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Starvation Edema

Heroes Remember

Interviewer: The people in Holland suffered quite a lot that last part of the war. Can you tell me a bit about your impressions of what the people, what shape they were in, how they had suffered? They were in poor, poor shape no question about it. And I saw for the first time in my life cases of what they called starvation edema. Edema is a swelling of the body and this occurred in children. And I don't know physiologically just what causes it, but for a week or so before in Amsterdam they'd really run out of food completely. Now the Allies flew over and dropped stuff down. That helped a bit. But they were really in poor, poor shape and had it not been for food getting in and relieving the starvation rate would have been very, very high. I think that's one reason probably why and this is probably applied to a great deal of Holland but in Amsterdam, particularly why they are so very grateful and remain so very grateful to the Canadians who they associate with relief of their city. Well you couldn't help, you know, your feeling towards the Germans was, "How could this happen?" But at the same time we knew the Germans were on the run and like an animal on the run, it's vicious.

Dr. Meiklejohn talks about the poor condition of the people in Holland at the time they were liberated.

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn

Dr. Robert Meiklejohn was born in 1907, in Harriston, Ontario, and remained there throughout his youth, participating in cadets and the local militia. While attending medical school in England during the 1930s, Mr. Meiklejohn visited Germany. He returned from his visit certain war was imminent. Dr. Meiklejohn re-joined the militia upon his return to Canada, leading to quick enlistment upon Canada's declaration of war. Frustrated after almost a year of performing medical exams on troops, Dr. Meiklejohn transferred to the 16th Field Ambulance (whom he had been a militia member of) when it was activated, and was posted overseas. After arriving in England, Dr. Meiklejohn was posted to a newly created field surgical unit, a section of an advance surgical unit stationed within a few miles of the front lines, and posted to Italy. After losing their equipment when the ship was sunk during the journey, the unit was posted with British Forces for a few months before reuniting with Canadians. Following the Italian Campaign, Dr. Meiklejohn's unit was transferred to France to join Canadian troops heading into Holland. Dr. Meiklejohn finished his service in Holland bringing relief to the starving population. He returned to Canada soon after VE Day.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Dr. Robert Meiklejohn
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp / 4th Armoured Division

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