Travelling to remember
Journey to Holland cemetery emotional, spiritual experience
IT is a pilgrimage long awaited. It is the personal and emotional story of one man’s journey to revitalize the memory of a soldier who was killed near the end of the Second World War. I am that man. And now, more than ever, I understand why people need to travel long distances to pay homage to those who lived in the past, yet continue to impact our present-day lives. I did not know Lewis Gallant, though his memory has lived with me for virtually every day of my life. He was my grandparent’s only son, my mother’s brother, and my aunt’s husband. He went to war just as I was entering this world. I was born June 2, 1944. My Uncle Louie — that is the only name I knew him by growing up — was killed in action April 9, 1945.
It is not possible to replace a lost son, but the love and support I received from my grandparents went well beyond that of what most grandparent relationships tend to be. I grew up in a small town in western Manitoba. In 1950, my grandmother was given six months to live with the then little known Addison’s disease. That prompted a move to Winnipeg, where she would be closer to her doctors. She would not only recover, but live well into her mid-80s. As a child, I spent every summer and holiday break with them in Winnipeg. I moved in with them upon graduation from high school. I was as close to my grandparents as I was to my parents. It was apparent Pte. Lewis Gallant was a good man from the way my mother spoke of him. My grandparents, however, never talked about him around me. I only knew my uncle had been killed in the final days of the war, and he was buried in Holten Canadian War Cemetery in Holland. Prior to my departure, I received a number of photos and other memorabilia from my 94-year-old aunt, Pauline. One of the items was a small booklet describing the day-to-day campaign of the Lake Superior Regiment (Motor), from its time in action on the war front starting in July 1944, until its last day: May 4, 1945. My uncle was killed just weeks before the Allies would begin pulling out of Europe. Holten is a small picturesque community located in the heart of the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park. The cemetery is situated on one of the hillsides in the park, creating a visual impact before even entering the site. My uncle’s grave stands near the front of some of the last rows of Canadians killed during the war. Next to him is buried Pte. John MacDougall, who was killed with my uncle the same day, the only two from the regiment who lost their lives April 9, 1945. I would stay by my uncle’s grave for a long time, trying to communicate through the decades the wishes I had that he might have lived, for my grandparents, and to be my uncle. Time erases memories, and I wondered if subsequent generations in Holland understood what the Canadian
The Holten Canadian War Cemetery is kept in immaculate condition and managed by the Commonwealth War 7raves Commission.