I'm posting and re-posting some of the articles and photos taken during my tour of the Netherlands for the Victory in Europe tour. Some have been published by Sun Media / QMI Agency papers, some have not.
HOLTEN, Netherlands — Despite being separated by generations, students commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands have been able to make some personal connections.
Each of the students participating in these events through EF Educational Tours has researched two soldiers who they’re representing while on tour. At the Holten Canadian War Cemetery, several students from Eastview Collegiate in Barrie, Ont. were able to connect with the graves of those who they’re representing.
“It makes it a lot more personal to know that you know someone who died and is buried here,” Eastview Grade 11 student Mike Olson said.
“They’re no longer just a number, but they’re people with families who loved them and whose lives they missed— it brings a tear to your eye,” Eastview grad Kristina King said.
Other students made connections through the people who helped bring them across the Atlantic to help commemorate the end of the Second World War and the liberation of the Netherlands.
Students from Thompson, Man.’s R.D. Parker Collegiate got a special treat as they watched a reunion between teacher Katie Maloney and Marc Van Aken behind the gravestone of Maloney’s relative James Joseph Maloney who enlisted with the South Saskatchewan Regiment and shipped to the Netherlands in 1944.
“He was hiding in the farmhouse of my grandfather and he was hit by shrapnel and killed in action,” Van Aken said, with Katie Maloney standing feet away. “My grandfather found the body, then put it to a grave in the local area. The only thing left was a beret and a badge— for over more than 60 years we have this beret and badge in our possession.
“My grandfather gave it to me in 1981 because I was interested in Canadian soldiers and the Second World War. I thought, ‘This beret must have a story, be from a young guy.’”
About four years of research led Van Aken to identify the beret as belonging to James Maloney, and after several attempts to contact the family through official channels the Internet and a phone directory led him to Albert Maloney in Thompson.
“He already knew my story because the Canadian Archives sent letters to the family,” Van Aken said.
A special monument to Maloney now stands on the Van Aken farm, which Albert was able to help unveil in 2005. Van Aken told the R.D. Parker students he plans to visit Canada for the first time in August.
“I hope to see Albert again and see the place where James grew up,” Van Aken said.
Katie Maloney’s students stood quietly in front of the grave as Van Aken spoke, and later Carmen Lambert reflected on what she’d just participated in.
“It was actually very special. It was about one of her own family members that died during the war— she’s been telling us stories all through the year,” Lambert said. “Being here and actually seeing the grave stone is actually quite touching and makes you feel like you’re part of her own family.”
Written May 4.