The Netherlands / Audiospot

The 1940 urban fire




The province of Zealand and Flanders play a key role at the end of World War II. From September 4 until November 8 1944 the Battle for the Scheldt takes place with the objective to open up the ports of Antwerp for the Allied war effort. Scottish troops enter Middelburg on November 6, 1944. The capital of the province of Zeeland is a battered city. Not because of havoc wreaked by the Battle of the Scheldt, but because of violence of war on May 17th, 1940.

May 17, 1940 is a black day in the history of Middelburg. This is the day that a big part of the city centre was destroyed. Not as a result of a German bombing, which was thought for a long time, but as a result of heavy figthing between German troops and French defenders, who came to the Dutch’ aid. Back and forth firing caused a major fire in which almost 600, mostly monumental, buildings were lost. Many residents had fled the city in time, therefor the number of civilian casualties was limited to 20.

The destruction of Middelburg is sometimes called ‘the forgotten bombing’. Unlike the well-known bombing of Rotterdam, only few people know what happened in Middelburg. 

Visit the Zeeuwse Ankers website (Zeeland Anchors) for comprehensive information, personal stories and videos about the Battle of the Scheldt.