Alfred Hotte was born April 13th, 1923 in Beaverlodge, Alberta.
Just before Alfred enlisted with the South Saskatchewan Regiment, he married Dorothy Pickle. His experience on the front lines in France and Holland has been poignantly documented in letters home to both his wife and brother. Nicknamed "Tiger", Alfred was a good athlete and excelled as a boxer. He was wounded in the neck on August 23rd, 1944 at Orbec, France but went back to fight.
Alfred was with the Canadian Army as they advanced through North West Europe and into Germany in late February 1945. They advanced through the Hochwald Forest and the town of Xanten in an effort to cross the Rhine. Alfred Hotte was killed during the advance on March 6th, 1945. He is buried at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Netherlands.
Alfred Hotte: In his Own Words
It started with a stack of fragile letters handed to me by my Uncle Edward. The elegant script inked on the worn and stained paper brought a faded memory of a distant relative to life. Through tears and admiration, I got to know my Uncle Alfred in these letters as his hopes, dreams and fears emerged in intimate detail. I wish I could have met him but I’m grateful his words survived for they allow a glimpse into his soul.
These letters written to his brother and sister-in-law, Edward and Sylvia as well as his friend Joe Lowe, chronicle his heartfelt and lonely journey through unimaginable hardship as a soldier in the Second World War. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Edward and Sylvia for sharing these treasured letters. I hope you enjoy getting to know Alfred as I have through his letters home. Dorothy Evaskevich, Alfred’s Niece
Alfred was born on April 13, 1923 in Saskatchewan and was the fourth of fourteen children raised by Adelord and Cloredia Hotte. He moved with his family to a homestead near Beaverlodge, Alberta in 1927 and attended school in the old brick schoolhouse in Beaverlodge. With so much work on the farm, Alfred had to quit school early to help out. Alfred and his brother Edward, who was two years younger, were together all the time hunting at Bush Lake and getting into trouble, reminisces Ed's wife Sylvia.
He was popular with the girls as was noted in The Beaverlodge High Year Book, "His devastating good looks attracted all the girls but he married Dorothy Smashnuk on April 21, 1944 who also attended the school." Sylvia remembers having lots of fun with Alfred and Ed, "Alfred had a wonderful personality... very calm and you would never hear him get mad. Just like Edward. The two were the same."
In 1941 the brothers volunteered for the army but Ed was turned away because he was too young. "All the boys in the area were volunteering to fight," reflects Sylvia "...and we were proud of them". In 1942 Alfred was called to service and joined the South Saskatchewan Regiment as a private where he trained as a sniper.
Military historian, Mark Zuehlke comments "...a majority of the snipers in the Canadian Army were fellows who had grown up in rural situations. They were probably already good shots when they got to the army." This would have been true for Alfred as he was an avid hunter. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in the fall of 1944.
In June 1944 before he was sent overseas, Alfred came home on leave to marry Dorothy. His "big shiny black boots" left an impression on his little sister Coreen, which was the only memory she had of her brother as that was the last time his family saw him.
In his letters, Alfred’s warm and gracious words stand out in stark contrast against the darkest pages of human history where he endured extreme hardship and unimaginable violence. We come to know a man of strength and courage who holds onto hope through his dreams and the love for his family. The war may have killed him, but it did not break him.
Second World War: Northwest Europe
The Second World War was a defining event in Canadian history, transforming a quiet country on the fringe of the world stage to a critical player in the 20th century’s most important struggle against fascism. Canada fought in the Western Europe and Pacific Campaigns from 1940 to 1945 where 1.1 million served of which 55,000 were wounded and 44,000 killed at a cost of $21.8 billion.
In 1942 Allied forces attempted a poorly planned invasion of France resulting in tragic losses of Canadian troops after landing on the beaches of Dieppe in Normandy. On D-Day, July 6, 1944 the Allies staged the largest amphibious invasion in history, successfully landing on the shores of Normandy. The Canadians were the only ones to reach their objective that day at Juno Beach.
After breaking out of the beachheads along the coast of Normandy, the Allies swept across France to Belgium as they pushed towards Germany to free Western Europe from four years of Nazi occupation.
