By MPP Toby Barrett
To The Haldimand Press
The First Canadian Army was instrumental in the Battle of the Scheldt, 75 years ago, which opened the crucial Port of Antwerp to Allied shipping.
The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands against well-established Wehrmacht defenders. On October 2, the battle began in earnest and was fought until November 8. After five weeks of difficult fighting, the First Canadian Army, at a cost of 12,873 Allied casualties (half of them Canadian), was successful in clearing the Scheldt after numerous amphibious assaults, obstacle crossings, and costly assaults over open ground.
Antwerp would be crucial for the invasion of Germany, but it would be a further three weeks until November 29, 1944 before the first convoy carrying Allied supplies was able to unload at Antwerp, because of the necessity of de-mining the harbours.
When Canadians eventually stopped their assaults on the northern French ports and started on the Scheldt approaches on October 2, they found German resistance was far stronger than imagined. This, plus the flooded, muddy terrain, made the battle especially grueling and bloody.
The Battle of the Scheldt has been described by historians as unnecessarily difficult—the battle became one of the longest and bloodiest the Canadian army faced over the course of the Second World War.