The Netherlands / Story
On 15 April 1945, Franeker was liberated. In the afternoon, a reconnaissance unit of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, coming from Leeuwarden, was the first to reach the town. That same day, the remaining German soldiers retreated towards Harlingen. To cover their retreat, they blew up the bridge at Leeuwarderend.
In the early morning of Sunday 15 April, a tense silence reigned in Franeker. According to rumours, the Canadians had already taken Leeuwarden and were now on their way to Franeker. The arrival of the ’Tommies’ was eagerly awaited. But there were still German soldiers in the city. Then the silence was broken by three gunshots announcing a huge explosion.
To cover their retreat towards Harlingen, the occupiers blew up the bridge on Leeuwarderend, commonly called Saakstra's bridge. Saakstra's bridge was a key point in the only through route from Leeuwarden to the port city. However, the tough steel structure did not give in easily. Up to five explosive charges had to be detonated before the Germans thought it enough and left in a hurry. The surrounding buildings sustained extensive damage. The Bondshotel, now the Stadsherberg (City Inn), paid a particularly high price.
Immediately, Franeker residents started a makeshift recovery. At the station, there were rails, which were carried to the bridge on the shoulders of a large group of men and laid side by side. Sleepers were laid on top of them. As the work neared completion, the first Canadian reconnaissance truck was already waiting. In the afternoon, a large column of Canadian war vehicles, including tanks, drove along the thoroughfare from Leeuwarden to Franeker.
Locals from far and wide flocked to the streets to watch the spectacle. On arrival in Franeker, a veritable victory parade through the city followed. In the evening, the heavy machinery retreated back towards Leeuwarden, but the next day, Monday 16 April, the column passed through Franeker again to advance to Harlingen.
The Canadians establish a headquarters in the monumental city hall. They remain there until the end of 1945, before returning home.