Ten days of shelter

13. September 1944 / 23. September 1944



In September 1944, projectiles from Germans and British crossed each other for days over the Kempisch Kanaal at Mol-Donk and above Dessel. The Germans had blown up the bridge over the canal on 13 September. As a result, the liberation army was stranded. The British took up a position along the canal, the Germans set up their artillery in the middle of the village.

In the market square, St Nicholas church and many houses were badly damaged. Two inhabitants were killed, 20 others were wounded. The Red Cross helped where possible, but could do little because of the continuous shelling. Some of the wounded were taken to Retie for treatment.

The inhabitants spent anxious days in their shelters or fled the village. On 14 September 1944, a father and a midwife ventured through the rain of bullets. A frightened mother gave birth to a child in the basement of a farmhouse a short while later.

But the end was in sight. On Friday 22 September, at 11pm, the Germans finally left the village. The entire front between Antwerp and Geel was reduced to behind the Dessel-Turnhout-Schoten canal. The next day started again with British artillery. Some villagers therefore marched towards the Allies with a white flag. Moments later, the party was on. The Desselaars walked to Den Donk to greet the soldiers. For Dessel, too, the war was over. Although difficult days of street repression followed, and difficult years of reconstruction.