On this day in 1945 – May 5th, The Netherlands Liberation Day!
12th Field Regiment War Diaries, May 4th 1945 read :
At 1400 hrs we heard that AURICH, had surrendered and so the move was cancelled. At 2000 hrs we heard the good news about the German surrender and that it would be official at 0800 hrs 5 May.
In the Netherlands, Liberation Day (Dutch: Bevrijdingsdag) is celebrated each year on May the 5th to mark the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II.
The nation was liberated largely by the First Canadian Army, which included in addition to Canadian forces the British I Corps, and the 1st Polish Armoured Division, as well as, at various times, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Parts of the country, in particular the south-east, were liberated by the British Second Army, which included American and Polish airborne forces, (Operation Market Garden) and French airbornes (Operation Amherst).
On 5 May 1945, the Canadian General Charles Foulkes and the German Commander-in-Chief Johannes Blaskowitz reached an agreement on the capitulation of German forces in the Netherlands in Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. One day later, the capitulation document was signed in the auditorium of Wageningen University.
The 12th Field Royal Canadian Artillery fought threw the battles of World War Two including D-Day Normandy, France to May 5th 1945, The Netherlands!
Victory in Europe Day, generally known as V-E Day, VE Day or simply V Day was the public holiday celebrated on 8 May 1945 (7 May in Commonwealth realms) to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. It thus marked the end of World War II in Europe.. Wikipedia link >>
NOTE for the photo above:
inscription reads : “At Lunteren in Holland gunners of the 12th Field R.C.A. enjoy the victory issue of the Maple Leaf.” Soldier, 12th Field Major John W. Gross is reading the paper front & centre.
Here are some excerpts from Lieutenant Tom J. Bell in the History book of the 12th Field ” Into Action with the 12th Field” published in Holland after the war-1945. ( pages 133-to 137 )
….On April 17th the 11th Battery moved north to Leeuwarden to support the Winnipeg Rifles who were temporarily under command of the 9th Brigade. This stretched the Regiment over approximately seventy five miles and made administration a trifle (!) difficult but that was the least of anyone’s worries. The LAD after their great effort of engineering skill lost their temporary claim to fame by burning to the ground the barn in which they lived. No damage to WD equipment was suffered but the poor farmer no doubt took a very dim view of the affair.
The whole Regiment moved north on the 19th, through Leeuwarden and east to Groningen. The 2nd Division had captured it and the 7th Brigade was taking over from the 6th Brigade. Their job was to clear the whole area east and north of Groningen to the North Sea and it was a mighty big job, since Delfzijl, a heavily defended port, was in the area. The Regina Rifles were to clear north and north west — the Royal Winnipeg Rifles north east and east and the First Canadian Scottish Regiment east of Groningen. The three Batteries remained detached and followed their respective Battalions. The strength of the enemy was not known but it proved to be very heavy especially in Artillery and the next few days were very bloody for the Winnipegs and Scots.
The 11th Battery on April 20th carried the attacking Company of the Winnipeg’s forward to their start line and then proceeded to deploy ahead of them near a brick factory at Ten Post. This might have been the occasion for much rude repartee but as the forward Company passed the gun, position the Gunners were much too busy getting the guns in action and digging slit trenches. At the time the Battery had only five guns in action. It was just as well that Jerry didn’t open up with his Artillery that night because it was overpowering and included 75’s, 88’s, 105’s and heavy coastal guns from Borkum Island and Delfzijl.
The 43rd Battery was at Zuidlaren and the 16th joined the 11th the next day. RHQ was roughly in the centre of a fifty mile area and very happy to be no closer! The next few days caused a great deal of grief!
The Regina’s were meeting little resistance north of Groningen but the Winnipeg Rifles bumped a firm line at Loppersurn. All the bridges in the area had been blown and as there were innumerable canals the going was very wet and tough. A gun of the 11th was used in direct fire to take out the church tower in Loppersum which was suspected of being an enemy OP. Heavy enemy shelling of the gun position caused two casualties. An entry in the 7th Brigade Log for April 21st reads as follows — “D Company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment in the outskirts of Wagenborgen were counter attacked by a strong force of enemy supported by SP guns. Sitrep one Officer and forty five OR’s left lost Company Commander and FOO, all guns and carriers now formed up about 1200 yards back from former position.” The FOO was Capt D. Innes of the 43rd Battery, their third Troop’ Commander to lose his life in action.
A Battery of the 7th Medium Regiment was sent to strengthen our support on the attack on Appingedam, as the German Artillery was obviously much stronger than ours. The Regiment less the 43rd and with the Medium Battery’ moved east of Loppersum to support the Winnipeg Rifles and that night the 11th Battery had three vehicle casualties when a shell scored a direct hit on the barn they were in. It was a very noisy night as the German artillery was continuously busy and many barns in the area were set on fire. Most of the heavy concentrations missed the gun position however, and it was with a sense of great relief that it was learned on the 22nd that the 5th Division was to take over out- job. The 7th Brigade was destined to go south to clear the left flank of the Polish Division’s thrust across the Emms. Appingedam and Wagenborgen were finally taken and on April 23rd we moved via Groningen to Hellum where, since the infantry was static, the Regiment spent a very quiet night. Early next morning the 43rd Battery was heavily shelled and one shell landed in a gun pit killing Sjt Jack Leaning. The Unit moved twice during the day and ended up finally at Nieuw Beerta. The area was heavily shelled but fortunately the only thing that suffered was our nervous system as the rounds were some thousand yards short .