One month after the invasion, Alfred joined the First Canadian Army, fighting with B Company of the South Saskatchewan Regiment in the Sixth Brigade, Second Canadian Infantry Division. In early September after defeating the Germans in France, the Allies took Antwerp, Belgium but the enemy still held the banks of the Scheldt River between this much-needed port and the sea. The First Canadian Army played a leading role in opening the Scheldt estuary gateway to the Belgian port of Antwerp.
The next phase was one of pursuit towards the German frontier. In a final gamble, Adolf Hitler ordered a massive winter offensive. In the Battle of the Rhineland, the first major Canadian operation of 1945, the objective to clear the area between the Maas and the Rhine rivers was successful and on March 10th the Germans withdrew across the Rhine. It was during this action that Alfred was fatally wounded.
After the Rhine was crossed in the final operations of the war, the Canadians turned east liberating much of the Netherlands from German occupation. The Germans surrendered on May 5, 1945; less than three months after Alfred was killed.
March 11, 1943: North Bay, Ontario
Well Joe old boy I was glad to hear from you. The winter up here was cold as hell all the time and it was snowing or blowing one of the two every day. Well now have you done much hunting this winter? No Joe I did not get the other letter you sent to me. How are all the girls around Beaverlodge?
Joe do you know how far I am away from home, from North Bay to Beaverlodge it is 3,430 miles away from home. Well Joe I will be home to see you in May sometime not before. Got no jokes to tell you but I will when I write again. Well that is all I have got to say for tonight. So good luck to all. Write Soon. And don’t work too hard.
Jan 4, 1944: North Bay, Ontario
Well Edward old boy how is everything up there with you’s. Everything down here is just fine only hoping it is the same with you’s too. Well Brother it is now six o’clock in the morning, I thought I would drop you’s two a line or two before I go to work this morning. My pal Green is up too and the rest of the boys are sleeping. But it won’t be long before they will be getting up. Yesterday morning at this time I was sleeping myself, but it will be my turn to sleep tomorrow morning. We will look forward for that morning to come, so Green and I can sleep in all day.
Say Edward did you hear any more about your army call? Well Brother there is only hoping that you don’t hear any more about it, because Brother take my word and keep out of it for God sakes, because Brother you will be sorry for it just like I am. Yes Brother I stuck my neck out once for them but never again will it happen just as long as I breath. I read in the paper last night that this war was not going to be over until winter ’46. Well Brother a lot of things could happen in between now and then. See I think nobody knows when it is going to end. Only hoping sometime soon and sooner the better.
Well Edward I can’t think of much more to say for tonight. So I will bring this to an end for tonight so until the next time I write I will send you all the best of luck in the world and may God be with you’s at all times Brother. All my love and kisses. Write Soon.
Feb 12 1944: North Bay, Ontario
Well brother dear I guess it is just about time I was sitting down and writing you’s a line or two. Edwards it has been some time ago since I have heard from you’s two, but I guess I am to blame for that because it is not very often I get around to write myself. But now that I have more time to myself I will be sure and write at least two letters a week.
Brother I had a big surprise the other day I received a letter from Loretta and Shorty. They did not have much to say but I sure was glad to hear from them again. I also received a letter from Mother and she sent two pictures of each dog they have at home. The picture of the Saint Bernard dog was the best of the two. When they take the pictures they snap part of the barn and boy it made me feel like I was home again at the farm when I look at the picture.
Yes brother there is no place like home sweet home. Brother did you hear any more about your army call? Here is only hoping you don’t. Well Edward dear I will bring this to an end in wishing you and your dear wife the best of luck. Give my regards to the boys, all my Love and Kisses. Write Soon.
April 26, 1944: Camp Shilo, Manitoba
Well I finally got around to writing again. I thought that I had better write to you and your dear little wife so that you wouldn’t think that I had forgotten about you’s out there on the farm. I sure wish that I was back on the farm again because this darn army is sure getting me down and now that I am married well it is that much more worry. We got married in Edmonton on the twenty first of April and I had to leave for camp on the twenty third so that I would get back on time. Dorothy will send you a picture of us two when we got married. She will send it as soon as she can so let me know what you and your dear little wife thinks of it.
