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Liberation of the Netherlands
On May 5, 1945, Col.-Gen. Johannes Blaskowitz formally surrendered the remaining 117,000 German troops in the Netherlands to Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Foulkes of the First Canadian Corps, ending nearly eight months of bitter and difficult fighting.

Canadian Infantry, Near Nijmegen, Holland
Above: Soldiers from the 3rd Canadian Infantry march atop a dyke overlooking the flooded landscape.
On March 23 the Allied forces began the assault across the Rhine. Although the First Canadian Army as such took no part in the crossings, the troops of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, under British Command, participated in the crossing of the Rhine at Rees, and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, dropped successfully east of the river near Wesel. Several days later the 3rd Division crossed the Rhine and fought its way to Emmerich.

Left of the Line, Advance
Video: "Left of the Line" Advance, from Canadian Army Newsreel 69, April 1945.

With the Rhine behind them, it was now possible for the Allied forces to exploit their great advantage in numbers and to press forward into Germany. On the eastern front the Russians were approaching Vienna and were ready to advance over the Oder River against Berlin.

The Canadian Army's role in these final days of the war was to open up the supply route to the north through Arnhem, and then to clear the northeastern Netherlands, the coastal belt of Germany eastwards to the Elbe River, and western Holland.

This time the First Canadian Army was far more completely Canadian than ever before as the 1st Canadian Corps which had fought so long in Italy had been transferred to Northwest Europe. Two Canadian Army corps would fight side by side for the first time in history. The 2nd Canadian Corps would clear the northeastern Netherlands and the German coast, and the 1st Canadian Corps would deal with the Germans remaining in the western Netherlands north of the Maas.

Northeastern Holland

The 2nd Canadian Corps' northern drive rapidly gained momentum and as the troops crossed into the Netherlands they were greeted by the enthusiastic demonstrations of the liberated Dutch people.

On the right Major General Vokes' 4th Canadian Armoured Division crossed the Twente Canal and pushed forward to capture Almelo on April 5, before curving eastward to re-enter Germany. In the centre, the 2nd Division crossed the Schipbeck Canal and advanced in a virtually straight line to Groningen in northern Holland which they reached on April 16. The 3rd Division, on the Corps' left flank, was charged with clearing the area adjoining the Ijssel and after several days of stiff fighting occupied the historic Zutphen on April 6. Then, pushing forward they captured Deventer, Zwolle and Leeuwarden and reached the sea on April 18.

The operations of the 2nd Corps were then extended from eastern Holland into western Germany. The 4th Division crossed the Ems River at Meppen and combined with the 1st Polish Armoured Division in thrusts on Emden, Wilhelmshaven and Oldenburg. The 3rd Division also moved on Emden; while the 2nd Division advanced from Groningen to the area of Oldenburg.

Western Holland

the western Netherlands the 1st Canadian Corps comprising the 1st Canadian Infantry division and the 5th Canadian Armoured Divisions, under the command of Lieut.-General Charles Foulkes, was responsible for the liberation of the area north of the Maas River. In this region with its large cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, the people had almost reached the end of their endurance from the misery and starvation which had accompanied the "Hunger Winter". Food supplies in the cities were exhausted, fuel had run out almost entirely and transport was virtually non-existent. Thousands of men, women and children had perished.

The assault on Arnhem began on April 12, and after much house-to-house fighting the town was cleared two days later. The 5th Division then dashed northwards to the Ijsselmeer some thirty miles away to cut off the enemy defending against the 1st Division at Apeldoorn. Apeldoorn was occupied by April 17.

By April 28 the Germans in West Holland had been driven back to a line running roughly between Wageningen through Amersfoort to the sea, known as the Grebbe Line. On that day a truce was arranged, fighting ceased in western Holland, and several days later food supplies began to move through for the starving people. No part of western Europe was liberated at a more vital moment than the west of the Netherlands, and the Canadian soldiers who contributed so immensely to that liberation were cheered and greeted with great joy.

On April 25 the American and Russian troops met on the Elbe. A few days later in Berlin, encircled by the Russians, Hitler committed suicide. The war ended a week later. On May 5, in the village of Wageningen, General Foulkes accepted the surrender of the German troops in Holland. General Simonds of the 2nd Corps, in Bad Zwischenahn, did the same on his front. The formal German surrender was signed on May 7 at Rheims in France.


Canada's Role

Canadian Forces played an important role in liberating the Netherlands. Canadians who landed on D-Day, fought battles through France, Belgium, the Scheldt and in Germany before being dispatched back to the Netherlands with the Canadians who had fought in Italy. Canadian orders were to push the German troops occupying the northeast back to the sea and to drive German troops in the west back into Germany. The advance was halted on April 12, because of concern for the well-being of citizens in the western Netherlands, who, having been starved for months, ran the risk of having their country flooded if the Germans panicked and opened the dykes

On April 28, the Canadians negotiated a truce which permitted relief supplies to enter the western Netherlands and end the "Hunger Winter". No part of western Europe was liberated at a more vital moment than the Netherlands and the Dutch people cheered Canadian troops as one town after another was freed

To show their appreciation to the pilots who dropped food from the air, many Dutch people painted, "Thank you, Canadians!" on their rooftops. In honour of their gift of freedom Dutch people have donated 10,000 tulip bulbs to Canada for the National Capital Region, annually since the war's end. For 1995, the Netherlands donated an additional 5,000 bulbs for Parliament Hill, 1,000 for each provincial and territorial capital and 1,000 for Ste. Anne's hospital in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que. (the only remaining federal hospital in Canada, administered by Veterans Affairs Canada)

