Toronto students help commemorate Holland's liberation

  • April 9, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - Students from Toronto’s Don Bosco High School are helping to commemorate the historical bond between Canadians and the Dutch people in a new monument celebrating the 65th anniversary of Holland’s liberation from the Nazis.

Don Bosco Catholic High School teacher Tim Stewart wrote the English and Dutch text accompanying a 1.2-metre tall, 900-kg black granite memorial that will be unveiled April 13 at Queen Wilhelmina Park in Meppel, Holland. The text speaks of the Toronto Scottish Regiment’s contribution to the liberation of Holland as the Second World War ground to an end.

“After five years of occupation its citizens were free once again. In their kilts of Hodden Grey, the officers and men of the Toronto Scottish voluntarily left their loved ones to fight tyranny in the name of world peace,” according to the monument’s inscription. “They faithfully served Canada and the people of The Netherlands. Dedicated to the memory of all who serve freedom’s cause.”

Stewart is the Toronto Scottish Regiment’s historian. He will travel with 25 representatives from the regiment to the April 13 ceremony. April 13 was the day Canadian troops liberated the Nazi-occupied Meppel.

The 54-year-old teacher said he enlisted the help of some students and teachers at the Etobicoke high school to come up with the text on the monument. They decided upon the words “Bonded forever by deeds and dreams” which appears on the front and back of the monument.

Stewart said this was a part of Second World War history that needed to be retold.

“I ran across information that had been virtually forgotten. The regiment itself entered the town in Holland where the first Canadians entered,” he said, referring to the regiment’s contribution in Holland’s liberation.

Normally a support battalion during the war, the Toronto Scottish was sent out to move on the retreating German army. Canadian soldiers entered from the south and east into Meppel to a hero’s welcome, less than an hour after its occupiers fled the town.

Designed by Andy Montgomery of the Smith Monument Company, the monument headed to Holland a week before the ceremony. Montgomery said it’s important to remember the event so that “people realize what sacrifices Canadians (have made) to liberate people in Europe.”

“It’s fairly important, especially for younger generations today who don’t have to go through that sort of thing,” he said.

On the front of the monument, maple leaves are carved growing out of Dutch tulips.

“The symbolism there is that the Canadians who died liberating Holland are buried in Holland,” Stewart told The Register. “Each spring (there is) rebirth, new hope, one peace. The Dutch live on in freedom forever thanks to Canadians.”

During a visit to Holland last year, Stewart spoke to the mayor of Meppel who enthusiastically backed the idea of a commemoration.

“We have this wonderful bond with Holland,” he said, noting the Dutch royal family and people of Holland send tulips to Ottawa every year as a gesture of thanks.

The friendship and support between the two countries was highlighted in Canada’s support of the Dutch royal family living in exile after Holland’s occupation by the Nazis. During the war, Holland’s Crown Princess, Juliana, and her two daughters sought refuge in Canada. In 1943, the princess gave birth to a third daughter in Ottawa, with the Canadian government temporarily declaring the hospital ward Dutch territory to preserve her daughter’s birthright.

“Parents, children, grandchildren — they know who liberated them. They will never forget the 7,000 Canadians who died liberating Holland,” Stewart said.

Stewart said one of the questions that always comes up is whether putting up a monument is “glorifying war.” But it’s not about celebrating war, it’s remembering the soldiers’ sacrifice.

“I say (to the critics), you obviously haven’t been occupied because these people were occupied. (Canadian soldiers) were there to put things right.”

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