The Netherlands / Monument

Double battle at Scharsterbrug




The village of Scharsterbrug and the bridge over the Scharster Rhine were important to the German defenders. Both were situated on the route to Lemmer, from where hundreds of German soldiers hoped to escape by ship to North Holland. In a short period of time, two battles were fought in Scharsterbrug.

On 9 April, 13 men from the Dutch Domestic Armed Forces (NBS) of Doniawerstal tried to capture the bridge in Scharsterbrug from a dozen German guards. The Germans were overpowered, with one of them being shot. The NBS thought he had been killed, but that turned out to be incorrect when he, of all people, managed to warn another group of Germans. 

This group was on a nearby patrol boat. Using the boat's heavy weapons, the Germans then opened fire. As a result, the NBS men saw no chance of definitively capturing the bridge and withdrew. German fire caused several casualties in the village. Including one person killed. 
In the following days, the village saw columns of German soldiers retreating towards Lemmer with the aim of crossing to North Holland from there. Scharsterbrug was thus very important to the Germans in those days. 
On 15 April, the Canadians were so close that the Germans decided to blow up the bridge. But they did not withdraw after that. The Scharster Rhine was one of the last major obstacles on the way to Lemmer. And in Lemmer, there were still several hundred Germans who wanted to get to North Holland. So the village had to be defended. 

The first confrontation with the Canadians took place as early as that day. 

Joure had been liberated without a struggle. In an attempt to find a southern route to Sneek, 7th Reconnaissance Regiment Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars came across the blown-up bridge at Scharsterbrug. The Germans opened fire on the Canadians. However, the Canadians made short shift of the Germans on their side of the water and then withdrew. 

 The remaining Germans entrenched themselves in the Hollandia dairy factory, some houses and farms, and in foxholes along the road. Here, they had a good view of the road to Joure. The local resistance played an important role in scouting the German positions. One of them, Richard Jung, was killed on one of these missions.  

After it was established that the Germans were also in the Hollandia factory, the Canadians opened fire with mortars and artillery on 16 April. The rest of the day there was shooting back and forth. Two vehicles of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa were hit by a piece of anti-aircraft artillery. Four Canadians were injured in the process. Then, an attack by the Régiment de la Chaudière put paid to German resistance in Scharsterbrug. During this attack, Lance Corporal Lucien Potvin was killed. 

After the battle, there was no celebratory mood in the village. The sight of Scharsterbrug after the fighting was terrible. Otto Haitsma, then aged six, recalled:  
"shattered houses, smouldering remains of stables and farms, blackened swollen dead cows and horses with their eyes wide open and near the dairy factory a heap of bodies without arms or legs and heads shot away in blood-soaked shreds of uniforms." 

The liberation of Scharsterbrug opened the road to Lemmer. Canadian engineers built a Bailey bridge next to the destroyed bridge on 17 April. Lemmer could be liberated the very same day.