On The War Memorial Trail…..Our 2019 Visit To The Canadian War Cemetery In Holten

October 8, 2019.  While in The Netherlands 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 first Canadian War Cemetery we visited on the 2019 trip was in Holten.  (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At Holten Canadian War Cemetery for an account of our 2017 visit.) On this visit we also were able to place flags on graves of soldiers that were identified by Pieter while doing research for photos and other information to help the researchers at the cemetery with their “A Face For Every Grave” project.

For some reason, we have never been able to visit the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten on a dry day.  We started off in beautiful sunshine, but as soon as we entered the gate into the cemetery, it started to rain.  At first we ignored the rain, and were rewarded with a downpour.  We got the message and went back to the car to wait for the rain to stop.

While we waited we noticed that schoolchildren from an elementary school in nearby Holten were having a tour and explanation of the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers in liberating The Netherlands during WWII.  We approached a teacher and asked if the children would like Canadian flag pins.  As soon as the children understood what was being offered, Pieter was mobbed!  “Are you really from Canada?” he was asked.

CIMG3191 Oct 3 2019 Pieter surrounded by children at Holten

Pieter handing out Canadian flag pins to children from a nearby elementary school at the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

While handing out pins to the schoolchildren, the rain stopped and we returned to visit the graves.  We went through the gate into the cemetery and stopped to take a photo at the entrance.  No sooner had the photo been taken than it started to rain again, quite heavily! Back we went to the car.

CIMG3190 Oct 3 2019 Pieter by sign at Holten Cdn War Cemetery

Pieter at the entrance to the Holten Canadian War Cemetery. As soon as we took this photo, it started to rain! (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We were soon joined by Edwin van der Wolf and Henk Vincent of the Information Centre, Canadian War Cemetery Holten, and decided to go for lunch in the hope that the sun would come out later.  We’d visited the Information Centre in 2017 (See On the War Memorial Trail ….. At The Information Centre at Holten Canadian War Cemetery) but it closed at the beginning of October for several months for expansion of the facility and preparation of digital innovations, such as holographic stories of various soldiers.

CIMG3194 Oct 3 2019 Lunch at Grand Cafe in Holten

At Grand Café in Holten. Left to right: Daria Valkenburg, Pieter Valkenburg, Edwin van der Wolf, Henk Vincent.

After a nice visit and lunch, the sun began peeking out from the clouds and it started to dry up, so a third attempt was made at placing flags at the cemetery.  This time we were joined by Edwin and Henk.  Again, however, we no sooner came past the gate than it started to rain.  This time we kept on going, and the four of us managed to place 33 flags and take photos of each grave…. in the rain.

CIMG3219 Oct 3 2019 Holten Carmen Gillcash

Edwin van der Wolf, Henk Vincent, and Pieter by the grave of Carman Gillcash of O’Leary. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Flags of Canada and Prince Edward Island were placed at the graves of the following Islanders:

  • Alfred ARSENAULT, born in Urbanville
  • Frederick Charles CHEVERIE, born in Summerside
  • Nelson DES ROCHES, born in Tignish
  • Harald FRASER, born in Vernon Bridge
  • Frank GALLANT, born in Mount Carmel
  • Carman E. GILLCASH, born in O’Leary
  • Maurice J. HUGHES, born in Charlottetown
  • Francis E. LAWLESS, born in Grand Tracadie
  • Neal F. MACDONALD, born in North Wiltshire
  • Daniel Peter MACKENZIE, born in Summerville
  • Ruel K. MATHESON, born in Charlottetown
  • John B. MATTHEW, born in Souris
  • Michael J. MCKENNA, born in Montague
  • John A. MCLAREN, born in Armadale
  • George Martin MCMAHON, born in Kinkora
  • William Douglas SHERREN, born in Crapaud
  • Charles B. TUPLIN, born in Kensington
  • Archibald H. NELSON, born in Charlottetown

Flags of Canada and Nova Scotia were placed at the graves of the following soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regiment:

  • Joseph A. COMEAU, born in Lower Saulnierville
  • Gordon F. JOHNSON, born in Nova Scotia, birthplace unknown
  • Lewis W. MARSH, born in Sydney Mines
  • Lloyd W. MURRAY, born in Tatamagouche

A flag of Canada was placed at the graves of the following soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, who were not from Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island:

  • Allan G. COUTTS, born in Alberta
  • Howard M. NICHOLLS, born in Mattawa, Ontario
  • Gunnar DALMAN, born in Saskatchewan

Edwin van der Wolf researched a tragic story of Canadian soldiers murdered in cold blood by German soldiers on April 9, 1945 while they were sleeping in tents in Sogel, Germany, and Canadian flags were placed in honour of these men as well:

