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275 km
641 m

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2429 views | Public | Dutch

Last verified: 11 May 2023
Translated by Azure

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This tour is part of a set of 7 tours regarding the water lines in the Netherlands.

A water line is a series of defensive works that are (partly) surrounded by inundated areas.

In the Netherlands, flooding areas turned out to be a good way to stop the enemy. To this end, special water management works were even made (for example, special inundation locks).

A water line is often a string of fortifications with inundation areas in between. The fortifications are located around cities and on higher parts, which cannot be flooded (accesses). Only in case of acute threat were the areas inundated.


The IJssel line was a water line from the Cold War, which was supposed to protect our country against a possible Russian invasion. With the implementation of this plan, a 127 kilometer long and three to ten kilometer wide strip of land between Nijmegen and Kampen would be flooded.

This would slow down the advance of the Russians and give the Allies time to come to the aid of the Netherlands.

Top secret
The water had to be so high that enemy troops could not advance by land, but also not so high that they could enter with ships. In order to be able to let the water flow in quickly and to check the water level, a number of ingenious hydraulic and military installations were designed. These defenses were built in the early 50s in the deepest secrecy. The waterline remained top secret until 1990.

By slowing down, time was gained so that men and material could be brought in from Great Britain. The idea was developed by Captain J.C.E. Haex (1911 - 2002). The secret plan, officially called 'Noodbrug Ponton Plan Deventer', was completed in the first half of 1953.

The Cold War
In the post-war years, suspicion of the Soviet Union was high. The necessary skirmishes in the political field meant that it was not a war, but also not peace: it was the time of the Cold War.
For the Western Allies, this led to the conclusion of the North Atlantic Pact. According to Article 5 of this Pact, an attack on one of the Member States would be regarded as an attack on all of them. Six months later, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established as a result of this Pact.

A reasonable defence effort was expected from all NATO states. The Netherlands was in the phase of reconstruction and was hardly able to do so. One way in which the obligations could still be fulfilled was to use the old lines of defense. In 1950, a secret investigation began into how large areas could be flooded in a very short time.

Tried and tested recipe?
The idea of the IJssel line was not new. Already in the 16th and 17th centuries, soil was flooded along the IJssel to stop the enemy. With varying degrees of success. The level of the river was too variable to serve as a reliable barrier. Also at the time of the First World War, the IJssel line appeared as a 'stop line' in military plans. In the Second World War it was suggested to use the line as a means of delay to put the Dutch Water Line, or later under General Winkelman de Grebbelinie, in order. After the war, the idea of a water line seemed out of date.

The plan
The idea of flooding or invading an area to slow the enemy's advance was revived in the Cold War. The Netherlands felt the need to protect itself better. In the shortest possible time – because international tension was increasing – weirs had to be developed that would penetrate the IJssel the water normally drained by the Waal and the Lower Rhine. For example, an area from IJsselmuiden (north of Zwolle) to the Ooijpolder (east of Nijmegen) would flood.

The implementation
Weirs were placed in the Lower Rhine near Arnhem and in the Waal near Bemmel. Later, calculations of the water supply showed that the flooding would be much too slow and it was decided to also place a weir at Olst. The weirs operated with floating caissons that could be sunk. The area behind it fell dry, while the rising water flowed into the IJssel. At Olst, near the De Haere estate, locks were built in the dike, which carried the water over the adjacent farmlands and villages, so that eventually a wide strip of land was left blank.
For defense, about sixty bunkers and casemates were erected and Sherman tanks from the Second World War cast in concrete were placed in the IJsseldijken and in the mounds raised on land.

Everything that had to do with the IJssel line was surrounded by a very strict secrecy. During the construction/construction, mainly workers from the Randstad were used, who had little or no contact with the local residents. Incidentally, in the time of the reconstruction after the Second World War, they did not care about what was going on at the IJssel. The secrecy went so far that even parliament was not informed. Mayors and senior officials of the municipalities along the IJssel were aware, but had to deal with a very far-reaching duty of confidentiality. There were plans for the evacuation of the more than 400,000 inhabitants of the IJssel valley, but they were also so secret that they were never tested in practice. In the context of secrecy, much attention was also paid to the camouflage of the military and hydraulic engineering works. Incidentally, 'the Russians' were reasonably informed, as evidenced by, among other things, a staff card that is in the possession of the De IJssellinie Foundation. The secrecy of the IJssel line was officially lifted only in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The question of whether the IJssel line would have 'worked' militarily has – fortunately – never been answered; after all, the "Russians" did not come. But it is certain that the hydraulic engineering works of the IJssel line were regarded as an extraordinary example of Dutch engineering.

After the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to NATO in May 1955, the IJssel line gradually became obsolete. NATO's first line of defence was moved to the border with the GDR (East Germany). In 1964 the IJssel line was lifted and (partial) demolition started.


Traces in the landscape
Many traces of the IJssel line can still be found in the landscape. On and around the De Haere estate, just south of Olst, a number of casemates, bunkers and other works such as an emergency hospital are spread over a large area in a renovated state. On the West Bank of the IJssel, near Welsum, you can still find: a so-called abutment, a command post in its original state and some casemates.


The route starts in the Ooijpolder at Oortjeshekken Hotel Restaurant Huiskamercafé, Erlecomsedam 4, 6576 JW Ooij and ends with a view of the Waal at Brasserie de Altena, Nederland 39, Waaldijk, 6678 MC Oosterhout.

If you don't want to drive this route as far as the theme is concerned, then you can certainly drive it for the beautiful nature that is interwoven in this route. Lovely dikes and beautiful roads.


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