The Flooding of Walcheren - POI219

The Flooding of Walcheren

03-11-1944 - 05-02-1946

Zeedijk, Westkapelle, The Netherlands
Keywords for this historic location
Bombing Destruction
Liberation Route Europe

The Flooding of Walcheren

All of the fighting during the liberation of the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War harmed the civilian population, but none more so then the fighting in Walcheren. The Allied commanders were very concerned by the strong German defences on the island and therefore decided to flood the entire area by breaching the dykes.

On 2 October 1944 leaflets were dropped over Walcheren urging civilians to leave the area as soon as possible. No explanation was given as to why they needed to leave and even if this had been given the civilians would not have been able to leave as the Germans did not permit anybody to leave the island. A day later the Allied air force punched a hole in the dyke near Westkappelle. This bombardment cost the lives of 152 civilians and destroyed most of the town. Further attacks also breached the dykes at Veere, Vlissingen and Fort Rammekens. Now the water came pouring in. About 80 per cent of Walcheren lay below sea level and was subsequently flooded. Thousands of civilians had to leave their possessions and flee to the few dry pieces of land.

The flooding of Walcheren has always been a controversial decision. The idea was that the flooding would disrupt the German lines of communication and would prevent them from moving their troops. In practice the advantages were however limited. The German army, at this point, had no more reserves to move around so their mobility was hardly affected. For the Allied commanders it can be said that they had to make their decisions based on a worse case scenario. The Germans held strong positions on Walcheren and it was reasonable to assume that they would do anything to prevent the Allies from capturing the island and thus freeing up the use of the port of Antwerp.

The damage done to Walcheren was enormous. It would take until the beginning of 1946 before the dykes were fully closed and the long process of recovery could begin.

Tourist information

Several monuments to the Second World War can be found nearby.

Media gallery

Zeedijk, Westkapelle, The Netherlands

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