December 7, 2019. While in The Netherlands this fall, we visited the three Canadian War Cemeteries and laid down flags of Canada and PEI for the names listed on the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, as well as other Islanders who have been identified by Dutch researchers. The third Canadian War Cemetery we visited on our 2019 trip was in Bergen Op Zoom, near the Belgian border. As no one listed on the Cenotaph is buried in this cemetery, we had not visited it before.
On this trip, however, we decided to lay flags down at the graves of 6 soldiers from Prince Edward Island and 1 from Nova Scotia. Our first surprise was that there are two war cemeteries, side by side, and of course we went to the wrong one, which turned out to be a British War Cemetery. Luckily, a teacher visiting with a group of high school students noticed the bag we carried the flags in, and asked if we thought we were in the Canadian War Cemetery. If so, it was further down the road. Thank goodness the Dutch are not shy!
We weren’t alone in the cemetery as there were more teachers, supervising schoolchildren carrying roses. With our Sobey’s bag filled with flags, we were easily picked out as visitors! A teacher told us that 2,600 schoolchildren would be visiting the Canadian and British War Cemeteries, each carrying a rose to place at a designated grave, until October 28, the day of liberation for this part of The Netherlands.
One of the most recent photos Pieter received of PEI soldiers buried in The Netherlands was that of Lawrence Adolphus SWEENEY, provided by his nephew David Perry. Placing flags by a grave when you have a photo of the person makes this small event more meaningful.
In alphabetical order, here are the known soldiers from PEI that are buried in the cemetery:
- Pte James Walter AULD, Algonquin Regiment, from O’Leary Station
- Tpr Alvah Ray LEARD, Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment – 27th Armoured Regiment, from Northam
- Pte Milton Evangeline LIVINGSTONE, Lincoln and Welland Regiment, from Murray River
- Bdr Hugh Allister MACDONALD, Royal Canadian Artillery – 02 Anti-Tank Regiment, from Georgetown
- L/Cpl Roy SMITH, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, from O’Leary
- Pte Lawrence Adolphus SWEENEY, Lincoln and Welland Regiment, from Souris
Canadian and Nova Scotia flags were placed at the grave of one soldier from Nova Scotia, who had mistakenly been recorded as being from PEI by the Cemetery:
- Pte Elmer D. SCHOFIELD, Lincoln and Welland Regiment, from North Alton
Unfortunately, no photo has been found for one PEI soldier:
- James Walter AULD, born in Glenwood, son of James and Margaret Auld of O’Leary Station. He died on November 1, 1944, aged 21.
The weather in Bergen Op Zoom was cloudy, but it was dry. We had just missed a rainfall, as we found out while walking through the cemetery. The ground was saturated and my shoes were soaking wet by the time we finished, giving me an excuse to go to the car and change my shoes and warm up. In the meantime, Caroline Raajmakers of the Faces To Graves Bergen Op Zoom Project dropped by to invite us over for coffee and a stroopwafel (a delicious Dutch treat).
Caroline explained that most of the burials in the British and Canadian War Cemeteries in Bergen Op Zoom are due to casualties from the Battle of the Scheldt (For more information, see https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/second-world-war/scheldt#scheldt03). We learned that information on this battle, in which 6,300 Canadian lives were lost, is in the Liberation Museum Zeeland in nearby Nieuwdorp, which will be on our list of places to visit next trip. (See https://liberationroute.com/the-netherlands/spots/l/liberation-museum-zeeland-(spot221))
Pieter gave Caroline a large Canadian flag, which was provided by Senator Mike Duffy for this war memorial trip. Flags had also been provided for Pieter to give to the cemeteries in Harlingen, Holten, and Groesbeek, which he did.
Thank you to Senator Mike Duffy for the large Canadian flag, to the office of Malpeque MP Wayne Easter for the small Canadian flags placed by the graves, and to John Wales of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum in Amherst for the Nova Scotia flag. If anyone has more information to share on any of the soldiers listed above, or know of more Islanders buried in the cemetery in Bergen Op Zoom, please contact Pieter at email@example.com or comment on the blog.
© Daria Valkenburg