With excitement building in anticipation of the arrival of H.R.H. Princess Margriet and her husband Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven to Goderich, it is easy to lose focus of what this is all about. Princess Margriet has played a big part in nurturing the special bond of friendship between Canada and the Netherlands. This royal visit is about honouring and remembering our veterans along with their families.
This purpose came into better focus yesterday when I met and spoke with an amazing veteran who is a resident of Goderich. His name is Bill Anderson.
At age 22, he was in the Netherlands engaged in action with a Canadian anti-tank regiment. Bill has a great sense of humour, is fit, and is so mobile he continues to drive his car around town like the young man he is – in spirit. The organizers of the Dutch-Canadians Remember as One committee have asked Bill to be the first to greet H.R.H. Princess Margriet as she arrives at Liberation Memorial Park in Goderich, Sunday, shortly before 3 pm.
Of course, not all veterans are as mobile as Bill. They will not be left out however, as they have been invited to assemble at Trinity C.R. Church in Goderich, to await the arrival of Princess Margriet and attend a reception prior to the Liberation of the Netherlands concert. Also attending will be family members of the “Huron 20” who laid down their lives to free the Netherlands. Leroy Hoffman of Exeter, nephew of Pt. Leonard Hoffman will be one of those attendees. Last week, Leroy spoke with a tear in his eye saying, “...it's wonderful what you are doing for the families. No one has ever done this before, recognizing the loss we have shared as part of our family history.” At the concert gathering, Princess Margriet and Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven will sign a scroll of remembrance that lists the names of the “Huron County 20.”
Bill Anderson is remarkable in another way. In our conversation he casually mentioned he had at home an original copy of the regimental history for his unit, which was later disbanded after the war. When the war ended, he continued to be deployed in Europe as part of the army of occupation. He says the war history was written on poor quality paper that was only one step up from toilet paper. Wartime shortages made good quality paper very scarce. So this delicate document could easily have been dismissed as inconsequential and tossed aside. Will that the the legacy of the Canadian sacrifice? A forgotten history, not taught, not learned?
A central tenant of the Dutch-Canadians Remember as One committee is to do everything it can to make sure that does not happen. There is a phase two to this project, which includes developing a website that captures content such as Bill has. We want to make this legacy accessible to the public and to the younger generation. We will be reaching out to veterans, their families, military units and Dutch families in Huron County, to tell their stories while we can still curate them in the first person! Wouldn't it be something to go to the local cenotaph, and have the story behind the names on the stone come alive, using today's internet technology?
We are thankful the May 14th royal visit draws attention for the continued need “to remember”. visit www.dutch-canadiansremember.ca
article by Patrick Nagle