During the Second World War, more than 250 Dutch resistance fighters were executed on the Waalsdorpervlakte, an area in between Wassenaar and The Hague in The Netherlands. It’s possible that not all bodies were discovered after the war. New research, which will include the use of a drone, is required to provide clarity about the remaining victims. The only issue is that the plain has been designated as a Natura 2000 site, a nature reserve.
Drones used in search for WWII resistance fighters in The Netherlands
Army Officer Jurriaan Wouters is pushing for the search for resistance fighters who have yet to be found. He is dedicated to finding victims who have gone missing since the war, with the help of survivors and other individuals. It is estimated that at least three bodies remain in the dune area, but this number could be much higher.
The plan was to re-map the area using a drone and ground radar. The issue is that it is in a nature reserve, called the Natura 2000 area of Meijendel and Berkheide. Due to the potentially disruptive effects on flora and fauna, area manager Dunea and the Haaglanden Environment Agency did not give approval for the use of a drone for a long time. This enraged Wouters, who spoke to radio station Omroep West and called their actions shameful.
Immediately after the Second World War, the Waalsdorpervlakte was searched for victims. Photo: Piet van der Ham / Anefo – National Archives.
According to the Environment Service, it is theoretically possible to map the area using a drone with little disturbance to Wildlife. The drone must then take off and land at a safe distance from any birds present, and it may not fly above occupied nests. The drone flights are also supervised by an ecologist.
The plan is to use the drone to create a 3D model of the area for exploratory research. Any discrepancies could indicate the presence of human residues. In order to provide a definite answer, a mobile ground radar should be used in a follow-up phase. However, the Environment Service has not yet granted permission.
There is little enthusiasm in The Hague’s city council to support the private search. According to the city council, the responsibility for the search for the remains of resistance fighters lies with the Royal Dutch Army, and there are no reasons to believe that post-war excavations at the time were carried out carelessly and any graves would have been missed.
The Natura 2000 program
Drone flights above Natura 2000 areas have been met with resistance in the Netherlands. The issue is that the management of these nature reserve areas is decentralized. As a result, Rijkswaterstaat published a document with guidelines for drone flights above Natura 2000 areas at the end of 2020. The document states that, depending on location and season, drone flights do not always have to be disruptive.
Administrator Dunea also claims in a statement that, while the use of drones above the Natura 2000 area has not been subject to a permit, this does not mean that the investigation cannot be carried out. In this case, DUNEA refers to the Ministry of Defense as the sole authority.
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