History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

MARKET-GARDEN Sep 44

(Arnhem)

BERLIN Nov 1944

(Nijmegen)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Bazentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

Flers-Courcelette

15-22 Sep 16

Thiepval

26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Cambrai, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Breskens Pocket

Breskens Pocket was a Battle Honour granted to Canadian units participating in actions fought south of the Scheldt Estuary during the Battle of the Scheldt in the North-West Europe Campaign of the Second World War.

The port facilities of Antwerp had been captured largely intact in early September 1944. Major port facilities had always been an objective of the Allied forces ashore on the Continent ever since the invasion on 6 June 1944. German forces remained in possession of many of the larger French ports (and in some cases would continue to do so until the end of the war). The Scheldt Estuary, the waterway leading from the sea into the port, remained unusable by Allied shipping as long as German coastal batteries on Walcheren Island dominated the approaches. German land forces were placed both on Walcheren, and to the south in what the Germans designated Scheldt Fortress South. The area south of the Scheldt became known as the Breskens Pocket.

Battle of the Scheldt

The ScheldtLeopold Canal – Woensdrecht – Savojaards PlaatBreskens Pocket – South Beveland – Walcheren Causeway – The Lower Maas

 

The Official History of the Canadian Army noted:

The Pocket was entirely low-lying land, much of it reclaimed from the sea and none of it more than a few feet above sea level; on a map where heights are shown by contours at 10-metre intervals, there are no contours whatever within the Pocket. Quite apart from the Leopold Canal along its front, the German position was protected by large areas of inundation on both its eastern and western flanks; and all the approaches, and the Pocket itself, were intersected by ditches and canals. The roads were almost all built on dykes, and the fields were saturated. Off the roads, movement even by infantry was difficult; movement by vehicles was impossible.1


The operations on the Scheldt were slow to develop. While the first attacks on the canals to the south had taken place midway through September, 21st Army Group found itself with several competing priorities. The two main targets of the Army Group were the Ruhr and Antwerp. Operation MARKET-GARDEN, and the drive to cross the Rhine at Arnhem, occupied many resources. The 1st Canadian Army, moreover, found much of its resources occupied with the Channel Ports during this period, and German unwillingness to yield meant that forces had to be left to the rear of the army as they advanced into Belgium. At the start of October the 2nd Canadian Corps was tasked as follows:

(a) attack and destroy, or capture, all 'enemy remaining in the area of Belgium and Holland, south of the West Schelde (Operation "Switchback")
(b) on conclusion of Operation "Switchback" develop operations with 2 Cdn Inf Div to clear Zuid Beveland.
(c) capture the Island of Walcheren (Operation "Infatuate").

In the event, the first two operations actually ran simultaneously, and Operation SWITCHBACK, the clearing of the Breskens Pocket, occurred while the fighting for Zuid Beveland (South Beveland) happened.

German Defences

The German 64th Infantry Division was established south of the Scheldt Estuary, their positions designated Scheldt Fortress South.

(The Division had) fought in the Battle of the Albert Canal and was left isolated when the 15th Army withdrew behind the Scheldt. On October 2 the division commander, Major General Kurt Eberding, had a total of 2,350 infantrymen, plus more than 8,500 support and miscellaneous service troops, many of whom were not organic to the division. Eberding hedgehogged, incorporated his service troops into the infantry and, despite overwhelming odds, chose to fight the entire Canadian II Corps, rather than surrender. This decision led to the month-long Battle of the Breskens Pocket, in which the 64th Infantry Division was gradually crushed...The 64th Infantry had been totally destroyed but had bought valuable time for the German Army; it had, in fact, given Hitler enough time to launch the Ardennes Offensive.2

Their front was covered by deep water barriers except for a gap near the Isabella Polder at the south-west angle of the Braakman Inlet. There, the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division had made several attempts to breach the German line, beginning on 22 September 1944 when an entire platoon of The Algonquin Regiment had been lost. A full-scale attack on 5 October by the Algonquins was driven off by heavy fire. These attacks were intended to divert German attention from the Leopold Canal crossing though the Canadian official historian notes that German records do not reveal if that was actually the case.

