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How a New Military Tradition is Born

by Platoon Sergeant-Major Richard Brinkhuizen, Royal Netherlands Army
Photos by Corporal 
René Terpstra, Royal Netherlands Army

In January 2015, during the anniversary celebration of the liberation of Groningen, the 1st Platoon of Alpha Company, 10th Battalion National Reserve was asked to bear the regimental flags of the Canadian regiments to the city centre . Naturally it was an honor for our platoon to do this. Later, when during a meeting we were talking about the regimental flag of The Calgary Highlanders, I found out that there are two Canadian soldiers buried in Hoogkerk a small town just outside Groningen. The next day I visited the cemetery and stood for several minutes reflecting on the war and thinking by myself that it’s not right that we bear the regimental flags to the City of Groningen, without doing something for these two forgotten Soldiers. We should do something to honour the dead.

Private Garfield Emerson Riddell of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada was killed in combat at the corner of the Amalia Solmstraat/Nassaulaan in the Oranjewijk in the city of Groningen on April 15, 1945. He was only 38 years old. Private Regan Raymond Dallaire of The Calgary Highlanders was killed in combat near the Gerard ter Borg Straat and the Kraneweg in the city of Groningen on April 15, 1945. His age is unknown. We’re ignorant about the way they were killed in combat, but we do know that they are in their first resting place.

All the other 41 Canadian soldiers who were killed in combat during the battle of Groningen are reburied in the Canadian cemetery in Holten in the Netherlands or in their homeland.

I proposed to the Platoon to organize a military ceremony at Hoogkerk, where both soldiers are buried and all the men agreed. So we held the ceremony the evening prior to the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Groningen. And then we decided that this remembrance ceremony will not only be held this year, in which we celebrated 70 years of freedom, but from now on every year the second Saturday of May, the first Platoon of the Alpha company of the 10th Battalion Natres, will have a remembrance ceremony for these two Canadian soldiers who gave their life for our freedom.

During the ceremony we also remembered the five crew members of a four-engined bomber of the RAF's No. 57 Squadron. They found their last resting place next to the Canadians at the cemetery or Hoogkerk. Their Lancaster bomber crashed South of Dorkwerd on May 22, 1945.

It was a was a rainy day and there was a strong stormy wind at the day of the ceremony. The ceremony had to start at 18:00h. Fortunately the sky cleared at 17.50h. During the ceremony it was dry but half an hour after it was over it started to rain again. In this first ceremony in 2015 the Canadian Attaché Colonel Michael Hogan of the Royal Canadian Air Force placed a flower arrangement on behalf of Canada.

It was very special that the wreath of our Platoon was laid by veteran Stanley Butterworth of The Fort Garry Horse. His brother Fred Butterworth also served in The Fort Garry Horse and was the first Canadian killed during the battle of Groningen on April 14, 1945 at the Paterswoldseweg 188. The tanks of the Fort Garry Horse fought together with The Calgary Highlanders to free the city of Groningen.

In the words of Mister Stanley Butterworth: “These Canadian soldiers volunteered to fight for our freedom, for a free Europe and for a free Canada.” To volunteer, is also something that connects us with them, all the members of our unit also volunteered to be a soldier.

During the ceremony we carried four flags, the Canadian Flag, the camp flag of The Calgary Highlanders, the camp flag of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and the flag of The Fort Garry Horse. During that first ceremony there was also a piper who called a mournful atmosphere with its sounds.

This year Saturday, April 16, 2016 the military ceremony was held at Hoogkerk for the second time. Just like last year it was a rainy and stormy day but again it was dry during the ceremony. There was another delegation from the Canadian attaché from The Hague who laid the wreath on behalf of Canada. This year there was a trumpeter who played the Last Post.

Last year another tradition was born in the Netherlands when at Christmas eve a candle was placed at all military war graves. First Platoon has done this for the two Canadians in Hoogkerk and also attached the regimental flags while a piper was playing.

As soldiers we have the feeling that this is the least we can do to remember your fallen comrades.

Photos
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