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.

  3. Stephen Burke-whyte

    Hi my family was in your city in 2008 for the celebrations of your liberation with Ken loftus of the 15 th Scottish.
    Am am working in Belgium at the moment and was hoping to come to any celebrations on the 27th October 2018.
    If you know of any thing going on could you please inform me

  4. Yvonne Loftus

    Hi is tilburg having any celabrations this year for 75 years. I am the sister in law of Stephen Burke Whyte who wrote a previous post. I have not been back to tilburg since my dad past away

  5. Anthony Loftus

    Hi re last 2 posts I am the brother of Yvonne and second son of Kenneth Loftus

    He talked a lot of the Tilburgers hospitality and great thanks from all those liberated

    After his capture at the battle of carne he was transported to southern Poland and was then on the 1000 kilometres march back towards Germany as the Russian advanced
    On of the things that kept him going was memories of the Tilburgers hospitality and free drink

  6. Sandra

    My Grandpa was in the 15th Scottish division and helped to liberate Tilburg. he stayed with a family who wrote to him Sjaan, Antoon and children Koopmans Heefer, Arelsehaad 181 Tilburg? I woudl liek to visit sometime

    • Hi Sandra, My father also served in the 15th Scottish, Did you receive a reply to your post?
      Kind regards,
      Edward Seymour

    • Katrina McColl

      Hi, my grandad also liberated Tilburg, John Mccoll. He told us a story about a dog the division took on and had to leave behind there, all the men cried. I’m so proud to be his granddaughter.

  7. I am the son of Arthur Seymour, he served in 131st Field Regiment Royal Artillery, they supported 10th Battalion Highland Light Infantry, 227 Brigade 15th Scottish Infantry Division. I have enjoyed the commemorations in Tilburg, in the past, are there any proposals for 2019?

  8. Astrid Feist

    Vielen Dank für Ihre Recherche.
    Jason Feist war mein Onkel und ich habe jetzt ein Bild von seiner Grabstätte, da ich leider noch nicht nach Tilburg reisen konnte. Vielleicht können wir ja in Kontakt treten.

    • Pech

      I’ve worked on your dad and grandmother.
      If you’re interested maybe I know information you ignore.
      Aurelie, a history teacher

    • Mark de Weerd

      Hallo Astrid,

      Ich würde gerne Kontakt aufnehmen. Ich recherchiere über die Kriegsopfer von Tilburg und vielleicht können wir einige Informationen weitergeben. Wenn Sie auf Facebook unter meinem Namen suchen und die Gemeinde Dongen angeben, können wir miteinander in Kontakt treten. Vielen Dank im Voraus.

    • Gerard Otten

      Dag Astrid,
      Ik ben al en hele tijd (met tussenpozen) bezig om het hele verhaal van Jason Feist te weten te komen.
      In 2024 is het 80 jaar geleden dat Tilburg werd bevrijd en dan wil ik er graag extra aandacht aan besteden.
      Maar ik kan niets vinden over Jason, behalve de informatie op zijn grafsteen.
      Er zijn nog zoveel vragen over Jason (hoe kwam hij in Engeland, is hij overleden in het Sint Elisabethziekenhuis in Tilburg enz.
      Over zijn (vermeende) vader Wolfgang Feist is wel meer te vinden.
      Klopt het dat Wolfgang op 25 december (of 29) 1901 is geboren in Berlijn?
      Ik zou het heel fijn vinden als je me wilt antwoorden!
      Gerard Otten
      Tilburg NL

  9. Scott Findlay

    My grandad also was part of the liberation. He was James Findlay part of the Gordon Highlanders. He came back to Tilburg for an anniversary parade a few years ago. He always said he stayed at a house the night of the liberation maybe the Vanderhaaren family? I’ve tried 3 times to find the house since he passed away but never been able to. I seem to remember he was in contact with a local historian that knew the location of the house but our family has lost all record of it. I’ve found myself in Tilburg again today and any help anyone could give me would be much appreciated!

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