Friday, November 09, 2007

Walcheren Island

no humour today, sorry. Not in the mood. Poignancy is the order of the day, and will be for a couple of days, as I tell you about the fight my uncle got into back in '44.

(click on the images to enlarge them)
The goal was to go North, get around Antwerp and take a flooded Walcheren Island. The German 7th army had been ordered to hold the north bank of the Scheldt river with everything they had. They succeeded long enough to allow the vast majority of their army to escape through Antwerp, and get away to Holland, where we had to face them later. This is the Commonwealth War Graves cemetary at Bergen Op Zoom, just north of Antwerp and across the border into Holland. That's my uncle's grave, the one I was named after. It is a bit chilling to see you own name on a grave stone!

All the British Commonwealth cemetaries have a monument like this one. A big marble cross with a bronze sword on it. The swords have all been re-made in fiberglass because they kept getting stolen and melted down for the bronze metal in them. The fiberglass ones look just fine.

It is remarkable how well the Dutch people care for these cemetaries...apparently they are being visited less and less as time goes by. I had heard that each gravestone is the responsibility of a local school boy. I didn't meet anybody who would know about that when I was there.

This is the story of the action. Uncle Bill died in the big push around the east of Antwerp.

The big picture.

I am really proud of the Calgary Highlanders, my uncles who did their duty, and spent their whole lives being quiet and modest about a remarkable accomplishment. Most people who study this whole action feel that the Canadians got the muddy end of the stick in this action....but then, after the Dieppe fiasco the previous year, they made sure they were ready for it.


Pacific College Mom said...

What a lovely man you are, sir! Sometimes the greatest complement you can give someone is simply to remember them, and allow them to live on in your sharing with others. He sounds like quite a man.

STAG said...

You are so kind.

I went to a lot of trouble finding out how he died and what he was up to during that time. The family never talks about his war time experience, I had to dig all that up on my own.

Seems he was a hero.