The Battle of the Scheldt is a forgotten part of the war in Europe during World War II but strategically one of the most important. After the invasion of Normandy in June of 1944, the Allies didn’t have a major port other than Cherbourg to bring in supplies and equipment. Everything had to be shuttled straight from the beaches all the way across France. 

The capture of the port of Antwerp was the answer to the Allies’ problems. Antwerp is a deep-water inland port close to Germany that could be used for the invasion of Germany itself. It is connected to the North Sea via the river Scheldt, which allows the passage of ocean-going ships and was close to the Allies’ point of advance. 

The Allies seized Antwerp, which was almost 90 percent intact in early September 1944. However, the shipping lanes were not usable because the Germans controlled the Scheldt Estuary and the heavily fortified Walcheren island at the mouth of the Western Scheldt.

The Germans had established extremely well dug-in artillery that was not only deadly to ships attempting to use Antwerp but impervious to air attack. Walcheren Island was described as the “strongest concentration of defenses the Nazis had ever constructed.

The Forgotten Battle
British troops in a flooded area look for the Germans. (Netflix)

This brings us to the new Netflix film The Forgotten Battle. The film is told from the perspective of a British glider pilot; a Dutch girl who joins the resistance; and a Dutch soldier who has joined the German army. So, it covers all three sides of the Battle of the Scheldt.

The stories are brilliantly woven together by Dutch filmmaker Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. All of the protagonists ultimately face choices and challenges that will not only decide their fate but that of many others as well. 

Perhaps the most compelling character is that of the Zeeland girl, Teun, who becomes part of the resistance almost by accident. Her father is a trusted doctor by the Nazis. Although they like and respect him, they casually order the death of his son as if they were sentencing him to take out the trash for a week. 

The son’s crime was taking pictures of the Nazis withdrawing from the town. A German officer smashes his camera and in a fit of teenage rage, the boy throws a rock, which hits the windshield of a German supply truck that veers off the road and runs over some German soldiers. The Germans declare that if the boy doesn’t turn himself in, they will shoot three Dutch civilians. 

The Forgotten Battle is one of the most expensive Dutch war films ever produced and it shows. The sequences during the British airborne attack would have been outstanding on the big screen. 

The best scene is when the British gliders, part of a huge air armada, approach their drop zones carrying paratroopers. German flak then rips through the formation and decimates the light-skinned gliders in a terrifying sequence. 

 

‘The Forgotten Battle’ Shows the Ugly Colors of War

The Forgotten Battle British glider
British glider shot down in the early part of the film. (Netflix)

The action is gritty, brutal, and gory. There are numerous scenes of violence with no-quarter given. Explosions, beatings, torture, suicides, executions, and bloodbaths all feature in the movie. 

The director doesn’t spare any of the horrors of combat.

As the British attempt a frontal assault on the well-dug in Germans, their troops get their arms and legs blown off and hold onto their bloody stumps screaming in agony. Close-quarter combat results in several close-in shots of soldiers getting shot, often in the head.

The Nazis show their true colors as they torture and execute Zeeland resistance fighters and civilians. One particularly gory scene is when the Nazis torture a resistance fighter by bashing in and then cutting off his fingers. Others commit suicide by blowing off heads. Van Heijningen’s excellent film isn’t for the faint of heart, but his brutal portrayal of the Battle of Scheldt is incredibly realistic and worth the time to check out. There aren’t any romantic or glorious war messages here, it is war at its most basic, and it isn’t pretty. 

Take the time to check out The Forgotten Battle. You’ll be happy you did; it’s an excellent film. 

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