Posted By pferguson on May 4, 2016
May 4th – May 5th
It’s a fine day as the classical notes from a flute drift across the airwaves into the clubhouse. I turn towards the retro-styled ’30s radio as the tempo rises, lowers and then gently hovers as my thoughts cascade towards these day in 1945 – May 4th/5th, the Netherlands and the Canadian Scottish.
It is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands (May 4th) – a time when their citizens commemorate those who gave of themselves…for this nation. It is when this solemn understanding is passed on to their younger generations and it is followed by Liberation Day (May 5th), an event that many Canadian veterans have participated in.
For 129 soldiers of the Canadian Scottish Regiment whose short lives are part of the Netherlands national memory, they can be found whilst trekking across this grateful nation at Bergen-op-Zoom, Groesbeek and Holten. I have been there walking these places and today, as a piano hurls its notes from the broadcast, I take myself back to my last trek across Netherlands – the Walcheren, the Scheldt, Middelburg, Berg en Dal, and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Nijmegen and Arnhem.
I recall walking the cemetery at Groesbeek knowing that my father journeyed here in the 1950s to visit a family friend from Lethbridge, Trooper Mario Ruaben of the Fort Garry Horse. The image that Cpl. E.W. Ferguson took that day remains in the family photo album, marking an important visit for my dear father. It is in these footsteps that I have returned.
I call my father as a cellist climbs and dives along the fingerboard in search of each perfect note. I enjoy the cello as it its tone etches into my being and briefly I think upon a Canadian chaplain, a Victoria Cross recipient himself, who enjoyed helping his cello with its voice. It was my father who developed my tastes and interest in music and as we part for today I know that today’s musical metaphor is not without its purpose.
Music kindles memory – it reminds us of places and people – where we were, perhaps, when we first heard the James Bond theme, the Pink Panther theme or that well known theme by John Williams (a film incidentally celebrated this day, May 4th, by its many fans). As the cello softly finds its passion I wonder, what these days of May 1945 were like for the Canadian Scottish? As their pipes played somewhere across the Netherlands I think of those who survived and of those who remained.
At the Canadian Scottish 100th Anniversary gala I met a veteran who was happy to show me a picture from the anniversary publication. It was of Wageningen – he had been there – 1945 – and he told me a story or two. His voice then spoke of his brother whose time in the Netherlands is forever marked at Groesbeek. It was a touching moment. The picture, our Canadian Scottish veteran pointed to, was one that I had taken and I felt honoured that he wanted to share his story because of this one image. There was more though. I recognized the veteran’s surname when we were introduced. It had been previously etched into my memory as I had written, sometime previous, his brother’s biography. And so the path continues that I may be fortunate to return and seek out his brother at Groesbeek.
As the cello fades I reach over and turn down the volume. The silence is soon replaced with the steady clop of a horse and carriage taking its visitors towards the inner harbour where on many days the sound of the pipes rises in welcome near to the Netherlands Peace Tulip Garden and Centennial Carillon. The Netherlands remembers Canada May 4th, May 5th and all year round.
Netherlands Honours to the Canadian Scottish Regiment
Lieutenant (Acting Captain) K.S.D. Corsan
M106087 Corporal W. Lawrence
Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Crofton
K62895 Corporal F.J. Nicol
M105556 Corporal W. Paradis
K71271 Private R.H. Rideout