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Canadians in Belgium
Soldier: Royal Canadian Highlander Scout (Sniper) in Belgium.
During the Liberation of Belgium more than 1,000 Canadian soldiers lost their lives. They died in the autumn of 1944 for the liberation of Flanders, including the cities of Furnes, La Panne, Nieuport, Ostend, Knocke-Heist, Bruges, Eecloo and the northern suburbs of Antwerp.
Map: First Canadian Army in Belgium and Holland.
During the Second World War, Belgium was the scene of major fighting by the First Canadian Army from September to November 1944. The task of the Canadian soldiers was very important:
  • Clearing coastal areas in the north of France.
  • capturing the launching sites of German rockets to put an end to their attacks on southern England.

The First Canadian Army also played a leading role in opening the Scheldt estuary (tidal river), gateway to the Belgian port of Antwerp. Access to this port was essential to maintain supply lines to the Allied armies as they continued their push towards Germany to defeat Adolf Hitler's forces and free Western Europe from four years of Nazi occupation which had begun in April 1940.

Under the command of General Henry Duncan Graham (Harry) Crerar, the First Canadian Army was international in character. It was comprised of two Corps - the 1st British Corps and the 2nd Canadian Corps. The 2nd Canadian Corps included the 1st Polish Armoured Division as well as three Canadian Divisions - the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. Belgian and Dutch units also served in the First Canadian Army in the initial advance, but were transferred to the Second British Army as it began operations in Belgium and moved on to the Netherlands. The First Canadian Army in northwestern Europe during the final phases of the war was a powerful force, the largest army that had ever been under the control of a Canadian general. The strength of this army ranged from approximately 105,000 to 175,000 Canadian soldiers to anywhere from 200,000 to over 450,000 when including the soldiers from other nations.

More than 800 Canadian soldiers died in battle in Belgium. Most died in September and October of 1944 while liberating the region of Flanders, which included the cities of Furnes, La Panne, Nieuport, Ostend, Knocke-Heist, Bruges, Eecloo, and the northern suburbs of Antwerp. In addition, more than 7,600 Canadian soldiers died during the Liberation of the Netherlands, many while helping free the Scheldt estuary and opening up the port of Antwerp for shipping.

The Road to the Scheldt

The Allied forces, including the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade of the First Canadian Army, landed on the beaches of Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. As the armies progressed further inland, the First Canadian Army engaged in bitter fighting at Caen and Falaise. Once the Battle of Normandy was won on August 25, 1944, the First Canadian Army was assigned the task of clearing the coastal areas and opening the English Channel ports for supplies vital to the Allied advance.

Fighting on the left flank of the Allied forces, the First Canadian Army pushed rapidly eastward through France towards Belgium. September began with the 2nd Canadian Division being welcomed to Dieppe. The 2nd Canadian Corps left a number of units to guard the heavily defended ports and pushed towards Belgium.

To the south of the Canadians, the 1st British Corps entered the city of Le Havre on September 3. In the meantime, the troops of the 1st Polish Armoured Division crossed the Somme and led the 2nd Canadian Corps as they drove northward. On September 5, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division took St. Omer and on the 6th crossed the Franco-Belgian border and overcame enemy forces at Ypres and Passchendaele (sites of well-known First World War Canadian battles). On September 7 they reached Roulers, Belgium.

The Second British Army, meanwhile, was speeding through Brussels on its way to Antwerp, which it seized on September 4 with its installations virtually intact, an important first step to opening this major seaport to Allied shipping.

On September 9, and again on the night of September 10 to 11, the 1st Polish Armoured Division attempted to create a crossing of the Ghent Canal halfway between Bruges and Ghent. The Poles encountered heavy German opposition over the difficult terrain, and were forced to abandon the attack. They then moved north to relieve the 7th British Armoured Division in the Ghent area.

Meanwhile, the 4th Canadian Armoured Division had resumed its advance on September 6 moving forward towards the Belgian towns of Bruges and Eecloo. On September 8, the Canadians arrived at the Ghent Canal. The Germans had destroyed all bridges in an attempt to slow the Allied advance towards Antwerp and the Scheldt.

On the evening of September 8, an attack was launched across the canal near Moerbrugge, five kilometres south of Bruges. Enemy mortar and heavy fire came down, but a narrow bridgehead was established, and by September 10 a bridge had been built across the Ghent Canal to give support. The bridgehead was gradually extended, but the difficult terrain and enemy resistance slowed further progress.

