In Groesbeek is a Commonwealth cemetery with mostly Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during the last months of the war. The soldiers lost their lives during Operation Veritable which took place after the Battle of the Scheldt, which was a high priority target for the Allies as this opened the Scheldt River and the use of the port of Antwerp, the mayor port the Allied so much needed to resupply their armies.
Operation Veritable was a military operation, under command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgommery, to take the Reichswald and clear the lands between the river Meuse and the river Rhine. This would open up the way towards the heavy industry in the Ruhr Pockets and help to disrupt the German war machine by taking out its factory’s. The Reichswald lies near the towns of Cleve and Goch in Germany, just across the Dutch border, the secondary name of the operation is ‘the Battle of the Reichswald’.
The operation started on 8 February 1945 with phase 1, the clearing of the Reichswald. On the 7th of February 1945 over 400 bombers flew on Cleve and more than one thousand guns fired for hours. On the 8th of February 1945 five infantry divisions started Operation Veritable with 500 tanks in support, Canadians and English fought side by side, combat units like the First Canadian Army, British XXX corps, the Coldstream Guards of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade and many more. Phase 2, take out the secondary defensive position of the Germans, South east of the Reichswald, and take the German towns in this region. The last Phase involved the capture of the last defensive position in the Hochwald.
The Germans put on quite a fight and losses on both sides were high, about 15.000 Allied losses and 90.000 German (included wounded and captured).
After the Operation the Allied regrouped and Operation Blockbuster commenced, the continuing of their advance on the German Hochwald.
After operation Veritable leading field commander Harry Crear of the First Canadian Army ordered that none Canadian would be left behind in German soil. This order was the start of the relocating of Fallen Canadian soldier towards Groesbeek. Most buried at Groesbeek lost their lives over the Dutch border in Germany, only one Canadian Soldier is still buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery. Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery is the only ‘open’ cemetery in the Netherlands, which means it is open for new burials if lost soldiers are found again, even after decades.
Every year on Poppy Day Canadian forces stationed in Germany commemorate their countrymen at Groesbeek, together with veterans and an army almoner flew in from Canada. Poppy day is held at 11 November, this is the day in 1918 when the First World War came to an end. Today the Remembrance is held on the Sunday closest to the 11th of November. During the international four day marches of Nijmegen all participating military units from all countries have a commemorating event on the third day as they pass the Canadian Cemetery at Groesbeek.
Construction on the cemetery started in 1945 by six Canadian soldiers. The location of the cemetery was chosen by mayor Grotenhuis van Onstein for the view on the German border from the cemetery. In 1947 the Cemetery was opened officially by the former Dutch queen Wilhelmina. From the start the headstones were made from wood, as was the cross of sacrifice, later the headstones were replaced by metal versions and from 1950 the headstones and cross were replaced by stone designs. Each year thousands of Dutch children tend the graves of soldiers throughout the Netherland.
This commonwealth cemetery is largest in the Netherlands with 2617 burials (CWC counting in June 2017).
– 2338 Canada
– 268 United Kingdom
– 3 Belgium
– 2 Australia and 2 from Poland
– New Zealand, Soviet Union, The Netherlands and Yugoslavia all have one grave
The Groesbeek Memorial
On the Commonwealth cemetery in Groesbeek is a large memorial. The memorial is split up in two buildings. Two colonnaded buildings are positioned between the entrance and the stone of remembrance. The panels in these buildings are filled with the names of about 1100 commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives between the battles on the River Seine in France in August 1944 and the end of the war up north in Germany towards the River Elbe.These liberators have no graves for their bodies were never found. Written in the stone is the Latin text; “Pro Amicis Mortui Amicis Vivimus”, we live on in the hearts of the friends we died for.
There are 11.000 Commonwealth burials in Belgium and nearly 20.000 in the Netherlands.
You can visit the Cemetery at the Zevenheuvelenweg number 38 in Groesbeek, in the Netherlands, and it is open during daytime.