The Port Moody Station Museum honours our veterans
When you go home, tell them of us and sayJohn Maxwell Edmonds
For your tomorrow, we gave our today.
I have given my life to promote peace between all nations.Private Emmanuel Fulton age 21, 31st Battalion killed at Passchendaele, November 6, 1917
Cet Enfant Voulait Chanter l’amour et la Grandeur d’un geste. Il a tout dit. This child wished to sing of love and the greatness of a deed. He has said all.Lt. Pierre Trundel age 22, Fusiliers du Montreal. Killed 19 August 1942 at Dieppe.
Liberation Friendship Remembrance
Among the many “cancelled due to COVID-19” events planned for 2020, were numerous commemorations planned by the Dutch to mark the 75th anniversary of Liberation of the Netherlands last May. The Port Moody Station Museum had planned a Sweetest Spring Event, with a grant by Veterans Affairs Canada. Due to the pandemic the museum decided to have a virtual event and to permanently install information panels depicting the contributions of Canada to the liberation of the Netherlands. We invite you to watch, The Netherlands Pieces a play especially written for this exhibition by the Expect Exceptional Theatre Company. It captures the horrific situation faced by many Dutch people from which they were liberated by Canadian troops.
We could not hold your hand, we did not see you die. We only know you passed away and could not say goodbye.Private Charles Carmichael age 22, Queens Own Rifles of Canada. Killed during the breakout from Caen during Operation Atlantic, 18 July 1944.
Over the years, the Dutch have demonstrated their gratitude for Canadian veterans in ways and to degrees far exceeding most efforts here in Canada. Let’s face it, the Dutch put most Canadians to shame when it comes to remembering and ensuring newer generations know the price of their freedom. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the names of 5712 Canadians buried or commemorated in the Netherlands – visual reminders of that heavy price. The passage of time does not seem to matter; more than seven decades later, the Dutch remember well who, during that sweetest of springs in 1945, restored their freedom and peace and offered life and a future. “Thank you Canada” resonates as strongly today as it did seventy- five years ago.
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Greater Vancouver in the 1970’s, many Second World War veterans lived and worked in my community. Little did I know that a number of these “ordinary” neighbours cutting their lawns and washing their cars on weekends were “the Liberators” and hailed as heroes by others in a far-off land. There was Frank, Jim, Gord and Pat – all slightly older than my dad – “old guys” in the eyes of a ten-year-old. Sadly, most are gone now. All the veterans I knew growing up are gone. They started to slip away in the 1990’s, a few at first, but then with increasing frequency in the decades that followed.
While their last hurrah next May remains up in the air, what is certain is that when these commemorations finally happen, they will likely be the last involving Canadian veterans. I suspect not more than a dozen or so will make the trip as part of the official Canadian government contingent. Five years ago, approximately 130 Canadian veterans returned to mark the 70th anniversary of the Liberation.
Twenty-five years ago, about 15,000 Canadian veterans returned to the Netherlands for the 50th anniversary. Then, the culmination of a week of commemorative events was a grand parade through the city of Apeldoorn. A modest sized city of about 150,000, an estimated crowd of more than 300,000 Dutch turned out to say thank you. The event soon resembled more of a “moving street party” than a parade as young and old, liberated and liberator renewed the bonds of that unique friendship between formed long ago. With the nine-hour time difference, I watched the “parade” live in the wee hours in Vancouver. To this day, it remains the most incredible moving televised spectacle I have ever seen. Some particular vignettes of that day remain vivid in my memory. The “boys” then were just in their late 60’s and early 70’s so they were on their feet parading down the street. I recall Dutch parents holding up babies so that the Canadian veterans could kiss or touch them. Those babies are now twenty-five years old and I am sure know well about the day a liberator touched their cheek. Then there was the two young blonde Dutch woman at the side of the road, planting kisses on veterans as they passed in a scene reminiscent of the frenzied liberation images from 1945. I recall thinking then that I was watching more than a commemoration, I was watching history happen. There never would or could be anything like that day again. The day will come, sadly sooner than later, when there will be no more Liberators to return to Holland. I am certain that the Dutch will carry on, despite the passage of time or global pandemics, remembering what the Canadians did for them.
John Goheen, Military Historian, 2020
Lest we forget – a story of a World War II night bombing raid
Lest We Forget
When nineteen year old Robert Niles said goodbye to his parents in 1943 it would be forever. Upon completion of his training as a Bomb Aimer in Canada, Robert was off to England where he “crewed up” with six other young airmen. Soon after they joined 426 Squadron, RCAF flying Halifax’s from their base at Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire. The young crew set off for a raid on a target in Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr, on the night of 16/17 June, 1944. They reached the target but on the return flight to base, were shot down and crashed into the North Sea. There were no survivors. Robert, on only his second operation, joined the list of more than 10,000 Canadians killed in Bomber Command during the Second World War.