On Saturday 3rd April 2004 fifty nine years ago Zevenaar was liberated. One day before on Easter Monday 1945 the nineteen year old Kenneth Scott Ferguson of the Canadian 12th Manitoba Dragoons Regiment was killed in action at the railway level crossing at the Babberichseweg. For several years H. Stegeman from the Overijssel village of Den Ham requested the municipality of Zevenaar to consider naming a street after Ken Ferguson. Karin Mulder, reporter for the Gelders Dagblad in Zevenaar, placed an article about this story on 1st April 2000. After detailed research the article was adapted by Gerrie Willemsen.
The Fatal Day
That particular Easter Monday, the second of April 1945, Lance Corporal Ken Ferguson of the 12th Manitoba Dragoons accompanied by Lieutenant Gordon Farr proceeded on a reconnaissance expedition. The two were ordered to locate the Company Headquarters of the 17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars, nicknamed the Dukes. Earlier that day the C-Company of the 12th Manitoba Dragoons arrived from the Elten area, Ferguson and Farr set out for Zevenaar. The nineteen-year-old Ferguson, who should have married some weeks later in England, didn't survive the expedition. At the railway level crossing at the Babberichseweg the future bridegroom and his comrade were waylaid by plain-clothes persons. Without warning they opened fire with a Panzerfaust (a German anti-tank weapon) at the Canadian scout car. Ferguson manned the fixed machine gun mounted on the car. The people in civilian clothes, presumable Jerrys continued to machine gun the car and fired three more Panzerfausts at the scout car. The young lance corporal was then hit by a small arm bullet at the back of the head. He died a short time later at his injuries and was buried in the Canadian War Cemetery at Groesbeek. Lieutenant Farr survived the attack. Later on he was decorated with the Military Cross.
Dismay In Canada
In April 1945 the following obituary was published in the Lanark Era, the newspaper of Lanark, the hometown of Ferguson. The Lanark Era still exists.
It reads as follows:
Second youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. David Ferguson of this village, who lost his life in Germany (should read Holland) early this month. Meagre details of his passing have as yet been received by his parents.
Ken enlisted in July of 1940 when he was just past 15 years of age. (He actually didn't turn 15 until August 6) He trained in Canada and went overseas in June of 1941. He was stationed in England for a time and took part in the invasion of Italy, later returning to England and took up instructors' duties with an armoured unit. In June of last year he was with the invasion forces on D-Day and served on the continent continuously in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. At the time of his death he held the rank of corporal. (should read L/Cpl) Besides his parents he is survived by five brothers and four sisters, Russell and Cecil overseas, Earle of Lanark, Harry of Carleton Place, Edna (Mrs. Nelson McDonald) of Kingston, Iva (Mrs. Leonard Holt) of Carleton Place, Inez of Ottawa, Eunice and Donald at home.
War Diary of the Canadian Army Unit
Monuments in Canada
In Canada many monuments were established in memory of the many Canadian soldiers killed in action during World War I and World War II. Very particular is the stained-glass window in the St.Andrew's Church in Lanark, which was donated by Ken's mother in remembrance of her son. Besides his name is also mentioned on a plaque near the gate of the approach to Clyde Memorial Park in Lanark.
The Ferguson family
Thanks to Gord Sim, secretary of the 12th Manitoba Dragoons Museum in Brandon MB, a number of Ken Ferguson's relatives have been traced and in addition has forwarded all information by email. Without his enormous effort we wouldnt know all the facts. On the basis of the available data a summary of the family follows and after that details of individual family members.
- Dwelling place in 1945: Lanark ON
- Father: David Elmer Ferguson, died in 1954 and buried at the cemetery of Hopetown ON
- Mother: Anna Beatrice Wright, born in 1889, died in 1962 in Carleton Place ON en buried on United Cemetery, just outside Carleton Place ON
The Lanark Era 24th June 2004 ~ Plaque at the gate to Clyde Memorial Park
Birthhouse of the Ferguson family
David and Edna had 10 children.
