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Zutphen honours fallen Canadian liberators with a street name

Dutch Canadian launched idea

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ZUTPHEN - Eleven streets in a new subdivision in this eastern Dutch town will be named after eleven Canadian soldiers fallen during the liberation of Zutphen. The suggestion to honour the Liberators came from 71-year old Henk Dykman, a Dutch Canadian living in Guelph, Ontario, who as an 11-year old boy had witnessed some of the fierce fighting in the village of Leesten, now part of Zutphen.

Honoured for their ultimate sacrifice in the liberation of the region are Canadian soldiers Harry Gervais, Norman Hannan, Ernest Baker, Aime Periard, Hazen Paget, Alfred Hawkins, William Hemming, Charles House, Douglas Beaton, John Potts and Marshall Lawes. Other streets in the subdivision will be named the Canadasingel and the Lane of the Highlanders. Many of the soldiers were part of the Regiment Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders. In particular, the 3rd Infantry Division met with fierce resistance from German defenders of the area. Gervais was one of the first in his unit to enter Leesten, where German machine guns soon opened fire.

Cruelest month

The Canadian regiment had landed at Juno Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Fighting their way north, the Highlanders met with the deadliest resistance in the Netherlands in April 1945. During that month, 1191 Highlanders were killed in action. Most of them lay buried in one of the Canadian war cemeteries in the Netherlands. In Leesten alone, 36 Canadians were killed. Cpl. Aimé Periard was one of the first to die. In 1994, a small memorial was erected near the site where he fell on April 4, 1945.

Hendrik Dijkman, the son of the local elementary school principal, was caught in the April 1945 firefight which largely destroyed his parental home. Eleven years later, he emigrated to Canada, where eventually he became a United Church minister. The Leesten drama was never far from his mind. When Joe Sullivan, now 86 and a former member of the Regiment, as well as a veteran of the Leesten disaster, wondered how to honour his fallen comrades, Dykman took up the cause. Both men were elated when Zutphen’s municipal council decided to not ‘just’ name a school or a park after the Highlanders, but eleven streets. In 1995, the town dedicated a monument to the Canadian war dead near the site of the former Leesten school. Dykman and a number of survivors of the Battle for Leesten were behind the erection of this memorial as well.