The Leopold Canal front itself was unpromising...the entire western half of the Pocket was covered by the two canals, the Leopold and the Canal de Derivation de la Lys, running side by side, as well as by heavy inundations. It was very undesirable to attack here, the double canal obstacle in itself being extremely formidable. The operation therefore had to be launched east of the point where the canals separated, the area between them having been occupied by the 4th Division. But there too inundations almost all along the front made the problem extremely difficult. The best place available, and it was not a good one, seemed to be immediately east of the divergence of the two canals. Here there was a narrow strip of dry ground beyond the Leopold—a long triangle with its base on the Aldegem—Aardenburg road and its apex near the village of Moershoofd some three miles east. It was only a few hundred yards broad even at its
base. Its northern boundary coincided with the border between Belgium and the Netherlands.
3

The 3rd Canadian Division, moving almost immediately from its assault on Calais 90 miles away, moved into the assault on the Leopold Canal, their plan to combine the water crossing of the canal with a waterborne attack from Terneuzen, ground that had earlier been cleared by the Polish Armoured Division. The 7th Brigade was to cross the Leopold with an additional battalion of the 8th Brigade under command, while the 9th crossed the Braakman Inlet in amphibious vehicles two days later.

The Leopold Canal
See also main article on: Leopold Canal

On the morning of 6 October 1944, two companies of the Canadian Scottish successfully crossed the Leopold Canal near Oosthoek without coming under enemy fire. North of Moerhuizen, the Regina Rifles put a company across (in fact, the Headquarters Defence Company of 1st Canadian Army (Royal Montreal Regiment) which had exchanged duties temporarily with "B" Company of the Regina Rifles to earn battle experience) before the Germans were able to react. The other company of the Reginas delayed its crossing and the Germans laid down such heavy fire that a crossing was made impossible. The three remaining Regina Rifles companies had to shift to the west.

With two separate and narrow bridgeheads on the north bank, enemy reaction was violent and counter-attacks immediate. The two bridgeheads could not be linked, and desperately hung on in the face of violent mortar, machine gun and small arms fire. Kapok bridges were thrown across the canal in the evening and The Royal Winnipeg Rifles passed across the front of the Canadian Scottish on the night of 6-7 October. The bridgehead was secure, but deadlocked, and the troops remained in waterlogged slit trenches for several days under heavy shellfire, some from coastal batteries as far north as Cadzand.

Early on 9 October, the Winnipeg Rifles sealed the gap between the two bridgeheads, and by early morning of 12 October the brigade had pushed to the left to narrow and deepen the bridgehead, covering bridging operations on the main road running north to Aardenburg, the natural axis of advance. One company of Canadian Scottish had pushed astride the main road and on the 13th gained a foothold in Eede. By evening, engineers of the 4th (Armoured) Division had completed bridges near Strooibrug and on the 14th, tanks of the British Columbia Regiment entered the bridgehead. The 9th Brigade was by then pressuring the rear of the pocket, and the 7th Brigade's ordeal was over, at a cost of 533 casualties among the three infantry battalions.

The Assault Across the Braakman
See also main article Savojaards Platt

The fierce resistance at the Leopold Canal changed the expected course of Operation SWITCHBACK. The 7th Brigade's effort, originally considered to be the main drive, became de-emphasized in favour of the 9th Brigades attack from Terneuzen. using Terrapin amphibious trucks and armoured Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVTs, also known as "Buffaloes") from the 5th Assault Regiment, Royal Engineers of the 79th Armoured Division, the 9th Brigade married up near Ghent then swam up the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal to Terneuzen, then across the mouth of the Braakman Inlet to land east of Hoofdplaat at the rear of the German pocket.

