Canadian War Cemetery
Holten, the Field of Honour
There are a number of fields of honour for Canadian soldiers, fallen in battle, in the Netherlands. One of those is the Canadian War Cemetery in Holten and this is the most important of all. Every year two memorials are held (4 May and approx. 11 November). On May 4th, Dutch National Remembrance of the Dead, an official memorial is held, with lots of Canadian veterans participating. Aside from the many authorities (like HKH Princess Margriet) a great number of schoolchildren is present. The schools in Holten adopted the field of honour to involve the children in the memorial of the fallen soldiers and the second world war.
Moreover, on May 4th in Vancouver (Canada), the encampment of the Regiment The Seaforth Highlanders, a ceremony at the Cenotaph on Victory Square is held. The Dutch community, Dutch veterans, representatives of the regiment (guards of honour and pipers) and members of the Consulaat der Nederlanden (Dutch Consult) are present to pay respect to the fallen Canadians. On 11 November Remembrance Day takes place at the same square.
Holten, a tradition
On Christmas Eve schoolchildren pay their respects at Holten by placing a candle at each of the graves in Holten. A beautiful gesture!
Holten and Seaforth
Holten was an easy choice for the Seaforth Highlanders of Holland. A large number of Canadian Seaforths lie buried in the Holten cemetery and many of our band members live in the area. In 2005, during a big memorial service honouring sixty years of liberation,a detachment of the Canadian Regiment came to the Netherlands. It consisted of officers, soldiers and the whole pipeband. The Dutch pipeband was then officially named a representative of the Canadian Regiment, were allowed to wear the kilt (tartan McKenzie) and were allowed to call themselves “Seaforth Highlanders of Holland”. The Dutch band in turn performs the Memorial Service on Remembrance Day on the Canadian field of honour. For practical reasons this is done according to the British rhythm, on the second Sunday of November.
Holten, the beginning
In the final phase of WWII the Canadians fought in north and east Netherlands. Many soldiers have fallen and were buried in field graves. The commander of the 2nd Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General G.G. Simonds, found the Holterberg to be a good final resting place for the fallen soldiers. The mayor of Holten gave the plan to the Ministerie van Oorlog (Dutch Ministry of War) who approved it and gave up a piece of land. In “eternal fief” it is in fact a piece of Canada forever. The first workers on the site were Canadian soldiers, waiting to be sent home after war. In the summer of 1946, 1394 fallen soldiers were buried on this field of honour. The stroke of land turned out to be too large for the number of graves, as a result gardens with beautiful rodondendrons were created. The Commonwealth War Grave Commission takes care of this large field of honour.
|Total number of graves:||1394|
|Number of Canadian soldiers:||1355|
|Number of British soldiers:||36|
|Number of Australian soldiers:||2|
|Number of Belgian soldiers:||1|
A total of 1394 soldiers have been buried, of which 1355 Canadians. Of this vast number, 27 soldiers came from the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Regiment. Two graves belong to Royal Navy soldiers and 14 are Royal Airforce. There are 26 unidentified graves, they bear the words: “KNOWN UNTO GOD”.
Holten, the Memorial Service
The Memorial Service consists of a number of elements:
- Greetings by the band's captain
- Speeches of remembrance by invited authorities, intertwined with music
- The Act of Remembrance
- The Last Post
- 1 minute of silence
- The Lament the Flowers of the Forest
- The Rouse
- Laying down wreaths
- The Canadian anthem: O, Canada
The authorities annually present are among others the mayor of Rijssen-Holten and representatives of the Canadian Embassy. Also invited are representatives of the Committee Welcome Again Veterans and the honourary Seaforths. Honourary Seaforths are dutchmen who signed in with the Regiment during their liberation of the Netherlands as a translator or liaison.
The central part of the Memorial Service is the memorial itself. After declaring the Act of Remembrance the Last Post begins. During the playing of the Last Post, a minute of silence is set in and the flagpole is flagged half-mast. The lament is played on one bagpipe. A lament is a melody with a very heavy tone and the dead are remembered . Finally, the Rouse is played and the ceremony is over.
The Canadian Embassy representatives lay down their wreaths, this is done in the name of the Canadian people and the Canadian Forces . The guests will also be asked to lay their wreaths or flowers, they are personally invited by the captain. Subsequently, the Seaforth Highlanders lay their wreaths together with the Honorary Seaforthers. During the laying of flowers the band plays appropriate music. After this, everyone is asked to look at the Canadian flag during the playing of the Canadian national anthem. It is accompanied by bagpipes and creates a very unique sound. Finally, every year “Highland Cathedral” is played (on popular demand) and after the grateful words of the captain the band marches off the field of honour. Afterwards the invited come together in Holten for some coffee and in the end turn home.
Holten War Cemetery has got its own website: Click here to visit their website.