Battle of the Breskens pocket, Operation Switchback

Battle of the Breskens pocket, Operation Switchback

06-10-1944 - 03-11-1944

Spuiplein 17, Breskens, The Netherlands
Keywords for this historic location
Destruction Fighting Liberation Victory and defeat
Liberation Route Europe

Battle of the Breskens pocket, Operation Switchback

By August 1944 the German army retreated along the entire western front. In northern Belgium the German 15th Army was trapped in a pocket along the Dutch/Belgium coast and the Scheldt estuary. This pocket was known as the Breskens pocket and it would play an important role in the battle of the Scheldt.

The task of defending the Breskens pocket fell to the German 64th Infantry Division. This division consisted of some 10,000 men and was well supplied with machineguns, mortars and artillery. Its task was to defend the pocket till the last man. Facing these forces was the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, which had the difficult job of clearing the Germans from well prepared defensive positions in difficult terrain.

On 6 October the Canadians launched their attack, codenamed Operation Switchback. The first challenge was to cross the Leopold Canal with its steep banks. With the support of Wasp flamethrower carriers two bridgeheads were formed on the opposite bank of the canal, but the Canadians met with stiff resistance and progress was slow. On 9 October an amphibious assault was made at the small village of Hoofdplaat in order to relieve some of the pressure on the troops at the canal. This attack caught the Germans by surprise but they soon recovered and kept on fighting a skilfully executed delaying action. On 21 October Breskens fell and on 2 November the commanding German general Knut Eberding was captured. The next day the remaining German forces laid down their weapons and Operation Switchback came to an end.

Caught in the middle of all these battles the civilian population also suffered greatly. The German soldiers had flooded large parts of the terrain and over a third of all buildings in the area had been destroyed. During the battle over 600 civilians lost their lives alongside 800 Allied and 1,325 German soldiers.

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Battle of the Breskens pocket, Operation Switchback

The task of defending the Breskens pocket fell to the German 64th Infantry Division. This division consisted of some 10,000 men and was well supplied...

Spuiplein 17, Breskens, The Netherlands

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