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Akkrum-IJlst | Liberation route: section 2

(25.2 km)

Fierce battles raged in the skies above Friesland throughout the occupation. Allied bombers heading for targets in Germany were constantly besieged by German (night) fighters taking off from the 'Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden'. Resulting in hundreds of casualties. In the immediate vicinity of this route through Friesland, aircrafts came down in Sonnega, Offingawier, Hieslum, among others, as well as in the IJsselmeer.

In many cemeteries, white tombstones are a tangible and striking reminder of the air war over Friesland, such as in Wolvega, Workum and Makkum. A significant number of crew members survived the crash after shelling and were brought to safety by Frisians. Frisian resistance fighters tried to get pilots to England at the risk of their own lives. Other airmen went into hiding with Frisian families and stayed until after the liberation.

During the…

Fierce battles raged in the skies above Friesland throughout the occupation. Allied bombers heading for targets in Germany were constantly besieged by German (night) fighters taking off from the 'Fliegerhorst Leeuwarden'. Resulting in hundreds of casualties. In the immediate vicinity of this route through Friesland, aircrafts came down in Sonnega, Offingawier, Hieslum, among others, as well as in the IJsselmeer.

In many cemeteries, white tombstones are a tangible and striking reminder of the air war over Friesland, such as in Wolvega, Workum and Makkum. A significant number of crew members survived the crash after shelling and were brought to safety by Frisians. Frisian resistance fighters tried to get pilots to England at the risk of their own lives. Other airmen went into hiding with Frisian families and stayed until after the liberation.

During the occupation, Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe were on the front line of the air war. Many Allied air routes to Germany were situated over these provinces. Especially during bombings on northern German cities, there was a constant coming and going of hundreds of heavy bombers. Initially, this was only done at night, but from 1943, it also happened during the day.  

For protection, the occupying forces built a formidable defence line. Cities and key military targets were secured by anti-aircraft guns. In Friesland, anti-aircraft guns were located on the Wadden Islands, the coastal strip of Het Bildt, in Harlingen, Lemmer, Franeker and Gaasterland, and in the area around Leeuwarden airfield. 

German observation posts gave directions to the Flieger Abwehr Kanone (Flak) to take Allied aircrafts out of the sky. Radar stations could detect enemy aircrafts as far away as 120 to 150 kilometres. The German radar positions in Friesland were 'Schlei' (Tench) on Schiermonnikoog, 'Tiger' (Tiger) on Terschelling, and 'Eisbär' (Polar Bear) near Sondel in Gaasterland.  

Flak alone, however, proved insufficient to intercept the Allied bombers. During the first two years of the war, night fighter units were stationed at eight Dutch airfields, including Leeuwarden. From here, German pilots shot down hundreds of Allied planes. Most ended up in Friesland, Groningen, northern Drenthe, in the IJsselmeer and in the Wadden region.   

The air war claimed many lives. Some 450 Allied aircrafts and about 150 German fighters are estimated to have crashed in Friesland during the war years. Fallen Allied crew members were usually buried in the nearest cemetery. German casualties were taken to the North Cemetery in Leeuwarden. Surviving Allied pilots were taken into captivity or went into hiding with the help of the resistance. Many pilots remain missing to this day. Some of them were buried as unknowns.  On this spot, in the meadows near Offingawier, a US B-17 bomber, nicknamed 'Flying Fortress' crashed on 11 December 1943. Already over the province of Groningen, a number of German fighters launched the attack and partly as a result, the shot-up B-17 was damaged to such an extent that several crew members decided to abandon it. They made it to the ground safely. Door gunner Howard G. Hall and ball turret gunner Wilfred M. Husband, killed during the relentless attacks, were found in the wreckage. 

After the war, the US victims were reburied at the American Military Cemetery in Margraten. The fallen Germans were interred in the German war cemetery in Ysselsteyn near Venray after the liberation. British, New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans and Canadians, along with Poles and Czechs, rest in fifty-seven different cemeteries in the province to this very day. The names of 511 are known; the others have unnamed graves.    

Liberation Route Europe is a transnational memorial. A route that connects memorial sites and stories from all over Europe. For more information, visit www.liberationroute.com

Sights on this route

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Terherne

Terherne is known as the Kameleon village and is an island in the Sneekermeer. On one side, you'll find the lake, and on the other side, the Terhernster ponds.

Bezoek Terherne

Terherne
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Veerpont Fietsa Versa (Terherne)

-Komt u aan als de pont er niet ligt? Pak per persoon (ook kleine kinderen) één van de 12 stokken als reservering voor de volgende afvaart. U kunt de schipper bellen om aan te geven dat u wilt overvaren.

Veerpont Fietsa Versa (Terherne) De Fietsa Versa vertrekt vanuit Terherne
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The bombing of Terherne lock

On 11 November 1944, pilots of the Royal Canadian Air Force, based at Welschap airfield near Eindhoven, were ordered to bomb the lock at Terherne in two groups. The reason for the bombardment of Terherne lock was to restrict (German) transport movements.

More information

The bombing of Terherne lock
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Memorial stone for Fallen Canadians

The 'Memorial Stone for Fallen Canadians' in the outer wall of the Martinikerk church in Sneek has been erected in memory of the six Canadian soldiers who died shortly after the liberation of the town.

Meer info

Memorial stone for Fallen Canadians
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Sneek (Snits)

Sneek, or Snits as we say in Friesland, is the water sports city of the Netherlands. But Sneek is more than water sports and the Sneekweek. The city is bustling with events, culture, unique hotspots, and nice shops.

Visit Sneek

Sneek (Snits) Waterpoort Sneek
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IJlst (Drylts)

IJlst (or Drylts in Frisian) is not only one of the famous 11 cities, but also a 'wood city'. For many years, tree trunks were processed here by the legendary wood trading companies Oppedijk and S.O. de Vries.

Visit IJlst

IJlst (Drylts) Molen IJlst
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Directions

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The story of the Liberation of Western Europe is a book with many chapters, with some starting before the beginning of the war in 1939 and some others often ending years after the end of the conflict in 1945. Through the Liberation route Europe, you learn more about the storylines, key military events, personal stories and biographies from the second world war in Europe. Check out www.liberationroute.com for more routes, fragments and stories.

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