In the meantime, the battalion enjoyed a bath
parade, received 66 reinforcements, and caught up on sleep. The Highlanders had a
regimental superstition that said the arrival of the bath units (called "Chinese
Hussars" by the troops) was an indication of a large scale attack to be made.
The battalion moved on the 5th,
to Kappellen, in the vicinty of Brasschaet, 4 miles west. The brigade was ordered to
advance along the line Hoogerheide-Korteven-Huijbergen, outflanking a series of German
roadblocks on the way. The advance began on 6 October; as battalion headquarters
bade farewell to "the voluptuous wife of the caretaker in the manor in which
battalion headquarters had been billetted". The convoy carrying the Calgary
Highlanders advanced through lines of cheering civilians, and stopped for the night at
Drijhock, held up by a blown bridge.
The next morning, 7 October, after a "good night's rest," the battalion advanced
on Hoogerheide. "C" and "B" Companies advanced across the Dutch
border, followed by "A" and "D"; four paratroop battalions in the
Hoogerheide-Woensdrecht area were preparing to defend the entrance to South Beveland.
As late as 0900 on the 7th, resistance
to the advance was light, with a few prisoners being taken, but by 1000 resistance
stiffened. The two lead companies followed a creeping barrage, and by 1100 were
engaging enemy positions with direct fire, while calling for additional artillery
gunfire. During the afternoon, fighting intensified, and prisoners were found to be
young and fit - not the aged and the crippled that were rumoured to be in the area.
As the Highlanders approached Hoogerheide itself, many casualties were suffered, and
though 62 prisoners were taken, the Germans showed no sign of relenting. Pockets of
Germans refused to surrender, and that night every company was hit by counter-attacks.
Brigade headquarters also ordered the Highlanders to extend their front, to cover
objectives originally assigned to Le Regiment de Maisonneuve, who had been delayed on the
October, the Highlanders stood firm under intense enemy fire, and by early evening two
counterattacks had been beaten off by "C" and "D" Companies. In
the town itself, "A" Company and a company of the Black Watch maintained a hold
on their positions and managed to take 31 prisoners, as well as a German truck and
During the early hours of 9 October,
"A" and "D" Companies were both infiltrated by enemy fighting
patrols. "A" Company was still fighting at dawn, and then subjected to a
fierce counter-attack at 0600 hrs. "B" Company was heavily shelled, and
pressure was increased on all the company positions, with heavy mortar fire falling
throughout the day.
"B" Company seized an enemy occupied wood with tank support from the 10th
Canadian Armoured Regiment, and a German concrete pillbox only 75 yards from battalion
headquarters was finally reduced by Lieutenant Sandy Pearson and 19 men, who attacked the
emplacement with flame-throwing carriers and tanks. Pearson physically grabbed
German weapons as they protruded through the firing slits.
In the afternoon of the 9th, "A" Company was
attacked from 3 sides; Major Del Kearns, the Officer Commanding, was wounded while at
battalion headquarters. "D" Company was also under heavy attack and could
not prevent "A" Company being surrounded. With all the company OCs at
battalion headquarters, night fell and "A" Company, under Lieutenant Munro,
finally battled back to "D" Company's lines, reporting that artillery fire had
caused heavy casualties on the German paratroops.
At dawn of the 10th, "B" and
"D" Companies renewed the attack; "D" ran into heavy opposition while
"B" not only reached its objectives, but passed them and was ordered to
retire. At long last, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry were ordered to relieve the
Calgary Highlanders, who moved to a rest area a few miles south.
Official estimates indicated that the Calgary
Highlanders inflicted some 580 German casualties during the Hoogerheide battle.
Lieutenant Colonel MacLaughlan returned to "A" Echelon for a rest, and Major
Ross Ellis took over the battalion temporarily.
On the 11th, burial parties attended to the
30 men who had been killed. The regimental history by David Bercuson tells us that
the Calgary Highlanders "battled continuously for some seventy-two hours, had held
against a much stronger attacker, and had saved the brigade front, and possibly the
divisional front, from collapsing." The Highlanders inflicted those 580 enemy
casualties at the cost of 30 dead and 70 wounded.
Bercuson further tells us that while the
Germans did not have any armoured forces capable of driving the Allies back towards
Antwerp, the loss of Hoogerheide would have meant a delay in the clearing of the Scheldt
area, and the consequent delay in getting supplies through Antwerp, that might even have
affected the ability of the Allies to deal with the Ardennes Offensive in December.
In short, Hoogerheide was a key battle in the overall Allied strategic picture.
The Highlanders remained in the rear until
the 14th of October. Reinforcements were brought into the unit and the battalion
collectively cleaned itself up and rested. As they recovered, savage battles were
carried on at the neck of the South Beveland peninsula.