Table of Contents
- 1 Position Kornwerderzand
- 2 German attack on Kornwerderzand
- 3 Visit the Kazemattenmuseum, Kornwerderzand
- 4 The secret RAF 161 “Special Duties” squadron
- 5 Widerstandsnest 27a H – German additions in 1943
- 6 Bunkers of Kornwerderzand outside the Kazemattenmuseum
When in 1921 the decision is made to build the ambitious “Afsluitdijk” (ENG: “Enclosure Dam”) between the towns of Den Oever (North Holland) and Zurich (Friesland) to separate the North Sea from the South Sea (which is since called “IJsselmeer”), the Dutch Ministry of Defense demanded that fortifications would be built along the dam to protect it from capture and also the so called “Fortress of Holland”, meaning the provinces of North and South Holland, which, in terms of war on the European continent, would be the last line of defense for the Dutch army.
The 32 kilometer long dam would also pose a serious risk for the important harbor of the Dutch Navy in Den Helder, while it would connect the mainland of the provence of Friesland to North Holland and thus making it vulnerable for attacks from ground forces.
So during the construction of the massive 90 meters wide dam, a number of man made islands were created along the dam to form defense lines with armed fortifications.
The first two lines of defense were at the east side of the Afsluitdijk at “Stelling Kornwerderzand”, where a system of bunkers and trenches were constructed to protect the sluices of the dam. And at the west side of the dam “Stelling Den Oever” also consisted of two lines of defense fitted with a large number of bunkers. Den Oever was seen as the last line of defense for Fortress Holland.
Position Kornwerderzand was constructed between 1931 and 1936 and consisted of two lines of defense with a total of 17 bunkers, of which 9 where placed in the first line. Most of these bunkers were MG stands and designed to withstand 210mm to 280mm caliber. The outer walls are 2.8 metres thick and the inner walls 1.5 metres. Extra concrete pillars were placed to enforce the construction against weakening in case of heavy artillery fire. Some of the MG bunkers have a parapet to protect additional MG positions outside of the bunker. Most of the bunkers were covered with 1 meter of soil.
From the beginning of September 1939, when the German Wehrmacht invades Poland, the 21st Infantry Regiment under the command of Captain C.F.J Boers was permanently stationed at Stelling (Eng: position) Kornwerderzand. The regiment consisted of 7 officers, 25 non-commissioned officers and 193 corporals and soldiers.
German attack on Kornwerderzand
On the 12th of May the position is first attacked with MG fire and mortar fire by the German invaders. On 13 May they fire at the position with heavy artillery and at 18:00 the German 1st Cavalry Division charges the position but breaks off the attack due to heavy resistance from Kornwerderzand.
The day after they fire at the positions with heavy artillery again, but this time the artillery position on the IJsselmeerdijk is returned fire upon by the Dutch navy gunboat “Hr.Ms.Johan Maurits van Nassau” lying 18 kilometers off shore in the Waddenzee. It fires 98 shells and destroys all the artillery guns. The Wehrmacht is forced to retreat from this position.
Even after these attacks the bunkers show little sign of heavy damage and no casualties are made. The Dutch soldiers feel very confident and moral is high. But when the Germans threaten to bomb Rotterdam on the 14th of May, the Dutch Army High Command orders their surrender. The soldiers are forced to hand over Kornwerderzand to the Wehrmacht.
Despite this, the German Luftwaffe bombs Rotterdam on 14 May around 13:30 in the afternoon.
Visit the Kazemattenmuseum, Kornwerderzand
Nowadays most of the position can still be visited. Part of the first defense line has been preserved in a museum called the Kazemattenmuseum Kornwerderzand. The bunkers outside the museum are neglected and left to their destiny, but in the museum they are restored in their glory most of the time and outfitted with displays of original armament and army equipment. The museum staff has done their best to give the visitors a view into the past.
Monument Cpt. C.F.J. Boers and Lt O.J. Ham
After the army’s surrender commander Captain Boers and Lieutenant Ham joined the Dutch resistance and continued fighting the German invaders. They would both be arrested in 1941 and executed. This memorial is erected in their honor.
Casemate IV Kornwerderzand
Casemate XIV Kornwerderzand
Casemate V Kornwerderzand
Casemate VI Kornwerderzand
Casemate VI was the most heavily armed bunker of Kornwerderzand, the only one with an extra floor under ground level and played a large role in fighting off the German attack. It also drew the most fire during the attacks on the 13th and 14th of May, because the Wehrmacht wanted to immobilize the 5cm canons as soon as possible so it wouldn’t endanger a possible tank assault on Kornwerderzand if needed.
The pictures above show the 5cm Siderius canon mounted on a gun carriage inside the gun room of casemate VI. Although there indeed was one 5cm Siderius canon on such a carriage in a field position on the first defense line, near where the entrance of the museum is nowadays, the other two 5cm canons inside casemate VI were mounted on a fixed rig bolted on the casemate wall.
The secret RAF 161 “Special Duties” squadron
This heavily damaged tailpiece belongs to a Lockheed Hudson FK790 of the RAF No. 161 “Special Duties” squadron. The plane left Tempsford Airbase near London with it’s four men crew and 4 Dutch secret agents on board in the night of 5 to 6 July 1944. It’s goal was to drop off the agents, who would parachute into “Appelsche heide” near Nijkerk, the Netherlands to support the Dutch resistance.
The story is that they were intercepted by a German fighter above the Waddenzee and shot down. The plane crashed 4 kilometers south-west of Kornwerderzand in the IJsselmeer. Seven bodies were found in the water after the crash. The remains of the pilot were recovered from the plane wreck in 1997.
More information can be found at http://www.161squadron.org/
Widerstandsnest 27a H – German additions in 1943
When the Wehrmacht took over Kornwerderzand in 1940, at first the position was used as a guard post for the Afsluitdijk. But in 1943, when the tide was turning for the Nazi war machine, the Wehrmacht again fully manned the position and updated the strength of Kornwerderzand by adding extra bunkers and gun emplacements. Kornwerderzand became part of “Stützpunktgruppe Harlingen” as Widerstandsnest 27a H.
Bunker Type 667 Kleinstschartenstand
The Germans built two type 667 “Kleinstschartenstand” bunkers at Kornwerderzand of which this bunker 18, armed with a 4.7 cm PAK gun, is one of. The gun (of Czech origin) was found in 1985 on the second defense line. It was restored by the Dutch Royal Navy in Den Helder and placed in this bunker in 1987.
If you would like to visit Kazemattenmuseum Kornwerderzand, visit their website for more information http://www.kazemattenmuseum.nl/
Bunkers of Kornwerderzand outside the Kazemattenmuseum
Of course, we wouldn’t be LandmarkScout if we didn’t favour the bunkers left to their destiny.. Most of the interior is gone, but these bunkers are more isolated and therefore interesting to visit. Even if that means crossing the highway across the Afsluitdijk on foot with traffic coming at you going 120 km/h.
Read the article here: https://www.landmarkscout.com/stelling-kornwerderzand-afsluitdijk-the-netherlands/