On a mission

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LYONS BROOK — A retired Dutch military officer has a mission to find out all he can about 49 Canadian soldiers from Pictou County who were killed and buried in Dutch graves toward the end of the Second World War.

Bill Hekman, who served in the Netherlands’ Marine Corps from 1964 to 1997 and reached the rank of general, shared an account of his search last Sunday during a presentation at Lyons Brook United Church.

“I’m looking for all the families,” he said.

Hekman’s presentations were on three subjects. Besides the search for the Canadians killed during the liberation of Holland, he spoke about the vast numbers of both military and civilian fatalities during the wars, as well as an account of those killed in concentration camps.

He has compiled what he knows about the Canadian soldiers on DVDs that he hands to families.

“I put the information on DVD, make presentations and find the families of the 49 killed and buried in Holland,” he said. “It’s not for myself, but I hope to find them all.”

Hekman came to Sunday’s event having found three families, and found a fourth one that day.

Cyril MacLeod arrived with information on a relative, Joe MacLeod, who was killed two days before the troops he was with liberated the town of Groningen.

Cyril shared accounts indicating Joe signed up with the Pictou Highlanders, was injured in 1944 and was activated with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry that summer. He died on April 13, 1945, two days before Groningen was liberated.

Hekman reflected on the strong and long-held gratitude the Dutch have had for Canadians who liberated them.

“We are crazy with Canada — that’s why so many Canadians married Dutch girls,” he said. “We were liberated by two Canadian armies and we are still thankful.”

Hekman is planning another project in 2018 about the Halifax Explosion in 1917.

Cyril MacLeod, left, and Bill Hekman examine MacLeod’s account of Joe MacLeod who was killed in action and buried in Holland toward the end of the Second World War. (Goodwin photo)

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