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Dutch Treat

By: Wayne Miles-Underhill

Rain was falling softly on the narrow road next to the canal just outside Teuge Holland.

It soaked the canvass covers on the lorries and as a result the soldiers riding in there had to withstand a steady drip and if they weren’t already miserable on this grey April day in 1945, they knew they would be soon because ahead they would have to run the gauntlet of German 88’s that lay in wait.

The retreating Wehrmacht had orders to destroy everything as it moved back to the border. This action was meant to further starve the Dutch by eliminating the Allied supply convoys. Infrastructure in the cities and towns were blown up and any stores and provisions stolen.

The eight trucks under Corporal William’s command had to move slowly and avoid mines and booby traps. Several convoys had been destroyed in the past few days and the German artillery men used their long range guns to bracket and then destroy the convoys.

Williams had been on such convoy and when the guns opened up he had the vehicles stop and ordered the men to take cover.

“Don’t hide under the trucks run for the ditches,” he yelled.

 He knew the gunners were only targeting the lorries but many of the younger soldiers still ran under the trucks.

The sounds of artillery could be heard to the east and Williams called a halt.

Exiting the lead truck he directed his drivers and men to gather for some refreshment. The rain had stopped but some mist persisted.

“Private Clark, you take point position forward and Smyth you take the rear.”

In jig time the men had pulled out their sterno and cooking kits. A coffee pot was filled and they crouched, all enjoying a cigarette and watched as McNamara sliced up the Spam and broke out the biscuits.

In a break in the chitchat and the laughter they heard the sound of a shell being chambered and a shout from Clarke.

“What’ya got,” Williams barked.

“Incoming, down the road from the east Sir. Looks like two walking. I’ve got the glasses, let’s have a glance.”

Williams joined Clarke and peered through the mist at the figures moving on the road.

 “They’re coming steady, don’t look too dangerous. They will get here soon enough.”

“I’ll wait here. Go back to the men tell them to carry on. You can join them but before you do, get relief for Smyth and send Sergeant Struiksma up here to me will you?”

Williams watched as what had appeared to be two dots now began to take shape, in fact, the mist had cleared enough for him to see that there were three figures, what seemed to be two taller and one shorter between them.

“We’ll see in five minutes,” he intoned to Struiksma as he continued to peer into the binoculars.

“Can you see anything resembling weapons?” Struiksma asked.

“They don’t seem to be carrying anything Sergeant.”

“What range you got?”

“Bout four hundred yards Sir,” Struiksma answered.

“Get some of the men up here, no weapons, get them to wave, don’t want to spook’em.”

“They look pretty easy boss.”

“Yeah, let’s let it play out.”

By now the soldiers had joined up at the front of the lead lorry and they waved them in.

As the travelers approached Williams remarked, “Man they look big!”

Soon Williams could see clearly and said, Looks like they got a whole lot of clothes on.

The Canadians were astonished to see a Dutch family who seemed to be wearing all the clothes they owned. The woman obviously was wearing many skirts, sweaters and the man and child were clad in many layers of garments, the man had shoes and boots tied around his waist and the woman who they now surmised was the mother carried a small bag on a stick over her right shoulder and clasped the child’s hand with the other.

“Struiksma, Williams ordered, do your thing.”

“Wie bent u? {Who are you?} {Where are you going?}” { Waar gaat u naartoe?}” Struiksma asked.

“Ik ben Wilfred end it is mijn echtenote Julia end dit is mijn dochter Willie,” came the reply.

{“I am Wilfred and this is my wife Julia and my daughter Willie.}

“U Canadezen?” Wilfred asked.

{“Are you Canadians?”}

“Ja,” Struiksma answered.

Wilfred said, “I speak English, I was in England for two years while with an import company. Your Netherlands is good but we can speak English now.”

Wilfred held out his hand and Struiksma shook it. Williams followed and there began greetings all around.

“You must be very hungry, would you eat with us?” Williams offered.

“Thank you, for Julia and little Willie it would be good.”

Williams smiled and waved them to the side where the men had eaten and gestured to his crew to get some more food going.

Soon they were all gathered around while the soldiers opened up their kits and got a new fry started. A new pot of coffee brewed and a tin cup of cocoa with a big chunk of chocolate with a dollop of condensed milk was offered to Willie with an oatmeal snap that one of the men had in his pack.

