“We hebben een aantal steden bevrijd en je hebt van je leven nog nooit zoiets gezien”, schreef de jonge soldaat Don White op 17 april 1945 aan zijn ouders in Canada. “Als de Duitsers een keer verdreven zijn en je komt de stad binnen, komt iedereen naar buiten met vlaggen. Ze dringen zo rondom de auto’s dat je bijna niet vooruit komt. Meisjes zoenen je en mannen schudden je hand er bijna af. Sommigen zijn zo blij dat ze huilen.” “Met vier pantserwagens trokken we Leeuwarden binnen, ik zat in één daarvan. Volgens het regimentsboek bleven we een uur, of misschien anderhalf. Daarna gingen wij door naar Franeker, daar kwamen we ook als eersten binnen. Onderweg werden we opgehouden want een brug was opgeblazen, maar de ondergrondse had een nieuwe gebouwd. Ik weet niet hoe ze dat zo snel deden, maar hij was stevig genoeg voor ons materieel.” Don White diende bij de Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) waarmee hij nog steeds nauw contact onderhoud. Elk jaar op 15 april wordt bij de RCD de vlag van Leeuwarden gehesen tijdens een speciale ceremonie voor het herdenken van de Tweede Wereldoorlog en de rol die het regiment daarin gespeeld heeft. Don White is vaste eregast bij deze “Leeuwarden-parade”.

credits to keukenhof 2

De Canadese veteraan uit de Tweede Wereldoorlog Don White is geëerd met een witte tulp die naar hem is genoemd. Premier Mark Rutte doopte de nieuwe tulp woensdag in de Keukenhof in Lisse.

Met de naam wil Rutte een link leggen met de bevrijding van Nederland, die 75 jaar geleden begon. White en andere helden hielpen daarbij. De Canadees was net twintig toen hij hier vocht. De Don White Tulp is ook een gebaar van dank aan alle andere militairen die Nederland en de rest van Europa hebben bevrijd, aldus Rutte. De premier ontmoette White vorig jaar op Bevrijdingsdag in Leeuwarden. Later sprak de premier in het Canadese parlement nog over de veteraan. Het was de eerste tulpdoop voor Rutte. White is dit najaar weer in Nederland en dan wil de premier er voor zorgen dat de veteraan wat naar hem genoemde tulpenbollen mee naar huis kan nemen.

credits: Keukenhof

[original article from DURHAMREGION.COM]

LETTERS HOME — Don White still lives in his wartime home

Don White, 90, lives with his wife Christine in the Simcoe Street North house in Oshawa he built when he returned from the Second World War.

Don fought with the Royal Canadian Dragoons, C Squadron, 1st Troop, 1st Canadian Armoured Car Regiment in Italy and Holland. His job was wireless operator and munitions loader in a Staghound, an armored reconnaissance vehicle that would advance ahead of the other troops to see what was happening -- where the enemy was, what their strength was. As Don notes in a letter home, if they encountered German tanks or anti-tank guns, they retreated, as they were no match for them. When the weather was poor, muddy, and the Staghounds were parked, Don became an infantryman. He saw a lot of fighting and some horrific things, but survived the war unscathed. Don shrugs off the amount of action he experienced with a simple, "I saw enough."

Don credits the fact that he didn’t, and doesn’t, dwell on the terrible scenes he saw for his stable mental state, unlike some of his fellow veterans who developed post traumatic stress disorder, invisible but deep wounds no medicine could heal. Briefly, referring to German atrocities committed against the Dutch people, Don told me, “Don’t ask me about it; I’m not going to talk about it.” I wasn’t about to.

A luger (German handgun) and an SS (Schutzstaffel, a powerful and influential branch of the German military) officers’ belt and buckle he brought home as souvenirs, now at the Ontario Regiment Museum in Oshawa, were "liberated" (Don’s word) from German prisoners. Of the German belt with buckle and knife he kept for himself, Don notes the German soldier was not keen to give it up. But with Don's bayonet prodding him, he was persuaded to surrender it.

