The Netherlands / Battlefield

Canadians paddle like ducks




The advance through Zuid-Beveland, Operation Vitality, was aimed at reaching the Sloedam, after which the invasion of Walcheren could begin. After the Kreekrakdam was in Canadian hands, troops of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade moved toward the Canal through Zuid-Beveland. Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal were ordered to cross the canal at Hansweert. Conditions in the flooded polders of Kruiningen were more than miserable ....

The French-speaking soldiers of Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal boarded a line of trucks at Korteven in West Brabant on Thursday morning, Oct. 26. The column drove between flooded polders over muddy dike roads toward Waarde, halfway across the peninsula of Zuid-Beveland. The attack objective was Hansweert, on the other side of the Canal through Zuid-Beveland. A well-defended bridgehead was to be established there. From there, other Canadian battalions were to follow up to the Sloedam.

In the middle of the night they marched into the hamlet of Waarde and carried off 54 prisoners who allowed themselves to be overpowered without defense. After a short night, Les Fusiliers left in the direction of Hansweert. Already a few kilometers after Waarde, the vehicles stopped. The Fusiliers could not continue due to a tank ditch across the width of the peninsula. The soldiers continued the wet march on foot, grumbling that they were like ducks. Just beyond the built-up area of Kruiningen, a German rearguard opened fire from the channel dike. The fusiliers flew into cover. The hours crept by as the soldiers made themselves as invisible as possible in the sodden landscape. The constant rain, dripping through their meager rain caps, made conditions even more miserable.

During Friday afternoon, the battalion commander joined his men. Superior Paul Sauve energetically handed out orders for the next move. Thus, just after sunset, the first Canadians, soaked to the bone, arrived on the east bank of the canal. Meanwhile, the enemy had withdrawn and a second company arrived at the destroyed locks of Hansweert. The cold water was up to their waists when they spotted the first houses of Hansweert on the other side at dusk. Around 11 p.m., the battalion dug into the eastern dike of the canal.

After nightly reconnaissance, the attack began at 5 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28. The only access to Hansweert was through the destroyed locks. The enemy barely resisted, soon 121 German soldiers were carried off with their hands above their heads. Hansweert finally fell into Canadian hands. Tense, Les Fusiliers dug in to accommodate a possible counterattack. Fortunately, things remained calm and after the soldiers of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry took over the positions, the fusiliers left. It was high time to dry up.

Sluizen Kanaal door Zuid-Beveland, Hansweert