Following on from various trips both in Holland and Jersey in 2015, January 2018 saw Cristin Bouchet and Neil Walker travel again to visit Stichting Bunkerbehoud on the Island of Walcheren to explore more of this highly overlooked yet pivotal part of the Atlantik Wall.
Ably assisted by their good friends Peter Heijkoop and Arthur Van Beveren, a visit was convened to the Island of Schouwen-Duiveland which is on the most northern outskirts of the boundary of AOK15 before the next defence area takes over, which incidentally happens to be “WBN – Wehrbezirk Niederlande”.
Of course many bunkers were visited, some which are quite rare, in particular an L484 - Unterstand für Funksendestelle (Radio Terminal Bunker), this was close to the Airfield at Haamstede which understandably had a large Luftwaffe presence.
Another interesting bunker example being the massive 117a Infantry Commanders bunker with Observation Cupola. Nicknamed the “Whale” bunker by the locals due to what was thought to be a flanking protection wall, but in reality was a massive concrete underpinning slab designed to stop the entire bunker sliding in the environment of sand dunes, this “whale tail” isn’t something you see every day, and the fact that much of it is now exposed was something different to appreciate.
A visit was also convened to Wn228H at Goeree-Overflakke where a highly engaging open air, self tour, bunker trail has been set up. In an environment similar to Les Landes (except way closer to sea level!!) a variety of different bunker types, gun emplacements and supporting structures have been opened to allow interpretation with some excellent multilingual “self guide” all weather display panels that indeed could be a future thought for the CIOS to consider?
In addition to Peter and Arthur, a third guide, Axel Boey, took Cristin and Neil on an extensive tour of Westkapelle and really did bring the entire campaign and invasion of Walcheren by the Allies in late 1944 to life!
From flak emplacements to Invasion Beaches no aspect of the story was left uncovered. Axel also provided the team with a presentation on how the Allies bombarded the original seawater defences rendering much of Walcheren submerged, discussions on this point did reflect on how controversial this must have been and the effects not only on the Civilian population directly but also on the land, agriculture and buildings, some legacies of which are evident today.
A visit to Koudekerke allowed for a chance visit to meet the well respected author Hans Sakkers. Neil & Cristin for many years have used Hans’s excellent book “Festung St. Malo” for their various trips and excursions, so it was great to meet Hans, quiz him a little on a few things and share a few stories, thanks very much for your hospitality Hans, it was a pleasure to see “where the writing magic happens”!
Finally, Axel took the party to the “Landfront” of Walcheren to several bunkers where access has been enabled by Stichting Bunkerbehoud and are well enabled to form part of a self guide cycling bunker route, which pretty much links all the landward facing emplacement.
As darkness fell enthusiasm didn’t wane with “Divisional Artillery Battery Von Kleist” to visit and a final surprise, a bunker which had been freshly dug out, completed one of the most immersive days of not only bunkering, but understanding about the entire invasion of the area. Returning to the picturesque town of Veere in the north east of Walcheren, pizza and beer was the only way to finish the day!
Immense thanks are due to Axel for his boundless energy, and of course to Peter, Arthur, Hans and all of our Stichting Bunkerbehoud friends that we have made. Each time we visit nothing short of a warm, friendly welcome awaits to which we are truly grateful… . Dank u well, Tot Ziens!
Neil Walker (top) Cristin Bouchet examines the “Whale” Bunker on at Haamstede, Schouwen-Duiveland