THE DANCE DURING THE WAR
Dance Hall in Eindhoven
William Baird was born into a musical family in Canada in 1922. His mother played the piano and his father the violin. During the summers, there was work to be done on the farm. William used the winters to learn how to dance, with his parents as musical guides. At the age of twenty, William joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a maintenance engineer for airplane engines.
It was 1944 when William went for his last dance in London, before he left for the beaches of Normandy. Upon his arrival in France, he witnessed D-Day in its full notoriety. The harbour was full of ships and the skies were dark with planes. William was made captain of a number of troops and a machine gun and a crate of grenades were pushed into his arms. For months they were surrounded by a ravage of violence. Guns were fired ceaselessly. Villages were destroyed and they were surrounded by chaos. When both sides stopped firing at the same time at night, the troops were woken up by the silence.
After two months of war, William arrived in Eindhoven in September 1944. The city was split in two. The war was mainly fought in the air and William repaired the airplanes that had been shot down.
Ten days after his arrival in Eindhoven, William received permission to go out for a night of fun in the city. He seized the opportunity immediately and took a friend to a dance hall in the centre of Eindhoven. They sat down at a table with a view of the entire hall. The room was filled with dozens of cheerful, dancing women. One of those women was Truus. William danced with her like he hadn’t danced in ages. Their interest in each other was noticeable in every movement. Dancing had never been this lovely.
The love story nearly ended badly. Just outside the city, still savouring the evening, William’s friend lit a cigarette. The smouldering tip stood out against the darkness of the night. Suddenly, a shot was fired. A colleague came their way and advised them to take a different route.
After a year of danger, his departure from Canada, his arrival in France and his landing in Eindhoven, William decided to seal his love for his dancer with a wedding. They spared no expense. The Canadian William and the Dutch Truus married in Eindhoven on 17 April 1945, after which they left for Canada to celebrate the rest of their lives together.
In 2014, William received the ‘French Medal of Honour’ for his participation with the Allied forces in France. Truus died at the age of 82. William passed away in 2017. He was 94 years old.
Left: Truus and William’s marriage procession in April 1945. Right: William and Truus getting married (Image: Autobiography William Baird, n.d.)