 Audio & Video Files

Town by town, the Canadian army is pushing the Germans out of the Netherlands, freeing the Dutch and bringing the war closer to its conclusion.
"Victory is in the air," says CBC war correspondent Matthew Halton. The war is winding down. But even as Canadian forces continue their sweep throughenemy-occupied Holland, the Germans aren't giving up without a fight.
 Photo Gallery
Canadian Infantry of the Regiment de Maisonneuve, moving through Holten to Rijssen, Netherlands. Lt. D. Guravitch, April 9, 1945.
Members of North Shore Regiment (N.S.r.) hunting and removing mines on approach to destroyed bridge. Zutphen, The Netherlands, 7 April 1945.
Private K.O. Earl, of the Perth Regiment, stops for a rest in the forest north of Arnhem, as the 5 Canadian Division advances. 15 Apr 1945, Arnhem (vic), The Netherlands.
Personnel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry aboard 'Sherman' tank of 'B' Squadron, Fort Garry Horse, advancing to Groningen, Netherlands, 13 April 1945.
Private W. Smith of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada training to operate a Lifebuoy flamethrower, Nijmegen, Netherlands, 14 December 1944.
Surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, at 1st Canadian Corps.
Liberation celebration.
Dutch civilians celebrate the liberation of Utrecht by the Canadian Army, 7 May 1945.
Members of "B" Troop, 5th Field Regiment, firing 25-pounder near Malden, Holland, 1 February 1945. From left to right: Sergeant Jack Brown, Bdr. Joe Wilson, Gunners Lyle Ludwig, Bill Budd, George Spence, and Bill Stewart.
Loading carriers into Buffaloes, and Buffaloes moving towards Ijssel River near Westervoort, The Netherlands, April 13th, 1945.
Crowd welcoming the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders of Canada to Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, April 16th, 1945.
"Close-up of a Jerry prisoner captured near Otterloo" after a German counter-attack towards Otterloo, in an attempt to cut the 5th Canadian Division spearhead. 17 Apr. 1945, Otterloo, The Netherlands.
Infantrymen of The South Saskatchewan Regiment during mopping-up operations along the Oranje Canal, Netherlands, April 12, 1945. Photograph by Lieutenant Dan Guravich.
Perth 'D' Coy section along forest road north of Arnhem. April 15th 1945.
Private H. E. Goddard, of the Perth Regiment, carrying a Bren gun as he advances through a forest north of Arnhem with the 5th Canadian Armored Division.
Privates V.R. Davis, D.G. Wragg and J.M. Cunningham (left to right) of Perth Regiment rest during 5 Canadian Division advance. 15 Apr 1945, Arnhem, Netherlands.
Canadians escort German prisoners out of Holland.
German officer discusses surrender arrangements on radio phone link set up by Canadian troops.
On May 5, 1945, after a bitter winter of fighting and suffering, the German Army signed the capitulation treaty in the Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. The following major events are planned to commemorate the Liberation.
Civilians greet Canadian troops of the Fort Garry Horse and the Régiment de Maisonneuve, 9 Apr. 1945, Rijssen, Netherlands
Infantry of the South Saskatchewan Regiment lying down and firing through a hedge near Dutch farmhouse, Oranje Canal, the Netherlands, April 12th, 1945.
Members of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (P.P.C.L.I.) and a Buffalo amphibious vehicle used to cross the Ijssel River. 11 Apr. 1945, Zutphen, Netherlands.
Personnel of Le Regiment de la Chaudiere using rubber raft to cross the Ijssel River. 7 Apr 1945.
Personnel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry aboard a Sherman tank of 'B' Squadron of the Fort Garry Horse. Date unknown, Assen, Netherlands.
Private George Pope and Private Dennis Townsend point with rifles at road sign showing Arnhem.
Infantrymen of the North Shore Regiment boarding an Alligator amphibious vehicle during Operation VERITABLE near Nijmegen, Netherlands, 8 February 1945.
Soldiers of the Perth Regiment move through Arnhem, April 15th 1945. Governor General's Horse Guards' Sherman to the right.
On Nov. 9, 1944, the 2nd Canadian Corps occupied the Nijmegen salient bridgehead in Holland and turned it into a winter base. Then on Feb. 8, 1945, following a huge barrage, Allied units began their winter assault - the Rhineland Offensive called Operation Veritable.
Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada troops in slit trenches, 8 Apr. 1945, Holten, Netherlands.
Infantrymen of the North Shore Regiment climbing onto an Alligator amphibious tracked vehicle during Operation VERITABLE near Nijmegen, Netherlands, 8 February 1945.
Corporal R.N. Dyer in firing position, Queen's Own Rifle, during a night patrol near Nijmegen, Netherlands, January 2nd, 1945.
German soldiers being disarmed by troops of I Canadian Corps at a small arms dump in the Netherlands, May 11th, 1945.
Members of the 1 Cdn Division after the liberation of Apeldoorn, Holland. 17 Apr. 1945.
Canadian soldier wouded by German sniper fire while attempting to cross over the southern dyke of the Afwalnings Canal. 7 Apr. 1945, Laren, Netherlands.
Sniper Arthur Godin, of the Regiment de la Chaudiere, 3 Canadian Infantry Division, during the fighting for. Zutphen, Netherlands, 7 April 1945.
Personnel of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry boarding a 'Buffalo' carrier. 11 Apr 1945, Zutphen (vicinity), Netherlands.
Personnel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry examining German 1000-pound bombs found during advance to Groningen, Netherlands, 13 April 1945.
 News Articles
The Hamilton Spectator, 25/03/1946
The Globe and Mail, 19/04/1945
The Globe and Mail, 03/10/1944
The Globe and Mail, 06/04/1945

Sources: Juno Beach Center, Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian History, The Canadian War Museum

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