Saturday, 26 August 2017

Overloon War Museum - Holland 2017

A very suitable memorial to the US 7th Armoured Division who suffered severe casualties in the Battle of Overloon,
 30th September - 18th October 1944
One of the sights close to where we are based on our summer holiday to Holland this year and that I was keen to visit was the Overloon War Museum born out of the vision of Mr Harry van Daal who having been active in the Dutch resistance was keen to preserve the memory of the battle for Overloon and much more besides.

We arrived at the gates to the site constructed within a wooded park that was fought over by the men of the British 3rd Division and Falschirmhjajer Battalion Paul during the Allied attack, Operation Aintree, on the 12th October 1944, that is now given over to thoughtful sculptures highlighting the futility and waste of war with a great slogan on the name board for the museum, 

"War belongs in a Museum"

Close to the entrance stands a very appropriate memorial to the men of the US 7th Armoured Division who attempted to break through the German lines in the Overloon area in the first Allied attack during 3rd - 4th October 1944, losing 35 tanks, 43 other vehicles and 452 men for the gain of only a few kilometres. The Sherman M4A1 was an artillery target vehicle recovered from the Artillery Shooting Camp at Oldenbroek and restored as seen, between 2010-11.

Battle of Overloon

The Battle of Overloon

I love the slogan for this museum "War belongs in a Museum"

The Overloon Museum is right up there in my top WWII themed museums that I have visited for two reasons, namely the collection is varied with examples of allied and axis kit that I had not seen in other collections, including major museum collections such as Bovington in the UK and Saumur in France. In addition the fact that this collection holds vehicles that were knocked out in the area of the town itself with their own particular combat stories to tell is of added interest to the AFV enthusiast like myself.

The M4 Sherman seen here was one of 31st Armoured Regiment, 7th Armoured Division's vehicles knocked out in the area of De Hattert Castle when it was hit by fire from an 88mm gun killing the crew and causing the subsequent 'brew up' to lift the turret from its mounting ring.

The picture below of the vehicle wreck shows the burnt out condition it was originally in following such a devastating hit and the evidence of the 88mm round penetration is all to obvious on the upper right deck below the turret.

Panther '222'  is a Panther Aug G and was part of the 107th Panzer Brigade; it was knocked out in the fighting with British infantry from 2nd East Yorks, 3rd Infantry Division on October 13th 1944.

The Panther took a hit on the rear right set of wheels from a PIAT which brought it to a halt and caused the crew to bail out and they were subsequently cut down by the British infantry.

This Panther was part of the force that attacked the bridge over the Wilhelminakanaal at Son and the breakthrough of the corridor at Veghel on the 22nd-23rd September during the Arnhem campaign.

Interestingly the original appearance of this vehicle was with a Zimmerit coating and the three tone German late war camouflage and yet the museum has rendered the vehicle as seen. I also see from other previous pictures of it in the museum that it did have the damaged rear wheel still on it if with its Zimmerit over painted with a late war 'Ambush' scheme that was wrong and not seen on the period photographs.

I do not know why this Panther is displayed like this and it would be interesting to hear from anyone who knows more.

This British Sherman Flail tank is recorded as belonging to the Westminster Dragoons, 30th Armoured Brigade, 79th Armoured Division and having taken part in the Battle for Overloon was subsequently knocked out in the fighting at Broekhuizen by a Panzerfaust.

I remembered R Mark Davies wrote a nice little Battlefront scenario covering the Broekhizen battle

The flail roller certainly bears the evidence of being caught in a mine blast that would have rendered it inoperable and the the lack of its right track would suggest another damaging hit.

The Panzerfaust damage, if that is what it is, is surprising as the right hull is peppered with small needle like penetrating holes but in multiple hits spread out across the hull plate rather than in fewer less spread out groups.

Those small holes seen below have penetrated the thin armour of the Sherman's hull plate.

Given the experience of British tank crews in North Africa and the intelligence coming back from that theatre about German tank developments, including the first appearance of the Tiger in Tunisia, an example of which is at Bovington; the unveiling of the Cromwell tank to members of 7th Armoured Division on their return to the UK in time for D Day must have been at least rather under whelming.

The scandal of British tank design in WWII is a subject all of its own mixed up with cuts in research after WWI together with size of railway tunnels to permit tanks on flat cars to pass through overriding the need for a big gun up-armoured tanks to counter enemy developments. This not to mentioned the muddled thinking of the cruiser versus infantry tank debate that finally resolved itself in late 1944 with the issue of the British Comet tank to 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, 11th Armoured Division at a time when German armour was starting to become an irrelevant rarity on the west front battlefields of Europe.

