Operation Horse

'Horse' was a British special forces operation by No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando of Brigadier B. W. Leicester’s 4th Commando Brigade before the beginning of 'Elephant' (ii) at Kapelsche Veer on the Maas river in the Netherlands (13/14 January 1945).

The undertaking was part of the Battle of the Scheldt, which had begun on 1 November 1944 with 4th Special Service Brigade (from 6 December 4th Commando Brigade) assigned to carry out a seaborne assault on the island of Walcheren. At this time the brigade comprised Nos 41, 47, 48, 10 (Inter-Allied) and 4 Commandos, of which the first three were Royal Marine units and the last two army units. The Royal Marine commandos assaulted Westkapelle, with No. 47 Commando landing on a small strip of sand to the right of Westkapelle, at a rupture of the dyke caused by a British bombing raid, before the attack. No. 41 Commando landed first and moved to the north to Domburg, while No. 48 Commando headed to the south toward Zoutelande with No. 47 Commando following it. No. 47 Commando became divided when two of the landing craft tank carrying it beached on the northern rather than southern side of the gap. As a result No. 47 did not assemble until 19.00 south of the radar station after losing 30 men and much of its radio equipment. On 2 November No. 47 Commando passed through No. 48 Commando and took over the advance to the Vlissigen (Flushing) gap. Meeting only slight opposition until it reached an artillery battery, the commando then made an unsuccessful attack during that evening, in the process losing all five of its troop commanders. Digging in for the night, the commando beat back a German assault and finally captured the artillery battery and the rest of the island on 3 November.

On 10 November the commando was pulled back to Breskens and then to Wenduine. At short notice on 22 December No. 47 Commando was moved to Breda to come under command of Brigadier E. T. A. G. Boylan as part of 'Paddy' Force, which was the mobile reserve of Lieutenant General J. T. Crocker’s I Corps. On 24 December the commando moved again to Oosterhout and carried out patrols along the Maas river under command of Generał brygady Stanisław Maczek’s Polish 1st Armoured Division.

At the start of January 1945, No. 47 Commando carried out patrols on both banks of the Maas river, and was twice ambushed by German patrols. On 9 January the commando was moved out of the line for training at Bergen-op-Zoom for the 'Horse' assault on the island of Kapelsche Veer.

The assault started at 01.00 with Q Troop and No. 5 (Norwegian) Troop of No. 10 (IA) Commando attacking the right flank supported by armour and artillery from the mainland, while the rest of No. 47 Commando attacked on the left flank. The nature of the approaches, which were exposed to German mortar fire, combined with exhaustion of ammunition and loss of control through casualties to leaders to create a defeat in which No. 47 Commando suffered 49 casualties. By 05.00 it had become clear that the objective was too heavily defended to be taken by a lightly armed commando on its own, so No. 47 Commando was withdrawn.

The island was eventually captured by a Canadian infantry brigade with artillery and armour support. After its failed attack, No. 47 Commando was moved back to Bergen-op-Zoom during 16 January and then on the following day to Walcheren island, where it assumed garrison duties in succession to No. 41 Commando on 18 January. While at Walcheren the commando received about 100 reinforcements, bringing the unit almost to full strength. On 12 March No. 47 Commando moved to North Beveland to relieve No. 4 Commando, a process completed by 16 March. No. 47 Commando was next allocated the task of training an infantry battalion of the reconstituted Dutch army, and was still involved in this task when World War II ended in on 8 May 1945.