The liberation of the Netherlands, from September 1944 to April 1945, played a key role in the culmination of the Second World War, as the Allied forces closed in on Germany from all sides. The First Canadian Army played a major role in the liberation of the Dutch people who had suffered terrible hunger and hardship under the increasingly desperate German occupiers.
The First Canadian Army also played a leading role in opening Belgium and the Netherlands' Scheldt estuary, gateway to the port of Antwerp. Access to this port was essential to maintain supply lines to the Allied armies as they continued their push toward Germany.
Under the command of General Henry Crerar, the First Canadian Army was international in character. In addition to the 2nd Canadian Corps, the 1st British Corps, and the 1st Polish Armoured Division, at various times American, Belgian, and Dutch soldiers were also included as units. The strength of this army included approximately 175,000 Canadian soldiers, and ranged anywhere from 200,000 to over 450,000 when including the soldiers from other nations.
More than 7,600 Canadians died in the nine-month campaign to liberate the Netherlands, a tremendous sacrifice in the cause of freedom.
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The city of Apeldoorn was one of the first Allied objectives in the advance to the North Sea. The 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade was set to make a decisive strike against the town on April 16, 1945. The plan called for Apeldoorn to be isolated and then the infantry would enter, without artillery. As the Canadians neared, the German garrison abandoned the town.
Fighting in the region between April 11-17 cost the 1st Canadian Division 506 casualties. Very little damage was done to Apeldoorn itself, as the Canadian forces were aware it was full of refugees. After the town was liberated, there were huge celebrations with Dutch colours flying from every house and shop.