Holandia / Historia

The death of Fred Butterworth




Friday, April 13, 1945. A Sherman tank races at thirty kilometers per hour over the Paterswoldseweg to Groningen. The grass in the meadows between Eelde and Groningen is wonderfully green. Gunner Fred Butterworth (22) from Winnipeg, Canada, feels the fear slip away as the tank approaches the first houses.

He doesn't see much through the periscope. It's hot in the iron gun turret. The sun shines brightly outside. At home, the Canadian works with his father Fred in a soap factory. Now he operates a 17-pounder gun with armor-piercing shells. The Germans heavily fortified the city with trenches, anti-aircraft guns, machine-gun nests and snipers.

In Eelde, Stanley Butterworth (20) lowers himself into the turret of his Sherman tank. He's a gunner, just like his brother. He thinks for a moment about Fred leading the attack on the city with the B-squad. He, too, feels the familiar terror of death as the tank drives onto the road. To Groningen. Well, the fear hasn't really gone away. He just doesn't have time for it.

Fred Butterworth fails to see a German soldier aiming his Panzerfaust at the Sherman tank Firefly. A burst of flame shoots from the infamous anti-tank weapon and the grenade explodes against the steel of the tank, which swings off the road and rams into the facades of Paterswoldseweg numbers 188 and 190. Sergeant Chaulk crawls out of the tank with severe burns. Fred Butterworth is still motionless in the tank. Dead. Fred is the first of 43 Canadian soldiers to give their lives for the liberation of the city of Groningen.

Paterswoldseweg 188, 9727 BP Groningen