THE LIBERATION OF BELGIUM
(2 September - 3 November 1944)
2 September 1944
|At around 9.30 am an
unsuspecting motorcyclist of the 82nd Reconnaissance Battailon of the
2nd Armored Division (19th Corps) crosses
the Belgian border in the locality Bas-Préau in Rumes. Eleven minutes
one column of Combat Command A of the division entered Belgium, the
other column crossing the border a few kilometres to the east in Rongy
at 1.30 pm.
A reconnaissance troop of the 9th Infantry Division (7th Corps) crossed into Belgium near Momignies at 11.07 am, followed by the 60th Infantry Brigade at 11.55 am.
Combat Command A of the 3rd Armored Division (7th Corps) crossed the border further to the east in Forge-Philippe, to the east of Hirson around 4.10 pm. Interestingly, some reconnaissance teams are claimed to have already been in Cendron within the Belgian border at 9.15am.
The armored divisions were heading to Mons, after General Bradley (12th Army Group) had learned that remnants of 2 Panzer divisions and a dozen or so infantry divisions were concentrating around Mons, despite the fact that Mons was within the British area of operations.
3rd Armored Division reached Place de Flandres at 7.10 pm after having liberated Frameries (5.20 pm) and Jemappes (6.20 pm). The 2nd Armored Division (19th Corps) reached Mons at 8 pm and Tournai, its objective for the day, at 10 pm. In the next few days, 18,000 trapped German soldiers, including three generals, would surrender in what became the Mons pocket. However, many German soldiers did manage to escape eastwards from the pocket on September 2nd and 3rd, as 3rd Armored Division had not left sufficient forces to control the area between Maubeuges and Mons and the 1st Infantry Division (7th Corps) was slow to follow.
3 September 1944
|The American army is still
fighting the Germans in Mons and mopping up the Mons pocket. In its
drive northwords, south of Mons, the 3rd Armored
Division (7th Corps) had cut across the diagonal road running northeast from
Bavay to Binche. Many troops had succeeded in avoiding capture during
the night and morning of September 3, but hundreds of vehicles remained
jammed nose to tail on the road. From midday, Thunderbolts of the 395th
FS bombed and strafed the columns. By evening, over 5 km of the road was
choked with the remains of over 600 wrecked vehicles, 400 dead horses,
and 300 corpses.
On September 3 Hodges turned 1st US Army on an easterly heading and Collins (7th US Corps) immediately sent his 9th Infantry Division (7th Corps), then on the corps right flank, to establish a bridgehead across the Meuse near Dinant. Liberating Chimay and Couvin, the leaders soon reached the river, where they discovered Germans of the 2nd and 12th SS-Panzerdivisions were holding the eastern bank in some strength.
Armoured Division (30th Corps) crossed the Belgian border at
Hertain in the early morning, the major part of the division around 9.30
am. Having crossed the river Schelde near Tournai the Guards found the
countryside free of any opposition, apart from a brief skirmish in
Leuze. Via Ath and Halle, and Lessines and Ninove the tanks headed for
Brussels. At Hondzocht (Lembeek), 15 kilometres short of the city, the
leaders came across another point of resistance that took some time to
deal with, but reconnaissance troops of the Household Cavalry eventually
reached Brussels at 8 pm.
The 11 Armoured Division (30th Corps) also made excellent progress. On the right the 23rd Hussars crossed the Belgian border near Tournai at around 2 pm. The force reached Wolvertem, a few kilometres north of Brussels between 8 and 9 pm. On the left the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment liberated Zottegem and Aalst, finishing the day at Dendermonde shortly after midnight. The 159th Infantry Brigade reached the bivouac area around Aalst in the course of the night.
|At 4.36 pm the commander of the Belgian force Groepering Bevrijding, Colonel Piron crossed the Belgian border at Rongy, south of Tournai. His force followed in the wake of the Guards Armoured Division past Ath and at dusk reached Enghien, barely 30 kilometres from Brussels.|
4 September 1944
|By noon on September 4, the
situation in and around Mons had become partially stabilised.
1st Infantry Division (7th Corps) was
systematically rounding up prisoners. Having waited at Mons for more
fuel, the 3rd Armored Division (7th Corps)
was ordered forward again, Namur being the new objective. Combat Comand
A of the division reached Namur, taking a route south of Jemeppe which
took them through Binche and Charleroi on the way, while Combat Command
B advanced further south. One damaged bridge was discovered intact at
Namur and engineers built another one across the Meuse, so that by dawn
both spans were ready for division traffic. Although most of the
division was again brought to a halt for lack of fuel, a task force of
Combat Command B was dispatched south to Dinant to help the 9th Infantry
Division (see below). The rest of the southern task force crossed the
Meuse, while elements of Combat Command A found themselves fighting a
sharp battle to get though Namur. The first tanks did not get across
before the morning of September 6.
The 9th Infantry Division (7th Corps) had a difficult time crossing the Meuse river. Late on September 4 three bridgeheads were established, one at Houx to the north and two others some distance to the south of Dinant at Hastière and Heer. A task force from the 3rd Armored Division was sent to aid the division.
The 2nd Armored Division (19th Corps) remained in a area southeast of the Orchies-Tournai road for two days due to lack of fuel.
|On 4 September the Guards Armoured Division (30th Corps) liberated Leuven at around 3 pm and paraded in Brussels. The 11th Armoured Division (30th Corps) sped towards Antwerp in two parallel columns. The western column, headed by the 23rd Hussars took the Vilvoorde-Mechelen road. Near Mechelen they crossed the Dijle and Nete rivers unopposed, only to run into a screen of 88mm guns keeping them up for the rest of the day. The eastern column, taking the Wolvertem-Londerzeel-Willebroek-Boom route and led by the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment fared better. Thanks to the Belgian resistance, they were able to cross a bridge across the Rupel at Boom. After having eliminated German resistance here, the column followed two routes into Antwerp: one through Niel, Hemiksem and Hoboken; the other following the main road through Aartselaar and Wilrijk. The latter column was held up for two hours just outside the city, finally entering Antwerp at around 3 pm. In the city the tanks headed for the harbour, which they chose not to enter into, and the city park, where the German commander and a large number of troops were still resisting in force. A battailon of the 159th Infantry Brigade and a squadron of the 29th Armoured Brigade were ordered to take the city park, which they did at around 4 pm. As soon as the city park had been taken, battailons were ordered to mop up the eastern and southeastern parts of the city, as well as as the northern part to the Albert canal.|
|At 4 am Colonel Piron contacted the mayor of Brussels to announce the arrival of the Belgian forces in the capital. At 3 pm the Belgian troops paraded through the city with the Guard Armoured Division. The Groepering Bevrijding also conducted some mopping up actions around Brussels.|
5 September 1944
|On 5 September some American reconnaissance vehicles briefly drove through Kortrijk. Also on this day, in the morning, German SS-forces counterattacked 9th Infantry Division (7th Corps), badly mauling the latter's bridgehead at Heer and taking over 100 prisoners.|
|5 and 6 September were
two days of rest for 30th Corps, although some actions were fought. The
159th Infantry Brigade of the
11 Armoured Division (30th Corps) had taken over
responsibility for the city and harbour of Antwerp, the latter being
defended by the 3rd Battailon, the Monmouthshire
Regiment. During the night of 4/5 September the Antwerp
resistance had tried in vain to infiltrate from the harbour into Merksem
on the northern side of the Albert Canal. In the morning of September
5th, the 3rd Battailon, the Monmouthshire Regiment, together with the
resistance, tried to cross the Albert Canal over the Ijzerbrug bridge,
but that attempt failed too when it was blown up by the Germans at 1.30
pm. Ironically, though, the resistance had captured a bridge across the
Albert Canal further east at Wijnegem, but the British did not exploit
this opportunity, which would cost them dearly later.
Being unable to reach Merksem, the resistance pushed further north into the harbour and managed to occupy the important Kruisschanssluis locks, though they were unable to overrun the nearby German strongpoint. Warned by a local official about the importance of the Kruisschanssluis locks, the Monmouthshires were ordered to the locks. They departed at 6 pm. At midnight an extra platoon was sent up as reinforcement.
At 8 pm orders reached the 4th Battailon, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment that it was to cross the canal that night and establish a bridgehead on the northern bank, so that engineers could build a bridge. A first attempt by D company was unsuccessful, but elsewhere A company managed to cross.
In the afternoon of 5 September units from the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (30th Corps) arrived in Antwerp as reinforcements.
Meanwhile, further west, the 7th Armoured Division (12th Corps) liberated Oudenaarde and Wetteren, but Gent was still out of reach.
6 September 1944
|On September 6th the first
tanks of the 3rd Armored Division (7th
Corps) crossed the river Meuse in Namur. After this had happened, 7th
Corps sent an urgent order for a task force to be sent to rescue
9th Infantry Division's (7th Corps) shallow
bridgehead at Houx. TF King started out and reach Spontin, 10 km
northeast of Houx, early in the afternoon. There they surprised a German
convoy made up of 12th SS-Panzer Division Headquarters. The division
commander was later captured by members of the resistance and turned
over to the Americans. This, however, did not put 9th Infantry Division
out of the wind, since its other bridgehead at Dinant was wiped out by
SS troops with a loss of over 150 men, as well as many vehicles and
3rd Armored Division also invested Huy, to the northeast of Namur on this day. Members of the Belgian Resistance had asserted that the bridges at Huy were still intact, so one task force of CCB was sent to spearhead far in the lead of other units and seize the crossings. Although sharp fighting broke out to the east of Namur, the task force broke through and captured two undamaged spans at Huy. The rest of the division immediately drove for the city, CCA on the north side of the Meuse, and CCB on the south. By nightfall, both combat commands had reached their objectives. Behind the leading elements of CCB, Task Force Hogan began to experience stiff resistance from the usual bypassed infantry and anti-tank gun positions.
|On September 6 at 2 pm the
7th Armoured Division (12th Corps) , headed
by the 11th Hussars, liberated Gent. Another division of 12th Corps, the
53rd (Welsh) Division reach Wervik.
On this day the Guards Armoured Division (30th Corps) liberated Diest. Pushing further north it was then looking for a bridge to cross the Albert Canal between Herentals and Beringen. At Oostham the bridge was found destroyed, but the one at Beringen was found to be passable for infantry. When the Guards appeared at around 4 pm the Germans withdrew and the engineers were able to construct a bridge by daybreak on the 7th. The Dutch Prinses Irene brigade was used in the bridgehead.
Back in Antwerp the troops of the 3rd Battailon, the Monmouthshire Regiment of 159 Infantry Brigade (11 Armoured Division) and the members of the resistance in their positions at the Kruisschanssluis locks faced an attack by some 300 Germans, who had been able to cross the river Schelde downstream. The troops were forced to withdraw but continued denying the Germans access to the locks. During the night, the Monmouths were relieved by a company of the 5th Devons.
