In September 2002 a new monument was unveiled at the city bridge in honor of the British Suffolk Regiment that liberated the city of Weert on September 22, 1944. The monument replaced the blue metal plaque that had been attached to the wall of the service building of the city bridge. The monument was unveiled in the presence of some veterans of the Suffolk Regiment amongst whom Trefor Lewis from South Wales was present. (Photograph)
On September 3rd, 1944, Radio Oranje (the Dutch national broadcast station from the UK) reports the surrender of Brussels. The hearts of the citizens of Weert are filled with hope for a forthcoming liberation. The thunder of heavy artillery can be heard from Belgium each and every day. On Thursday September 21st, 1944, the excitement in the city can be felt everywhere. Head over heels, cellars are being converted into shelters. The praying of their rosaries is rudely being disturbed by explosions from the direction of the Zuid Willemsvaart.
The German explosives engineers comply with their tasks thoroughly. The Biesterbrug, the city bridge, the railway bridge and the bridge at lock XVI are destroyed and a red glowing night sky signifies the fires at the barracks behind the Van Hornekazerne. Around midnight a deadly silence envelops the city. Weert has become no man’s land. The last Germans withdraw behind the Wessem-Nederweert Canal en from the direction of the Belgium Hamont the scouts of the British Suffolk Regiment approach. They gather in the area of the present holiday resort “De Weerterbergen” in order to advance in the direction of Weert. When at first daylight Weert wakes up, the British continue their attack into the direction of the railway bridge and soon the rumors sing around in the streets: “The English are at the canal.”
Weert celebrates the liberation exuberantly on the 22nd September. Everywhere the national colors red white and blue appear attached to the façades and the citizens adorn themselves with orange even if it is only a small marigold from the borders at the Singels. At the Bassin it is crowded with people. The ‘Tommies’ are being welcomed at the other side of the destroyed city bridge. The assistant of doc Venmans cannot control his joy and swims fully dressed across the canal only to be able to touch a Brit. Crazy of joy some strong citizens of Weert carry the soldier Len Carrington, who was in lead of the head of the column infantry of the Suffolk Regiment, towards the city bridge, on their shoulders and carry him, against all military regulations across the destroyed bridge. Therefore Len Carrington is nominated the liberator of Weert.
With an attack on the area between the Canal of Wessem to Nederweert and the river Maas, which is being announced with a barrage of artillery fire by 400 guns firing 2000 shells per minute, Weert is being relieved from the immediate threat of war on 14 November, 1944.
Annually the liberation of Weert is being memorized with a torch-relay-race Weert - Brussels - Weert and lots of other manifestations.
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- Text: Organisatie Fakkelestafette Weert
- Photos: René Winters