De Peel, traces of war

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Marcel, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    De Peel is an area in the south-east of the Netherlands, on the border between Noord-Brabant en Limburg. Twice, the warmachine ran over this part of my country, first in May 1940 and later in 1944 during and after Market Garden. In 1940, the Peel-Raam line ran here. It was supposed to be a major defense line, but since the Belgians failed to link their defences to this line, considered to be too vulnerable and the main line of defense was moved all the way west, to Dordrecht.
    Nevertheless, Dutch soldiers fought here to slow down the German advance in an unfinished weak defense line. I visited a place called Mill, and I want to share a story and pictures of this place. Later, I will give some attention to the 1944 events in Overloon.

    One of the unique aspects of the war in the Netherlands is the use of pantzer trains by the Germans. Overall they were not very succesful, but in Mill they almost succeded.
    See for reference, the map below of the defenseline from Wikipedia.
    424px-Peel-Raamstelling_the_Netherlands.jpg

    IN the early morning of May 10th 1940, a group of German soldiers disguised as Dutch soldiers and helped by some Dutch traitors managed to conquer the railwaybridge over the river Meuse (Maas) at Gennep before it was blown up. They took advantage of this succes by sending two trains right through the Dutch defense. The Dutch defenders, who did not know that the war had started and oblivious to the events at Gennep thought the trains were Dutch and did not stop them and the railway was not blocked. About 1 km behind the line, the Germans unloaded a bataljon of troops which would attack the Dutch from the rear. The Pantzertrain inthe mean time went back to get more troops.
    At the defese canal at Mill, the defenders had just realised that the trains that just passed were actually german and they set up the railway blockade in record time. At 05.15h, the train hits the 'asperge' blocks at full speed, derailing. A little Dutch bunker near to the place kept the germans inside the train by using it's light machinegun. After some time, the bunker was attacked from the rear by the unloaded troops and had to surrender.
    There are many stories to tell about the battle at Mill, about the gunners who stopped the German attack with their ancient gunns from 1870. About the single soldier who fended off 40 Germans on his own. And about the many Dutch uniforms, found in the German train at Mill.
    Anyway, here some pictures:

    The derailed train after the battle.
    Ontspoorde20pantsertrein20Mill.jpg


    The 'Asperge' blocks on which the train derailed. This is the actual spot where it happened. The impact was so enormous that some coaches where launced and fell into the defense canal, about 100 meters away.
    water_20150810_0002_1.jpg

    Remains of the old Defense Kanaal
    water_20150810_0004_1.jpg

    The railwaybridge over the defense canal at Mill, close to the place were the train derailed.
    water_20150810_0008_1.jpg

    A closeup of the 'Asperges'
    water_20150810_0010_1.jpg

    Remains of Dutch trenches on the west-side of the bridge
    water_20150810_0012_1.jpg

    Another view on the bridge
    water_20150810_0019_1.jpg

    The bunker that kept the Germans inside the train
    water_20150810_0001_1.jpg

    Another view on the Peel-Raamstelling at Mill. The defense canal. In the back, you can see a bunker. The left side is the west side of the canal.
    water_20150810_0020_1.jpg

    I the next post I will give some attention to the 1944 fighting in this area, especially in Overloon.
     
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  2. Wurger

    Wurger Siggy Master
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  3. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    Great history and photos Marcel.




    Geo
     
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  4. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    #4 Marcel, Aug 20, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
    Thanks. It's amazing how small the "defensie kanaal" is. I wonder how they thought it would stop the Germans. I also wonder what plan the Germans had with the Dutch uniforms. At least it shows that they did ignore the international rules about war. Their total war did surprise the amateur Duth army. THings like using POWs as shield and firing machineguns between their leggs, using Dutch uniforms etc. were common place in this war and was very effective against an army that consisted for 80% of reserve troops.

    Anyway, forward to 1944. If you look at the map in the first post you see on the north side of the Peel-Raamstelling the town of Grave. If you know anything about Market Garden, you will know that the bridge there was one of the bridges taen by the 82nd airborn division in that operation. I did not get close, but below a picture of the bridge and a conmemoration of that fateful day. Grave by the way is a beatiful ancient town, with old fortifications and buildings.