Further east, the 4th Battailon, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment ran into trouble in its small bridgehead north of the Albert Canal, where the Germans fought off every attempt to ferry anti-tank guns, ammunition, or more infantry across the canal. The main force of the Monmouths was ordered to try to reach them from the west, but they were soon stopped by German resistance along the Groenendaallaan.
|The 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) crossed the Belgian border around Leisele in late afternoon and 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade reached the area around Lo-Reninge without opposition. As was to be expected all the bridges at Diksmuide were found to be blown.|
|The 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) crossed the Belgian border in two columns, at 12.40 am in Abeele (Poperinge) and at 1 pm further east in Westouter. Poperinge was liberated without opposition. Strong and organized enemy resistance was encountered near Ieper. Late that evening 3rd Rifle Brigade entered the city from the north and northwest, broke the enemy's resistance and proceeded with the mopping-up process.|
7 September 1944
|After having dealt with German
resistance at Mons, 2nd Armored Division
(19th Corps) was on the move again, liberating Waver on this day. The
division made such progress that reconnaissance units even reached the
Albert Canal near Hasselt that evening.
The 3rd Armored Division (7th Corps) was now heading towards Liège. Increased opposition indicated that the Germans were preparing a defensive position along the river Meuse. The division upset this plan. While CCA made a frontal assault on the city, CCB made a flanking movement around the south of the city, crossing a bridge across the Meuse in the process, and reached a position on the southeast side of the city by sunset, taking the defenders by surprise. Meanwhile, CCA faced heavier defenses and was momentarily halted by a number of heavy anti-tank guns on the outskirts. Having dealt with this obstacle, division forced mopped up the metropolitan area an engineers constructed a bridge across the Meuse under the cover of darkness.
The divisions of 5th Corps also entered Belgium today. Having crossed the Meuse in France, 5th Armored Division lashed out towards Germany on a route that would take it across the southeastern tip of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. The 28th Infantry Division crossed the Belgian border near Virton. The 4th Infantry Division, also attached to V corps, advanced in a more northeasterly direction taking it past Bouillon and Paliseul. Elements of the division encountered German machine gun and mortar fire in Libin, 35 km to the west of Bastogne. The situation became more serious when they approached Hatrival, a few kilometres to the southwest of St-Hubert. Elements of the 2nd Panzer Division held their ground tenaciously in front of the village. Only after several hours were they thrown back, enabling the leading troops to enter the village on 8 September.
|In the morning of 7 September
the Antwerp resistance finally managed to take the damaged
Kruisschanssluis locks; the Germans gave up the strongpoint and withdrew
north to Lillo. Further to the west, A and D company of the 3rd
Battailon, the Monmouthshire
Regiment of 159 Infantry Brigade (11 Armoured Division) started
out at 3 am towards Merksem, while C company progressed north along the
railways embankment to join them, in an attempt to aid the beleaguered 4th
Battailon, the King's
Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment (159th Infantry Brigade) in
their small bridgehead north of the Albert Canal. At sunrise B company
was ordered to push through to Merksem, but the order was soon
countermanded due to the fact that the Shropshires were being pulled
back (see below). However, the Monmouths were now in close contact with
the enemy. Tanks of the 23rd Hussars tried twice to attack the bridge
underneath the railway but were driven away twice by two German 88mm
guns. The Monmouths spent an uncomfortable day in their positions until
dusk allowed them to pull back. At midnight, the
231st Infantry Brigade (50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division)
(30th Corps) took over the battle in the harbour.
At 1.30 pm the 4th Battailon, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment were informed that they would be withdrawn across the Albert Canal. Under cover of darkness engineers succeeding in pulling back the troops. However, the struggle had been a costly one with 150 killed. The main part of A company, which had been cut off, never returned.
Further east, the Guards Armoured Division (30th Corps) had an somewhat easier ride. After having crossed the Albert Canal in Beringen the 32nd Guards Brigade with 2nd Armoured Reconnaissance Battailon Welsh Guards in the lead seized the important crossroads in Helchteren. From here, they attempted to press on towards the important crossroads at Hechtel, but they were stopped by the Germans, forcing the British to fall back on Helchteren at around 7 pm.
|The 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) also pushed deeper into Belgium. The 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade liberated Diksmuide and Torhout and reached the first houses of Brugge in the evening. Meanwhile, the division's 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade crossed the Belgian border at 4 pm and spent the night around Izenberge, south of Veurne. On 7 September at around 2 pm a Canadian recce unit entered Nieuwpoort, accompanied by members of the Belgian resistance. However, a fierce bombardment by the German naval batteries in the area forced them to withdraw, and the German regained control of Nieuwpoort.|
|On the morning of 7 September the Polish 1st Armoured Division's 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade (2nd Canadian Corps) reached Passendale. At nightfall, after some bitter fighting by the armour to take Hooglede, infantry of 3rd Rifle Brigade began to attack Roeselare. There followed a night battle of street clearing, but the mopping up was completed by 3 am on September 8.|
8 September 1944
|On this day an American reconnaissance patrol drove through Tongeren, but the city would not be fully liberated until tomorrow. General Bock von Wolfingen, the German commander of the city was captured, falling prey to a road block of Combat Command B of the 3rd Armored Division (7th Corps), which alone accounted for 35 enemy vehicles in two days.|
|The task of defending Antwerp
and its important harbour now fell to the 53rd
(Welsh) Infantry Division (12th Corps).
On this day the 69th Infantry Brigade of the battle-hardened 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (30th Corps) succeeded in establishing a bridgehead north of the Albert Canal, south of Geel. A British reconnaissance patrol briefly entered Tongeren, which was located in the American sector.
The 32nd Guards Brigade of the Guards Armoured Division again attempted to capture Hechtel. The force was made up of troops from 2nd Reconnaissance Battailon Welsh Guards, 1st Battailon Welsh Guards and X Company, 4th Battailon Scots Guards. This time the British decided to avoid the main road and they attacked across the heath, west of the main road. They reached Hechtel at around 2.30 pm. The Scottish troops were able to cross the Hechtel - Leopoldsburg road and set up their company headquarters in the northwestern part of the town. Somewhat later, the Scottish troops also succeeded in crossing the Hechtel - Eindhoven road and capturing the eastern part of the town. Meanwhile, the Welsh troops attempted to capture the western part of the town, but German defences here were tough and all attemps to reach the central crossroads failed, as well as attempts to link up with the Scots Guards. Heavy fighting took place in the night of 8-9 September.
|On this day the two brigades of
the 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd
Canadian Corps) continued their advance through Belgium. On the right
10th Canadian Infantry Brigade was stopped
at Steenbrugge, 3 miles south of Brugge, because the bridges over the
Gent Canal were blown and the Germans were resisting in strength on the
northern bank. D company of the brigade's Argyll
and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada began to cross the canal at 5.30
pm, at first without interference. Two other companies were put across.
However, the Germans quickly realized the intentions of the assaulting
force and began to shell and mortar the crossing. Neverthless, a
precarious three-company bridgehead was established by midnight, and the
troops were heavily engaged in street fighting in Moerbrugge. As the
enemy reaction became more violent bridge construction ceased.
Meanwhile, 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade moved forward from Izenberge on 8 September. Its progress was impeded by the convergence of both divisional routes through Diksmuide over the single bridge that had been completed. By the afternoon Sint-Andries near Brugge was reached. Again, all the bridges over the Gent Canal were found to have been blown, although the only enemy resistance was in the area of Brugge itself. In an attempt to try and induce the German defenders to surrender, an ultimatum was unsuccessfully delivered to the Germans.
On September 8 a second Canadian division, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) entered Belgium. The division's 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade was tasked to seize De Panne, Veurne and Nieuwpoort. The Belgian resistance had cleared Nieuwpoort of the enemy by 4 pm, but the Canadians were stopped by heavy artillery fire. Nieuwpoort was captured by the Germans once more and 7 bridges were blown.
|In the morning of 8 September a small battle group of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) headed out to seize Tielt. The western exits from the town were cut and by 2.30 pm Tielt had been captured. Five miles to the northeast the enemy retreating from Tielt was rudely surprised by a quick encircling thrust that cut across the road to Aalter in the area of Ruiselede. The 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade took a considerable number of prisoners here and destroyed much equipment.|
9 September 1944
|On 9 September the
2nd Armored Division (19th Corps) liberated
Hasselt, the only large Flemish city to be liberated by the Americans.
On the same day, the 30th Infantry Division
(19th Corps) marched into Tongeren on foot, for lack of fuel.
3rd Armored Division (7th Corps) continued its advance eastwards from Liège. Combat Command A, taking the northern route, advanced quickly to the high ground north of Dison (north of Verviers) and by nightfall had reach Limbourg and Pepinster. Combat Command B departed from Liège at around 11 am and met organized and heavy resistance for the first time in days. However, Theux (southwest of Verviers) was captured and the tanks then rolled into Verviers itself and the entire division joined them there on the same day.
Combat Command A of the 5th Armored division (5th Corps) plunged 20 miles through Belgium, taking it through Aubange and Athus and then into Luxemburg at the village of Pétange. It fought to within 5 miles of the city of Luxemburg. On a parallel route to the north Combat Command Reserve was lancing through Florenville, Tintigny, and Habay la Neuve into Central Luxemburg at Useldange. American fighter bombers and attacking armoured forces shot up many withdrawing German convoys, destroying at least 150 German vehicles (including 20 or so tanks) and prisoners were taken at numerous places during the advance.
50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (30th
Corps) further expanded its bridgehead across the Albert Canal at Geel,
introducing a second brigade, 151 Infantry Brigade,
into the fighting.
The Guards Armoured Division (30th Corps), more specifically the 32nd Guards Brigade, continued the heavy battle for Hechtel. Despite sending an extra company as reinforcements, the Welsh Guards were unable to link up with the Scots Guard. Even though the Welsh succeeded in crossing the Hechtel-Leopoldsburg road and occupying the houses near the church, attempts to reach the key crossroads were unsuccessful. At around 3 pm the Scots Guards were dislodged from some of their positions by a heavy German attack. Tanks, however, did succeed in reaching the Scots Guards and resupplying them. With the help of newly arrived troops, the Germans launched a heavy counterattack in late afternoon, capturing the main Scots Guards strongpoint and forcing the Welsh Guards to withdraw.
In Antwerp the left bank of the river Schelde was cleared of Germans, However, German artillery would continue to shell the city from its positions north of the Albert Canal for about a month. The Antwerp resistance fighters, meanwhile, reached the Luchtbal district and would attempt to reach the shunting-yard on the other side of the Leopold dock between Wilmarsdonk and Merksem in the following days.
|10th Canadian Infantry
Brigade of 4th Canadian Armoured Division
(2nd Canadian Corps) continued defending its small bridgehead north of
the Brugge-Gent canal at Moerbrugge, ferrying across a second battailon,
the Lincoln and Welland Regiment. The infantry fought without the aid of
artillery, since it had been considered unnecessary to order a fire
support programme. The companies on the far bank were soon reduced to
only small arms ammunition and grenades, as all but one boat
ferrying supplies across the canal were destroyed. C company of the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, cut off from the other
companies and battailon headquarters, was repeatedly counterattacked by
the enemy. Lincoln and Welland Regiment, too, was exposed to
counterattacks, as the Germans tried to cut off the battalion from the
canal. At about 7 pm the enemy put in what proved to be his heaviest and
final attack. The effort failed and by the morning the engineers had
completed a bridge and tanks brought welcome aid to the hard-pressed
On 9 September 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade (4th Canadian Armoured Division)(2nd Canadian Corps) was ordered to cross the canal through 10th Infantry Brigade's bridgehead and conduct mopping up operations to the north, east, and west. The Lake Superior Regiment was placed under the command of 10th Infantry Brigade for the purpose of carrying out a diversionary attack on the southeastern outskirts of Brugge.
