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Twentieth Century Chivalry

The Legacy of Maurice Van Landschoot

When Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940, a landowner in Flanders, Maurice Van Landschoot, quickly established an easy-going friendship with the soldiers based in his area. As the months went by he developed a reputation that was above suspicion, and from that platform he organised sabotage and founded an escape route for allied airman shot down over his territory. When the success of the D-Day landings led to the advance eastwards into Belgium, he monitored German troop movements and fed the information through to the allied army.

Arms of van Landschoot
The failure to take the bridge at Arnhem in September 1944 lost an opportunity to shorten the war and made the capture of the port at Antwerp essential for logistics, but before this could be used the enemy dug in on both sides of the Schelde had to be removed. This task was given to the 1st Canadian Corps, and the area of their operations is shown left with the lighter green. Their four divisions on the left wing of the allied army swept across the flat Flanders plain, traversed the canals against fierce opposition, crossed into Dutch territory, cleared the southern bank of the Schelde, and then invaded the flooded peninsular on the northern side. The fighting lasted a month and two days and cost 6,000 Canadian casualties.
Location of Canada Museum
The advance of the Canadians towards the Ostend-Bruges-Ghent line had coincided with the Gestapo recognition of Maurice Van Landschoot as a Resistance leader and he disappeared into the underground systems he had used for allied aircrews and other escapees, emerging only after the Canadians had cleared the area. He had been, he considered, very lucky, and this luck, he felt, was owed entirely to the Canadians, especially to those who had died liberating his country. Accordingly, on his deathbed in 1987, concerned that there was still too little tribute paid by the Flemish to their liberators, he asked his son, Gilbert, to do something to commemorate the sacrifice of the Canadians that would help educate future generations about the terror and misery of the Nazi occupation.

To honour his promise to his father, Gilbert Van Landschoot built the Canada Museum in the gardens of his house at Adegem, and on the land around he created three new gardens in traditional English, French and Japanese styles. In the Museum stained glass windows record the arms of the Belgian and Canadian provinces together with arms of all the Belgian and Dutch towns freed by the Canadians. Other stained glass windows feature the badges and formation patches of all the Canadian, British and Polish units attached to the 1st Canadian Corps.

The exhibits in the Museum include everything a researcher might seek, from armoured vehicles down to matchboxes, from uniforms to machineguns, from radios to daggers. Some of these have been donated, but most are on loan, for as the Museum is not state-funded it is not easy to buy desirable items. The exhibits are displayed imaginatively and neatly, and the full-size dioramas, of which two are illustrated below, are remarkably realistic.

The arms of the Van Landschoot family (shown top right) are believed to date from the 14th century. The blazon ~ Or three cock blackbirds Proper ~ places the bird’s bright yellow beak and dark yellow legs on a gold field and makes them almost impossible to distinguish, prompting the thought that the arms might originally have been Or three martlets Sable (the martlet having neither beak nor legs).

A canal crossing
A canal crossing
© The Canada Museum
A field workshop
A field workshop
© The Canada Museum
The English Garden
The peace of the French Garden
© The Canada Museum
The Canada Museum is easily accessible twelve miles east of Bruges, is open every day except Mondays, and is marked on the map top left with a maple leaf. Its postal address is

Heulendonk 21, B-9991 Adegem-Maldegem, Belgium

telephone +32-50-710666 and fax +32-50-717132

website ~ http://www.canadamuseum.be

The Canadian War Cemetery is close by.

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