The Netherlands / Cemetery
The municipal cemetery includes a mass grave with 186 war victims from Montfort and surrounding villages. They died in three bombing raids on 21 January 1945. The text on the mass grave set up as a monument reads as follows: 'BE PREPARED, FOR YOU KNOW NEITHER THE DAY NOR THE HOUR'.
From the beginning of October 1944, the frontline just north of Sittard ran straight through Limburg. As the battle was concentrated elsewhere, the Germans used the relative calm to fortify the area between Susteren and Roermond. The heart of the defence was located around Montfort and Sint-Joost.
Montfort in particular was packed with refugees and thousands of evacuees from far and wide. Due to a lack of living quarters, many refugees lived in stables, chicken coops and silos. On 16 January 1945, violence also erupted in Montfort. Operation Blackcock, the British offensive to clear the area between Sittard and Roermond, had begun.
Hardly any ground was gained because the Germans could always hide behind a new line of defence. The British decided on artillery shelling and bombing raids to limit their own losses. They produced the intended result. The Germans evacuated Montfort on 23 January, but almost two hundred people, including many refugees, died in cellars.
Sjeng Smeets described the bombing raid of 20 January 1945 as follows: 'Suddenly, at about ten o'clock, it was as if the world had ended. One shell after another struck. We dove headlong into the cellar. Once it became silent again, Father went to have a look what had happened. He came back soon again and said: Quickly, come with me. It appeared that our neighbours had been hit while they were in the stables tending to the cattle. They were bleeding heavily from leg wounds. We put bandages over their wounds to stop the bleeding. We carried them away on two doors.
On the way to the nurses, we had to take shelter from shelling and then continued at a run. Once we arrived at the nurses' house, we beheld a terrible sight. Dead people were lying in the corridor. Blood was flowing on the floor. Nurse Sentia walked from one wounded person to another. They groaned in pain. The nurse used strips of torn sheets to apply bandages. I stayed with our neighbour because she felt alone and scared. It was no longer possible to offer any help and even if you tried, German soldiers would chase you away. By three o'clock in the afternoon, the neighbour aunt died. I was constantly thinking about home, and at four o'clock I quietly left. In the Kerkstraat, I passed between houses and gardens to reach the barn and the stable. Everything was destroyed.’