Catching Up With the News

More on the Battle of the Scheldt from Mike Kennedy –

“Saw the article on the Battle of the Scheldt in the latest e-veritas. Here is something you might wish to append to the article, I left it out of the last article on Forbes for space reasons.”

A Trip into Hell

One of the bloodiest actions Charly Forbes was involved in was the battle for Walcheren Island in the autumn of 1944. Accessible only by a causeway, the island was heavily defended by German troops and the Canadian 5th Brigade suffered 135 men killed and wounded over the three days the battle lasted. One who fell was Forbes’ RMC classmate and close friend 2762 “Gordy” Grant, a platoon commander with the Black Watch who was killed on the causeway on 31 October 1944.

At 0400 on 2 November, it was the Régiment de Maisonneuve’s turn to march onto the causeway. Leading the advance was No. 18 platoon of D Company, commanded by Lieutenant Charly Forbes. Once again, casualties were heavy and eventually the Canadians were reduced to Forbes and two other officers, and small number of soldiers accompanied by some Belgian patriots. But Forbes and his men accomplished their objective, making it across the causeway and well onto the island before pulling back later that evening. Decades later he would recreate this trip into hell in an oil painting, an image of which is reproduced on page 166 of the book Rare Courage.

The heavy fighting on Walcheren Island was described in detail in the 1984 book Tug of War – The Canadian Victory that Opened Antwerp, authored by 2357 BGen Denis Whitaker and his wife Shelagh. Whitaker, who died in 2001, was a member of the 1933 Entry Class and served with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, earning a DSO at Dieppe and a bar to his decoration in the Rhineland in 1945.

In their book, BGen Whitaker and his wife aptly describe the courage and tenacity of the “Maisies” on that terrible day:

“The Maisonneuve moved up under the protection of the creeping barrage, D Company in the lead. But at 0426 hours, when the barrage lifted, withering German fire assailed the Canadians, explosion after explosion from shells falling down like rain………the three remaining officers from D Company commanded a mere thirty Canadian soldiers, supported by a handful of Belgian patriots. They had only the light weapons they could carry. They faced two hundred crack German troops with two tanks. But still they pressed on.”

For additional information on books by BGen Denis Whitaker, please visit www.deniswhitaker.com.