Grave, Netherlands


Grave (locally called De Graaf) is a fortified town in the Dutch province of North Brabant. It is the capital of the municipality of Grave. On January 1, 2020, Grave had 8,660 inhabitants.



The name Grave (Lat. Gravia, var. Caruo, Carvo and Gravita) comes from tombs or ditch (graft) and is first mentioned in 1214. A romanticizing explanation concerns a Roman army commander Gravio, who is said to have founded a castellum here, but that story has been invented by earlier historians.



After the castle of the lord of the Land van Cuijk in Cuijk was destroyed during a punitive expedition after the murder of Floris de Zwarte (1131) and Herman van Cuijk was exiled, he returned around 1138 and built a new castle in Grave. The town was created around it. In 1233 Grave received city rights from the Duke of Brabant. Grave soon became the largest town in the Land van Cuijk, and it remained the only fortified town. The city flourished under Jan I van Cuijk.

The lords of Cuijk allied themselves alternately with the dukes of Brabant and of Gelre, an important matter because they were regularly at war with each other (1285, 1366-1388, 1479, 1480). In 1415 the city was hit by a major city fire.

In 1432 the Land van Cuijk came under the House of Egmont, and Arnold van Egmont, Duke of Gelre, became lord. Grave flourished especially during this time. The village of Velp, located in the Land van Ravenstein, benefited from the proximity of the fortified town; For example, a protest is known by the Graafse inns against the unfair competition of the five Velpse inns, which were not bound by the high tax on beer imposed on them.

Grave fell victim to many sieges. It suffered from the wars between the duchies of Guelders and Brabant. With the incorporation of Brabant and, in 1543, Gelre into the empire of Emperor Charles V, the threat of war was certainly not over, because the Eighty Years' War soon began.

In 1568 the Spanish troops arrived in Grave, but it fell into the hands of the States in 1577. After the Siege of Grave (1586), Grave was again occupied by Spanish troops under Parma, then by the States troops under Prince Maurits (see: Siege of Grave (1602)). Grave was part of State Brabant since 1648, as was the entire Land van Cuijk.

In 1672, Grave was taken without much resistance by the French led by Noël Bouton, Marquis of Chamilly, but its recapture by the States in 1674 (led by Carl von Rabenhaupt) was accompanied by a siege that destroyed the castle and beyond much damage was done. After this siege it was decided, under the leadership of Menno van Coehoorn, to modernize the fortifications. The castle was demolished and new defensive structures were established. As a garrison town it sometimes had to deal with five times as many soldiers as there were inhabitants.


In 1794 Grave was taken again by the French and in 1814 the town was besieged, this time to drive out the French. After that there were no more sieges and in 1876 the fortresses were demolished. The garrison also left in 1892. In 1938, however, a barracks were built again, the General de Bonskazerne, which was closed in 1997.

In the 20th century, Grave expanded beyond the walls.

The strategic location of Grave, on the Maas and the road from 's-Hertogenbosch to Nijmegen, was an economic advantage. When the oppression of the Catholic faith ceased at the end of the 18th century, important monasteries arose again, especially in and around Velp.

Around 1850 there was already talk of trade and manufacturing. This consisted of textile industry (printed cotton and lace), four breweries and a "distillery", where gin was distilled. There were also several gold and silversmiths active in Grave at the time.

However, the economy suffered a lot from the floods caused by the Beerse Overlaat. The construction of the John S. Thompson Bridge in 1929 brought improvements. Numerous healthcare institutions have now also come to Grave, of which the Blind Institute is the best known. Tourism is also a source of livelihood.



The threat of war brought the garrison back to Grave in 1938. The soldiers - p.m. the border battalion of the 15th Infantry Regiment - were initially housed in makeshift quarters in the city. This while awaiting the completion of the General de Bonskazerne in Velp (near Grave). At the end of February 1939 the first army building was completed. The first users of the modern barracks were unfortunately the German occupiers.


Although the dam bridge over the Maas played an important role in Operation Market Garden, the town of Grave survived the Second World War almost undamaged. The persecution of the Jews hit Grave hard: About 10 Jews still living in the city were deported and murdered. In total, 31 Jews born in Grave were murdered. During the war years, the church villages of Escharen and Velp were added to the municipality of Grave. Field guard Gerrit Beuvink from Escharen played an important role in the resistance. He housed a secret agent, gave shelter to many people in hiding and helped Allied pilots, for which he received the Bronze Cross from Prince Bernhard after the war. to conquer, which succeeded quickly and with small losses. Grave was liberated by them on September 17, 1944.

The Maas Bridge was captured by Lieutenant John S. Thompson during Operation Market Garden. His name was given to the bridge by his widow during the September 2004 commemoration as a tribute (see John S. Thompson Bridge). Thompson was platoon commander of the 82nd American Airborne Division and came down with 16 men on September 17, 1944 in the Mars and Wythpolder, some 700 meters from the bridge. First he went to the Van Sasse pumping station and from there he went via the water to the dike between the pumping station and the Rijksweg. On the casemates near the bridge there was German anti-aircraft guns that were taken out by a bazooka gunner of the paratroopers. After a short fight with the German security forces, the platoon was able to take the southern ramp of the bridge. Later that day the Americans could also take the northern part of the bridge from Nederasselt. The Airborne memorial at the bridge is a reminder of that episode.

The Jewish community did not return after the war. There was a synagogue and a Jewish cemetery in Grave. In 2012, the municipality has not yet drawn up a loss list from WWII. The Graafs Museum manages two casemates that were built just before the war and are now on display. On Saturday, September 17, 2011, the Graafs Casemates Museum was opened in both bridge casemates near the Maas bridge (officially the John S. Thompson Bridge). This happened after the commemoration of the liberation on September 17, 1944, at the Airborne memorial on the bridge.