September 1944: Skirmishes at ’t Wijde Veld labour camp
A labour camp for unemployed young men in Ede opened in March 1935. The camp was situated on the edge of Ginkel Heath, which is where the Wijde Veldweg road is now located. The camp was officially opened with the hoisting of the flag, accompanied by the boys singing a song.
There were six barracks in the camp. The young men in labour camp 't Wijde Veld were put to work by the Heidemij company doing road maintenance and building cycle paths.
Small Zeeland community in Ede
The camp was abandoned at the beginning of the war. Later, in March 1944, a group of 18 families found shelter in this former labour camp. The group consisted of 109 evacuees from Stavenisse, a village in the province of Zeeland. They had been forced to leave because the occupiers had flooded the island of Tholen.
After arriving in Ede, the men worked outside of the camp for the Heidemij company during the day. This was how a small community of Zeeland natives formed on the edge of Ginkel Heath in the summer of 1944. A small school was even established for the children.
Operation Market Garden
The liberation operation Market Garden started on 17 September 1944. The Zeeland natives watched as hundreds of parachutes and paragliders descended at Renkum and Wolfheze respectively that Sunday. These gliders delivered Scottish soldiers who had been given orders to protect Ginkel Heath. They took up defensive positions on the open plain, which was designated as a drop zone for British paratroopers on Monday. Much to their surprise, they discovered that the labour camp was occupied by the group of families from Zeeland.
During the night, more and more German units came to reclaim the heath. On Monday morning, they approached the British foxholes on the eastern edge of the forest. A gun battle ensued, with bullets flying straight through the barracks.
The residents fled during a break in the battle. Seven British soldiers were killed and six were injured during this exchange of fire. The Germans took 23 soldiers prisoner and sent them to Ede. Two Zeeland natives were killed, too.
Despite the night-time gun battle, the 4th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment went ahead and descended on Ginkel Heath on the afternoon of Monday, 18 September. They were met with heavy German defensive fire.
't Wijde Veld labour camp then & now
Although the camp was torn down, the outlines are still visible in the landscape. The site is now a designated picnic area.