Darlene Foster's Blog

Remembering in Holland

Posted on: November 10, 2016

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share a visit I made to a Canadian War Cemetery in Holten, Holland earlier this year. 1394 soldiers are buried in this cemetery, all but three are Canadian soldiers who were part of the liberation of this part of the Netherlands.

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The information centre is well presented and provides a fifteen-minute film explaining the liberation and how the cemetery came to be. Stories of some of the soldiers are related in the film. On one wall, the names of each soldier buried in the cemetery are listed. An extensive digital database is available with stories of each of the killed soldiers. There is also a touch screen computer with eyewitness stories of soldiers and the inhabitants of the area at the time of the war. Other touch screens have films of the liberation of several villages and towns. I am sure many people come to research family members who are buried here.  A “tranquillity bench” to sit and contemplate,with soft music in the background, is a nice touch.

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The most remarkable thing for me was a tiled wall made recently by students from the Holten primary school. The children were given a task to paint a tile with the theme “war and peace”. I found it very moving.

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The tattered flag from the battlefield

The cemetery itself is extremely well kept. I was overcome with emotion by the maple leafs on the gravestones depicting the names, ranks and ages of the fallen. The two youngest were only seventeen. I thought of the mothers who would never see their sons again, the wives missing their husbands and the children who would grow up without their fathers.

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When I mentioned to the officers in charge that I was Canadian, I was treated very special. Even after all this time, the Dutch people continue to be grateful to the Canadians for their part in liberating their country. I was proud, saddened and extremely moved by this visit. I could not stop the tears.

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Even though no one in my family was killed in WWII, which happened before I was born, I have been reading books and watching movies of this terrible time in our history for many years. Visiting this special place made it much more real.

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May they rest in peace, these brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice so others could be free.

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32 Responses to "Remembering in Holland"

Americans commemorate Veterans’ Day tomorrow, comparable to your Remembrance day. When I saw your poppies on your post, I thought of the John McCrae poem:

Very moving post, Darlene.

I have always loved that poem. Thanks!

It must have been a very powerful experience Darlene. Both Dave and my grandfather served in WWII and we hope to one day retrace their steps of battlegrounds in Europe. By some amazing coincidence they often were at the same battle records reveal. We have no idea if they knew each other but still an astounding discovery.

It was very moving. I do hope you make that trip one day as I know you will find it worth while.

Lovely post for Remembrance Day and Veteran’s Day in the US Friday. What a moving experience that must have been for you. Lovely photos.

I´m pleased you liked the photos. It was an experience I won´t forget. I believe November 11 is recognized in many countries. I know floks here in Spain and England are wearing poppies.

Thanks for sharing your very moving experience and photos.

I didn´t expect to be so touched by this experience.

I am moved just from reading your post, Darlene. ❤ ❤ ❤
Thank you for sharing the pictures and your visit.
In Flanders Field has always brought me to tears.

I usually shed a few tears on November 11 but this year it will mean so much more since my visit to this cemetery. ❤

Beautiful post, Darlene, and a very moving testimony to the sacrifice the many soldiers and their families made during that horrible time. I’m glad you were able to visit this place. Here a piece of synchronicity: I just finished reading Louise Penny’s newest novel, A Great Reckoning, that deals in part with the sacrifice of a few very young Canadian soldiers in Europe, in this case during the First World War, the Great War. Beside thoroughly enjoying her amazing novels, I also learn quite a bit about Canadian history and culture, which, I have to admit, I don’t know as much as I should!

I am pleased you liked this post and delighted that you have learned more about Canada and it´s role in WWI. I met Louise Penny a couple of years ago. She is not only a talented author but a lovely person. I was saddened to hear of the loss of her dear husband recently.

Yes, and he was quite an amazing person. A great loss for her and everyone who knew him.

I love the fact that the stories of all the soldiers are available. I’m trying to research members of my family killed in both World Wars but am not finding it very easy. My grandfather was killed in 1917, and his name is remembered at the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. I hope to visit next year to mark the one hundredth anniversary.

I do hope you get to visit as it would be an amazing experience. Good luck on your research. I was impressed at the amount of info at this cemetery.

The war memorials are very moving, so many men died for our freedom.

So true. Have you visited any of these during your trip to Europe?

I have Darlene, you look at the sea of crosses and can’t believe how many lost their lives.

Very interesting, Darlene, thanks for sharing 🙂 Bye. Kamila

Embarrassing to admit, but I did not know of the Canadian presence in Holland during WWII. You educated me here so beautifully and movingly. That tile wall is what true art is – emotional and heartfelt and incredible in its simplicity. Horribly sad – the loss of life. Will we ever learn? Will we ever learn? 😦

We all learn new things every day! The tile wall we so special. Yes, when will we ever learn…..

These places have such poignancy. It must have been particularly special for you as a Canadian visiting so many Canadian war graves. The tiled wall is a nice idea, and very Dutch. It’s terrible that so many lives are lost in war, but hopefully remembering these dreadful tragedies reminds us how valuable and important peace is.

I so agree. Thanks for your lovely comment.

I grieve for all the soldiers that lost their live . I just hope we can keep the peace we had for so long.

Me too.

Those who came to help in time of need are held in high esteem in many countries. I’m glad you got to receive their kindness.

It was a very special moment for me.

My husband served with the Canadian military and one of his proudest moment was participating in liberation day parades in Holland. It was the last anniversary celebration, because sadly, there are not many veterans. However i am touched that Dutch people still remember.

The remembrance has been passed down through the generations it appears. My Canadian friend who now lives in Holland attended an anniversary celebration two years ago. I am sure your husband was very proud to be part of the parades.

We plan a trip to Europe after our contract is up. We hope to work in a trip to Holland and visit some of the sites. Thanks for posting this.

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