Overview World War II in Leopoldsburg
It’s hard to just one gigantic war like that of World War II, going on to describe just Limburg territory. Following are a few significant events that took place during this period.
On January 10, 1940 a German Messerschmidt makes an emergency landing at the canal near Vucht (Maasmechelen). On board are two German majors, Reinsberger and Hoensmans. Border guard Gerard Rubens and Sergeant French Habets drive directly to the landing site and can overpower the Germans, just before they try to burn some documents. At the headquarters Maasmechelen they soon realized that they had made a big catch, because the papers contain no less than a small but important part of Hitler’s plan to attack the West. As a result of this incident, the German plan for the invasion of the West is adapted.
The French Army Staff had her doubts and thought that it was a German diversion. However, it was a few months later, on May 10 1940, the real war started when Germany invaded Belgium and the Netherlands. In the morning, very early, German planes landed on former Limburg bottom, this time in Eben-Emael. Here, in between 1932 and 1935 along the Albert–built bunker fortress – with its 65 hectares of area the largest in Belgium-, the 700 Belgian soldiers thought they were in an impregnable fortress, but they were promptly helped out of their dream. The Germans provided a soundless surprise attack by entering their airborne troops with gliders. A small elite troop ‘Fallschirm Jäger Pionnierzeug’, only 82 men strong, but armed to the teeth, put in a minimum of time with explosives the fort out of action. That same May 10, 1940, the first bombs fell on the barracks in Leopoldsburg, particularly on the Infantry School and the buildings of the ‘Compagnie sans Floche’ in which many soldiers lost their lives. The German occupation did not cause major complications and the camp was long spared from bombing. From October 1942 to November 1943 at a remote place in the ‘Gemeentebos’ of Leopoldsburg 204 people, including 176 of the resistance, were executed by the Germans. The victims came from prisons across the country and were buried on the spot. From 1942 the odds for Adolf Hitler became less and less good and the increasing prevalence of the Allies became clearer. On May 19 and May 28, 1944 they bombed Camp Beverlo, which claimed hundreds of lives. By mistake the Zuidstraat in Beverlo was hit, witch caused 77 civilian casualties.
In September 1944 the long awaited moment arrived for Limburg. American and British forces expelled the Germans, but it didn’t go equally smoothly everywhere. From September 6 to 12, 1944 Hechtel was a scene of fierce battles between British and German troops. A British officer named Hechtel small Caen, as the to the ground leveled town in Normandy; 121 houses were destroyed in the fighting. With a flanking movement, the British were able to take control of the canal bridge at Lommel-Barrier.
On September 15, 1944, the British General Brian Horrocks gave the historic order for Operation Market-Garden in cinema Splendid in Leopoldsburg in the cinema Splendid. This order included airborne troops being dropped over the shaft Lommel-Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem to liberate the Netherlands. This proved to be “a bridge too far.” Alongside the British Belgians were fighting, who managed to escape to England in one way or another since May 1940, and were united in the ‘Brigade Piron’ where many Limburgers were part of. After several cleansing operations in the vicinity of
Brussels on September 11, 1944 the Brigade marched on and crossed the Albert canal in Beringen to liberate Camp Beverlo, Heppen and Leopoldsburg. Patrols nudged up to Balen and Kerkhoven. On September 18th they continued to the canal Bree-Bocholt and patrols reached Maaseik. On September 25 the border of The Netherlands was crossed and by evening Thorn, Neeritter and Weert were liberated. After the liberation, many Limburgers enlisted the in Brigade Piron’. Early 1945 2400 volunteers were enlisted and it became the First Belgian Infantry Brigade.