Jan Jansma was 10 years old when Canadian troops marched through his hometown of Een in the Netherlands, days before Canada helped liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War. He looks at scrapbooks of photos from his life around that time. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Jan Jansma was 10 years old when Canadian troops marched through his hometown of Een in the Netherlands, days before Canada helped liberate the Netherlands during the Second World War. He looks at scrapbooks of photos from his life around that time. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Port Alberni man remembers Dutch Liberation

‘Here come the Canadians’

Seven days before Jan Jansma turned 10 years old, he was helping his father deliver milk when he saw something he has never forgotten.

Jansma, now of Port Alberni, grew up in Een, in the province of Drenthe, northern Netherlands. Born in 1935, he lived through the final years of the Second World War, when Germany occupied the Netherlands and much of Europe.

On that day—April 13, 1945, to be exact—Jansma was drawn to people shouting as he waited for his father to deliver milk to a customer. His father was considered an independent contractor in food distribution so he had a work permit that allowed him to travel by road. “People started yelling ‘here come the Canadians,’ here come the Canadians,’” Jansma recalled.

A half-track on rubber, an army truck and a rubberized gun carrier from the Canadian Army rode by, passing to the northwest. They were on their way to fight the German army.

“That was the beginning of the end for the Germans,” he recalled. “Our town was on the route that the Canadians or Allied Forces had picked for the Germans to go back to Germany.”

From September 1944 to April 1945 Canada’s First Canadian Army fought German forces to open up Antwerp, a port city, for the Allied Forces to use. Canadians were responsible for clearing out Germany’s army from north and west Netherlands, which meant reopening trade routes that allowed food resources to enter the starving country.

A battalion of 30 to 35 Canadian soldiers erected a large cooking tent behind Jansma’s uncle’s house, and Jansma remembers going up to the camp to see how they cooked their food. In later years, Jansma’s brother was talking to a veteran of the Second World War in a seniors’ home in Victoria, B.C. and the man told him that when he was stationed in Roden he had to travel to Een “for our big meal in the evening.”

As a child not quite 10 years old, Jansma didn’t know much about what was happening on the battlefield, but he could see and lived with the results. He remembers the desperation people felt at the approaching cold winters with very little food and heat. His family had an open attic in the house they rented, and the landlord allowed them to move the local teacher’s family from an area where Allied Forces were advancing into the attic so they would be warm and fed.

Jansma remembers a neighbour would keep bicycle parts stored at his house, under an overhang. He recalled putting his bicycle away one night and seeing a head over the top of a wall that didn’t quite reach the roof. There was a light on where it shouldn’t have been—no one was living in the room as far as he knew.

The head quickly disappeared below the wall; he did not ask his family about it. He discovered years later that a neighbour two doors down had been helping downed Allied pilots escape back to England, and has always wondered whether he spied one of those pilots that night.

Jansma’s family eventually immigrated to Canada by ship, landing first in Taber, Alta. via train to work at a farm. He and one of his brothers eventually found their way west as jobs working in the woods were plentiful. That is how he ended up in Port Alberni, where he met and married his late wife Margaret. Coincidentally, she hailed from Apeldoorn, a milk pail’s toss from Een.

The 75th anniversary of the Dutch Liberation was May 5, 2020. People from the Netherlands—including Jansma—still thank Canadians for the part they played in freeing their country 75 years ago.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictPort AlberniRemembrance DaySecond World War Artifacts

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Jan Jansma of Port Alberni grew up in Een, Netherlands, and remembers when Canadian troops marched through town shortly before liberating the country during the Second World War. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Jan Jansma of Port Alberni grew up in Een, Netherlands, and remembers when Canadian troops marched through town shortly before liberating the country during the Second World War. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

German soldiers march through Een, in the province of Drenthe, Netherlands, prior to the liberation of the country. Port Alberni’s Jan Jansma has the photographs in an album of photos from his childhood. He said the photographer (not him) was not supposed to be taking the photos. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

German soldiers march through Een, in the province of Drenthe, Netherlands, prior to the liberation of the country. Port Alberni’s Jan Jansma has the photographs in an album of photos from his childhood. He said the photographer (not him) was not supposed to be taking the photos. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Jan Jansma’s photo album from when he was a boy growing up in the Netherlands includes a photograph taken surreptitiously of German soldiers marching through Een, in the province of Drenthe. Jansma was not the photographer. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Jan Jansma’s photo album from when he was a boy growing up in the Netherlands includes a photograph taken surreptitiously of German soldiers marching through Een, in the province of Drenthe. Jansma was not the photographer. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Just Posted

Victoria artisan Tina Neurauter, right, used to shop at Pot Luck Ceramics with her daughter from Port Alberni. Now Neurauter is selling her handmade soaps and bath products at Bibi J’s, a new enterprise in the former Pot Luck Ceramics building on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Former Pot Luck Ceramics location reimagined as Bibi J’s

Owner Helma Swinkels revives social enterprise with new name, vision

The Rollin Art Centre’s Mistletoe Market begins on Dec. 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre prepares for Mistletoe Market

Artisans and crafters are still needed for annual Christmas craft fair

‘Homelessness’ means many things to people with no permanent place to sleep. For some, the challenge to find safe shelter is greater than for others. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni mother battles to find housing for her son

Mary Elles fears her son will die on the street before he will find safe housing

Andy Richards of Dog Mountain Brewing demonstrates their new canning machine. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
BIZ BEAT: Local businesses need support during holidays

Bosley’s helping pets out during holiday season

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Picture of two swans leaving the Cowichan estuary moments before one was shot out of the sky. (Submitted photo)
Petition to stop hunting in Cowichan estuary after swan shot

Hunters blame shooting on illegal poachers

Most Read