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 defences were dismantled in 1878.
For anyone visiting the Operation Market-Garden area, you will need the essential book “Major and Mrs Holt’s Battle Guide – Operation Market-Garden” ISBN 0-85052-785-6.
MEMORIAL TO BELGIAN PRISONERS OF WAR
Between 30 May and 5 June 1940, ninety barges, packed with over 200,000 Belgian POWs, were moored at a quay on the Waal. The Waal Bridge has been blown up on 10 May and was impassable for traffic. At great risk to themselves, local residents provided the POWs with food and medical care.
The inscription reads
The plaque was erected on 16 May 1992 by the National Belgian Federation of ex-Prisoners of War.
In May-June 1940 the citizens of Nijmegen, spontaneously rendered assistance to tens of thousands of Belgian prisoners of war on their way to Nazi camps in cramped Rhine barges.
JAN van HOOF
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.
THE SWING MEMORIAL
The Swing Memorial was unveiled in 2000 in the presence of families of the 762 victims, of whom 24 children and 8 were Sisters of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The accidental victims were in the Infants School on the Raadhuishof, during an Allied air raid on 22 February 1944. The memorial was designed by Henk Visch.
DUTCH SERVICEMEN WORLD WAR TWO MEMORIAL
The memorial, showing a Dutch soldier kneeling beside his wounded comrade, commemorates Dutch forces killed during World War Two. It was erected on 5 May when the name of the square was changed from Koning Hendrikplein to Plein 1944; to mark the year of Nijmegen’s liberation.
The statue was designed by Jac Maris.
THE BRIDGE ACROSS THE RIVER WAAL
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.
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 plaque was erected 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.
CROSSING OF THE RIVER WAAL
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 conveniently mark the route taken by the American 82nd Airborne Troops in their daylight cross of the Waal.
In an attempt to capture the road bridge, and open the route towards the besieged 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 fire 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 river current, the Germans 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.