Bruce James Tedcastle and William Hayward Mahaney

According to Allied plans, it would be the Canadian troops which would liberate our region. However, on 4 May 1945 when the Germans surrendered not one Canadian could be found on the roads or in the fields. The Germans kept to their posts still armed. In our provinces, there were approximately 120,000 Germans, a substantial number of whom were in Oegstgeest who were mainly older but also a few were members of the SS. Decisions made on May 5th in Wageningen stated that the Dutch BS could not act against them. The NSB Mayor was still walking around a free man while the former mayor removed from his post in 1942 had already been re-instated to office. What a peculiar time it was. The citizenry was ready to celebrate, although the memory of friends and family who had died or concern for the fate of loved ones still missing or the continuous gnawing hunger did put a damper on the festivities. People organized concerts in their homes, tracked down members of the NSB (numbering 63 in Oegstgeest at the war’s end), and continued to distribute food which had become extremely scarce. Some people even attempted to shave the heads of ‘German snols’ while others tried to stop this activity, sometimes while looking down the barrel of a BS stengun. In general, people continued to wait for the Canadians to arrive, which was to be on May 9th from Leiden.

The first Canadian soldiers at the gate to the forest of ‘Kasteel Oud Poelgeest’.

Died after the liberation
And they did come on May 9th. Marching down the Rijnsburgerweg, their column turned to the right onto the Warmonderweg. The column was led by a truck carrying a member of the BS on top. ‘Clear the road’ he shouted through his loud speaker. Following this truck came the first jeep; people from Oegstgeest had never seen such a vehicle. Captain Robert Ryder, the first Canadian to enter Oegstgeest, was sitting next to the driver. Later he would write in his report: ‘Men and women, old and young, were singing The Wilhelmus with tears running down their faces.’ These men were large, well-fed soldiers in clean uniforms, beautifully tanned by the Italian sun. This was quite a different sight than the drab appearance of German soldiers and the scrawny, pale Dutchmen. At the corner of De Kempenaerstraat the column could only proceed slowly. The sight was incredible: there were only a few Canadians on each vehicle but swarms of young boys and girls who had climbed  on board. The crowds blocking the road did surely not ‘clear the road’. Adults walked alongside trying to grasp Canadian hands and pass flowers in gratitude. The Canadians handed out cigarettes – no one knew that they were unhealthy back then –  as well as big chunks of chocolate. They drove on slowly towards Castle Oud Poelgeest where the 1st Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery had set up tents and field kitchens. The amounts of food in it were unbelievable for the citizenry of Oegstgeest. The 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment drove on in the direction of Warmond.
Bruce Tedcastle and Bill Mahaney were gunners in the 1st Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery. Tedcastle was still unmarried. Mahaney, the son of Hayward and Isabel Mahaney, was married to Mary Ann Mahaney and they lived in Kiltarlity, Inverness-shire, Canada. Both soldiers lost their lives in accidents shortly after arriving in Oegstgeest: Bruce James Tedcastle on May 13th and William Hayward Mahaney on May 30th. They entered the town as liberators and were the last Allied servicemen to be buried in the Groene Kerkje cemetery.

Graves of anti-tank gunner Bruce J. Telcastle and Williams H. Mahaney. The stones have the Maple Lead : symbol of Canada.

Eyewitness reports

The rest of the available space had been taken up by boys, girls and little toddlers, like ants on a sugar cube; some of the vehicles had become so crowded that the drivers could hardly see anything in front of their eyes – like the jeeps decorated with flags and portraits of Queen Wilhelmina. Cigarettes were being thrown from one car and as soon as the jeep had come to a halt there was more begging for a smoke.
Not much imagination was needed to realize that all that picking and clawing of the hungry barren ground was completely pointless. After the army trucks, jeeps and tanks had passed by – loaded and draped with shouting children and leggy girls so that you could barely catch sight of a uniform –  there was only a solid mass of flag-waving, exuberant people along the route but no sign of a garden.

From: ‘Zij komen …’, by Ans van der Heide-Kort
and ‘Zwarte Bevrijding’ by Jan Wolkers