Joe's Bridge

Coordinates: 51°14′22″N 5°22′43″E / 51.23944°N 5.37861°E / 51.23944; 5.37861
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Joe's Bridge is the nickname given to Bridge No.9 on the Bocholt-Herentals Canal outside the town of Neerpelt, in the Belgian city of Lommel just south of the Belgian-Dutch border.[1] The bridge was captured by British troops in September 1944, becoming the springboard for the ground offensive of Operation Market-Garden.[citation needed]

Joe's Bridge in 2010

Capture[edit]

While the Welsh Guards engaged the German forces around Hechtel, the Irish Guards advanced rapidly north-east through the villages of Aksel, Overpelt and Neerpelt, and launched their combined infantry-tank assault, with artillery support, from the grounds of the zinc processing factory in Overpelt. They succeeded in taking the bridge undamaged.

The capture of the bridge completed the encirclement of German troops in Hechtel. German units tried for some days to recapture the bridge from the north but were driven off, once with bayonets. Once the bridge was secure, men of the 615th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers, set about repairing it, while the Irish Guards secured a bridgehead along the N69 main road towards Valkenswaard.

Some 3 km to the west, in the center of Lommel, SS troops had placed 40 randomly selected Belgian civilians in the street, at machine gun-point, as a human shield. However, the swift advance of the British from the east prevented a massacre. The Germans held the north side of the canal up to 17 September, apart from the area around the bridge.

The bridge became known as "Joe's Bridge", after Lieutenant–Colonel Joe Vandeleur, or possibly because the Royal Engineers troop who repaired it was known as "Joe's Troop".

Post-war[edit]

The bridge was rebuilt after World War II and a memorial below the southern edge of the bridge records its famous name. The Irish Guards Memorial is on the northern bank, on a side-road off the road to Valkenswaard.

Today Joe's Bridge is on the "Airborne trail",[2] a 225 km footpath from Lommel to Arnhem, created as a permanent reminder of Operation Market-Garden by the Dutch hiking association "Ollandse Lange Afstand Tippelaars" (OLAT).[3] It was officially opened in September 2004, during the festivities marking the 60th anniversary of the Liberation.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Latitude and longitude of Joe's Bridge in Belgium" https://latitude.to/articles-by-country/be/belgium/95321/joes-bridge
  2. ^ Airbornepad Market Garden : een wandeling van 225 km. Frank Marchand, Wandelsportvereniging de Ollandse Lange Afstand Tippelaars (2e druk ed.). [Nederland]: OLAT Wandelpaden. September 2019. ISBN 978-90-71597-11-4. OCLC 1178806880.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ "Airbornepad - wvs OLAT". www.olat.nl. Retrieved 13 August 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Israël, J. (1992). De Brug tot Market Garden; Met de bevrijding van Lommel, Overpelt, Neerpelt en Valkenswaard (Dutch), Lokaalhistorisch museum Kempenland, Lommel (1992) ISBN 9074271197.
  • Vandeleur, J. O. E. (1967). A Soldier's Story, printed privately for the author by Gale & Polden (1967), ISBN n/a.

External links[edit]

51°14′22″N 5°22′43″E / 51.23944°N 5.37861°E / 51.23944; 5.37861