Mike Strachan’s e-mail journal — Entry #39, from Germany
Received 31 May 2008
Travels for May 30/08 — The End of the Military Trail
Since there are only seven or eight small towns to visit today in Germany, all not far from Papenburg, I can take more time at each one. First I have to buy fuel — the Smart Car gets 4.3 litres of diesel fuel per 100 km, and much of my driving yesterday was into strong winds.
The first town I visit is Rhede, and it has a big church which is quite beautiful inside. Just when I thought there are few memorials in Germany, I find a large plaque on the inside wall of the church honouring the fallen of the two world wars who were from Emsland district. This is the new St. Nicklaus church, built in 1913. The old St. Nicklaus church is half a kilometer away. Built in 1250, it has had additions and renovations over the years, the last in 1953.
The QOR were here in Rhede on April 25/45, after the battle for the town had already taken place on April 13-18. Outside the old church is a graveyard for the German soldiers who died here — most were 17 or 18 years old:
Inside the old church it is light and airy, with a few pieces of very old furniture. A plaque gives the history of the old church, and a large stone memorial has a simple message which translates as “The fallen in the world war and the despotism of National Socialism in Emsland”:
The next town on the QOR route is Diele, and it has a volunteer fire department (Freiwillige Feuerwerk). A man named Hans, assistant fire chief, shows me the little station and the new fire truck. The old fire truck, and all the firemens clothing,were destroyed by a fire in the fire hall.
The next town is Mohenwarf, and it has a large working windmill. The QOR were headquartered here on April 24/45. and they went to two other towns on April 26-27, but they are too small and far away for me to go there.
The 1H advanced through Barsell to Godensholt. On April 30/45 Godensholt was captured and Hitler was dead.
The 1H entered other small towns in the area — Ocholt, Apen, Mansie, and Torsholt. I visit all of them, but there is not much of interest. While on the road I get a photo of a pair of road signs — to Potshausen and Stickerhausen, which reminds me of pot stickers. And at Torsholt there is a good example of what is common in the area — a very large nursery plantation with industrial strength sprinklers.
It’s now 4:30 PM and via the autobahn I'm back in Papenburg by 5:45 PM through Friday rush hour traffic. I treat myself to a nice dinner to celebrate the end of my military trail. However it was not the end for the 1H. On May 11-12 the unit went to Papenburg to seize war material, then they went back to Holland to harbour at Zutphen, and turned in their tanks until June13/45. Gradually they all came home; my dad did not come home until November 1945.
I have ridden, walked, and driven thousands of kilometers, and visited 125 towns and villages on the military trail.This trip has been a great experience, and it would not have been so enjoyable and rewarding without the cheerful help of many people. My thanks go to my wife Tia for terrific support,to Bob Ingraham for posting my e-mails, and to lots of people along the way in hotels, B&B’s, train stations, tourist information centres, cafes, and many passers by who helped with directions. Special thanks for their help to Sandrine and Michel Davy, my hosts in St. Malo.
This is my last military-trail e-mail. I'll send out one or two later to provide tips for travellers and the list of military history books I used as references for my research. Tomorrow I'll go to Haarlem to stay with Mida Koelman, who once lived in Vancouver; below, she is shown coming out of her garden door:
On June 6 (D-Day) I'll be going to London on the Chunnel train from Brussels to meet Tia for a vacation together — three weeks in England and one week in Scotland. Then home to Vancouver on July 2 where I'll have a lot to sort through — old mail, brochures, souvenirs, 253 journal pages, and the 1,144 photos I’ve taken so far. Who knows how many more we'll take before we get home?