As Don tells it, after helping with the liberation of Dutch towns, in the summer of 1945 he was to be transferred to 4th Division. It seemed he would be in Europe for some time yet. But on his way to report, Don's Sergeant Major saw him and asked where he was going. Don gave him the news and the former was outraged. "You take this man off orders," he thundered. "He's going home with me." In his opinion, Don had done his share and it was time for other guys to step up. Don came home in January, 1946 on the Queen Elizabeth, landing in New York City and then taking a train to Exhibition Place in Toronto.

Ever cheerful, Don was nicknamed Herbie by his comrades after the lovable cartoon character of the Canadian soldier everyman created by Bing Coughlin that so entertained the troops. Don says he always tried to remain in good spirits and not let any of his buddies get down.

Don still has his uniform and duffel bag containing his canteen and mess tin, the latter on the back of which he wrote more than 100 letters home to his family, all of which have been preserved.

"It was really a morale booster when we at the front got a letter," he says.

In this letter, written while Don was training in Dundern, Sask., he assures his family that all is well. We get a sense of camp life, how much he looks forward to hearing from his family and what a dedicated letter writer he is.

August 22, 1943

Dear Mom, Dad, Leone and All.

To-day is Sunday. I am waiting around the hut for to-nights mail. It comes at 6:30. I didn’t get any to-day so far.

This morning I went to church. You remember I told you about the needle (vaccination). Well it began to hurt about an hour after I had it and to-day my arm has been stiff but is some better tonight. We were excused duty for twenty-four hours on account of our needle. That meant we didn’t have to go on church parade. However four of us decided to go. Two of them and myself are going to Saskatoon this coming weekend. I like going to church. It seems to bring me a lot closer to home than anything else. I hope and pray that you don’t worry too much and everything is going all right at home.

It has been a funny day. This morning it was cold, windy and sprinkled rain for about an hour. It has cleared up this afternoon and is windy but the sun comes out once in a while.

I washed a shirt, pair of shorts, socks, underwear, handkerchief and pyjamas. They are out drying now. I will soon be able to bring them in now. I answered Jack’s letter this morning and was waiting before I wrote you to see if I received one to answer. I thought I would write a little before the mail came and then finish after.

Things that are most needed up here is soap both face and laundry and things like that. Mother, there is a little shiny piece of material up on my dresser. You could send it in a letter. It goes in my beret behind my hat badge.

I don’t need any money or anything I can think of. Don’t worry if I need anything I will write home and let you know. Well today is your birthday, Dad, and I wish I was home to wish you a happy one in person. I hope you received my other letter in time.

I wouldn’t mind a few more stamps some time in the near future. I always can use them.

The mail came in and I received a letter from Aunt Laura and one from Kay Day at Port (Perry).

That means I have two more to write when I finish yours. I always like to keep caught up on my writing. Then I will be able to take a weekend and won’t get too far behind.

I hope everything at home is all right. Aunt Laura said you weren’t receiving my letters. I have written one every day since I’ve been here. She said you didn’t get my word that I received your parcels. They take a little longer to come that is why you didn’t get word as soon as expected.

I still miss you as much as ever. I hear the war news is looking good so that helps a lot. Maybe it will be over before long. It can’t come soon enough. I received another paper to-day.

Look after everything and keep the old chin up.

Your loving son





and lots more.

Writing from Italy, Don wishes his family a Merry Christmas. Unlike some of his comrades, whom he says “get down hearted, fed up, irritable,” he did his best to stay positive no matter what, prompting his nickname.

Dec. 10, 1944

Dear All.

