Paesi Bassi / Storia

An emergency bridge made of skûtsjes for the Canadians



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With a loud bang, the Germans destroyed the bridge at Burgumerdaam. Burgum resident Jaap Boskma saw it happen and helped build an emergency bridge during the night of 14 to 15 April 1945. The bridge allowed the Canadians to get across, so that Burgum could be liberated.

It was Saturday 14 April 1945 when 17-year-old Jaap Boskma heard a loud bang coming from the direction of Garyp. "That was the Foanejacht Bridge," the now-deceased Boskma told the local newspaper in Frisian in 2015. Shortly afterwards, Boskma witnessed a similar event in Burgum: "And then I saw a German with a huge projectile." Boskma spoke of an explosive: the soldier rolled out a wire from the Burgumerdaam into an alley opposite their house. The drawbridge was opened slightly and then blown up.

This is how the retreating German occupying forces tried to block the crossing over the Kromme Ee and thus delay the advance of the Canadians to Leeuwarden. At least, that is what the Germans thought. That same afternoon, a representative of the underground came to visit the Boskma family. He ordered their schooner De Verandering (The Change) to dock on the east side of the destroyed bridge at seven o'clock Sunday morning. 

A total of seven ships were positioned side by side to bridge the canal, including a pair of Schooners, a Tjalk and a Clipper. Around ten o'clock, half of the Royal Canadian Dragoons already present had managed to cross the canal with thirteen vehicles. However, the emergency bridge incurred so much damage in the process that the rest had to make a detour.  

Jaap Boskma: "We had to start all over again and work quickly, as military traffic couldn’t be delayed. Because the Germans had already left, we managed to rebuild the emergency bridge that very day, only to fall asleep exhausted right after." Burgum was liberated! Partly thanks to the ships, including the three Burgumer schooners, which are still in operation.   

This story is documented and supported by 'Het Observeum', the regional museum and public observatory in Burgum.  A group of volunteers organise walking tours that include the story of the skûtsje emergency bridge.