In 1944, the Low Countries of Belgium and the Netherlands became the site of one of World War II’s most pivotal offensives. While a film adaption of the conflict called “The Forgotten Battle” is currently set to air on Netflix, as the title suggests, the Battle of the Scheldt is one of the war’s least remembered campaigns (via What’s On Netflix). It was a predominantly Canadian-led effort into German-occupied territory in Northern Europe that intended to secure the shipping lanes in the North Sea (via Veteran Affairs Canada).
Being part of the Atlantic Wall, the Germans in this region had all manner of artillery and defensive structures with which to repel any invaders. While the Allies slowly crept further inland after capturing the coastal city of Antwerp, the Germans flooded the Scheldt estuary to slow them down (via Dutch Review). Unfortunately for them, both sides fell victim to this massive quagmire as bloody fighting ensued for over a month.
The Battle of the Scheldt was a Pyrrhic victory for the Allies
Flooding as a military tactic was not a new concept in warfare, let alone in World War II. In 1938, Nationalist Chinese forces similarly flooded the Yellow River in an effort to halt the Japanese advance (via DisasterHistory.org). But the German and Chinese floods were not only immensely damaging to the civilian population — both armies were too late in realizing just how self-defeating the strategy was (via Holland.com). The muddy terrain was difficult to navigate as Canadian infantry and tanks took German positions at a high cost to themselves (via JunoBeach.org).
By November, the Allies had completed their objective of taking the Scheldt river. Yet this came at the cost of over 12,000 wounded and killed, and roughly the same number were all killed on the German side. Per Dutch Review, the battle featured some of the Western Front’s most intensive fighting and was a staggering early blow to the Germans with over 41,000 captured (pictured above). While it took another year for the Germans to be finally defeated, their stranglehold on Northwestern Europe was beginning to be undone. This theater of the war seldom receives as much attention as others outside of the countries it affected. Nonetheless, it was a moment when many war heroes heeded the call to action.
“The Forgotten Battle” hits Netflix on Friday, October 15, 2021.
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