|On Saturday, April 23, 2016 I took part in the STIWOT Battlefield Tour "Battle for Woensdrecht". This tour was led by Johan van Doorn, Foundation for Historical Research WW2.|
|We met the famous Brabant hospitality in the restaurant Non Plus Ultra to Woensdrecht, where we were welcomed with delicious coffee. was served a lunch here at noon.|
|Prior to the tour we were handed a beautiful travel guide with maps.|
|After the tour end we received from our tour leader his book "Battle for Woensdrecht. Liberation of the southwest corner of Brabant."|
|Johan van Doorn signs his book Battle for Woensdrecht after the battlefield tour Woensdrecht.|
|This tour fits very well with the battlefield tour I made in 2014 to Zeeland. Theme was the Battle of the Scheldt. But before the 1st Canadian Army reached Zeeland it had to first occupy the southwest corner of Brabant. Here, among other things, found himself Woensdrecht, which then already was a Fliegerhorst. But Hoogerheide and Putte, where we also got an explanation. And finally, we visited Bergen op Zoom, where finally the Battle of Woensdrecht was completed.|
|During World War II in
October 1944, as part of the wider Battle of the Scheldt, the "Battle
of Woensdrecht" took place where Woensdrecht, and Hoogerheide
flattened almost were. Between 16 and October 24, 1944 there was
heavy fighting between German troops and the Canadian, including the
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. Woensdrecht was crucial to have
access to South Beveland, which in turn access to the Scheldt and
the use of the port of Antwerp meant. Beware October 24, 1944 and
after heavy losses the Canadian troops liberated won the battle and
were Woensdrecht and surroundings. For this battle and its victims
have been established three monuments that can be found around the "Triangle"
of Nederheide, Nieuweweg and Onderstal.
On Friday, October 13, 1944 the regiment
The Black Watch opened a frontal attack on the Germans. They were
digging in near the railroad from Bergen op Zoom to Flushing and in
the upland woods near Lindonk. The Canadians had to attack through
the polders west of Woensdrecht. They had almost no shelter and ran
through open fields to meet the enemy.
The weeks of fighting in and around
Woensdrecht turned the village into a mess. According to
eyewitnesses, it looked like hell on earth. There were snipers,
hand-to-hand combat with bayonets, Allied aircraft who conducted air
raids, cannons showered the shells, tanks fired upon each other and
minefields that made until after the war victims. Estimated there
were German and Allied side nearly a thousand deaths
|During the bus ride we got already a good impression of the battlefield on one side of the intersected with dykes and polders on the other side of the Brabantse Wal. The steep edge of the Brabant Wal, the abrupt transition from the upper to the lower sandy clay polders, swinging exactly parallel to the Canadian advance route. The German defenders made good use of this natural phenomenon, including through the flooding of several polders. The start of the Canadian advance was well and soon was from Ossendrecht on October 7, 1944 the 22-meter reach higher Hoogerheide. Once in Hoogerheide itself but the advance stalled.|
|Here we stand on the embankment on the Brabant shore, where Johan van Doorn gives us an explanation of the bitter fighting in the dykes intersected with landscape..|
Explanation by our guide at the crossroads "Devastated corner" in Hoogerheide
|Our bus stopped in Hoogerheide, at an intersection known as "The destroyed corner." Here we were told by our guide that the German army led by the Canadian advance the necessity of sending reinforcements began to see. This German reinforcements, including German 6th Parachute Regiment under von der Heydte, began arriving on October 8, 1944. Thus, the situation changed from a Canadian advance on October 7 at a stalemate on 8 October and a German counterattack on 9 October. The German counter-attack was supported by Sturmgeschütze and the Canadians had to withdraw under German pressure to the southern part of Hoogerheide.|
|Here we are at the crossroads in Hoogerheide known as "The destroyed corner"|
|The day-long street battles destroyed many homes in Hoogerheide, hence the name "the desolate corner." After visiting "The destroyed corner" we walked to a point on the former Antwerpsestraatweg which has taken a familiar picture of a disabled Sturmgeschütz III. Many of the houses on the old photos are still recognizable in the current scene. The fighting at Hoogerheide also went through on October 10 and on October 11 ended the warring parties in Hoogerheide ended in a stalemate. The rest came from this was used by both sides for supplying reinforcements and reorganizing the troops.|
|The result after long days of street fighting in the Raadhuisstraat of Hoogerheide: massive devastation in the village. It killed dozens of soldiers of the Calgary Highlanders, Black Watch of Canada and Fallschirm Jäger Regiment 6.|
Hoogerheide, "de destroyed corner" (crossroad Raadhuisstraat-Duinstraat)
Hoogerheide, Antwerpsestraatweg met disabled Stug
Hoogerheide, Antwerpsestraatweg: Calgary Highlanders on the way to their final action at Linkdonk 27 oktober 1944
|More about the battle at Hoogerheide you may find on the site of Omroep Brabant.|
|Baron August von der Heydte, commander of the German elit forces at Woensdrecht.|
|Sinds 1978 this Sherman Tank stands on this site and remember the people of Woensdrecht on the heavy battles during the Battle of Woensdrecht. The number 52 on the tank refers to the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Fort Garry Horse)|
Group photo at the monument in Woensdrecht
|In the polders west of Woensdrecht. As the march through Hoogerheide was halted the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade now would made an attempt to march on Friday, October 13th, 1944 through the flooded polders west of Woensdrecht to the elevated railway and behind it road on the Kreekrakdam. That day the Canadians pulled over an embankment surrounded by water in the direction of the elevated railway line behind which sat entrenched German defenders. It ended in a bloodbath and this Friday the 13th is still known in Canada as "Black Friday." There were 183 casualties including 58 dead.|
Difference in heigh Brabantse Wal: such a board is quite unique in the Netherlands...
