This book, with more than 350 pages and nearly a hundred photographs, describes and illustrates the battles that led to the liberation of the Zeeuws-Vlaanderen town of Oostburg. This episode formed part of the Battle of the Scheldt, which was fought in the Provinces of Zeeland and West Noord-Brabant from September to November 1944. The overall purpose of the battle was the transshipment capacity of the port of Antwerp, which was crucial to the Allied campaign against the Nazis in Western Europe.
The fighting around and in the built-up area of Oostburg raged from 20 to 30 October and was exceptionally fierce. The human toll for both friend and foe was unimaginable. More than two hundred people, including fifty-six Canadian soldiers and one hundred and forty civilians, lost their lives as a result of the violence. The town was under bombardment from early October 1944. The shelling increased day by day, until Canadian troops entered the town on 25 October. The war caused so much destruction that it was decided to rebuild Oostburg based on a new street plan. Thus, the liberation became a watershed in the town’s history and the lives of its inhabitants.
The gradual disappearance of the visual evidence and the memories of the liberation, as time goes on, makes it important to keep those memories alive. The life led by today’s generation in Oostburg would not have been possible without the battles that raged in the town’s streets in those days of October.
The book is based on the logs recording the radio messages exchanged by the various Canadian army units that were involved in the fighting. This archival material, supplemented with diaries and stories told by civilians and by Canadian and German soldiers, provide a unique look at the events that culminated in the total destruction and the liberation of Oostburg.
The reader can follow the liberators step by step. Find out how the soldiers cautiously moved from farm to farm via the many dykes in the polders surrounding Oostburg. They were soaked to the skin for weeks on end, and put at least as much energy in fighting the sucking mud and the cold as in battling the enemy. The German defenders put up a fanatical resistance, but the superior numbers they faced meant that they continually lost ground. Oostburg’s residents, most of whom had fled to neighbouring farms, became caught up in the violence. The fighting ultimately reached a crescendo in the Henricus Polder on 28 October. British tanks were called for to break the tough German resistance.
Readers who happen to visit Oostburg and surroundings will be amazed to learn that ferocious battles were waged for almost every street and dyke road in the area, characterized today by tranquility and waving trees. It was a battle that should never be forgotten!