“Tell us where you have been and where are you going?” prompted Corporal Williams.

“We had fled to my brother’s farm near Deventer because of the shelling but after not too long the Germans came and we all had to leave and hide. They shot the livestock and loaded the carcasses on their trucks and pushed east. They are all fleeing the Allies and they only stop to make havoc as they go.”

“We did not fear danger on this road, now we will continue to Apeldoorn.”      .

Julia’s English was not so good but she looked at the men and said, “We thank you for hulp…how do you say Wilfred?”


“Ja, help,” she continued. She again looked to Wilfred and hugged Willie.

Wilfred stood up and said, “We will thank you in another way, the best way we can.”

With that he reached inside his many layers into his inner pockets and to everyone’s amazement pulled out a fat black and white barred chicken and in a quick motion rung its neck whereupon he began to pluck the unfortunate beast and offered it to the private who was holding a knife to gut and dress the chicken..

“Get some lard into the pans, Clarke announced, we are going to have a chicken fry!”

The whole crew began laughing and talking at once in the spirit of the festive mood and the unexpected turn of events. The chicken pieces were sizzling in the little pans and eventually everyone had a little bite to eat.

Homage was made to the fine chicken and its sacrifice. Thanks were made many times and pledges of hope for peace and safety were exchanged all round.

Once done and without any fanfare Wilfred, Julia and wee Willie got up and turned toward to the road. The Canadians were silent as they watched them make their way to the northwest. Three hundred yards or so from the convoy they turned and waved. Wilfred shouted back to them.

“We will never forget you!”

Williams waved, turned to Struiksma and simply said,” Let’s roll.”

In 1975 a letter from the Department of Defense for veterans of the campaign in Holland found its way into the hands of Corporal Mark Williams Retired.

The year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Canadian involvement in the liberation of Holland. The festivities were in Holten just a few miles from where Williams and his group had served and was the site of the second largest cemetery in Holland.

Williams lived in Scarborough a suburb of Toronto and on a lark he looked up Henry Struiksma.

“How about you join me on the trip to Holland, Hank? It will give us a chance to catch up and talk old times.”

Arriving in Amsterdam they found that transportation had been laid on and the next day they attended a parade in Holten.

The Dutch people adored the Canadians and even the young folks rushed up to touch and greet the Canadian men and women who had travelled so far to be with them.

At the end of the parade Williams and Struiksma were greeted by a young officer who introduced himself as Corporal Cummings, an attaché to the Canadian ligation.

“Gentlemen, I have been sent by Colonel Munro to ask you to come with me as there are some folks you may want to see.”

Near the bandstand there was an area that had umbrellas and tables with a number of well-dressed folks and military types.  

“If you please gentlemen, I am sure you might enjoy a refreshment at the Colonel’s pleasure.”

Williams and Struiksma had no qualms about that idea and eagerly followed the Corporal into the enclosure.

Colonel Munro rose from his seat and made his way to greet them.  

They and the Colonel exchanged salutes and shook hands.

“Canada and the Netherlands are honored for your presence here today, will you join me for a drink?”

The two veterans were in no mood to refuse.

“Corporal will you get these gentlemen seated and see to their drinks.”

“Excuse me men, I have an errand that can’t wait.”

While they waited for the return of Munro and the arrival of their refreshments they were pleased to be welcomed by the Mayor of Holten and his lovely wife as well as two members of the Nederlandse Kabinet.

The drinks arrived and at that moment Colonel Munro returned and with him was a very distinguished couple, also a tall willowy woman with a very athletic man and a beautiful adolescent girl with blue eyes and a winsome smile.

“Corporal Williams and Sergeant Struiksma I would like to present a couple of old friends of yours, Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred De Vries  and  some new ones, their daughter Willie who was quite small when you last saw her and her husband Alex and their daughter also named Willie.”

The two old soldiers sat in stunned disbelief as one by one they were hugged and kissed and were overwhelmed by the events.

Colonel Munro motioned for the group to take chairs around the table.

“You have much catching up to do but let’s share a toast to the past, for today especially and for our shared future. Just so you all know, I have arranged for a nice dinner at the ‘t Losse Hoes so you can have all the time you need at least today to talk old times.”

Corporal Williams looked at Wilfred, Julia and Willie and then turned to the Colonel.

“What’s on the menu Sir.”


“Chicken of course.”

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