Sunday, 3 May 2015

Walcheren landings.

 
41 RM Commando landing from LCI(S) to the north of the gap.
 
The second wave of 41 RM Commando landing from LCT. She has just been hit by a shell. The small tracked vehicle is a Weasel and the large a Buffalo.

41 RM Commandos advancing through Westkapelle with the lighthouse in the back ground. Later used as a radar station by the British.

A flail tank landing from an LCT in the foreground and a buffalo in the background.
The first landings were made by 41 Commando to the north of the gap. They were 25mins later than the planned landing time due to the heavy fire and the need for the SSEF to draw the fire before letting the troops approach the landing. The vessels of the SSEF were sailing up and down the coast engaging the heavy gun positions and machine gun posts. They sustained heavy damage and vessels were sunk and caught fire. The first vessel had been hit at 0920 whilst they were still out of range for their own guns to bear. The LCG(M)’s took the brunt at first as they were able to get the closest to the beach LCG(M) 102 was hit in the stern and was starting to sink. Another craft tried to tow here clear but was hit or caught a mine and had to look after her self. LCG(M) 101 was hit on the beach and suffered great loss of life. The remaining guns continued to fire into the enemy until the vessel had to be abandoned completely.
LCG(M)102 starting to sink.

LCG(M)102 sinking off the beach at Westkapelle.

Survivors from LCG(M) being rescued.
However the landings were proceeding well and the second wave beached and disembarked in their Buffaloes and Weasels. Some of them were able to drive right through the gap in the dyke and others were lost on the beach. 41 Commando moved north from the landing beach at the gap and were able to capture the gun emplacement W15 and the town of Westkapelle just around midday. The troops fighting to the south took the radar station there very quickly but there had a bitter battle to take position W13, finally taking it in the evening. The island was fully taken on 7th November after the Canadians had forced their way over the causeway too. Instead of the expected 4000 German troops over 8000 surrendered. From the land forces of Infatuate 103 lost their lives, 325 were wounded and 68 were missing. Despite the great loss of live and the hardships the local population had suffered they came out in the streets when ever the Marines arrived. In fact the locals put themselves at risk by travelling through the floods to pass on information to the troops. When the Marines were finally left due to leave the islanders arrived at a hall bringing a bottle of what ever they had available. It was all poured into a big tub and everybody just dipped in their mugs. There were some very ill people the next day.
 
Destroyed gun emplacements on Walcheren.
In the best traditions of the Royal Navy they had sacrificed much to protect the troops in their care. The final tally saw only 7 craft that were fully fit to fight out of the 27 that had started the battle for the SSEF. They had faced a fierce wall of fire from 0900 to 1230 when Commander ‘Monkey’ Sellars advised Commander Pugsley, the Commander of the operation on the Kingsmill that he was withdrawing his ships and it was up to the large vessels offshore to provide support from then.

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