The Netherlands / Story

Early Christmas for Dutch children




On Tuesday 19 December 1944, in both Heusden and Elshout, Canadian servicemen organised a big party with a Father Christmas, a film screening, gifts and good food and drink. Although German shells also fell on the day of the event, the party still went ahead, much to the delight of local youth.

After the liberation of most of North Brabant, the Allied advance came to a halt at the Bergse Maas, a situation that did not change again until the end of the war in May 1945. Throughout that time, the Meuse front was guarded by Polish and Canadian units of the First Canadian Army (General Crerar).

During the long winter on the river Maas, the Canadian soldiers established close contacts with the civilian population, which allowed them to forget about the war for a while. In this context, they also resumed a habit they had developed during their stay in England: setting up activities for the local youth. And so in late December 1944, the soldiers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada organised a Christmas party for the children of Elshout and Heusden. This was not entirely without risk given the shelling from both sides, but for a while the children were able to forget the constant threat of German shelling and the harsh conditions of daily life. For the Canadian soldiers, it meant fond memories of their own families in faraway Canada.

Incidentally, the day after early Christmas, the Argylls left for central Brabant with the rest of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. Their departure was related to the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes. Their sector was taken over by the 1st Polish Armoured Division, and the towns of Heusden and Elshout were taken over by the 1st Battalion of Mountain Rifles (in Polish the Podhalanskich). In mid-January 1945, the Canadians returned for four weeks. After this, preparations for the attack on Germany began.

Kerkstraat 37, Elshout