Netherlands Remembrance and Liberation

Wageningen. The building on the right is the location where on May 5, 1945 the 1st Canadian Corps accepted the unconditional surrender of the 25th German Army.

Wageningen. The building on the right is the location where  the 1st Canadian Corps accepted the unconditional surrender of the 25th German Army, May 5, 1945 .

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.

Bergen-Op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery.

Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery.

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.

Mario Ruaben. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. A family friend of my father.

Mario Ruaben. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. A family friend of my father.

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.

Private E.S. Hansen, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Private E.S. Hansen, Canadian Scottish Regiment, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

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.

Dutch visitors to Holten Canadian War Cemetery. During our visitor we were fortunate to answer questions of several locals. Memorable for all.

Dutch visitors to Holten Canadian War Cemetery. During our visit we were fortunate to answer questions from several locals. Memorable for all.

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.

Victoria's Peace Tulip Garden.

Victoria’s Peace Tulip Garden.

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.

Gardener at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardener at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

Netherlands Honours to the Canadian Scottish Regiment

Bronze Cross
Lieutenant (Acting Captain) K.S.D. Corsan
M106087 Corporal W. Lawrence

Bronze Lion

Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Crofton
K62895 Corporal F.J. Nicol
M105556 Corporal W. Paradis
K71271 Private R.H. Rideout


About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

Comments

One Response to “Netherlands Remembrance and Liberation”

  1. E.W. Ferguson says:

    Mario was one of the first to enlist in the army from our small community. He and his sister were friends of my mother. So it was with great sadness when we learned that he had been killed.

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