The 70th Anniversary of the Liberation in ‘s-Heerenberg, Netherlands, 1 April 2015
Celebrating and Commemorating the Canadian Artillery’s Role in the Liberation of The Netherlands.
• The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery commemorated its role in the Liberation of The Netherlands in the City of ‘s-Heerenberg on May 5th, 2010, the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Holland.
• A World War II Gun, the famed 25 Pounder, was dedicated on the market square in ‘sHeerenberg to memorialize the service of Canadian Gunners.
• This monument will perpetuate the memory of the service of more than 29,000 Canadian Gunners in Holland who manned more than 1,100 guns in 38 Artillery Regiments. Canadian Gunners suffered about 900 killed from D Day to VE Day.
• The 25 Pounder was the principal artillery piece of the Canadian Artillery in World War II, so it is most fitting that it represent the Gunners who served in Holland.
• ‘s-Heerenberg is at the centre of the start of the Liberation campaign, when the First Canadian Army, under command of a Gunner (General Harry Crerar) swung north, crossed the Rhine and brought the occupying forces to capitulation.
• This was the first major town liberated in Operation PLUNDER, commencing March 31st 1945.
The Liberation of Holland
The Liberation of the Netherlands, from September 1944 to April 1945, played a key role in the culmination of the Second World War, as the Allied forces closed in on Germany from all sides. The First Canadian Army played a major role in the liberation of the Dutch people who had suffered terrible hunger and hardship under the increasingly desperate German occupiers. In early June 1940, Princess Juliana and her two small daughters secretly boarded a Dutch vessel bound for Halifax. Safe in the Ottawa region, Princess Juliana was able to take over the reins of government-in-exile if the need arose. The birth of Princess Margriet Francisca, the third daughter of Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard, was a symbol of hope and a source of inspiration for the Dutch people who were fighting for their survival in Europe.
Liberation Day– Bevrijdingsdag
• In The Netherlands, Liberation Day is celebrated each year on 5 May, to mark the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II.
• The liberation of the Netherlands officially took place on May 5th 1945 when occupational forces signed the capitulation treaty in Hotel ‘De Wereld’ in Wageningen in the presence of General Charles Foulkes (Commander-inchief of the Canadian liberation army) and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.
• On 4 May, the Dutch hold the Remembrance of the Dead for the people who have fought and died during World War II, and wars in general. Throughout the country, two minutes of silence are observed at 8:00 p.m.
• Liberation Day is commemorated and celebrated every year. On 5 May, the liberation is celebrated and festivals are held at most places in the Netherlands.
Quotes – The Liberation of ‘s-Heerenberg
• “The advance northward was launched by the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade on March 31 (1945). They met little resistance and, on April 1, the Highland Light Infantry of Canada passed through to clear the first Dutch town to be liberated, s’Heerenberg, situated only a little more than a kilometre north of Emmerich. Here “C” Company of the HLI met resistance at an anti-tank ditch in front of the town. The ditch was bridged under fire and the advance continued against a number of strongpoints based on a large castle and monastery.”
• “When the 3rd Division surged through s’Heerenberg as their advance got under way on April 1, they found it difficult to pass through this town, despite the fact that German resistance had been overcome. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders noted:
“Progress was slow through the town because of the cheering and waving crowds of Dutch lining the street. The First Canadian Army was liberating again and it certainly was a change from the sullen mass of Germans we continually bumped into on the other side of the Rhine and up to Emmerich…After five years of oppression, the Dutch people were expressing their joy and thanks at being liberated.”
• “But most impressive of all, after seeing deserted German villages and towns from the border into the city of ‘s Heerenberg, was that there were now hundreds of civilians waving flags and cheering the passing transport. There was damage in the city and in the following villages, but they were not deserted, and everywhere civilians were cheering and Dutch national flags were flying from almost every house and building – with a smattering of British flags too.”