- Point of Interest
- Courtrai, Belgique
In the course of 1944, Belgian cities suffered more and more from the devastating and methodic Allied bombings. The air raids aimed at the strategic points occupied by the Germans, but did not avoid cities adjoining these points. Numerous civilians were killed. The city of Kortrijk was bombed three times.
During the German occupation of Belgium the population was in constant fear of air raids. From March 1944 the Allied bombardments became more and more frequent, in preparation for the invasion in Normandy. The period from 10 – 12 May was the worst: in three days 1,500 people lost their lives.
The Allied air raids aimed at annihilating the significant railroad knots between the Loire, the Meuse and the Albert Canal and tried to destroy all communication routes that were of strategic importance to the German occupier. The cities of Ransart, Haine-Saint-Pierre, La Louvière, Mechelen, Leuven, Gent, Evere, Liege, Namur, Huy were particularly targeted. The death toll of 10,000 civilians is both terrible and yet relatively low, given the ordnance unleashed.
The city of Kortrijk has been bombed three times and was largely ruined. According to the official sources there were 557 alarms in Kortrijk in 1944. The heaviest bombing occurred on Passion Sunday, 26 March 1944, when 250 persons were killed. Many inhabitants left the city and took refuge in one of the surroundings villages.
On 21 July 1944, the Belgian National Day, around 300 Avro Lancasters dropped over 5,000 bombs on the city center. Many historical buildings on the central square, as well as the old railway station, were destroyed. That night 167 citizens were killed. On 2 September 1944 the Germans had almost completetly evacuated the city. Only a few days later the British soldiers took over the city of Kortrijk.
On 2 September 1944 allied troops crossed the Belgian border at diverse places. The process of liberation went fast: in ten days a large majority of the country was liberated. But it did not put an end to the German occupation. Two months later Hitler surprised the Allies with his last offensive: the Battle of the Bulge.