Liberation of The Scheldt, November 1944

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Joe Brown, Apr 3, 2012.

  1. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Trained in the Cairngorms with the 7th/9th Battalion The Royal Scots for mountain and high-altitude warfare, it was a shock to end up striving through the flood waters of Walcheren to launch a night attack on the German Garrison Headquarters in Flushing.

    I served as Battalion Intelligence Officer and had crossed from Breskins Point in an assault landing-craft some hours ahead of the main body to recce positions where our rifles companies could be quickly led once they had beached around midnight. I also had to determine a site for Battalion Headquarters.

    The Battalion Commander was quickly called to Brigade Headquarters and I went with him. Whilst he received his orders from the Brigadier, I was separately briefed by the Brigade Intelligence Officer. I was told there would be about 50 Germans on the site! My CO was told the same. However our briefing informed us that the Garrison Headquarters in the Hotel Britannia was sited in the centred of a well-developed network of concrete positions surrounded by a steep bank.

    The objective was on the edge of the Scheldt and seemingly to the Germans an approach from the sea was less likely than a landward attack. Page 32 of www.lawlerbrown.com. has an excellent aerial photograph of the location and the surrounding defences and an account in my War Memoirs.

    The assault by the 7th/9th was originally intended as a ‘diversionary attack’: a prelude to No. 4 (Army) Commando approaching from the sea to the gap made by the RAFsix or seven hundred yards to the west of the hotel. It was hoped the enemy positions on the south shoulder of the gap would be concentrating on a threat from the town, rather than watching for a seaborne landing.


    4 Commando unable to undertake this sea-landing because of commitments elsewhere, my CO undertook to capture the objective and destroy the German command post. One of our rifle companies had already been seconded to help control the dock area in Flushing being used to ferry civilians to the mainland along with casualties and p.o.ws. So the attack was planned with our remaining three rifle companies along with two sections of the carrier platoon operating dismounted to add their LMGs to our fire assault team.

    The approach was made wearing lifejackets and holding weapons and wireless sets out of the waist-deep sometimes chest-high flood water. As we near the objective we came under shell-fire from our own medium guns firing from the mainland; shots were falling short. After a brief few minutes dealing with our casualties we continued our advanced in single-file towards our forming-up place to launch our attack. The two leading company commanders formed their troops as square to their objective as possible despite the swirling, fast-flowing tide of flood water sweeping around them. At Battalion Tactical HQ we quickly heard the stirring battle-charge of 'Up the Royals!' as 'D' Company's 16 Platoon made the first assault. They courageously and quickly captured two pill boxes and 35 prisoners.

    As we heard our ancient battle-charge ringing through the darkness of the night, the CO said "it's going to be all right now!" So it was, but only after a gruelling and bravely fought battle as we faced a devastatingly-effective 4-barrelled 20mm gun located on the roof in a seemingly impregnable position supported by machine guns able to bring deadly fire on all the approaches to the objective. Platoonsand Sections of our three rifle companies and two Sections of the Dismounted Carriers persistently and relentlessly forced their way forward by sheer determination and bravery, bringing about the surrender of Oberst Reinhart and 600 prisoners; 50 Germans lay dead on the battlefield.

    We lost and mourn still 20 Royal Scots Comrades killed or later died of their wounds.

    As a footnote I would add, prior intelligence sources may have indicated normal manning of the headquarters was around 50 men, but failed to take into account that as Flushing was being overrun by the 4 and 5 KOSB and Commando units, those Germans who could would inevitably fall back on their headquarters for a last stand.
     
  2. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  3. stolpi

    stolpi Well-Known Member

  4. greglewis

    greglewis Member

    Great thread. Have a friend who was at Walcheren with 41 Commando.

    I'm working with him to tell his story either through book or documentary.
     
  5. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  6. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Greg:

    Jan H. Wigard is a very good contact. I have tried to give you his website but it translates to googly-gook. If you want to contact him, Google his name and I am sure you will connect. He has produced a fine historic record and created the best definitive site about the Occupation and Liberation of Walcheren. He lives in Middelburg. Regards. Joe
     
  7. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria. Patron

    Welcome aboard Joe really enjoyed your post on Welcheren especially has my grandas regiment was involved in this battle. He was in the 80 Assault Sqaudron RE.

    Michael.
     
  8. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    Greg:

    Jan H. Wigard is a very good contact. I have tried to give you his website but it translates to googly-gook. If you want to contact him, Google his name and I am sure you will connect. He has produced a fine historic record and created the best definitive site about the Occupation and Liberation of Walcheren. He lives in Middelburg. Regards. Joe

    I have over the years supplied my good friend Jan with lots of artillery info and war-diaries for
    Op "Infatuate" 1&2 here is his Site, it needs updating but unfortunatly he is unable to do so at the moment.
    if you need his email address you can PM me.

    Jan H. Wigard: Facts - Recollections - Research



    Best
    Rob
     
  9. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Rob,

    Thanks for the information. I am regularly in touch with Jan. He kindly has links to my site. He is a great lad! Regards, Joe
     
  10. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Michael: Thanks for your kind message. It was quite a battle and commend Paul M Crucq's Turning The Key (Vlissingen, The Netherlands, 2009) which gives a detailed account of each stage of the capture and liberation of Walcheren. As I say, we lost 20 Royal Scots in our attack on the German Command Post in Flushing and another lad was killed in an approach to Middelburg when a small battle group based on 'A'Company 7/9 Royal Scots forced the surrender of the General commanding Walcheren along with 2000 of his men. Kind regards, Joe
     
  11. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Mr. Brown,

    The Canadians were also involved in the liberation of Walcheren.
    Any recollections about Canadian troops?

