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 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.
A few days before 16 September a Typhoon fighter-bomber equipped with four 20 mm
guns 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 and once the pilot had sighted the German anti-aircraft gun and a couple
of ammunition boxcars he had given a short burst with his guns. The German anti-aircraft
gun had immediately swung into action and had returned fire at the approaching aircraft
causing the typhoon pilot to give full throttle and fly off.
The presence of this Typhoon is most likely the result of the earlier 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.
Suddenly, at around 11:30 a number of Canadian Typhoon aircraft were spotted coming
in low from the northeast approaching the marshalling yard. They were aircraft from
the Royal Canadian Air Force 438 Squadron of 143 Wing, that had taken off that morning
with an eight ship formation from an airstrip in Brussels. Each aircraft was equipped
with eight 27-kilogram rockets and four 20mm guns. A couple of aircraft had manoeuvred
themselves in position and attacked the approximately 30 German ammunition boxcars
loaded with ammunition and bombs that were parked on the marshalling yard. The result
was disastrous as the exploding boxcars caused enormous pressure waves destroying
houses that were build along the track area. At about 12:30 another formation of
six RCAF Typhoon aircraft appeared over the area and soon they had spotted the remaining
boxcars. A number of them dove down one by one while firing their rockets and destroying
the last boxcars. In these air attacks the ammunition train and many surrounding
houses were completely destroyed. As in a miracle there were no fatalities amongst
the civilians and only 15 people were injured. About twenty houses and two little
factories close to the rail road were destroyed. After this attack it is said the
Canadian Typhoons flew to the village Udenhout where another German ammunition train
was attacked. This train stood parked close to the Udenhout train station and was
partially destroyed. The following day however the remaining boxcars, now parked
on a side track, were again attacked and destroyed. The ammunition loaded on this
train came from the ammunition depots of the German airbase at Gilze-Rijen and from
depots in the city Tilburg.
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.