September 17, 2019. The Netherlands was fully liberated in 1945 (part was liberated in 1944), and next year marks their 75th year of commemoration. In recognition of the role Canadians had in their liberation during WW2, the Dutch are donating 1.1 million ‘Liberation 75’ tulips to remember the 1.1 million Canadians who served in WW2. 750 bulbs will go to each Lieutenant Governor, the Governor General, and the Territorial Commissioners. In addition, 1,100 schools will receive 75 bulbs each, plus an educational program to explain the role Canada played in liberating The Netherlands.
The first stop on this cross-country launch was in Prince Edward Island, when Ambassador of The Kingdom of the Netherlands to Canada, His Excellency Henk van der Zwan, presented Her Honour The Honourable Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, with a box of tulips at a special event at Province House. Invitees included WW2 veterans, and members of PEI Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, and Branch #1 Charlottetown Legion. As a retired member of the Dutch Diplomatic Service and the Dutch Air Force, Pieter was also invited. He was honoured to be included, given the work he is doing with the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project.
One of the WW2 veterans we spoke to before the event began was 95 year old Blanche Bennett, who we had met two years earlier, at the Senate of Canada 150 Medal Ceremony. (See Recognition) Mrs. Bennett quickly reminded us of that prior meeting, and told us about her trips to The Netherlands. She explained that during the war, she had joined the Canadian Army and was stationed in Halifax, working as a switchboard operator. “I’d do it again if I could” she said.
In his remarks, Ambassador Van der Zwan explained that “the people of The Netherlands wanted to commemorate the role Canada played in liberating The Netherlands and in providing the Dutch Royal Family a safe haven in Ottawa.” Crown Princess Juliana stayed in Ottawa with her children during the war. Why Ottawa? Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and the wife of the Governor General of Canada were cousins. After the war ended in 1945, the Dutch Royal Family donated 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canada as a thank you gift. Since then, The Netherlands has presented Canada with 20,000 bulbs annually.
After a ceremonial planting at Province House, Lt Governor Perry explained that the new bed for the Liberation 75 tulips was carefully chosen so that it pointed towards The Netherlands!
Ambassador Van der Zwan shared a story about his mother’s experience with Canadian troops on April 15, 1945. “My mother was born in 1933 in Leeuwarden, and remembered Canadian troops driving through the city. It’s when she had her first taste of chocolate and chewing gum!” Leeuwarden, in the province of Friesland, was liberated by the Royal Canadian Dragoons. (See https://www.intelligencer.ca/news/local-news/royal-canadian-dragoons-celebrate-liberation-of-leeuwarden-with-dutch-ambassador-to-canada/wcm/7dea7e30-e6bd-42c4-9491-ae5552e497ae and http://www.petawawapostlive.ca/stories_site/april2019/april18/leeuwarden.html#)
The official part of the event over, everyone had time to visit and chat with each other.
If you have a story to share about the Liberation of Holland, please contact Pieter at email@example.com or comment on the blog. Please note that we are still looking for photos of 10 names listed on the Cenotaph from WW1. See Appeal For Relatives Of These WW1 Casualties! for more information.
© Daria Valkenburg