German Heer forces on South-Beveland (June - October 1944)


June - July 1944

In June 1944, after the 165 Reservedivision had been reorganized into the 70 Infanteriedivision, the major sub-units of the latter were located as follows/
  • Divisionsgefechtsstand: Middelburg
  • Grenadierregiment 1018 (Serooskerke): Küsteneinsatz West-Walcheren (with the I. Bataillon in the northern sector and the II. Bataillon in the southern)
  • Grenadierregiment 1019 (Vlissingen): Verteidigungsbereich Vlissingen
  • Grenadierregiment 1020 (Goes): Walcheren (with the I. Bataillon in the Mariekerke area and the II. Bataillon in the Arnemuiden area)
  • Füselierbataillon 170 (?): Küsteneinsatz
  • Feldersatzbataillon 170: westlich Goes
  • Artillerieregiment 170 (Middelburg)
    • I/AR 170 (Walcheren; Raum Biggekerke)
    • II/AR 170 (Süd-Beveland; Raum Borssele)
    • III/AR 170 (Walcheren; Raum Aagtekerke)
  • Pionierbataillon 170 (Walcheren; St-Laurens)
  • Nachschubtruppen 170 (Goes)
  • sonstige Divisionseinheiten (Middelburg)

Not all of these units were in place in June. Thus, the II/GR 1020 only arrived on 2 July and the Füselierbataillon 170 and the Feldersatzbataillon 170 only as late as 9 July 1944.

A special unit present was the Armenierinfanteriebataillon 809. On 8 January 1944 it was transferred from the KVA A3 to the Beveland islands in the KVA A1, where it was subordinated to the 165 Reservedivision/70 Infanteriedivision. On 12 January 1944 the batallion headquarters and the Stabskompanie were located in Goes; the 1. Kompanie in Wissekerke, the 2. Kompanie in Schorebrug; the 3. Kompanie in 's-Gravenpolder and the 4. (MG) Kompanie in Kapelle. The unit was thus responsible for the defence of part of the South-Beveland coastline.

 

August 1944

In August 1944 the German forces in the KVA A1 were severely weakened as a result of the threatening advance of the allies in France. Thus, in mid-August the 48 Infanteriedivision was ordered to vacate the KVA A3. This result in the Grenadierregiment 1020 moving south to reinforce the KVA A2. Also, the Armenierinfanteriebataillon left South-Beveland to join the 48 Infanteriedivision.
The situation was further aggravated when the 712 Infanteriedivision was also ordered to leave its sector on 31 August 1944. As a result, a second regiment of the 70 Infanteriedivision, the Grenadierregiment 1018 was transferred south to reinforce the KVA A3.
As a result of these transfers only the Grenadierregiment 1019, II/AR 170 and the I/Festungsstammtruppen LXXXIX were left in the KVA A1.

September - October 1944


The above situation was only short-lived. On 4 September 1944 both regiments were ordered to transfer to the Bruges area. This move was part of the planned breakout of the encircled AOK 15 to the east, but more specifically of the plan to established a defensive line along the Leie river to protect the eastern flank of the army. For this action, both regiments of the 70 Infanteriedivision were used.
Following the capture of Antwerp on 4 September 1944 Hitler decided that keeping control of and defending Walcheren would be decisive for the further course of the war in sector of the western front. On 5 September 1944 Hitler appointed the commander of the 70 Infanteriedivision Generalleutnant Daser as Festungskommandant. Daser accepted this appointment on 6 September 1944 and returned from the front near Gent, where units of the division were fighting, to Walcheren.
On 10 September 1944 the 70 Infanteriedivision received orders to withdraw from the Gent area to Walcheren and the Beveland islands and to prepare these for a strong defence. During the 2-week fighting near Gent the division had suffered some 700 casualties.
Since Walcheren had been declared Festung sufficient forces were to be made available for its defence. In mid-September the commander of the Armeeoberkommando 15 General der Infanterie von Zangen had ordered that Walcheren was to be defended by the 70 Infanteriedivision, while both Beveland islands would be defended by the 712 Infanteriedivision. However, as a direct result of Operation Market Garden, the latter division was sent to the threatened front in North-Brabant. This resulted in the former division now solely occupying the KVA A1 as follows:
  • Grenadierregiment 1018: Walcheren coastline from Valkenisse to Oostkapelle (with the I. Bataillon in the northern sector and the II. Bataillon in the southern)
  • Grenadierregiment 1019: Verteidigungsbereich Vlissingen
  • Grenadierregiment 1020: on South-Beveland (HQ in Goes)
  • Füselierbataillon 170 in Middelburg with 1 company in Arnemuiden
  • Festungsstammtruppen LXXXIX: HQ in Serooskerke, responsible for North-Walcheren (from Oostkapelle to Veere), deployed as follows
    • 1 company on North-Beveland
    • 3 batallions on Walcheren
    • 1 batallion on the south coast of South-Beveland

While fighting in the Gent area the 70 Infanteriedivision has suffered substantial losses, estimated by Daser at 700. Especially the Füselierbataillon 170 had been hit hard. In order to compensate for these losses, from 22 September 1944 onwards two units withdrawing from France were added and turned into the IV/Festungsstammabteilung LXXXIX. These were what remained of the Festungsstammtruppen LXXXI and the Festungsstammtruppen LXVII. This unit was initially subordinated to the Grenadierregiment 1018, but later took over the southern sector and, later stiill, defended the south coast of South-Beveland.

