The Netherlands / Battlefield
On 22 October, the second Canadian Infantry Division, under Brigade General Keefler, finally got the task of commencing the attack and crossing the Kreekrakdam to Zuid-Beveland. The attack was launched in the early morning of October 24 with heavy opening artillery bombardments. At 04.30 the first units of the fourth Infantry Brigade left the dam. The German resistance was quickly broken and the Kreekrakdam could be secured.
On October 16, almost a month after the end of the failed operation Market Garden, Field Marshal Montgomery stated that opening up the Scheldt estuary was the top priority of the Allied offensive against Nazi Germany.
More than a week after the fierce fighting at Woensdrecht and the liberation of the village, the attack on Zuid-Beveland began. This attack was given the code name Vitality I. The Canadian units had been hit hard by the previous major losses during the battle against the German units around Bergen op Zoom and the Brabantse Wal. They had to be replenished first, but this was a difficult task. The morale of the troops was low and they were exhausted.
After this initial success, the attack quickly stalled. As with operation Switchback in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, the Zeeland landscape with its abundance of water and mud turned out to be a formidable opponent. The German defenses made the most of this by skillfully placed minefields, inundations and fortified positions. Soon it became clear that the landscape did not lend itself to attacks with heavy equipment, such as tanks; the infantry had to take over once more. A rapid advance toward the Kanaal door Zuid-Beveland was unattainable and difficult.
In the early morning of October 25, Rilland-Bath was taken and Canadian units reached the dyke at Krabbendijke. The German commander, General Daser, had his troops withdrawn rapidly to new positions behind the Kanaal door Zuid-Beveland, following the breakthrough at the Kreekrakdam. On 26 October, the exhausted fourth Canadian infantry brigade was relieved by the sixth Infantry Brigade under Brigade-General Gauvreau and the first units reached the Canal.
Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.
Oude Rijksweg N289 (afslag N659 Oesterdam) in Rilland