The Netherlands / Story

Water as a Weapon




The Netherlands is known as a country of water. For centuries, the Dutch have been fighting with and against water. In World War II, the occupying forces used water as a weapon against the Dutch and their liberators.

After the bridges of Nijmegen were taken by the Allies in Operation Market Garden and the city was liberated, the occupying forces wanted to prevent the Allies from penetrating further to the north and east of the Netherlands at all costs. One of the ways they tried to prevent this was to blow up the river dyke. Thus, in December 1944, explosives were used to blow a 100m breach in the Ooijpolder dyke. The effects were not immediately visible because there was severe winter weather (famine winter) and the river was low. When a month later a sudden thaw set in and the river level rose sharply, the polder flooded. This happened just as the Allied armies began the Rhineland offensive (Operation Veritable).

The sudden flooding of the polder had two advantages for the occupying forces: first, the water formed an obstacle, slowing the Allied advance, and second, it reduced the size of the front line. However, the Canadian army units ordered to liberate the Ooijpolder and Duffelt at the start of the Rhineland Offensive were well prepared and had already gained experience in amphibious warfare at the Battle of the Scheldt. Still, the water caused additional delays resulting in additional casualties. In the end, the Germans proved to be more inconvenienced by the self-inflicted flood and they soon had to abandon their position in the polder.

The inhabitants of the Ooijpolder and Duffelt had already been evacuated in October 1944 and could not return to their villages until the spring of 1945. By then, the water had disappeared again. On their return, they had to find that the water had caused great damage.

Duffeltdijk, Leuth