80. Battle of Opheusden
By the end of September 1944, Operation Market Garden was over and the war had moved to the region east of Nijmegen and the Betuwe. This area between the Rhine and Waal rivers became the new frontline. On 4th October, the German occupying forces started a new offensive to win back lost territory. The fighting in and around the village of Opheusden was fierce and dozens of soldiers were killed on both sides.
During Operation Market Garden, the British 43rd Wessex Division arrived in Opheusden and Doodewaard, on 23rd September 1944. From there, they were unable to push the frontline any further. Reinforcements from the American 101st Airborne Division arrived on 4th October but the German troops that had crossed the Rhine from Grebbeberg to the north, were quick to attack. It was imperative that the German Army recapture the ground they had lost in the Betuwe region if they were to prevent the invasion of Germany.
The village of Opheusden was the scene of a horrific battle. The Dorpsstraat was one of the streets where the soldiers fought from house to house and the battle on Dalwagenseweg road went on for three days. This was where the windmill belonging to the Aalbers family gave refuge to more than 100 of the seriously injured. Even after days of heavy fighting, neither side could claim victory: the frontlines stayed exactly where they were for months on end. Both sides struggled to navigate the clay terrain in the Betuwe region and it became known as “the worst tank-going country of the world”.
The people living in this part of the Betuwe region started to flee the area in October 1944. Some went to Brabant in the south, which had already been liberated, and others went to the occupied north. The Allies and the Germans dug their positions in on either side of the frontline and set up barbed wire and landmines. They turned this part of the Betuwe region into no man´s land.
In December 1944, the Germans flooded part of the Betuwe region and it was not until 18th April 1945 that the village of Opheusden was liberated by the Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade known as Brigade Piron.