When the time came

United at last.
“The city of Zaltbommel thanks its Canadian liberators.  They gave us our freedom back.
Many of them returned home safely and have been honoured by us as war heroes every year.  But many were killed during the liberation.  Young people, young heroes, who will remain in our memories for ever.  We have also cherished our veterans for many years.
During the numerous missions to Germany, many planes were shot down. One such plane – of the Royal Canadian Air Force – was shot down by artillery fire in Zuilichem.  All but one crew member lost their lives. They were buried in the war cemetery at Zuilichem. 
The survivor was tail gunner Mike Cassidy, who was 20 years old at the time.  After the war he returned several times to visit the graves of his comrades.  It was his intense desire to be buried alongside them when the time came. This year he was to return to the Netherlands for the commemoration of the 60th Remembrance day on the 4th of May, and visit friends in Zuilichem.
Unfortunately, flying officer B.M. (Mike) Cassidy died in Toronto at the age of 81. 
His wife and daughter will bring the urn with his ashes to the Netherlands on the 4th of May. He will be buried next to his comrades in the cemetery at Zuilichem.  His last wish will thus be honoured.  This much we owe him.
UNITED AT LAST.  May he rest in peace.
Albert van den Bosch,
Mayor of Zaltbommel, Holland

Bring out the Dutch tricolour

Church bells rang in Ommen on April 11th, 2005, at six o'clock in the morning. It is on that date, sixty years ago, that the Canadian Manitoba Dragoons and the Black Watch liberated the city of Ommen from the German occupation.
The liberation of Ommen began on April 6th, 1945. It involved heavy fighting, during which two Canadian soldiers were killed: 24 year-old George Thomas Wilson and 22 year-old Gerald Wilfred Soanes. Four days later the Germans attempted to blow up the bridge over the


River Vecht to thwart the Canadian army. Fortunately, the bridge was not severely damaged. The main force of the Canadian army Black Watch was able to cross the bridge over the Vecht effortlessly and oust the German soldiers. Incidentally, only two German soldiers were still in Ommen but they quickly escaped by bike. The rest of the enemy army had already fled the night before.  The principal of the school, Mr. Van der Meulen, wrote in his diary: "The Germans have left. Somebody has already come out wearing a German helmet. Others carry bundles of goods they have stolen. We peer out through the cracks between the slats of wood covering the windows and we see the first Canadian patrol walking through the front gardens and along the road. Very shortly all of Ommen will become thronged with people." It is still early in the morning when on Wednesday, April 11th, 1945, the town of Ommen is declared safe and free of the enemy. Nearby Erika prison camp, where more than 170 people perished, is also liberated that day. The Germans used the camp as a 'judicial prison camp' and later also as a 'correctional facility'.
The soldiers of the Canadian army were greeted as heroes. For the first time in five years the population were able to bring out the Dutch tricolour and the town hall and other buildings proudly flew the flag of the Netherlands: Ommen was liberated!

They flee on bicycles

 Liberation panorama from the Grote Kerk (Church)
April 20, 1945. The day Nijkerk is liberated – and to think it is also Hitler's birthday!
Early in the morning, tank fire can be heard in the distance. Rifle and machine-gun fire get closer. Just before eight o'clock two large motorcycles and a jeep suddenly drive at full speed into Holkerstraat from the direction of Venestraat. At the Grote Kerk, three Canadian non-commissioned officers and an orderly get out of the jeep. The sexton who has the keys to the church is hastily drummed up to point out the German positions in the surroundings from the church tower. Out of necessity, the sexton addresses the Canadians in German because he does not speak English.
On the gallery of the church tower the sexton points out the cacao plant and the furniture factory along the Arkervaart (canal). Almost one hundred Germans have entrenched themselves in the cacao plant and more than thirty in the furniture factory. They have placed a large canon through a hole in the roof



of the furniture factory. This gives the Canadian orderly such a fright that he runs down the tower stairs as fast as his sneakers (!) can carry him.
An hour later, using a set of binoculars he has borrowed from the Canadian non-commissioned officers, the sexton sees the Canadians throw hand grenades into the furniture factory, after which the Germans come out with their hands in the air. The Germans in the cacao plant flee on bicycles along the Arkervaart towards the locks and then via the dike to Bunschoten-Spakenburg.

My 15 year-old sister, Martha, tucks the photo albums under her arm

It will be 60 years ago this April 15th that the town of Winschoten was liberated.
During the course of 1942 almost the entire Jewish community of Winschoten was picked up and deported to labour camps and Westerbork. After the liberation, it was discovered that 389 of them had not survived the horrors. In remembrance of these Jewish citizens of Winschoten, an impressive monument was unveiled in the centre of town on April 15th, 2005.
On November 24th, 1945, Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel E.T. Winslow also unveiled a monument.
A war monument consisting of a brick memorial wall covered with roof tiles. A Canadian Maple Leaf carved in natural stone was mounted in the middle. A boulder and a bell frame were placed near the wall. The text on the boulder reads: 'FOR THOSE WHO FELL'.
Later, three plaques of natural stone were fixed to the memorial wall. The first plaque bears the names and dates of birth of thirteen resistance fighters from Winschoten who perished.
The second plaque bears the names and dates of birth of nine citizens of Winschoten who perished.
The third plaque bears the names, ranks, units and dates of death of 22 fallen Canadian soldiers. The text reads: Fas Et Gloria – To Canada From Winschoten – April – December 1945
Unveiled 24 November 1945 by lt.col. E.T. Winslow M.B.E. 0.0
The war monument reminds the population of Winschoten of thirteen resistance fighters, nine fellow citizens and 22 Canadian soldiers who died during the years of occupation through acts of war.
In early April of 1945 the allies advanced quickly on the province of Groningen. The