2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps), meanwhile, continued its operations along the coastline. The 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade finally liberated Nieuwpoort in the early morning of 9 September. The brigade plan for the day was to sweep the coastal area from Nieuwpoort southwards to De Panne, which contained a number of strongly fortified positions. The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada set off at 3 am. The first strongpoint which they attacked was the naval battery at Groenendijk-Plage, just to the west of Nieuwpoort-Bad. The Germans defenders, however, managed to repulse the attack and the battery remained under allied fire for the rest of the day. Also attacked on this day was the naval battery La Panne. Initially, the Canadians managed to enter the battery, but the Germans later recovered and ejected the attackers from the battery grounds, upon which the battery was regularly shelled.
On this day the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian Infantry Division) (2nd Canadian Corps) entered Belgium. With the Essex Scottish Regiment in the lead they liberated Veurne and Gistel, upon which the Essex Scottish also liberated Ostend without incident, thanks to the help of the Belgian resistance but also because the Germans had expectedly withdrawn. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry moved into the northern part of the port, clearing the E-boat pens and dock area, secured the canal crossings and sea plane base, and pushed on eastwards to Klemskerke and De Haan. Meanwhile, the Royal Regiment of Canada made contact with elements of 4th Canadian Armoured Division and engaged in the Bruges area. The regiment was then ordered to occupy the villages and towns in the coastal area as far as the Bruges Canal: Nieuwmunster, Wenduine, Blankenberge and Uitkerke. By the night of 9/10 September patrols had completed these tasks without difficulty.
|With the capture of Aalter on 9 September the 1st Polish Armoured Division had reached the Brugge-Gent Canal. For two days attempts were made to force a crossing, without success.|
10 September 1944
|On this day
3rd Armored Division (7th Corps) occupied
Sankt Vith in the German part of Belgium. For the first time the
population did not rejoice. Then the German border was crossed, but the
advance was soon halted by strong German defences.
Also on the tenth 5th Armored Division (5th Corps) liberated the city of Luxemburg, but having encountered some resistance east of the city, the tankers halted for instructions concerning the Westwall. The liberation of all Luxemburg was completed over the next two days. The division also sent the first force into Germany. A strong dismounted patrol crossed the Our and marched into Germany in the early evening of 11 September.
|The Guards Armoured Division
(30th Corps), more specifically the 32nd Guards
Brigade, continued the heavy battle for Hechtel. On 10 September
in the morning the Germans atacked the Scots in the Kloosterstraat, to
the northwest of the central crossroads. At around the same time the
tanks of the Irish Guards, which had remained in the Gemeentebos since
the night before pushed north through the Belgian military terrain only
to reach Eksel, to the northeast of Hechtel, at around noon. Meanwhile
the Welsh Guards were still unable to get past the crossroads and make
contact with the Scots. In the afternoon, however, some Welsh Guards
managed to cross the Hechtel-Leopoldsburg road and occupied some houses
on the corner of the Twaalf Septemberstraat. Some tanks again tried to
get past the crossroad but were destroyed by 88mm-guns. Meanwhile, the
British had continued to encircle Hechtel. Having reached Wijchmaal and
Peer, the attacked Hechtel from the east, where the Germans had not seen
an enemy for days. Further north the tanks of the Irish Guards and
infantry of the Grenadier Guards captured the De Groote Brug bridge at
Neerpelt on the road to Eindhoven intact
The 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (30th Corps) further expanded its bridgehead across the Albert Canal at Geel. That morning the tanks of the independent Nottinghamshire Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry moved in support of the two brigades of the division in the bridgehead. At around noon the vanguard of the British infantry reach the southern part of Geel. In the afternoon, British artillery shelled the centre of Geel for three hours and the Germans withdrew until just behind the railway to the north of Geel. In the evening, however, the Germans retaliated with their own artillery. During the night of 10/11 September considerable German reinforcements arrived in the form of Jagdpanther tanks and a battalion of German parachute infantry.
|With the bridge across the
Gent-Brugge canal at Moerbrugge in operation the two battalions of the 10th Canadian Infantry
Brigade of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division
(2nd Canadian Corps) were able to consolidate, although enemy mortaring
and shelling continued through 10 September. During the day
4th Canadian Armoured Brigade
(4th Canadian Armoured Division)(2nd Canadian Corps) remained
comparatively inactive, although enemy patrols from Brugge caused some
trouble when they penetrated as far as Sint-Andries and Sint-Michiels.
The 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian Infantry Division) (2nd Canadian Corps), meanwhile, continued to sweep the coastal area. The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada attacked the naval battery at Groenendijk-Plage once more on 10 September, but again without success. Les Fuseliers Mont Royal, following the inland axis, moved forward on the 10th from Veurne to defensive positions at Adinkerke, south of De Panne. Here they were astride the main coastal road which at this point swung inland from De Panne. The battalion's task was to assist in maintaining pressure on the enemy. For the next days the battalions made only slow progress against the enemy's determined resistance. Further to the northeast the South Saskatchewan Regiment had discovered that the enemy was established at some strength along the coast to the north and northwest of Nieuwpoort, more specifically in the grounds of the naval battery Ramien in Lombartsijde, where the guns had already been destroyed since 7 September. An attempt by A and B Company early on the morning of 10 September failed. During the day an ultimatum for surrender was sent to the garrison commander, who curtly refused it. A second attack commenced in the early evening when A Company assaulted and took its first objectives.
The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian Infantry Division) (2nd Canadian Corps) also attempted to make progress. Reconnaissance elements of the Royal Regiment of Canada found that while the west bank of the Brugge-Zeebrugge Canal was free of the enemy, he was in some strength on the eastern bank. The battalion, therefore, remained west of the canal, containing the enemy and preventing the withdrawal of his units from Bruges along the roads in the sector. The Brigade's Essex Scottish Regiment faced a sterner task. On 10 September the battalion was ordered, with part of the Toronto Scottish Regiment (MG) under its command, to proceed from Oostende to Westende to clear the naval battery Westende-Plage in the sand dunes between Westende-Bad and Lombartsijde. All attempts to capture the battery on this day failed, though.
|1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) attempted to force the Gent-Brugge Canal north of Aalter on the night of 10 September, but failed. On receipt of new orders to take over Gent from the 7th Armoured Division, attempts to cross the canal were abandoned.|
11 September 1944
|On 11 September the
4th Infantry Division (5th Corps) reached
Houffalize, where the inhabitants had already constructed an emergency
bridge. The remaining units of the 2nd Panzer division withdrew behind
the Westwall. In the evening a patrol of the 5th
Armored Division (5th Corps) crossed the Our river near Vianden
in Luxemburg and walked into Germany to reconnoitre pillboxes near
Waldhof before returning back across the river. At around 9 pm 4th
Infantry Division patrols crossed the German border, to be followed on
12 September by the entire 22nd Infantry Division
Further to the north, 3rd Armored Division (7th Corps) reached Eupen. Combat Command B of the division had taken the city by 4 pm, despite numerous roadblocks and blown bridges delaying the force.
|On this day the newly-arrived
German forces in the Geel bridgehead gradually pushed back the units of
the 69th and 151st Infantry Brigades of the
50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (30th
Corps), eventually resulting in Geel being re-occupied by the Germans.
Meanwhile, bitter fighting continued in and around Hechtel. At around 10 am the British shelled Hechtel without results. Starting from the Don Bosco school the Welsh Guards of the 32nd Guards Brigade of the Guards Armoured Division (30th Corps) attacked the Germans defending Don Bosco and the Dorpsstraat. Houses were set on fire but the attack failed, as did another attack from the south at around 7 pm.
4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) continued its
fight. The 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade
continued the work of enlarging the Moerbrugge bridgehead. The Lincoln
and Welland Regiment was ordered to push on to seize Lekkerhoek and
Veldkapelle, two hamlets a couple of miles northeast of Moerbrugge. A
and B Companies fought their way into Lekkerhoek, and C Company was
passed through to take Veldkapelle. Meanwhile, the Algonquin Regiment of
10th Canadian Infantry Brigade was brought over the Gent-Brugge Canal
and took up positions on the left flank of the Lincoln and Welland
Regiment. A mile or so to the east towards Oedelem the 22nd Canadian
Armoured Regiment of the division's 4th Canadian
Armoured Brigade mopped up Hoekske and Doorn. The full brigade had
now crossed the canal, consolidating near Veldhoek.
Shfiting the focus to 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) the South Saskatchewan Regiment of 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade again attacked the naval battery at Lombardsijde, where they were repulsed the day before, this time with A and B Companies. However, little progress was made and the companies were ordered to withdraw. The day was spent in intensive reconnaissance for possible approaches. Light AA and AT guns were brought forward to assist, but they were rendered ineffective by the very soft ground and the innumerable sand dunes. A raid by Typhoons at 6 pm missed the main defensive point. The naval batteries La Panne and Groenendijk-Plage were also still held by the Germans.
Turning now to the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, the Essex Sottish Regiment again attacked the naval battery Westende-Plage. The whole battalion was now engaged on three sides but did not manage to dislodge the enemy. Further to the north, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, having occupied and cleared a large area to the east of Oostende, moved by way of Oudenburg, Westkerke and Jabbeke to positions south of Bruges to prepare for the forthcoming attack on Brugge. Similarly, the brigade's Royal Regiment of Canada, having liberated Blankenberge on 11 September, was ordered to proceed to Bruges to assist 4th Canadian Armoured Division in capturing Brugge. Following the route through Stalhille the Royals concentrated at Sint-Andries for the assault.
|On 11 September the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) sidestepped to Gent to relieve 7th Armoured Division (12th Corps). The 1st Battalion Mountain Rifles of the 3rd Rifle Brigade sealed the north and northwest exits of Gent and occupied the Sint-Pieters railway station, while the 8th and 9th Infantry Battalions moved into the northern part of the city. During the night the enemy shelled Gent with long-range railway guns, without however doing serious damage or causing any difficulties.|
|The Belgian Groepering Bevrijding left Brussels. Placed under the command of the 8th Independent Armoured Brigade Group (30th Corps) it was ordered to proceed to the Leopoldsburg-Heppen area. Early in the afternoon the Albert Canal was crossed at Beringen through the bridgehead defended by the Dutch Prinses Irene Brigade. At around 5 pm Leopoldsburg was reached and a camp housing 900 political detainees was liberated.|
12 September 1944
|On 12 September the
Guards Armoured Division (30th Corps)
finally managed to capture Hechtel after a long and bitter struggle. At
8.15 am Hechtel was subjected to an artillery bombardment from the
south. Fifteen minutes later the attack on the crossroads commenced from
the direction of the Hasseltsebaan. The Germans resisted heavily. It was
not until midday that the crossroads was reached. The 2nd Reconnaissance
Battailon Welsh Guards and the Scots Guards attacked from the west. The
area around the church was cleared after a bitter fight. The last German
strongpoint was the police barracks. It surrendered at 2 pm. During the
fighting 35 civilians, 62 British, and 150 German soldiers had been
killed. A 121 houses were declared uninhabitable.
