Battle of the Scheldt Fact Quest

Aim

To increase youth’s awareness of Canadian efforts during the Battle of the Scheldt in Belgium and the Netherlands during the fall of 1944.

Objectives

Youth will:

  • demonstrate a basic understanding of the events surrounding the Battle of the Scheldt;
  • gain an appreciation of the challenges faced by the Canadians who served during the Battle of the Scheldt; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadians who served.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for ages 15 to 18.

Sequence of events and anticipated time frame [70 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Introductory discussion [15 minutes]
  • Research [20 minutes]
  • Debrief [20 minutes]
  • Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]
  • Possible extension activity [variable]

Materials

Introductory discussion [15 minutes]

Begin a general discussion about the Second World War. More than one million Canadians served in uniform during the conflict—that is more than the entire population of some provinces. Using a world map as reference, ask the students if any of them can name the countries where the Canadians fought in Europe and the names of specific events or battles of the Second World War.

You could begin by telling the students that many Canadians landed at Juno Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. After pushing the enemy out of France, the Allies then moved into Belgium and were in need of a way to keep getting supplies to the advancing troops. By early October, the Canadians were fighting to liberate the Scheldt estuary (river) that leads to the major port of Antwerp in Belgium. The task was difficult due to the flooded and muddy terrain that left little cover for the Canadians and other Allied troops. By November 8, the enemy was defeated, allowing Allied transport ships to begin bringing much-needed supplies into the port of Antwerp later that month.

Research [20 minutes]

Distribute the Canada Remembers the Battle of the Scheldt information sheet, the map of the Scheldt and the question sheet. Have everyone read the information sheet, individually or in small groups. While reading, encourage the students to pause every few paragraphs to locate the Canadians’ movements on the map. After they complete the reading, they can complete the fact quest.

Debrief [20 minutes]

Using the map of the Scheldt, lead a debrief of the answers they found for the questions. Take the opportunity to see if anyone has family members or neighbours who may have served in the Second World War. They can also share their personal thoughts on Canada’s military efforts in the Battle of the Scheldt.

Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]

Ask them to reflect on the following statement from the “Legacy” section of the Battle of the Scheldt information sheet:

Many Veterans of the Battle of the Scheldt would tell the story of entire Belgian and Dutch towns coming out to joyously greet their liberators, showering Canadian soldiers with flowers as they passed through in dogged pursuit of the retreating Germans. While the fighting in Europe would not end until May 1945, victory in the Scheldt was an important step in allowing the Allies to continue the fight and keep the pressure on the Germans in the closing months of the Second World War. Canada’s impressive wartime efforts remain a point of great national pride, many decades later.

Then lead a discussion based on the following questions:

  • What do you imagine the Belgians and the Dutch thought about the Canadians who fought so hard and sacrificed so greatly to help liberate their countries?
  • Did you know that a commemorative ceremony is held every day at Menin Gate in Belgium to honour those who died during the First World War and that Dutch school children place candles at Canadian military graves every Christmas Eve? Do you think we do enough in Canada to remember the sacrifices of the fallen?
  • Do you think it is important to remember the Canadians who served in the Second World War even though the war has been over for so many years?

You could cap off the lesson by showing some of the Heroes Remember videos of Veterans who fought during the Battle of the Scheldt.

Possible extension activity [variable]

There are a number of ways you could extend this lesson. For example, you could ask youth to imagine that they are war correspondents covering the Battle of the Scheldt and then have them file news reports on the battle’s events. These could be in the form of mock newspaper articles, radio broadcasts or newsreels. Alternately, they could imagine that they took part in the Battle of the Scheldt and were writing home to tell their family or friends what they had just been through. Or they could imagine that they are a loved one writing to a soldier who took part in the battle asking if he is okay, what it was like and how he is feeling.

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