Mr. Robert Fitzsimmons
Liberator of the Netherlands
Barges in canals pulled by women
My name is Robert Fitzsimmons.
My Dad, myself and
two brothers enlisted in 1940, I was 18 years old then.
I was a member of the 7th Canadian Infantry and part of the
Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, as a
"Craftsman". I ended up in Nijmegen in The Netherlands, in
1944. I remember crossing the Waal River in pouring rain, I
will always remember all the water everywhere. When moving
forward, we were always in the canals and rivers which
were all flooded. Because we spent so much time in water,
we were known as the 3rd Canadian Division of Water Rats. In
Nijmegen we set up camp in a field of a small dairy farm.
Pouring rain and all was wet. The owners Mr. and Mrs Bob and
Mary Nova felt bad for us, they cleaned out their front room
and invited us in and sleep on the floor there. It was like
heaven, no leaking roof over our heads! This family and all
Dutch people were so happy to see us. Upon arrival, we
realised that most Dutch people were starving. So we shared
our food with them. I saw the Dutch ride their bikes with no
tires, barges in canals pulled by women, and I had read
about windmills and now I saw them everywhere. I have seen a
lot of country and all on foot! When paratroopers came
down, the Dutch women would look for parachutes, and sewed
suits out of them for us. I am sorry, that I did not keep
one of those silk suits. Out of my group, 18 or 19
soldiers came back, and only two are still alive.