With all the commemmorations now with the WWI centennial and almost 70 years after the end of WWII, this is a perfect time to post my blog.
Recently I was browsing through some old photos of my parents and grandparents. My grandparents passed away a long time ago. We found this photo of a young Canadian soldier known to my father and my grandparents under the name Johnny. I don’t know if they ever knew his last name.
It must have been in the period between D-Day (6/6/44) and the end of the war, when he and two companians stayed for the night at my grandparent’s. During the day they were stationed in the town school of Terhagen (since 1977 merged with the town of Rumst). One time Johnny took my father to visit the school and meet the other soldiers. But this was just a one time event.
My father was born on 18/5/1938 and must have been about 7 years old at the time when Johnny slept at his house in Terhagen.
The town of Terhagen lies next to the town of Boom and both are separated from the town of Willebroek by the river Rupel.
Some WWII history is perhaps essential in this case:
The town of Boom was liberated on 4/9/1944 and it was with the help of an engineer from the town of Wilrijk (Antwerp) that Boom and eventually Antwerp could be liberated (for Antwerp it was essential that the harbor stayed intact).
Coming from Brussels (on the direct road to Antwerp, now A12) , Boom could be reached crossing two bridges. The main one and another old one between the town of Willebroek and Boom (this bridge is not there anymore, exept for the bridgehead and arch). A tank replica marks the history.
Robert Vekemans, the engineer, knew that both bridges were undermined and that the old bridge was strong enough to carry the many tanks of the allied forces. He had contact with the allied forces and as soon as he knew they were underway from Brussels he managed, with people of the resistance, to dismantle the explosives on the old bridge, the main bridge being guarded by a rearguard of German soldiers.
The Germans were already outnumbered and posed no threat to the allies coming over the old bridge. In the town of Boom, subsequently Terhagen and other towns, the people welcomed the English and Canadian soldiers euphorically.
Would it be appropriate if I were to post some pictures here on WordPress, let’s say the picture of Johnny of course, and perhaps some pictures of the town of Terhagen. Maybe Johnny was member of the bataljon that crossed the river Rupel on that historic day and still lives to tell ? My father does not know what his age was, so it is very possible that he is no longer with us.
Maybe his family knows …
I use this blog to honor all the soldiers anywhere in the world and in time, who risk(ed) their lives to protect people from the consequences due to bad decisions of those who don’t have the best interest in mind of the population but only their own.