View from Woensdrecht on Brabantse Wal
Explenation of a model about the Battle of Woensdrecht
|Now the attack on the polders were stranded Canadians focused again on the rise from Hoogerheide to Woensdrecht. This time, the attack would be carried out by the Canadian 4th Infantry Brigade. By bus we visited different viewpoints in Woensdrecht to get a good picture of the battlefield. Eventually we stopped in the Bossestraat Woensdrecht for an explanation of the Canadian attack on October 16, 1944. Preceded by an artillery bombardment attack started well, but mid-morning, the Canadians lost the initiative. The experienced Von der Heydte started showing a German counterattack and were Canadians on the Bossestraat about to be overrun.|
|We walk through the Bossestraat in Woensdrecht, where the Canadians were heavily under friendly fire, because they threatened to overflow to the Germans ...|
|At that time, applied for a so-called Victor Target by Canadians in the artillery. A Victor Target was the signal for all the artillery of the 2nd Canadian Corps to fire on their own lines. Within moments came about 50 tons of shells down near the Bossestraat in Woensdrecht. Canadian supporters had themselves covered but the German attackers were in open country and were massacred by the artillery. Here on the edge of Woensdrecht provisionally ended the advance of the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division. Both sides were exhausted and could not develop more attacks.|
|E disabled bren carrier of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry in Bossestraat.|
|According to the guide, there is not much changed in the vicinity of the Boss Street, where the Canadians were under friendly fire, in order to avoid being flooded by the Germans under the foot. Lay everything is peaceful at and to propose it hard to believe that there has been a terrible artillery here.|
|During the Battle of Woensdrecht the tanks of Fort Garry Horse were major support. The Sherman tank was nicknamed "Adanac" and was the only tank of the tank unit that had survived the battle in Normandy. "Adanac" himself joined in the fight to Woensdrecht.|
|We left the bus at
Woensdrecht and viewed from the elevated railway line for the last
time the combat zone. Through Lindonk we drove in the direction of
Bergen op Zoom for the last part of the Battlefield Tour. While the
advance of the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division crashed was in fact
already prepared a new Canadian advance. For this, the entire
Canadian First Army was mobilized for a march east from Woensdrecht
Bergen op Zoom. The attack would begin on October 20, 1944 and
October 23, 1944 the area was between Essen and Wouwse Plantation
reached north-east of Woensdrecht.
The German defenders Woensdrecht were now encircled about to be pulled from the elevated railway and slowly returned to Bergen op Zoom. On October 24, 1944 attacked units of the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division again after which they crossed the elevated railway line and the road over the Kreekrakdam. After terrible battles Walcheren and South Beveland were cut off from the German main force. The capture of Walcheren and South Beveland, thereby freeing up the route to the port of Antwerp could finally begin.
|While the bus was driving into the beautiful city Bergen op Zoom I made these photographs...|
|Several Shermantanks of South Alberta Regiment on the market square of Bergen op Zoom.|
A 'Petard' in the Potterstraat at Bergen op Zoom.
|During the prolonged street battles laundry De Zoom and factory fire Beckers suffered serious damage. Today on this spot is the 'Lincoln bridge' called after the Lincoln en Welland Regiment.|
|Hier staan we bij de Lincolnbrug. Op de voorgrond de betonnen blokken van de Duitse tankversperring.|
|After we arrived at Bergen op Zoom we learned that the city of Bergen op Zoom was taken by the Canadian 4th Armoured Division on 27 oktober 1944. The German defenders however did not completely give up the town but withdrew behind De Zoom river. The Zoom is a very deep former peat trade which was adapted by the Germans into a formidable anti-tank ditch. By bus we drove along the north side of the Zoom in order to get a good picture of the battlefield. The houses here have become virtually all heavily damaged by the street battles that lasted for days. Arriving at the Lincoln Bridge we heard that the German defenders here only withdrew on 29 October after they were again almost surrounded.|
|Through the city of Bergen op Zoom streams the river De Zoom. Along the river the Germans had built a tank barrier in the war, consisting of concrete blocks. Which are still there. In this picture we are on the Lincoln Bridge.|
|Across the river De
Zoom in Bergen op Zoom lay the Lincoln bridge.
This Lincoln Bridge commemorates the liberation of Bergen op Zoom.
Every year at the bridge the survivors of the Lincoln Regiment have a meeting place here.
|The fighting on the Zoom are over; our national flag flies as a symbol of regained freedom on the damaged houses along the north side Zoom.|
Canadian military vehicles for the city hall of Bergen op Zoom
Many homes along the Zoom were seriously damaged by the fierce fighting. Eventually the Dutch flag could be extended as a sign of liberation.
|After weeks of fierce
fighting on the Brabantse Wal the Battle for Woensdrecht was over.
The Germans had retreated. Finally Canadians could advance to Bergen
op Zoom, the first Dutch city they would free a little after four
October 27th, 1944 is the day the Allies liberate Tilburg, Goirle, Zundert Ulicoten. Then the march went at lightning speed: the day there were on the lower lake Kite, Bavel and services and on October 29, Sprundel, Ulvenhout and Breda. Halsteren, Roosendaal and Oosterhout were free of German occupation on the 30th.
|Afterwards we spent an impressive visit to the Canadian War Cemetery in Bergen op Zoom. Here lie buried 1,116 Canadian soldiers who died during the Battle of Woensdrecht and the Battle of the Scheldt.|