Book on Vlissingen’s bunker hospitals

9 February 2024

In the summer of 2023, a soil analysis of two building plots on Prins Hendrikweg in Vlissingen revealed the presence of two bunkers. It was a known fact that these bunkers had been here. However, their actual presence was a surprise. In the 1960s, only the roofs had been taken off. Thus, two German type 134S bunkers without roofs emerged. These shelters, where the injured were gathered, belonged to the bunker hospital located here.

The Walcherse Archaeological Service (WAD) and the Bunker Preservation Foundation carried out research in close collaboration. During the archaeological investigation, archival research was started, resulting in the book:
‘The two bunker hospitals within the Verteidigungsbereich Vlissingen.’

The Battle of the Scheldt began on Monday September 4 1944 with the British capture of the port city of Antwerp and ended on November 8 1944 when the Germans surrendered at Vrouwenpolder. Exactly 79 years after the start of this battle, on Monday September 4, 2023, the two-week archaeological excavations of two unexpectedly found German casualty collection bunkers on Prins Hendrikweg in the Vlissingen harbour area began. Simultaneously, the writing of this book was started. This was done out of fascination because the finds corresponded to what could be read in the available German documents.

Vlissingen had been turned into a fortress by the Germans. In it, two large military hospitals were built, each consisting of five bunkers. One was located near the Bethesda hospital (today’s ADRZ) and the other in the harbour area. During the Battle of the Scheldt, over five thousand injured people arrived in Vlissingen harbour. Given the hospital’s capabilities, a far too high number. Doctors and nurses were working round the clock due to the large influx. Between one thousand and two thousand operations were performed in these two months. Given the limited facilities, it was imperative that the injured stayed here for no longer than two days on average. After primary treatment, they were transferred for further care by Red Cross boats via the Canal through Walcheren and the Zeeland inland waterways to Dordrecht.

For the first time a book on Zeeland’s wartime history from the autumn of 1944 in which archaeology has an essential part. It literally brings gripping stories to the surface. The combination of archaeology and archival research represents a new wealth within the historiography of the Battle of the Scheldt.

The Hurgronje Family Fund made a financial contribution to the publication of this book.

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