The Netherlands / Fortification
Vossenberg Fortress is located on a sandy ridge in the Groote Peel nature reserve. The fortress was built in 1939 when the threat of war from Germany increased. It consists of six casemates, which are national monuments today, and was part of the Peel-Raam Line. The fortress remained unused during the German invasion in 1940. There was heavy fighting on the marshy ground around the fortress in the autumn of 1944.
In 1939, the Dutch government ordered the construction of the Peel-Raam Line far outside Vesting Holland, the strategic area for the defence of the Netherlands. The 90-kilometre-long defence line ran from the Raam near Grave up to the Belgian border at Budel.
An anti-tank canal, known as the Defence Canal, was dug to the north of the Eindhoven-Venlo railway line on the border of North Brabant and Limburg. Further to the south, the marshy Peel terrain, complemented by asphalt barriers and waterworks, was supposed to complicate a hostile advance. Casemates were also erected in places, such as Vossenberg near Meijel and a little further east along the Deurne Canal and Noordervaart. Measures were taken in the intervening area to flood large tracts of agricultural land.
Despite all of the defensive efforts, the fortress remained unused during the German invasion in May 1940. It remained fairly quiet until late October 1944 when strong German armoured troops, supported by thousands of well-trained soldiers, began a counterattack from behind the Peel canals towards Helmond. During this 'Battle of the Canals' Meijel became the scene of fierce fighting. The 7th US Armoured Division, which was here to recuperate after the recent fighting at Overloon, was hit hard and suffered heavy losses again.
The tide started turning at the beginning of November, thanks to the deployment of Scottish troops from Tilburg, that had recently been liberated. The German attack came to a halt near Asten and Deurne. They withdrew again behind the Peel canals from where they bombarded the British and Americans with grenades and mortars. They left thousands of mines behind as they retreated.
In mid-November, the Allies launched an offensive to clear the entire area on the west bank of the River Meuse in Limburg of Germans. On 16 November, they entered Meijel, a ghost village. Burnt-out wrecks were everywhere, soldiers had been buried in temporary graves, and nearly all houses and farms in Meijel had been damaged or destroyed.