Monday, 4 May 2009

Monday 4 May

Good morning from a slightly chilly Holland. Today is Remembrance Day over here. Back in 1945, it was the eve of Holland's liberation from the occupation by Nazi Germany, which had lasted for 5 years. Nowadays, the whole country comes to a standstill at 20.00 hours for 2 minutes, while we remember the dead of the Second World War and all conflicts involving the Dutch military since. Queen Beatrix will lay a wreath on behalf of the nation at the National Monument on the Dam in Amsterdam - pictured left. Members of the government and armed forces, as well as veterans and private organisations and individuals will follow. Simultaneously, other ceremonies will happen across the land, from Texel to Vaals, from Sluis to Schiermonnikoog. This afternoon, a restored Lancaster bomber will fly past over several key locations in the provinces of Limburg, Noord Brabant and Gelderland - I'm in the latter province. I hope to see it when it flies over the crash site of another Lancaster, which came down 5 miles north of here in the Heathlands in 1943.

Many other countries observe Armistice Day, 11 November, as that was the day that the Great War came to a close. Holland was neutral in that conflict, although it was not unaffected by it. One of my research projects in Lewis was for an internment camp in Groningen, where 1500 British servicemen were held, including 105 Lewismen. I make a point of marking Armistice Day, as it is so important to the nations that helped to liberate Holland from the yoke of nazism in 1944/45.

Tomorrow is Liberation Day here, again the 64th anniversary of the signing of the surrender of all German forces in the Netherlands. This happened in Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen, 15 miles west of here. The surrender was taken by Prince Bernhard, the husband of the late Queen Juliana. Bernhard, a German by birth himself, did not bother to return the salute from the German officers when he entered the room where the ceremony was to be held. He was a war hero, the CO of the resistance movement in Holland during the years of occupation.

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