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Walcheren

Walcheren (väl´khərən), region, Zeeland prov., SW Netherlands, on the North Sea at the entrance to the Scheldt estuary. Middelburg is the chief city and is also the capital of Zeeland prov. Vlissingen is also important. Dunes line the North Sea coast, and diked lowlands predominate elsewhere. Agriculture and cattle raising constitute the mainstays of Walcheren's economy; principal crops are wheat, vegetables, fruit, and sugar beets. Walcheren also has a considerable tourist trade, attracted largely by the medieval buildings in Middelburg. The region was occupied by the Germans and suffered heavy bombardment during World War II. The dikes were bombed and the area largely flooded in order hamper the German forces. In the autumn of 1944, Canadian and British troops assaulted and secured Walcheren as part of the campaign to clear the Scheldt estuary so that the Allies could use the Belgian port of Antwerp, which had been captured earlier.

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Walcheren landing

Walcheren landing, 1809. Britain did not find it easy to wage war against Napoleonic Europe. Despite the catastrophic failure of the landing in Holland in 1799, the British government resolved in 1809 to try again, using troops recently withdrawn from Portugal. The object was to capture Walcheren, the island on which Flushing stands, menace Antwerp, and encourage the Dutch to rise against the French. Lord Chatham commanded 40,000 men, with Sir Richard Strachan in charge of a very large fleet. There was no element of surprise, French resistance was fierce, the commanders quarrelled, and the army was decimated by dysentery and fever. Some 106 men died in action, 4,000 from disease. The enterprise was abandoned.

J. A. Cannon

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