The Netherlands / Cemetery

From exercise ground to largest Canadian cemetery




Plein XIII, near here, has a long history in Bergen op Zoom. Once built as a training ground for the city's garrison, it took on a special function after the liberation. The square became a cemetery for many dozens of fallen, mainly Canadian, soldiers. This made it the largest temporarily constructed cemetery for Canadian servicemen in North Brabant.

Soldiers die in every war and deserve a well-organised grave, however in war conditions this is often not possible. The method of burial is almost always determined by the circumstances. In the period of 1944 to 45, the Canadian army had set up a system for burying fallen soldiers, and it was decided to bring the fallen together in temporary cemeteries. Temporary, because at a later date the fallen Canadian soldiers in the Netherlands would be buried, as much as possible, in specially created Canadian cemeteries.

Immediately after the battle, Canadian forces often buried their fallen comrades in hastily dug field graves. Specialised units, if possible, arranged for reburial in a temporary cemetery. There was also such a cemetery in the centre of Bergen op Zoom, at Plein XIII. Situated in the middle of the city, but once on the edge of the old fortress, it was a drill ground for the city's garrison. The number 'XIII' recalls a vanished guardhouse at a railway crossing nearby. 

Many Canadian soldiers were killed in the fighting in the town and were the first to be buried in Square XIII. A number of soldiers who died in the fierce battle near Welberg were also buried there. In early November 1944, there was already a total of 53 graves. One of these was a British tank soldier from a unit supporting the Canadian troops. During the winter months, the number increased slightly with the interment of six Air Force soldiers, including a Dutchman. This brought the total number of crosses at Plein XIII to 59 and made this temporary cemetery the largest in North Brabant. Of course, Canadian soldiers were also interred in existing cemeteries, but nowhere else on this scale in North Brabant.

A total of over 600 fallen Canadian servicemen were buried in various municipalities in North Brabant in the period from 1944 to 45. Most of them were transferred to the Canadian Military Cemetery on Ruytershoveweg in Bergen op Zoom from April 1945 onwards.

Today, nothing at Plein XIII reminds us of the temporary function it had for almost a year.

Antwerpsetraat 56 Bergen op Zoom