A Tale of Two Villages:
Broekhuizen en Broekhuizenvorst



 The Liberation of Broekhuizen: November 1944 

World War II
Broekhuizen and Broekhuizenvorst suffered heavily during the 5 years of foreign occupation. It started with the surprise attack on 10 May 1940: a number of Dutch soldiers were killed in their pill-boxes along the river Maas while trying to keep the German invader at bay.

In the years that followed oppression mounted: many male villagers were transported to Germany to work in the war industry. During a razzia in October 1944 four civilians were executed in an orchard. In November of that same year about a dozen farmhouses were set on fire in the hamlet 'De Stokt'. Food, cattle, means of transport, in fact everything that had any value, 'disappeared' across the border into 'Das Reich'. The two parish churches were blown up to prevent the advancing allied troops from acquiring a good observation post.

By mid-November 1944 the village of Broekhuizen was among the last pockets of (German) resistance on the west bank of the river Maas.

In order not to be caught in the inevitable fighting between the Germans and the advancing English troops, the civilians had to leave. On 21 November the exodus started and many ended up as far away as Aalst in Belgium. There was no hope of an early return: for this they would have to wait till March 1945.

What Happened in the Meantime?
The Germans made a stronghold out of Broekhuizen: hundreds of metres of trenches were dug, connecting all the cellars of the houses in the village. A minefield was laid out outside the village; roads blown up and tank traps set. In 1976 the late Major Joe How, whose company liberated the village said, "The defence system of Broekhuizen was by far the most complicated and elaborate we had been confronted with since the Normandy landings."

Let us go back to the dark, wet and windy November days in a deserted village.

The Kasteel
Kasteel Broekhuizen as it was on 30 November 1944,
before the battle.
At a little over 500 metres west of the village there is a manor house, locally known as 'The Kasteel'. The oldest parts of this building date back to the 15th century when it was the residence of the Van Broekhuysens. This structure is part of the German defence line too. Its moat, thick walls and deep cellars provide all that is necessary to repel an attack by approaching English troops.

The Cameronian Highlanders' C company carries out the first attack on 28 November. On this chilly morning the soldiers wade through the deep and cold water of a ditch towards the back of the 'Kasteel'. The distance that separates them from the out-buildings is only 30 metres when Lieutenant Liddell orders half the company to attack: the other half is to give fire cover. Sixteen British soldiers climb out of the outer moat and start running towards the inner moat. Then hell breaks loose: having held their fire to let the British come nearer, German machine guns now spread death and destruction. The soldiers Cooper, Davis, Russel, Delaney, Wheeler and Turnbull are killed instantly and 11 wounded have to be left behind.

It has now become clear that taking the manor house will be anything but easy. The Cameronions are withdrawn and replaced by the 3rd Battalion of the Monmouthsire Regiment (3Mons). On the 29 November 1944 the Battalion takes up positions in the woods surrounding the 'Kasteel' and the village.

Lt. Col. Stockley
Lieutenant-Colonel Stockley
On this same day Lieutenant-Colonel Stockley, commanding officer of the 3rd Mons, receives orders to conquer both the 'Kasteel' and the village. Together with some officers he thoroughly studies the overall situation i.e. the manor house, its immediate surroundings and the village further east. On the basis of this, of information from the Cameronions and aerial photographs, a plan of attack is drawn up. To get through the minefields he calls in two squadrons of flail tanks of the 79 Armoured Division.

For additional support 61 tanks of the 15/19 King's Royal Hussars head for Broekhuizen.

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