Canada’s participation in the liberation of the Netherlands during the Second World War was the focus of the Remembrance Day ceremony at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High school on Monday.
Alberta’s Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell, who spoke at the event, said the people of the Netherlands have never forgotten what Canadian troops did 70 years ago.
Mitchell had a few numbers to help hit home just how important a part Canadian troops played.
During Nazi occupation, 234,000 Dutch citizens died, she said.
“That’s more than twice the population of Red Deer. Can you imagine losing an entire city — twice over,” Mitchell told hundreds of students and staff who gathered for the annual ceremony.
“During the long years the Netherlands suffered through occupation, people died of many causes, in concentration camps, via acts of war, and through forced labour. But they also died from hunger.”
The winter of 1944-45 was particularly harsh and became known as the “Hunger Winter” among the Dutch, she said.
“By then the daily ration for each citizen was 320 calories a day. The Canadian Food Guide suggests about 2,000 or more calories every day for teenagers. Imagine going for months with just 320 calories.
“Now imagine the sight of Canadian bombers flying above your town, dropping parcels of food. Imagine seeing Canadian troops marching down your streets, fighting to save your lives and telling you that the nightmare is finally over. That’s the gift that Canada gave the Netherlands 70 years ago.”
She said 7,600 Canadians died battling to free the Dutch.
“The people of the Netherlands have never forgotten the role that Canadians played in saving their country. It’s important that we remember it as well, just as you people do here today.”
Since October, Mitchell has attended many events leading up to Nov. 11 and she said Lindsay Thurber was likely the only high school she will visit.
While speaking to local media after the ceremony, the lieutenant-governor congratulated staff and students on their efforts to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I think there is a groundswell of young people that care and feel that they too can make a difference,” Mitchell said.
On Monday at West Park Elementary School in Red Deer, two Grade 5 classes operated a Remembrance Day Museum for fellow students, parents and the public.
About 50 students gathered information to set up displays and make posters about the wars and peacekeeping efforts involving Canadians.
Some students brought in artifacts and photos of family members who have served in the military.
At one of the exhibits, Grade 5 student Lillian Snowball wore white cotton gloves to pick up a gaiter, or ankle/shin guard, used in the First World War.
“They would put it over their ankles and shins so they didn’t get cuts. Because if that cut got infected while on duty, you would probably die. Even if it was just a scrape,” Snowball said.