  • Karl CHRISTENSEN of Alberta
  • Louis FELDMANN of Ontario
  • Lewis GALLANT of Manitoba
  • Thomas F. GREENHALGH of Alberta
  • Victor HUBACHECK of Ontario
  • John D. MCDOUGALL of Manitoba
  • Harlow D. RANKIN of Ontario
  • Franklin ZIMMERMAN of Ontario

Placing flags is the easiest part of a cemetery visit.  Gathering flags to bring from Canada is an event in itself, involving many people who provided them.  Our thanks go to:

  • the office of Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island for Canada flags and pins
  • the office of Senator Mike Duffy, Senate of Canada for Canada flags and pins
  • Mary McQuaid of Veterans Affairs Canada for arranging for us to have PEI flags
  • John Wales of North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum for making a trip to the Island to drop off Nova Scotia flags.
CIMG3047 Jul 24 2019 John Wales with NS flags

John Wales of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum dropped of Nova Scotia flags to be placed at graves in The Netherlands. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If anyone has more information to share on any of the soldiers listed above, or know of more Islanders buried in the cemetery in Holten, please contact Pieter at dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on the blog.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Quest To Ensure All Are Remembered

November 3, 2018.   On November 2, Pieter was invited by the Tryon and Area Historical Association and the South Shore United Church to give a presentation on the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project.  Those who came out in absolutely terrible weather – Dutch weather as Pieter put it – said they were glad they came.

Among the guests were Senator Mike Duffy, Honourable Jamie Fox, MLA for Borden-Kinkora, John Wales, Assistant Curator of The North Nova Scotia Regimental Museum in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and Reverend Kent Compton of the Free Church of Scotland in Cape Traverse.

CIMG2769 Nov 2 2018 Pieter Mike John Jack

Left to right: Pieter Valkenburg, Senator Mike Duffy, John Wales of The North Nova Scotia Regimental Museum, Jack Sorensen. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Opening remarks and words of welcome were made by the co-hosts, first by Rev Dr Karen MacLeod-Wilkie of South Shore United Church, then by Jack Sorensen, Chair of the Tryon and Area Historical Society.

Jack Sorensen’s warm words of welcome and introduction:

On behalf of the Tryon & Area Historical Society Inc., and as co-host for this presentation, it is an honour for me to bring greetings and welcome you here this evening.

This year being the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI, it is an historical moment as we reflect on the soldiers of our country who have been instrumental in attaining peace for our country.

One of the defining characteristics of a nation is the honour it bestows to those who have served in peace keeping roles.

As a community in this great country of Canada, and at this time of year, we gladly, and honourably, carry out this tradition.

Many of the people Pieter will be talking about were, and still are, our friends and relatives. Often, to soldiers returning after a war, thoughts about battle are best forgotten and less talked about. Pieter and Daria will mention things which are lost to our knowledge, but appropriate for us to know. It is with gratitude that we express our thanks to Pieter and Daria for researching and telling us more about these brave people.

Pieter will also be telling us about a special component of his research. That is the celebration of the life of air force Pilot Elmer Bagnall Muttart, and the memorial panel planned for Muttart and his crew in the Netherlands.

The Tryon and Area Historical Society have partnered with the Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation in The Netherlands to raise funds for this memorial.

Those wishing to make donations for the memorial panel will receive a charitable receipt from our Society, which can be used for income tax purposes. Arlene and I will be at the table at the back of the church to receive your donations, and we thank those who are able to support this worthy cause.

CIMG2760 Nov 2 2018 Pieter at the podium SSUC

Pieter at the podium of South Shore United Church. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

In his opening remarks, Pieter explained that the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Project “began out of respect for the country that is now my home.  If it wasn’t for the Canadians, I might not be here. I was born in The Netherlands during the Hunger Year of 1944, when there was little or no food.  Our family lived in the countryside and my father spent many nights, sneaking out after curfew, looking to trade items for food to feed his family.  Anyone caught with food by the Nazis had it confiscated.

If you were unlucky enough to live in a city, sometimes tulip bulbs were all that was available to eat.  So many people starved to death that winter. The Canadians not only liberated us from Nazi rule, they saved us from starvation. So this project is one way for me to honour those who lost their lives in war.

Stories of people from the Cenotaph who were from the nearby area were then told.  Everyone was engaged in the presentation as they got wrapped up in the lives of men who lived so long ago.

After the presentation, Pieter was thanked by Lorna Lord, on behalf of the Tryon and Area Historical Association.

