The Netherlands / Battlefield
In September of 1944, Operation Market Garden was launched. Though most of the fighting took place in and around Nijmegen and Arnhem, the villages in the area were not spared the wartime violence either.
An example of this occurred in the village of Druten, located beside the Waal river. On 17 September, when hundreds of planes flew over the Rijk van Nijmegen region to drop paratroopers, the German soldiers present in the village were shocked. They retreated to the north bank of the river, which was still in German hands. Three days later, around noon, a British reconnaissance patrol came to the village looking for a place where they could cross the Waal. By chance, at that moment a German patrol was on the river heading towards the village.
Druten locals warned the British, who hid behind the dam at the ferry house and from there crept towards the ferry. After the Germans had deboarded and started biking across the dam, one of the British soldiers opened fire on them. Two German soldiers were killed instantly, two were wounded and one soldier was able to flee back to the north bank just in time.
After the shooting, the British soldiers left for Nijmegen. Only hours later, after night had fallen, did the parish priest dare to go to the German soldiers, who were still lying on the dam. Only one of them was still alive. After his wounds had been treated, he was taken to Wijchen, where all German prisoners of war in the region ended up. The other three soldiers were buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery in Druten.
The Waal river as a front line
Operation Market Garden meant the liberation of Nijmegen and the surrounding area. However, this did not apply to all towns and villages in the vicinity. A large part of the Netherlands, including parts of the Betuwe region on the north bank of the Waal river, remained occupied until the German surrender in May 1945. Because the Waal formed a front line through the middle of the Netherlands, many towns and villages were not yet spared the horrors of war. The city of Tiel and the village of Deest just upstream from Druten, for example, were heavily damaged during the fighting and bombing.
Veerdam 1, 6651 KB Druten