You know Edward Mother and Dad did not want me to get married but I did whether they like it or not, because I figured that it was up to me if I wanted to get married or not and you know how it is when you are in love and you don’t want to leave her behind alone. So there was only one thing to do and that was to get married and so I did.
Well Edward as for everything around here they are getting to look kind of hot [sic] and funny. We are going to make four more jumps again tomorrow and here is hoping that I land the right end up. I made a jump on Monday and made out ok so I think I will make the rest alright. Well I can’t think of much more to say so I will bring this to a close in wishing you and your wife the best of luck in the world, and don’t forget to write as soon as you can get some time and don’t forget.
May 16, 1944: Debert, Nova Scotia
Well Edward old boy I finally got around to write to you again. I would of written before this but did not get no time until now so I hope you will forgive me for not writing before, because as you know you are my brother as a brother I should write more often to you. But as it is in the last month I have been very busy going from one place to another, therefore can’t get much time to write not even to the wife.
Now for the trip I had a very nice trip down here and went through some very nice country. We were on the train four days and three nights. We ate and slept on the train. It was a Spearhill [sic] troop train from Shilo camp to Debert N.S. so we did not stop at any place along the line only for water and coal and that was all. I don’t know how long we are going to stay here in Debert but I hope it is not very long. I sure want to get going brother, as you know the sooner I get over there sooner I can come back and that is all I am looking for is to come back to the dear wife and be happy forever.
All I hope is that I come back Edward to see you’s all. Edward you and your dear wife don’t know how I felt when I said good bye to you’s that night you don’t see the nail that was in my heart when I said good bye to you and your dear wife. It really hit me hard and no fooling. Did Dorothy send you a picture of the wedding yet? Well Edward I will have to close for this time and until next time I will wish you and your wife the best of luck in the world and write soon Edward.
Brother Alfred Hotte
June 5, 1944: England
Well Edward I finally got over here. We had a very nice trip over here. I enjoyed it very much the best part of it was coming overseas the deep blue sea. You could see for miles and see nothing but water. We sure were a happy bunch to hit land and no fooling. I can’t tell you the name of the ship we came on or how many days it took us to cross over. I also can’t tell you the names of any place or town.
Edward you should see the country up here it sure is pretty and no fooling. The land up here is not like in Canada it is all big hills and valleys, all the since [sic] big trees and the fences up here are all made of stone and all the houses up here are built of stone. The place we are staying in now are hundreds of years old but they sure are nice homes and no kidding. We have got a lot of fun up here with the British money up there. It is not like Canadian money made of dollars and cents it is all shillings and pounds and a lot of other names. But I can’t remember all of them and it is hard to get on to it.
I don’t know what the towns are like up here yet because I have not been in any of them yet. I guess I will have to take a walk and see what they’re like someday and let you know. Edward just as soon as I can get some air mail letter I will send them instead of these letters. It takes much longer for a letter like this then an air mail letter. The people up here seem to be very nice. They are hard to understand when we talk to them. I guess we sound the same way to them.
How is your dear little wife nowadays. I guess she has got a lot of work to do and the same with you. Edward I wish I was back there to help you put in the crops this spring. But as it is I guess we all can’t be back there. Edward dear have you heard any more about your army call yet? If you have please let me know what’s what. Brother dear I can’t think of any more to say so I will close for tonight and don’t forget to write soon. Give my regards to your wife and to the rest of the boys around Beaverlodge. That is all so please write.
June 12, 1944: England
Well brother it is Monday night and I just wrote a letter to the wife. Everything is fine up here excepting that I sure am lonesome. There is no place to go up here. I have not been out of camp since I have been up here. I can’t tell you nothing about the city up here because I have not been in any to see what they’re like. Edward you know its hell to be so far away from home in a strange country where you don’t know nobody or a thing about the country. Not only that we sure have a great time with the new money up here.
