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Dutch War Memorials

I didn’t expect to see War Memorials in out of the way places in The Netherlands. The country didn’t take part in the Great War but was of course invaded by Germany in 1940. The Dutch were unable to combat the Luftwaffe bombers – the centre of Rotterdam was destroyed – and surrendered to avoid destruction of their other cities. The fighting lasted seven days.

But then there were also the almost constant Allied bombing raids over Germany in the latter part of the war (the run-up to D-Day excepted) which flew over The Netherlands en route and on return.

It seems two such aeroplanes were shot down over or near Opende.

This view shows both memorials:-

The distinctive headstones of Commonwealth war graves can be seen. I assume these were erected after the war.

The inscription on the brick wall reads :-

In Memory of the seven heroes whose plane crashed in Opende, 15 Feb 1944.
The Residents of Opende

This is the other end of the memorial:

The aircraft was a Halifax bomber with seven crew, six of whom were Australian. It was shot down. The details are here.

Links to more information about the crew can be found on this webpage.

The other plaque on the site is for a US B 17, “Sky Queen” which came down on 28 Jul 1943.

More information about this crew is here.

In the nearby town (I would call it a town but by the Dutch definition it’s a village) of Surhuisterveen there is a War Memorial plaque on the other side of the clock tower from this view.

The inscription reads:-

In memory. To our local fallen in the war 1940-45.

The Netherlands

The ferry left Harwich late firstly due to “a cruise ship in the next berth” and then to the fact that they couldn’t get the engines to start. (Cue cries of, “They cannae take it, Captain.”) It was an electronic problem apparently. As a result we were an hour late arriving at Hoek van Holland.

Almost the first thing that happened after we got off the boat was we got lost. Our intructions said to take the second exit from a roundabout. It should have been the first. After a slight detour we got onto a road on the top of a dyke, which was pretty intimidating as there didn’t seem much room if there was any sort of traffic problem or accident. I missed another turning, found myself in the wrong lane and had to enter the A 20 motorway to Rotterdam. I was able to get off and pull into a petrol station where I consulted the map I had bought and worked out a way back onto the route I needed. Dutch motorways are brilliant, very well sign-posted.

Unfortunately the delays meant we hit Amsterdam at rush hour. Four north bound lanes more or less jam-packed. Fun. I wasn’t quite sure of which junction to come off the Amsterdam ring motorway but I spotted a sign for Leeuwarden and Heerenveen and took it. This route meant we drove over what used to be part of the Zuider Zee – on the Afsluitdijk, with the IJsselmeer on our right and the Wadden Sea hidden behind the dyke to our left. This was a weird experience but the dyke is a fantastic piece of civil engineering. At each end it has a set of huge sluice gates to allow the IJsselmeer to drain into the Wadden Sea. Presumably this only happens at low tide.

North of Amsterdam the traffic became very much lighter. Most of the way was motorway and the journey passed very quickly.

At certain junctions the motorway regulations stop a few hundred metres before the roads meet. This happened just west of Heerenveen where there is effectively a roundabout between the A 6 and A 7 motorways. (In Groningen two motorways meet at a set of traffic lights.)

I was struck by the number of smallish industrial units near the motorways and at the edges of towns – way more than in the UK. Old Dutch buildings tend to be traditional with pitched roofs. The industrial buildings all looked modern and were either rectangular boxes, some up to seven or eight stories, or else replete with curves.

The towns seemed tidy and prosperous looking. That may be due to the brickwork pavements and cycleways. I can’t say I noticed any litter.

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