Pays-Bas / Histoire

Danger of explosions




Seven months of battle had turned the Neder-Betuwe area into a wasteland. There was an enormous damage to houses and barns, some of which had also been undermined. Farmland and orchards of the famous Betuwe fruit had been inundated, damaged and partly destroyed by shelling.

In several places, scattered across the Neder-Betuwe area, there were mines that had to be removed quickly. In the areas where there had been heavy fighting, such as Dodewaard, Opheusden, Kesteren and Ochten, war material was everywhere; from broken tanks and other vehicles to equipment and unexploded ammunition lying around. Signs alerted residents to the danger. There was also a public health hazard from hundreds of cadavers of livestock and domestic animals rotting everywhere.

The battle had also taken its toll on men, both German and allied soldiers. Emergency cemeteries had been set up in most villages. Individual soldiers were buried across different towns. One of them was Cecil Howard Robertson, soldier of the King's Royal Rifle Corps. He died during fighting near Opheusden on 29 September 1944. After the war, hundreds of soldiers were reburied in Oosterbeek, Margraten and Ysselsteyn cemeteries, depending on their nationality and if they were part of the German or Allied troops. After a temporary emergency grave in Opheusden, Robertson is now buried in Oosterbeek.

The danger of unexploded ordnance remained for years. Unfortunately, playing children fell victim to explosions several times. Among the latest victims was the newlywed couple Boesveld-Gortzak from Zaltbommel. While walking along the river Waal near Zaltbommel on 30 June 1964, they came across ammunition. H. Boesveld was directly killed, his wife got injured. Dangerous ammmunition from World War II are still being found and defused today.