Bonga Memorial Collection | Gregg Centre | UNB

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The Gregg Centre

Dr. Agatha Bonga Memorial Collection

The collection is made up of surveys conducted by Dr. Agatha Bonga, MD, for her uncompleted Honours Thesis. Dr Bonga, a native of the Dutch city of Appeldorn, was a young girl in 1945 and retained vivid memories of the Canadian soldiers who liberated her city and brought en end to the starvation which her family faced. After emigrating to Canada, Dr Bonga pursued a medical career in Fredericton until her retirement and then went back to UNB to do a BA in history. She died suddenly in 1996 before completing her degree.


As part of her research on the liberation of Appeldorn, Dr Bonga sent out questionnaires to Canadian veterans of both the Italian and North-West European theatres of the Second World War. Although there is the odd survey from air force or naval personnel, the vast majority of the 938 surveys in the collection have been filled out by army personnel. The surveys themselves focus on topics such as most memorable moments of war experience, morale of unit, battle exhaustion/fatigue, interaction with civilian population (specifically in reference to the Dutch), personal opinion on German soldiers, any bitterness towards politicians and/or senior leadership, and finally the ease with which the soldier transitioned back into civilian life via government help or some other forms of employment opportunity.

Although these topics are all extremely interesting, one must keep in mind that many of the questions were posed in such a way as to receive short, one sentence/one word answers. Thus the surveys offer relatively little deep insight into the topic. However, the most interesting surveys are ones with letters attached (or ones that are often written on a type writer) as the responders often have taken more time to write deeper answers or relay certain experiences from the war that has remained with them.