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Published: August 20th 2019
Well - this is where my story of private Kelley resumes.
In the beginning of 1945 - Private Kelley is back on the front lines - or somewhere up and down them - In the Netherlands.
In the final months of WW II the Canadian forces were given the important and deadly task of liberating the Netherlands.
From September 1944 - April 1945 the First Canadian Army fought German forces on the Scheldt Estuary - ordered to clear the wide & multi-channeled Scheldt to the North Sea - distance about 80 km and much of this in the Netherlands. By November 8th the estuary and largest islands had been secured - the rivers were cleared of mines - allowing the first convoy of allied cargo ships to enter Antwerp.
The Canadian Army spent the winter patrolling its position on the front lines in Netherlands and France.
In February 1945 the Allied advance resumed with a huge offensive to drive the enemy out of the Netherlands and back across the Rhine River. It fell to the First Canadian Army to clear the area between the Maas & Rhine Rivers.
By March - for the 1st time
So well maintained
in history - two Canadian Army corps were fighting together with an international strength of more than 450,000 - commanded by a Canadian officer.
In late March the First Canadian Army began rooting out German forces in the remainder of the Netherlands facing stiff fighting, damaged roads and bridges and other destroyed infrastructure including dykes (flooding small towns and countrysides) blown up by retreating German forces. Dutch resistance fighters aided the Canadian troops helping them rapidly move across the Netherlands recapturing Canals, small towns and farmland.
The Canadians liberated Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, Arnhem as well as many smaller towns.
The Dutch people suffered terribly during that winter (known as ”hongerwinter”) leading up to their liberation. Food supplies were exhausted - supply routes had been blocked off and canals were frozen over preventing barges from reaching over 4,500,000 civilians. Fuel had run out for heat and transportation. By early 1945 the official daily ration per person was 320 - 500 calories - with some people reduced to eating tulip bulbs. It is estimated over 20,000 civilians perished of starvation and cold over the course of that winter.
The Canadian army facilitated the delivery of food, fuel
and supplies over the course of the liberation of the Netherlands. It should be noted that German forces did allow coordinated air drops of food over German occupied Dutch territory for about a week at the end of April 1945. They agreed not to shoot down Allied mercy planes and the Allies agreed not to bomb German positions.
General Charles Foulkes, commander of the 1st Canadian Corps accepted the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands May 5, 1945. More than 7,600 Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen died in the Netherlands - buried in official war cemeteries across the country. The Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetary near Nijmegen holds more than 2,300.
Two days later Germany formally surrendered and the war in Europe came to an end - The end to WW II would take place September 2, 1945 with the formal surrender of Japan.
There has been a close and everlasting bond and friendship between Canada and the Netherlands ever since the war.
Not only was it Canadian troops that liberated the Netherlands - following the German occupation the Dutch Royal Family took refuge in Ottawa. Princess Margriet was born at the Ottawa Civic - the
Private H. C. Davies, age 24
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
maternity ward was temporarily declared “extraterritorial“ by the Canadian Government allowing her citizenship to remain Dutch. To commemorate the birth the Dutch flag flew over the Peace Tower in Ottawa - the only time a foreign flag has ever flown over the Canadian Parliament.
In appreciation of this bond the Dutch people sent over tens of thousands of tulip bulbs to Ottawa. The Royal family contributed thousands as well and a further 10,000 yearly since - culminating each year in the Canadian Tulip Festival.
My Dad flew back to Holland a number of times to partake in formal ceremonies thanking the Canadian troops. He (and our whole family) formed a close bond with Hans and Herma Smits who billeted Dad.
Danielle & I spend a total of 8 days in Holland - 4 in Dordrecht (a little south of Rotterdam) and 4 in Amsterdam. In my final blog I will write about Amsterdam.
From Dordrecht we visited the Groesbeek Canadian War Museum. We searched the lists of names inscribed on walls and I walked many rows of graves to try and find members of the Royal Canadian Service Corps - some of Dad’s friends perhaps -
Private H. C. Miller age 40
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
without any luck. After about a half hour I started walking back up to the entrance of the Cemetary when an acorn fell out of a tree and hit me on the head - While turning around to pick it up I notice several graves of men from the Service Corps. Please see pictures attached.
We program M and go to the Vrijheidsmuseum - National Liberation Museum 1944-1945 only to discover it is closed for renovations.
The good - when Princess Juliana was in Ottawa Danielle’s Mom - 20 year old Georgette who was working at Freimans on Rideau Street in a hair salon - styled her hair - per Danielle her Mom loved tulips and they were always in their gardens.
The bad and the ugly - so many young people‘s lives cut short
The funny - an acorn on the head
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