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Day 1-3 (Paris) Day 4        5       6 (France) Day 7     8      9 (Belgium)    Day 10         11       12 (Nether.)
C.O.'s Intro | Itinerary

June 1-3

Dieppe | Juno | Clair Tison Ypres | Vimy | Low Tempo Walcheren | Arnhem | Groningen

2010 Centennial Battlefield Pilgrimage - Day 12

The final day of the 2010 Centennial Battlefield Pilgrimage was spent in the Netherlands. The day began with a trip to the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. There are 11 Calgary Highlanders interred at Holten, and the day was made special by the presentation of a veteran's commemoration to Second World War veteran Floyd Rourke, who was returning to Europe. In the spring of 1945, Rourke had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions during a battalion attack by The Calgary Highlanders near Oldenburg, Germany. A visit to a German concentration camp site followed.

The main event of the day was a civil remembrance service, parade procession, and park dedication at Groningen. That city had been liberated by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division in April 1945 following a three-day battle in which The Calgary Highlanders participated (more details are here.) A number of Dutch dignitaries exchanged gifts with the regimental contingent, including correspondent Johan van Gelder, a resident of Groningen whose books include De Weg van de Vrijheid (The Road of Freedom), Het pension van de Tweede Wereldoorlog, (The pension of the Second World War) and 65 jaar Herinnering en Bevrijding (65 years Remembrance and Liberation). He presented a copy of his work to Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Vernon for the library of The Calgary Highlanders.

Photos by Nancy Desilets, click to enlarge

The Regimental Pipes and Drums lead a delegation of The Royal Canadian Legion into Holten Canadian War Cemetery.

The Cross of Sacrifice at Holten Canadian War Cemetery. A small party of the Regimental Pipes and Drums has accompanied the Legion Colour Party to the top of the steps.

Short commemorative speech by the Royal Canadian Legion representative.

The regimental contingent drawn up at Holten Canadian War Cemetery.

A view from the top of the steps, looking out over Holten Canadian War Cemetery, with the regimental contingent formed up below.

The Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party.

Pipe Major Michael Giles plays during the short service of Remembrance.

Captain Peter Boyle and veteran Floyd Rourke, DCM, lay a regimental wreath to honour fallen comrades at Holten Canadian War Cemetery.

Floyd Rourke is presented a token of respect by the Dutch community.

Second World War veteran Floyd Rourke, DCM, displays the "Wecome Again Veterans" medal presented to him by the Dutch community at Holten Canadian War Cemetery on 12 June 2010.

The ceramic shoes had been presented that morning as a gift by the coach driver as a gesture of friendship.

There are 1,393 Commonwealth burials at Holten, including 11 Calgary Highlanders. Private Jacob George Enns, son of William J. and Katarina Enns, of Altona, Manitoba, and husband of Pade Enns, was killed while serving with The Calgary Highlanders on 26 April 1945, less than two weeks before the war in Europe came to a close.

A previous visitor has left a Canadian flag with the regimental insignia attached, to J.G. Enns' gravesite. The regimental contingent of the Battlefield Tour also marked the grave sites of Calgary Highlanders with miniatures unit camp flags, as shown at lower left of the photo.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial photo

Westerbork was one of hundreds of satellite camps in the Nazi concentration camp system. Located between Arnhem and Groningen, it was technically a transit camp, used to house refugees and detainees before their deportation to Germany and points east, including the notorious camps such as Auschwitz whose function was to exterminate prisoners. The most famous internee to transit Westerbork was Anne Frank. Westerbork was liberated by soldiers of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division - the formation to which The Calgary Highlanders belonged - in the spring of 1945. The site of the camp remains open to tourists, though little of the original camp remains.

Each red stone in this memorial at Westerbork commemorates a single inmate at the camp who later was murdered by the Nazis in their concentration camp system.

The regimental contingent dismounted near Groningen to find themselves ushered into a local church for a short ceremony.

Inside the Stefanus Church in Noordijk.

Local officials exchanged gifts with the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Vernon. Representing the Netherlands were both Deputy Mayor Elly Pastoor and Truus Schoonhoven.

Video coverage of the tribute can be found on YouTube in three parts:

After the service in the church, a short march was conducted to a newly constructed Liberators Wood. Second World War veteran Floyd Rourke, DCM, was given the place of honour at the head of the procession, riding in a vintage 1/4-ton truck ("Jeep") in the markings of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.

Other vintage vehicles followed the regimental contingent on the short procession to the memorial park.

A stylized maple leaf statue is located on the grounds of the park; the Stefanus Church can be seen in the distance.

The regimental contingent drawn up at the memorial.

Dutch dignitaries and regimental representatives wait to lay wreaths in honour of fallen comrades at the memorial to the 2nd Canadian Division units which fought at Groningen.

Captain Peter Boyle and Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Vernon at the memorial to the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.

Dutch dignitaries pose with Floyd Rourke, DCM.

The final group photograph of the regimental contingent of the 2010 Centennial Battlefield Tour. The water tower in Groningen was the site of fighting in 1945 and survived the battle.

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