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Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden



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During the war, Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden was an important base of operations for the Luftwaffe, the German air force. By the end of 1944, the military airfield was being used less and less. Just before liberation, the airfield was looted by residents of Leeuwarden.

North of the footpath, Leeuwarden Air Base can be seen. During World War II, the Germans developed the airfield, which they renamed 'Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden,' into an important base of operations.  

German night fighters took off from here to intercept Allied bombers heading for German targets. They got information from radar stations. The airfield, developed by thousands of Dutch workers into a huge complex, is located between Marssum, Leeuwarden, Jelsum and Engelum.  

Regularly, the Fliegerhorst itself was also targeted by Allied bombing raids. On 24 February 1944, the airfield was heavily bombed by the Americans. Ten people were killed and the damage was considerable. Nearby villages were also accidentally hit at times. 

It was Sunday 17 September 1944 when four-year-old Doeke Fokkema's family home in Beetgumermolen was accidentally hit by a bomb dropped by an English aircraft. Doeke Fokkema recalls how he was startled awake in the middle of the night by a heavy blow. Moments later, he was buried under the rubble, only able to move his head. "I heard my mother calling in the distance, but I could not answer. My mouth was full of mud." He remained in this perilous position until a neighbour found him. Doeke was unconscious and was taken to hospital. 

Four children of the Fokkema family died: brothers Durk, Gerben and Anton and sister Neeltje. A few weeks later, Doeke, the youngest of the family, learnt that they were no longer alive. "You can never play with them again," his parents told him.  

Only mother Fokkema, Doeke and his sister Froukje survived the tragedy. Doeke only slightly injured his head, a bomb fragment grazed his right eyebrow. "A little lower and I would have lost an eye." Father Fokkema was also still alive. He was celebrating his mother's 80th birthday in Anjum that weekend. The next day, he had to identify his children in hospital. 

It was not only the Fokkema family that was affected on 17 September 1944. Three other residents of Beetgumermolen were also killed by the bombs dropped on the village. Allied bombs also fell on Beetgumermolen a week earlier. Five villagers were killed here, including three members of a single family.  

In September 1944, the Fliegerhorst was damaged so badly that the airfield could barely function anymore. On 13 April 1945, two days before the liberation of Leeuwarden, the hangars and runways were blown up by straggling German soldiers.  Film footage shot by Leeuwarden dentist Ruurd Rodenburg shows how residents of Leeuwarden then gratefully took advantage of Germans’ departure and took everything that could be of use. 

In the direction of Stiens, at Mr. P.J. Troelstraweg 236, the old non-commissioned officers' quarters of the Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden, the current Burmania complex, are still standing. The remains of the German runway can also be seen at the airfield.