CIMG2767 Nov 2 2018 Pieter with Lorna Lord after the presentation

Pieter receives thank you from the Tryon & Area Historical Society from Lorna Lord. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG2765 Nov 2 2018 Pieter with Jamie Fox and story of Kruger

Hon. Jamie Fox, MLA for Borden-Kinkora (left), and Pieter Valkenburg (right) with the County Line Courier article on WW1 soldier Elmyr Kruger. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If you have photos or information to share on soldiers from the Cenotaph outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, please let us know. Send us an email to dariadv@yahoo.ca or comment on this blog.

UPCOMING PRESENTATION: Pieter has been invited to be a guest speaker at St John The Evangelist Church in Crapaud during their Remembrance Day service, which begins at 10:30 am on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

© Daria Valkenburg

Celebration To Honour The Life Of WWII Pilot Elmer Muttart

100th Celebration - Elmer Bagnall Muttart-1

(Photo on left: from Canadian Virtual War Memorial at http://www.veterans.gc.ca)

On March 8, 2018, at the Borden-Carleton Legion, a gathering of family and friends of WWII Pilot Elmer Bagnall MUTTART from Cape Traverse joined officials and non-profit historical organizations to honour his life.   This was the initiative of distant relative Lori (Muttart) Eggert.   After hearing about the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph Research Project and learning more about her relative, she saw the 100th anniversary of his birth as “an excellent opportunity to celebrate his life, his sacrifice, and raise some donations for the memorial planned in The Netherlands.”

CIMG9834 Mar 8 2018 Pieter and Lori Eggert

Pieter Valkenburg and Lori Eggert. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Sponsored by the Cape Traverse Iceboat Committee, the event was embraced by us, the Borden-Carleton Legion, the Tryon & Area Historical Society, and the Lest We Forget Committee.  Period music was provided by Roger Sexton and George Ramsay.  Borden-Carleton Mayor Dean Sexton, and MLAs Jamie Fox and Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker gave words of remembrance.  Senator Mike Duffy was unable to attend, but sent a tribute of remembrance.  (Read the tributes by Mike Duffy:  Mike Duffy words of Remembrance: Mike Duffy words of Remembrance and Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker: Tribute by Dr Peter Bevan Baker: Tribute by Dr Peter Bevan Baker)


Pieter with MLA Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Jack Sorensen, Chair of Tryon & Area Historical Society noted that “One of the defining characters of a nation is the honor it bestows to those who have served in various ways to ensure peace in the country and the world beyond. Today, as a community in this great country of Canada, we carry out this tradition, by celebrating the life of a son, a brother in a family sense, a brother of a community which was his roots, and a Canadian Hero.”  (Read the full text of Jack Sorensen’s remarks: Remarks by Jack Sorensen TAHS)


Borden-Carleton Legion members George Palmer, left, and Carl Payne, right, provided the colour parade. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

In his remarks, Pieter paid tribute to Lori Eggert for organizing the event. “It’s so heartwarming when a family member of one of the soldiers takes such an interest.”  (Read the full text of Pieter’s remarks: Remarks by Pieter Valkenburg)

Pieter also read out a tribute from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ottawa. “Canadians were instrumental in our liberation and many gave their lives for our freedom.  Our gratitude for those courageous Canadian soldiers will never be forgotten.  They were our liberators.  Our heroes.  Forever.” (Read the tribute by the Dutch Embassy: Netherlands Embassy words of remembrance)

Lori Eggert, who had set up displays of Muttart, shared recollections on Elmer Muttart’s birth by his sister, Helen Coutts, of Toronto. “My brother was born one hundred years ago, on March 14th, 1918, during one of the stormiest March winters of a number of years.  There was no doctor at that time in Cape Traverse; the closest doctors were in Bedeque and Crapaud. The officiating doctor was Dr. Bowyer of Crapaud. Everybody loved him. My father drove in the sleigh to Crapaud to get him.  He drove there in the late afternoon and brought him back to our house, where he stayed for the night.”  (Read the full text of Helen Coutt’s remarks: 100 years ago by Helen Coutts)

CIMG9479 Oct 25 2017 Pieter with Helen Elgin & Don Coutts in Toronto

Recently, we visited the Coutts family in Toronto. Standing, left to right: Pieter, Helen Coutts, Don Coutts. Seated: Elgin Coutts. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG9838 Mar 10 2018 Muttart Celebration display of Muttarts life

One of the displays made by Lori Eggert on the life of Elmer Muttart. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Of course, you can’t have a celebration without cake, and there was a beautiful one with a picture of Elmer Muttart embedded in the icing.

