Storm surge in Hamburg: the Dutch contribution

As part of NATO’s ‘forward defence’, an advance detachment of the Dutch First Army Corps was stationed on West German territory in mid-October, in the Bergen-Hohne and Fallingbostel encampments, to the east of the Weser. This advance detachment included elements from the Commando Corps (KCT), 11 Engineer battalion and 2 companies from 41 Engineer battalion.

Assisting residents

On the evening of Saturday 17 February, the German authorities asked the NATO allies to supply troops to help the people living in the disaster area. An engineer company and a commando platoon went to the old fortified town of Stade to the west of Hamburg. Other Dutch military personnel were deployed on the island of Krautsand. This little unprotected island in the Elbe turned out to have been hard hit by a tidal wave several metres high.

Clearing the devastation

Men, trucks and pumps were needed to clear the devastation and pump away the excess water. The main activities in the week following the disaster consisted of clearing rubble and corpses, repairing roads and bridges and refloating stranded ships. On the northern side of the town of Freiburg, Dutch engineers teamed up with German soldiers to repair the road surface.

New spring tide

On Wednesday 20 February, the people of Hamburg and the surrounding areas were alarmed by another spring tide. This one turned out to be less powerful than the previous one, however, and did not cause any significant damage. Only the area known as Altes Land to the southwest of Hamburg was once again affected. From Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 February, Dutch military personnel helped to get the area back to normal.