76 Years On: Sapper Bravery and Sacrifice in the Battle of the Scheldt

First Canadian Army included the 2nd Canadian Corps (2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division), the 1st British Corps, the 1st Polish Armoured Division, and at various times, American, Belgian, and Dutch units. During the final phases of the war, it also included the 1st Canadian Corps who joined from Italy (1st Infantry Division and 5th Armoured Division). It had a strength ranging from 105,000 to 175,000 Canadians to  200,000 to over 450,000 with attached formations.
WASP flamethrowers of 2nd Cdn Inf Div bathe German defences on the Leoplod Canal 6 Oct 1944
Canadian Tanks in South Beveland
Publication Date 
30 Sep 2020

Friday 2 October 2020 marks 76 years since the day the First Canadian Army launched the Battle of the Scheldt to unlock the shipping route to the port of Antwerp and open a vital supply route to support the Allied advance into Germany. Strong defences and the unique geography of the Scheldt Estuary made this one of the most difficult battlefields of the Second World War. Under Canadian leadership, Canadian, British and Polish troops advanced over a maze of narrow roads, canals, dykes and flooded lowlands.

While the ground dictated that the infantry would bear the brunt of the battle, and indeed they did, the ground also dictated that the sappers would be front and centre in every action. Sapper loses were not insignificant. Of the over 800 Canadian soldiers who died in the Battle of the Scheldt, nearly sixty were sappers, nearly all from forward division field companies and squadrons. After six weeks of continuous action against a tenacious and fierce enemy, the waterway was open and the first supply ship, the Canadian ship Cataraqui, sailed into Antwerp, 

The CMEA has initiated a historic series of short articles telling of the planning and execution of the battle in all its phases with a focus on the role played by the Royal Canadian Engineers, their gallantry and their sacrifice. This series aims to keep the personal stories of the too few decorated for gallantry and the too many left behind in the cemeteries of Belgium and The Netherlands.  Let us never forget.

Sapper Bravery and Sacrifice in the Battle of the Scheldt is a work in progress and stories will be added over the next few months.  Additional information and insights are most welcome as is any offer of assistance in researching and composing these stories.