Remembrance Day 2015

We have never been any place like this: Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

The cemetery stands on a hill, one of the highest points in the Netherlands. It overlooks a rolling landscape of forest and farms that were once battlefields. We arrived by bus from Nijmegen after taking the train from Haarlem on a dull and cool autumn day.

Groesbeek(Netherlands) Canadian War Cemetary

It was November 11th, Remembrance Day, a day where Canadians pause for a moment of silence at 11 a.m. for those men and women who died in the name of Canada. We paused in silence for more than that moment at eleven o'clock that morning. It was a poignant moment, both sad and beautiful, that left us speechless. 

Groesbeek Memorial honoring 1000 dead with unknown graves

Some of the 2610 graves at this site

The cemetery contains 2,610 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 2331 of which are Canadian. Here is some history on why they rest here:

Allied forces entered the Netherlands on 12 September 1944. Airborne operations later that month established a bridgehead at Nijmegen and in the following months, coastal areas and ports were cleared and secured, but it was not until the German initiated offensive in the Ardennes had been repulsed that the drive into Germany could begin.

Most of those buried in GROESBEEK CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY were Canadians, many of whom died in the Battle of the Rhineland, when the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division took part in the drive southwards from Nijmegen to clear the territory between the Maas and the Rhine in February and March 1945. Others buried here died earlier or later in the southern part of the Netherlands and in the Rhineland.
— Commonwealth War Graves Commission

We find notes, perhaps left by visiting friends and family, at some of the graves which reveal a little more of their stories:

Private Andy McNally

Note from a wartime friend at grave of Andy J.J. McNally

Andy J.J. McNally - Source: Library and Archives of Canada

Trooper Peter Chorney of Star, Alberta

Note at grave of Peter Chorney

Dutch women and children sitting on a tank of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, the same unit as Peter. The photo is from two days after his death. April 19, 1945 in Harderwijk, Netherlands. - Source: Bevrijdings Museum

Grave of an unknown Canadian soldier

Lest we forget.

~ Brian