The 1st Canadian Corps, First Canadian Army, which fought so long in Sicily and Italy, was sent to Northwest Europe in the spring of 1945. When it reached the western Netherlands, it liberated the region to the North of the Meuse River. The fortress of Brielle was along their route to such large cities as Rotterdam and The Hague.

At the end of the war, the Royal 22e Régiment was ordered to neutralize a German stronghold, Van Hook Holland in Brielle.

On May 7, 1945, Germany, besieged to the East and the West, gave up. General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations for the German Army Supreme Command, surrendered unconditionally on behalf of his country at Reims. The following day was declared VE-Day. Everywhere in Holland the Canadians were celebrated and carried about triumphantly. The whole of Amersfoort celebrated the event. The Dutch people gathered around the Royal 22e Régiment’s Headquarters and sang the national anthems of both countries.

Following a week long stay in Maasluis, the regiment, along with the other units of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, was ordered to perform a cleanup operation around Rotterdam and The Hague. All the German troops were to be gathered together in a single zone and returned to Germany. The Royal 22e Régiment was posted to the Brielle fortress, which had been built by the Germans at the mouth of the Rhine, between the sea and the Nouvelle Meuse. The inner banks were covered in ruins and barbed wire, full of trenches, and dotted with concrete forts that made it difficult to imagine that grass and flowers might grow there. A second belt of bunkers had been camouflaged to look like shops and middle-class houses. On the six-foot thick walls, the Germans had painted windows and fake geraniums, along with pictures of women and children, cats and birds. All of these houses contained guns and machine gun positions.

When the regiment took over the Brielle fortress, there were over 4,000 Germans there. The enemy disarmament began in earnest at 8 a.m. on May 10, 1945. Each German soldier, with his weapons and equipment had to stand at attention. Small arms and grenades were taken away first. Once disarmed, the prisoners were locked up in the fortress. However, the dangerous task of removing the mines that had been laid around the fort still remained. The prisoners did this themselves under orders from their own officers; their Colonel was given instructions every evening by Lieutenant-Colonel Turcot concerning the following day’s tasks. The war booty was building up: weapons, guns, ammunition and equipment of all kinds.

On June 1 a team of security officers came to the regiment to examine all the prisoners in order to separate SS troops from the other combatants. They identified approximately fifty members of the SS, who were immediately sent to a different prisoner of war camp.

In March 1945 the 1st Canadian Corps, which had been fighting the war in Sicily and Italy since 1943, moved to the Northwest European theatre of the war. The entire corps was transported to southern France where it began the long journey to the front. As part of this, The Royal Canadian Regiment proceeded up the Rhone Valley through France, parts of occupied Germany and Belgium to the area surrounding Antwerp where soldiers rested and reorganized for almost a month. From there, the regiment moved to an assembly area at Eefde, Holland and on April 9, 1945 began operations to clear German forces from the area south of the Ijselmeer (Inland Sea) in eastern Holland. Apeldoorn, a city of 72,000, was the objective and although the advance ran into several pockets of German resistance, there were surprisingly few casualties. On April 17 the regiment sustained its last battle casualties during the capture of Apeldoorn where over 200 Germans were taken prisoner. From then on, resistance to the Allied advance began to crumble everywhere.

In 1945, the First Canadian Army fought to liberate Holland and advance into Germany. In the last few weeks of the war, the Canadians succeeded in wresting control of Holland from the German forces and freed the Dutch people. Since their liberation, the Dutch have maintained their friendship with Canada and with the soldiers and regiments that liberated them. Historically, Dutch children have paid their respects to the fallen Canadian soldiers by tending the graves of those who died in the Netherlands. The tradition continues to this day, as Dutch children participate in candlelight services to honour the Canadian soldiers who fought to free Holland.

When the Canadian soldiers arrived in the Netherlands in 1945, they found the Dutch people starving and miserable. One of the first countries to be occupied by the Germans, the Netherlands had waited five long years for liberation. To relieve the Dutch people’s suffering the Allied armies made an agreement with the Germans that allowed the Allies to bring food and supplies into German occupied areas. A strong effort was also made to prevent civilian casualties and any further damage to the historic Dutch buildings. The Dutch were extremely grateful towards their liberators and welcomed them into their country with joy, as demonstrated by this leaflet produced in the Netherlands for the Allied soldiers.

Even though the war was not over, the liberation of Holland was a cause for celebration for both the Dutch population and Canadian soldiers as each village was freed from German occupation. Unlike some other areas in which the Canadians had served, the Netherlands did not resent the Canadian soldiers, but welcomed them with open arms. Parades were held with cheering crowds, photographs of the Dutch were taken with their liberators, and dining and dancing took place in many villages before the soldiers moved onto their next action.
Canadian Heritage Information Network
c. 1945
Brielle, South Holland, Voorne, NETHERLANDS
The Hague, South Holland, NETHERLANDS
© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans