Thoughts: Gratitude shared through a precious book of drawings

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After 50 years in operation, the Stratford-Perth Archives house an ever-growing collection that is carefully preserved and made accessible to scholars around the world.

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After 50 years in operation, the Stratford-Perth Archives house an ever-growing collection that is carefully preserved and made accessible to scholars around the world. One of the ways we’re celebrating the archives’ golden anniversary is by highlighting 50 “treasures” from our collection in our weekly local history articles throughout 2022. Treasure 44 is a hardcover album leather” presented by the Municipality of Sneek, the Netherlands, for the Perth Regiment” and an accompanying book of drawings by the children of Sneek.

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Sneek’s scrapbook was presented to the Perth Regiment at a farewell celebration at Sneek Town Hall on November 26, 1945, just before the soldiers left to return to Canada after World War II. In return, Major Harold Snelgrove presented the Perth Regiment crest to the Mayor of Sneek, L. Rasterhoff. It was clear that a strong bond had formed between the townspeople and the regiment while they were quartered there after the end of the war. The people of Sneek were forever grateful for the sacrifice all Allied troops made during the war, and this was very evident in their treatment of Perths. It also emerges from the speech of Mayor Rasterhoff during the farewell ceremony: “Today is one of the greatest days in the history of this city. You, as a unit of the forces that delivered us from German oppression, are here so that we can officially bid you farewell. It is with deep regret that we leave you, but we are happy that your task has been accomplished and that you are returning home.

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The scrapbook is a collection of good wishes and sentiments dedicated to the Perth Regiment. Photos, hand-drawn pictures, history, local folklore, poems and letters bear witness to the town of Sneek at that time and the Canadian troops who lived there. It comes with a small, hand-bound, gold booklet filled with drawings and thanks from all the schoolchildren and their Sneek teachers. This was sent to the Regimental Commander in Perth in March 1946 after they returned home. A letter inside the booklet states that Mr. Ulley from the YMCA sent toys and candy to distribute to schools and hospitals in Sneek. As a thank you, children and teachers compiled the booklet of drawings and small notes of appreciation. It shows the work of the Perth Regiment through the eyes of Sneek’s children. There are several drawings of soldiers in boats, in houses and on trucks helping the townspeople. It is comforting to know that the soldiers not only had an impact on Sneek’s adults but also on his children.

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Both the album and the sketchbook are part of a larger collection in the archives – the former collection of the Perth Regiment Museum which was first held at Stratford Armory. It was entrusted to the Stratford-Perth Archives in 1999 through a donation from the Perth Regimental Veterans Association via Art Boon. Art and John S. Whyte are two notable contributors to this collection. They both donated a large number of items and encouraged many others to do the same. It is important to note that the archives received textual records and photographs, but artifacts like uniforms went to the Stratford Perth Museum.

Although the Perth Regiment did not fight or defend Sneek during the war, it had significant impacts elsewhere that did not go unnoticed. In an open letter to the regiment from Reverend H. De Vos, DD, of Sneek in July 1945, he wrote: “When you came you were warmly welcomed. We hailed you as our liberators. You are always welcome and we will never forget what you have done for us. If we ever forget that we don’t deserve our freedom.

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At the start of the Second World War, the call for troops was immediate and, in September 1939, the Perth regiment received the order to mobilize. After two years of training in Canada, the Perths left their barracks at Camp Borden on October 3, 1941, and two days later boarded the troopship Reina del Pacifico. Once they arrived in England, they spent another two years training and providing coastal defence. In January 1943, the regiment joined the Irish Regiment of Canada and the Cape Breton Highlanders of Canada to form the 11th Infantry Brigade.

In the fall of 1943, the regiment was deployed to Italy. As the Allied invasion moved through Italy and France, the Perths were key to breaking the Gothic Line in September 1944. After their final action in the Italian Campaign with Operation Syria, the Perths were withdrawn in order to travel through France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

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On May 8, 1945, the regiment installed a public address system so that it could hear British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s broadcast regarding the complete surrender of Nazi Germany. When the fighting ended, it took more than eight months before the Perths could return home. The Perth Regiment did not arrive at Sneek until 1 June 1945 and remained there until November 1945.

It is clear from Sneek’s scrapbook and the little guest book of children’s drawings that the people of Sneek had a constant appreciation for the Canadian troops, especially the Perth Regiment. The bonds that were formed continued after the war. For example, the regiment planned a trip to the Netherlands in 1985 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Europe.

The Stratford-Perth Archive is open for in-person research using the collections by appointment and direct access to the Reading Room for microfilm etc. The 50 Treasures exhibition is now open. For more details, please visit www.stratfordpertharchives.on.ca, call us at 519-271-0531 ext. 259 or email [email protected]

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