Our eyewitnesses (WW II)
Everyone in our village knows the Buteyn brothers. They remember the war years vividly. Underneath you can find a little piece of their family history during the anxious days before the liberation.
It’s the year 1944, during the German occupation. Most of the residents of Leopoldsburg left their homes in the evening, to find shelter elsewhere since they were expecting allied bombings. They had already been warned: the bombardments of May 19, 1944. The Zuidstraat in Beverlo was bombed (by mistake), result: 77 civilians killed.
When the evening fell the Buteyn family left towards the ‘ Malou’ in Balen, to one of the tenant farms of Antwerpia at Sus Vervoort. In turns Ria, Jules and Jean were riding the tandem bicycle, with on the back their mother. Father Theo stayed alone in the jewelers.
On the notorious night of May 27 1944, they left again for Balen. Around 2 o’clock in the morning, they were startled by the roaring of planes. Sus called them to go to the air-raid shelter. The air-raid shelter was a kind of ditch, covered by small trunks and earth. When everybody had taken place in the air-raid shelter, mother Vervoort noticed that little Els was missing. Jules quickly went to check it out and a little while later he returned with the little girl, who was still sleeping, in his arms. Later Sus, Jos (the son), and the Buteyn brothers stayed to watch the ‘parachutes of air’ above Beverlo. They were witnesses of the bombs falling on Leopoldsburg and the camp.
Around 6 o’clock in the morning, the brothers could no longer stand it and went back to their father in Leopoldsburg. While riding in the Nicolaylaan they were hit by the destroyed buildings.
Emergency services and firemen were very busy. On the crossing of the Stationsstraat, Leonardstraat, and Maarschalk Fochstraat they could see a big bomb crater. The houses around the square were damaged. Their house was a heap of rubble: roll-down shutters were first turned inwards and then again outwards due to a bomb that had fallen at the backside of their home. The bomb had landed on the garage and cellar of the firm Belga. The inhabitants were stuck and set free by the brothers.
Father Theo, injured in the face, told the boys how he was awakened by a bright flash and the air-raid alarm. He ran to his appointed shelter at the ‘Generale Bank’. There Mr Thijs and some others were waiting for him. At that time the bomb fell on the crosspoint and the men were thrown to the ground. They crawled on hands and feet to the shelter.
The brothers mustered up their courage and started cleaning the shop or what was left of it. Around noon a German soldier entered the shop and said: “Ich will meine Uhr.” (I want my watch). Jean, never stuck for an answer, asked for the receipt, which was given promptly by the soldier. Because of the chaos of the explosion, it was impossible to find the watch immediately. The soldier became cross and threatened the brothers. Jean tried to calm the situation, by telling him that he would go and get the boss. He went through the door and ran through the hall, because of the bomb hit he could walk into the Maarschalk Fochstraat. Jules stayed behind, alone with the soldier. In the Fochstraat, Jean noticed a German officer and explained the situation. He came and called the soldier to order and the danger had passed. Both brothers breathed a sigh of relief.
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