The history of Sittard-Geleen is a bit of a complicating one. The city used to be 2 towns, but in 2001 the towns of Sittard and Geleen merged and is now known as Sittard-Geleen.
On September 18,1944 both towns were liberated.
With the liberation of Sittard on 18 and 19 September 1944, the war did not end for this town. On the contrary, in the following five months hundreds more were killed because it was close to the front.
Nevertheless, an emergency football competition started in November 1944 with five clubs from Sittard and Geleen. “The proceeds go to the needy Netherlands,” says Limburgsch Dagblad. On 19 November, the Sittardse Boys and Maurits played on the then Baandert stadium, in the presence of several thousand spectators. After about half an hour Harry Ehlen of the Sittardse Boys dropped to the ground, because he heard a whooshing sound. Seconds later, shells hit around the field for nearly ten minutes. There were also impacts elsewhere in the city center.
Eleven people were killed throughout Sittard, most of the victims were on the Baandert, the exact number is unknown. In any case Karel Ermans died there, ten years old. His brother Sjeng and his father found him. The body of Peter Houben lay next to it, also ten years old.
This grenade attack is the only fatal wartime incident at a sports match in the Netherlands. In fact, it is the biggest disaster in Dutch sports history. There have never been more deaths during a match. And yet it is completely unknown, barring those directly involved in Sittard.
This is mainly due to the press censorship of the time. The newspapers only said that the match was ‘untimely halted’ and that the emergency competition had been stopped. In the obituary of Francisca Frissen, ‘a fatal accident’ was her cause of death. Her prayer card, still in the possession of brother Toine, escaped this censorship: ‘Born in Sittard on June 28, 1929 and there, hit by a shrapnel, died on November 19, 1944.’
After the national liberation in 1945, this football disaster was quickly forgotten. For example, a huge misunderstanding could arise about a memorial stone in the Bernadettekerk on the Baandert, which was always thought to contain the names of the victims of 19 November 1944. That is not correct: on this war memorial from 1952, the fifteen members of Sittardse Boys and Sittard, who died in the Second World War. Only Karel Ermans, Francisca Frissen and Bertha Simon are victims of 19 November 1944, the other twelve died on another day. The wrong people have been commemorated at this monument for decades, symbolizing the chaos of November 19, 1944.
At the end of 2019, it became clear to the Bernadette Church that a misunderstanding had arisen, after which the church placed a call for more information. Here is a summary of what we have found so far.
Eight names found so far of the victims of November 19, 1944:
Karel Hubertus Ermans (10 years)
Francisca Agnes Frissen (15)
Pieter Jouzef Houben (13)
Bertha John. Hubert Simon (16)
John Peter Ant. Simons (40)
André Carolus Maria Tummers (1)
Maria Neer-Vaessen (56)
Diena Zoer (16)
So there are still three names missing
And these are the fifteen names of Sittardia on the monument from 1952:
I was never aware of this tragedy. I only came across it by chance because I was doing research on the liberation of Geleen. It is strange that this is such a forgotten event in both Sittard and Geleen, because Geleen is the cradle of professional football in the Netherlands.