Operation Battle of Overloon

The 'Battle of Overloon' was fought between the Allies and the Germans in and around the village of Overloon in the south-eastern Netherlands (30 September/18 October 1944).

Resulting an an Allied victory. the battle followed the launch of 'Aintree', and paved the way for the liberation of Venraij.

In September 1944, the Allies had launched the paired 'Market' and 'Garden' operations as a major offensive from the Dutch/Belgian border across the south of the Netherlands through Eindhoven and Nijmegen toward the Rhine river bridge at Arnhem, with the goal of crossing the Rhine river and bypassing the 'Siegfried-Linie' in preparation for the final drive toward Berlin. Allied airborne troops were defeated at the Rhine river bridge in Arnhem and the advance stopped to the south of the Lower Rhine river, resulting in a narrow salient that extended from the north of Belgium across the south-east of the Netherlands.

Parts of Generaloberst Kurt Student’s 1st Fallschirmarmee within Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model’s Heeresgruppe 'H', German forces attacked this salient from a bridgehead to the west of the bend in the Maas river near Venlo. The bridgehead was established by retreating German forces who were reinforced with troops arriving from nearby Germany by crossing the Maas river at Venlo. The western edge of this bridgehead extended through the Peel, a region in which bogs and several canals blocked any Allied advance. The Allies decided to attack the bridgehead from the north, and this required the capture of Overloon and Venraij on the road toward Venlo.

'Aintree' had the object of securing the narrow salient the Allies had established between Eindhoven and Nijmegen during 'Market' and 'Garden', and of destroying the German bridgehead to the west of the Maas river, in preparation for the eventual Allied advance into the nearby Rhineland.

The 'Battle of Overloon' followed as the Allied 'Aintree' advanced from nearby positions to the south toward the village of Overloon. After a failed attack on Overloon by Major General Lindsay McD. Silvester’s US 7th Armored Division, Major General L. G. Whistler’s British 3rd Division and Major General G. P. G. Roberts’s British 11th Armoured Division assumed the task. The 7th Armored Division was moved south of Overloon to the area of Deurne and Weert, and here was attached to Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey’s British 2nd Army and ordered to make demonstration attacks to the east in order to divert German forces from the Overloon and Venlo areas.

Suffering heavy losses, the British captured Overloon and moved toward Venraij. The advance on the latter resulted in heavy losses, especially around the Loobeek creek, which had been swollen by heavy autumnal rains and was flooded, and had moreover been mined by the Germans. Casualties were heavy here in the 1/Royal Norfolk Regiment, which was serving in Brigadier E. L. Bols’s 185th Brigade of the 3rd Division. During the battle, the village of Overloon was destroyed. In and around Overloon, some 2,500 soldiers were killed, making this one of the bloodiest battles in the Netherlands during World War II. Dozens of tanks, mainly US, were destroyed.

Despite the fact that both Overloon and eventually Venraij were taken, the Allied advance toward the bend of the Maas river near Venlo was postponed. This was the result of the number of casualties the Allies had sustained and because troops were needed to secure more essential targets: the Scheldt river estuary, leading to the vital port of Antwerp, and the west of the province of North Brabant between Antwerp and the salient that had been established. The offensive was eventually resumed, and by a time early in December the German bridgehead to the west of the Maas river had been destroyed. Near Venlo, Blerick was liberated in the first days of December 1944; and Venlo and other districts to the east of the Maas river were liberated on 1 March 1945 in the course of 'Grenade'. Some days before, German units had left the 'Maas-Rur-Stellung' between Wassenberg at the Rur river and Venlo at the Maas river.