There is a lot of differences in the Canadian and the British money. Us Canadians sure have a lot of fun getting used to it and no fooling. The weather up here is very damp and you are lucky if you see the sun once or twice a week up here. The only time you see it is about five o’clock in the morning for a few minutes and at night for about an hour and no more. You never see the sun up here in the daytime. If I don’t get to see what it looks like pretty soon I will forget what it looks like. Edward there is no country like Canada and I will sure be glad when I can return to it. If I ever do I will never leave again and no kidding.
But as it is Brother we were sent over here to do a big job and that is what we are doing today and we are going forward all the time and it won’t be long until we will have them beat and then we can return back to the ones we always love and to the country we love and wish to fight for. Brother we are sure going to try and make a good job of it. This is if I can keep on going like I am now. Don’t worry brother it won’t be long until we will force them right off the map. Until then we won’t stop.
Well dear brother I can’t think of much more to write so I will close for tonight and don’t forget to write soon. I forgot to ask you how is your dear little wife. Edward don’t know how much I miss my dear Boots [sic]. I got a letter from her and she said she was going to see you. However I will sure be glad to go back and no fooling. Well that is all, write soon brother. I will be looking forward for a letter from you and your wife. All my regards.
Alfred. Love and Kisses, Write Soon
Alfred’s First Battle: A Brutal Initiation
The day after Alfred wrote this next letter he had his first taste of the brutal reality of what was now his life. In a violent rainstorm and without air support the inexperienced troops of B Company advanced toward the enemy at Verrières Ridge south of Caen.
The Germans counter-attacked with unexpected force tragically taking the lives of half of Alfred’s company. Luckily he survived but the shock of seeing so many young men like him killed must have been horrific beyond measure. Somehow Alfred and his fellow soldiers summoned the courage to go back into action only three days after the slaughter.
Over the next 30 days in the push to take Falaise, Alfred experienced some of the most vicious fighting of the Second World War.
July 19, 1944: Caen, France
Well brother I finally got around to writing again. I thought I have better write or you would be thinking that I had forgotten all about you’s. Well Edward everything is fine up here and hope it is the same with you and your dear wife. The weather up here has been very nice for the last day or two. We had very little rain in the last week or two not much to amount to anything.
Just at the time I am sitting under a big apple tree in the shade writing this letter to you. The apples on the trees are not ready to eat yet. But they will be very soon I hope. Edward whenever they do get ripe I sure am going to have a good feed and no fooling. Edward I sure wish I could tell you just where I am at the time. But as things are you know why I can’t tell you or I would. There is a lot more things I would like to write and tell you about. However it will be just that much more to talk about when we meet again at home sweet home. Now for the war news, the war news is very good up here and it has been ever since I have been in France. By the looks of the write up it won’t be very long I don’t think it will be long now I hope. Dear Edward how is the farm up there and how are the crops?
...you and your dear wife the best of luck in the world and only hoping to hear from you’s two really soon and sooner the better. Give Allen all my regards if you happen to run across him and the rest of the boys out there. (Give your wife a kiss for me). That is all.
Yours Truly Brother. Love and Kisses. Write Soon
Aug 26, 1944: Hospital in France
Well brother I have got some bad news to tell you. But Edward whatever you do don’t worry because everything is fine now. I am in the hospital and feeling just fine and also being well looked after out here. Well Edward after 30 days in the front lines I got a slight wound on the right side of the neck. It was just a little cut and that was all. Not enough to amount to anything. But just enough to get out for a good rest and that is all I wanted was a good rest. I can’t tell you just how long I will be in this hospital, but I don’t think it will be more than a week.
I hope it is longer so that I can stay away from the front. Yes Edward I have seen all I ever wanted to see after 30 days of it. Edward dear I am going to make this short for today and I will write you again tomorrow and tell you more about just what happened up here and now. Edward I sure did not like to write and tell Dorothy about this and no fooling because I know how she will take it. Well Edward I will close for this afternoon and I will write again tomorrow. Best of luck all my love and kisses Brother.
Brother Alfred. (Give your wife a dear kiss for me Brother.)
Aug 29, 1944: Hospital in France
Well dear brother the time has finally come again for me to sit down and write to you’s again which is one thing I love to do is keep in touch with you’s at all time. Well Edward old boy I am just getting along fine. I am still in the hospital. I have been up and walking around for four days now. The wound that I got in my neck is healing up sure good. I think it will only be a week or two and I will be back in. That is if it is not all over with by that time which I hope so.