    It says:
    water_20150810_0040_1.jpg

    See te bridge in the distance, I did not get closer, unfortunately.
    water_20150810_0041_1.jpg
     
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  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Great stuff Marcel. The Grave bridge was blown-up by the Germans before the 82nd could capture it I believe, leading to delays in the advance of XXX Corps, as a 'Bailey bridge had to be constructed.
     
  6. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    I remember that scene in "A Bridge too Far". Great stuff Marcel.
     
  7. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    I think that was the bridge at Son Terry. I believe this bridge is still the original.
     
  8. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    My apologies, you're quite right Marcel - my memory is fading methinks !
     
  9. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Interesting stuff Marcel! Be great to visit if I get the chance.
     
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  10. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Good stuff Marcel! Thanks for sharing.
     
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  11. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Tell me if you do, maybe I can show you around.
     
  12. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Cheers mate, will hopefully take you up on that some day!
     
  13. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    #13 Marcel, Aug 21, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
    Overloon is not on the map above, but lies between the Peel-Raam stelling and Venray. This was the only real tankbattle fought on Dutch soil and is considered one of the fiersest battles in Western Europe.

    After Market Garden, the Allies had to extend the corridor made during the operation, which was dangerously narrow. The German army had dug itself in near the river Maas in De Peel and could become very dangerous to the Allied troops. Thus Operation Aintree was born.

    OVerloon was occupied by the German 107th Pantzer Brigade and fallschirmjaeger. On September 30th, the US 7th Armoured division attacked. The first week of the battle showed many attacks and couter-attacks on both sides, resulting in a high casualty rate for the Americans. Tired, the American division is withdrawn on october 8th and the British 11th Armoured division and 15th Infantry Division take over. Two weeks later, after fierce battle, Venray is reached after which, the Allies stop their advance. The battle claimed around 600 German lives and 1878 Allied lives, 1500 of which were British. The village of Overloon lay in ruins. After the war, a part of the battlefield was preserved and made into a museum. Until some years ago, you could walk through the woods and see disbandoned tanks and guns, still in their cover. Unfortunately due to the deteriorating state of the equipment, all the objects had to be moved to big building, making it a more conventional museum. Still the museum is impressive and well worth visiting if you ever come to these parts. It's motto "War belongs in a Museum" is something that all people should remember.

    I will post some pictures of the museum in the comming posts.

    MAny traces are still there. A saw a man with a metal detector who within 15 minutes had found a hand full (around 30) of Mauser rifle bullets, some detonators for granates etc. I myself found a piece of armour, the size of my hand. All just in the woods around the village. Still have to clean it and see if it has any marks, although I doubt I will ever identify it.

    British war cemetry in Overloon:
    water_20150816_0013_01.jpg

    Kastle Geijsteren, bombed to ruin by the British Artillery
    water_20150811_0002.jpg

    A Sherman tank in the village
    water_20150816_0007.jpg
     
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  14. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    I promised some pictures from the museum. It used to be only from the battle, but now more moder stuff is added, like the landingcraft. Big thing, I'm 1.90m and the tire is much bigger than me.

    The Sherman, the Churchill tank, the Panter and the Nebelwerfer are all damaged during the battle. The Churchill tank had the story on a sign and if I have time, I will write it down later.
    water_20150807_0043.jpg water_20150807_0046.jpg water_20150807_0050.jpg water_20150807_0053.jpg water_20150807_0057.jpg water_20150807_0058.jpg water_20150807_0061.jpg water_20150807_0062.jpg water_20150807_0064.jpg water_20150807_0068.jpg water_20150807_0072.jpg
     
  15. Wurger

    Wurger Siggy Master
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  16. fubar57

    fubar57 Well-Known Member

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    Pretty nifty looking museum.




    Geo
     
  17. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Great stuff Marcel. And a very good reason to make the visit of Karl, myself and Mick to Holland, rather than Normandy next year !
     
  18. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

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    It sure is Dogsbody.

    Great pictures Marcel
     
  19. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    We'll plan a route when we're at DX, Red Two !
     
  20. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Sounds good, please keep me updated. I'll help you if I can.
     
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