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The liberation of Hulst



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From 4 September to 8 November 1944, the Battle of the Scheldt took place in Zeeland and Flanders. The aim was to retake the port of Antwerp. Polish and Canadian troops began the liberation of eastern Zeeuws-Vlaanderen on 14 September. A German observation post endangered the lives of the advancing, Polish liberators in September 1944. It was therefore decided to shoot down the spire of Hulst basilica.

During the Second World War, the tower of the St. Willibrordus basilica serves as a military observation post for the Germans. On the bell in the tower they inscribed ‘1940’, ‘Gott strafe England’, and a swastika. Another swastika and some writing in German can be found on one of the walls. 

During their advance through the east of Zeelandic Flanders, the Polish 1st Armoured Division fired shots at the bell tower with the intention of disabling the German observation post. Some 70 grenades hit the tower, which caught fire, almost destroying it entirely. This happened on September 18, 1944. Hulst was liberated a day later. After the war has ended, there is a lot of fuss about whether the German inscriptions and swastikas should be removed. In the end, it was decided to keep things the way they were and it now serves as a memorial.