1. Earl Ferguson, died?; lived in Lanark in 1945
2. Edna Ferguson, died?; in 1945 she lived in Kingston ON and was married with Nelson McDonald
3. Iva Ferguson, died in 1993; in 1945 she lived in Carleton Place ON and was married with Leonard Holt.
4. Russell Ferguson, died in 1991. In 1945 he was in the Army
5. Cecil Ferguson, born in 1921, died in 1999 and was also in the Army in 1945
6. Harrison Ferguson, born in 1923, died in 1959 and lived in 1945 in Carleton Place
7. Kenneth Ferguson, born in 1925, died on 2nd April 1945 in Zevenaar (the Netherlands)
8. Inez Ferguson, born in 1928, died in 1993. In 1945 she lived in Ottawa.
9. Donald Ferguson, born in 1930, died in 1988. In 1945 he still lived at home.
10. Eunice Ferguson, born in 1931 ("Glad to still be alive!"). In 1945 she lived at home. Now she is married with Des Gore-Hickman en lives in Saskatoon SK.
Eunice revealed the following information after she learned of the homage her dead brother was given:"I was only about ten years old when I last saw Ken. My memories are of a laughing boy with a real zest for living. He was a great tease to me, his baby sister. He was popular with all his friends and was a bit of a dare devil. I don't believe he really realised what war was all about. She remembered the time Ken threw her in the Clyde River in Lanark to teach her how to swim! He also gave her a salt and pepper shaker as a gift which she still has. She was five years younger than Uncle Ken. In one of his last letters home, he expressed his great admiration fort the people of the Netherlands. He told us that the welcoming and expressions of gratitude to the Canadian soldiers made him understand why they were there. I know my mother would be very proud and grateful to the people of your city for honouring his memory. As Ken's only surviving sibling I would like to express my thanks to the people of your city."Expected members of the Ferguson family to attend the opening of the bridge are:
Eunice Ferguson and her husband Des Gore Hickman from Saskatoon SK. Ken Ferguson - son of Cecil Ferguson - and his wife Doris from Carleton Place ON. Gary Ferguson also son of Cecil Ferguson and his wife Karen and their son Kyle from Carleton Place ON. Brad Hamilton grandson of Cecil Ferguson and his friend Andrew Reid from Dunrobin ON Barry Ferguson son of Earl Ferguson and his wife Cyndy from Carleton Place ON.
Ken as young RecruitThe Canadian Army
Ken joined the Canadian Army in July 1940 - note at the age of fifteen years - and trained in Canada until he embarked in June 1941 for England were he was stationed. The army unit he was grouped with covered a long distance until it was demobilised in 1946. The following are some quotations from the book of Bruce Tascona about the 12th Manitoba Dragoons.
Battle Honours: Second World War
Falaise, Falaise Road, The Laison, Chambois, The Rhineland, Bad Zwischenahn, North-West Europe,
Armoured Corps in the
Second World War
XII Manitoba Dragoons Locations
Ken's Last Journey
After Ken was stationed In England in 1941, he was, according to the 'Lanark Era' newspaper of 1945, in the invasion of Italy. No other sources were found which did mention this. In July 1943 the 1st Canadian Infantry Division en the 1st Canadian Armoured Division, together with American and British units were brought into action to the landings on Sicily. After conquering of the isle the same Canadian units landed on 3rd September 1943 in South-Italy. In March 1945 their efforts to the Italian campaign came to an end. The two units were moved to South-France and at the end of March 1945 saw action near Nijmegen. After that in the May-days they moved to the west of the country. These two units belonged to another army unit as the unit Ken Ferguson has belonged to. Other units than mentioned have not been in Italy as far as we know.
Still it's striking such a big army stayed in England (from June 1941 till July 1944) for years only for practising. Only those Army units in which Ken was grouped are mentioned. The places where he lived, could not be determined.
Ken actually kept his real age a secret for a long time. On joining the army he stated he was born on 6th April 1922 and it wasnt until he turned 17 that he reported to the Orderly Room and corrected the date to 6th August 1925.
