André Ruiter Historic Landscapes

Grebbe Line 1940

Traces of Holland’s main defence line during World War II

About the project

In 2010 I completed my study at the Fotovakschool with the project Water as a Weapon about the New Dutch Water Line. Working on this project had given me great satisfaction and I was very pleased with the results.

Six months later I walked for the first time on the Asschatterkeerkade near Leusden. This former outpost of the Grebbe Line (Dutch: Grebbelinie) has now been restored. In the winter of 2011 it was a difficult location with overgrown bunkers. The rural character and the atmosphere of the natural decay was appealing. After visiting a number of other locations, I decided to start another photo project about a Dutch defense line.

I discovered that the Grebbe Line is a completely different defense line than the New Dutch Water Line. No impressive forts here, but a beautiful and coherent landscape with field fortifications and small concrete bunkers. The line runs from Spakenburg to Rhenen and largely follows the course of the Valleikanaal. The bunkers along this channel were built just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Grebbe Line is best known for the fightings in May 1940. The German army attacked the line at several places, but the heaviest fighting took place on the Grebbeberg near Rhenen. Here, the German troops broke through the last line of defense and the Grebbe Line fell on 13 May. 417 Dutch soldiers were killed during the Battle of the Grebbeberg.

I've hiked many times on the Grebbeberg. Few authentic traces of the battle can be found today. The memory is kept alive by a few reconstructed positions near the cemetery. The landscape is impressive. The atmosphere is difficult to put into words. As if the echoes of the dramatic fighting have been recorded by the landscape.