Holandia / Fortyfikacja

Battle for an ancient fortress




After all of the North Brabant area south of the (Bergse) Maas river had been liberated, a small group of German soldiers was still firmly entrenched in Fort Crèvecoeur near the Brabant capital.

On 27 October 1944, the liberation of 's-Hertogenbosch was complete, however there were still groups of German soldiers south of the river Maas. In early November, German troops occupied two small bridgeheads just north of the Brabant capital: the village of Empel and Fort Crèvecoeur. On 7 November, Empel was liberated by a Scottish battalion, the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Two days later, the Canadians of the Lake Superior Regiment took over the sector along the Maas River. Initially, they left the German forces in the fort alone, as an attack on such a strong position seemed too risky. Eventually, however, the numerous aggressive patrols from the fort began to irritate the Canadian forces, and the decision was made to attack the fort after all. This was done from three sides: from Empel, Engelen and Orthen. 

On 8 December, the attack was launched, starting at 4pm. Covered by fire from 20 tanks, the Canadian infantry crept towards the fort. By 6pm, the wire link between the German occupation of the fort, the 28 men with three machine guns led by Lieutenant Hartmann, and the German troops at Hedel, was broken. By the time the Canadians arrived at the ramparts it was pitch black, and it was decided to continue the attack the following morning.

On 9 December, as soon as it got light, a group of Canadian soldiers climbed into boats and paddled across the moat to the bastion. Once inside, they ascertained that it had been abandoned: the last of the German soldiers had left in the early hours for the other side of the Maas. The fort was quickly occupied by the Canadians troops, and all of the North Brabant area south of the Maas River was now in Allied hands.

Heart ache

Around 1587, the State built Fort Crèvecoeur, at the mouth of the river Dieze. There are two explanations for the name, which is French for 'heart ache'. Firstly, it is near a place where a Spanish commander was killed. Secondly, an entrenchment was built near the fort to control shipping during the siege of 's-Hertogenbosch, so it is possible the name refers to this irritating checkpoint. After 1866, Fort Crèvecoeur lost its function as a fortification, but remained military territory. Since World War II, the fort has been used by the Engineers Corps.

Crèvecoeur 4, 5221 CE, 's-Hertogenbosch