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' is a former island in the province of Zeelandmarker in the Netherlandsmarker at the mouth of the Scheldtmarker estuary. It lies between the Oosterscheldemarker in the north and the Westerscheldemarker in the south and is roughly the shape of a rhombus. The two sides on the side of the North Sea consist of dunes; the rest of its coastline is made up of dykes. Middelburgmarker lies at its centre; this city is the provincial capital and Vlissingenmarker 9 km to the south is the main harbour. The third municipality is Veeremarker.

Originally, Walcheren was an island, but polders and a dam across the Sloe strait have connected it to the (former) island of Zuid-Bevelandmarker, which in turn has been connected to the North Brabantmarker mainland.

History

Ancient history

Already in Roman days, the island was the point of departure for ships going to Britain and it had a temple of the goddess Nehalennia who was popular with those who wished to brave the waters of the North Sea. The Romans called it "Wallacra". Walcheren was the seat of the Danish Viking Harald, who conquered the present Netherlands together with his compatriot Rorik (or Rurik) in the ninth century. One fringe theory has it that it was the island described by Ibn Rustah as the seat of the khagan of the Rus'. Another fringe theory mentions Walcheren as the seat of Hades, described by Homer.

Napoleonic Wars

Starting on 30 July 1809, a Britishmarker armed force of 39,000 men landed on Walcheren, the Walcheren Campaign, with a view to assisting the Austriansmarker in their war against Napoleon, and attacking the Frenchmarker fleet moored at Flushingmarker (Vlissingen). The expedition was a disaster – the Austrians had already been defeated at the Battle of Wagrammarker and were suing for peace, the French fleet had moved to Antwerpmarker, and the British lost over 4,000 men to a disease called "Walcheren Fever", thought to be a combination of malaria and typhus. The force was withdrawn in December.

World War II

During World War II, the area was fought over in 1940 by Dutch and German troops. The area was again contested in 1944 during the Battle of the Scheldt in the Battle of Walcheren Islandmarker. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division cleared South Beveland to the east and approached the island on 31 October 1944. The plan was to cross the Slooe Channel, but leading troops of the 5th Canadian Brigade found that assault boats were useless in the deep muck of the channel. The only route open was the 40 metre wide Walcheren Causeway, a mile-long land bridge from South Beveland to the island. The Canadian Black Watch sent a company across on the evening of 31 October, but were stopped. The Calgary Highlanders sent two companies over in succession, the second attack opening up a bridgehead on the island. The Highlanders were eventually thrown back, having lost 64 killed and wounded. Le Regiment de Maisonneuve relieved them on the causeway, followed by the Glasgow Highlanders of the British Army. Meanwhile, on 1 November 1944, the British Special Service Brigade landed on the western end of the island in order to silence the German coastal batteries looking out over the Scheldtmarker, which was the key opening shipping lanes to Antwerpmarker. The amphibious assault (Operation Infatuate) proved a success and by 8 November, all German resistance on the island had been overrun.

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