December 31, 2011

0087 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / Gelderland) - The Nijmegen road bridge

Behold that Market Garden Corridor (from Eindhoven to Arnhem) start to take shape. After the postcard with the railway bridge from Nijmegen I received it this one, with the road bridge from the same Dutch city (Thanks from the heart, Elsbeth). At the first glance (without claiming to be exhaustive) I ascertain that I would also need the images with the following objectives (of course to the extent that they exist physical nowadays and it were issued the postcards with them): 

● Eindhoven (the 4 bridges over the Upper Dommel River)
● Son en Breugel (the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal)
● Sint Oedenrode (the bridge over the Dommel River and Monument for the Dutch)
● Best (the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal)
● The Groesbeek Heights
● Uden
● Veghel (the 4 bridges over the Zuid-Willems Canal)
● Grave (the 2 bridges over the Maas-Waal River)
● Groesbeek (The National Liberation museum, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery)
● Oosterbeek (the rail bridge over the Nederrijn, The Airborne Museum, Airborne cemetery)
● Arnhem (the 2 bridges over the Nederrijn)

If among the readers of this blog are inhabitants from these localities or from the close proximity willing to help me in my approach, I would remain grateful to them. But I insist that they be, I repeat, "from these localities or from the close proximity" because I don't wish to receive a postcard with the Arnhem bridge from Paris or from Rotterdam, for example.

The history of the road bridge of Nijmegen, over the Waal river, began in 1931, when was made the decision to build it. That wasn't easy, because for the ramp a part of the city has to be complete changed. Five years later Queen Wilhelmina opened the 244m long bridge (604m in total) named Waalbrug (Wall river bridge), the biggest at that time in Europe.

After the beginning of WWII, the Dutch army has developed a plan to blow up the bridge in case of a German attack, and prior to May 1940, was built a bullet proof barrier at the south end of the bridge, to be used to slow up a enemy advance in the event a failure to blow up the bridge.

On 10 May 1940, when nazy forces invaded the Netherlands, Nijmegen was the first city to fall. German operation Trojanischen Pferd (a cargo ship loaded with an infantry company had to take the bridge) failed as it didn't arrive. The SS reconnaissance unit advanced to Nijmegen as planned, only to witness both bridges being blown as they arrived. The Waal ferry, closed when the road bridge opened in 1936, recommenced shortly after the end of hostilities. The road bridge was finally re-opened in 1943.

During the Operation Market Garden the road bridge had to be captured to allow the British Army XXX Corps to attempt to reach the 1st British Airborne Division in Arnhem. The bridge was heavily defended by over 300 German troops on both the north and south sides with close to 20 anti-tank guns and two anti-aircraft guns, supported with artillery. In this situation the british decided to send troops across the Waal so the bridge to can be attacked on both sides. Such a crossing would normally be mounted at night, but they were in delay and decided to attempt the crossing in broad daylight.

On 20 September 1944, with artillery support, the troops of Major Julian A. Cook's 3rd Battalion (504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division) have forced the crossing over the river in boats, from the southern to the northern shore. Six times the crossing was made and 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.

The Germans' late attempt to blow the bridge was probably foiled by a local Dutch resistance hero, Jan van Hoof, who is said to have cut the wires to the bridge. Van Hoof was captured and executed by the Germans on 19 September. His remains are now in the Dutch War Cemetery at Jonkerbos, and on the site where he was shot through the head is now marked by a plaque.

The Germans made repeated attacks on the road bridge, as on the railway bridge, using bombs attached to driftwood, midget submarines and later resorted to shelling the bridge with 88mm barrages. In the night of 28–29 September 3 groups of 4 German frogmen set off from 10 km upstream from the bridges. They were to place explosives under the bridges and then to continue with the river current 24 km further to return to their lines. The railway bridge was blown up, but the road bridge was only slightly damaged because the mine had been badly placed.

Following the capture of the bridge, the viaduct that runs under the south-end of the bridge was renamed Grenadier Guards Viaduct. On the main road that leads to the southern end of the 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. On the bridge was unveiled a plaque on 18th september 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle of Nijmegen.

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".

Since 2001 the road bridge it's a national monument.

The stamp, belonging to the very special Postcrossing set, is the same from the postcard with the railway bridge, about which I wrote here.

sender: Elsbeth Memelink (direct swap)

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