60 Years Ago:
The story of a Sackville soldier (Ned Fisher) in Holland on VE Day, May 8th 1945
The West Nova Scotia Regiment had fought as part of the First Canadian Division through Italy and had only been in Holland a fairly short time. They made up the third Brigade with the Carleton and York and the Royal 22nd regiments.
I had joined the "West Novies" as a reinforcement officer just prior to the truce that was called in early May. This truce was to temporarily stop the fighting and to allow food to be delivered to the Dutch people. At the time, we were dug-in on a farm within sight of the town of Amersfoort and we could easily see the very tall tower in the town. I remember the map showed that we were not far from the Dutch Summer Palace.
We remained in this position for three or four days. It was easy for us to see the enemy from our OP and on one occasion, they came out with a white flag and seemed to lay some mines. Bombers came over us, very low, and dropped large bundles in the occupied zone just behind the German positions…food for the Dutch people. We continued to be ever watchful as we expected that action might start again at any time.
Almost at the time that we heard that an Armistice had been signed, the Dutch underground raised a huge orange flag on the Amersfoort tower as their way of telling their people that the war was over. It was a day or two after the actual May 8th, as I remember that we moved off and the whole Division moved into the occupied territory.
The crowds that greeted us as we moved through the towns and villages have been well described by others. It was an experience of a lifetime. We arrived in Delft and there was much celebrating there. As well, the Dutch people were rounding up those who had collaborated with the enemy and dealing with them in their own way. It was very true that there was almost no food. People gathered around our mess kitchens looking for any kind of left-overs.
The next day I was ordered to take my platoon and, with another officer, to proceed further into occupied territory. We were to replace the guard on a German General’s headquarters. With the platoon and equipment in two trucks, we found the position and were greeted by the Burgermaster of the town (who wanted us to immediately take action because the previous night some German officers were having a farewell party with their Dutch girlfriends and it ended with some tragedy). Fortunately the General’s adjutant, although an arrogant Panzer Colonel, spoke some English. The changeover from the German guard to our men went smoothly. There was the worry that the Dutch citizens or underground would attempt to get to the German General. Fortunately, there were no serious incidents. This is just as well, as this town had a large number of German troops and we would have been far outnumbered. Actually they were fully armed but well disciplined. I recall being saluted on the street by German soldiers. In three or four days we were relieved by a Canadian Artillery Regiment that proceeded to disarm and assemble the enemy for return to Germany.
We returned to rejoin our Regiment. It had established headquarters in The Hague and was responsible for disarming German troops and assembling them in a large guarded compound. We took convoys of these troops to the Hook of Holland to be returned to Germany by ship.
Cigarettes became more important than money. I was able to buy film for my camera with cigarettes. A box of beautiful fresh strawberries went for two or three cigarettes.
Our regiment marched with the complete First Division in the Victory Parade in Rotterdam.
The West Nova Scotia Regiment was among the first units due for early return to Canada. I left the regiment and joined the second battalion of the North Shore (NB) Regiment and proceeded with them as part of the Army of Occupation of Germany.E. M. S. Fisher
Sackville, New Brunswick
May 1st, 2005