Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Dutch romance...

This morning I attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Military Cemetery (Beechwood) here in Ottawa.

Princess Margriet laid a wreath on behalf of the people of the Netherlands, to mark the 65th Anniversary of the liberation of Holland by Canadian troops, in May of 1945.

I had been aware of the significance of this year as far as our military history went and I had sent an e-mail to the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In it I basically thanked them for holding so dear, the memory of our soldiers who laid down their lives to liberate their country. I also confided that I had a deep and abiding respect for the Dutch people because of this.

The Dutch have made a point of teaching their children about us and of our military efforts in their country. They know more about our military than our own people do. We could stand to learn a lot from the Dutch...

I explained that here in Canada, we had never suffered the loss of our freedom and therefore for many who live here, we do not hold it as dear. The Dutch on the other hand, remember only too well the hardships they endured under Nazi occupation. They do not take their freedom or their liberties for granted.

I was surprised to receive a reply e-mail, which I would like to share here:

"Dear Mr. *********,

Thank you very much for your kind message on the occasion of the 65th Anniversary of our Liberation, when we commemorate, on May 4, our Remembrance Day, those who died for our freedom, and celebrate, on May 5, that the Netherlands regained its freedom and independance after five dark years of war. Every year since 1945 we also think of the Canadian troops, our heroes, who played such a pivotal role in the liberation of our country, for which we still are very grateful.

Also, we will never forget that our Crown Princess at the time, Princess Juliana and her Family found a safe haven in Ottawa from 1940 until 1945. They lived in Rockcliffe, first in a small house on Juliana Road, and later at Stornoway.In 1943, Princess Margriet, the younger sister of Queen Beatrix, was born in Ottawa. On the occasion of the birth the Dutch flag was flown on the Peace Tower, the only foreign flag ever to fly on the Peace Tower.

Next week the Princess and her spouse, Prof Van Vollenhoven, will pay an official visit to Canada, including Ottawa. There will be a wreath laying ceremony at the Military National Cemetery of Beechwood Cemetery on May 13, starting at 9 am. In case you are interested you are very welcome to attend. The Princess and her spouse will be present as of 9.10 until approx. 9.40 am.

Thanking you once again for your kind gesture,


Erik Boer,Deputy Head of Mission / Chef de Mission adjoint,
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands / Ambassade du Royaume des Pays Bas,
tel. +1 613 237 5031, # 239,
email / courriel: "

Well, I took Mr. Boer up on his kind invitation and have to admit, it was a great way to start off a Thurdsday. I rode in along the Rockcliffe Parkway, exiting at the Aviation Parkway. From there I trundled up to Old Montreal Road and hung a right, continuing on until I hit St.Laurent. I hung another right and kept on until I reached the entrance to Beechwood Cemetery.

I dismounted as the road was blocked, a Military Police cruiser idling near the barrier. In the distance I could see the crowd gathering by the memorial, which lay at an elevated position in the cemetery. On either side of the cairn, stood 2 tall flagpoles. The Canadian and Netherlands flags snapped smartly in the brisk morning breeze. I asked the young MP Corporal if I could park the bike there and walk the rest of the way. He assured me that it would be fine.

I made my way up the path and blended in with the back row of spectators. The dignitaries had yet to arrive. Good... at least I wasn't adrift for the occasion. They didn't arrive for another 20 minutes beyond that...

The Dutch Air Force band was very well turned out and played very well. The ceremony was touching, dignified and largely silent. The CWO in charge of the detail was an RCR type and looked right at home swinging his ebony pace stick. As could be expected, I got a huge lump in my throat when the bugler played 'The Last Post' and even moreso when the young female Air Force piper played "The Flowers of the Forrest", also known simply in modern days as "The Lament". She did a superb job of it. This ol' Scottish tune dates back to 1756.

I wanted to remain unobtrusive, for as much as one can in full Veterans riding regalia, while being surrounded by uniforms and suits. I think I managed to remain undetected by the CTV camera crews who had taken up position facing the front of the memorial stone. As the dignitaries mingled with the 20 or so older vets who were seated as guests of honour, I slowly made my way down the hill and back to the bike. I got the feeling that I could see myself interred here.

I doubled back along Montreal road so I could finish my ride in along the Parkway. Once out of the traffic, it was an enjoyable ride which got me in a little after 1000hrs. Plenty of time to kill before starting at 1200hrs...

Yep... a very nice way to start the day.

No comments: