Pays-Bas / Champ de Bataille

No joyful liberation in Zuidzande




After the fall of Oostburg on 27 October 1944, German troops retreated behind the drainage canal near Sluis. The first liberators then cautiously entered a Zuidzande devastated by bombs and shells. The dejected residents could finally be evacuated.

The war diary of Le Régiment de la Chaudière records that on Sunday morning 29 October 1944, just after 11am, Major Sévigny and his men reported to the outskirts of Zuidzande. Village vicar Evens had managed to attract attention with a homemade, white flag, after which he escorted the liberators towards the village.

Major Sévigny reported from Oostburgsestraat to battalion headquarters that the enemy had left. Based on his positive report, all planned shelling of the heavily fortified village was cancelled. There was not much left to destroy; after many weeks of shelling, another 1,500 mortar shells had been hurled in the direction of Zuidzande on Saturday evening as the climax. As his soldiers sought shelter, Major Sévigny beckoned the regiment's other companies forward. On both sides of the road, a line of muddied soldiers walked cautiously towards the centre of the village. To great relief, at 1pm the first Canadian soldiers entered the deserted village centre of Zuidzande without firing a shot.

It was not a happy liberation. The Régiment de la Chaudière found a large number of wounded civilians in Zuidzande. The village doctor, who had taken care of the wounded villagers, told the Canadians that the Germans had fled to Knokke. As there was no water, food or medicine, an urgent request went through the airwaves to evacuate the wounded Zuidzandeners to IJzendijke. Headquarters had no transport available and it was left to the French-speaking battalion to lend a helping hand. At 2.30pm in the afternoon, the first trucks arrived to take the people to the safe town of IJzendijke. A silent procession left the devastated village.

Dorpsplein, Zuidzande