The Betuwe became a prominent area during the Second World War. Especially from Market Garden to the liberation. It became a front area where there was really no question of liberated. People were evacuated, the front was seating up and down and much of the area was flooded. In the end, the final liberation of the Netherlands was partly used by the Betuwe. Also at the beginning of the War the Betuwe played a role. Two defensive lines ran through the Betuwe. They had to hold the enemy until the Grebbe.

The Dutch defence in 1940

After the international situation became increasingly threatening in 1935, efforts were made in the Netherlands to put the national defences back in order. It was very outdated because after the first world war little or nothing had been done about it. When the Polish-German conflict became so serious that the battle could erupt at any moment, the general mobilization was proclaimed in the Netherlands, this was on August 28, 1939, 3 days before the outbreak of the Second World War (WW2).

Holland's defence consisted of the New Dutch Waterline, which ed to the historical defensive line of the Fortress Holland. But almost nothing had been done about this until August 1939. The field army was deployed in two eastern positions. These two lines both ran through the Betuwe. The first was the Ice Sellinie which joined the Maaslinie. This one ran in the Betuwe approximately between Arnhem and Nijmegen. The second was the more famous Grebbelinie who rejoined the Peel-Raamstelling. This one passed through the Betuwe as a Betuwe theorem at Ochten to the Maas-Waalstelling. But because in Belgium the Peel-Raamstelling was not properly connected, the outer line of defence could easily be diverted via Belgium. That is why the Grebbelinie-Betuwe theorem along the Waal and the Linge was turned over to the West and it joined Gorkum on the fortress Holland, the so-called Waal-Lingestelling.

At the beginning of the mobilization, the lines or positions mentioned did not exist or hardly existed. For the most part, the military had to make them themselves and often looked more like ground workers than soldiers. The main objection of this work, however, was that there was no time left to step up the already low level of practice. The lines mentioned were made up of wood and soil-made weapons setups, trenches and shelters. Sometimes equipped with concrete or cast steel casemates that served as machine guns. Furthermore, by inundation (underwater setting) for the line could raise an additional protection.

To really defend, it took my time. Crews had to advance and the roads running through the scaffolding had to be barred. In order to buy time, alarms had to be raised at the border crossings and a number of prepared barriers were set up between the border and lines. This was to make it possible to destroy the bridges over the rivers in time. The barriers were manned by Husssers who formed our troops to move quickly on horseback or on bicycles. All in all, it was expected that in the case of a large force majeure, the defense could last up to one day until the Grebbelinie.


May 1940, H. Amersfoort en P.H. Kamphuis
Grebbelinie 1940, E.H. Brongers

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Photos from archive Foundation B.O.I.C., concerns defensive work de Spees at Kesteren