Private Loren Nelson

Kapelsche Veer
26 January - 1 February 1945

Drawing of battle at at Kapelsche Veer
On the Dike at Kapelsche Veer
A sketch by Lieutenant A.M. Damer.

Kapelsche Veer is a ferry harbour set into the north shore of a long narrow island on the Maas River, just north of the Dutch town of s'Hertogenbosch. A small garrison of German Paratroopers surrounded the harbour and manned a network of slit trenches and tunnels which surrounded two farm houses. The 1st Polish Armoured and the 47th Royal Marines had already attempted to dislodge the Germans in December and on January 15th, but had failed.

The land is very flat, and doesn't afford much cover. Also the only way onto the island by land is on an seven meter high dike which was open and treeless. In winter the soil is moist and muddy, making movement difficult. Only the hard packed earth of the dyke is good for quick movement.

L&W Regiment Canoe Force
Men of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment practice
for a canoe assault at Kapelsche Veer.

The 4th Armoured Commander, Major General Chris Vokes, thought of it as a waste of time and good men to dislodge the Germans. Therefore, he ordered canoes be brought up to the front so as to complete the task. Thinking the canoes would never arrive, he thought then that the attack would be abandoned. To everyone's surprise Peterborough canoes arrived at the front and the attack orders were refreshed.

On the morning of the 26th of January the Lincoln and Welland Regiment launched a pincer attack on the German Paratroopers at Kapelsche Veer. The attack was hampered by cold and the canoes didn't work all that well, as the water close to shore was frozen. Most of the canoe operations were cancelled. The land at Kapelsche Veer is mercilessly flat and the attack had to be mounted onto a dike which ran parallel to the river. To complicate matters, the Germans had tunneled into the dike with their machine guns pointed out. The enemy held their fire until the Canadians were virtually on top of them, then opened up so effectively that within minutes all officers of the two companies attacking from the east were hit. After a fierce German counter-attack, they were withdrawn from the island.

Map of Kapelsche Veer Area

On the west side, despite all it's platoon commanders being killed, B Company gained a foothold, beating off enemy counter attacks and held it's position until it was reinforced by D Company. On the opposite flank the Anti-Tank Platoon, a company of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and two tanks from the South Alberta Regiment had managed to gain a similar position by nightfall.

From the east and the west the Lincs and the Argylls worked towards the German positions, digging in after every short move. For four days of acute cold and misery they clawed their way forward while the artillery pounded the German positions.

Early on the morning of the 31st the flanking Canadian forces met in the ruins of the small town. They had captured 34 prisoners and counted 145 German dead on the battlefield. The remainder of the Germans had escaped. The Canadians had suffered 234 casualties, of whom 65, including 9 officers, were fatalities. After the war the commander of the 6th German Parachute Division said that the defense of Kapelsche Veer had cost him between 300 and 400 serious casualties plus 100 more men disabled by frostbite.

In all, nearly 1000 men of both sides were killed, wounded or went missing in the snows of Kapelsche Veer.

L&W at Kapelsche Veer
Men of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment within the village of Kapelsche Veer - February 1st 1945. From left: Pte. F.L. Russell, Pte. J. Sneddon, Cpl R.S. Marshall, Unknown Man.