The Failure of Operation-Market-Garden and Battle of the Dikes

Below you will find the details of Operation-Market-Garden and Battle of the Dikes ... The Battle of the Scheldt, also known as "Battle of the Dikes” was a series of military operations which took place in northern Belgium and the southwestern Netherlands during the Second World War from October 2 to November 8 of 1944.

By September, 1944, it had become urgent for the Allies to clear both banks of the Scheldt in order to open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping. Since the Allied forces had landed in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the British Second Army had pushed forward into the Low Countries and captured Brussels and Antwerp, the latter with its ports still intact. But the advance halted with the British in possession of Antwerp, while the Germans still controlled the Scheldt Estuary.


Nothing was done about the blocked Antwerp ports during September because most of the strained Allied resources were allocated to Operation-Market-Garden, a bold plan for a single thrust into Germany which began on September 17. In the meantime, German forces on the Scheldt were able to plan a defense.

By early October, after Operation-Market-Garden had failed with heavy losses, Allied forces led by the First Canadian Army set out to bring the Antwerp port under control. But the well-established German defenders staged an effective delaying action. Complicated by the waterlogged terrain, the Battle of the Scheldt proved to be an especially grueling and costly campaign. Historians have largely ignored it until recent years.

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On October the 13th the Canadian 5th infantry was virtually wiped out in an unsuccessful attack over flooded land, booby traps and land mines. The day would be remembered as black Friday.

The Calgary fighters would be more successful by securing Woensdrecht, Beveland and Walcheren. The Canadians achieved their first objective, but suffered a lot of casualties.

At this point, field-marshal Montgomery him self recognized the opportunity and he issued the direct opening of the Scheldt as a top priority.

The British armies launched operation Switchback that would liberate the cities Knokke and Sea Bruges eliminating all German forces south of the Scheldt.

With operation Vitality, the British 52nd and the Canadian 6th would clear the canal line from German forces. This was part III of clearing the Scheldt.

The fourth phase was operation Infatuate. The island of Walcheren still was in German hands and clearing this was necessary to open the port of Antwerp.After five weeks of difficult fighting, the First Canadian Army, bolstered by attached troops from several other countries, was successful in winning the Scheldt after numerous amphibious assaults, crossing of canals, and fighting over open ground. Both land and water were mined, and the Germans defended their retreating line with artillery and snipers.

The Allies finally cleared the port areas on November 8, but at a cost of 12,873 Allied casualties (killed, wounded, or missing), half of them Canadians.

Once the German defenders were no longer a threat, it was an additional three weeks before the first ship carrying Allied supplies was able to unload in Antwerp (on November 29, 1944) due to the necessity of de-mining the harbor.

At the end of this 5 week campaign, Canadian soldiers captured more then 40,000 German prisoners.

Germany recognized the importance of their loss and would try to recapture Antwerp in the battle of the Bulge. They also tried to destroy the harbor by firing more then half of the V2 bombs they had on Antwerp. The German troops were too weak though to prevent that the allied forces advanced from Paris to the Rhine witch would be one of the final phases of the Western Europe Campaign.

Return from Operation-Market-Garden and Battle of the Dikes to Antwerp History

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