This is the best I could do for a Xmas card but it certainly contains the best of wishes for a Merry, Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

The little lad in the back is Herbie and he is the same this war as Old Bill was (in) the last. Maybe you have seen cartoons of him in the papers back home. Well due to my good nature, joking, cutting up and in general my appearance when I get up in the morning the fellows all call me Herbie. I don’t mind so we are all happy. Shucks some of the guys get down hearted, fed up, irritable, and all the rest but I don’t see any sense in it so go around happy and as cheerful as I can under such circumstances as you encounter. Well good-bye and all the best to you all. May God Bless and keep you all.

Much love


P.S. Will write when I get time. Received an ordinary letter with gum, funnies etc. when I went for the rations. I am well so don’t worry. You just keep the same way.

Jan. 5, 1945

Dear Mom, Dad, and Leone,

I haven’t anything new to say and even if I did according to the censorship I couldn’t tell you anyway. Never the less this is just to let you know I am O.K. and getting along fine. As I told you I spent Xmas in a slit trench and to start the New Years off right I dug myself a new one. That is one way I never would have thought I was going to spend New Years a little while ago. It is sure going to be good to get back and have all the comfort of home again. The more I am away from them the more I am going to enjoy them and I sure have learnt to appreciate all the good things you gave me. I was a very lucky fellow and didn’t know it. I hope you are all well at home and able to navigate with all the snow you told me about. Your letter of Dec. 12th was the latest one I have had and that was when you had all the snow. I am looking forward to your letters telling me what you did for Christmas. Boy I sure am looking forward to starting back into civilian life again in the business. I am darn lucky to have something to go back to. A lot of fellows have nothing at all and that doesn’t seem right but maybe they will make something worthwhile for themselves when they do get back. I got your registered parcel dated Nov. 6 as far as I could make out and thanks for sending it. It seemed funny to have toilet paper in a registered parcel.

Don apologizes to his family for not writing more often and, tellingly, says he is beginning to realize that “this old war is harder on your mind than on your physical character.”

Jan. 12, 1945

Dear Mom, Dad, and Leone,

I haven’t started the New Year off very good as far as writing you is concerned but I shall try and do better in future. I really haven’t been in a very good position to write but think I can do better for a while now.

If I had a pair of skates over here I could go for a good one as all the flooded ground is frozen and there is lots of ice kicking around. Don’t take that as a hint and send me skates because by the time they got hear dear only knows where I would be. I am fine and getting along just great. I think I have become a bit lazy the last little while as far as mental capacity is concerned but am going to remedy that now that I have a chance to. I am beginning to think this old war is harder on your mind than on your physical character. So far it hasn’t bothered me but I have seen a lot it has and it isn’t so good. I hope you are all well and not too fed up with things. I received a parcel yesterday from you that you sent to England. You mailed it Oct. 16. It had Xmas wrappings and was very nice. The Pocket Books you put in your parcels are very good and I enjoy them as well as the Farmers' Advocate (Almanac) and the Star Weekly stories. The cake was good and it doesn’t take long for the boys to eat it up. I always take a good piece myself before I let them eat it. I always get a hunk of somebody else's parcel so it evens things up. I had a box of chocolates from Uncle Ralph and a box from Betty McCusker so am still doing all right. All I have to do is get caught up on my correspondence and I will be all set. Say Leone how is school coming along? Are you going to any dances or doing much skating? By gosh I am looking forward to going to a dance again. I hope I still remember how. I am ever looking forward and planning for when I get back. The only trouble is my ambitions are far too great I think but then nothing like aiming high. All these girls getting married back home, is there going to be one left for me? Well will say good bye for now but will write again soon. Keep well and happy. Love to all Don.

Don speaks about the incredible reaction he and the other Allies are receiving from the Dutch as they liberate towns that had been under German control for four years. And he notes that the war seems finally to be coming to an end.

April 17, 1945

Dear Mom, Dad and Leone.

