Memorial stone for Fallen Canadians





The 'Memorial Stone for Fallen Canadians' in the outer wall of the Martinikerk church in Sneek has been erected in memory of the six Canadian soldiers who died shortly after the liberation of the town. The names of the six victims are: A. Cockburn, W.L. Jackson, G.W. Ouderkirk, H.H. Pennell, Fr.R. Shepherd and S.W. White. The soldiers were part of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. They died on 15 and 16 April 1945 during acts of war near the village of Wons, near the Afsluitdijk. The fallen servicemen were buried on 17 April 1945 at the General Cemetery in Sneek and reburied on 25 March 1946 at the Canadian Field of Honour in Holten.

Sunday 15 April 1945, Friesland's official liberation day, was also the day Sneek welcomed the Canadian liberation forces. It had been an exciting day, and the Dutch Domestic Armed Forces (NBS) had fought quite a battle with the occupiers.   

A day earlier, German troops had begun to withdraw from Sneek and the NBS had tried to hinder their retreat along the Leeuwarderweg as much as possible. Until a column of German parachute troops had entered the fray and forced the NBS to retreat. 

The Waag building in the middle of the city centre was used as a weapons cache by the occupying forces during the war. To prevent it from falling into Allied hands, the fleeing troops set it on fire at around three o'clock on Sunday. Loud explosions and bangs resounded throughout the city for half an hour. 

Once the enemy had left the city, the NBS operatives gathered at the HBS school for instructions and the distribution of weapons and armbands. They went into the city to round up traitors. Then, rumour had it that hundreds of German soldiers were on their way to Sneek from Lemmer. Immediately, fortifications were built at the Water gate.  

Canadian units were alerted. They were now in possession of the latest defence plans for Sneek thanks to NBS intelligence and were advancing from Joure towards the town.  

In the evening around half past seven, the first patrol of the Canadian infantry battalion Le régiment De La Chaudière rode into town with flame-throwers and machine guns. The German troops stayed away, and the full Canadian battalion followed.  

Sneek was liberated, but freedom was not yet guaranteed as German troops tried to escape via the Afsluitdijk towards Friesland. The Canadian Regiment of the Queens Own Rifles moved through Sneek to the Afsluitdijk and fiercely fought at Wons. Six Canadian soldiers were killed. They were temporarily buried at Sneek General Cemetery. In 1946, they were reburied at the Canadian Field of Honour in Holten. 
Canadian guests  
While waiting to return to their homeland, hundreds of Canadian soldiers were lodged with families in Sneek for about five months. On 1 June, the Perth Regiment arrived in the town, which they temporarily renamed Stratford. They were involved in the liberation of Groningen. A committee was set up to entertain the soldiers with various activities. From dances to sailing competitions and special church services.    

Cordial ties developed between the liberators and the people of Sneek. And sometimes more than that. For Gordon C. Compton and Atty Bouma, one could even speak of "love at first sight". When the last soldiers return home at the end of November, Gordon decided to stay in the Netherlands. On 9 May 1946, he married Atty in Sneek. Not long after, Gordon and his "war bride" left for Canada.   

Several monuments in the city recall the special bond with the Canadian military, which remains very close to this day.