The Netherlands / Landmark
The forgotten airport of Malden was one of the starting points for Operation Varsity, the biggest airborne operation ever executed in one day.
Operation Varsity was the biggest airborne operation ever executed in one day. East of the Rhine, 16,000 paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines. This operation was part of the last phase of the Rhineland Offensive and provided air support for ground operation Plunder. The aim of these two operations was to cross the Rhine River. The Rhine was the last natural obstacle in the direction of Berlin with regards to the Allied breakout. The airport in Malden was one of the starting points for the planes.
The runway of the airfield, officially called B91 De Kluis, was almost 1400 metres long. In order to build the airport, thirteen houses had to disappear. The residents did not have a lot of time to find shelter for themselves. Without notice, they were asked to leave their homes. Also, the windmill in Malden had to remove its blades, as they could pose a danger for arriving and departing planes. The construction of the airfield took only five days and on 21 March 1945, the first plane could take off.
Squadrons of the 123rd and 135th Wing, part of the 84th Group of the RAF, were stationed at Malden. They predominantly had fighter aircrafts at their disposal and had the task of exploring the German anti-aircraft defences. The airfield was one of the first places on the continent where the modern jet fighter Gloster Meteor took off, but also bigger machines like Dakota's landed and took off at the airfield. They brought the wounded and prisoners of war to England.
After the war
The airport was only in service for a couple of weeks. At the end of April 1945, it was no longer in use. The buildings disappeared, but the perforated metal sheets that formed the base and the airfield mesh were reused by the surrounding residents, for example in building houses or as fences.
The airfield also attracted famous visitors. Eyewitnesses remember that Field Marshall Montgomery once landed and let the children of the village into the cockpit. The last plane to land there was Prince Bernhard's machine in May 1945.