Liberation Day May 5 1945, Victory in Europe May 8, 1945
From the Port of Leghorn, Italy Harry made his way to France and from Marseilles into Belgium and up to Arnhem, Holland. In Harry’s words:
“There was a lot of damage done to the buildings in Arnhem and many
British paratroopers had been hiding in cellars. One of my memories is them coming out onto the streets to greet us.” Later Harry and a buddy were tasked with checking out a large building well back off the road and they “discovered that it was a retirement home for Dutch veterans and this day was the first time they had been able to fly the dutch flag and wear their uniforms in five years.”
As Harry passed through Arnhem he came across a German flag and after checking very carefully for booby traps was able to take it down, it would be the only memento of the war that he would take home.
From Arnhem they moved north through Apledoorn and up to Zwolle and over to Emmen and up into Groningen where the German’s had decided to make a stand. In Harry’s words: “The centre of the city was demolished by artillery and mortar fire, but we did manage to save the church bell tower and on May 4th we got word the fighting was to stop and the war was over. As word spread through the camp, the first reaction was a big yahoo and then the real meaning started to set in and the whole camp was very quiet as we all realized we had come through a terrible time in one piece and would soon be going home thanks to God. I think it must have been about an hour later that we all started to move around and with big grins saying to one another ‘It’s over’.”
The end of the war – This interview tells that morning in Harry’s own very emotional words:
At the suggestion of a Dutch underground fighter named Nico, whom Harry had met on his journey through Holland, a parade through the streets was organized. Harry “led off the parade with a girl on each arm and a smile on his face”. Fifty years later Harry would return for the Victory in Europe (V.E.) Day celebrations and reconnect with Nico.
It was on this 1995 trip that Harry and his wife met the van Egdom family, who hosted them during their visit. According to daughter Merel, ” I clearly remember how Harry came to my elementary school to tell his story to my class, which was a very proud moment for me. Harry taught me kindness, patience, dedication and my first real English :)”. This friendship would span decades and in 2015 Harry shared with us how proud he was of the woman Merel had become and her life saving work as a doctor in Africa. In honour of her he sponsored and named NSD Merel. NSD Merel would go on to become NSD’s first Courtroom Facility Dog tasked with supporting children while they gave testimony under very difficult situations. In turn, NSD puppy in training Dusty, was sponsored and named by Merel and her family in Harry’s memory, thus continuing his legacy with NSD.
Some of our most beloved pictures and memories of our dear friend Harry Watts
A decade ago the NSD team had the pleasure of meeting Harry through our annual Motorcycle Ride. As a member of the 1st CAV Motorcycle Unit, Harry rode in our annual fundraiser and championed our cause. Harry had a knack for bringing people together and was an engaging story teller. Somehow he was always able to shine a light on the positive side of his journey, even when faced with horrors of war.
You can read more of Harry’s stories in his book “Dispatch Rider”. All money raised from the purchase of the book goes directly to supporting Service Dogs and continuing Harry’s legacy.
This year’s Charity Ride is featuring an Online Auction with a vast selection of unique items to choose from. The Auction will be available to all of our supporters and will go on-line July 1 and run through July 5th – Check It Out!
Final Dispatch to a Princess
May 8, 2005
Harry’s final, officially Independent dispatch took place on May 8th, 2005. This was a very special book of pictures, sketches, and poetry done by the kids of the New Dawn School (the first and real New Dawn School.) in Cambridge (Galt) Ontario. These kids were Harry’s children and they meant the world to Harry.
That dispatch was to be delivered to the Dutch Princess Margriet, the third daughter born to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and born in Ottawa during the Second World War. The dispatch took place during the National Veterans Parade in Apeldoorn and televised live on the CBC across Canada, as well as live across the Netherlands. It would become one of Harry’s most cherished memories.
Harry delivers his last dispatch to Princess Margriet. From left to right, Jan De Vries, Professor Pieter Van Vollenhoven (Princess Margriet’s husband), Canadian Governor General Adrian Clarkson and the Princess.
That day Harry’s ride was an Ariel W/NG.
We wish to thank Jeremy Van Dyke for sharing his in-depth knowledge of the motorcycles and their history with Harry. A complete history of “Harry’s Horses” can be found here.
Thank you to our generous partners and sponsors.