WWII vet stays in touch with Dutch family

WWII veteran Charlie Fielding of Hanna, AB was featured in a Dutch newspaper in St Odenrode, Netherlands on May 1, 2013. The article chronicles Fielding’s connection he made with a Dutch family during the war and how he was able to stay in contact with them for many years afterward.
Avatar
Written by Submitted
 WWII veteran Charlie Fielding of Hanna, AB was featured in a Dutch newspaper in St Odenrode, Netherlands on May 1, 2013. The article chronicles Fielding’s connection he made with a Dutch family during the war and how he was able to stay in contact with them for many years afterward.


WWII veteran Charlie Fielding of Hanna, AB was featured in a Dutch newspaper in St Odenrode, Netherlands on May 1, 2013. The article chronicles Fielding’s connection he made with a Dutch family during the war and how he was able to stay in contact with them for many years afterward.

Second World War veteran Charlie Fielding from Hanna, AB knows what it is like to have life-long pen pals. He’s been in contact with the same family since the Second World War ended.
In 1944, 24-year-old Fielding and his tank recovery unit were stationed in Holland and stopped to rest in a small village called St Odenrode to wait for supplies.
It was there, in that small town, where Fielding witnessed the toll wartimes took on civilian populations.
As Fielding and his unit rolled into an old school yard that had been transformed into a wooden shoe factory, they noticed small children running up to their big tanks.
“I can still remember their swollen bellies,” said Fielding.
“We saw the hunger and sadness in their eyes, a result of what they had endured during German occupation,” said Fielding.
Fielding and his crew decided to share half their rations with the children that night.
The next day, the children came back to ask for more food, but it was four children in particular, all of them siblings, that would forever be etched in Fielding’s mind.
“The four siblings had a request from their parents,” said Fielding. “They wanted us to come back to their house.”
So, for the next seven days Fielding and his crew visited the family each evening to play games.
The soldiers came to know the family and the children, Whilamina(11); Annie(9); Hennie(7); Peter(5), before they moved to Maas, where they were held up in the area for the winter.
On Decemeber 15, 1944, while Fielding and his crew were checking a shallow canal, they discovered a flat bottom barge of coal sunk in the canal.
They decided to bring the coal back to the family in St Odenrode, along with a few sacks filled with potatoes.
When they arrived in the town, the Ardennes breakthrough occured, so the family insisted the crew leave immediately.
“Everyone cried because we would never see each other again,” said Fielding.
However, 16 years later in 1961, when Fielding was station in Germany with NATO, he decided to pay the family in Holland a surprise visit.
When he knocked on the door a young man, about 21 years old, answered the door and Fielding asked him if the Verheggen’s still lived here. The young man exclaimed, “You must be Charlie!” Fielding replied and said “You must be Peter but you wouldn’t remember me as you were five years old.” The young man replied “Yes, we remember your crew, you gave us food when we were hungry and coal when we were cold.”
After that initial meeting, Fielding kept in contact with the family every Christmas for 35 years, but lost touch with them in 1996.
In 2004, Fielding and his son traveled to Europe to find the family but were unable to do so.
It was only until late 2012 that Fielding was able to reconnect with the family. One of Fielding’s sons found the phone number of the youngest Verheggen son, a boy who was born after the war and named Carl, which means Charlie in Dutch.
On May 1, 2013 Fielding’s story was published in St Odenrode’s Dutch newspaper. The article was published to show the community’s respect and gratitude for their freedom.
Fielding is now 94 years old and lives in Hanna, AB. He recalls his time overseas like it was yesterday and is thankful he has once again found the family in Holland he helped survive during the war nearly 70 years ago.

About the author

Avatar

Submitted

Subscribe

* indicates required