So my heart rather sinks when I see the Cromwell, rather like the veterans of 7th Armoured must have felt when they first encountered it, except my life was not on the line and depending on overcoming its rather obvious inadequacies.

Cromwell IV, 11th Armoured Division
As well as 7th Armoured Division who adopted this as their principle battle mount, the reconnaissance regiments of 11th and Guards Armoured were also issued this tank based principally on its speed, agility and low profile.

This particular example was used  by the 15th/19th Hussars of 11th Armoured Division during its attack on Overloon and was struck on the rear plate which caused the engine to catch fire and eventually the ammunition to 'cook off', completely burning out the vehicle.

This vehicle obviously needed a lot of love and attention to bring it back to what you can see including the addition of tracks added to it from a British FV432 APC.

The shot penetration can be clearly seen in the picture below leaving a neat drilled hole in the rear plate

These wrecks from the Battle of Overlooon are extremely moving as they are not just objects for people with a interest in military history to observe the power of the weapons used in their destruction but just as ships lying on the bottom of the ocean, war graves, all be it without the remains of the crews killed within them.

That aspect deserves to be remembered when looking over these vehicles and an aspect brought home by the wreath of poppies laid on this Churchill V close support tank, that indicates the story of the crew of Jackal and is covered in the link below.

This vehicle mounts a 95mm howitzer and was designed to provide a purpose built close support tank for the infantry with an HE round that was superior to the original six pounder gun only slightly improved by the change to the 75mm gun on later variants.

The Churchill was a very heavily armoured infantry support tank and was used by the 6th Guards Tank Brigade, not a part of Guards Armoured Division but a separate unit entirely. The brigade was deployed at Overloon to provide direct support to 3rd Infantry Division.

As well armoured as these tanks were they were still under-gunned when it came to dealing with German tanks and they shared a weak spot common to all tanks, namely the tracks and belly plate which were the most obvious places to attack if possible.

At the time of Overloon the Germans were using the ubiquitous mine as a principle means of defence and despite the use of flail tanks as seen above, all allied vehicles and men ran the risk of this hidden threat.

Riegel Mine

Jackal and her crew was a victim of a particularly effective and powerful German mine, the Riegel Mine designed to allow roads to be blocked with two or three of these weapons instead of tens of other types

The explosion caused by running over this weapon ripped out the belly plate of the tank and a large section of the running gear and tracks leaving four of the crew dead or with life changing injuries and the fifth, driver Bob Dare with heavy burns.

Despite the heavy armour provided to the Churchill tank it is interesting to see the necessary effort gone to by her crew to upgrade Jackal still further with the original additional armour provided by track links arrayed over the turret.

As well as the Battle of  Overloon  collection of recovered wrecks, the museum hosts a wide and varied selection of British, German, American, Italian, Russian and Japanese equipment and I came away with stacks of pictures from which I include a selection to give you a feel for what is there.

In addition I have to say that the effort to show the vehicles and equipment in period specific displays with manikins designed to help add to the look of those displays is one of the best exhibitions I have seen and I hope I have done them justice with  my pictures.

German PaK 38 50mm L/60
5 cm PaK 38

German SdKfz 10 Tractor-half track

British Challenger with 17lbr
Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger

US M16 Quad AA Half-track
M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage

US M3 White Scout Car
M3 Scout Car

US M8 Armoured Car
M8 Greyhound

Beutepanzer - Renault FT17 under new management!
Renault FT17

US M1 8 inch Howitzer
M1 8-inch Howitzer

US M6 High Speed Tractor
M6 Tractor

US M32 Sherman Tank Recovery Vehicle
M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle

US M25/26 Tank Transporter
M25 Tank Transporter

Spitfire XIVC in RAF 322 (Dutch) Squadron Colours  
No. 322 (Dutch)_Squadron RAF
Spitfire (NH649) at Overloon War Museum

The D Day Beach exhibits featured a variety of US kit in a very attractive display.

