LCMSDS Air Photo Collection – A Look at Westkapelle by Mike Bechthold

Field Marshal Montgomery ordered the Canadian army to open the port of Antwerp in the fall of 1944.  To accomplish this, the banks of the 50-mile-long Scheldt Estuary would have to be cleared.  One of the most heavily defending areas was the island of Walcheren at the mouth of the estuary.  The amphibious assault on Walcheren would be one of the most difficult operations of the war. Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, in temporary command of First Canadian Army, proposed to “sink” the island by breaching the dykes which kept the island dry. This flooding would severely hamper the Germans’ ability to defend the island.  RAF Bomber Command was initially cooperative, readily agreeing to try and breach the dykes which kept Walcheren Island above the sea. On 2 October warning leaflets were dropped over the island. The next day 259 Lancasters and Mosquitoes aimed more than a thousand tons of bombs at the Westkapelle dyke which was soon broken. On 7 and 11 October the RAF returned to open gaps in the dykes near Flushing and on the north coast at Veere. Walcheren was “sinking” beneath the waters of the North Sea. These air photos for the LCMSDS collection show Westkapelle before, during and after the bombings.

Westkapelle Before the Raid

An Oblique of Westkapelle Before the Raid

Westkapelle After the Raid

Westkapelle 28 October 1944

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