The war news sure is good and only hope it keeps on that way until the end. Yes Edward let me tell you that it will never end too soon for me the sooner it does end, the sooner I will be able to get back with you’s again. This is all we look forward to out here is to get back to dear old Canada. Yes there will never be another country like good old Canada. Brother the people in Canada don’t know just how lucky they are and no kidding. If I can ever get back there I will never leave if it is the last thing I do. Yes Edward it is a country of kindness and freedom and what this does to men we sent. I guess I had better forget about Canada for this time.
Brother did you hear any more about your army call. Well Edward here’s hoping you don’t. If you do have to join up I am only hoping you don’t have to come over here for my sake as well as yours. Well Edward there is not much to write about up here in fact you know just as well as I do about how much we can write about up here. Just enough to let you’s know how we are getting along up here and that is all. I guess I will close for this afternoon. I will write again very soon. So Edward in closing I will wish you and your dear wife the best of luck in the world and only hoping to hear from you’s really soon. Don’t forget to keep writing because you know there is nothing like a letter from you’s out there. (Give you wife a kiss for me, if you don’t mind).
Sept 17, 1944, Hospital in France
Well old man I must say that I finally got around to answering your letter. I received your letter about a week before I got wounded in the neck. That is about a month ago so I think it is about time I was answering your letter which I was very glad to receive it from you. I was in the front lines when I got your letter and did not get time to read it until two days after. It was also very nice of you to send along Teddy’s address. I just wrote to him the other day. If I ever go back to England I will try and get up to see him if at all possible. If I only knew a way back to England why I don’t think I would stay in this damn country very long.
I have seen all I ever wanted to see of France and this one man’s army. I don’t know just when I will be going back to the front again, but if I never go back it will be too soon for me and not fooling. I am sick of it. By the way Joe, what way does a fly land on the ceiling? Does he turn around or does he land on his back and then turn over. Write and let me know. How is your big brother Allen getting along with all the nice girls in Beaverlodge? I guess you’s are having quite a time back there. Joe tell Allen that there is no country like good old Canada and home sweet home. Well Joe I will bring this to a close for tonight and wishing you’s all the best of luck. Give all my regards to the rest of the family. Only hoping to be seeing you’s soon.
Sept 20, 1944: Kontich, Belgium
Well brother dear how is everything out there with you and your dear wife. And for everything out here it is just fine and the wound that I got on the right side of the neck it is just fine now. Dear brother there is not much to write about up here but it sure is nice to try and keep in touch with one and other. Don’t you think so brother? I wrote a letter to Dorothy dear and to Mother and only thought it would be fine to write to you too. As you know I don’t like to leave you and your wife out.
Edward I guess you are hard at work by this time at harvesting. Well I sure wish I was back there with you. Edward I have been thinking of something for the last while about you and I getting together after this war is over. But I don’t know what you will think about this. Edward what would you say if we two got together after this war. If you have ideas of your own well that is just fine. But I will say this I would like to work with you and I think we could get along. Edward you know I am only asking you this and I want you to write and let me know just what you think about it. Edward I don’t want to give you any ideas you know because you know that you are your own boss now. Just wait and tell me what you think and that is, if you do so much the better and if not it is quite o.k. I just thought I would write to you just as a brother and ask you and that’s all Edward.
Well brother I think I have said enough for tonight so I will bring this to an end on the back of the first page. And only hoping to hear from you really soon. All my love and kisses to all. Give my regards to your boss John. Edward I sure wish I could be with my dear wife. Edward it is terrible to be married and can’t stay with the one you always loved so much and no kidding. Edward don’t do like I did go and leave her so far behind. Edward I have been unhappy ever since I got here and will not be happy until I return again, Edward this tip from me. Good bye and good luck brother,
Return to the Front
After Alfred’s recovery, he caught up with his regiment in Kontich, Belgium where they were enjoying three days of rest and organization. However soon the rest was over when the First Canadian Army was given the task of clearing the Scheldt estuary opening up the port to Antwerp. Soon Alfred’s regiment was preparing for combat in driving rain on terrain littered with booby traps and land mines.
