Why a Dutch-Canadian man is honouring P.E.I. soldiers, name by name

Pieter Valkenburg is a Dutch Canadian who will never forget the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers. And so he has been giving thanks in a unique way — through extensive research.

Pieter Valkenburg says he will never forget what Canada did for his homeland

Pieter Valkenburg is researching the names on the cenotaph in Borden-Carleton. (Submitted by Pieter Valkenburg )

Elmer B. Muttart of Cape Traverse, P.E.I., was just 23 when his plane was shot down over the Netherlands during the Second World War.

But before his plane crashed, Muttart made sure all seven of his British crew members onboard were able to jump and survive. Then he made sure to steer the burning plane away from a village below before it crashed, killing him.

Muttart's name is one of 48 on a cenotaph in Borden-Carleton, P.E.I.

Being a Dutch Canadian, it's always been important to us to honour the soldiers that liberated Holland.— Pieter Valkenburg

"I thought this man should never be forgotten," said Pieter Valkenburg, a Dutch Canadian who is finding out all he can about the Canadian soldiers who helped liberate his homeland.

Valkenburg, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, was laying a wreath during a Remembrance Day ceremony in 2016 when he was moved to research the lives of the soldiers.

Pieter Valkenburg will talk about his research project July 12 at the St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Crapaud. (Angela Walker/CBC)

His goal is to put a face and story to each name. He has been contacting relatives to get pictures and information.

Recently, he went to Europe to place Canadian and Prince Edward Island flags at many of their graves.

"Emotional," was how he characterized the experience. 

"It's one thing to just go there and stand at the grave without only knowing the basic facts. It's another thing if you stand there and you've got a picture in your head," he said.

"Being a Dutch Canadian, it's always been important to us to honour the soldiers that liberated Holland."

Crew jumped from plane

Valkenburg was struck by Muttart's story in particular.

A crowd in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, welcomes Canada's Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders on April 16, 1945.

"When I did the research I found out that before the plane crashed he made sure the crew could jump, which is quite an achievement when you're talking about a burning plane," he said.

All seven of the crew members who jumped survived, but were taken as prisoners of war.

"He made sure that he didn't crash into the village," Valkenburg said. "He flew the plane about 40 metres over a farm and then the plane crashed. It made a big hole in the ground and he lost his life."

Valkenburg is working with a non-profit memorial foundation to have a plaque placed at the crash site.

Talk on July 12

On Thursday July 12, at 7 p.m. at the St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Crapaud, P.E.I., he'll be talking about the research project and other Island soldiers who did not survive the world wars.

Valkenburg's research is posted online, and he also hopes to write books about the soldiers.

"These people should not be forgotten," he said.

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With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.