On 28 September 1944 the German front north of Antwerp was threatened to such an extent that further reinforcement were needed. Since no other forces were available the Grenadierregiment 1018 left Walcheren together with the II/AR 170. The departure of this unit necessitated an reorganisation of the Walcheren defences with the Grenadierregiment 1019 now defending the southern sector (until Westkapelle) and the Festungsstammtruppen LXXXIX the northern sector (from Westkapelle to Veere). The Grenadierregiment 1018 never returned to the division.

With his division severaly weakened, Daser now deemed a successful defence of Walcheren impossible. To resolve this problem Daser planned to flood parts of Walcheren and withdraw the entire Grenadierregiment 1019 into the VB Vlissingen. The Allies, however, had their own inundation plans and beat Daser to it.

On 3 October and 7 October 1944 the allies bombed and destroyed the dykes in three positions, causing the island of Walcheren to become flooded.

 

The rising water levels on Walcheren caused many units to move to South-Beveland. Until this time, the only main unit present on South-Beveland had been the Grenadierregiment 1020 with headquarters in Goes, especially after the Armenierinfanteriebataillon 809 had left in August. The regiment had its I. Bataillon in the south and its II. Bataillon in the north. The headquarters of the I. Bataillon were located in 's-Gravenpolder, 5km south of Goes (until +/- 20 October) and later in Kapelle (5km southeast of Goes).

Thus, in mid-October 1944, the divisional headquarters were relocated to a position west of s'-Heer Arendskerke; that of the Festungsstammtruppen to Ovezande. The Füselierbataillon 170 was placed in reserve at Kapelle. Also, the artillery was moved from Walcheren to South-Beveland: the light batteries to the west of Rilland and the medium batteries northeast of Borssele. The Pionierbataillon 170 was later moved to Kloetinge. Further reinforcement were sent to South-Beveland from Veere, North-Beveland and Dordrecht (the latter group totalling 500 troops). The Feldersatzbataillon 170 was also located on South-Beveland.

 

The allied attack on South-Beveland

 

Even though the connection between South-Beveland and North-Brabant had been closed off by the Canadians as early as 16 October, the actual attack against South-Beveland only started on 24 October. The German forces present were the I. Bataillon/Grenadierregiment 1020 in the north and the II. Bataillon /Grenadierregiment 1020 (with HQ in Kapelle) in the south. These units did not succeed in stopping the Canadians, so that the Feldersatzbataillon 170 and the 1./Pionierbataillon 170 were sent as reinforcements. This was to no avail and on 25 October 1944 Rilland-Bath was liberated and 150 German soldiers were captured.

A further German reinforcement sent was the Füselierbataillon 170 from Kapelle, but even this reinforcement could not stop the Canadians on the line Kruiningen-Oostdijk. On 26 October 1944 the Canadians had reached a position 10km east of the South-Beveland canal, after which the bridge across the canal was blown up by the Germans on 27 October 1944. The Canadians crossed the canal towards midnight on the same day.

 

To make matters worse for the Germans the British carried out an amphibious assault behind the German lines on 26 October 1944, landing on two beaches between Ellewoutsdijk and Baarland. No resistance of any significance was put up by the Germans and Ellewoutsdijk was liberated on 27 October 1944.

 

The main worry of the Germans was now to prevent the British in the south from making contact with the Canadians further north. German forces in defence were at this time already both batallions of the Grenadierregiment 1020 together with the Füselierbataillon 170, the Feldersatzbataillon 170 and the 1/Pionierbataillon 170. Further reinforcements were now sent from Walcheren, notably one company of the Grenadierregiment 1019 and one company of the Festungsstammtruppen. Their mission mission was to attack the British bridgehead from Kwadendamme towards the coast. At the same time, the commander of the Grenadierregiment 1019, Oberst Reinhardt moved his headquarters to South-Beveland to take command of the Unterabschnitt Südost (from Ovezande to 's-Gravenpolder). He established his headquarters in Nisse. Likewise, the commander of the Festungsstammtruppen, Oberst Gajer, set up his headquarters in s'-Heerenhoek to take command of the Unterabschnitt Südwest.

 

In order to try to stop the advancing Canadians further north the Grenadierregiment 1020 had set up a stop line near Kloetinge, just in front of Goes. In this effort, the regiment was supported by the Füselierbataillon 170. These units, however, proved to weak to be able to do so.

 

It now became clear to Generalleutnant Daser that, if the Canadians managed to break through in the north, his entire southern force could become encircled. He, therefore, ordered a withdrawal to the line ostkerke-Nieuwdorp-Heinkenszand-'s-Heer Arendskerke-Wissekerke. Soon, however, a general withdrawal to the west of the Sloedam was ordered. Already on 28 October 1944 the divisional headquarters had moved back to Middelburg and, on 30 October 1944, the last Germans retreated behind the Sloedam on Walcheren. The battle for South-Beveland was over.