The landing was planned for early morning on 8 October, but a diversion was necessary at Terneuzen around damaged locks, and some vehicles were damaged in the process. Despite anxious moments where fear of German observation suggested a loss of surprised, a 24-hour delay imposed no actual danger, and the landing occurred early on 9 October. Two columns of 48 vehicles left the mouth of the canal at Terneuzen just after midnight, following a motorboat bearing the Royal Navy liaison officer from 1st Canadian Army headquarters. One column, with The North Nova Scotia Highlanders, headed for GREEN BEACH two miles east of Hoofdplaat, the other column with The Highland Light Infantry of Canada, landed on AMBER BEACH closer to the Braakman. Guided by coloured markers fired by artillery, the columns touched down only five minutes late, with no opposition other than a few scattered shots fired at the HLI. German coastal batteries at Flushing did not become active until dawn.

The reserve battalion, The Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders, protected by a smokescreen, was ashore by 09:30hrs in the company of mortars and machine guns of The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa. The SDG advanced on Hoofdplaat while the assault battalions pressed forward, the Germans beginning to react to the landings, with shellfire from Breskens and Flushing becoming vigorous.

Opposition was heaviest on the front of the Highland Light Infantry, moving against Biervliet. General Eberding had rapidly committed his divisional reserve against the new menace, and although he later described the reserve as composed of odds and ends it fought well. It is of interest that "the prevailing mist" allowed the Germans to ferry two companies of the 70th Division across the Scheldt from Walcheren to reinforce the 64th in this crisis. Our advance was slow. The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry captured Hoofdplaat on 10 October. Biervliet did not fall until the evening of the 11th, after the 7th Reconnaissance Regiment, the first reinforcement sent into the bridgehead, had relieved The Highland Infantry of Canada in the line and enabled it to mount an attack against the village.4

The stalemated advance beyond the Leopold Canal bridgehead prevented the 8th Brigade from being used as intended. The General Officer Commanding the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Major-General Dan Spry, changed his plans accordingly when the 9th Brigade made better than expected progress on their front. On 9 October the 8th Brigade was ordered to prepare to attack by land through the Isabella area to link up with the 9th, and the next day, plans changed again when The Algonquin Regiment failed to batter open a route for them at Isabella. The 8th Brigade was instead landed in the rear of the new bridgehead of the 9th Brigade, which was now over-extended with a gap between the HLI in Biervliet and the North Novas to their right.

The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment led the brigade into the bridgehead on 11 October, and on the 12th the brigade was complete and ashore, taking over the left flank in the face of heavy German shelling.

The 10th Infantry Brigade (of 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division) had been quietly holding positions on the Leopold Canal during this period. On 9-10 October, patrols from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada south of Watervliet met fierce opposition. On 14 October, the Argylls and the Algonquins at Isabella both found the enemy withdrawing and pushed their troops forward. Patrols of the Algonquins met up with those of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada coming south past the southwestern angle of the Braakman Inlet. A land route to the bridgehead was open and the ferry service from Terneuzen could be dispensed with.

Although enemy resistance remained fierce near Strooibrug, Eede was occupied on 16 October, and at last light on 18 October, the first troops of the British 52nd (Lowland) Division came under command of the 3rd Canadian Division, relieving the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Leopold Canal bridgehead and occupying Aardenburg and Middelbourg the next day without opposition and making contact with the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment. German troops were falling back to secondary defences, with a line running through Breskens-Schoondijke-Oostburg-Sluis-Leopold, the 64th Division having lost over 3,000 men captured so far to the 3rd Canadian Division.

Attack on the Second Defensive Line

The plan for the renewed attack involved firstly the 9th Brigade capturing Breskens and Schoondijke. The 7th Brigade, afforded a short rest following the Leopold Canal fighting, was to pass through and clear the entire coastal area north-east of Cadzand, while simultaneously the 8th Brigade captured Oostburg, Sluis and Cadzand, then clearing what remained of the German pocket between the Leopold Canal and the coast.