The British fared less well in the small bridgehead across the Albert Canal at Geel. On 12 September Geel was retaken by the Germans and the British troops of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (30th Corps) were forced to withdraw to their initial positions at the Albert Canal. That afternoon the division was relieved by units of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division (12th Corps). During the night, however, the German defenders retreated until just behind the Kempisch Canal, a few kilometres north of Geel, more specifically in the village of Ten Aard, because they feared encirclement and attack from the rear.
|On this day
4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian
Corps) continued its slow advance. Patrols of the
4th Canadian Armoured Brigade's 2nd Canadian Armoured Regiment
reached Assebroek and, further north, 29th Canadian Armoured Regiment
pushed on to the line of the
Canal and reported all bridges destroyed. The Algonquin Regiment of 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade moved into Steenbrugge and occupied Sijsele. These additions expanded the brigade's bridgehead to a radius of some 6 kilometres.
Meanwhile, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) was preparing for the attack on Brugge. However, to the immense satisfaction of both the assaulting troops and the civilian population a set-piece attack proved to be unnecessary. Early in the morning of 12 September it was found that the enemy had withdrawn, sparing the ancient city, though not its bridges. The 12th Manitoba Dragoons, aka the 18th Canadian Armoured Car Regiment (4th Canadian Armoured Division), closely followed by elements of 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian Infantry Division), more specifically the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, entered the city unopposed. The remaining battalion of the brigade, the Essex Scottish Regiment, was still beleagering the naval battery at Westende-Plage. At 12.45 am the battery had lost all contact with Dunkirk and white flags appeared. Thus, the Essex Scottish were spared a costly infantry assault against what remained a strongly defended position.
Turning attention now to the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian Infantry Division), the South Saskatchewan Regiment was still struggling to capture the naval battery at Lombardsijde. On the morning of 12 September the brigade commander visited the battalion and pointed out that the troops should be able to approach much nearer their objectives. A third company, C Company, was brought forward from Nieuwpoort to increase the pressure on the enemy. In the evening another demand for surrender was made, also informing the defenders of the Le Havre's surrender that day and the capitulation of the battery at Westende-Plage. The presentation of a pay book belonging to the commander of that battery seems to have been a deciding factor in negotiating the surrender of the fort. The capitulation was completed on the morning of 13 September. On 12 September the naval batteries La Panne and Groenendijk-Plage also fell to the Canadians, more specifically the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada and Les Fuseliers Mont Royal. Initially, the battery at Groenendijk-Plage was attacked without success, but when all communication was lost by the defenders, the battery surrendered. The defenders of the battery La Panne left the battery after a heavy artillery barrage and withdrew into the fortress Dunkirk.
|On 12 September the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) continued mopping up the northern suburbs of Gent, facing enemy pillboxes and strongpoints. In spite of enemy counterattacks which gained some initial success the 3rd Rifle Brigade reached the line of the river Lieve, some 5 kilometres north of Gent. 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade occupied the Lokeren - Sinaai - Sint-Niklaas area. For the next days, while 3rd Rifle Brigade gradually increased its holding north of Gent, the Cavalry Brigade continued to overrun the eastern sector of the division's area of responsibility.|
|Between 12 and 17 September the Groepering Bevrijding slowly advanced to the northeast. The unit's artillery supported an attack of the Guards Armoured Division at Neerpelt, after which it was transferred to 8th Corps.|
13 September 1944
|Bitter fighting north of the Geel bridgehead continued today by units of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division (12th Corps) . On the morning of 13 September the 8th Battalion Royal Scots Regiment of 44 (Lowland) Infantry Brigade, with armoured support of the Nottingham Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry independent tank regiment entered the centre of Geel unopposed. The latter regiment, which had suffered heavy losses, was replaced on this day by the independent tank regiment of the 3/4 County of London Yeomanry, although this regiment would quickly be moved elsewhere. The Scottish troops acted quickly and sent out patrols to the Kempisch Canal. 46 Infantry Brigade protected the western flank of the bridgehead with the 9th Battalion Cameronians and the 7th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (with the 2nd Battalion Glasgow Highlanders in reserve). On the right flank, 227 Infantry Brigade moved northwards from Zittaart and Meerhout to Mol, reaching the Kempisch Canal at Donk with the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the lead, followed by the 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry (with the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders in reserve). In the centre 44 (Lowland) Infantry Brigade advanced along the two roads leading north: the 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers following the Geel-Retie road; the 8th Battalion Royal Scots taking the Geel-Turnhout road (with the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fuseliers in reserve). The latter road intersected with the Kempisch Canal at the village of Ten Aard, 4 kilometres north of Geel. In the evening the 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers attempted to cross the canal near Sas 7, but were repulsed and were forced to withdraw with heavy losses. Further west, patrols of the 8th Battalion Royal Scots reached the canal in late afternoon, only to find the road bridge blown.|
Canadian Armoured Division's succesful crossing of the Gent-Brugge
Canal at Moerbrugge, 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade
was established at Sijsele, while on its right was
4th Canadian Armoured Brigade at Oedelem. During the 13th patrols
reported that the enemy was clear of the area between the Gent-Brugge
Canal and the twin canals, the Derivation Canal of the river Lys and the
Leopold Canal in the area north of Moerkerke. In the expectation that a
sudden surprise crossing would keep the enemy on the move, 10th Canadian
Infantry Brigade was allotted this task and the brigade spent 13
September probing the enemy. As there were no indications of the enemy
being in strength on the opposite side of the canals, it was decided
that the Algonquin Regiment should assault at 10 pm. The point selected
for the crossing was a blown bridge site on the road north from
Moerkerke. Here, each of the canals was 27 metres wide, separated by a
dyke of the same width. The attack began at 11.30 pm with all four
companies in line for the assault and with 80 men attached from the
Lincoln and Welland Regiment as a ferrying party. Under cover of
darkness all companies made the crossing successfully. However, small
arms and mortar fired quickly increased, so that the expansion of the
bridgehead became most difficult. A Company reached Moleken, a handful
of houses some 180 metres from the canal and B Company pushed through to
the crossroads just beyond, but this marked the limit of the bridgehead.
The attackers dug in and were soon repelling enemy efforts to dislodge
them, while the engineers were building a bridge.
On 13 September the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division's 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade was relieved in Bruges by 4th Canadian Armoured Division and the brigade - less the Essex Scottish - was returned into France to the locality of Bergues.
14 September 1944
|At 5.30 am on Thursday 14
September A and B Companies of the 8th Battalion Royal Scots (44th
(Lowland) Infantry Brigade) (15th (Scottish) Infantry Division)
(12th Corps)) crossed the Kempisch Canal in small boats. They succeeded
in establishing a small bridgehead west of the village of Ten Aard. By 8
pm D Company had also successfully made the crossing. The Royal Scots
were now ordered to expand the bridgehead eastwards with the village of
Ten Aard as their objective. D Company attacked westwards to clear the
farms and houses to the east of Ten Aard and completed the task
successfully, even though they were harassed by some 88mm guns. A and B
Companies then passed through D Company but past the main street the
troops encountered fire from 2cm Flak guns and suffered heavy
casualties. By 10 am C Company was also on the northern bank. Meanwhile,
A and B Companies had crossed the main street of the village and had
occupied positions until close to the northern access of the destroyed
road bridge across the canal.
The engineers were now constructing a bridge near Sas 8, just outside the bridgehead. The Germans, however, had succeeded in raising the water level east of the locks and the water now began to threaten the southern bank, with flooding and collapse of the bank imminent. The engineers were thus forced to blow up the western lock doors. It took three explosions before the water poured through the western lock doors, but at that moment the southern bank collapsed and fell prey to the water, forcing the engineers to rescue their equipment and withdraw.
It was then decided to build a pontoon bridge in the centre of the bridgehead, but as soon as the Germans realized the engineers' intentions they brought down heavy fire on the crossing site. Nevertheless, the engineers did manage to complete the bridge and between 7.30 and 10.30 pm were able to bring 6 or so antti-tank guns across the canal.
During the afternoon the Royal Scots had been able to take a hundred or so prisoners, many of whom were young and inexperienced soldiers of newly-formed Flieger regiments of the Luftwaffe. However, at around 10 pm the Germans launched a heavy attack on the eastern side of the bridgehead. C Company headquarters were overrun and all officers captured, A and C Companies also suffering losses. To make matters worse, German reinforcements arrived at this time., notably the first companies of the 1st Battalion of the Ersatz und Ausbildingsregiment Hermann Gôring. These young but eager soldiers yelled and fired their way to the bridge, completely wiping out an entire Scottish platoon. As the engineers on the southern bank were readying themselves to defend their positions, D Company managed to stop and force back the attackers.
At around 11 pm the Germans attacked again with two platoons and few guns. They attacked a farm defended by a platoon of D Company, which was overrun in close combat. With a company partially surrounded, things looked very bleak for the Scottish indeed.
|The 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade of 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) tried to expand its bridgehead across the the Derivation Canal of the river Lys and the Leopold Canal in the area north of Moerkerke. A Company of the Algonquin Regiment was the first to report a shortage of ammunition, but enemy fire prevented it from being ferried over. At the same time heavy fire forced the engineers to suspend their bridging work. Further attempts to ferry across ammunition or continue building the bridge were unsuccessful, so that at 12 am order were given to withdraw. By now, however, enemy counter-infiltration had reached the dyke between the canals and the withdrawing troops had to eliminate these soldiers during their withdrawal. With most of the boats smashed by shell fire many men had to swim across and a considerable amount of equipment had to be abandoned.|
|Attacking in the direction of Hulst, the 1st Polish Armoured Division's 3rd Rifle Brigade captured Stekene and Sint Gillis-Waas.|
15 September 1944
|In the early hours of 15
September the British bridgehead of the 44th
(Lowland) Infantry Brigade (15th (Scottish)
Infantry Division) (12th Corps) in Ten Aard had become really
small, only about 250 meters wide and even less deep. The 8th Battalion
Royal Scots was only just hanging on, having to deal with infiltrating
Germans all the time. At around 10 am the Germans withdrew somewhat in
order to give their own artillery a better chance to fire at the
British. A little after daybreak the first troops of the 6th Battalion
Royal Scots Fuseliers began arriving on the southern bank to prepare
their own crossing. However, only by noon were they able to begin their
crossing, taking advantage of the fact that the Germans had withdrawn
from the bridgehead and even from the centre of the village. As a
results, the Royal Scots Fuseliers succeeded in clearing both sides of
the main street by 2.30 pm. However, in late afternoon, the 1st
Battalion of the
Ersatz und Ausbildingsregiment Hermann Göring launched a new fierce
attack right through the main street, pushing back the Royal Scots
Fuseliers and reducing the bridgehead again, until they were stopped by
a company of the already depleted Royal Scots. At 6 pm the 6th Battalion
King's Own Scottish Borderers also crossed the canal, only to find
themselves becoming embroiled in the fighting within the bridgehead, so
that they were unable to expand the bridgehead. Instead the King's Own
Scottish Borderers positioned themselves around the village with a view
to attacking the next morning. Even though the entire brigade had now
been inserted into the bridgehead, the entire operation was beset with
problems: due to the preparations for Operation Market Garden there was
a serious shortage of ammunition for the artillery; in addition, the
engineer had not succeeded in bringing the necessary vehicles across.
