The Netherlands / Story
The village of Joure served as an important hub for both the German and Canadian military in April 1945. Residents initially saw hundreds of tired German soldiers pass through. A few days later, the village was part of the route of thousands of Canadians.
In early April, it became clear that the liberation of the northern Netherlands was close at hand. German troops in Overijssel were forced to retreat to Friesland, among other places. This did not go unnoticed in Joure. The Frisian resistance reported on 11 April that about 500 German soldiers were walking through Joure. Their goal was to eventually cross over to North Holland via the Afsluitdijk or the Frisian ports.
A villager recalled the soldiers passing by:
"Most of them in tattered uniforms, with horse-drawn carriages or on stolen bicycles, young boys aged 16 or 17; they also took what they thought they needed along the way."
Another wrote in his diary about the tired German soldiers:
"many entirely or partly in civilian clothes with Germans who could no longer walk sitting on farmers’ cars in between. The whole thing made an altogether miserable impression."
Joure thus lay along the route to both the Afsluitdijk and a number of ports along the Zuiderzee (now: IJsselmeer). And both were extremely important to the German troops as they provided a last way out to North Holland, which was still firmly in German hands.
The Canadians knew this too. The Frisian ports and the head of the Afsluitdijk were therefore important targets for the Canadians. And so, Joure was part of those plans as well. There was no serious attempt by the Germans to defend Friesland against the approaching Canadians. Almost all actions were aimed at slowing that advance to ensure that as many troops as possible could escape. That is why they blew up many bridges, and troops were left behind at key junctions.
No German troops were left behind in Joure to put up a fight. Instead, the occupying forces chose to post only a limited number of troops in Scharsterbrug. That position, across the Scharster Rhine, was more defensible. And indeed, it would be hard-fought. No shot was fired in Joure itself when, in the morning of 15 April, armoured cars of the Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars became the first to enter the village from Heerenveen.
This reconnaissance regiment was tasked with finding alternative routes to Sneek and Leeuwarden. And so, their stay in Joure was short-lived. Not much later, however, the infantry of the Régiment de la Chaudière followed, and in the afternoon Sherman tanks and more Canadian infantry from other units also arrived there.
Through Joure, Sneek, Bolsward and later Lemmer were successively liberated. The village remained an important junction in the route to south-west Friesland. Artillery guns were also placed near Joure for some time to shell German positions at nearby Scharsterbrug, Follega and Lemmer.