The Netherlands / Cemetery
The Military Cemetery in Kapelle is the only military cemetery in Zeeland, and the only French military cemetery in the Netherlands. Many of the French soldiers buried here died during the German invasion of May 1940. French military personnel that died in the Netherlands later on in the war are also buried here.
In May 1940, French troops moved from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen to Zuid-Beveland. Their task was to stop the German advance and to prevent the Allied forces from being trapped in Belgium and France. While in the rest of the country the Dutch army had already surrendered, fighting continued in Zeeland. French troops tried to blow up the bridges across the South Beveland Canal but failed to fully accomplish this. In the meantime, they were bombarded by German aircraft and many soldiers were killed. Some of the victims were temporarily buried in the dyke.
On May 16, German units advanced westward from the Canal. Fierce street battles with French soldiers followed around the railway station in Flushing. The French position became unsustainable and eventually the French troops withdrew over the Scheldt to join the rest of the Allied army.
Immediately after the fighting, the population came into action. They collected the fallen soldiers and laid them to rest in a mass grave. At the beginning of 1941, the French soldiers were reburied amid great public interest. Today, French casualties that fell and were buried all over the Netherlands are being re-buried in Kapelle.
When Canadian units entered Kapelle on October 28, 1944, an occupation that had begun with great force in May 1940 came to a peaceful end. Eventually, French units would also participate in the liberation of Zeeland when they set foot in Vlissingen on November 1 as part of Operation Infatuate I.
In the Museum Memorial 40-45, adjacent to the cemetery, you will find out more about the French wartime efforts in the Netherlands during the Second World War.
Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.