Division headquarters decided that pressure needed to be taken off the bridghead and therefore directed two battalions of the 227th (Highland) Infantry Brigade, the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders and the 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry to an assembly area near Mol-Donk some kilometres further to the east, hoping to get these troops across the Canal to relieve the besieged troops and to help expand the bridgehead.
|During the morning of 15
September orders were received to the effect that the
4th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian
Infantry Division) would move to the Antwerp area the following day.
During the night the Lincoln and Welland Regiment of the 10 Canadian Infantry Brigade (4th Canadian Armoured Division) managed to conduct a successful and unopposed crossing of the the Derivation Canal of the river Lys much further to the east at Balgerhoeke, to the northwest of Eeklo, on the main Brugge-Eeklo road. The 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade (4th Canadian Armoured Division) was instructed to follow across and push on to the area of Eeklo, with firm bases to be establish at Lembeke, Kaprijke and Waarschoot to the east of Eeklo. Eeklo was liberated on this day.
|On this day the 1st Polish Armoured Division established a combined group for the defence of Gent, while the remainder of the 3rd Rifle Brigade, reinforced by armour and divisional artillery was moved to the area of Sint-Pauwels, to the northwest of Sint-Niklaas to reconnoitre crossings over the Hulst Canal, preparatory to an attack towards Terneuzen. Plans were made to develop operations westward between the Dutch border and the Moervaart Canal, past Moerbeke, because of expected inundations further south.|
16 September 1944
|At about 4 am the 2nd Battalion
Gordon Highlanders of the 227th (Highland) Infantry
Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry
Division began their planned crossing of the Kempisch Canal at
Mol-Donk, some 10 kilometres eastwards of Ten Aard. Here too the road
bridge across the canal had been blown by the Germans. The battalion
soon ran into serious difficulties. Even before all the troops had been
able to cross, the battalion was pinned down by heavy machine gun fire.
After a few hours of undecided struggles, it became clear that this
attack was a failure too. In the afternoon the 2nd Battalion Gordon
Highlanders and the 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry left the area
of Mol-Donk, leaving the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
in charge of the southern bank there.
In the bridgehead, meanwhile, an outbreak was planned for 44 (Lowland) Infantry Brigade in order to expand the bridgehead. It was to have been a joint operation by the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fuseliers (east of the main street) and the 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers (west of the main street). The 2nd Battalion Glasgow Highlanders, on loan from the 46th Infantry Brigade, would cross the canal and attack through the centre to the bridge across the river Nete, some 2 kilometres to the north. The attack failed to materialise, as they Germans attacked first with such force that that Royal Scots Fuseliers were unable to reach their line of departure for their own attack. The fighting lasted all day. To make matters worse, the water level continued rising, so that at around 4 pm the water level had reached the same height as the dyke, flooding the troops' positions. However, on the positive side, the engineers had finally managed to ferry some vehicles across the canal and a simple ferry service was operated.
At around 8 pm the Germans again attacked the bridgehead, this time from the northeast and in battalion strength. After an hour of bitter fighting the Germans were repulsed with heavy losses. An new attempt to attack the bridgehead, this time from the west, was smothered by British artillery even before the German attackers had been able to assemble.
|On 16 September the
4th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian
Corps) moved to Antwerp and relieved the 71st
Infantry Brigade of the 53rd (Welsh)
Infantry Division (12th British Corps) in the lock area of the
harbour. The latter division, together with the whole of 12th Corps was
tasked to guard the left flank of the British 30th Corps during
operation Market Garden. The defence and protection of the all-important
locks became of prime significance to the future success of 21st Army
Group's operations. The enemy was still holding strong positions in the
Antwerp area and the main harbour locks were frequently under enemy
shell fire. The brigade now devoted itself to intensive patrol activity
with constant alertness to prevent any surprise enemy attack on these
After the successful crossing at Balgerhoeke the 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) advanced further east. The 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade proceeded to an area south of Eeklo. Its task was to sweep the area to the east of the Gent-Terneuzen canal and to the north of 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade's area of operations. The areas of Oost-Eeklo, Kaprijke, Lembeke and Bisdom were occupied on 16 September.
|The newly-formed battle group, centred around the 3rd Rifle Brigade of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) crossed the Dutch border in the area of Zuiddorpe, between Zelzate and Stekene, at 7 am. Before nightfall one unit had crossed the Hulst Canal between Axel and Hulst.|
17 September 1944
|At dawn on 17 September the
enemy succeeded in penetrating the bridgehead of the
44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade of the
15th (Scottish) Infantry Division (12th
Corps) in Ten Aard, which was now reduced to a depth of hardly 350
meters. At 6.30 am wat remained of the 8th Battalion Royal Scots was
withdrawn. The battalion had lost 230 officers and soldiers. A new
operation was planned for today, operation Flood. The idea was for the
2nd Battalion Glasgow Highlanders, on loan from the 46th Infantry
Brigade, to attempt another crossing to reinforce and expand the
bridgehead. However, this day would be remembered for something
completely different, namely the start of Operation Market Garden. The
air above Ten Aard was full of planes transporting the American 101st
Airborne Division to its drop zones at Eindhoven, Geel being the initial
point or aiming point, from which the final run was planned.
Consequently, the Germans had a busy time firing on the low-flying and
slow aircraft and succeeded in downing various planes. As a result of
the start of this operation the Scottish troops in the bridgehead were
not allocated their full complement of artillery support and since the
engineers had still not managed to construct a bridge, none of the
brigade's heavy vehicles and guns could cross the canal. However, the
division was still tasked to maintain the bridgehead and occupy the
front alongside the canal until Dessel. During the day the bridgehead
was expanded a little to the east. In late afternoon the Germans
attacked from the northeast against the right flank of the bridgehead.
After darkness had set in the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the 227 (Highland) Infantry Brigade crossed the canal successfully, albeit it again with any vehicles or guns. Once on the north bank, the battalion, now under command of the 44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade relieved the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fuseliers on the right flank.
4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) continued its
operations close to the Dutch border. The 4th
Canadian Armoured Brigade occupied Nieuwburg. To the south the
10th Canadian Infantry Brigade commenced
sweeps to the Gent-Terneuzen canal with two separate forces. The
northern patrol, consisting of the Algonquin Regiment and the 22nd
Armored Regiment reported the canal clear at Rieme, east of Ertvelde.
Doornzele and Zandeken were also found abandoned by the enemy. The
southern force, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and the
29th Armored Reconnaissance Regiment discovered that Ertvelde was still
in enemy hands. Apart from this, the area to the Terneuzen canal was
reported free of Germans.
Today, further units of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) arrived in Antwerp to relieve the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division (12th British Corps).
|The newly-formed battle group, centred around the 3rd Rifle Brigade of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps), which had crossed the Dutch border in the area of Zuiddorpe and before nightfall yesterday had crossed the Hulst Canal between Axel and Hulst, was today forced back, when attempts to put in a bridge failed.|
18 September 1944
|After days of heavy fighting
the depleted 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fuseliers of the
44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade of the
15th (Scottish) Infantry Division (12th
Corps) was withdrawn from the Ten Aard bridgehead at around 7.30 am.
Remaining in the bridgehead were thus the 6th Battalion King's Own
Scottish Borderers and the recently arrived 2nd Battalion Argyll and
Sutherland Highlanders, on loan from the 227th (Highland) Infantry
Brigade. Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders of the
227th (Highland) Infantry Brigade had
arrived in Geel and was preparing to be inserted into the bridgehead.
Also, the 7th Battalion Seafort Highlanders of the 46th Infantry Brigade
was getting ready to march to Geel to join the Gordons. Unfortunately,
three heavy shells struck the headquarters of A Company and all of the
company's sergeants were killed or wounded. The Germans were now heavily
shelling not only the canal crossing point but also the southern bank as
far as Geel itself.
At around 6 pm a particularly heavy barrage, lasting half an hour, was the precursor to another German attack. Soon German tanks and infantry appeared, attacking the bridgehead from the west. The 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers had only just repulsed this attack or a new attack came from the same direction. To make matters even worse, at that same moment the Germans launched an even heavier attack against the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Germans attacked in battalion strength right through the main street of Ten Aard. Each time, however, British artillery, directed by courageous artillery observers standing on the Bloemmolens factory buildings, managed to stop the German attacks.
That night what remained of the 6th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers was withdrawn and the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders was ferried across into the bridgehead.
4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) continued its
operations close to the Dutch border. After having occupied Bassevelde
on the 18th, the 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade established a firm base,
from which 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade operated towards Assenede.
Today, the inter-brigade boundary was changed and the
10th Canadian Infantry Brigade was directed
on Assenede. After encountering opposition in the outskirts of the town
the Algonquin Regiment and the 22nd Armored Regiment made a set attack
at 12.50 am with artillery support, and by midnight had cleared the
town. In the meantime the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada
and the 29th Armored Reconnaissance Regiment advanced towards Zelzate
and Sas van Gent, getting as far as the De Katte, a quarter of Zelzate.
Progress was slow because of demolitions and roadblocks.
Because of the delay in its relief in the Dunkirk area by the 4th Special Service Brigade, 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade (2nd Canadian Infantry Division) (2nd Canadian Corps) only moved to Antwerp on this day. On its arrival the brigade took over the right sector of Antwerp from sub-units of 7 Armoured Division (12th Corps), which had previously relieved the 160th Infantry Brigade of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division (12th Corps). The brigade manned positions along the Albert Canal north of Wommelgem.
|On the evening of 18 September the 3rd Rifle Brigade of the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) made a further attempt to force the Hulst Canal east of Axel, this time successfully and a bridge was completed the following day.|
|Today the Groepering Bevrijding, now part of 8th Corps, received new orders. With the corps tasked to protect the right flank of 30th Corps in its advance on Arnhem, the Groepering Bevrijding was ordered to occupy the area between Peer and Bree, with its armoured squadron protecting reconnaissance efforts towards the Kempisch Canal.|
19 September 1944
|In a thick fog the 2nd
Battalion Gordon Highlanders took over the positions of the 6th
Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers in the Ten Aard bridgehead, near
the Kempisch Canal, north of Geel. The 44th
(Lowland) Infantry Brigade of the 15th
(Scottish) Infantry Division (12th Corps) had now been completely
withdrawn from the bridgehead. Over a period of 5 days and 5 nights the
brigade had defended the bridgehead, stopped some 13 German attacks,
many of which with battalion-strength and supported by tanks, and
suffered around 550 casualties, taking well over 200 prisoners. This
remarkable achievements has been too often overlooked in the history
books of the liberation.