They no longer could dismiss him and send him back home and at that point he joined the 4th Recce Regiment (Princess Louise Dragoon Guards). However when they noticed his real age, he was transferred to CARTC (Canadian Armoured Corps Training Centre). Information indicated that he was employed for one and a half year as an instructor in the rank of Acting Lance Corporal and Acting Corporal.
Ken's unit then saw action in France on 9th July 1944, one month after D-day. Who doesn't remember the film-pictures with the countless fights in the west and northwest of France. On the 24th August 1944 they sent him to France in a Replacement Unit and on 26th September he joined the 12th Manitoba Dragoons.
Lance Corporal K.S. Ferguson belonged to the Canadian Cavalry Recce Regiment, which in wartime was part of 18th Armoured Car Regiment and known by the peace description XII Manitoba Dragoons Regiment. The regiment then joined the 2nd Canadian Corps as a Recce Regiment. The 2nd Canadian Corps also included the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. The 2nd Canadian Corps together with the 1st Canadian Corps formed the 1st Canadian Army under the command of General H.D.G. Crerar. General Eisenhower was in command of General Crerar.
The regiment was a fully independent unit equipped exclusively with armoured vehicles, the most prominent of which was the 15,5 ton, General Motors 'Staghound', and the 4,5 ton Ford 'Lynx II' type scout-car. In addition to the Regiment Headquarters with the Staff Squadron, the Regiment consisted of four fighting squadrons. In each fighting squadron there were five fighting troops, each troop having two Staghounds, the lead and second car, and added to each Staghound was a scout-car, all supplied with a wireless transmitting and receiving set. The regiment was a 'long range reconnaissance regiment', mainly performing reconnoitring and flank protecting operations.
As previously mentioned the XII Manitoba Dragoons crossed over from Southampton England to the Continent where they landed on Juno beach in the vicinity of the Norman port of Courseulles-sur-Mer. Here their continental campaign started. Via the Caen area and the Falaise Pocket they advanced on the Seine river, which they reached as the first of the Canadian Army.
Near Elbeuf, somewhat upstream of the city of Rouen they crossed the Seine River; then the great march through North-France and Belgium started. In Belgium the Regiment liberated, amongst others, the port of Oostende, the historical city of Bruges, Zuid-Beveland and the western part of Noord-Brabant. In the winter of 1944-1945 they were encamped along the front at that time of the large rivers; at first in Noord-Brabant, later on in the Betuwe. After their actions in the Reichswald they contributed largely in the great Rhineland offensive, crossing the Rhine in the afternoon of Saturday 31st March 1945 where they regrouped in the German village of Bienen and prepared for the next operation.
The next day, Easter Sunday, the squadrons operated out of this massing point reconnoitring in the Dutch province of Gelderland. On Easter Monday, 2nd April 1945, the C-Squadron of the XII Manitoba Dragoons concentrated in the Elten area where the Acting Squadron Leader, Captain John C. Calcutt, reported to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Headquarters and then to the Commanding Officer of the 17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars, nicknamed The Dukes. The Commanding Officer of the 7th Recce stated the area of Didam and Zevenaar were cleared, but he didn't know where his left-hand squadron was situated. So Lieutenant Maurice Gordon Farr and Lance Corporal Kenneth Scott Ferguson were sent out to locate and contact the squadron headquarters of the Dukes to learn their Troop positions.
Lt. Farr and L/Cpl Ferguson, from C-Squadron, set out by scout-car, for Zevenaar. They had almost reached the railway crossing where they found the railway gates of the guarded level crossing down, so they decided to turn round and bypass the crossing. All of a sudden, a civilian opened up with a Panzerfaust and hit the ground by one of the back wheels damaging it. Lt Farr rapidly reversed but this couldn't avoid L/Cpl Ferguson hitting by a bullet at the back of the head.
It looks like the next passage of the book 'Our last half a year of war' by F.J. Wahlen relates the crossing incident. The editors however assume the War Diary is factual.
