On Saturday, July 4th, 2015, I participated in a battlefield tour to the Albert Canal and Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, just south of Maastricht. Belgium had to deal with the trauma of the First World War. A new threat on the eastern border was to be averted by building a fortress belt around Luik, which was built in the Inter Bellem. This unique location and excellent slip armed fortress, with 17 connected underground bunkers that time was regarded as impregnable.


Fort Eben-Emael was an important link in the Fort belt around Liege and Belgium for defense, in addition to the KW-contention and the contention of Antwerp, until 1940 part of the Belgian defense strategy against a military threat from the East.

With gliders Falmschirmjäger landed on the roof of Fort Eben-Emael and three bridges over the Albert Canal. Both the fort and the bridges were captured in a lightning action. One of the bridges was located in Vroenhoven, where the battlefield tour was going to.

The practice showed that the high expectations of the Belgian fortress were unjustified. On May 10, 1940 86 well-trained German Fallschirmjäger succeeded by surprise, speed and innovative military technology (eg gliders and use of a new weapon: the hollow charge) to land in a "blind spot" (on top of the fort) and turn of the guns of the fort in fifteen minutes. After a half day siege the fortress (1200 men) had to capitulate.

In this way, a hollow charge was placed on a turret of Fort Eben-Emael.

This was the technique of such a hollow charge.

De impact of the explosie of hollow charge is still in one of the rooms of the artillery of the fort that gives access to a turret.

That was a clever piece after half a year of preparation. The Fallschirmjäger congratulated eachother with this great victory. Within fifteen minutes they had the as impregnable considered Fort Eben-Emael in their hands. A daring surprise attack with gliders and hollow charges, which they placed on the turrets that were destroyed and therefore the firepower was tripping and made the fortress 'blind'. Due to the cutting of the above-ground telephone wires communication with the outside world was no longer possible.

The attack on Fort Eben-Emael gave the go-ahead to the Eighteen-Day Campaign and more generally the Battle of France (Fall Gelb German side and called Fall Rot). On June 22, 1940, after only six weeks of fighting, this led to the capitulation of France. In the military literature we speak of the early days of May '40
 
This battlefield tour was organised by the association Friends of the Airborne Museum, in association with Documentation group 40-45 and Battlefield Tours Groningen. We left from Ede-Wageningen station by bus to the bridge at Vroenhoven in Belgium. This bridge played a vital role during the German invasion on May 10, 1940. German tanks and personnel Duitse tanks en manschappen were crossing this bridge that was conquered by surprise after a brief and fierce battle.

German tanks drive on the bridge over the Albert Canal at Vroenhoven on May 11, 1940.

German soldiers pass the bunker at the bridge over the Albert Canal at Vroenhoven.

We also passed the bunker by bus, which is now on a new bridge.

The new bridge over the Albert Canal at Vroenhoven. The bunker is left standing.

The imposing old bridge across the Albert Canal at Vroenhoven.

More about the bridge at Vroenhoven

Our battlefield tour-group at the bus. After explaining the events at the bridge we visited museum Under the Bridge that was opened this year.

 

Museum 'Under the Bridge' at the Albert Canal

Down the stairs to museum 'Under the bridge'.

Leaving the museum it was good to see that it was built under the bridge.

 

Fort Eben-Emael

In the afternoon we visited the imposing Fort Eben-Emael. This fort was built in a mountain in the years 1933-1935 and includes an extensive underground network, many living spaces and rooftop turrets. The Fallschirmjäger with their gliders disabled these turrets with their new weapon: hollow charge.   die met hun zweefvliegtuigen op het dak van het fort landden schakelden deze geschutskoepels uit met hun nieuwe wapen: holle lading. The roof covers an area with the size of 40 football fields.

With the memory to World War Two in mind there was a great fear for an attack with poison gas.

Thanks to the guide for this fascinating tour through Fort Eben-Emael.

German soldiers drinking beer at Fort Eben-Emael.

Bunker Canal Nord

Bunker Maastricht 2, dameged by holow charge.

Entrance Fort Block 1 with sham dome

Bunker Visé 2

Bunker Maastricht 2