CIMG9849 Mar 10 2018 Muttart Celebration Cake

Cake to honour the life of Elmer Muttart. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Donations were made to the Muttart Memorial Fund, a fundraising project towards the placement of a memorial plaque for Muttart and his crew at the site of the plane crash in Wons, The Netherlands.

CIMG9843 Mar 10 2018 Muttart Celebration Arlen & Jack Sorensen of TAHS

Arlene and Jack Sorensen of the Tryon & Area Historical Society accepted donations to the “Muttart Memorial Fund”. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

If you would like to donate, cheques may be written out to TAHS and mailed to Tryon & Area Historical Society (TAHS), PO Box 38, Crapaud PE C0A 1J0.  In the subject line, identify your cheque as being for the “Muttart Memorial Fund”.  A charitable donation receipt will be sent to all donors.

If you wish to donate and you live in Europe:  Bank transfers may be made to Stichting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, Bank Account # (IBAN) NL35ABNA0569579856, and state in the subject line “Attn D.S. Drijver for Halifax L9561”.

UPCOMING PRESENTATION: Pieter has been invited to speak about the Cenotaph Research Project at Central Trinity United Church in Breadalbane at 7 pm on Sunday, March 25, 2018.  Photos and information about soldiers welcome.  Members of the Tryon & Area Historical Association will be present to accept donations to the “Muttart Memorial Fund”.

The Cenotaph Research Project is far from over, and your input is welcome.  Please share your photos, comments, or stories by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

 © Daria Valkenburg



On the War Memorial Trail ….. Candlelight Service At Holten Canadian War Cemetery

January 25, 2018.  When we visited the Royal Canadian Legion in The Netherlands and the Information Centre at Holten Canadian War Cemetery, we brought along flag pins, provided by Senator Mike Duffy of the Senate of Canada, to give to the schoolchildren who participate in the candlelight service at the Canadian war cemeteries on Christmas Eve.

So we were delighted that Edwin van der Wolf, one of the volunteers at Holten Canadian War Cemetery, shared photos of the 2017 Christmas Eve Ceremony.


Edwin van der Wolf with schoolchildren from the town of Deventer, who are wearing Canadian flag pins, at Holten Canadian War Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of E. van der Wolf)

The candlelight ceremony began in 1991, with the participation of schoolchildren from the nearby town of Deventer, birthplace of Canada’s first Surveyor-General, Samuel Holland.  They light candles and place them on each grave in the cemetery at dusk.


Schoolchild places candle at one of the graves at Holten Canadian War Cemetery. (Photo credit: Math Willems)

Originally, the candlelight service began in Scandinavia by Mrs. Leena van Dam, who was born in Finland and wanted to show how grateful she was to live in a free country.  In Finland, it is traditional to place a burning candle on the graves of loved ones. Finnish candles can burn for ten hours and remain lit in all weather conditions, whether rain, wind, or snow.  Initially, Mrs. van Dam donated a five year supply of candles.  The Welcome Again Veterans Foundation, through the help of sponsors and donations, has continued funding the candles.

Close to 300 school children participate in this ceremony, which begins at 4:30 pm on Christmas Eve. Canadian and Dutch traditions are mixed as bagpipes are played and a Dutch horn is blown.


Bagpipers during the ceremony at Holten Canadian War Cemetery. (Photo credit: Math Willems)


The haunting sound of a Dutch horn is played during the ceremony. (Photo credit: Math Willems)

All evening, thousands of people from the area visit the cemetery and show their respects.  This candlelight ceremony is one of the many ways that the Dutch people remember the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers during WWII.


Candles at each grave at Holten Canadian War Cemetery on Christmas Eve. (Photo credit: Math Willems)

When we visited Holten Canadian War Cemetery our guide, Edwin van der Wolf, explained why he was a volunteer.  He told us that his grandfather lived in an area of Deventer that had been liberated by Canadian soldiers, and told his children and grandchildren the same story every Sunday.  Grandfather lived in a corner house on a street where he could see a hospital fence 100 metres away.  German soldiers were lying on the hospital roof and firing at Canadian soldiers as they climbed over the gate.  Some successfully climbed over the iron gate and were able to get in a crouching position and go past the line of fire.  As more Canadians advanced, the Germans retreated.

Hearing this story every week captured Edwin’s imagination.  The story, plus the fact that so many Canadians came from so far away to help liberate the Dutch made him feel a special bond with Canada.

Have you visited Holten Canadian War Cemetery and its Information Centre?  Have you seen one of the candlelight ceremonies?  You can share your comments and stories by emailing us at dariadv@yahoo.ca or by commenting on this blog.

© Daria Valkenburg