Honestly I am ashamed of myself for not writing more often but I have been so darn busy chasing the Jerrys (Germans) that I haven’t even had time to sleep. We get up at between four and five in the morning and don’t get back until dark (or I should say collect together). Then there is guard to do and get yourself a wash and shave as well as supper and make your bed. When it rains it is really miserable. I have had four parcels come up from you and one from Gloria the nurse, and Jean White. They have brought our letters up fairly often and I think that is what has kept me going. Thanks for writing so often and sending all the parcels. I am writing this on top of my car waiting for the word to go. We have liberated a number of towns and you never saw anything like it in all your life. Once the Germans have been driven out and you enter the town the people come out and put up their flags and royal colours. They crowd around the cars so badly you can hardly move. Your car is just one big bouquet of flowers that has been given you. The girls kiss you and the men shake your hand off. There is a lot so happy they cry. Milk, eggs and bread is the gifts you receive as well as souvenirs. Honestly I have never seen anything like it and such a difference from Italy. They keep their houses so spotlessly clean and nearly everyone can speak English, German and French as well as their own language so you can see what kind of an education they have. I could tell you so much that I would need a book but a lot of it would be censored so will have to wait and tell it to you. I hope I can mail this before long so that you will get it soon. The news is still looking good and we are hoping the war will soon be over. I am just waiting for the day I return home. I hope you are all well and getting a few pleasures out of life. Must close with all my love to everyone. Don.

Around two weeks later, Don writes about his and his fellow troops’ reaction to hearing that the Germans have surrendered. But the war didn’t just stop on a dime and the celebration ended when Don’s officer tells the men ‘we are carrying on the same as normal tomorrow so get to bed as we will be up early’.

May 4, 1945

Dear Mom, Dad and Leone,

On the morning of May 4/45 we got up, rolled up our bed rolls and tied them on our cars, as we had been given word we were going into action. It being our job to find out where and what is there, we had no idea what we were going to run into.

It was a windy day with rain coming down in short showers and the sun afraid to show its face in the presence of the storm.

Finally after getting wet and the wind making shivers run up and down my spine we were given the word go.

We got to the end of our territory and started to advance cautiously and slowly into enemy ground.

The usual thing happened. After a little we ran into enemy infantry and after a bit of a fight they retired.

We advanced trying to make contact again. Whiz - bang a shell landed in front of our car so smoke and a retirement was executed. We are no match for a tank or anti-tank-gun.

The rest of the day was spent in looking for a loop hole, observation and dodging enemy stoukas (German dive bombers).

Word finally came over the wireless to return to base for the night and it was then I realized that missing dinner had made me very hungry.

We were shown our place for the night which was a stable with lots of hay and straw. This helped to brighten us up a little. At least we had a dry place to sleep and didn’t have to lie on the wet ground with a tent that leaks like a sieve over you.

Our cooks had supper ready so our first thoughts were to satisfy our stomachs.

Washing and shaving followed shedding of our outer garments.

The fitters had been informed one of our cars wasn’t working too well so they were fixing it.

Everyone’s thoughts were of tomorrow and what it would bring. I knew that it would only be a matter of time until we bumped into the tanks again once we went in in the morning and we were going in early. The weather was blowing worse than ever and it was raining steady with no signs of let up for the next day.

I was just drying my face when in came one of the lads and said that the war was over, Germany had agreed to unconditional surrender to come into effect at 8 o’clock in the morning.

“Ah, go on,” “Quit kidding” etc. was what went up. Then as he (said) “honest” and pleaded that it was right we began to sway a little. The fitters had heard it and packed up their tools quitting work which turned us to believing it.

Everybody shook hands, slapped you on the back, yelled and danced around like mad.

Singing and making merry went on for the next couple of hours. Everyone was thinking of home and wishing they were there to drink a victory toast. Lack of liquor was missed by most.

Then came word through our officer that we were carrying on the same as normal to-morrow so get to bed as we would be up early.

Next morning it had stopped raining but was blowing hard.

Nothing much happened all day. A few prisoners were taken and a general advance was made on our front.

We were cautious as you can’t trust the German people.

This is how V-day for us on our front was celebrated.

Love Don