Table of Contents
- 1 Position Kornwerderzand
- 2 German attack on Kornwerderzand
- 3 Visit Position Kornwerderzand
- 4 First Defense line
- 5 Second defense line
- 6 Widerstandsnest 27a H – German additions in 1943
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 Position Kornwerderzand
Nowadays most of the original defense line can still be visited. Part of the defense line has been turned into a museum called Kazemattenmuseum Kornwerderzand, while the rest of it has been left to it’s destiny. In this article we will focus on the casemates that are situated outside the museum.
For more information about the casemates inside the Kazemattenmuseum Kornwerderzand, read the following article: https://www.landmarkscout.com/kazemattenmuseum-kornwerderzand-afsluitdijk-the-netherlands/
First Defense line
Casemate I Kornwerderzand
This casemate with multiple MG positions was placed at the farthest point north of the defense line (view map above for location). It lies very isolated and out into the open on a man made dam stretching north into the Waddenzee.
Casemate II Kornwerderzand
Just like casemate VI, casemate II was armed with one 5 cm Siderius anti tank canon facing north-east. The casemate’s side with gun port is now largely covered with earth and the rest is covered with foliage. The armored cupola for observing is still clearly visible. At the back of the casemate on the outside are two toilet blocks.
Casemate III Kornwerderzand
Casemate III was constructed as an underground aid station underneath the bridge control tower and building. It had a first aid room, a water reservoir, a machine room, an oil storage and power generator. The entrance to the bunker is still visible at the back of the building between both motorways.
Second defense line
Going across the sluices using the walkway on the left side of the road going west, you will reach the second defense line.
This MG casemate has been sealed off and completely covered in soil. The German camouflage scheme can vaguely be seen above the toilet blocks.
Hidden in the foliage southwest of the sluices is casemate XI. It is an MG stand aiming east at the area on the other side of the sluices. Most of the bunker has been covered with soil and foliage.
An MG casemate situated in the rear of the defense line is aiming south-west protecting potential threats coming from the IJsselmeer.
Though originally an AA stand with storage for two canons, this casemate was designated as a first aid station in the cold war and an extra brick structure was added. On the roof you can see a concrete foothold for mirrors used to deflect the ray of a searchlight. This was done to diffuse the actual position of the search light and make it harder to put it out of action.
This is a smaller MG casemate used to defend the small strip of dam stretching out north into the North Sea. The German camouflage painting is still visible. On top there is a hole for a periscope. The large concrete collar was put there to protect the casemates foundations.
This 17th casemate was not included in the original plan, which consisted out of only 16 casemates. It was the last casemate built and served as a search light remise. Only the entrance is visible. The rest of the 8,5 by 18 metres large bunker are hidden under the soil. The sctructure is divided into the remise, a generator room and fuel storage. A chimney and two ventilation pipes can be found in the foliage between casemate XVII and XI, which come up from the generator room. The outer walls have a German camouflage painting scheme.
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.
German bunker Type 612 Schartenstand
Left of casemate II the Wehrmacht constructed a Type 612 Schartenstand, which was armed with an assault gun and had Dragon Teeth anti tank obstacles placed in front of it. It seems pretty logical why they did this. The Dutch design doesn’t seem to anticipate an attack from the Waddenzee behind casemates I and II, except for the defensive (outside) MG positions (see map lay-out of Kornwerderzand above). And if you look at the map further, the gap between casemates II and X is too big, so casemate X cannot provide sufficient cover in case of an attack from the sea. Of course, the German army had enough reasons to expect such an attack.
German bunker Type 667 Kleinschartenstand with Tobruk
In front of casemate XI and XVII the Wehrmacht constructed another Type 667 Kleinschartenstand, similar like the one in the Kazemattenmuseum and facing in the same direction as casemate XIII. Judging from the damage this bunker has been put out of action by the demolition crews. The bunker also has a Tobruk at the rear for extra protection.
FLAK AA emplacement
On a hill next to the highway on the north side of the defense line near Casemate XII lies an open AA emplacement.
Hockerlinie or Dragon Teeth
A hundred meters further west on the north side of the dam is a “Hockerlinie” or “Dragon teeth” for anti tank purposes.