June 21, 2020. While we were in The Netherlands last fall, we received an intriguing email from fellow Islander G. Lawrence Smith: “...I recall a story my father, Sgt. Earl F. Smith (The Kangaroos, 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment, only Regiment to be formed in Holland) told to an old friend of his. During Queen Wilhelmina’s parade in Holland he removed a flag from her vehicle and he was surprised he wasn’t arrested or worse. I still have the flag…”
Queen Wilhelmina was the Dutch queen during the WW2 years. After Germany invaded The Netherlands in 1940 she fled to England and spent the war years there in charge of the Dutch government-in-exile, returning in 1945 following liberation. (For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelmina_of_the_Netherlands)
A flag from a vehicle during one of the royal processions across the country? This was something we had to see! Lawrence’s father, Sgt. Earl Francis Phinney SMITH, was born in Nova Scotia and enlisted at the No. 6 Depot of the Canadian Army in Halifax on July 22, 1943. He had originally enlisted in 1940 and served three months with the 2nd Battalion of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, but was released due to a medical condition. In 1943 he re-enlisted successfully and was sent overseas on April 30, 1944.
In 1945, Earl Smith was posted to Hoffmeister Hall in Groningen, an Army School established in a building at the University of Groningen, where he was the Billetts Sergeant.
Up until we met Lawrence, we were unaware that the Canadian Army had established a school in The Netherlands for Canadian soldiers. This was fascinating information. But… what about the flag? That turned out to be a real mystery.
As soon as he saw the flag, Pieter, retired from the Dutch Foreign Service, knew right away that this was not an official royal standard. We determined that the ‘W’ enclosed in the heart stood for Wilhelmina, while the ‘JB’ at the top likely stood for Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana, who became queen of The Netherlands in 1948, and Juliana’s husband Bernhard. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juliana_of_the_Netherlands for more information.)
Nevertheless, Pieter contacted the Protocol Office of The Dutch Royal House and sent them a photo of the flag, just in case someone recognized it. No luck. It was a handmade pennant, with no official recognition. It would not have been on any vehicle in which Queen Wilhelmina was riding.
We looked through YouTube videos of the Queen during 1945, the year in which several parades took place throughout The Netherlands, just in case we could spot the pennant. Nothing. You can watch one here:
The mystery of the flag continues, unsolved at this point in time. Sgt Smith was discharged on March 9, 1946 and returned home. His brother, George Laurie SMITH, of the Lake Superior Regiment, was not as lucky. He died February 26, 1945 in Germany and is buried at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek, The Netherlands.
Thank you to G. Lawrence Smith for sharing his father’s war experience and the story of the flag. If you attended Hoffmeister Hall’s Army School, recognize any of the men in the group photos, or can solve the mystery of the pennant with the initials of members of the Dutch Royal Family, please contact Pieter at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on the blog.
© Daria Valkenburg