The Canadian Corps was among the most effective and respected of the military formations in Northwestern Europe and were instrumental in opening up this important supply route. After fighting the Germans back the Canadians were received by the Belgium people with "flowers, kisses, apples, beer, crying and clapping..." as they victoriously rolled through Brasschaet.
Sept 25, 1944: Sint-Job-in-‘t-Goor, Belgium
Well brother just a few lines to let you and your dear wife know that I am still living in the best of health. Only hoping you’s are the same back there in Beaverlodge. Well Edward I guess you’s are quite busy harvesting by this time and a lot of work to do am I right or not? I sure wish I was back there to help you’s this fall. One thing about it I guess you’s two are sure raking in the dough so I understand. Well Edward make it while you can because after this war there won’t be very much to depend on. So you can take it for that. You’s know Edward you don’t have to blame everything I say just because I am over here and you are still back there because you are just as well as I and that things keep changing every day. However brother we will have time to talk things over to one another after we all get together again.
Edward I want you to ask your wife what way does a fly land on the ceiling? If she don’t know and you don’t know just watch one and find out just what way a fly lands on the ceiling. Don’t forget to let me know. I received four letters from the dear wife in the past two days and one from her sister Doreen. But I have not got any from you’s for quite some time. I don’t know what is the matter. So brother dear whatever you’s do please keep on writing because there is nothing like a letter from you’s. I can’t think of much more to say so I will close in wishing you’s all the best of luck and may God be with you’s at all times brother. All my love to you’s. Keep on writing. Good bye brother dear and give my regards to your boss John.
Oct 8, 1944: Brecht, Belgium
Well brother I guess it is just about time I was writing to you’s again. As for everything up here it is just fine only hoping it is the same with you back there on the dear old farm. Brother I would give anything to be back there once more and forever again. Brother I can’t tell you just where I am but I can say that I am in Belgium some place just where I can’t tell you. Another thing is that I am back in the lines again and only hoping that my luck is just as good as last time. Then it won’t be too bad then.
However I will let that go for now. I received a parcel from the wife about two days ago. Boy it sure was good and no fooling. I sure will be a happy boy when I can return back to her again but only hoping forever this time. Well brother winter time is coming and it is getting cold up here. I guess it is the same down there in Beaverlodge isn’t it? Edward how is your dear wife coming along these days. I guess she has got a lot of work to do and the same with you.
I sure wish I was back there instead of been up in this damn country, my pen ran our of ink so I will finish this with a pencil if you don't mind Brother, I can't think of any more to write so I will close wishing you's two the best of luck in the world and only hoping to hear from you's really soon Brother. All my love and kisses to all and keep on writing,
Your's truly Brother,
On October 12th, Alfred's company was surprised by a night attack in which they engaged in close fighting with several lives lost. On October 23rd they thrust north to clear the Beveland Peninsula in the campaign to open up the Antwerp Port.
Oct 14, 1944: Near Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Well brother old boy how are you’s getting along back there on the farm. As for everything up here it is just fine and only hoping it is the same with you’s two. Well Edward I think I wrote and told you that I am back in the lines again. One place where I wish I could stay out of forever. Edward I wish I could tell you just where I am, but as things are I can’t. But I will say that I am in Holland some place. That is all I can say about where I am. The last two or three weeks I have not been feeling so hot. I have had a bad cold for some time. I sure wish I could get rid of it for a while.
Edward I am only writing you’s a short letter just to let you know that I am still living in the best of health and only hoping to stay that way until I can return back to dear old Canada again but forever this time. Edward last night was one hell of a night. It rained just about all night long, and we got about wet to the neck and we stay outdoors day and night. So you can think the swell time we have out here. Well Edward I can’t think of much more to write so I wish your dear wife the best of luck in this world and only hoping to be seeing you’s soon. Good bye and Good Luck. Edward write soon. All my Love and Kisses to all.
