The Netherlands / Monument
The 'Norfolk monument' in Venray was erected in memory of the soldiers of the 1st battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment who died during the battle of the Loobeek. The monument also commemorates 300 civilians who died in the battle in the vicinity of Overloon and Venray.
During the crossing of the Loobeek between Overloon and Venray, the British army suffered heavy losses on 15 and 17 October 1944. After a successful advance through northern France and Belgium, the Americans of the 30th infantry 'Old Hickory' had succeeded in liberating most of South Limburg. Then, on 17 September 1944, the Allies wanted to force a push from Belgium to Germany with a large-scale liberation offensive (operation 'Market Garden') by securing bridges in North Brabant and Gelderland with airborne troops in a lightning-fast attack. Three complete divisions were dropped. But the Rhine bridge near Arnhem turned out to be one bridge too many. The British paratroopers were surprised by German armoured troops and had to retreat to the Betuwe after heavy losses.
On 19 September 1944, the American advance also stagnated in South Limburg, a few kilometres north of Sittard. The occupier had succeeded in taking position at two bridgeheads created by the Allied advance: one position was located on the west bank of the Maas in North and Central Limburg, and the other included the area between Roermond and Susteren, bordered by the Roer and the Maas (also known as the 'Roer triangle'). The front line now ran right through Limburg. In the following months, a heavy and bloody battle ensued in this area, from which the civilian population suffered greatly.
In the vicinity of Venray and Overloon, a reorganised German army was waiting for the Allies. Units that fled from the fronts of Belgium and France were merged with tough paratroopers and fanatical SS men. The occupying forces called this composition the 'Erste Fallschirmarmee' (First Parachute Army). Their general was Kurt Student. His British colleague was named Whistler. He commanded army units with names derived from the English landscape: the Suffolks, the Norfolks, the Easyyorks, the Warwicks and the Lancashires. These opponents fought a gruesome battle in rain and mud in October 1944.
On 12 October 1944, the hundreds of British cannons fired 90,000 shells at Overloon and Venray. This was the start of a phase in the Second World War which, after all the attention for the Battle of Arnhem, has been referred to as the 'forgotten battle'. Venray was bombed from the air for days and bombarded with artillery. Even the psychiatric institutions were not spared in this bloody battle. On 17 October 1944, Sister Marie-Godelieve of Saint Servatius urged the British battery commanders by courier to stop the shelling. When the guns were silent, 300 civilians of Venray and Overloon had been killed, the number of casualties on the Allied side ran into the hundreds and the occupier appeared to have lost of large part of that number.
Overloonseweg 32, 5804 AV Venray