It is well known that the Dutch have been trying to keep water out of their low-lying polders for centuries. At times though, they used water as a weapon against enemies.
The Dutch intentionally flooded polder sections via an intricate system of sluices, dykes and canals. The water level was carefully maintained at 40 centimeters: deep enough to hamper advance on foot and make sure canons get stuck in the mud, but shallow enough to prevent the use of boats (other than the flat bottomed gun barges the Dutch used in defence).
The first ‘Hollandic Water Line‘, a continuous area of land that could be flooded lined by fortresses, was build in the first half of the 17th century. It provided an important line of defence against the French and protected the wealthy cities in the province of Holland, such as Amsterdam, Leiden and Delft.
The ‘New Hollandic Water Line’ included Utrecht and Gorinchem, amongst others, in the area protected by water. Fort bij Vechten, south-east of Utrecht, is the second largest fortification in this extended line of defence. In 2018, the Dutch Government will put forward The New Hollandic Water Line for Unesco World Heritage status.
Since 2015, the barracks house the Waterliniemuseum.
Fort bij Vechten is a wonderful area to roam around for an afternoon. You stumble on a number of hidden buildings that have been used primarily for storage.
Part of the central fort has been restored, part was left dilapidated. You can see this divide over the main entrance.
The main corridor of the fort.
Two models of Fort bij Vechten – one lost its central stronghold…
At the advent of World War II, a large number of pillboxes were added to the earth and brick fortifications of the Water Line. But this line of defence proved outdated: German planes just flew over the fortresses and bombed the city of Rotterdam.