Holandia / Miejsce zainteresowania

The somewhat late liberation of Havelte




Havelte was one of the last places in Drenthe to be liberated on 13 April. The reason for this was that the German airfield near Havelte was fiercely defended to the last. But in the end, the Germans had no choice but to retreat. Klaas Kroonenburg and Klaasje Baaiman were witness to this.

It took until 12 April 1945 before the Canadians managed to enclose Havelte airfield on three sides.The German commander defended the airfield to the end, but that evening his men were forced to retreat via Meppel and Steenwijk.

Klaas Kroonenburg (born 1930) was witness to this.

"It was on those mornings when I set out early with my friends to the rolling runway of the German airfield located near our farm, looking for anything there. We were looking for grenades and firing flares until suddenly a Bren Carrier appeared along the edge of the forest on top of Havelterberg. It had just crossed the Hunebeddenweg, where both Hunebed lanes were 'in hiding'.

Due to the planned construction of a new rolling road across the Hunebeddenweg, the large Hunebed was deposited in a 6-metre pit in February 1945 and the small Hunebed disappeared under the sand. 

The Bren Carrier was a reconnaissance vehicle and the driver and the man operating the machine gun drove between the open hangars on the southern slope of Havelterberg to Startbaan and then to the three aircraft wrecks located at the corner of Van Helomaweg and Verlengde Darperkerkweg. They completed a lap and then returned towards Wapserveen”.

Klaasje Baaiman (born in 1924 in old Darp) was also out with her husband that day. When we were on our way to my parents' house, the Canadians came from Wapserveen and headed towards Havelte. But at around the Theehuis Faken [Hunebed Teahouse], they were stopped by a very tall Dutchman who said: “You had better go back, and tomorrow you should go to Havelte through Steenwijk, because there are all Germans down there and they will mow you down.” The same Dutchman then went to the Germans who were in Havelte and said to them: “You should leave, because the Canadians are coming and they will shoot you down in a minute.” The next day, the Canadians indeed returned towards Havelte through Steenwijk. There was not a single German left in sight.

A day later on 13 April, Havelte and Steenwijk were liberated. The flags could be unfurled!  

Earlier, on the night of 16-17 September 1944, the airfield was heavily bombed and repaired again. In the process, the site of the current Toegangspoort to Holtingerveld nature reserve was also riddled with bombs that left deep craters in the landscape. This is also where the first Canadians appeared with their Bren Carrier from Wapserveen on Friday morning, 12 April 1945. A Canadian Maple tree was planted in that spot with a memorial to '75 Years of Freedom' in April 2020 as a commemoration of that morning. The original pavers of the runway lie at the foot of the tree.

Author: Wim van der Wijk