May 23rd, 2024

Dutch dignitaries to speak about Legion’s role in Holland


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 5, 2022.

Submitted photo Canadian Soldiers pose for a group photo in Lochem, Netherlands in May 1945. The connection continues with Canada with a Legion branch operating in the community.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The Royal Canadian Legion is not just an organization operating in Canada as the public will hear today in a presentation at the General Stewart Branch on Mayor Magrath Drive.
The Legion actually has several branches in Europe including Branch 005 in Lochem, Netherlands. Two members of that branch, Berry and Yvonne Swarthoff, will speak about Legion operations in the Netherlands at 2:30 p.m.
The Swarthoffs who are in Canada for 10 days, will discuss the importance of remembering the Canadian liberators in that country.
Yvonne is the liaison officer for the Lochem branch while Berry is the chairman of the Liberation Museum in that community.
The museum showcases to the public the cost of securing freedom for the Dutch people during the Second World War and provides educational programs to youth. It opened in fall 2019 and after being closed because of COVID restrictions, the doors have opened again.
For the Swarthoffs and other members of the Lochem branch, educating youth about the liberation of their country remains important.
A lot of Canadian families visit graveyards in Holland every year paying homage to loved ones who died overseas and the Swarthoffs themselves go to about 60 a year.
“We don’t want to forget,” said Berry to media on Friday morning.
Berry’s father got the ball rolling on collecting war memorabilia when he was 12 years old and asked a Canadian soldier for his uniform.
“He lived in it, he went everywhere in it,” Berry said of his dad who is still alive.
Through the years, about 150 veterans from Canada and England were hosted by the Legion and went all over Europe with them. The Swarthoffs started collecting things from them and he started the museum after having it all in his basement.
With many collectibles in his basement, Berry started the museum at the suggestion of numerous people who urged him to show the artifacts.
The museum is popular with schools, local historical societies and tourists from Holland.
“It’s especially for the future; it’s so important because our parents always said don’t forget what these liberators did for us….we will keep that going in the future,” said Berry.
“They are here on vacation in southern Alberta and it is a privilege for us to understand and appreciate what they do on behalf of all Canadians in their commemoration when representing Canada at different commemoration events in Holland, France, Vimy Ridge” and other events, the Legion’s Glenn Miller said.
COVID forced cancellation of commemoration events including the 75th anniversary in the Netherlands in 2019, Miller said.
Yvonne said their branch is the only one in Holland. In 2002 or 2003, the first branch in Holland was started on a base and it shut down so a new facility was looked at. The Swarthoffs offered their facility and it was accepted, she said.
Berry arranges tours for the branch and gets many requests for information about Canadian soldiers who died in Holland.
There are three Canadian war cemeteries in Holland and many families want to visit cemeteries.
“We as a branch we go to all the cemeteries, we do our commemorations and the anniversaries also in the towns where the cemeteries are. We do about 60 commemorations a year, all over Holland,” Berry said.
On Christmas eve, kids all over Holland go to cemeteries, many Canadian ones, and put candles in front of headstones, he said.
“We don’t want to forget them, also at Christmas.”
“The branch also does tours to different places where Canadians fought because families want to know and follow in the footsteps of their loved ones,” Berry added.

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