British Military & Criminal History
1900 to 1999.
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Nijmegen originated as the Roman settlement of Noviomagusand is the oldest town in The Netherlands. Often an imperial residencein the Carolingian period, it became a free city and later joined the Hanseatic League.
In 1579 it subscribed to the Union of Utrecht against Spain. It was taken by the French (1672) in the third of theDutch Wars, and the treaties - between Louis XIV, the Netherlands, Spain,and the Holy Roman Empire - that ended the hostilities were signed therein 1678–79.
Nijmegen was the capital of Gelderland until its capture in 1794 by the French, who moved the capital to Arnhem. It served as a frontier fortress until its defenses were dismantled in 1878.
Plaque marking the execution site of Jan van Hoof (Stephen Stratford 2006).
In 1944 Jan van Hoof was a member of the Dutch Resistance. He became Nijmegen's best-known resistance worker and was credited with the saving of the Nijmegen road bridge from demolition by the German forces. On 19 September 1944 van Hoof appeared at the Sionshof Hotel with information about German positions in the area around the Nijmegen Road Bridge. Later that afternoon van Hoof accompanied a Scout Car of the Grenadier Guards through the centre of Nijmegen towards the rail bridge. The Scout Car was hit by German fire and Lance-Sergeant William Berry and Guardsman Albert Shaw were killed. Jan van Hoof was captured by German forces and then executed at this spot; now marked by a plaque. Jan van Hoof's remains are now in the Dutch War Cemetery at Jonkerbos; Berry and Shaw are buried in the CWGC Jonkerbos Military Cemetery.
On the main road that leads to the southern end of the Waal Bridge (now called General James Gavin Street) is a statue dedicated to the memory of all those who were killed in Nijmegen's liberation. The bronze Marius van Beek statue was unveiled on 17 September 1954. Next to the statue is a Canadian Maple Tree, planted on 5 May 1995, to recognise the role played by Canadian Troops in the liberation of the Netherlands.
Status dedicated to Jan van Hoof and all those killed in Nijmegen's liberation (Stephen Stratford 2006).
The Waal Bridge looking northwards towards Elst (Stephen Stratford 2006).
Following the capture of the bridge by soldiers and tanks of the British Grenadier Guards, the viaduct that runs under the south-end of the Waal Bridge was renamed Grenadier Guards Viaduct.
The Grenadier Guards Viaduct running under the southern end of the bridge (Stephen Stratford 2006).
The plaque on the left-hand side of the photograph was errected on 19 September 1994, and details in Dutch and English the capture of the Waal Bridge by elements of the Grenadier Guards; one company of which is now called Nijmegen Company.
Nijmegen-Waal Rail Bridge with the power-line marking Waal Crossing Point (Stephen Stratford 2006).
With the road bridge on your right-hand side, looking left is the rail bridge across the Waal. Beyond this bridge, you can see some power lines which cross the river. They convieniently mark the route taken by the American 82nd Airborne Troops in their extremely brave daylight cross of the Waal.
In an attempt to capture the road bridge, and open the route towards the beseiged British forces on Arnhem Bridge, it was decided to send troops across the Waal so the bridge could be attacked on both sides. With German troops on both the rail bridge and northern bank, such a crossing would normally be mounted at night or just before first light. Due to the late arrival of assault boats and the pressing need to reach Arnhem Bridge it was decided to attempt the crossing in broad daylight!
At 14:15 on 20 September 1944, the guns of 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and 153rd Field Regiment Royal Artillery opened up on the northern bank.At 15:00 the troops of Major Julian A. Cook's 3rd Battalion (504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division) pushed off from the southern bank (left-hand side of photograph), with the strong Waal current sweeping the boats to the left and further away from their objective. As well as the current, the German poured fire on to the small boats from both the northern bank and into the right flank of the Americans from the railway bridge.
Six times the crossing was made between 15:00 and 19:00 hours. The troops rallied and then charged the German positions on the northern bank, taking the position and linking up with the British Grenadier Guards who had taken the bridge and driven across it.
A memorial to the American Troops is located on the northern bank of the Waal. The memorial was designed by Marius van Beek and Professor Dr. F. J. A. Huygens and was unveiled on 18 September 1984 by General Gavin. The memorial contains a tablet which lists the names of the 48 men who died making what the watching British General Horrocks called "... the best attack that I ever saw carried out in the whole war".