On the first weekend of November, David and Constance Robinson could be found on their knees in front of the Kirk’s Pownal Street entrance. They weren’t praying – they were planting one hundred and fifty ‘Liberation 75’ tulip bulbs.
A bright orange tulip with crown-shaped petals, the Liberation 75 tulip is being planted across Canada this autumn, to bloom in the spring of 2020, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands by Canadian and Allied troops in 1945. The Royal Canadian Legion is a partner in the sale of the bulbs, with $1.00 from the sale of each bag of 15 bulbs going to Legion activities in support of Canadian veterans.
The tulip bulbs will be planted at 1,100 schools across the country, and will be accompanied by an education guide to explain the shared history between Canada and the Netherlands, including the role Canada played in liberating the Netherlands. A total of 1.1 million “Liberation75” tulip bulbs will be planted across Canada, in honour of the 1.1 million Canadians who took part in the Second World War effort.
“The Kirk made its own contribution to ending Nazi tyranny in Europe, so it only seemed fitting that we plant some of these beautiful ‘Liberation 75’ tulips in our flower beds,” said David Robinson. “Next spring their blooming will be a reminder of God’s desire that all people live in peace and liberty. They will be a tribute to our heroic Canadian veterans, who are dear to my hearts and to Constance’s.” David is a 19 year veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, and Constance is a member of the Veterans’ Review and Appeal Board.
In September Her Royal Highness, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, presented an initial gift of ‘Liberation75’ tulip bulbs to 95 year old Canadian veteran Mr. Don White at Het Loo Palace. The gift was symbolic of the 100,000 tulip bulbs that the Netherlands will present to Canada in 2020, to commemorate and celebrate that its 75 years since the liberation of the Netherlands. Mr. White was a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, the regiment that liberated the Dutch town of Leeuwarden in April 1945, towards the end of a nine-month military campaign to free the Netherlands from German occupation. White is the last living member of his troop.
White described one of his main memories as the “joy” the Dutch conveyed as they were freed from German occupation: “They hardly knew how to express themselves,” said White. “They would be singing, they would be dancing. They’d be jumping up and down, they’d be crying, they’d be laughing. It was just something that’s hard to describe.”
Canadian soldiers bravely battled in Europe, leading the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945. In the final months of the Second World War, Canadian forces were given the important and deadly task of liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. From September 1944 to April 1945, the First Canadian Army fought Nazi forces on the Scheldt estuary, opening the port of Antwerp for Allied use.
The First Canadian Army then cleared northern and western Netherlands, allowing food and other relief to reach millions of desperate people. Air drops of food were coordinated by the Royal Canadian Air Force over Nazi-occupied Dutch territory in Operation Manna. Dutch Civilians wrote “Thank You Canadians!” on their rooftops in grateful response.
That gratitude is still widely felt today. Canada is fondly remembered by the Dutch for ending the oppression under the Nazi-German occupation. Following the liberation of the Netherlands, a warm friendship was established with Canada that is still enjoyed today. It is a poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice Canadians made and the enduring gratitude of the Dutch in ending the reign of tyranny in their country.