Calgary Herald

At 15, he went to war and helped liberate the Dutch

Ties are still strong for Calgary veteran, the recipient of a lifelong gratitude

- HIREN MANSUKHANI hmansukhan­

Like every year, the Royal Canadian Legion in Strathmore will mark Remembranc­e Day with a solemn ceremony.

The sound of bagpipes will fill the room following two minutes of silence for veterans who served in wars around the world. Youths will lay wreaths on a monument honouring those who died in battle.

Among those attending, Stanley Squires will be one of the few who experience­d first-hand the uncertaint­y about the future of humanity ushered in by the Second World War.

Squires, 99, who lives at Whitehorn Village, a northeast Calgary seniors residence, will be wheeled into the legion by his daughter. Seeing people honour his service, he will, for a few moments, turn 15 again.

He still remembers the day he was being scolded by his father, who was drafted as an orderly sergeant, for being too young to serve in the war. But Squires had made up his mind.

“My grandparen­ts were from England and I can remember my grandma shedding tears, reading about the Blitz,” he said.

“We were kind of losing at the beginning of the war. And I knew we had to do something. Not that I could make a big difference but still I wanted to go.”

Squires enlisted in the reserve, as did his brother and father, the latter of whom also served in the First World War. After military training, Squires was sent to England and then to several other countries where, among many functions, he drove trucks hauling ammunition and troops.

One memory that sticks out during the war is his time on an American ship in the Mediterran­ean that was bombed by the Germans.

“We could hear all the communicat­ion between the captain who was on the bridge and his gun crews,” he said. “Then he came on and said something like, `Now hear this, now hear this.' We thought for sure we were going to get hit with torpedoes.

“He said, `Please send some coffee to the bridge,'” Squires recalled. “Everybody in the ship started laughing — in wartime, there are more important things than a cup of coffee.”

Squires later travelled to Sicily, France and eventually the Netherland­s to assist in the Dutch Liberation.

Canadians played a crucial role in liberating the Netherland­s from Nazi occupation.

In the final months of the war, Canadian soldiers fought German forces on Scheldt estuary, cleared the port of Antwerp for Allied use, and drove away the Germans from the northern and western Netherland­s.

The efforts of Canadians, 7,600 of whom died fighting in the region, also opened access to food and relief for millions of civilians.

Two decades later, when Squires returned to Europe with his daughter, he was impressed with how the Netherland­ers treated Canadians.

“You go over there with a Maple Leaf on your shoulder, and they just go nuts for you,” he said.

After the war, Squires worked as a typesetter, first in Montreal where he grew up and then in Calgary, where he moved in the 1980s.

Several decades later, after retiring, Squires learned a man named Alfred Balm was noting the names of Calgarians involved in the Dutch Liberation.

Balm was four years old and living in the Netherland­s when the war began. His parents would order him to stay home even as his neighbourh­ood was being bombed by German forces.

One day, he refused to obey his parents' orders. As he strolled, he saw a soldier in fighting gear. The Canadian came up to Balm and said something in English, which Balm didn't understand at the time. Then, he kissed him on his forehead and dropped him at his home.

“That was the moment of my liberation,” said Balm, an establishe­d businessma­n and philanthro­pist who is chair of investment company Emergo.

“Military people had always been the enemy. They were the Nazis, the people who I saw shooting people, and here's this big guy that is good to me.”

In the 1960s, Balm decided to move to North America from the Netherland­s. He chose Canada. “The reason I'm in Canada is probably because the Canadians liberated me from Nazi occupation,” Balm said.

In the late 2000s, he made a list of more than a hundred people in the city who served in Holland and decided to pay them $200 every month.

“I found it gives them dignity, they could buy a present for their children or their grandchild­ren, they could pay for a beer for their friends from way back,” Balm said.

Over the decade, that number has whittled down to one — Squires.

“It sure helps to pay my rent here,” Squires said. “(Balm) once came to my home — I had a mobile home here in northeast Calgary — and we had quite a chat. He's a very nice man.”

When asked about his thoughts now that his list only comprises one person, Balm said, “I wish I could have done more earlier.”

“We are forever thankful and you cannot, in my opinion, do enough to make the lives of those that are still among us a little bit more comfortabl­e.”

 ?? GAVIN YOUNG ?? Second World War veteran Stanley Squires, 99, fought in the Italian and Northwest Europe campaigns.
GAVIN YOUNG Second World War veteran Stanley Squires, 99, fought in the Italian and Northwest Europe campaigns.
 ?? ?? Alfred Balm
Alfred Balm

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