Battle for the Kapelsche Veer
In the hard winter 1944/45, a battle between German Wehrmacht and allied troops happened at the 'Kapelsche Veer' at the Maas River in Noord-Brabant near the village of Capelle. The Wehrmacht occupied the Netherlands since May 1940; it had conquered the country during the Westfeldzug. Both sides together had casualties of over 1000 men (dead, missing, wounded, war captivity).
Commander of the 1st British Corps was General John Crocker. He thought this German bridgehead should be overwhelmed at any price. The last part of this battle was Operation Elephant, the codename of an Allied operation against paratroopers holding a ferry crossing at Kapelsche Veer, Maas River, Netherlands by the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada and the South Alberta Regiment tanks (elements of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division). The small ferry slip was heavily defended and 300 casualties suffered before winning.
The 'Official Summary of the Canadian Army' writes (p. 244f.):
"During the last days of this threat on the Maas there began one of the strangest episodes of the campaign. In a heavily waterlogged area north-east of Breda a subsidiary channel of the Maas forms along the river's south shore a long island, in the midst of which is a ferry crossing and harbour called Kapelsche Veer. [The German General] Student, desiring as he has since explained to give training and battle inoculation to his young paratroopers, established on this desolate spot a tiny bridgehead in our territory, which he maintained by relieving the troops in it with a new company every three or four days. The Germans dug themselves in with remarkable thoroughness, and eliminating this foothold was a long, cold and costly business, involving attacking across open and snow-covered ground in the face of a determined enemy. The Poles tried it in the last days of December and again on 7 January 1945, both times without success. The 47th Royal Marine Commando, under Polish command, attacked the place on 13 and 14 January (Operation HORSE) with no better result. Finally the 4th Canadian Armoured Division mounted a very considerable attack (Operation ELEPHANT) against the position with ample artillery support and tanks; but there were five icy days of thoroughly nasty fighting--the phrase of the 10th Brigade's historian is "sheer misery"--before it was reported on 31 January that all enemy south of the Maas had been liquidated. The brunt was borne by the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, assisted by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and South Alberta Regiment tanks. The Germans had lost 145 killed, 64 wounded and 34 prisoners. The tough young paratroopers had received in the end a rather more severe lesson in thé art of war than Student had intended.
This was the finale of the "static" period of winter warfare. The Watch on the Maas had involved few operations on such a scale. It had however meant unremitting vigilance, constant patrolling (including many incursions across the river into enemy country) and frequent raids: all under the most wretched conditions of ground and weather. Now major operations under equally difficult circumstances were impending. Rundstedt's Ardennes thrust had been broken and his armoured reserves decimated, but the Germans showed no sign of withdrawing beyond the Rhine. With the 30th Corps again becoming available, active preparations for the offensive between Mass and Rhine were resumed; and on 8 February 1945 began the series of battles which was to produce in three months' time the total downfall of the Third Reich."
- The Battle of the Scheldt and the Winter on the Maas - Official Summary of the Canadian Army
- Article about a Canadian Soldier who took part in that battle
- canadiansoldiers.com article
- Stacey, C.P. (1948). The Canadian Army 1939-1945 An Official Historical Summary. Ottawa: King's Printer. pp. 244–245.
- The Battle of the Scheldt and the Winter on the Maas