Mine sweeping activities on the Scheldt, 1944

Preface

Inhoudsopgave

For the Royal Netherlands Navy, the most direct and visible contribution to the liberation of The Netherlands was the participation in mine sweeping actions on the Scheldt in the second half of 1944. After the large allied invasion in Normandy on 6 June 1944 and the finale of 2,5 months of bitter fighting at Falaise in August 1944, American, British, Canadian and Polish troops advanced further into North West Europe. On 2 September 1944 the allies advanced into Belgium where the fighting was remarkably easier. Already one day later, Brussels and Tournai were liberated followed by Mechelen, Louvain and Antwerp a day later. The last city especially was of tantamount importance to the allies. Antwerp was the third largest harbour of West Europe and was captured almost entirely intact. The Belgian resistance played an important role in this. The German Ardennes Offensive from 16 December 1944 onwards was primarily intended to reconquer Antwerp and by doing so to split the allied armies and cut off their main source of supply.

In order to be able to use Antwerp's large port facilities the 70 kms long waterway from the Scheldt estuary to the Flemish harbour had to be cleared. The most western part of this stretch, between Zeeuws Vlaanderen, South Beveland and Walcheren, remained under German control. In order to capture Walcheren an amphibious landing on a large scale was necessary, operation Infatuate. After British heavy bombers destroyed parts of the dikes, a large part of the island and with it the extensive German defensive positions was flooded. On 1 November, the first allied assault waves came ashore. In Flushing, British No.4 Army Commando managed to drive away the Germans after vicious fighting. Also in Westkapelle there was heavy fighting but the allies were supported by the heavy batteries of the battleship HMS Warspite and the monitors HMS Erebus and HMS Roberts. On top of that the British and Canadians could count on fighter bombers and rocket firing Typhoons.

In the night of 2 to 3 November 1944, the advancing Canadians captured the Sloedam, the connecting dam between South Beveland and Walcheren. The German forces by now were surrounded on three sides and they capitulated on 8 November. Some 2,000 Germans became prisoners of war. In the meantime the rest of Zeeuws Vlaanderen had been liberated so that the entire estuary of the Scheldt was in allied hands. A beginning was made to demine the Westerscheldt. The harbour of Oostende had already been captured by the allies on 10 September 1944 and large efforts were made by the British to press this harbour into service for the supply effort for their troops.

Definitielijst

Ardennes Offensive
Battle of the Bulge, ďVon Rundstedt offensiveď or ďdie Wacht am Rheinď. Final large German offensive in the west from December 1944 through January 1945.
battleship
Heavily armoured warship with very heavy artillery.
invasion
Armed incursion.
mine
An object filled with explosives, equipped with detonator which is activated by either remote control or by colliding with the targeted object. Mines are intended to destroy of damage vehicles, aircrafts or vessels, or to injure, kill or otherwise putting staff out of action. It is also possible to deny enemy access of a specific area by laying mines.
Offensive
Attack on a smaller or larger scale.
resistance
Resistance against the enemy. Often also with armed resources.
rocket
A projectile propelled by a rearward facing series of explosions.

Pagina navigatie

Afbeeldingen


The Dutch Motor Mine Sweeper (MMS) HNLMS Duiveland took part in the clearing operations on the Scheldt
(Source: Warships ww2)


The Scheldt delta in the province of Zeeland 1940-1945.
(Source: P. Kimenai Go2War2)


Bombing of the dikes in order to flood German defences on Walcheren.
(Source: Wikipedia)


German prisoners of war in Middelburg.
(Source: Zeeuwse Ankers)


The fight in the South of The Netherlands.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Informatie

Translated by:
Peter ter Haar
Article by:
Peter Kimenai
Published on:
20-02-2015
Last edit on:
10-10-2016
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