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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 locks 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. Stelling Den Oever was seen as the last line of defense for Fortress Holland.
Stelling Den Oever – 1st defense line
Position or “Stelling” Den Oever was built between 1932 and 1936 on the North Holland side of the Afsluitdijk. It consisted of anti tank obstacles and two lines of defense. The position was manned by 7 officers and 211 NCO’s and soldiers of the Dutch Army.
The first defense line was on a triangular shaped artificial island and the base for a total of eight bunkers or casemates. Nrs. I, II, V, VI and VIII were MG casemates, III and IV were armed with respectively one and two 5 cm anti tank canons and casemate VII held the 20 mm (Oerlikon) anti aircraft guns. The purpose of this defense line obviously was to defend the locks behind it.
Stelling Den Oever – 2nd defense line
This was the last fallback line in case of the enemy taking the first line. It provided an extra barrier to fall back on and covered the rear of the position, might the enemy come from behind.
The 2nd line consisted of 5 bunkers. Nrs. IX, X and XII were fitted with MG’s. Casemate XI was a depot for an AA Gun and nr. XIII was a first aid station and machine room situated underneath the control tower of the Dam’s locks.
May 1940 – the German invasion of the Netherlands
Position Den Oever would never see any action during the German invasion in World War Two, because Stelling Kornwerderzand would hold the Germans until the Dutch army was forced to surrender on May 15 1940.
Visit Stelling Den Oever
Unfortunately we made no preparations when we ran into Stelling Den Oever, so we haven’t covered it very extensively (yet). Off course we are more than happy to share the material we have until now.
It can be quite hard to reach Stelling Den Oever. You really have to plan where to stop (and not make a 90 degree turn while you’re driving a 100 km an hour on the highway). It seemed practical to us to try and park near the harbor at Casemate X. From there you can reach most of the bunkers on foot. Use the walkway underneath the bridges to get on the other side of the highway running across the dam. The bike path on the north side of the dam should get you in any direction you want.
MG casemate X has been sealed off completely so it can only be viewed on the outside. It covered the south slope of the Afsluitdijk dam and the lock which lies south of it. It is constructed in two seperate bunker halves, which can be seen by the dilatation joint running over the center of the East and West facing concrete walls. It has two outside light MG stands with ammunition storage behind armored steel doors.
This MG casemate with observation cupola is one of the better preserved bunkers on the Afsluitdijk. A lot of the original interior is still present and the bunker is open so you can look around as long as you like. On the outside you can still see some of the German camouflage paint scheme, which was applied during the later stage of the war.
The casemate was built as two separate bunkers, which can be seen by the vertical dilatation joint running across the center of the Eastern and Southern concrete walls.