Attack on the Scheldt - The Struggle for Antwerp 1944, Graham A. Thomas

Attack on the Scheldt - The Struggle for Antwerp 1944, Graham A. Thomas

One of the most controversial elements of the Allied victory in 1944-45 was the failure to open the port of Antwerp as quickly as possible. The city was liberated at the start of September, with the port facilities surprisingly intact. However no serious effort was taken to clear the river approaches to the city until October, mainly because Montgomery’s focus was on Operation Market Garden, and the attempt to leap the Rhine in a single dramatic step. Only after the battle of Arnhem ended in defeat did attention turn back to Antwerp, and the urgent need to open that massive port. During this crucial gap, the Germans were able to dig in along the estuary, making the task of clearing the river much harder than it would have been in September

The Allies needed to clear both banks of the Scheldt before they could open the port of Antwerp. This meant clearing the low lying south bank, an area protected by large scale flooding and canals, but at least attackable on a fairly wide front. On the north bank the first target was South Beveland, a former island now connected to the mainland by a narrow peninsula in the east. This was followed by an attack on Walcheren Island, which guarded the north-western entrance to the West Scheldt, and had been the site of a major British military defeat during the Napoleonic Wars. 

Once the attempt to clear the Scheldt began in earnest, one gets the impression of a skilfully conducted campaign. Even though the Germans were well dug in, and on several occasions faced attackers who were restricted to very narrow causeways, the Allies made steady progress. The main part of the battle lasted for just over a month, from early October into early November. This is a good detailed account of that campaign, covering each of its elements in turn - first the clearing of the south bank, then the invasion of South Beveland and finally the invasion of Walcheren. One gets a good impressive of the sheer amount of determination needed on the part of the Allied infantry and support arms to cope with the fierce German defences and the difficulties of the terrain and weather to clear the estuary and finally allow the Allies to use Antwerp.

Part 1 - First Moves
1 - Clash of the Titans
2 - The German Perspective

Part 2 - Operation Switchback
3 - The Days of Victory, September 1944
4 - The Allies Draw Their Plans
5 - Plan of Attack
6 - Final Preparations
7 - Break-Out
8 - The Battle for the Leopold Canal
9 - Across the Braakman Inlet
10 - The Battle for Woensdrecht
11 - The Assault on South Beveland

Part 3- Operation Infatuate
12 - Battle for the Causeway
13 - Assault on Walcheren - Flushing
14 - Commandos Attack Westkapelle
15 - Support
16 - Domburg and Beyond
17 - Last Days on Walcheren
18 - Legacy

Author: Graham A. Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 212
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2017

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