" In the evening between six and seven we were - in the distance - witness of a short action between 'Wehrmacht' (German for 'armed forces') soldiers and Canadian reconnaissance-patrol, who crossed the frontier near the village of Babberich. One of them was killed and the other wounded, brought to the presbytery of the village of Old-Zevenaar, to be debriefed. We could have a look on the young man in Canadian uniform, while passing, who looked cheerful although he has a bullet in his thigh. The other day the wounded prisoner of war was, with other fellow-sufferers, transported to Arnhem. In Old-Zevenaar he was treated well and even provided cigarettes. The corpse of his mate was buried on our cemetery, with military honours, in consecrated soil."
Lieutenant Maurice Gordon Farr
The search by Gord Sim for Lt. Farr, who was driving the scout-car with Ken Ferguson still hadnt produced any result. In the 1944 Regiment Officers photograph Lt. Farr was missing, so we didn't believe that we could get a picture of him anyhow. A few months ago however André Liefrink was contacted by Dianne Cunningham from Victoria BC. After the war her father, Captain Victor Stilwell, did receive the 'Bronzen Leeuw', a high Dutch distinction from Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Captain Stilwell also served the 12th Manitoba Dragoons and is in the 1944 Regiment Officers photograph. One of the posthumous pictures is a photograph of a dinner-party which was also attended by Lt. Farr. Gord Sim sent a scanned copy of the picture to André and after capturing and blowing up Farr's portrait we have - indeed not such a good quality - a picture of Farr and that make's the story much more complete.
Zevenaar During the Second World War
The villages of Babberich and Old-Zevenaar belong to the Municipality of the town of Zevenaar. At one time the station and railway yard could be compared with the biggest Dutch junctions and formed part of a large transport system of the German army in that time. When the Netherlands was invaded in May 1940 armoured German trains passed Zevenaar to steam further to the west of the country. From September 1944, after the failed action near Arnhem, German materials were continuously supplied and removed. During that 'Battle of Arnhem' the station at Zevenaar was witness to the supply of dozens of German tanks and the trains from Arnhem with furniture stolen by the Germans enroute Germany via Zevenaar. From September 1944 for several months they have build up the defences of the town, thick walls were raised in various locations while anti-tank-ditches were dug all around the town at with the layered defences facing the South and the West.
It was no wonder that the allied airforces, especially in the last year of the war, could be found almost every day above Zevenaar. Trains were fired at, important buildings of the Germans were shelled and sometimes entire blocks of houses were hit, with many people suffering. In addition the town came under fire the guns from Nijmegen and their enormous projectiles. At the beginning of 1945 the situation became so serious, that the people south of the railroad Arnhem-Emmerich had to evacuate. Only certain persons, who had to be there because of their position, got permission to be in that area.
At the end of March there was an extremely strained atmosphere. The Jerrys felt the end was coming nearer, but they still didn't admit defeat. The Dutch kept themselves reserved.
On 30th March a German 'Sprengkommando' that blew up railroads and roads everywhere, swung into action. During the night 2-3 April the enemy blew up the Arnhemseweg-Marktstraat crossing in Zevenaar leaving a big crater, while all the houses in the neighbourhood sustained heavy damage. The telephone-exchange was also destroyed. Immediately after Emmerich fell, another large Sprengkommando action was launched on the railway yard inflicting heavy damage. The RAF had attacked the station several times. Although countless tank barriers were erected to the west and south of Zevenaar, the Canadians attacked from the east!
The 12th Manitoba Dragoons of the 4th Tank division approached Zevenaar on 2nd April. They were faced with Germans in civilian dress armed with Panzerfausts and machine-guns. At the railroad crossing Lt. M. Farr's car was hit. As Farr rapidly reversed L/Cpl Ferguson fired with might and main with his machine gun. The German civilians fired back, the corporal was hit in the head and died. He was to have left for England on 25th April to be married. Other than that small skirmish there were no serious engagements and on 3rd April Zevenaar was liberated. Without a blow, without more shooting, Zevenaar had fallen into Canadian hands on the same day by the 12th Manitoba Dragoons out of the Babberich direction and by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles out of the Didam direction.
