Canadian soldiers bravely battled in Europe, leading the liberation of the Netherlands in 1945. In the final months of the Second World War, Canadian forces were given the important and deadly task of liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. From September 1944 to April 1945, the First Canadian Army fought Nazi forces on the Scheldt estuary, opening the port of Antwerp for Allied use.
The First Canadian Army then cleared northern and western Netherlands, allowing food and other relief to reach millions of desperate people. Air drops of food were coordinated by the Royal Canadian Air Force over Nazi-occupied Dutch territory in Operation Manna. Dutch Civilians wrote “Thank You Canadians!” on their rooftops in grateful response.
Princess Juliana gifted 100,000 tulip bulbs to Canadians for their role in liberating the Dutch and providing refuge for her family during the war. Princess Juliana came to Canada with her husband Prince Bernhard, and daughters Princess Beatrix and Princess Irene.
The Netherlands has presented Canada with 20,000 bulbs every year since then, thereby creating the inspiration in 1953 for the very first Canadian Tulip Festival, a symbol of friendship between nations and a celebration of spring renewal in the National Capital Region.