In May 2000, the late Cliff Chadderton (1919 – 2013) led a parade of fellow Canadian veterans through the streets of Apeldoorn, Netherlands, where they were met with cheering crowds and words of “thank you.” This May marks 75 years since Canadians sacrificed life and limb to help liberate the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.
Chadderton lost part of his right leg while in command of a company of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles battling for the Scheldt Estuary in Belgium and Holland. In Faces of War (1998), a collection of veterans’ stories, he said, “I should have died right there. I stepped one foot into Holland and left it there.”
While recovering in the army field hospital, Chadderton had an epiphany that would define how he approached the rest of his life. “I don’t need my legs. My head was ok, so I could go out and challenge the world and find something to do that would be useful,” he said.
On returning to Canada, Chadderton and his fellow Second World War amputees were welcomed as members of The War Amps, an Association originally started by First World War amputee veterans to help each other adapt to their new reality. An active member, he held several positions within the Association until his appointment as Executive Secretary (later CEO) in 1965. He was also Chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations (NCVA).
The Canadians who fought in the Liberation of the Netherlands helped bring peace and freedom to the people of Europe. During Chadderton’s visit to the Netherlands in 2000, he felt immense gratitude from the Dutch. “You can see the mothers and the fathers pointing at the Canadian veterans, saying, ‘Those are the guys that saved our country,’” he said. “Now I know why we fought the war, now I know why we were here.”
Photos: Cliff Chadderton (1919-2013), former CEO of The War Amps and Chairman of the National Council of Veteran Associations, receives a warm welcome at a veterans parade in Apeldoorn, Netherlands in May 2000.