May 5, 2021. Last year, one of the events planned for the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of The Netherlands was to place photos by the graves of soldiers at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek. Unfortunately, due to social distancing measures, this had to be cancelled. Instead, white tulips were placed at each grave. (See https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/05/05/tulips-placed-at-each-grave-at-the-canadian-war-cemetery-in-groesbeek/)
This year, the planned photo tribute was possible, with photos placed at more than 1,600 graves. They will remain in place until May 17. Readers of this blog are aware that Pieter has been working towards finding as many photos as possible from the Atlantic region over the past few years. Here on PEI, all but two soldiers buried in this cemetery have their photo tributes. We asked Alice van Bekkum, Chair of the Groesbeek Faces to Graves Committee, to take photos of 4 soldiers whose stories have been previously told here.
….Graves of 4 PEI soldiers ….
To read about William ‘Willie’ Alfred CANNON of Mt Mellick, please see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2018/08/04/canadian-war-graves-netherlands-foundation-project/
To read about Joseph ‘Joe’ Edmund HENNEBERY of Morell, please see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/on-the-war-memorial-trail-a-face-for-joseph-hennebery/
To read about George Preston SMITH of Kinkora, please see:
To read about William WEATHERBIE of Charlottetown, please see https://bordencarletonresearchproject.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/a-face-for-ww2-soldier-william-weatherbie/
Alice shared a short video in which she is interviewed, and volunteers can be seen placing the photos by the graves. The photos were printed onto an aluminum backing, making them impervious to rain. Whether you understand Dutch or not, the video is wonderful as it shows the care and precision taken for this photo tribute.
….Graves of 3 Indigenous soldiers….
Recently, several photos have come in for soldiers whose stories Pieter is still researching. Three of these are of Indigenous soldiers, which came about after an article about Pieter’s search for photos was written by Brett Forester of APTN News. (See https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/dutch-born-p-e-i-man-on-a-mission-to-find-photos-of-first-nations-soldiers-killed-overseas-in-wwii/) Their stories will be told in a future posting.
Pieter asked his friend and former colleague, Ad Scheepers, if he would take photos of 3 graves at the cemetery in Groesbeek. Ad visited the cemetery and placed an orange flower beside each grave he took a photo of.
Alfred Louis PITAWANAKWAT (PITWANAKWAT) was born September 12, 1924 in Little Current, Ontario, son of Agatha Pitwanakwat, of Wikwemikong, Ontario.
Eli SNAKE was born November 29, 1919 on the Muncey Reserve, the son of Eli and Marjorie Snake.
Clarence Wilfred WAKEGIJIG was born January 9, 1925 in Wikemwikong, Ontario, the son of Joachim and Josephine Wakegijig (nee Shawanda), of Krugersdorf, Ontario.
Ad wrote that while he was near the grave of Alfred Pitwanakat, “….a boy visiting the site with his family put a Canadian flag in front of the grave of Alfred….”
It’s clear that the Dutch pass on the importance of remembrance to the next generation so they can continue to remember those who lost their lives in WW2!
Thank you to Alice van Bekkum and Ad Scheepers for their kindness in taking the photos of the graves. If you have information to share about any Canadian soldiers buried in The Netherlands, please contact Pieter at email@example.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @researchmemori1.
You are also invited to subscribe to our YouTube Channel: On The War Memorial Trail With Pieter Valkenburg: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ591TyjSheOR-Cb_Gs_5Kw.
© Daria Valkenburg