Powell (B Company, Calgary Highlanders) wrote that they left just before midnight. The shells coming from their own guns hurtled over their heads, to strike with great noise and a brief flash of light at the German end of the dyke. The noise was unnerving and deafening. You couldn't even hear yourself think, Powell said.

As soon as they got closer to the end of the causeway, the defences opened fire. With everything at their disposal, the Germans sprayed the long dyke. Like chaotic fireworks, glowing bullets and grenades drew streaks of light crisscrossing the air. Hits from explosives made the dyke body tremble under soldiers' boots. An anti-tank gun fired massive armour-piercing shells along the bare embankment. The red-hot projectiles hurtled past, bouncing in all directions like a pinball over the basalt blocks.

Around Corporal Powell, one comrade after another tumbled to the ground injured. One incident remained etched in Powell's memory. At the time, the whole group was lying as flat as possible on the ground when a shell exploded close to a comrade. The badly hit soldier still stammered "I'm dying" before he was left motionless. The survivors rolled into a huge crater, from where they could hear German soldiers talking a little further away. Powell and his comrades huddled in the crater, keeping as still as possible, while flares above their heads bathed the night in daylight. The hours crept on slowly until they were given permission to retreat. Metre by metre they crept back along the Sloedam causeway back to their starting position. For now, the road to Walcheren remained barred.

Postweg, Lewedorp