The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market Garden

Attack on the ammunition train on 16 September

On 16 September a German ammunition train was attacked and destroyed in Oisterwijk by Allied fighter aircraft. The ammunition train was parked on the marshaling yard between the Oisterwijk train station and the railway crossing at road Heusdensbaan.


Russian soldiers who were forced into hard labor by the Germans, and later on also Oisterwijk citizens, where assigned to load up the stored German ammunition supplies in boxcars. These supplies came from the German ammunition depot in the Oisterwijk woods and were moved by the Germans in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of the Allies.


The Allied army at that time was nearing the Belgian/Dutch border and where a serious threat to the Germans. The Allies now ruled the skies over Holland and they kept a close eye on the area that had to be overflown for the oncoming operation Market-Garden. In the days leading up to the operation fighter-bomber aircraft patrolled the skies to clear the area of German anti-aircraft and to attack and bomb enemy troop movements, trains and other important objectives that were worthy to attack.

Aerial photograph of the ammunition train

A few days before 16 September a Typhoon fighter-bomber equipped with four 20 mm canons had already attempted to take out the German anti-aircraft gun located near the marshalling yard. The aircraft had approached the village center and marshalling yard very low. Once the pilot had its sights on the German anti-aircraft and a couple of loaded ammunition boxcars he gave a short burst with his cannons. The German anti-aircraft gun had swung into action at that time causing the typhoon pilot to give full throttle and he flew off.


The presence of this Typhoon is most likely the result of the earlier made RAF reconnaissance sorties over the area, but also reports from the local underground could have been the reason. In any case, on 13 September there already had been RAF photo reconnaissance aircraft sighted over Oisterwijk. RAF No. 542 Squadron from RAF Benson in the UK had been active with its Spitfires in the area.


A few days later on 16 September again allied aircraft were spotted over Oisterwijk. Not long after seven Canadian Typhoons came in low from the northeast approaching the marshalling yard. They were aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force 438 Squadron of 143 Wing who had taken off that morning from an airstrip in Brussel. Each aircraft was equipped with eight 27 kilogram rockets and four 20 mm canons. They maneuvered themselves in position and attacked the approximately 30 ammunition boxcars parked on the marshalling yard loaded with ammunition and bombs. In three attacks the German ammunition train and many surrounding houses were destroyed. The first attack took place at 11:30 a.m., the second one around 1 p.m. and the last attack took place around 14.50 hours. As in a miracle there were no fatalities amongst the Oisterwijk civilians and only 15 people were injured. About 20 houses and two little factories close to the rail road were destroyed. After this attack the Canadian Typhoons flew to the village Udenhout were also a German ammunition train was attacked. This train stood close to the Udenhout train station and was partially destroyed. The following day however the remaining train wagons, now placed on a side track, were again attacked and destroyed. The ammunition loaded on this German ammunition train came from the ammunition depots of the German airfield at Gilze-Rijen and from depots in the city Tilburg.




Aanval op de munitie trein op 16 September
These following photos show the devastating effects of the exploding ammunition and grenades on the train wagons and the buildings in the vicinity of the marshalling yard.
British Typhoon Fighter aircraft

RAF reconnaisse photo of the ammunition train from 13 September 1944. (click on photo to enlarge)