The Liberation of Leeuwarden
In early April of 1945, the 1st Canadian Army was advancing north through Holland against stiff resistance. The Germans fought stubbornly, knowing that defeat was only a matter of time.
Their escape routes to the east were blocked by the 4th Canadian and the 1st Polish Armoured Divisions. Having no other alternative, the Germans fell back on the North Sea. But here, their retreat was hampered by allied airborne troops who dropped behind enemy lines and seized bridges, ferries and airfields.
The Royal Canadian Dragoons were involved in wide, encircling movements that cut deep into enemy positions and guarded the flanks of the 2nd Division. On 11 April, the hard fought-for breakthrough of German lines was achieved.
There was now no opportunity for rest. At Mildam, “D” Squadron forced a bridgehead over the Fonyer Kanal during a bitter five-hour struggle. They were joined by “B” Squadron who fought a series of sharp local actions, capturing stores, equipment and prisoners. Actions of this nature continued for the next few days.
During the night of 14-15 April, word was received of bitter fighting in Leeuwarden between the Dutch Resistance forces and the German garrison. Immediately, “C” and “HQ” Squadrons set out to reinforce the Dutch patriots. They entered the City at 11:00 am in the fine drizzle of rain and found the streets deserted, except for groups of armed Dutchmen. The Dutch and Germans were still exchanging gunfire over the rooftops, but with the approach of the Staghounds and Dingos of the Dragoons, the Germans withdrew hastily. Cheering crowds soon filled the streets. National Flags were flown, and the Dutch embraced the Canadians.
The Dragoons, cheered and celebrated by the citizens, turned over the supplies and foodstuffs of the German occupation garrison. “HQ” Squadron remained in Leeuwarden while “C” Squadron moved east to assist “D” Squadron in the battle of Groningen.
Since that day, every April 15th, the town of Leeuwarden flies the camp flag of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. As well, The Royal Canadian Dragoons, wherever we are deployed in the world, fly the flag of the city of Leeuwarden.
Leeuwarden flag flying at Petawawa April 15, 2010