Table of Contents
In the early morning of the 1st November of 1944, an hour long artillery bombardment rained down on the town of Flushing, the Netherlands. Under the cover of this roaring preliminary attack, the first waves of No. 4 Commando troops embarked in their boats to meet their objective. As the town started to burn, the blaze clearly displayed the black silhouette of the Orange Mill (Dutch: Oranje Molen) on the other side of the Scheldt Canal bank. This windmill marked the position where they would go ashore: at Uncle Beach.
The taking of the town of Flushing (Dutch: Vlissingen) was part of Operation Infatuate, with a main objective to clear the Dutch Island of Walcheren from the German invaders and secure the sea route to the harbor of Antwerp, Belgium. The island is heavily fortified with a dense concentration of bunkers and strongpoints with heavy guns and artillery, manned by more than 10,000 soldiers of the German 15th Army.
The overall Allied attack concentrated on taking the towns of Flushing (Infatuate I) and Westkapelle (Infatuate II) on the South shore of the Island.
Prior to the attack, the RAF carried out bombing missions to flood large parts of the Island. Starting from 3 October 1944 the sea walls are successfully breached at Westkapelle, Veere, Flushing and Ritthem. The flooding rendered some of the German defenses useless and limited the movement of the 15th Army, but this handicap would also apply to the movement of the Allied Troops.
The Battle of Walcheren Causeway
From the East, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (part of the First Canadian Army) supported by the British 52nd Lowland Division are to commence “Operation Mallard” on the 31st of October to cover the Commando’s right flank. To do this the Canadian and British soldiers have to attack across the Sloedam, a causeway of 1600 meters long and 40 meters wide with tidal marshes on both sides.
The battle on it’s own is now known as the “Battle of Walcheren Causeway” and cost many lives on both sides. The Black Watch of Canada (Royal Highland Regiment) and the Calgary Highlanders in particular were among the first to cross and suffered heavy casualties. The necessity of the battle is still much disputed.
No. 4 Commando landing at Uncle Beach
Spearheaded by No. 4 Commando’s Special Boat Section who silently put the German guards out of action and cleared mines and other obstacles from the sea wall, the first troops reached Uncle Beach almost undisturbed under the cover of darkness and quickly went to work on reaching their objectives. But this rapidly changed when the twilight started to set in and the Germans suddenly realized what was going on. Incoming LCA landing boats started to draw heavy fire, luckily causing only minor damage and few casualties among them. An LCA carrying heavy weapons was sunk just before it reached the bank, but the men managed to salvage the contents. Commander Lieutenant Colonel R.W.P. Dawson set up his command post in the seized bunker at Orange Mill.
Now that the No.4 Commando had successfully established a bridgehead. It was time for the 155 Infantry Regiment led by General McLaren to land at Uncle Beach. The 5th King’s Own Scottish Borders (KOSB) landed on Uncle Beach in the afternoon and when night fell another haul of LCA’s brought in General McLaren himself together with the 7th and 9th Royal Scotts.
Push into Flushing
Now the aim was to take Flushing itself. The first push into the city went swiftly, although various Commando units got into fierce street fighting with the German Army. But by the end of the afternoon No. 4 Commando had reached most of it’s objectives and held most of the old part of the city.
The following day the 4th and 5th KOSB fought their way through the streets further up to the north part of Flushing, while No. 4 Commando and the 7th and 9th Royal Scotts cleaned out the German resistance along the coastline to the West heading in the direction of Hotel Britannia, the German Command Headquarters. In this area the Germans put up a fierce resistance. Large parts of the area were flooded, making it hard for the Commando’s to navigate and forcing them to fight the enemy in waist deep water.
Tunnel system at Boulevard de Ruyter
The Commando’s had a really tough time getting across the sea promenade, the “Boulevard de Ruyter”. The Germans had set up an MG post that controlled the whole promenade. The Commando’s of Troop 3 also discover that there is a tunnel system underneath the promenade interconnecting the German strongpoints and providing several exits/entrances along it’s course. Scared of being attacked from behind, the Commando’s are forced to leave behind a rearguard to monitor the exits. But now they have too little of a force to reach some of their objectives and the Commando’s have to wait for enforcement before they can move on to Hotel Britannia.
After three days of heavy fighting, Flushing falls into Allied hands around noon of 3rd november 1944. Succeeded in their mission, No. 4 Commando hands the control of the city over to the 52nd Lowland Infantry Division.
Visit Flushing (Vlissingen)
Flushing is one of the most fought-over cities of the Netherlands during WWII. It was the theatre of heavy fighting both during the German invasion in May 1940 as well as during the Allied liberation. At the end of the war, Flushing counted only one house that had no war damage. Nowadays the small city is full with war monuments, memorials and other traces of the war. So when you visit Flushing don’t underestimate the amount of time you can spend here visiting them all.