And Ede was ours

Part of a War diary:
A troop under captain J.W. Rainey of C squadron
went over the crest, advanced to the factories and punched holes in the brick walls. Wasp flamethrowers followed, sweeping slit trenches and the interior of buildings. In some cases, enemy MG’s fired to the last. Some attempted to escape, were captured or cut down by an A squadron troop under Lieutenant Maltby who waited for them in the rear. From this time on, resistance rapidly collapsed. A squadron entered the south part of town, shot up a barracks, took the station and cleaned out the southern half of town by 13.10.  C squadron entered from the north and Ede was ours. At 1413 the squadron returned and found a harbour on the Eastern edge of town. C squadron committed the error of harbouring in the main square, where hundreds of ecstatically happy civilians cheered, climbed on the tanks, which made normal work impossible. These civilians were happy bur their faces were stamped with the mark of malnutrition or downright starvation.

The nightmare was over

The liberation of Arnhem must have been a perplexing experience for the allies. The city had been completely vacated after the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. The entire population had been evacuated leaving behind a ghost town with empty houses, streets and squares. Only the people who lived in the Geitenkamp district on a hill far from the town centre were allowed to remain.
Bombarding commenced on April 12th under Canadian command, heralding the liberation.
Several hundreds of Germans were still spread over the city. On April 14th, after a few days of combat, the English 49th West Riding Division under the command of the 1st Canadian Army Corps, marched into the city. Arnhem was liberated.
However the entry was not the same as elsewhere in the Netherlands. No rejoicing people and no red-white-and-blue flags. Instead, ravaged houses and deserted streets.

A desolate, empty city in which practically no house stood undamaged and whose inhabitants were far away, totally unaware of the situation at home. There were only the people of Geitenkamp to give the liberators a warm reception.
They had been in the line of fire and had spent many frightening hours in air-raid shelters. Now the nightmare was over and they could resume their normal lives.
The other people of Arnhem gradually returned in the ensuing months from their evacuation addresses. Five months passed before all were home.
The city was liberated, but the citizens of Arnhem were unable to hail their liberators.

“The village of widows and orphans”.

Liberationday in Putten
Len Wech was one of the Canadian liberators of our village. In 1997, when he was in Putten for the unveiling of a small monument for his comrades, who were killed in action at that specific spot, he told me  that nowhere had his platoon such a big fight as with the liberation of our village. They started their advance in 1943 in Italy.
On April 18th Putten was liberated. This village, where a Wehrmacht-car was attacked by a resistancegroup, gave the German occupier a reason to take reprisals against the municipality of Putten.
601 men were deported to the concentrationcamp Neuengamme near Hamburg.
After the war Putten received the name: “The village of widows and orphans”.
The Westminster Regiment wanted to penetrate the German lines and reach the coastline of the Ysselmeer as soon as possible, to cut off the flyroute of the German soldiers to Amsterdam.
What they did not know, was that the German general Blaskowitz – wellknown of the capitulation in Wageningen on the 5th of May 1945 – had his temporary headquarters in Putten. For that reason the opposition of the Germans was much stronger than the Canadians had expected. Twelve of the seventeen Canadian tanks were eliminated.
The first tank that arrived at the coastline was the one of captain Snell. Due to this action the Netherlands actually were divided into two parts.
Major Hoskin of the Westminster Regiment even put his big toe in the cold water of the Ysselmeer: “Not because I needed it, but just for the record”.

After the arrival of the tanks of the 8tth Hussars in Putten, the inhabitants poured out into the streets.
From the spire of the Old Church the Dutch flag was hoisted after so many years. Shortly afterwards this example was followed by many civilians.
Many boys and girls climbed on the Canadian tanks and embraced their liberators. Some of the people gave presents to the soldiers. In return they handed out biscuits, chocolates and cigarettes.
When Robert Ashton’s tank of the 8th Hussars drove into the Poststraat, a tragic accident happened in this street. Ashton bowed to reach for more cigarettes.
Accidentally he touched the trigger, which was unlocked. The machinegun fired. Two women, mrs Bedijn and Akke Schotanus, a young woman from Friesland, were killed instantaneously.
Robert Ashton regretted this incident severely. Every year on April 18th he gave the order – and the money – to lay down a wreath on mrs Bedijn’s grave. (Akke Schotanus was reburied in Friesland a short time after the war).
Till 1995, 50 years after the liberation of the Netherlands he showed his compassion with this victim of the liberation of Putten.
E. H. de Graaf
Alderman in Putten

The long and difficult road to Walcheren

The liberation of Goes.
Goes was liberated as part of the allied operations Vitality I and II, Switch Back and Infatuate, intended to liberate Walcheren from the German oppression. Zeeuws-Vlaanderen was liberated in September and October and the harbour of Antwerp had also fallen undamaged into the hands of the allies. When Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland were to be liberated, this harbour could be used to supply allied goods. Several Canadian military units, among which the Regiment de Maisonneuve and the Black Watch, participated in the operations. They arrived in eastern Zuid-Beveland via Woensdrecht on October 2nd, 1944. Because of stiff resistance on the part of the Germans, Rilland could not be liberated until October 25th, but then things moved quickly, helped by the landing operation of the allies at Baarland and Hoedekenskerke in the night of October 25th.