There was a desire to use the specialized AFVs of the 79th Armoured Division wherever the terrain permitted it, but an explosion involving a vehicle carrying flamethrower fuel on 20 October at Ijzendijke destroyed 10 vehicles and caused 84 casualties, hampering operations of the division.

The assault began on 21 October under clear skies when The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders attacked Breskens. Air support was available in large quantities, and Typhoons flew many sorties. The small port town fell by noon, and patrols pushed on to Fort Frederik Hendrik. The HLI attacked Schoondijke the next day, but were unable to take it in the face of heavy opposition, and the town was not secured until 24 October.
 


Wounded infantrymen of The North Shore Regiment being offloaded from a Terrapin amphibious vehicle of the 79th Armoured Division,
photographed west of Terneuzen, Netherlands, on 13 October 1944. LAC Photo

The defences at Fort Frederik Hendrik required greater preparation; the original fort was mostly gone with the exception of two lines of water defences, but the Germans had built new concrete works, and two companies of North Novas were repelled on 22 October. Another, deliberate, attack was planned for 25 October following bombardment by artillery and medium bombers. However, a German deserter the night before reported only 23 Germans remaining in the fort; he was sent back with an ultimatum and the remainder of his comrades surrendered. The 9th Brigade, its work done, was withdrawn for a rest. German intelligence was alarmed by their sudden disappearance, as hoped.

Generalmajor Kurt Eberding, commanding Infanterie Division 64, planned on using Oostburg as a pivot, swinging the left flank of the division back on a series of concentric dykes that centred on Cadzand. General Spry had foreseen this maneuver, however, and the German plans were disrupted by the speed of the 7th Brigade's advanced into the coastal area beyond Fort Frederik Hendrik. On 24 October, Groede was declared an open town following a German request; large numbers of civilians and wounded in hospital remained there after the Germans pulled out. The 7th Brigade advanced on either side of the town, hoping to outflank Cadzand along the coast and seizing the headquarters of the 64th Division there. The Canadian Scottish suffered losses on 27 October when their lead company was strongly counter-attacked and overrun. The Germans were aided by accurate fire from batteries on Walcheren Island, still in enemy hands. Cadzand was abandoned and occupied by the Canadians on 29 October.


Captain W.A. Teed of the North Shore Regiment, Embarkation Staff Officer of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, talking with Captain C.J. Aendry, crew commander of an LVT amphibious vehicle of 79th Armoured Division, near Terneuzen, Netherlands, 13 October 1944.

The 8th Brigade, in the meantime, had been slowly advancing on Oostburg over saturated ground, often roadbound and delayed by numerous strongpoints. Oostburg itself fell to the Queen's Own Rifles on 26 October, and on the 29th slackening resistance indicated another general enemy withdrawal. Le Régiment de la Chaudière seized Zuidzande the same day, as the enemy pulled back over the Uitwaterings Canal, "beyond the old fortified position of Retranchement," and in the words of the official history of the Canadian Army, "was now penned in the last comer of his pocket."

On 30 October the 7th Brigade, advancing along the coast, found the enemy still in possession of well-fortified coastal batteries immediately north-west of Cadzand, and reducing these occupied it for the next three days. As late as the 27th, at least, the Germans had been supplying these positions with ammunition, and evacuating casualties from this area to Flushing, by sea; on that date 400 casualties reached Flushing safely. But they were unable to evacuate their prisoners taken on the 27th; the Canadian Scottish got 35 of their missing comrades back on 2 November. By the evening of 30 October the 8th Brigade had troops across the canal north of Sluis, and that night the 9th again moved into action. The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and The Highland Light Infantry of Canada formed a bridgehead at Retranchement, and merely postponed their advance until the canal could be bridged behind them. As soon as this was accomplished the brigade pressed forward. On 1 November the H.L.I. of C. cleared "Little Tobruk", a formidable strongpoint just east of Knocke-sur-Mer. Corporal N. E. Tuttle worked under fire for twenty minutes or more, cutting a gap through the German wire; he then led his platoon through it to the assault, winning the D.C.M. The same day The North Nova Scotia Highlanders captured General Eberding at Het Zoute nearby; the North Shore Regiment took Sluis, with its ancient fortifications; and the 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment R.C.A., fighting as infantry, crossed the Sluis Canal at its junction with the Leopold and cleared the north bank.

