Exploring Walcheren Island

Uncle Beach, Flushing
Uncle Beach, Flushing 2016

The Walcheren Island in the Netherlands is located close to the port of Antwerp just across the border in Belgium and overlooking the Scheldt river estuary to the south. By autumn 1944 the port was in Allied hands but the estuary area from Walcheren across to Breskens was in German hands. This meant that shipping could not be brought into Antwerp without coming under fire from this positions so Operation Infatuate was born to take the Walcheren Island finally allowing the port to open and bring supplies to the Allies directly rather than all the way from Normandy.

Uncle Beach, Flushing 1944 (IWM BU 1255)
Uncle Beach, Flushing 1944 (IWM BU 1255)

The landings took place on 1st November 1944 with troops from the 52nd (Lowland) Division and Special Brigade landing at Uncle Beach at Flushing. At Westkapelle, on the western side of the island, the 4th Special Service Brigade supported by Funnies from 79th (Armoured) Division landed on the beach close to where the dyke had been breached by RAF bombing. Finally a Canadian assault came in from the east along the Walcheren Causeway.

Westkapelle Then & Now
Westkapelle Then & Now

The landings were a success and by 8th November 1944 the island of Walcheren was taken and in Allied hands. Casualties had amounted to nearly 1,500 on the British and Canadian side, with over 1,200 German casualties and more than 2,900 Germans taken prisoner. More importantly Antwerp port was now in operation.

Uncle Beach Memorial, Flushing 2016
Uncle Beach Memorial, Flushing 2016

Today the Walcheren Island is a fascinating Second World War battlefield to visit. The Atlantic Wall defences that once protected the island deserve a day on their own, and there is even a cycling route between all the main bunker sites. But a good place to start is on Uncle Beach at Flushing (now Vlissingen) where a memorial park has been created leading up to and on the beach area where the landings took place.

Commando & 52nd (Lowland) Division Memorials
Commando & 52nd (Lowland) Division Memorials

At Westkapelle there is a local history museum close to the landing area which has a good section on WW2. On the dyke us a Sherman Flail Tank used in the operations which forms part of the main memorial here. You can walk down to the beach area, and in the town the Westkapelle Tower, which appears on many wartime images, is still there as a major landmark.

Sherman Flail Tank, Westkapelle
Sherman Flail Tank, Westkapelle

The town of Middleburg serves as a good lunch stop and leaving the island the Walcheren Causeway has a memorial to the Canadians. From here you can continue on to Bergen Op Zoom War Cemetery where the dead from the operation are buried.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan Brouwer says:

    Compliments for the beautiful pictures. Some remarks. At Flushing were landings from No. 4 Commando from 1st Special Service Brigade and 155 Brigade from 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division and also troops from No. 10 Inter Allied Commando. At Westkapelle Commando’s from 4th Special Service Brigade landed supported also by troops from No. 10 IA Commando.
    The Canadians went back to Antwerp for rest. From the east came in 156 and 157 Brigade from 52nd Lowland Division through Sloe and along Sloe Causeway..

    Like

    1. ww2guide says:

      Thanks for those additional details.

      Like

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