With the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the above-mentioned 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders the 227th (Highland) Infantry Brigade was now tasked to defend and, if possible, expand the tiny bridgehead. Initially, the units had a quiet time today, until in the afternoon the brigade's third battalion, the 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, moved from Geel to a small wood on the southern bank of the canal. Having observed this troop movement from across the canal the Germans shelled the battalion. Still, after darkness had set in the bataillion did manage to cross the canal without difficulties. Once it had arrived on the northern bank, the battalion immediately launched an attack in an attempt to expand the bridgehead. After some initial successes the battalion was stopped by a German counterattack. A Company, which had ventured to far with some Bren carriers was particularly hit and was forced to give up some ground. Meanwhile, the engineers had, yet again, been unable to construct a bridge.
|On 19 September a raiding party
of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian
Corps), consisting of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and one squadron
of the 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment made a sally towards the Dutch
town of Philippine. Road demolitions, covered by mortar and machine gun
fire, and flooding stopped progress just short of the Belgian town of
Boechoute, which was not cleared until 21 September. Meanwhile, the 4th
Canadian Armoured Brigade continued patrolling along the Leopold Canal
night at day. In the night of 19/20 September the Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders of Canada and the 29th Armored Reconnaissance Regiment
crossed the Dutch border and occupied Sas-van-Gent, taking 110
Units of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) continued arriving in Antwerp. The last of its formations to leave the Dunkirk area was the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, which moved on 19 September to a concentration area to the south of Antwerp. Neither 5 nor 6 Canadian Infantry Brigades had any enemy activity to contend with for the next two days. The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, however, with the task of guarding the docks, was in closer contact with the enemy, who was still holding Merksem, a northern suburb of Antwerp and, importantly, situated on the northern side of the Albert Canal. Canadian patrols engaged in frequent skirmishes with German patrols and the towns of Oorderen and Wilmarsdonk, northwest of the city, changed hands a number of times. The enemy was able to flood the terrain, since they still had control over some of the harbour locks.
20 September 1944
|On this day 12th Corps headquarters took the important decision to withdraw all troops of the 227th Infantry Brigade of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division from the bridgehead at Ten Aard. The day before the corps commander Lieutenant General Richie had addressed a message to the division commander, Major General Barber in which he congratulated the division for having diverted German troops from countering the Arnhem offensive, but in which he also announced the complete withdrawal from the bridgehead in order to be able to prepare for other fronts further to the east. All day long German artillery shelled the Scottish troops in the bridgehead. In the evening the brigade began its withdrawal, which it completed in the early morning of the following day.|
|During September 20 the water
level rose in Merksem and Wilmarsdonk in the area of operations of the
4th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian
Corps) and at 5.30 pm a German attack went in on a company position of
the Essex Scottish Regiment close to the Groenendaallaan, with the
apparent objective of blowing the railway bridge. One company of the
brigade's Royal Regiment of Canada was immediately placed under the
command of the Essex Scottish and a stand-to of the entire brigade was
ordered. After some severe fighting, which lasted two hours, the enemy
was forced to withdraw from the bridge and by 11 pm the situation was
restored. Charges which the enemy had succeeded in placing on the bridge
were removed in time.
During the night an unsuccessful attempt of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade to get a strong patrol over the Albert Canal further to the east confirmed that the Germans were holding the northern bank in strength.
On 20 September the Antwerp resistance, supported by Canadian artillery, succeeded in penetrating as far north as the villages of Oorderen and Wilmarsdonk.
|On 20 September the Groepering Bevrijding secured the towns of Kaulille, Bocholt and Bree, and cleared the southern bank of the Albert Canal.|
21 September 1944
|On 21 September Ten Aard was again completely in German hands. The exhausted troops of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division (12th Corps) had withdrawn to Geel, having lost 914 soldiers in 6 days, and were relieved on thye southern bank of the Kempisch Canal by troops of the 7th Armoured Division (12th Corps).|
|On 19 September a raiding party
of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian
Corps), consisting of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and one squadron
of the 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment had made a sally towards the Dutch
town of Philippine. Road demolitions, covered by mortar and machine gun
fire, and flooding stopped progress just short of the Belgian town of
Boechoute, which was not cleared until 21 September.
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, also of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade, reported the whole area as far as Terneuzen clear of the enemy. However, as activity was being slowed down by the tightening of the enmy defence tactics, a redisposition of 4th Canadian Armoured Division became necessary. On this day the interbrigade boundary between the two brigades was changed to run along the north-south road from Kaprijke to Watervliet. However, because of the shift of enemy strength to the west, a distribution of strength within the division outside of normal brigade limits had to be made. In order to carry out the patrolling and containing role along the entire Leopold Canal the Lincoln and Welland Regiment (10th Canadian Infantry Brigade) was moved to Maldegem, south of the main canal forks, while the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (10th Canadian Infantry Brigade) was transferred to Boekhoute. The 29th Armored Reconnaissance Regiment (the South Alberta Regiment), a divisional recce regiment, took over Assenede, while in Bassevelde the 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment (4th Canadian Armoured Brigade) relieved the 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment (4th Canadian Armoured Brigade), who moved to Sint-Laureins. The Lake Superior Regiment (4th Canadian Armoured Brigade) operated westward to patrol the canal from their base at Knesselare. West of Strobrugge, the line of the Leopold Canal was held by the 18th Canadian Armoured Car Regiment (12th Manitoba Dragoons), another divisional recce regiment, with the 8th Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment under command and the 20th (British) Light-Anti Aircraft Regiment in support.
Meanwhile in Antwerp the Germans made an attempt to blow the lock gates in the evening of 21 September, apparently by a floating mine. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) reported a loud explosion but found little damage.
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was now ordered to proceed north of Antwerp, in order to free the port from that side too. The first attempt was made by the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade. Following the failure of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada to establish a crossing of the Albert Canal, the Calgary Highlanders took over and on the night of 21 September silently pushed a fighting patrol and then a company across the narrow lock gates east of Wijnegem. The remainder of the battalion followed and a bridgehead was successfully established.
22 September 1944
|It had been decided earlier that 1st British Corps, until then located in the Le Havre area, would be moved to the area east of Antwerp. The long move had commenced by stages on 20 September. The 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division reached its new sector on 22 September, with orders to relieve 7th Armoured Division (12th Corps). On arrival the division lost little time in beginning to probe forward and 49 Reconnaissance Regiment occupied Herentals without opposition. Civilians reported Grobbendonk and Pulle clear of the enemy and patrols crossed the Albert Canal to reach forward to the line of the Antwerp-Turnhout canal.|
|On this day the troops of the
5th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian
Corps) further expanded their bridgehead on the northern bank of the
Albert Canal near Wijnegem. However, enemy reaction was violent and at
first light a vigorous counterattack was launched by the Germans. For
the first time in the experience of the Black Watch (Royal Highland
Regiment) of Canada, now also in the bridgehead, the Germans were
fighting with bayonets. During the day Typhoons came to the support of
the Canadians and the enemy thrust was beaten off. Late on the 22nd
Schilde, 3 kilometres to the east, was occupied and Le Régiment de
Maisonneuve was brought into the bridgehead to push on to
's-Gravenwezel. At the same time one squadron of the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars) was sent to Schoten.
Meanwhile, the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade had been carrying out the less spectacular but extremely vital role of defending the Antwerp locks, besides their guard duties. In general, the day-to-day programme was one of incessant patrolling in order to keep contact with the enemy, to maintain pressure, but not to attempt major action against him. The Royal Regiment of Canada were in the east, the Essex Scottish in the centre, about Merksem. Finally, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Regiment was in the western sector extending to the river Schelde. On 22 September the latter launched an attack to drive the enemy from locks that he was still holding west of Wilmarsdonk, between the Schelde and the Antwerp docks. After overcoming dogged resistance they dislodged the enemy from his positions and the flanking towns of Wilmarsdonk and Oorderen were quickly and easily re-occupied. Shortly afterwards, the Antwerp resistance reached the so-called Twaalf Sluiskens locks, so that now the low-lying fields could be drained and the road to the Dutch border west of Merksem was wide open.
Further to west the 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) was spread out along the Leopold Canal and had settled down to the task of containing the enemy within the Breskens 'island', while probing for weaknesses in his defences. Attention in the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade's sector was focused on the reduction of enemy resistance at the Isabella 'isthmus'. A breakthrough along this narrow neck of land would place the Canadian troops on the northern side of the Leopold Canal at its eastern extremity. On 22 (and 23) September the brigade's Algonquin Regiment made a determined attempt from Philippine to get past the Isabella position, while an outflanking company contrived to occupy Maagd van Gent, further to the west and to the south of Pyramide. However, enemy counterattacks were strong enough to repel attacks against the Isabella obstacle. The Algonquins suffered heavily and no further attempts were made to break through and battalion activities were limited to patrol duties, as was the case for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, whose headquarters were in the Belgian town of Boechoute.
Meanwhile further west the 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade, with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment under command, was extended over a long front which stretched from opposite Watervliet to the Brugge-Sluis canal. The brigade had two tasks: cleaning up the area south the Leopold Canal and positioning itself as to be ready to pass through Stroobrugge to occupy Oostburg should opportunity present itself. The dispositions of the brigade group on 22 September were as follows: the Lincoln and Welland Regiment were centred about Maldegem, to be held as a potential raiding force for any part of the Brigade front. The Lake Superior Regiment (motor) were responsible for an area extending about 3 kilometres east and west of Stroobrugge. The 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment patrolled the right flank to the inter-brigade boundary south of Watervliet, while the 28nd Canadian Armoured Regiment was held in reserve at Kleit (south of Maldegem) as a relief. On the left the 8th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which reverted to division command on 22 September, patrolled west through Moerkerke to the Brugge-Sluis canal.
|On 22 September news was received that the 1st Polish Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps) should be moved to the east of Antwerp as soon as it had cleared its present operational area east of the Gent-Terneuzen canal. However, the division did not move to its newly-assigned area until 27 September, and until that day it spent its time in harbour and patrol activities in the area Lokeren-Sint-Niklaas-Temse-Axel-Terneuzen.|
|On 22 September the Groepering Bevrijding sent out a motorized patrol which at 6.35 pm reached Maaseik, 16 kilometres further eastwards, while another patrol reached the Zuid-Willemskanaal.|
23 September 1944
|By the evening of 23 September the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (1st Corps) had completed the relief of 7th Armoured Division (12th Corps) in positions southwest of Turnhout. Here they were on the extreme right flank of First Canadian Army, of which they were a part. The headquarters of 1st British Corps were established at Keerbergen.|
|With a passage thus won over the Albert Canal the task of 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps) was now to cross the water barrier which lay to the north, the by now infamous Antwerp-Turnhout canal. As a result of the bridgehead established by the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade the enemy was forced to fall back from the area between the canals. The brigade met only light opposition as Le Régiment de Maisonneuve occupied 's-Gravenwezel on 23 September and the Calgary Highlanders moved to the west and took up positions along the eastern side of the Antwerp-Turnhout Canal. The 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade now moved into the bridgehead to establish a crossing over the Antwerp-Turnhout canal in the area of Lochtenberg near Sint-Job-in-'t-Goor. It was planned that while the brigade was attempting to force a bridgehead, the Calgary Highlanders of the 5th Infantry Brigade would make a a feint fire attack from their positions to the southwest.|
|On 23 September the Groepering Bevrijding established contact with the Americans in Maaseik.|
24 September 1944
|By 24 September 1st British
Corps had assumed responsibility for the frontage between Herentals and
Lier, thus relieving 12th Corps. Arrangements were also being worked out
for the 1st Corps to be strengthened by the addition of the 1st Polish
Armoured Division. On 24 September the increasingly urgent need to move
the division was emphasized again, but it was not until 27 September
that the Polish formation was actually moved.
