The Dutch people were great in their helping us get used to being around family.They took us into their homes and we were treated as if we were family. I think we owe them a debt of gratitude. The months spent with these good people helped take the rough edge off nerves that were rather raw.
While waiting to go home General Crerar had a letter written to him by the good people in Wervik Belgium. The letter requested that the General would see fit to grant a leave to the 17th Fld Regt. RCA to revisit Wervik before we went back to Canada. This request was granted and I think a couple of hundred of the regiment including myself went back to Wervik for a two day leave.
I did not stay on this two day leave with the Belgium family with whom I had been billeted in Febuary as they were out of town. Fifty years later I had a phone call from the son of this household he was on a trip and phoned from Vancouver. It was nice to be remembered, but on follow up I wrote the family but never heard back. Now back to Wervik. The town welcomed us all with great fanfare old friends were looked up, especially the girls. One sad note on this visit was to remember that Bill Bancescu was not with us. He had lost his life at Otterloo. Bill had been engaged to a Wervik girl and planned on marrying and taking her to Canada. I would like to say that some of Bill's buddies looked up this girl. But I cannot truthfully say that they did. Those that could answer that are long gone. I looked up Denise who was the French maid at the house I had been billeted at and had a meal with her family. Denise was on day off from her work across the border in France. I had given Denise an American blanket when we had left Belgium and she had turned this blanket into a very stylish coat. If I remember rightly, when we went out for a walk in the evening we were accompanied by her young sister. So no great love affair just meeting a friend once more and would never see again. So after making the rounds of all our friends and of course having a beer or so at the cafes, it was back to Holland. Vic Wilson a sergeant married a Wervik girl also there were a couple more marriages. Vic and his wife attended many regimental reunions. Vic has passed away some few years ago. RIP
Jumping ahead in time some two bus loads of ex 17th RCA and their wives journeyed to Wervik on a great trip in 1984. We were the toast of the town and treated like royals. The greatest thrill other than meeting old Wervik friends from 39 years ago was the sunset ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres. This ceremony was moved ahead an hour to accommodate our tour. The Ypres firemen do the sunset memorial of lowering the flags with six buglers doing the Last Post and Reveille. They have been doing this every sunset for the past 85 years. The Menin Gate memorial to the fallen has inscribed the names of thousands of the missing with no known grave from WW1.
Don Pyper who had been a Captain with the 17th located his Uncle's name on the memorial. Don apparently was named after this long lost uncle. So Don Pyper said the Legion prayer with great feeling at this sunset ceremony. I did not mean to get off the track from 1945 to 1984 but thought it fitted in with my memory of some time ago. Don Pyper passed away while on holiday some 12 or so years ago. RIP old friend. Now back to Holland and good bye Belgium.