Private Loren Nelson
Once the Lincoln and Welland Regiment fought their way north over the Twente Canal they entered Delden, Netherlands in on the 4th of April, 1945. They were hungry and tired and due for a three day rest. Delden gave the Lincoln and Welland Regiment their heartfelt thanks for their liberation of the town.
There is no specific account from Loren of his time in Delden. What we do have is an account, written from the perspective of one of Delden's residents who had the opportunity to lodge some Canadian soldiers in those days of April 1945.
When Mrs. C. Hilsum-Beuckens looked out her window one morning she saw Canadian soldiers in the streets. Six tired men stood on her doorstep looking for a place to sleep. She took them in and later wrote a book about it entitled Thank You Canada.
Following is her account of the events:
..We examined them with interest and called them Tommies. Smiling tolerantly, they said that they weren't Tommies but Canadians. Six! Where was I going to find room for them all? We still had four people with us who had been hiding from the Germans. "Put a couple of beds side by side," the Canadian lieutenant advised us. "They're not hard to please."
A few minutes later our house was unrecognizable. Machine guns, rifles, shovels, grenades, kit bags lay everywhere and the soldiers were stretched out in our chairs.
One, Lesage, was of Belgian descent. He spoke a little Flemish, and at 21, had a wife and two children. He proudly showed us a snapshot of them. There was a boy who looked like Mickey Rooney. His name was Hearst and he was 19. Kelly and Garnett were the names of the two others. When they saw what we had to eat they immediately gave us food. Both had just had a birthday. Kelly was 29 and beginning to grow bald, Garnett was 19. The corporal, Podolski, was a friendly good-looking boy. I have forgotten the name of the sixth.
Lesage discovered our violin and scraped away happily on it. They took our children off to their unit's cookhouse, and brought back a large jug of tea, sugar and milk and thick slices of dazzlingly white bread. They sat and talked about "back home" and what they were going to do when the war was over. Then they went off to bed.
They'd been on the go for 40 hours without a break. I was to call them at seven o'clock. And I did. I shouted and knocked until my knuckles were red. At last one answered. While dressing they joked about my attempts to wake them: "I thought I was in heaven when I heard a woman's voice" and "Just like being back home." They washed and shaved all over the house as if they had lived there all their lives. They sang, punched and kidded one another, and laughed at me for asking whether they had slept well.
They did all sorts of things for us that day. Lesage scraped away on the violin, and the corporal had various jobs to do. Hearst slept. One wrote letters. Kelly and Garnett rustled up firewood and food, heaven knows where from, and we all felt completely at ease with one another.
In the evening a message came that they were to be ready to leave on five minutes' notice. Two went to bed fully dressed, four sat up with us. We told them about our resistance movement, they told us about their homes. I had to promise to write their families.
We sat in the dark, our glowing cigarettes signalling our positions like tiny beacons. Now and then we heard guns in the distance. My heart ached as I listened to their stories, plans and fears. All of them were afraid. Afraid that even now, at the eleventh hour of the war, something might happen to them.
Next morning the dreaded message came: they had to leave. Without a word they picked up their gear and put on their camouflaged tin hats. "Keep you fingers crossed," one of them said, and they left...
Note: According to regimental records, a Private by the name of "Lesage" was killed in action on 10 April 1945.