The Netherlands / Story

The head of the Afsluitdijk




On 18 April, the Afsluitdijk was one of the last open routes to the province of North Holland. The occupying forces were keen to hold back the Canadians for as long as possible. Nevertheless, the Canadians managed to defeat the German troops here in a short time and without any losses of their own.

In the morning of 18 April, battles were still being fought in a few places in Friesland. The head of the Afsluitdijk was still under German control. And Makkum had not yet been liberated either. There, the battle would break out in the afternoon. 
The German troops had entrenched themselves firmly at the head of the Afsluitdijk. Numerous roadblocks had been set up. And the Germans had constructed many so-called concrete 'Tobruk' bunkers, usually manned by two soldiers with a machine gun. Supported by another piece of 75 mm. artillery and many pieces of light anti-aircraft artillery, they awaited the Canadian attack.  
The Canadians knew exactly what to expect. The Frisian resistance had made maps of the German positions. And through aerial reconnaissance, a lot of information had also been gathered by the Allies. The Canadians were reluctant to take big risks against such a well-defended position. Moreover, there was a very low chance of civilians getting hit. That is why the head of the Afsluitdijk was shelled with artillery before the Canadians launched the attack. And Allied fighters carried out air raids. Dutch engineers had their hearts in their mouths during the shelling. They feared major damage to the Lorentz locks. 

On 18 April at 10:00, artillery from the Royal Canadian Artillery opened fire. Half an hour later, the Queens Own Rifles of Canada mounted the attack. They encountered little resistance. The artillery shelling had done its job. The Germans had been defeated. Once Makkum had also been liberated in the afternoon, all escape routes were blocked. This was one of the Canadians' main goals. With the exception of the Wadden Islands, the entire province of Friesland was liberated on 18 April. 
The Dutch engineers' fears had not been unfounded. The bombing had indeed caused damage to the Afsluitdijk. But most of the damage had been inflicted by German Sprengkommandos before that. From mid-May, several groups of German soldiers also marched across the Afsluitdijk. This time, however, they came from North Holland and were deported to POW camps in Germany.