By Tim Kalinowski
On Monday, May 5 the Gull Lake Legion will hold a special ceremony at the community cenotaph honouring the Canadian soldiers who served in Holland during the Second World War. The Legion’s three remaining Second World War vets Dayton Toney, Dwight Small and Al Countryman, who all served in Holland, will be on hand to honour their comrades and meet any locals who wish to attend. Gull Lake Legion president Bruce Freestone says the May 5 Liberation of Holland ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of these veterans and to reach out to the public to help bring awareness and education about what Canadian soldiers went through in Holland all those many years ago.
“These three gentlemen are all 90 or older and their memories are getting more dim. It makes them feel good when we can bring them to the cenotaph so they can remember and knowing they were involved in such a significant effort. Because these three remaining veterans were there within a few kilometres of the signing of that ceasefire, we think it’s a good way to remember,” says Freestone.
During the Second World War the Allies assigned Canadians the difficult task of opening up Dutch and Belgian sea-ports so the Allied war effort could be re-supplied closer to its ultimate goal in Germany. The Battle of the Scheldt was one of the most brutal battles of the war where Canadian soldiers were forced to fight in waist to chest high water over flooded dikes against a well-entrenched and determined German army. This monumental battle earned the Canadians the nickname the “Water Rats.” Following their great success in the Scheldt the Canadian army continued to move through Holland fighting several vicious battles before a ceasefire was signed on May 5 between occupying German armies and the Canadians just three days before the German army unconditionally surrendered ending the Second World War in Europe. Canadian soldiers were horrified to see how many of the Dutch population had been starved nearly to death by the occupying forces, and helped wherever they could to help the Dutch with their own rations and supplies. To this day Canadian soldiers are revered in Holland for what they did to liberate the Dutch people in 1944-1945.
Freestone says he hopes many in the Gull Lake area will come out to help these veterans remember.
“It’s open to anyone who wants to come to join us at the cenotaph, and we’re going to go out to one of the local restaurants after. We’re simply going to be at the cenotaph, and we’re going to have the horn player do the Last Post and the Act of Remembrance with the flag at half-mast. And lay a few wreaths on behalf of some of the soldiers who didn’t come back from Holland, and commemorating those that did come back but are no longer with us.”
The May 5 Liberation of Holland remembrance ceremony will start at 11 a.m. Those coming out are asked to be at the cenotaph across from Gull Lake Town Hall by 10:45 a.m.
Article via: The Advance