Celebrations mark 70th anniversary of Dutch Liberation, Battle of Atlantic
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, May 3, 2015 2:53PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 3, 2015 6:07PM EDT
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and Canadians who sacrificed their lives during the conflict are being honoured on both sides of the Atlantic.
On Sunday, a ceremony remembering the more than 7,600 Canadian soldiers who died in the fight to liberate the Dutch from Nazi occupation took place at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.
The First Canadian Army fought a costly nine-month campaign against German forces to free the country until German Colonel-General Johannes Blaskowitz, the German commander-in-chief in the Netherlands, surrendered to Canadian Lt.-Gen. Charles Foulkes on May 5, 1945.
"As we walk among the 2,338 markers here in Groesbeek, we are reminded once more of the costs of war and the bravery of those who fought for freedom," Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O'Toole said at Sunday’s ceremony.
"As we read the names of young Canadians etched in stones at Groesbeek memorial, it is deeply saddening to know that so many brave young men did not return to their Canada. They fought with proud regiments from across our great country and truly represented our country," he added.
O'Toole was joined by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's wife, Laureen, at the event.
"This country, this continent and our world are different -- they are better because you chose to accept a risk many years ago. Indeed, there is no sacrifice greater that can be asked of a man or woman than to risk everything for the cause of freedom," said Laureen Harper.
"And yet, you were asked and because you were willing, when the Dutch people speak of who freed them from the torment and deprivation of their Nazi oppressors they will forever answer the Canadians," she added.
Every year since the Second World War, the Netherlands has sent thousands of tulips to Ottawa in appreciation for Canada's service.
The Prime Minister is also slated to join festivities, after making a surprise visit to northern Iraq and Kuwait on Saturday.
Ceremonies also took place in Halifax on Sunday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Members of the Royal Canadian Navy as well as veterans took part in a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony at the Naval monument in Point Pleasant Park.
Aboard HMCS Halifax in the city's harbour, the ashes of two dozen veterans were also released into the ocean.
"I thought it was very touching," Lois Dunlop, 91, widow of Lt.-Cmdr Daniel Turbull Dunlop, told CTV Atlantic.
"I was very delighted I was able to come and bring my family," she added.
The Battle of the Atlantic was Canada's longest military engagement of the Second World War, lasting from September 1939 to May 1945. More than 4,600 soldiers lost their lives at sea. The clash pitted German U-boats, warships and the Luftwaffe against the Royal Canadian Navy and the British Royal Navy.
Canadian forces and their allies were given the difficult task of protecting merchant ships for the import-dependent United Kingdom and the Soviet Union from the German blockade.
Phil Clappison served on HMCS Sackville during the war and recalls surviving a close call with an enemy torpedo.
"The ship was swung hard to port and I thought the ship was going to turn over, but … that torpedo went across our bow and went through the whole convoy and didn't hit a ship," said Clappison, who attended the ceremony in Halifax.
In a statement released on Sunday, O'Toole thanked Canadian soldiers for their role in the nearly six-year naval campaign.
"During the Battle of the Atlantic, Canada felt the tremendous sacrifice and loss of both military personnel and civilians" said O'Toole.
"Thanks to our remarkably skilled and dedicated forces, and the industriousness of Canadians on the home front, our humble nation was able to help tip the balance in the Atlantic, and make victory possible," he added.
A ceremony marking the Battle of the Atlantic was also held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, where Gov.-Gen. David Johnston delivered remarks.
With a report from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw