Hunt starts for soldiers’ stories

The hunt is on for photos and biographies of soldiers buried at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands after the Second World War.

The hunt is on for photos and biographies of soldiers buried at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands after the Second World War.

A total of 1,393 Commonwealth soldiers are laid to rest at Holten, including 1,355 Canadians.

Welcome Again Veterans committee, of the Netherlands, has been working to gather the information for a few years. Mike Muntain and Peter Gower, both of the Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment, of Kingston, Ont., joined the search in January.

Muntain, project leader for A Face For Every Name, said three Central Albertans are buried at Holten.

Relatives of Lance-Cpl. Dwight E. Welch, of Erskine, have already provided information.

The search is still on for details on Staff Sgt. Walter A. Oke of Coronation and Pte. John N. Reed of Rocky Mountain House.

“We’re getting amazing packages. Letters the boys sent home to their loved ones. Love letters. Also letters their comrades wrote to the families who were involved in actions that took their loved ones lives,” said Muntain.

“When I pass on the package to Holland after spending hours reading what I’ve got, it’s almost like passing on information of an old buddy. It’s amazing.”

Photos and information collected are sent to Holland to be compiled for interactive kiosks at the cemetery’s visitor’s centre.

Photos identifying the soldiers have also been put on each grave on Christmas Eve, when a candle is placed by each headstone; on Liberation Day (May 5), when a tulip is placed at each grave; and on Remembrance Day, when flags flutter on each grave.

The Netherlands fell to Germany in May 1940 and was not re-entered by Allied forces until September 1944.

The majority of those buried at Holten died during the last stages of the war in Holland, during the advance of the Canadian 2nd Corps into northern Germany and across the Ems River in April and the first days of May 1945.

Muntain said more than 100 soldiers from Alberta are buried at Holten, which is a lot considering Alberta’s population at that time.

So far, information on about 500 of the soldiers has been gathered, including over 200 since January when word started to spread in Canada about A Face For Every Name.

Muntain is thrilled to have surpassed his Nov. 11 goal for the project.

“If we had 100 packages complete, with pictures and life stories, we would have done a good service to the country and to the people of Holland. I had no idea how great the response would be.”

Muntain, originally of Blackfalds, said he’s had some amazing phone calls from people responding to the project, including a nephew of Lance-Cpl. Welch, who was known as Johnny to his family.

“He said he was 12-years-old when his uncle Johnny went off. It was just so obvious after 70 years, this man still missed his Uncle Johnny.”

Muntain has been contacting newspapers around the country to reach out to surviving relatives.

Anyone with information can contact Muntain at 613-888-7267 or by email at mjmuntain@gmail.com.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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