Lacombe veteran honoured with national recognition

Ralph Prins remembers spotting German submarine during World War II

REMEMBRANCE – Veteran Ralph Prins received a commemorative lapel pin and certificate of recognition from the Government of Canada for his five years of service in the Second World War.

REMEMBRANCE – Veteran Ralph Prins received a commemorative lapel pin and certificate of recognition from the Government of Canada for his five years of service in the Second World War.

Five years — five years is enough time for governments to change, families to bloom and long enough for a life to completely change.

Five years is exactly how long Ralph Prins, 95, spent serving in the army during the Second World War.

He recently received a certificate of recognition from the Government of Canada for his five years of service with the Dutch Army.

Prins returned from his service in the Caribbean on Jan. 22nd, 1946, exactly five years to the day from when he left Lacombe.

“It was right up to the hour,” said Prins. “The same train that came from the west, that’s when I left and when I came back.”

Prins was born in Holland. At 19 years of age, he fled the country in 1939, in anticipation of the German invasion as threats of war in Europe became heightened. He came to Canada and landed in Lacombe, not to avoid conscription, but to avoid the war itself.

By the time Prins actually arrived in Lacombe, the Second World War had begun. The Dutch Army was actively recruiting some of the young men who had come to Canada as immigrants into the army.

Prins was quick to enlist and was soon on a train heading to Stratford, Ontario for basic training. He left Lacombe on Jan. 22nd, 1941.

With around 300 recruits, Prins completed his basic training and was quickly deployed as part of the Princess Irene Brigade.

Some recruits ended up being stationed in England or in South America. Prins was deployed to Curaçao, an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, just north of the Venezuelan coast, to defend the oil refineries in the area.

Curaçao and the neighbouring island of Aruba were thought to be strategic targets for the Germans, as oil refined in the area was supplying the Allied efforts in Europe.

British troops were also stationed on the small island. Eventually the Americans joined the Dutch and British after the attack on Pearl Harbor in the end of 1941. Before that, the outlook was grim.

“Everybody thought, now we can see the end,” he said after the Americans joined the Allied forces. “There were lots of people then. It changed everything.”

Prins served as a sergeant, a mechanic in charge of vehicles, tanks, jeeps and trucks that were in the garage. He also took his turn doing guard duty for the island, keeping watch for enemy submarines.

Such was the case for Prins, who was on guard duty on Feb. 17th, 1943, when a German submarine did creep up to the island in an attempt to damage the oil refineries.

“That night I spotted a submarine,” said Prins. “You could see it in the search lights. So we phoned them up. We said that we spotted a submarine, just off the coast.

“He said ‘Oh, yeah and how many chimneys did it have?’ And I said, ‘There were no chimneys on the boat,’ He asked a couple of stupid questions like that you know and then hung up.”

Prins and his fellow guard were told to stop playing around and get back to work, as the area hadn’t seen any action, let alone a German submarine, for years.

Prins called three times about the submarine sitting just off shore, but his superiors still thought he was joking. After a while, his guard shift concluded and he headed to bed.

“I was sleeping, and at three o’clock, that’s when they got shot at,” he said. “Then they believed. Before they thought it was baloney, but it was true.

“They got shot at. Not only Curaçao but at Aruba as well. Aruba was also attacked. You could see on the horizon, several flashes from the guns.”

The raid to destroy the oil facilities on the islands failed and the German submarine was successfully taken down by the Dutch shore guns before escaping.

During the war, mainly during furlough, his time off, Prins managed to travel and see many parts of the world. “It was very interesting,” said Prins of his experience. “I was a single boy so I took it with a smile.”

Prins managed to travel extensively through the Caribbean and the United States, mainly by hitching rides with the U.S. Army and Air Force.

“It was kind of interesting,” said Prins. “We made many miles on the ocean.”

As with many with the young men who joined up with the Canadian Army or British Army, each soldier had a different experience, depending where they were deployed. After the war ended, Prins returned to Holland to be discharged. It was there that he met his soon-to-be wife.

Prins returned to Lacombe in 1946 and close to a year later, his bride followed, traveling on the very first ship of war brides coming from Europe to Canada.

“It was a freighter all right,” said Prins of the ship his bride traveled on. “It was a pretty good sized boat but still quite small.”

Eight war brides were on the ship, embarking on a journey to Canada to meet up with their new husbands.

Prins married his bride on April 30th, 1947 and they lived on a farm just outside of Lacombe. They were married for 60 years and raised seven kids, four boys and three girls.

Eventually Prins retired from farming and now lives in a senior facility, still calling Lacombe, the area he first set eyes on 75-years-ago, home.

news@lacombeexpress.com

 

 

 

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

File Photo
Blackfalds RCMP seeking suspects in traffic collision

RCMP are asking the public for help identifing two suspects wanted for multiple offences

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Most Read