Remembrance Day 2016

Last November 11th, Erica and I went to Grosebeek Canadian War Cemetery  for a Canadian ceremony. It was an incredible experience, and we saw dozens of locals and Canadians in attendance.

This year, I travelled 3 hours east from Haarlem by bus, train and bicycle to visit Holten Canadian War Cemetery. November 11th is a meaningful day for Canadians, and it's a day we're used to sharing with others. But at this location, the atmosphere was lonely and solemn, which is why I am so glad I made the trip.

The solitude here on this day isn't because the Dutch don't recognize the sacrifice of the soldiers who died freeing the Netherlands. The Dutch celebrate these sacrifices at a different time: Remembrance of the Dead (Dodenherdenking) on May 4th and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) on May 5th.

Holten Canadian War Cemetery is the second largest Second World War cemetery in the Netherlands. There are 1,394 Commonwealth burials, most of which are Canadian. 

The Netherlands fell to the Germans in May 1940 and was not re-entered by Allied forces until September 1944.

The great majority of those buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery died during the last stages of the war in Holland, during the advance of the Canadian 2nd Corps into northern Germany, and across the Ems in April and the first days of May 1945. After the end of hostilities their remains were brought together into this cemetery.
— Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Canadian Infantry of the Regiment de Maisonneuve moving through Holten to Rijssen, Netherlands on April 9th, 1945 - Source: Wikipedia

I walked around in silence between 11:00 until 11:11 in the morning, then it felt appropriate to sing O'Canada. I sang in a few different places around the cemetery for those that rest here.  I was inspired to participate in an act of remembrance, as I am each time I visit one of these cemeteries on Canadian soil in the Netherlands. Being present, wearing a poppy and singing our national anthem is my gift of thanks.

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Being an Edmontontian and Albertan, I am always drawn to graves such as Sgt. Miller's, and seeing from my perspective how far from home and family they were when fighting for the freedom of the Dutch people.

Being an Edmontontian and Albertan, I am always drawn to graves such as Sgt. Miller's, and seeing from my perspective how far from home and family they were when fighting for the freedom of the Dutch people.

This month I will be sharing more about some of the Canadians laid to rest here, just like I did last year in my blog series Remembrance in Holland. For more information on this cemetery, please go here to their official website. Thank you for reading.

Lest we forget.

~ Brian