In the final months of the Second World War, Canadian forces were assigned to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. From September 1944 to April 1945, First Canadian Army fought German forces on the Scheldt River estuary, opening the port of Antwerp for Allied use, and then—battle by battle—cleared the enemy from the country’s northern and western regions. Their efforts allowed food and relief to reach millions of desperate people.
While Canadian troops were clearing the port cities in northern France and Belgium, British forces captured the Belgian port of Antwerp, which was essential to supplying the advance. However, the Germans still controlled the Scheldt Estuary. Canada was given the task of clearing the way.
The war continued into the winter of 1944-45, British leader Bernard Montgomery’s bold plan, Operation Marketplace, to drop paratroops behind enemy lines failed and the Allies continued a slow, bitter fight.
Even though the Soviet Union was beating the German forces in the east and the Western Allies were bombing central and western Germany, Adolf Hitler was determined to fight on. The Canadians began fierce fighting as the Allies advanced on Germany’s homeland.
The Germans were systematically starving the Dutch people. Canada was called upon to liberate the country while still pushing the battle across the Rhine River and into Germany.
The Canadians fought on and uncovered labour camps where the inmates were starving. Canadians entered into negotiations with German forces in the Netherlands to feed the people and, ultimately, accept the German surrender.