    And, a very big welcome to the forum.

    Randy
     
  12. greglewis

    greglewis Member

    Thanks all, especially Joe and Rob for the information about Jan. I'll contact him. Plus will post more about my commando friend Ted Owens here soon.
     
  13. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  14. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Randy,

    I certainly do, and remember the brave and tenacious actions of the Calgary Highlanders, The Black Watch of Canada and the le Regiument de Masionneuve in their assault across the Causeway that linked South Beveland and Walcheren. It was on a narrow front of about 1200 yards along an artificial embankment that crossed the Sloe Channel. A formidable task and one the Germans believed was impossible for an attacker.

    The Germans were able to bring down enormous weight of concentrated firepower on a narrow front. There was no chance of major deployment off the causeway, the attack mainly hemmed in on this artificially 40 feet wide constructed causeway which crossed a tidal creek of sludge and mud unable to bear the weight of a man.

    They were backed by units of our Scottish Division (52nd Lowland, often referred to as the 52nd Mountain Division).

    I have always felt enormous pride in parading with the Canadian Veterans at the Service of Remembrance held at the Causeway on the occasions I have returned to celebrate the Liberation.

    Pleased to tell you that The Canadian Scottish and The Royal Scots are affiliated regiments and I know a number of Royals will be going to Canada to celebrate the Centenary of The Canadian Scottish in Victoria BC later this year.
     
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  15. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    My dad George Machin - getting married there in my avatar - was a Polsten gunner on a Buffalo of 77 Assault Squadron in the assault on Walcheren. I have the war diary so will check for details, but he remembered a friend being killed, a pilot being rescued from the water but dying of exposure he thought and everywhere being freezing cold and flooded or incredibly muddy. I think he may have spent a very miserable Christmas there but I'll check and post back if it's of any interest.
     
  16. gpo son

    gpo son Senior Member

    "Tug of War" written by Lt Colonel Denis Whittiker (CO of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry od Canada) is a very detailed story of the assualt on the Causeway. He mentions in some ironic twist the brigader set up as race where by the Battilation that reached the cause way first after a series of leapfrogging objectives would not have to make the assault. In any case the Royal Regiment of Canada had the first gruesome crack at it.
     
  17. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Mr. Brown,
    I will be there in a few weeks.
    If there are any photo requests, please do let me know.

    gpo's son. I have read Whittaker's book. a great read.

    Best regards from Canada,
    Randy
     
  18. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    The Scheldt was a battle which should never have been fought.
    The 13,000 casualties were a direct result of Monty's major tactical blunder in not sealing off South Beveland from the mainland.
     
  19. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Found my notes from 77 Assault Squadron War Diary - I was wrong about the downed Dakota pilot - that was crossing the Rhine.
    14/10/1944 Concentrate area Wenduine
    20/10 Polsten guns fitted on LVT (Buffalo)
    To Terneuzen.
    The diary has a plan of the attack on 31/10/44 but I didn't copy it I'm afraid. I made a note that they were carrying 41 Royal Marine Commando.
    1/11 Lt Charlton wounded, Corporal Davies died of wounds - (this was the bloke my dad remembered and may have been the corporal i/c his LVT, but don't know.) Cpl Thomas, Sapper Calvert, Sapper Spackman and Sapper Vinhoff all wounded. Mortar and shell fire very heavy.
    7/12 at Middleburg
    He was in Walcheren for the miserable Christmas he described
    28/12 A one man submarine found at Westkapelle when recovering a Weasel - one German prisoner taken
    1/1/1945 Heavy enemy air attack over Walcheren - low level attack 4 shot down, 3 prisoners taken
    4/1 Enemy midget submarine aground off Souburg (?) secured by LVT's.
    by the 27th January, they'd moved to Ghestel

    Does anyone know anything about midget submarines used by the Germans - might make this a separate post.
     
  20. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Brian,

    Thanks for the extracts from the War Diary of 77 Assault Squadron. As Battalion Intelligence Officer of the 7/9 Royal Scots I did a recce patrol in a Buffalo of A Squadron 11 Battalion RTR along with the Senior Liaison Officer of 155 Infantry Brigade, being briefed by the Brigade Commander to try and find if it was feasible for a battle-group transported in Buffalos to get into position to the North-East of Middelburg and be able to attack.

    We were successful in determining a route through the deeply flooded terrain and heavily mined area with its overhead explosives erected on poles (called Rommel asparagus by the local inhabitants). We reported to the Brigadier if the exact route were followed, his proposed battle-group of A Company of the 7/9RS, 11th Machine Gun Platoon 7 Manchesters could reach a position to launch an attack on Middelburg.

    The Germans were so surprised to find a force of Scottish Jocks entering Middelburg in what they believed were tanks that the General quickly took the decision to surrender along with 2000 Germans. These prisoners were gathered into the Square in Middelburg and were held by this force of 140 men that were thankfully equipped with four of the Manchesters heavy machine guns. They were held in captivity throughout the hours of darkness until next morning, despite the growing restlessness and the singing the Horst Wesel as senior German NCOs realised they had been misled into believing the battle-group was stronger than it was. There was even a mutiny by a group of German officers demanding better accommodation! The lads of the battle-group were reinforced at 03.00 hrs by 5HLI.
     

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