Paesi Bassi / Storia

The quick liberation of the province of Drenthe



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To hinder the Allied advance, the German occupier had constructed the so-called Assener Stellung in the northern part of the Netherlands. It was an unbroken line of defence along various canals that connected the cities of Meppel, Assen, Groningen and Delfzijl with each other. Yet in the end, the Canadians and Poles - with the help of French and Belgian paratroopers - managed to liberate the province of Drenthe within one week.  

For the liberation of the Northeast Netherlands, the Allies deployed a special tactic. Within the Meppel-Emmen-Groningen triangle, around 702 French paratroopers were dropped as part of Operation Amherst. During this operation they set up ambushes, attacked German positions, occupied a number of bridges and roads, and prevented German military units from forming a line of defence along one of the canals. In some places, though, the paratroopers ended up in difficult situations. On 9 April, for example, the first French paratroopers had to be rescued by the Belgian SAS. During various combat actions, a total of 33 paratroopers lost their lives.  

Meanwhile, the Canadians advanced along the Holten-Ommen-Beilen-Assen axis. In places where the French paratroopers had been unable to capture their targets, the Canadians sometimes encountered fierce opposition. This was the case near Beilen and at the Oranje Canal. Destroyed bridges, obstructed roads, logistical bottlenecks and crowds of celebrating people had slowed down the advance. But with the liberation of Assen on 13 April 1945, almost the entire province of Drenthe had been liberated, and the road to the city and the province of Groningen was open. The residents of the capital of Drenthe received their liberators with open arms, according to the Canadian war report: “a tumultuous reception which outdid everything experienced.”  

On 13 April 1945, the first Canadian armoured vehicles of the 8th RECCE reconnaissance unit came to Zuidlaren from the direction of Vries. The Canadians encountered an obstacle, as the bridge across the Drentse Aa had been blown up. A number of civilians informed the Canadians that there was a wooden bridge in Zeegse, and the Canadians used this bridge to move via Westlaren to Zuidlaren. At 11:30, the first Canadian vehicles arrived at the Brink, and Zuidlaren had been liberated without any German resistance worth mentioning. Shortly after this, the scouts moved on to the province of Groningen, where they liberated Hoogezand on 14 April.