Operation "Switchback" was virtually brought to completion on 2 November. The 9th Brigade had cleared the area of Knocke and Heyst; the 7th had ended the resistance in the coastal strongpoints near Cadzand; and the 8th had cleaned up the last enemy in the flooded area south of Knocke. The 7th Reconnaissance Regiment, which had latterly taken over the task of containing the enemy's western flank, found no enemy in Zeebrugge or between the Bruges Ship Canal and the Leopold on the morning of 3 November. At 9:50 a.m. that day the entry was made in the operations log at Headquarters 3rd Division, "Op Switchback now complete"; and somebody wrote beside it, "Thank God!"5

Pre-eminent Canadian Army historian Terry Copp summed up the Breskens Pocket fighting by saying that the battles there by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division "must surely rank with the most difficult fought by any Allied formation in the Second World War."6

Aftermath

The fighting for Scheldt Fortress North - the Beveland isthmus and Walcheren Island - raged simultaneous to the fighting in the Breskens Pocket. Even before the Pocket was eliminated, British troops had come ashore on Walcheren Island. The capture of Breskens and Fort Frederik Hendrik between 21 and 25 October provided positions from which Allied artillery could be brought to bear on Walcheren before Canadian assaults on the island proper. The withdrawal of artillery for that task had unfortunately left little support for the 3rd Canadian Division during the final stages of SWITCHBACK.

An intelligence summary by 1st Canadian Army in the immediate wake of the battle, referred to the 64th Infantry Division as "the best infantry division we have met." The Germans had been well supported by numerous heavy guns of the Atlantic Wall, and the terrain had been atrocious - as the Canadian official history noted, Belgian military manuals described the local polder as "generalement impropre aux operations militaires". The 3rd Division nonetheless captured 12,707 German soldiers while many others had been killed, wounded or evacuated from the Pocket. The Canadians suffered 2,077 casualties by contemporary reckoning, including 314 killed and 231 missing, most of whom were also killed.

Infantry had borne the greatest burden in the Breskens Pocket fighting, as the ground had been unsuitable for tanks, though the Army's official history noted that on those occasions they were able to come into action, they were "most helpful." Artillery had been extremely valuable, and "linear and pinpoint concentrations, brought down on call, had been used to particular advantage." And whenever weather permitted, air support was "heavy and excellent" with 1733 fighter sorties and 508 medium and heavy bomber sorties flown in support of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during Operation SWITCHBACK. The Army's history also specifically mentioned the work of the engineers.

Battle Honours

The following Canadian units were awarded the Battle Honour "Breskens Pocket" for participation in these actions:

Image:3gif.gif 3rd Canadian Division

  • 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars)

  • The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (MG)

Image:3gif7bde.gif 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles

  • The Regina Rifle Regiment

  • The Canadian Scottish Regiment

Image:3gif8bde.gif 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada

  • Le Regiment de la Chaudiere

  • The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment

Image:3gif9bde.gif 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Highland Light Infantry of Canada

  • The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders

  • The North Nova Scotia Highlanders

Image:4gif10bde.gif 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • The Lincoln and Welland Regiment

  • The Algonquin Regiment

  • The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's)

 

Notes

  1. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume III: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-west Europe 1944-45 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1960)
  2. Mitcham, Samuel W. German Order of Battle, Volume 1: 1st-290th Infantry Divisions in World War II (Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2007) ISBN 978-0-8117-3416-5, p.114
  3. Stacey, Ibid
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Copp, Terry Cinderella Army: The Canadians in Northwest Europe 1944-45 (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON, 2007) ISBN 978-0-8020-9522-0, p.117

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