Belgium / Landmark

Living with the Liberators




After the liberation, Leopoldsburg remained important to the British war machine as the military camp was ideal for housing troops. Many of these soldiers spent periods of 'rest and recreation' in the village, and soldiers were often billeted in the homes of Leopoldsburg citizens.

One of the buildings often used by the Allied troops was the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. Consecrated in 1903, this church was built by and for soldiers. This explains the presence of statues, donated by the royal family, of Saint Mauritius and Saint Gommarus, both of whom had once been soldiers. During Christmas 1944, the church was packed with British soldiers who held a celebration together led by Chaplain J. Coghlan. The life of the Allied soldiers in Leopoldsburg was filled with everyday household chores in addition to military affairs. The popular British magazine Picture Post even devoted a large article to it in February 1945.

The population was happy about the liberation, but not everything went smoothly. The passions that arose between the many soldiers and young women across Belgium soon caused discontent. In addition, cases of venereal diseases also increased everywhere. By spring 1945, they took on epidemic proportions across Belgium. Allied authorities had to provide penicillin for civilian hospitals that could barely cope with the influx of patients. In addition, the harsh winter of 1944 caused a reduction in rations, something that caused much discontent. British general George Erskine, British commander for Belgium, wondered aloud "whether any Belgian would be willing to trade harsh conditions and freedom for German occupation".

Although the post-liberation situation caused tensions, these were quickly forgotten. Now people tend to look back on this time through rose-tinted glasses and are full of nostalgia. Additionally, there is still a lot of gratitude for the liberators, something that is very noticeable in Leopoldsburg. At the station, there is a monument in the shape of a Sherman tank with an M4A4 hull and Firefly turret. Furthermore, the pert of British Commonwealth troops in the region is remembered in the Liberation Garden museum, in the Chinese Pavilion, and the British Commonwealth Cemetery, located opposite the museum, has been renovated.

Kastanjedreef, 3970 Leopoldsburg