The 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (1st Corps), more specifically the 147th Infantry Brigade, liberated Turnhout, which had been reported evacuated, although all approaches were heavily mined. The 146th Infantry Brigade, which had reached the Oostmalle area, advanced to the Antwerp-Turnhout Canal in the vicinity of Sint-Lenaarts.
|In the early morning the
2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian
Corps) attempted to cross the Antwerp-Turnhout canal, with the aim of
reaching Brasschaat, on the main road to Breda. At around 7 am Les
Fuseliers Mont-Royal of the 6th Canadian Infantry
Brigade crossed the canal a few hundred yards east of the
Lochtenberg bridge without difficulty and pushed on to the crossroads in
the built-up area. Here they were held up by heavy fire. They persisted
in the attack until about 2.30 pm when the enemy counterattacked from
the front, rear, and flank, infiltrating between the companies with both
infantry and armoured car support. As no bridge had yet been
constructed, anti-tank guns couldnot be brought in and the battalion was
forced to withdraw over the canal after suffering heavy casualties - in
all about 150 killed and missing. Meanwhile the South Saskatchewan
Regiment prepared to cross a 100 yards east of the bridge at 7 am.
However, when it was learned that the enemy had machine guns in the
woods earlier considered as a concentration area, the assault point was
moved west. The first attempt failed, as the leading company was pinned
down on the canal bank. As a result, the assault point was again changed
and the new time of 1 pm was set for the attack. Under cover of smoke
and artillery fire A Company reached the far bank at 2 pm and B Company
was then passed over. All efforts to reach Lochtenberg were
unsuccessful. The two companies were held to their slender footing as
the enmy brought light armour against them. At 7.10 pm, when Les
Fuseliers Mont-Royal had already withdrawn, orders were received to
recross the canal. By 9 pm the battalion was back on the southern bank,
having suffered 39 casualties. During the operation the Queen's Own
Cameron Highlanders of Canada remained in reserve astride the road south
of the canal and were not called into action.
In Antwerp, meanwhile, Merksem continued to be held by the Germans (on 30 September the Belgian resistance estimated enemy strength at 1100), who squashed all attemps by the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade's patrols to enter the town.
|The Groepering Bevrijding received orders to advance to where the Zuid-Willemsvaart meets the river Meuse, while the group's engineers constructed a bridge at Bree.|
25 September 1944
|Early on the morning of 25 September the 146th Infantry Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (1st Corps) forced the Antwerp-Turnhout canal to establish a small bridgehead east of Sint-Lenaars and south of Rijkevorsel. A bridge was successfully built.|
26 September 1944
|On 26 September 1st British Corps temporarily (until 6 October) assumed command of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.|
Canadian Infantry Division (now under 1st British Corps) had
still not succeeded in crossing the Antwerp-Turnhout canal. Plans for a
second attempt to cross the canal were made at a divisional conference
on the morning of 26 September. The 5th Canadian
Infantry Brigade was to do a diversionary assault crossing an
bridging some 6 kilometres southwest of where the
6th Canadian Infantry Brigade would renew its efforts on its
present front. Success of either operation would be exploited to the
full. That same evening, however, a change in plans (see below) sent the
5th Canadian Infantry Brigade on another venture, leaving the 6th
Canadian Infantry Brigade to proceed with its own preparations for the
Lochtenberg assault. For two days Typhoons and Spitfires conducted an
extensive programme of harassing known enemy positions and artillery,
mortars and machine guns did all they could to soften up the German
After the cancellation of its intended diversionary attack in support of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade was ordered to move to the Westmalle-Oostmalle area, leaving the 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment and the other two brigades to be responsible for the canal line. The 5th Infantry Brigade was to cross the bridge establish by the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division south of Rijkevorsel, advance on the axis Brecht - Overbroek - Brasschaat - Maria Ter Heide, and establish a bridgehead from the north side of the canal in the neighbourhood of Lochtenberg. The 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade would then pass through to the north west while the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade completed the clearing of Antwerp.
The latter brigade's sector of responsibility widened as the other two other brigades moved eastwards.
27 September 1944
|On 27 September 1st British Corps temporarily assumed command of the 1st Polish Armoured Division. With the Polish division and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division now under command, the corps could carry out the task allotted the right wing of First Canadian Army, i.e. thrust northwards of the general axis Tilburg - 's-Hertogenbosch and so free Second Army from its present commitment of the long left flank facing west.|
Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd
Canadian Infantry Division (1st British Corps) moved to its
allotted area and, placed temporarily under command of the 49th (West
Riding) Infantry Division, prepared to cross into the latter's
bridgehead east of Sint-Lenaarts.
Meanwhile along the Leopold Canal, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division's patrol programme was unsuccessful in securing prisoners. As it was essential to gain information, a patrol in size was decided upon. In the early morning the Lincoln and Welland Regiment of the 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade put two platoons over the canal in the Sint-Laureins sector. The well-planned and well-supported raid began at 5.15 am and by 7 am the raiding party was back with only light casualties and, above all, with 15 prisoners who disgorged a wealth of valuable information to intelligence interrogators.
|On 27 September the 1st Polish Armoured Division, now under the command of 1st British Corps, moved to the area of Wommelgem (see also above).|
28 September 1944
Canadian Infantry Division's (1st British Corps)
6th Canadian Infantry Brigade attempted a new crossing of the
Antwerp-Turnhout canal at Lochtenberg. At 2 pm the operation started and
a platoon of the South Saskatchewan Regiment succeeded in making a
crossing under cover of heavy smoke. However, very heavy mortaring and
fire from enemy pillboxes prevented construction of the vital bridge.
The brigade commander was not prepared to suffer any serious casualties
and at 6 pm ordered the platoon to withdraw. With the likelihood of the
brigade obtaining a bridgehead at Lochtenberg holding little promise,
the brigade was also ordered to move to the Sint-Lenaarts' sector, where
the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division had already established a
Meanwhile, the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, already across the canal at Sint-Lenaarts, spent the remaining days of the month slowly extending the western limits of the British-held area north of the Antwerp-Turnhout canal. On the morning of 28 September Le Régiment de Maisonneuve past through Rijkevorsel and turned west to capture the eastern part of Brecht at last light. The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada then passed through with a view to taking Sint-Lenaarts. This proved to be a slow process and the battalion commander was under no illusion regading the difficulty of making a night attack on this strongly-defended area. He ordered his companies to approach the town by three separate converging roads. The attack went in with tank support during the evening and by midnight three companies were established firmly in the town.
In the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade's sector the Royal Regiment of Canada took over most of the increased brigade frontage with the assistance of the carriers of the Essex Scottish Regiment. By 28 September patrols had reached Ekeren and there were reports that the enemy was moving out of the areas of Kapellen, Hoevenen, and Ekeren. However, Merksem and Schoten were still in enemy hands.
|On 28 September the 1st Polish Armoured Division (1st British Corps) concentrated in the Turnhout area and was ordered to seize crossing over the Wilhelmina Canal north of Tilburg. The task was divided into two phases. In the first phase, a battle group centred around the 3rd Polish Rifle Brigade was to occupy the area of Merksplas, some 8 kilometres northwest of Turnhout. A second group, centred around the 10th Polish Armoured Brigade, would go west to the Oostmalle area and from there, in a second phase, would by-pass the 3rd Rifle Brigade to seize the crossings.|
29 September 1944
|In the area of operations of
the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (1st
British Corps) the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade
moved to Westmalle on the morning of 29 September and the
8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment took
over its positions along the Antwerp-Turnhout canal.
The capture of Sint-Lenaarts by the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade made it possible to launch the Calgary Highlanders through the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada's positions to objectives west of the town and south of Brecht. The regiment completed its tasks on the afternoon of 29 September, although opposition was not light and its success made possible by the construction of a bridge at Sint-Lenaarts.
During the course of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade's move from Lochtenberg to Westmalle, the South Saskatchewan Regiment had veered too far to the left, through an error in map reading and came under fire from a large distillery on the north bank of the canal on the outskirts of Eindhoven, a part of Brecht. To protect the brigade right flank the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada were placed under temporary command of 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade and moved over the canal in time to relieve Le Régiment de Maisonneuve east of Sint-Lenaarts.
30 September 1944
|The last day of September saw the end of the prolonged process of changing 1st British Corps' position. The 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, which had been left grounded in the vicinity of Le Havre, completed its long move from the Channel coast and took up a position, under control of Second British Army, just to the right of the inter-army boundary south of Herentals. Simultaneously, the 12th British Corps ended temporarily its association with First Canadian Army, which had started with Operation Totalize in early August.|
Canadian Infantry Division (1st British Corps) continued to use
its 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade to widen
the bridgehead at Sint-Lenaarts. Early on the morning of 30 September Le
Régiment de Maisonneuve started to advance on Brecht, but on running
into fairly heavy opposition abandoned its attempt and established form
company positions between Sint-Lenaarts and Brecht. The task of taking
the town was assigned to the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of
Canada for the next day. Meanwhile, the Calgary Highlanders, directed
upon Eindhoven and the distillery, continued throughout the day to
improve their positions along the canal in readiness for a further
advance. That afternoon the inter-divisional boundary between the 49th
(West Riding) Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was
moves westwards to give the British formation control of Sint-Lenaarts.
As a result, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada reverted to
the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade at 4 pm and concentrated south of the
canal once more with its parent brigade.
Very little of moment occurred during the remaining days of the month for the 4th Canadian Armoured Division (2nd Canadian Corps). Normal patrolling, harassing fire, training programmes and leave parties all contributed to keep the troops alert and content. Routine unit moves and reliefs were made within the brigade area. The enemy was apparently now employing their heavy calibre long range guns - located probably at Heist and Knokke - in an endeavour to harass the troops, and it was observed with satisfaction that many of these rounds were falling short into his own forces' area. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division had been instructed on 24 September that it would continue its containing role until relieved by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian Corps). Until that time arrived (mid-October) the units of the division were satisfied to carry out their assigned programme of maintaining the watch on the Leopold Canal.
By the end of September First Canadian Army was approaching the conclusion of one of the most spectacular phases of its operations. Since D Day, in a series of hard fought battles and relentless pursuits, Canadian troops had advanced some 400 miles from the Normandy beaches to the Dutch frontier. Since 23 July First Canadian Army had captured over 70,000 prisoners. The cost had not been light. The total casualties suffered by all formations of First Canadian Army from the opening of Operation "TOTALIZE"(7 Aug) to the end of September were 18,998. From the time that 2 Canadian Corps'pursuit started on 19 August, Canadian losses had totalled 606 officers and 7855 other ranks.
|The 1st Polish Armoured Division (1st British Corps) was now ordered to advance to the Wilhelmina Canan, north of Tilburg, 32 kilometres to the northeast. On 30 September the Polish troops reached Merksplas, some 6.5 kilometres north of the Antwerp-Turnhout canal.|
1 October 1944
|In the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division's (1st British Corps) bridgehead at Sint-Lenaarts the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada of the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, driving through the positions occupied by the Calgary Highlanders the previous evening south of the town succeeded in capturing Brecht, 3 kilometres awayfrom the bridgehead.|
2 October 1944
|After the successful surprise of the bridgehead at Sint-Lenaarts the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (1st British Corps) had had to fight hard to keep and expand the bridgehead. When the 1st Polish Armoured Division passed through, the area was finally cleared on 2 October, and on both sides of the Poles, the division, with the help of the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (2nd Canadian Infantry Division), covered a 32-kilometer wide gap between the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and Second British Army. The 146th Infantry Brigade followed the road from Turnhout to Tilburg. The 147th Infantry Brigade covered the Poles in the centre and a mixed battele group, based on the division's reconnaissance units and anti-tank regiments connected with the Canadians in Brecht on the left side.|
|On 2 October the
2nd Canadian Infantry Division (1st British
Corps) started the advance to the dam of South-Beveland. The
Canadian Infantry Brigade passed through the 5th Canadian Infantry
Brigade's expansion of the bridgehead and occupied Lochtenberg.
