Holandia / Historia

De tragische dood van Herbert Dixen Stitt




In the night of April 16-17, 1945, a Canadian regiment is in the village of Otterlo. Just after midnight, the Germans launch a strong counterattack with approximately nine hundred soldiers from the direction of Apeldoorn, aiming to reach the Grebbeline through Otterlo. The attack comes as a surprise, and an unexpectedly heavy battle for Otterlo ensues.

During the night of April 16-17, 1945, the attacking Germans manage to infiltrate the positions of the forward Canadian units by half past one in the morning. Corporal Herbert Dixen Stitt, also known as 'Herbie,' is tasked with patrolling along the main road leading to the center of the village of Otterlo. It is a distance of five hundred meters, and by controlling this road, the Canadians can eliminate the enemy before they establish a strong position on the road.

As Stitt takes his tank onto the road, he is immediately met with heavy German fire. A shell from an anti-tank weapon scores a direct hit on the turret ring, completely destroying the turret traverse mechanism. As a result, the cannon can no longer be controlled from inside. Despite the enemy being only ten meters away, Corporal Stitt immediately climbs out of his turret and manually aims the cannon at the enemy. Over the next three hours, Stitt continues to engage the enemy at close range in the darkness of the night. He manages to remain calm on the exterior of his tank, constantly exposed to enemy fire, operating the cannon himself and engaging the enemy with grenades and a pistol. Through his courageous action and bravery, Stitt successfully clears the main street of Otterlo. That same morning, he is awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his heroic actions.

After a hectic night of fighting in Otterlo, Herbie Stitt and the other men return to their camp early in the morning, attempting to get some rest. Herbie decides to take a nap in the tall grass after parking his tank behind a church for repairs. Tragedy strikes when a truck driver attempting to turn his vehicle with gasoline runs over the sleeping Herbie. Herbie never regains consciousness and dies later that afternoon on April 17, 1945, from his injuries at the regiment's field hospital.

It is a tragic event that on the day Otterlo is liberated, the very person who survives the heat of battle unscathed loses his life in this unfortunate accident shortly afterward. Herbert Stitt is buried in Otterlo the next day and reinterred at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek after the war. During the Battle of Otterlo, a total of fifty Germans are killed, seventy are wounded, and twelve are taken prisoner. The remaining six hundred Germans manage to reach the Grebbeline. On the Canadian side, twelve soldiers are killed, and dozens are wounded.

Kerklaan 8, Otterlo