In the afternoon the Winnipeg Rifles came under heavy shell fire from a troop of guns on the coast and the FOO was able to locate the position. He spent a good deal of time engaging the position but it was well fortified and hard to knock out. Air burst over the area certainly discouraged much activity on their part and the target was registered for future reference. It so happened that this particular strip of coast was part of the Regina Rifle’s objective for the night and the same guns had been observed by the FOO with the Regina Rifles. The next morning the entire troop surrendered, a hundred and sixty five of them and two of the four 10.5 cm guns were found to have been knocked out. Both FOO’S naturally claimed the “kill” and the argument is still unsettled as both sides have most reliable witnesses and pressed their claims. Lt Col Webb, when he heard of the surrender, dashed quickly up from Brigade — so quickly in fact that he collected nine prisoners from the site and on his return was seen to shake his pipe and mutter — “Damn infantry — didn’t clear the place.”
We had our first ENSA show that evening in the open field behind RHQ which was well attended and certainly much appreciated. It was a quiet night as there was no resistance on our immediate front and the next day the Regiment moved to the banks of the Ernms near the village of Limgun. This was German soil again in the Rhider peninsula just south of Emden. We were in a Divisional Artillery area here to support the 9th Brigade assault across the River Ernrns and Leda, to storm and capture Leer. The 7th Brigade moved the same day across the Polish bridgehead over the Ernms further south and were to clear the south bank of the Leda for a start line.
The Canadian Scottish Regiment got the village of Eskam by 1630 hours -without too much opposition aside from mortaring and shelling and the situation was now roughly of the enemy between the gun position and the Infantry. An entry from the 7th Brigade War Diary for the 6th of April reads —”. At 700 hours the Boche suddenly decided to stage a counter attack in the form of an assault with boats from the Leer side of the River Leda. The attack was broken up smartly by our old confreres, the 12th Canadian Field Regiment who have always been at the right spot at the right moment whenever we have needed’ them.”
Leer was to he screened by smoke for the assault and on the 28th of April at 1500 hours the Divisional Artillery began to pound at Leer. It was bombed and shelled unmercifully and by 2400 hours the 9th Brigade were well established in the town. Enemy shelling from the north was heavy during the day but somehow it always seemed to miss us. There was a rumour on the radio during the evening that Himmler had offered to surrender to Britain and the United States but no one paid too much attention as the shells were still travelling in both directions with undiminished intensity.
The 7th Brigade went across the next day and that night with supporting fire from us, expanded the bridgehead to the north east outskirts of Leer to provide a firm base for the Polish Armoured Division whose intention it was to break out towards Wilhelmshaven. On May 1st Recce parties proceeded to a gun area north east of Leer and the Regiment less the 11th Battery moved, just before noonday, across the Emms -via the Gales bridge but didn’t get into action until after midnight. The 11th due to the heavy rains and the boggy ground had to enlist the services of a bulldozer to extract them. It had to pull every vehicle and gun in the Battery a mile to a hard surface road and the Battery eventually caught up to the Regiment late on May 2nd just in time to hear “Prepare to move”. The move was about five miles up the Divisional axis near Wesel. The 8th Brigade were clearing the Divisional Axis to Aurich and the 7th Brigade were to storm it. The roads were badly cratered with mines which made progress slow and Cpl Hughes was killed and Sjt Nixon wounded when their Signal jeep went over a mine.
On May 3rd the Unit fired in support of the 8th Brigade who were meeting firmer opposition near Aurich. At 1800 hours we moved north of Wesel. The weather during the past week had been frightful with heavy rainfall and although dangerous it was impossible to deploy far off the roads without losing, mobility. The next day there was no firing, the 8th Brigade were advancing towards Aurich and we heard that at 1130 hours the 8th Brigade Brigadier had left to meet the German Major at Aurich. At 1400 hours the news of the surrender of the town became semi-official and it was extremely gratifying news to the FOO’s who at the time were en route to the start line for the 7th Brigade assault on the town. Since it would have been necessary to swim several canals it was a good show to miss! At 2000 hours came the electrifying news of the surrender of all Northern Germany, Western Holland, Denmark, the Frisian Islands and Heligoland, unconditionally, and to be effective 050800.
The surrender negotiations on May 4th were scooped by Lezack our Saturday Salvo reporter. By rather questionable methods he squeezed himself into Mai-General Keefler’s convoy that went to Aurich to meet the German general and took some excellent photographs.
