Water as a Weapon





The Netherlands is known as a land of water. For centuries the Dutch have fought with and against water. During the Second World War, the occupying forces used water as a weapon against the Dutch and their liberators.

After the bridges of Nijmegen had been taken by the Allies in Operation Market Garden and the city liberated, the occupying forces were determined to prevent the Allies from advancing further into the north and east of the Netherlands. One of the ways they tried to do this was by blowing up the river dikes. In December 1944, explosives were used to create a 100-metre breach in the Ooijpolder dike. The effects were not immediately visible because it was a harsh winter (famine winter) and the river was low. When the thaw came a month later and the river level rose sharply, the polder was flooded. This happened just as the Allied armies began the Rhineland offensive (Operation Veritable).

The sudden flooding of the polder had two advantages for the occupying forces: first, the water created an obstacle that slowed the Allied advance, and second, it reduced the size of the front line. However, the Canadian Army units sent to liberate the Ooijpolder and Duffelt at the start of the Rhineland offensive were well prepared and had already gained experience in amphibious warfare at the Battle of the Scheldt. Despite this, the water caused additional delays and casualties. In the end, the self-inflicted flood proved more inconvenient to the German forces, who were soon forced to abandon their position in the polder.

The inhabitants of the Ooijpolder and Duffelt had already been evacuated in October 1944 and could not return to their villages until the spring of 1945. By then the water had disappeared. When they returned, they found that the water had done a lot of damage.


Duffeltdijk, Leuth