Oct 19, 1944: Near Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Well brother just a few lines to let you know what I am still living in the best of health and only hoping you and your dear wife is the same. Edward I received a letter from you’s the other day. I was more than glad to hear from you’s again. Edward you asked me in your letter if you could keep my rifle. Well brother yes you can, but I want you to make sure that it is kept good and clean at all times. Edward you know I don’t want you to keep it all to yourself but you can be the boss of it until I return back home again. If you take good care of the rifle I may let you keep it forever because I will have one of my own after this I hope.
How is the fall work getting along up there. I hear you are getting a lot of rain up there Well brother we are getting a lot of rain up here to just about every day and night up here in fall and all. I can say is that I am in Holland somewhere and that is all. My cold in my chest is coming along just fine. I am feeling a lot better than I was two days ago. Well Edward dear I can’t think of much more to write for today so I will close until the next time I write the best of luck in the world to you’s. May God be with you’s at all times Brother. All my love and kisses to you’s. Keep on writing Brother. Good bye and good luck Brother dear.
Oct 22 1944: Near Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Just a few lines brother to let you’s two know that I am still in the best of health while I have got the time to write to you’s up there and the dear old family. Well Edward I am feeling ok once more and hoping you’s are feeling the same up there. As for everything up here in Holland it is just about the same. One thing about this damn country it rains just about every day. Edward I have to quit writing for a while and go and do a walk however I am back again to finish the letter to you’s. Edward it is hell up here we can’t write what we want and it is hard to sit down and write a letter to you’s because there is so much we would like to write and can’t. Therefore we have to be careful of what we write in any letter at all.
However it will be that much more to talk about when we get together again. I wrote a letter to the dear wife and her twin brother today in England. Boy brother I would give everything just to be back in England again however brother we have got to take it as it comes whether we like it or not. Well I can’t think of much more to write for now so I will close until the next time I write. I will wish you all the best of luck in the world and only hoping that I hear from you real soon Brother. All my Love and Kisses to you’s two. So Goodbye and good Luck Brother.
Dec 10, 1944: Groesbeek, Netherlands
Well Brother how is everything up there as far everything down here is just fine, only hoping it is the same with you’s two. Well Edward today is Sunday. The first thing this morning I went to church, then we went and had a nice shower. In the afternoon I just fooled around, I wanted to write some letters but I just could not make my mind up on just what should I do and did not get a thing done. So I thought I had better sit down after supper and write while I have got some time to write to you’s because it is not very often we get time off to do anything. I got three hundred cigarettes from Buster. It was very nice of him to send them. I made my mind up a long time ago that I was not going to smoke. As you know I don’t smoke very much and I don’t want to make a habit of it because they say it is not good for your health. However I am going to write to him tonight and also to the dear wife Dorothy.
Edward I know it is nice to be married and it must be a lot better life to be able to stay and look after your dear wife. I know that the day will never come soon enough for me to return back to Canada and get to stay with her. Edward believe me it is going to be too bad for the first house I come to with a nice cellar and a lot of food in it, I will eat until I get sick and no fooling. Well Brother I can’t think of much more to write so I will close in wishing you’s two all the best of luck in the world and may God be with you’s. All my Love and Kisses.
Brother Alfred. Write Soon.
Dec 13, 1944: Groesbeek, Netherlands
Just a few lines to let you’s know that I am still living in the best of health and only hoping that you’s two are the same. Well Edward how is everything up there on the farm. As for everything up here it is not too bad. Although it could be a lot worse and it could be a lot better. But now that this war is is on we can’t get what we want. So we just have to take it as it comes and like it. You’s know last night I received seven letters from the dear wife. Brother let me tell you that it sure made me feel a lot better to sit down and read them all from here. I also got a letter from my sister Loretta. It was the first letter she ever wrote to me. So seeing that she sent me a parcel I will forgive her for not writing sooner.
