The Betuwe on the frontline

The Netherlands

DestructionFightingForced migrations




In the autumn of 1944, Operation Market Garden became bogged down in the swampy fields of the Betuwe and at many locations, the front in this area came to a standstill. Those civilians who could were evacuated to the liberated south, whilst others were forced to head north and 4000 men remained behind to protect possessions. The Betuwe had become a "men's island".

The chapel or shrine on De Heuvel (the high ground) just north of Bemmel, dedicated to Maria of the Blossoming Betuwe, was built in 1946 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the fierce battles here in September and October 1944, and in the fighting which followed until the Liberation in the spring of 1945.

On 17 September 1944, Operation Market Garden began a surprise offensive by the Allied combined airborne and ground forces. The ground forces' advance did not go as fast as had been hoped, meaning that in the end the battle for the bridge at Arnhem was lost.

Strategically located, the Hill became the focal point of the battle and from 26 September to 4 October 1944 hand-to-hand battles took place and there were fierce tank battles. Hundreds of soldiers died. On 4 October, the German troops were driven to the north side of the river Linge, and along the Linge the warring parties dug in.

When it became clear that the front line had definitely come to a halt around Bemmel, everyone was ordered to leave the village. Bemmel families who lived on the 'good side' of the front lines were evacuated. Most of the men, however, stayed behind. The British area commander, responsible for safety in liberated territory, gave permission for 4,000 male representatives of the families to remain. These men tried to protect the property of the evacuated inhabitants, and to care for the animals left behind.

It was not until the spring of 1945 that the Linge front began to move. The Allies moved eastwards to clear the northern side of the Linge via Gendt and Doornenburg. It became eerily quiet around De Heuvel. Field graves, mines, weapons and ammunition were scattered everywhere, along with broken tanks forming striking silent witnesses.

The Sherman tank

Near the chapel on De Heuvel stands a tank. It symbolises the 1944 stranded advance in the Betuwe and the liberation delayed until 1945. Monument 'The Sherman Tank' is thus a symbol of struggle and hope. At the back is the text 'Every citizen counts', accompanied by the symbol for wartime civilians, the marigold.


Heuvelsestraat 14, Bemmel