A photo-essay
In 1957, Michael D. Calnan (my father), was a young artillery officer in the Canadian Army at the very beginning of what would eventually become a lengthy military career. He was assigned to go to Germany (more specifically, to the area then known as West Germany) to assist in setting up a training facility for junior NCO's (non-commissioned officers) with the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade.
More than a decade earlier, my dad's family had been visited by his cousin Ed, son of his Uncle Tom and Aunt Helen. The Second World War was still raging at that time and Ed had just enlisted with the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Ed was about to be sent overseas and so he made the rounds visiting with family members for what turned out to be the last time. Tragically, Rifleman Edward Anthony Calnan was killed on March 3rd, 1945 during the battle to liberate Holland. He was only 22 years old when he died. My father vividly remembers how deeply Ed's death affected his father (my grandfather) as the two had been particularly close and were said to have borne a close physical resemblance to one another.
Unlike in modern times when those who fall on the battlefield are flown home to their loved ones, the casualties of World War Two were almost always buried near where they fell. Travel was also far more difficult in those days and so not many of the Calnan family were able to journey to Holland to pay their last respects to Ed.
So when my father was posted to go to Germany in 1957, he took along a camera with him so that he could take pictures of the places he visited and the sights he saw. He also planned on travelling to the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Holland where his cousin was buried not only so that he could pay his respects personally but also so that he could take a picture of Ed's headstone to send back to Canada. These photographs sent by mail would likely be the only way for some members of the Calnan family to see where Ed had been buried.
At this time of remembrance, the pictures that my father took all those years ago have a deep personal meaning for me but are also a reflection of an era that deserves recognition. This photo-essay is dedicated to the man who took these pictures, my father, and the great service that he rendered his country over several decades. It is also dedicated to Rifleman Ed Calnan, a man I never knew and am only distantly related to but whose sacrifice makes it possible for me and mine to live the way that we do. And finally, it is dedicated to all those who served and continue to serve. We will remember them.
Links
The photographs
My father in front of the Junior NCO School My father and a fellow officer posing A wrecked church in Hanover The Town Hall in Braunschweig The Airborne monument in Oosterbeek Boarded-up building in Hanover A statue outside the railroad station in Hanover My father believed this was the ruins of the Gestapo headquarters in Braunschweig A damaged cathedral in Hanover A monument erected by the Allies on the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp A British war cemetery between Hamburg and Hanover The Airborne Museum outside Arnhem A view of the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery The grave of Sergeant Aubrey Cosens, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross Headstones in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery The entrance to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery Another view of the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery The grave of Rifleman Edward Anthony Calnan The grave of an unknown Canadian soldier The entrance to the memorial on the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp The Jewish monument on the site of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp