Driel must be quite religious, but then a lot of countryside villages are (in contrast to the town). The other church is modern and has a high tower with a copper pointy roof. This roof is like a symbol of driel and visible from over quite some distance. This, Catholic, church is also bigger as the majority of the inhabitants of Driel are Roman Catholics.
After the battle was over, Driel became a frontline village. Most inhabitants left and parts of the "Betuwe" were inundated (set under water). During the fights in September some civilians already were killed, but the village became almost a ghost town in the winter 44-45. After the liberation they returned and 'til now it's definately one of the most peaceful places on earth I can imagine.
September 1944. The battle of Arnhem has been lost, but the mayor force of several thousand British are still trapped in Oosterbeek, North of the river Rhine. Surrounded and outnumbered by much better armed Nazi's they struggle to survive and then the command of withdrawl arrives in the hand of General Urquhart. First the tragedy of Driel took place, where the Polish parachutists get massacred in the air. Only few hundred out of 1500 are alive when they reach the ground. They swim across the Rhine to get into another hell.
On a rainy night (25th of September 1944) the retreat over the river starts. Along white ribbons the soldiers that still can walk, sneak through the darkness and are picked up by the tiny boats. The wounded stay behind to keep up appearances of resistence and to keep the enemy busy. From the 10.000 British and Polish that were dropped, 2.400 were saved that night. The battle of Arnhem was over ... The Netherlands were going into the worst winter of all: the hungerwinter of 44-45.
Driel is situated on the Southern banks of the river Lower Rhine. Here it flows straight along the hills of the "Veluwe" that runs up to around 100 meter high North of the river. Driel itself is in the low riverlands and has had - like the rest of the "Betuwe" - it's share of floadings throughout the centuries. Now-a-days a delta level high dike is protecting the village and is as well it's main entrance road from East and West. A more inferior road leads to Elst, just South of the village.
When in the church, you will be treated immediately by all there is to know about the building and it's history and contents. Mr. Willemsen will tell you everything in full enthousiasm. Also about the organ, that has been "inherited" from a Welsh village with which Driel has warm contacts. Weather these contacts have anything to do with the happenings around here in WW II, I do not know, but the organ had been saved from certain destruction in Wales itself as the church it was in, was on the list to be destroyed.
Trying to contact the family Willemsen for a look inside the church is surely worth while the effort. The small and old church holds a magnificent "kansel" (preachers chair) that dates back from 1714. The wooden sculpture is incredably fine and has spectacular great forms and figures (see also travellogue for a detailed look).
Started as a Roman Catholic church, the most significant building in Driel is for sure the old Dutch Reformed church. The building dates back to 1400, the year that the village of Driel was already known in the environment as a fruit basket. Farmers here sold their products on the "illegal" market of medieval Arnhem, as the town didn't even have cityrights then. The church hides a treasure inside, but can only be visited during church mess or after contacting the caretaker, who is however always ready to show you and tell you all about "his" church.
The "tap" within the river Rhine of course also can deliver difficulties. When it's closed, ships wouldn;t be able to get along, if not there was a seperate lock system running by the island that has been created within the river. Yes, to let migrating fish pass, there's even a fish ladder built so that we hopefully one day will find salmon back in our Lower Rhine.
When you stand on the riverdike near Driel, you gaze upon one of the wonders of water engineering in The Netherlands. Here the Rhine has been tamed by actually putting a "tap" in it. This "tap" is a movable dam. Just twenty kilometres upstream the IJssel runs North and this is quite economically an important waterway. However naturally this river is the first to dry when water is low. Therefor the dam in driel can be lowered, holding the water back and sending it up into the IJssel. Near Hagestein and IJsselsteijn there are two other structures with the ame purpose. Herewith the complete North of The Netherlands are secured to get enough water and the IJsselmeer stays in the right level to secure our country with enough sweet water to survive even the dryest summers.