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Pursuing through France and Belgium in Visual Studio .NET
Pursuing through France and Belgium
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With nothing to stop them, the armoured divisions of Montgomery s 21st Army Group raced north in a 480-kilometre (300-mile) drive On 3 September they liberated Brussels amid scenes of rejoicing So rapid was the advance that when units of 11th Armoured Division entered Antwerp two days later, they found they had forced the Germans to leave the docks more or less intact For the moment, however, the Allies could not use them because the enemy was still present in strength on both banks of the Scheldt estuary Back in France, some tidying up remained As all the Allies supplies were still coming across the Normandy beaches, they needed to capture the Channel ports as quickly as possible Hitler, recognising the ports importance, had decreed that the Germans were to defend them to the last man The British assaulted: Le Havre on 10 September The AVREs, Crabs, Crocodiles, and Kangaroos (see the earlier sidebar Hobart s Funnies ) of their assault teams sorted out the prepared defences so quickly that three days later the garrison surrendered The chagrined Germans described their use, and particularly that of the Crocodiles, as unfair and, best of all, un-British ! Boulogne on 17 September The Canadians and the armoured assault teams opened their attack, and on 21 September the last of the garrison surrendered Calais and Cap Gris Nez on 25 September The Germans had flooded much of the surrounding area, making the approaches difficult, but the Allies realised at once that most of the garrison were elderly or invalids who lacked the will to fight By 1 October the fight was all over and for the first time in four years shipping was able to pass through the Straits of Dover without the Germans huge coast defence guns threatening it With the exception of Dunkirk, whose garrison represented no danger and was allowed to rot until the war ended, all the Channel ports were now in Allied hands The enemy, however, had done such a thorough job of wrecking their facilities that it would be months before they became operational The only alternative, therefore, was to clear the Scheldt estuary and open Antwerp On
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23: Normandy and Northwest Europe, 1944 1945
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the south bank resistance centred on the town of Breskens On 6 October the Canadians cleared this and, shortly after, Buffaloes (tracked landing vehicles) lifted two of the brigades into the enemy rear; from then onwards the infantry, AVREs, Crabs, and Crocodiles took every neighbouring town and village, until by 3 November the area was clear Across the Scheldt the Canadians cleared the South Beveland peninsula, the last operations taking place on 27 October They enjoyed the support of almost everything 79th Armoured Division had to offer, including DDs and Buffaloes (for more on these vehicles see the sidebar Hobart s Funnies , earlier in this chapter) To the west of South Beveland was the heavily fortified island of Walcheren On 1 November the Allies made landings at Flushing and Westkapelle That at Flushing went according to plan, but at Westkapelle the landing force ran into some of the heaviest coast defence fire of the entire war Of the 27 LCGs (Landing Craft Guns), nine were sunk and eleven were put out of action with serious damage The four LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) carrying the armoured assault teams had the worst landing in 79th Armoured Division s experience They took a fearful battering, but managed to get a few of their vehicles ashore The situation eased when commandos stormed each of the coast defence batteries in turn They captured Flushing and the remaining Germans withdrew to the fortified town of Middleburg in the centre of the island As flooded terrain surrounded the town, they must have felt secure However, on 6 November Buffaloes closed in Already demoralised and surprised by this turn of events, the Germans gave up without a fight Between 1 October and 8 November the Canadian First Army sustained 12,800 casualties In return, they took over 41,000 prisoners and cleared both banks of the Scheldt Minesweeping had begun even before Walcheren surrendered and the first cargoes reached Antwerp docks on 26 November
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