General Keefler later told us the story of the negotiations. They started with the mayor of Aurich coming out to negotiate the surrender of the town. He arranged a meeting with the garrison commander who could not surrender until he got in touch with the area commander whose authority covered Emden, Aurich and Wilhelshaven. This was Capt Jolke who in turn was obliged to consult Admiral Vires at Borkum Island. By the time this preamble was completed a new commander of the whole area east of the Elbe had been appointed, Col-General Von Straube and he was brought from within a mile of the 2nd Division front, near Oldenburg to surrender to us. He gave our general the news that the German High Command were negotiating with Field Marshal Montgomery for the surrender of all north west Germany and Holland and attempted to put off surrendering his area. However …..
12th Field Entries April 1945: WAR DIARY – NIEWE -BEERTA – MR 598099, 594099, 752177
April 26 1945: The morning was very quiet, the infantry having achieved their objective. Recce parties left early in the morning to recce area. The Regiment moved to the new area and were ready by 2000 hrs. A good deal of shelling has been reported in the nearby tom and along the main road during the night. The weather has been fine with good visibility.
April 26: The day open with heavy ground mist and did not improve much throughout the day remaining cloudy with very poor visibility. Large number of shells still dropping in village of LIMGUN and along the main road. Task tables, fire plans eta, were obtained from Div in the afternoon for operation “DUCK” which is the taking of the town of LEER (sq 8115). A smoke rep is sent out to 9 Bde to observe and correct the smoke screen being placed between LEER (sq 8115) and the WEST bank of the river. 3 Mike targets engaged by 14 who is with the 1 C Scot Rs. The adjutant Capt D.H. COOPER returned from his leave in PARIS looking very pale and worn. He said “my feet are killing me”. Amn dumping programme took place during the night. 300 rpg being dumped,
April 26: The weather still not good, very cloudy with light showers. A little sunshine in the middle of the day and heavy rainfall at night. H hour for operation “DUCK” is confirmed at 1425 hrs. As the first part of the attack is strictly 9 Bde we have no obligations other than the fire plan and/or the occasional Mike target from OP 14. The attack seems to be going well and quite a number of PWs have been taken. By midnight the infantry are well established. Enemy shelling during the day was very heavy until the attack started and then it slackened off. Major BENNETT and Lt BURNS were both on the Canada leave list which camp in tonight, as well as seven of our older gunners. News on the radio is good – Himmler having reported to offer unconditional surrender to Great Britain and the USA,- the offer being rejected as it did not include Russia.
April 29: The 9 Cdn Inf Bde attack appears to be going very well. Most of the town of LEER being occupied by the early hrs of the morning. 7 Cdn Inf Bde attack held up by the bridging prepations taking longer than was expected. The Regina Rifles finally putting in their attack at 2130 hrs and our fire plan “ROSIE 1 being fired in support. The advance going very well – little opposition an a few PWs being taken. The weather is very bad, and visibility is poor.
12th Field Entries May 1-4 1945: WAR DIARY – WESEL – MR 752178 856175 & 906240
May 1 1945: The Recce parties left early in the morning to recce a gun area NE of LEER. When they left for the new area, it had not yet been cleared of mines and enemy, but the enemy were out by the time the recce party arrived. The Regiment with the exception of the 11 Bty moved at 200 hrs as they were too firmly imbedded in the mud to move. Arrived in new area at 856175 via the new Gales Bridge” at 793133 and were in action by 0030 hrs on the 2nd. There was no firing during the day at the old position. The weather was very changeable with some very heavy rain.
May 2: The 11 Bty is still in the mud on the other side of the river. They are getting out with the aid of a bulldozer which had to pull every gun and vehicle one mile to get them onto a hard surface road. The Bty arrived in the present position just in time to hear “Prepare to Move”. Recce parties were called out at 1600 hrs to recce a position at WESEL about 5 miles up the Div Axis. The Regiment move at 1930 hrs and was completely in action by 2200 hrs. Corporal HUGHES of E Section Signals was killed and Sjt NIXON badly wounded when the jeep Cpl HUGHES was driving ran over a mine. Cpl ANDERSON of the Auxiliary Service was also in the jeep but only received a shaking up. The weather is still, very changeable and we had hail at 1700 hrs.
May 3: The Regimental spent a very quiet day. We fired fire plan “BILL” in support of 8 Cdn Inf Vde at 0830 hrs but did not fire again after that. Received the order to move beyond WESEL to the 31 grid line at 1800 hrs. The moved was completed and the Regiment was again in action by 2200 hrs. The weather was fair and for a change we didn’t have any rain.
May 4: No firing during the day. Our infantry are advancing on AURICH and are meeting no opposition. We were ordered to have a recce party ready. At 1130 hrs the Comd 8 Bde left to meet the German major at AURICH and did so at 1205 hrs. The major said he wished to surrender the town. At 1400 hrs we heard that AURICH, had surrendered and so the move was cancelled. At 2000 hrs we heard the good news about the German surrender and that it would be official at 0800 hrs 5 May. The. weather is extremely poor again, lots of rain—lots of mud
complete publication of ” Into Action with the 12th Field History of the 12th Field Royal Canadian Artillery can be found at Public Canadian Libraries.
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Photo Credit : Archives Canada