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Witmarsum-Leeuwarden | Liberation route: section 5

(43.4 km)

On 15 April 1945, Franeker was liberated. In the afternoon, a reconnaissance unit of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, coming from Leeuwarden, was the first to reach the town. That same day, the remaining German soldiers retreated towards Harlingen. To cover their retreat, they blew up the bridge at Leeuwarderend.

In the early morning of Sunday 15 April, a tense silence reigned in Franeker. According to rumours, the Canadians had already taken Leeuwarden and were now on their way to Franeker. The arrival of the ’Tommies’ was eagerly awaited. But there were still German soldiers in the city. Then the silence was broken by three gunshots announcing a huge explosion.  

To cover their retreat towards Harli…

On 15 April 1945, Franeker was liberated. In the afternoon, a reconnaissance unit of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, coming from Leeuwarden, was the first to reach the town. That same day, the remaining German soldiers retreated towards Harlingen. To cover their retreat, they blew up the bridge at Leeuwarderend.

In the early morning of Sunday 15 April, a tense silence reigned in Franeker. According to rumours, the Canadians had already taken Leeuwarden and were now on their way to Franeker. The arrival of the ’Tommies’ was eagerly awaited. But there were still German soldiers in the city. Then the silence was broken by three gunshots announcing a huge explosion.  

To cover their retreat towards Harlingen, the occupiers blew up the bridge on Leeuwarderend, commonly called Saakstra's bridge. Saakstra's bridge was a key point in the only through route from Leeuwarden to the port city. However, the tough steel structure did not give in easily. Up to five explosive charges had to be detonated before the Germans thought it enough and left in a hurry. The surrounding buildings sustained extensive damage. The Bondshotel, now the Stadsherberg (City Inn), paid a particularly high price. 

Immediately, Franeker residents started a makeshift recovery. At the station, there were rails, which were carried to the bridge on the shoulders of a large group of men and laid side by side. Sleepers were laid on top of them. As the work neared completion, the first Canadian reconnaissance truck was already waiting. In the afternoon, a large column of Canadian war vehicles, including tanks, drove along the thoroughfare from Leeuwarden to Franeker.  

Locals from far and wide flocked to the streets to watch the spectacle. On arrival in Franeker, a veritable victory parade through the city followed. In the evening, the heavy machinery retreated back towards Leeuwarden, but the next day, Monday 16 April, the column passed through Franeker again to advance to Harlingen

The Canadians establish a headquarters in the monumental city hall. They remain there until the end of 1945, before returning home.

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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Witmarsum (Wytmarsum)

Witmarsum is een knus dorp ten noordwesten van Elfstedenstad Bolsward

Bezoek Witmarsum

Witmarsum (Wytmarsum)
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Hitzum (Hitsum)

Hitzum is een van de oudste dorpen van de Waadhoeke, gelegen tussen elfstedenstad Harlingen en Franeker. Door het dorpsgebied loopt de Arumervaart. Hitzum mag een klein dorp zijn maar waar een klein dorp groot in kan zijn blijkt uit de vele activiteiten!

Hitzum (Hitsum)
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Franeker (Frjentsjer)

The Elfsteden city Franeker is a captivating town with its rich university history. For many years, this city was home to numerous students, including well-known names such as Descartes.

Bezoek Franeker

Franeker (Frjentsjer) Franeker
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Veerpont Jacob Petrus (Keimpetille)

*Groepen kunnen op afspraak ook buiten de reguliere tijden worden overgezet. Voor informatie kunt u contact opnemen met Auke Talsma, 06 46 54 48 86

Veerpont Jacob Petrus (Keimpetille) De pont overbrugt het Van Harinxmakanaal
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Dronryp (Dronrijp)

The largest village in the municipality of Waadhoeke, rich in history. The birthplace of, among others, Eise Jeltes Eisinga, a famous amateur astronomer, patriot, and builder of the Eise Eisinga Planetarium. In addition to cultural heritage, it is bustling with events.

Dronryp (Dronrijp)
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Menaam (Menaldum)

Mooi centraal gelegen terp dorp. Uitstekend bereikbaar met openbaar vervoer maar ook per boot. Gelegen aan de Kleiroute. Ook per fiets de moeite waard. Volg de cultuur historische fietsroute en ontdek niet alleen Menaam maar ook andere dorpen in de buurt.

Menaam (Menaldum)
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Marsum (Marssum)

Marsum is een van de meest pittoreske terpdorpen gelegen aan de oude Middelsee. Het dorp heeft een prachtige historische kern, met als extra markeringspunten het Poptaslot, het gasthuis, de kerk en de oudste dorpskroeg van Fryslân.

Marsum (Marssum)
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Noorderbegraafplaats

Vijftien geallieerde vliegers en vijftien verzetsslachtoffers vinden hun laatste rustplaats op de Noorderbegraafplaats in Leeuwarden. Ook worden er tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog bijna 450 gesneuvelde Duitse militairen begraven.

Meer info

Noorderbegraafplaats
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Leeuwarden (Ljouwert)

Leeuwarden, or Ljouwert as we say in Friesland, is buzzing. From tourists and students to locals. From unforgettable adventures to wandering through cozy little streets.

Visit Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden (Ljouwert) Leeuwarden fontein
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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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