US M3-A1 Half-track
M3 Half-track


Dutch Marines Brigade Sherman M4A3 105 HVSS
M4 Sherman Variants

US M2 Man-pack Flame-thrower
M2 flamethrower

D Day German Beach defences

German Goliath tracked mine
Goliath tracked mine

German Panzerschreck

The ubiquitous 88mm FLAK 18
8.8 cm Flak18/36/37/41

German 50mm Casement Gun very common on the Normandy beaches

German PaK 97/38 7.5cm 
7.5 cm PaK 97/38

Modified Swiss G13 made to look like a Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer

German Late Model SdKfz 250 Halftrack 
Sd.Kfz. 250

Very appropriate to see this V1 as the Spitfires from 322 Squadron were tasked with hunting these down
US 105mm M2A1 Howitzer

M101 Howitzer

No.320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF

B25 Mitchell, RAF 320 (Dutch) Squadron in Invasion Stripes

British SP 17lbr Archer 
The Archer SP 17lbr ATG was an interesting design taking advantage of marrying the 17lbr gun with the Valentine tank, but having the gun facing back over the engine deck meaning the vehicle would be reversed into an ambush position.

Archer (tank-destroyer)

17lbr AT and APDS shells
The APDS shell seen above (on the right) shows clearly the sabot encasing the needle like dart designed to rapidly penetrate armour and release a molten shard within the target AFV. The needle dart being much more aero-dynamic and less resistant would travel at very high speed compared to the standard AT shell next to it. The higher flight speed required training to alter the aim and lead on a moving target compared to the standard shell.

Another Valentine Tank conversion. I have not seen was the Valentine Bridgelayer and this nicely restored example was quite a surprise.

British Valentine Bridgelayer
Valentine Tank

Canadian Otter Light Armoured Car next to British/Canadian infantry of the period
Canadian Otter Lght Armoured Car

German Pak 38 5cm Anti-tank Gun

British 6 and 17lbr Anti-tank guns
Not sure what variant of carrier this is as I thought it might be a WASP flame-thrower variant
I hadn't seen a Crusader Anti-tank gun tow before Overloon so it was really great to see this nicely restored one. These vehicles along with the US M3 half-track were commonly used to tow the British 17lbr gun.

Crusader II Gun Tractor

Another nice surprise to find was this example of a Windsor Carrier often used alongside the Lloyd Carrier to tow the 6lbr anti-tank gun.

Universal Carriers

British 25lbr QF (Quick Firing) Mk2 Howitzer - standard issue to British Royal Artillery Field Regiments in 1944

The Self-Propelled version of the 25lbr was the Sexton SPG - An Armoured Division would have one towed and one SPG regiment.

US M8 crew and Sexton crew share a brew in the winter of 44-45

Sexton 25lbr Self Propelled Howitzer (tracks are on backwards)

German Biber One-man Midget Submarine
Biber (submarine)

Having missed seeing the Biber submarine on our visit to the Submarine Museum earlier this year in Gosport it was great to see this example in Overloon.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

This vessel represents the last desperate attempt by the Kriegsmarine to be still relevant in the latter stages of the war in Europe.

Designed to work in shallower coastal waters there were plans to use these boats to attack allied shipping in the Scheldt Estury on the opening up of the Port of Antwerp, thus shortening the supply lines of the allied armies planning the final assault into Germany.

These boats were almost impossible to keep on a level plane when, for example at periscope depth, and did not have the intended effect on German fortunes.

Finally the Overloon Museum is built on the battlefield of 1944 and 1940 and the manikin below captures the look of the Dutch infantry that went up against the German invaders at the start of WWII in Europe.

Just outside the front door in the wooded parkland is this monument to the battle in 1940 and in particular to the three Dutch soldiers that defended their position on May 10th 1940

As you can see this bunker took quite a pasting if the damage is anything to go by.

The attached plaque reads:
"That we should not forget. In this casemate, the full crew died in the early hours of Friday 10th May 1940. Soldier M. van 't Geloof from Ouddorp age 31, Corporal A.J. Jacobs from Helmond age 28 and Soldier J.Poppeliers from Valkenswaard age 35."

Next up visits to Boxtel and Den Bosch 


  1. Very interesting and moving exhibits,Tony

  2. Awesome set of photos. Thank you, I really enjoyed this!

  3. Amazing collection! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Chaps, thanks for your comments. I think the Overloon collection is quite unique in the way it presents the history together with the human aspects of modern warfare. Well worth a visit if the chance presents.

  5. A great bunch of shootings !!! thanks a lot for sharing ! Ciao, carlo

    1. My pleasure Carlo, glad you enjoyed it

  6. Thanks for some great photos from this wonderful museum.

  7. Absolutely outstanding photos and commentary! I felt that I was there in the museum.
    I particularly liked the stories associated with the demise of many of the AFVs. Many thanks for taking the time to share the photos on TMP.
    Cheers, Rod