Canadian War Cemetery Groesbeek
The cemetery is unusual in that many of the dead were brought here from nearby Germany. General Crerar, who commanded Canadian land forces in Europe, ordered that Canadian dead were not to be buried in German soil. Ken Ferguson is buried here and the grave reference is: XVII.G.3. Groesbeek is located 10 km south east of the town of Nijmegen and close to the German frontier.
Service Number: C/30677 Regiment: 12th Manitoba Dragoons, R.C.A.C. Unit: 18th Armd. Car Regt. 1939-45 Star France-Germany Star War Medal 1939-45 Defence Medal Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and clasp.
Homage to a Canadian soldier
In contrast to many other Dutch municipalities Zevenaar doesn't have a real liberator; no street was called after someone and there's no monument to remember the liberation. So almost nothing was against it to pay the honour to K.S. Ferguson and to thank in his name all the Canadians who were involved with the liberation of Zevenaar.
As mentioned in the introduction, they already tried before. Only after publishing an article about Ferguson in May 2001 in the quarter magazine of the society - the Cultural Historical Society Zevenaar (CVZ) - the subject gained momentum. The editor of the magazine, Gerrie Willemsen, was called by a member of the CVZ, Tom van der Veer, who had taken the initiative and suggested the new bridge be named after Ferguson and resolve this deficiency.
Since then much preparation has taken place. However, in retrospect, it has been found that much work has been done by many to attain this end. In the first place work was conferred with the Projectorganisation Betuweroute, since they were at work on the construction of a new railroad between Rotterdam-Zevenaar-German border. When the agreement of this organisation was received, the CVZ sent a letter to the municipality of Zevenaar. After agreeing with the proposal they accepted responsibility of the agreement from the Province of Gelderland.
The local council of Zevenaar was decisive and gave the green light on 30th October 2002. At last the negotiations proceeded very smoothly and after the decision in the summer of 2003 to agree to the let the name-giving take place the preparations could finally start.
Once freight trains start to run on the Betuweroute in 2007, the Netherlands will have completed an infrastructure project that is second to none. The port of Rotterdam and the German border will then be connected by a fast and safe rail link giving access to the European hinterland, resulting in all forms of transport being available from the port area.
The Betuweroute will be at the heart of freight transport by train in the Netherlands. When the first train loads roll alongside the A15 motorway, it will have been thirteen years since the Dutch parliament's lower house gave the green light for the project. This was a decision that has had an effect on the environments of people living along the route, and on the wildlife there, and has had consequences on the landscape. Many choices were made after full consultation and careful consideration; sometimes with difficulty, but always realistically.
The section of the Betuweroute within the municipality of Zevenaar is over seven kilometres. In Zevenaar the original plans for the Betuweroute are adapted in dialogue with the municipality and the inhabitants. At first it was the intention to build the railroad in the built up area of Zevenaar overground. Protests out of the neighbourhood however lead to the decision to built a part of the route underground.
The two tracks of the Betuweroute go underground in a tunnel after the Groessenseweg viaduct. The tunnel followed the existing tracks Arnhem-Germany. This tunnel is under the Ringbaan Zuid, the new part of the orbital motorway that is built in the scope of the Betuweroute. At the east side of the town, off bicycle tunnel de Sleeg, the freight trains will meet the existing tracks via points.
Between the railway tunnel and the German frontier the railroad is crossed in several places by paths and roads. In the scope of the Betuweroute the level crossings are radically broken up. One of the conditions to the Betuweroute project was that the freight trains would have to traverse the country safely and at a constant speed. With this important criteria crossings would need to be much safer for the neighbourhood. To achieve these 130 bridges, viaducts and five tunnels were built. Level crossings do not appear anywhere in the entire Betuweroute section. In the Babberichseweg a bridge, Fergusonbridge attests to this.
The cable stayed bridge is one of the most striking and marked constructions of the entire Betuweroute. The bridge is designed by architect Nienke van de Lune of Holland Railconsult. The four oval, steel pylons of the cable stayed bridge proudly figure in the Zevenaar landscape. An imaginary gate between the Netherlands and Germany. The expressive bridge likewise emphasises the last important traffic connection which is crossing the Betuweroute. From the top downwards, tapering pylons draw attention to the bridge. The cables exist of strands of steel which meet in cases. They are fixed at the top of the pylons and give the staying to the deck. The number of cables has been limited to keep the overall of the work of art quiet. In addition to the existing tracks space is also left clear for extra sidings.