Although as a sister I guess I really should written first. I wrote her a letter last night so am only hoping that she gets it straight. I also wrote six pages to the dear wife right after supper tonight. Then I had to quit and do a little work. Then after work I thought I would sit down and write to you’s two. Edward is this right that you may have to join the army pretty soon? Well Brother take my advice stay out of it as long as you can. Do that just for me as well for yourself Brother. Take my word because I have been in now for some time and I have been through a great may battles and when I say battles I mean battles and no fooling. Your’s Truly,
Jan 18, 1945: Groesbeek, Netherlands
I received your most welcomed letter today that you and Edward wrote on Xmas day which was very nice of you’s two to do on Xmas day. You should of seen the Xmas day I spent. All I did was just walk around all day thinking of the good time I was missing up there with you’s. Sylvia you asked me in your letter today what was the matter with Dorothy that she does not write. Sylvia I know that she writes to me every day and often says that she really thinks a lot of you and Edward. Don’t worry up there just as long as she keeps on writing to me and I know she will that is all I look forward to out here is a letter from her and you’s back there.
I only wish that she would not worry so much. I know up here I have got worries over everything a man can think of and one cannot help it. Well Sylvia I am getting tired of writing tonight this will be three letters I have written tonight and still I have a lot more to do. So if you don’t mind I will bring this to an end in wishing you and Edward the best of luck and may God be with you’s. I will write again soon. Keep on writing, all my love and kisses to all, Yours Truly,
Alfred. Sylvia give Edward a kiss for me won’t you.
January 30, 1945: Mook, Netherlands
I must say that it is about time I was getting around to writing you’s a letter because it has been some time since I have written to you’s. As for everything up here is it just fine only hoping it is the same with you’s up there. I have been training in boxing now for some time. But this time I hope I will get some place with it. The training is not too bad but could be a lot better is a lot of ways and a lot more too. However if it keeps on like this it will be alright.
Have you heard any more about your army call? If you have please let me know just as soon as you can. Brother I am only hoping that you don’t hear any more about it and can keep out of it. Brother take that right from me because I have been through it and know what it is like as you know that I know what it is like to be wounded in the field too. Yes Brother keep away from it just as long as you can. I have had seen months of it now brother and that is enough. If I never see it again it will be too soon for me. Well brother I can’t think of much more to say for tonight so I will close in wishing you the very bests of luck and only hoping to see you’s two again soon.
All my love and kisses Yours forever.
Feb 19, 1945: Honigsberg, Germany
Well Edward I must say that it is just about time that I was getting around and doing a bit of writing again. So everything up here is just fine. Only hoping it is the same with you’s two up there on the farm. I received your most welcome letter last night was I very glad to hear from you’s again and that you’s are still living in the best of health. I also received a letter from the dear wife last night and one from Buster and Emma and they are all fine.
I was pretty lucky today receiving three hundred cigarettes from the wife and three hundred from her sister Mary. Edward I think you know the wife’s sister. Dorothy was staying with her when you was in Edmonton if you can remember. Well Brother I will cut short for tonight. I have got to write to the dear wife yet.
All my love and kisses,
Your Brother Alfred.
On February 16th Alfred’s regiment crossed into Germany and saw for themselves the damage inflicted on the enemy as a result of the Allied bombing and shelling. They moved to Honigsberg for training and on February 26th, in heavy rain and mud and under heavy mortar fire, the unit began an offensive south of Kalcar. Although strongly defended the regiment successfully moved through the Hochwald Forest reaching their objectives. Once the forest was cleared on March 5th, they settled down in a group of farm buildings and prepared to capture the German town of Xanten.
Alfred's Last Day
No official record exists documenting how Alfred died. At one time the family thought he was killed in action as a paratrooper near Groesbeek. However, we know that Alfred was in the infantry, not in the parachute battalion. Further evidence from the records tell us that he probably died during the advance on Xanten, Germany.
The South Saskatchewan Regiment War Diaries for March 5th to 7th report that the regiment was approaching Xanten during the time of his death, with only one casualty recorded on March 7th.
Alfred was in B Company, so likely it was he who tragically lost his life that day. He may have been killed in the heavy shelling or by a land mine on the 7th or been killed by a sniper while on patrol the night before on March 6th. The details of his death remain uncertain, however what is certain is that Alfred died with honour.
Alfred Hotte was 21 when he was killed in action three months before the end of the Second World War. This story was told through the 24 letters sent home to his brother Edward, sister-in-law Sylvia, and his friend Joe Lowe. Alfred is buried in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Netherlands.