After journalist Ernst Arbouw noticed the initials “H.W.R” and the words “Toronto, Canada” carved into a tree in the woods near Eelde, he could not get them out of his head.
According to RTV Drenthe, Canadian veterans organisations were not able to shed any more light on the soldier’s identity. But Arbouw was able to find a match in the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Harold Wilbert Roszell.
“I gasped when I saw the name on my screen”, Arbouw says. But Roszell’s name in the database also meant that the veteran was no longer living. “You feel like you’ve just brought someone to life, only to discover that they’re dead.”
For Arbouw, identifying Roszell was just the beginning of the story. The revelation brought him to Canada where he spoke with other veterans, historians, and family members of both Rozsell and one of his fellow soldiers, John Tuckey.
Seven soldiers with the same initials
Tuckey also carved his name into a tree in the same area. Both Tuckey and Roszell were in the same unit and died during the Battle of Groningen. The discovery of Tuckey’s initials several months after Roszell’s confirmed that Arbouw had indeed found the right H.W.R. “I found seven Canadian soldiers with those initials, but only one of them was deployed to Eelde with John Tuckey during the liberation of the Netherlands.”
Arbouw applied for financing from the Dutch Special Journalism Projects Fund and is writing a book about his search for Harold Roszell. The solider was a young man who was so eager to join the liberation forces that he repeatedly tried to enlist without his father’s permission. His father stopped him from enlisting twice before finally relenting. Roszell joined the allied troops progressing through France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and was killed in the final days of the war during the liberation of Groningen on 16 April 1945. He was 21.
Arbouw’s book – “H.W.R. was hier” (“H.W.R. was here”) – is set to be published in September by Ambo Anthos. On Sunday, 15 April, Arbouw will tell his story on Drenthe Toen, RTV Drenthe’s radio show about the history of the province, between 2 and 3 p.m.
Photo source: Wikipedia