Many pictures have already been taken of the bridge because it's a beautiful part of the Betuweroute. From here on the captions of the pictures will mention the name Fergusonbrug. For the builders of the Betuweroute a credit for the entire railroad.
When you want to dedicate a part of a publication to a historical event, you need to be sure, many facts have to be confirmed. At the outset it seemed a hopeless case, where do you get it? The first attempt was via the Canadian Embassy in the Hague, which didn't produce the intended result. The data on L/Cpl Ken Ferguson, killed in action, we found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial on the website of the Department of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). Because of doubts about the actual site of the engagement André Liefrink requested from Gord Sim, secretary of the '26 Field Regiment and XII Manitoba Dragoons Museum in Brandon MB information and received the War Diary and a map with co-ordinates which confirmed the former level crossing near the bridge was indeed the actual location. Following this Gord Sim arranged for a Wheat City Journal article by Kyla Duncan and traced out Ken Ferguson's relatives in Canada. Much more information came to Zevenaar by Gord Sim and so we could present this booklet after all.
The Festive Day
Today the plague is unveiled and on this occasion this booklet has been issued. Invitations were sent in February to Ken Ferguson's relatives in Canada, the Canadian Embassy, the members of the local council of Zevenaar, the Province of Gelderland, the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, the Projectorganisation Betuweroute, the executive committee of CVZ and the initiators. The Cultural Historical Society is satisfied with the result, happy with the cooperation with the official authorities and glad with the effort of all the Dutch and Canadians.
From left to right: Ken, Russel and Cecil Ferguson
We always will remember the words on the cenotaph at the Canadian War Cemetery in Groesbeek:
Pro amicis mortui amicis vivimus
Bruce Tascona: XII Manitoba Dragoons, A Tribute
Hen Bollen/Paul Vroemen: Canadezen in Actie (Canadians in Action)
Christ Peters: Gelderland Bevrijd (Gelderland Liberated)
Donaldson Atlantic Liner "Letitia",1925 van Captain J.H. Isherwood, Sea Breezes Magazine, September 1967
F.J. Wahlen: Ons laatste halfjaar oorlog (Our last half a year of the war)
XII Manitoba Dragoons Museum: www.12mbdragoons.com
Wheat City Journal : www.wheatcityjournal.ca
Commonwealth War Graves Commission: www.cwgc.org
Ford Lynx Scout Car: www.mapleleafup.org
Legion Magazine : www.legionmagazine.com / www.legion.ca
Canadese Oorlogsbegraafplaats - Holten: http://come.to/wavholten
Canadese Oorlogsbegraafplaats Groesbeek : www.vvv-groesbeek.info/ereveld.htm
Stichting Bevrijding '45 : www.apeldoorn-canada.com
Juno Beach Centre Courseulles sur Mer (Fr) : www.junobeach.org
Canadese Ambassade Den Haag : www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/canadaeuropa/netherlands
National Comité Thank you Canada & Allied Forces : http://home01.wxs.nl/~hartk028/pag_ned/home.htm
The Maple Leaf Legacy Project : www.mapleleaflegacy.ca/
Ministerie Veterans Affairs Canada : www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/
Canadian Virtual War Memorial : www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/virtualmem
The Books of Remembrance : www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/books
Canadian War Museum - Ottawa: www.civilization.ca/cwm/cwme.asp
TV Gelderland : www.omroepgelderland.nl/
De Gelderlander: www.gelderlander.nl
reporter Carine te Cate: C.tCate@gelderlander.wegener.nl
Over de panzerfaust: www.jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/military/weapons-german-panzerfaust.html
Informatie over het tot 'Armed Merchant Cruiser' om gebouwde Britse passagiersschip 'Letitia' van Donaldson Brothers Ltd: http://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/3358.html
Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam: www.scheepvaartmuseum.nl
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