The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade and two resistance batallions attacked Merksem from the west and south.
|The 1st Polish Armoured Division (1st British Corps) passed through the bridgehead of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division at Sint-Lenaarts.|
3 October 1944
|On 3 October the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (1st British Corps) occupied Brasschaat. Meanwhile, the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade finally completed the clearing of Merksem, with the help of the Belgian Resistance.|
|The 1st Polish Armoured Division (1st British Corps), following the railway line to Tilburg, reached the Dutch border at Baarle-Nassau on 3 October.|
4 October 1944
|Following the road from Turnhout to Tilburg the 146th Infantry Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (1st Corps), together, with Canadian armoured units liberated Poppel on 4 October and crossed the Dutch border.|
|On 4 October Les Fuseliers Mont-Royal of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (1st British Corps) liberated Kapellen. The 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade advanced almost 9 kilometres to the Dutch border.|
5 October 1944
|On 5 October the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (1st British Corps) liberated Putte on the Dutch border.|
8 October 1944
|At 5 am on 8 October Les Fuseliers Mont-Royal of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (1st British Corps) surpised the Germans occupying Kalmthout, and occupied the town as well as the important crossroads there. That evening a resistance group joined them. Two other resistance groups covered the long open flank of the division.|
31 October 1944
|In the early morning of 31
October the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade of
the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd
Canadian Corps) commenced its final attack towards Knokke, Heist and
Zeebrugge, still occupied by the Germans. The attack started at around 2
am when the Highland Infantry of Canada attacked from north of the Dutch
town of Retranchement and crossed the Uitwateringskanaal with assault
boats. Surprise was total and within an hour 300-400 prisoners were
made. By 4 am all objectives had been taken and the battalion remained
in its positions in the area now called Het Zwin for the remainder of
The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders used their canvas assault boats in a less conventional manner. To cross the Uitwateringskanaal to the south of Retranchement they used them to construct a foot bridge. The only faced light resistance and made good progress as well, capturing around 100 prisoners, some of which they used as living shields as heavy artillery fire caused many casualties among the engineers and delayed the construction of a Bailey bridge. The bridge was ready at 3.15 pm and was named the Hickman Bridge, in honour of Sergeant John L. Hickman of the 6th Canadian Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, who had been killed constructing it.
The troops now crossed the Belgian border and at around 3.30 am overran a German command post in the former Hazegras fort. At around 4 am the command post of Kampfgruppe Erfurth was surrounded. After the usual artillery barrages the two battalions reached the outskirts of Knokke in the course of the afternoon. In the Strandhotel at Oosthoek (a quarter of Knokke) the Canadians overran a German field dressing station where they found around 350 wounded German soldiers.
Shortly afterwards the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, until then in reserve, were committed. They passed through the positions of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and penetrated deep into the outskirts of Knokke during the night.
Until 31 October the defence of the area to the south of the Derivation Canal of the river Lys and the Leopold Canal had been guarded by the British 52nd Reconnaissance Regiment, with companies in Damme, Lissewege and Blankenberge. The regiment was the recce unit of the British 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, which had itself replaced the 18th Canadian Armoured Car Regiment on 28 September, which in turn had been in the area since 17 September. Starting on 31 October this task was assigned to the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment, the recce unit of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, which had until then been engaged in Sluis. The units positioned its squadrons in Lissewege and Damme, with the third suqadron in reserve in Blankenberge.
Likewise the 3rd Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment left its positions south of the Schipdonk Canal and took over the canal guard duties near Sluis, but without its organic guns. The regiment thus replaced the British 354th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery and the 304th Anti-Tank Battery. When the 3rd Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment had been assigned the task of guarding the eastern side of the Brugge-Sluis canal, the unit had also been subordinated to the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. On that occasion, the commander of the former unit was given orders normally meant for an infantry battalion. These involved crossing the canal on 1 November and clearing the western side. The artillery unit was used in an attacking role, as no infantry unit was available at that time.
1 November 1944
|In the early morning of 1
November the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade
of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd
Canadian Corps) was firmly established in the eastern outskirts of
Knokke: the Highland Infantry of Canada in the northeast, the Stormont,
Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders in the eastern villa quarter and the
North Nova Scotia Highlanders in the southeast of the city.
At around 9 am the Highland Infantry of Canada received orders to clear the Atlantikwall positions to the northeast. This was considered essential, since that area had been passed during the successful attacks of the previous day. The resistance encountered was so heavy that flame-throwing Wasp vehicles and M-10 tanks had to be used. Especially the defenders of Stützpunkt Tobruk in the northeastern corner of Belgium appeared unwilling to surrender. Even though the planned heavy 28 cm guns had not been installed, four large gun bunkers and other bunkers had been finished and the strongpoint had been been fully prepared for defence. The Canadians sent a German prisoner in an attempt to induce the German commander to surrender, which the latter refused. When the Canadian attack was launched soon thereafter and man-to-man fighting ensued, the German commander and around 250 soldiers surrendered. After that, the dune area westwards to Knokke was cleared without much opposition. Having arrived in Knokke, the Canadians received a warm welcome from the inhabitants.
In its attempts to advance through the southern parts of Knokke in the afternoon the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders suffered substantial casualties when a German gun near the strongpoint at the railway station opened fire on them. Exploding shells caused dozens of casualties among soldiers and civilians. Further plans to continue the advance towards Duinbergen were abandoned in the face of heavy resistance. Instead, during the night a patrol was sent out, which managed to get close to the water tower on the east of Duinbergen but suffered casualties in a firefight there. A second patrol managed to penetrate further, but reported heavy resistance in the south of Duinbergen. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders were also active during the night and reported German resistance on the northern approach to Duinbergen. As Duinbergen thus appeared to be heavily defended from all, sides, the planned morning attack by the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders was cancelled. Instead, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, who were advancing along the coast were ordered to clear Duinbergen the next day.
The North Nova Scotia Highlanders, who had initially been ordered to advance right through the centre of Knokke to Heist, sent combat patrols into the centre in the early hours of the day, closely followed by the companies. Even before daybreak the battalion had already passed the starting line and the companies were fighting several actions. During one of those 156 Canadian prisoners were liberated in the cellars of the Dorchester Hotel. Meanwhile, the battalion was approaching the strongpoint occupied by Generalmajor Knut Eberding, the commander of the 64th Infantry Division. When the battalion had reached the western side of the golf course by noon via de Zoutelaan, the two attacking companies were held up by heavy fire from the strongpoint. When the Canadians brought forwards reinforcements, Eberding surrendered.
On 1 November the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was also pushing forward much further to the south, encountering only light resistance during the night. Le Régiment de la Chaudière was able to expand its bridgehead across the Uitwateringskanaal north of Sluis. In the early morning the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment attacked the Dutch town of Sluis and cleared it before noon. After Sint Anna ter Muiden had also been occupied, the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada were ordered to continue the attack in a westerly direction. The battalion arrived in Sint Anna ter Muiden in the afternoon and sent out patrols towards the Belgian town of Westkapelle.
Supported by fighter bombers M-10 tanks and artillery the 3rd Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment began its attack near Oostkerke. Once across the canal the attack continued in a westerly direction and Oostkerke was occupied without much resistance. A second attack was made along side the canal towards Sluis, resulting in the capture of Hoeke and 65 prisoners by nightfall.
2 November 1944
|It will be remembered that
during the night of 1/2 November the North Nova Scotia Highlanders of
the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
3rd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian
Corps) had tried to gain ground by means of combat patrols, but met
heavy resistance in the north of Duinbergen. It was decided to conduct
an battalion attack, supported by M-10 tanks and the special engineer
tanks of the British 79th Armoured Division, the latter under the
operational command of the 1st Lothian and Border Yeomanry. However,
preparations too longer than anticipated and the attack was postponed
several times, but finally planned for 1 pm. No doubt due to this heavy
support, also by fighter bombers, the 11 officers and 70 soldiers of the
strongpoint at Duinbergen quickly surrendered. It was the last organised
resistance put up by the Germans. After Duinbergen had been captured in
the afternoon of 2 November the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
Highlanders were on the move again and occupied positions on the south
side of Duinbergen and Heist. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders soon
continued their advance and, leaving one company behind in Duinbergen, 2
companies supported by Crocodiles and M-10 tanks were heading for Heist.
Initially, there was little resistance until they approached the
northern part of Heist. Fire erupted from some bunkers located on the
coast, but the appearance of an M-10 persuaded the Germans here to
surrender as well. During a last charge of one of the companies to the
mouth of the Leopold Canal the bunkers there were found to be empty.
That day the batallion had made around 350 prisoners.
Meanwhile, the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment was given new orders. Informed by the local resistance the battalion left Blankenberge for an attack on Zeebrugge from the south and the east. No resistance was encountered bue due to inundations and the Boudewijn Canal (linking Zeebrugge to Brugge) little ground was won.
The planned attack on Westkapelle by the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade was launched at around 9.25 am. A little across the Belgian border conditions deteriorated considerably when inundated terrain was reached and the road was found to be blown up and blocked by trees, requiring the services of the 6th Canadian Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers time and again. Upon upproaching Westkapelle, it was planned to shell the defenders out of their positions. However, when news was received that the village was full of refugees, it was decided not to shell the village. The infantry reached Westkapelle at around 11 am, without having fired a single shot. The attack was immediately continued towards Ramskapelle, where 54 Germans surrendered. Another company of the battalion hit upon a bunker complex on the north side of the town, the former headquarters of the 732nd Grenadierregiment. The occupants put up resistance, but surrendered when an M-10 tank drove up and 15 prisoners were made. In view of the hopeless situation of the remaining German defenders in the inundated terrain the local German commanders sought contact with the Canadians and surrender conditions were agreed upon. By 5 am on 3 November, all remaining German soldiers, 4 officers and 153 troop, had been rounded up.
3 November 1944
|In the early morning of 3
November 20 German soldiers crossed the Leopold Canal in Zeebrugge and
got into a firefight with B Company of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders
of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the
3rd Canadian Infantry Division (2nd Canadian
Corps). Soon, however, the German soldiers realised their hopeless
situation and surrendered. Shortly afterwards, another 65 German
soldiers arrived but they offered no further resistance and surrendered.
Having been informed by the local resistance again an intact lock across the Boudewijn Canal was found by the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment in the early morning of 3 November. The lock doors could be crossed and the area until the Schipdonk Canal could be cleared. Again, the Canadian troops encountered no resistance and were able to make contact with the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, who had occupied positions on the northern side of that canal. There, they learned that the last German troops had already surrendered (see above).
The whole of Belgium had now been liberated.