The Strang Family

"I am looking forward to leave in England"

After the opening of the Walter Stranglaan on 1 December 2007 Wim Rhebergen made a speech entitled 'Walter Strang and his family'. Below some choice parts of this speech.

"Walter Strang was a family man. Of course, he too longed for the end of the war and wished he could go home to his wife Florence to whom he often wrote letters, although those were heavily censored. In spring 2006 I managed to track down Walter's family. Walter's brothers survived the war but have since passed away, as have his two sisters Elizabeth and Margaret. His sisters-in-law Aileen and Yvonne are still with us. Walter maintained a warm relationship with his family. This summer I received copies of possibly Walter’s last letters. On March 26, 1945 he writes to his sister-in-law Aileen from Belgium: "I have had a nice long rest out of the line now but I don't expect it to last much longer. The news sure looks good these days. If it keeps up we will all be home by summer. There sure is a difference in Italy and Belgium. Here the people are very friendly. In the town we are in just now there are as many pubs as there are gas stations in Toronto. I would like to be able to see Jim again. I don't know if his outfit is in action or not. He should be due for home leave by now he has been away long enough".

Nine days before his death, on April 10, 1945, Walter again sends a letter to Aileen, this time from the Netherlands: "I am feeling fine these days. I suppose you know that I am out of Italy now. (...) We spent a week in a town in Belgium. (...) Then I have a leave to England to look forward to. It should came in six weeks or two months. That's not so long after waiting almost a year and a half. The news is certainly very good these days. It should not be long before we are all home for good (...) Jimmie is very lucky to be out of it all. I sure wish I was going home with him. (...) Florence was telling me that she stayed overnight at your place. She said that she enjoyed herself. (...) Arch is in Belgium some place but I have not heard from him for some time. (...) The weather here in Holland is swell in the daytime. Right now it is just about 2 o'clock a.m. and it sure is not exactly cosy in this digout. At least it is better than a slit trench. (...) I will close now and say good night for now".

Walter had a strong relationship with his family back in Canada. Similarly, there is an extraordinary bond between Canada and the Netherlands. The good relations between Canadians and Dutchmen can for a good part be traced back to the Second World War. Princess Juliana and her family spent the years of occupation for most of the time in Ottawa where Princess Margriet was born. The Canadian army played a leading role in the liberation of the Netherlands. There is probably no other country in the world where the Canadian war dead are accorded such respect.

As you may have heard, on 19 April 2008 – 63 years after the liberation of Hoevelaken and thus the 63rd anniversary of Walter Strang’s death – a new memorial will be unveiled, again in the presence of members of the Strang family and delegations of both Regiments. Again, this may serve as confirmation of the good relations between Canada and the Netherlands. In a few minutes we will be laying flowers at the monument for Walter Strang in Park Weldam as it was erected in 1946, shortly after the war. In this context I would like to conclude by quoting one of the letters I received from Walter's sister-in-law Yvonne: "Walter and Florence had no children. Now, they will have children around his memorial always".

Ian Strang laying flowers on 1 December 2007

From left to right: a delegation of the Toronto Scottish Regiment, Ian Strang, Wim Rhebergen, veterans and a delegation of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and Theo Zuurman. Photos: Peter Rhebergen.