Holandia / Historia

The battle for Wons, Witmarsum, Zurich, Kornwerd and Pingjum




By 16 April, most of Friesland had been liberated. But some important targets of the Canadians had not yet been achieved. They wanted to capture the Frisian ports and the head of the Afsluitdijk from the German occupiers as soon as possible. But they would be hard fought. Both the ports and the Afsluitdijk were used by German soldiers to escape to North Holland. ,

To take control of the head of the Afsluitdijk, the German troops had to be driven out of Harlingen first. On 16 April, that task was assigned to the Highland Light Infantry of Canada. Supported by Sherbrooke Fusiliers and Royal Canadian Artillery tanks, among others, they went on the offensive in the evening and managed to liberate Harlingen completely the next morning.  

But there were also large groups of German soldiers in the villages of Makkum, Witmarsum, Wons, Zurich, Kornwerd, and Pingjum. And they too posed a threat if the offensive towards the Afsluitdijk was to be launched. The Canadians therefore initially focused their attention on these villages. And so, as in the May days of 1940, they once again became the scene of heavy fighting. 

The infantry of the Queens Own Rifles of Canada, together with some tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, mounted an attack on Wons on 16 April. The Germans ambushed them near Hayum. As a result, six soldiers from the Queens Own Rifles were killed. Nevertheless, the Queens Own Rifles, supported by the Sherman tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers, managed to liberate Witmarsum, Hayum and Wons later that day. Shelling killed three civilians in Wons. Just after midnight, the Queens Own Rifles also entered Kornwerd. And later that 17th of April, Zurich and Pingjum were also liberated. The battle at Pingjum was fierce. Artillery fire had left much of the village in ruins. Six residents lost their lives. 

After the infantry of the North Shore Regiment passed Heerenveen and Bolsward, they were transferred to the Makkum area together with a unit from the Machinegun Battalion Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa. On 18 April, they joined tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers in the attack. Canadian artillery shelled German positions and some roadblocks. By early evening, Makkum was one of the last villages in Friesland to be liberated. Seven residents of the village were killed in the fighting, including three evacuees. 
As elsewhere in Friesland, the Canadians were helped by resistance fighters from the Dutch Domestic Armed Forces (NBS). They suffered several casualties near Makkum. On 16 April, Schelte Bruinsma and Simon Sipma were killed in an attack on a farm in which the Germans had entrenched themselves. The next day, another group tried to occupy a bridge under Makkum. However, the Germans caught sight of them and in the ensuing firefight, Rinnert Anema, Roelof van der Meer and Hendrik Postma were killed. 

Now that Makkum, Wons, Zurich, Kornwerd and Pingjum had been liberated, the Canadians prepared for the final offensive in Friesland, the attack on the head of the Afsluitdijk.