Liberation of Tilburg

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Today it is 70 years ago that Tilburg was liberated by the 15th Scottish Division. It is partly because of this liberation that I’ve always had a special bond with Scotland. When I was a primary school, we always heard a lot of stories about how the Scottish free dus from the nazis. Stories from people who experienced the liberation were always about the how the scottish took Tilburg relativity easy without a lot of damage, about the biggest party ever in Tilburg when the soldiers came in the city and about the bagpipes and kilts, things people had never seen in their life. Since 1989 there is also a statue of Scottish soldier in Tilburg in honor of the liberators. Tilburg wouldn’t be Tilburg if they hadn’t put it in a place with a awful backdrop (the city hall, a 70’s building). In 2008 the statue had to move, because of roadworks. Finally a chance to put it in a place with a nice backdrop. But, as we are Tilburg, they put it in front of building that wouldn’t be out of place in the Soviet Union, 1957.

In the book “From Normandy To The Baltic,” about the 44th Lowland Infantry Brigade (part of the 15th Scottish Division who liberated Tilburg), there is a chapter about Tilburg. In terms of battle, Tilburg was an easy city for the 15th.  The Scots captured Tilburg relatively easy thanks to a surprise attack. So it was not the attack that the Scottish remembered after the war, but they were flabbergasted by the joy of the Tilburgers. It was the biggest liberation party that the Scots had to endure during their campaign.

“The scenes in Tilburg during the next 36 hours baffle description. It was ‘the Father and Mother’ of all liberation parties. The people really broke out. They kissed and hugged every British soldier, they showered gifts on them, they cheered, they cried, the children by magic appeared with orange ribbons in their hair; thousands of Dutch tricolours were everywhere; all houses were open to the “Red Lions” (as the men of the Division came to be called), and all the drinks were free. On the Saturday night, October 28th, the frenzy of the crowd rose to a new pitch. The pipe and of 6 RSF marched into the main square and played selections. They were mobbed; the national anthems were sung over and over again and all the old songs like “Tipperary”; the people danced and sang for hours. It was “mafficking” on a grand scale – and brought tears to the eyes of many a hardened soldier. The Lowland Brigade will never forget Tilburg.”

Although the capture of Tilburg was relatively easy, during the battle around Tilburg quite a few soldiers died. Next to a big cemetery in Tilburg lies a small one where the fallen soldiers, mostly Scots, lie. In total there are 76 graves to find with those typical white tombstones that you see at every Commonwealth cemetery. There’s one that always stood out to me: the grave of Jason Feist / J. Fisher. Not only because the man has two names, but also because there is a German text on the tombstone that reads: “Wir fragen immer warum? Dich wiedersehen war unsere ganze sehnsucht und hoffnung.” Jason Feist was in fact a German Jew who had joined the British Army. Because the name Jason Feist would given him away when arrested by the Germans it was decided to change his name in John Fisher. On March 3 1945 Feist died in Tilburg. Five months earlier, he had helped with the liberation of our city. Feist was only 18 years. Tilburg owes him a lot. Lest we forget.

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  1. judith metcalf

    Hello, my Dad (Lawrence Alfred Knox) was in the 15th Scottish Division and actually came over to Best and Tilburg and actually unvielled one of your monuments in the 90’s. Mum and Dad had a wonderful time when they come over and Dad felt very honoured to be asked to do this. They were looked after so well and I think it was one of his highlights in his life. He talked fondly about Leon Timmermens and his family who live in Tilburg. I live in Sydney, Australia and one day hope to visit Tilburg and see for myself the monument and meet some of the people of Tilburg. regards Judith Metcalf nee Knox.

  2. Kate Alzapiedi

    My father-in-law Frans Kuijsters recently turned 88 years old. He has very fond memories of hearing Scottish bag pipes in the distance when Tilburg was being liberated. He has always expressed deep gratitude and admiration to the brave Scottish soldiers and passed these stories on to his grandchildren. We would be very happy to welcome you if you ever visit the Netherlands.

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