- Liberation of La Panne, September 3
- Nieuport, September 8
- Moerkerke, Sep. 13-14
- Wyneghem, Sep. 21-22
- Antwerp-Turnhout Canal, Sep. 24-29
- Bruges, September 29
- The Scheldt, Oct. 1-Nov. 8
- Liberation of Ostent, Oct.
- South Beveland, Oct. 24-31
- Walcheren Causeway, Oct. 3-Nov. 4
- Leopold Canal, Oct. 6-16
- Woensdrecht, Oct. 1-27
- Savojaards Plaat, Oct. 9-10
- Breskens Pocket, Oct. 11-Nov. 3
- The Lower Maas, Oct. 20-Nov. 7
- Nijmegen, Nov. 12-Feb. 7 1945
- Kapelsche Veer, Dec. 31-Jan. 31 1945
- The Roer (Battle of the Bulge), Jan. 16-31
- Mooshof, Steeg & Wimmershof, Feb. 26
- The Rhineland, Feb. 8-Mar. 10
- The Reichswald, Feb. 8-13
- Waal Flats, Feb. 8-15
- Moyland Wood, Feb.14-21
- Goch-Calcar Road, Feb. 19-21
- The Hochwald, Feb. 24- Mar. 4
- Balberger Wald , Mar. 2-4
- Xanten, Mar. 8-9
- Veen, Mar. 6-10
- The Rhine, Mar. 25-Apr. 1
- Emmerich-Hoch Elten, Mar. 28- Apr. 1
- Twente Canal, Apr. 2-4
- Eekhoorn, Zwaarte Schaar, Rodenburg & Hoefken, Apr. 4
- Emmer , Apr. 5
- Rha, Apr. 5-6
- Zutphen, Apr. 6-8
- Deventer, Apr. 8-11
- Snippeling, Apr. 10
- Liberation of Apeldoorn, Apr. 11-17
- Arnhem 1945, Apr. 12-14
- Liberation of Westerbork, Apr. 12
- Groningen, Apr. 13-16
- Ijsselmeer, Apr. 15-18
- Wons, Apr. 16
- Witmarsum, Kornwerder, Goduin, Zurich & Pingum, Apr. 17
- Küsten Canal, Apr. 17-24
- Diele, Stapelmoor, Holthusen, Ditzumer & Verlaat , Apr. 22-26
- Delfzijl Pocket, Apr. 23-May 2
- Bad Zwischenahn, Apr. 25-May 4
- Oldenburg, Apr. 27-May 4
- Ditzum & Pogum , Apr. 27
- Leer, Apr. 28-29
- Hesel, Bagband, Ulbargen & Mitte Grossefehn, May 2-3
- Ostersander , May 4
- Ofen, May 5
 Photo Gallery
Lt. Stan Biggs briefing Universal Carrier flame-thrower crews of the QOR, 29 July 1944. Vicinity of Vaucelles, Belgium.
Private L. P. McDonald, Lance Corporal W. Stevans, and Lance Corporal R, Dais man 6-pounder anti-tank gun on canal bank as Germans remain in opposite section of town. Nieuwpoort, Belgium, 9 Sept, 1944.
Personnel of the Royal Regiment of Canada resting. September 11, 1944, Blankenberge, Belgium.
Personnel of the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.C.A., playing cribbage. (L-R): L/Bdr. R.G. Laidman, Gnr. D. Rodgers. 30 Sept 1944, Antwerp, Belgium (vicinity).
Infantrymen of the Toronto Scottish Regiment in their Universal Carrier waiting to move forward. September 9, 1944, Nieuport, Belgium.
Scout personnel of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. These men have killed a total of 101 men through sniping operations. 9 Oct 1944, Camp de Brasschaet, Belgium.
German armoured car dug into ground and used as a pill box. 9 Sept 1944, Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
Personnel of the Royal Regiment of Canada. Blankenberge, Belgium, 11 Sept 1944. 11 Sept 1944, Blankenberge, Belgium.
Three "D-Day originals" of the Regina Rifle Regiment who landed in France on 6 June 1944. November 8, 1944, Ghent, Belgium.
Paratroopers of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion preparing for a patrol. January 15, 1945, Bande, Belgium.
Corporal G.E. Mallery covering other members of the Scout Platoon, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, advancing towards Fort de Brasschaet. October 9, 1944.
Infantrymen of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. September 9, 1944, Nieuport, Belgium.
Cosmopolite Hotel requisitioned as the "Maple Leaf" leave centre for Canadian troops, Brussels, Belgium. 22 Oct 1944.
Sapper W.H. Lindstrom, 2nd Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers (R.C.E.), sweeping for mines at a roadblock. October 5, 1944, Cappellen, Belgium.
Infantrymen of the Calgary Highlanders resting on top of Fort de Schooten. October 4, 1944, Fort de Schooten, Belgium.
An unidentified member of the Essex Scottish examining a German heavy machine gun abandoned north of Nieuport. September 13-15, 1944.
Private H.K. Keller of the South Saskatchewan Regiment, who is armed with a Bren gun, on the second floor of a building in Nieuport. September 9, 1944.
Personnel of the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.C.A., playing cribbage. (L-R): L/Bdr. R.G. Laidman, Gnr. D. Rodgers. 30 Sept 1944, Antwerp, Belgium (vicinity).

Last updated on Apr 12, 2007 22:00. Page viewed 50380 times.