Seventy years ago today, October the 13th, 1944 was known was “Black Friday” due to the heavy number of casualties suffered in and around Woensdrecht, a small town in the Netherlands, located close to the Belgian border. Only a few short months after they arrived in Europe after D-Day, the Canadian Black Watch regiment launched a misguided (suicidal?) attack on the Germans who were entrenched along the rail lines and in the forests of the area. This was only one day of weeks of heavy fighting—and resulted in some of the heaviest casualties in the Netherlands during the entire war. Known as the Battle for Woensdrecht (Slag om Woensdrecht), it was part of the much larger Battle for the Scheldt, after the name of the estuary running from the Netherlands down to the harbor of Antwerp. Although the allies had claimed this city, the port was blocked until they could gain control over this vital waterway. Woensdrecht was crucial because of its location, with access to key roads and the railroad. No one could afford to lose this battle, so fighting was furious and caused major damage, as can be seen in the photographs seen in the attached YouTube clip.
A quick search of the Commonwealth War Graves site http://www.cwgc.org/ results in 63 men who died on the 13th who are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery of nearby Bergen op Zoom. Most were from the Black Watch and died in the area around Woensdrecht.
Late this afternoon I went to the to the war monument in Woensdrecht and thereafter, to the Canadian War Cemetery. It was grey and cold and somewhat sadly, my flowers were the only ones at both of these places. This is not to say that Black Friday was forgotten. For instance, the local news had a segment on it yesterday and a book on the subject is in progress. 70 years have paid a toll however, and the liberation celebrations—soon to take place in Bergen op Zoom, where the Canadians entered on October 27th—take precedence. Still, I am glad that I went and paid homage to these amazing men—and took the time to commiserate with the enormous losses sustained by the local populace—on the 70th anniversary of that miserable day in Woensdrecht.