Netherlands armed forces commemorate the fallen

Today, the Dutch Defence organisation commemorated all soldiers and civilians of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who perished in acts of war and peace missions since the outbreak of the Second World War. Ceremonies were held throughout the Netherlands and abroad.

A veteran commemorates his old battle buddy at the military cemetery ‘Grebbeberg’ near Rhenen.

General Tom Middendorp, the Netherlands Chief of Defence, and his four operational commanders laid a wreath on behalf of the Netherlands armed forces at the National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam after King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima had laid the first wreath. This was followed by a very personal and emotional speech by former Chief of Defence General (retired) Peter van Uhm.

Prime Minister Rutte, accompanied by among others Mrs Hennis-Plasschaert, the Minister of Defence, also placed a wreath at the National Monument. Servicemen and women as well as veterans from the entire Defence organisation performed military ceremonial duties, ranging from the Guard of Honour to the Wreath Guard.

Sergeant Major John Bessems, trumpet player in the Royal Netherlands Air Force Band, sounded the Tattoo signal at exactly 19:58 hours. After the ceremony, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee stood guard over the wreaths and flowers at the National Monument.

At the Grebbeberg military cemetery near Rhenen, the armed forces commemorated all soldiers who lost their lives for the Kingdom of the Netherlands  in all parts of the world, or who lost their lives during military service since 1940. This ceremony took place in the presence of Princess Margriet, her husband mr Pieter van Vollenhoven and their son Prince Pieter Christiaan.

Major General Marc van Uhm, Deputy Commander of the Royal Netherlands Army was the host of this ceremony. The Guard of Honour was formed by members of the Grenadiers and Rifles Guards Regiment (11 Infantry Battalion) from Schaarsbergen. The wreath-laying ceremony was followed by a march-past along the more than 800 graves. The Royal Netherlands Army Band ‘Johan Willem Friso’ provided the musical accompaniment.

At the Johannes Post Barracks near Havelte, military personnel and veterans of the Johan Willem Friso Regiment commemorated their colleagues killed in action during missions.

Army personnel also participated in commemoration ceremonies in Roosendaal, Maastricht, Eindhoven, Middelburg, Den Bosch, Weert, Nijmegen and Deventer.

Den Helder
The Royal Netherlands Navy in Den Helder commemorated all fallen military personnel of the naval forces as well as merchant-navy personnel. An armed watch, delegations from navy units and the Marine Band provided the ceremonies at the ‘For the fallen’ monument.

Vice Admiral Matthieu Borsboom, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy, and  Brigadier General Martin Wijnen, Deputy Director of Operational Requirements, placed a wreath on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the Chief of Defence.

Submarine Service
At the ‘Monument for the Fallen of the Submarine Service’ in Den Helder, the families of the fallen commemorated the crew members of the Submarine Service who died at sea during the Second World War. The Royal Netherlands Navy lost seven submarines during the Second World War. KNLMS O-13 is still missing at sea.

The official remembrance ceremony in the Caribbean was held at the monument at Waaigat in Willemstad. It was a simple ceremony involving a two-minute silence and the placing of wreaths. Brigadier General (Marine Corps) Dick Swijgman, Flag Officer Caribbean laid a wreath on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Navy, after which a commemoration ceremony was held at the Military Cemetery in Willemstad.

Air Force
Lieutenant General Alexander Schnitger, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force and his guests commemorated all Dutch military personnel and civilians working in military aviation who perished while serving their country since the outbreak of the Second World War. The remembrance ceremony was held at the monument for the fallen on the former air base in Soesterberg and was concluded with a flypast comprising 4 F-16 aircraft.

The aircraft flew in a so-called missing-man formation, which entails one of the aircraft leaving the group as a symbol of the fallen.

Mission areas
During an All Hands, military and civilian officials of the police training mission in Kunduz commemorated all soldiers and civilians who were killed while serving their country from the outbreak of the Second World War. Colonel (Marine Corps) Marc Brinkman, Commander of the police training mission, and counsellor Eline Verbruggen held speeches, which were followed by a two-minute silence.

Under the leadership of the Senior National Representative, Captain George van Aalst, Dutch military and civilian personnel, together with their international colleagues, were positioned in front of ISAF HQ for a special ceremony. After short speeches by ambassador Han Peters and Van Aalst, a two-minute silence was observed.

De Ruyter
During a commemoration ceremony held on board HNLMS De Ruyter off the coast of Somalia, commander Captain Harold Liebregs addressed the entire crew, after which the flag was flown at half-mast, followed by a two-minute silence.

Military personnel of the Patriot unit in Turkey held a special flag parade on the evening of 4 May. A solemn ceremony was held at Incirlik Air Base in which military personnel observed a two-minute silence. The Dutch flag was then lowered and handed over to commander Colonel Marcel Buis. “Our freedom is our most valuable possession and fortunately, we can and may reflect on this in the Netherlands each year. But we shouldn’t take this freedom for granted. This is freedom by agreement, which we must continue to affirm,” said Buis.

Military cemetery
Dutch soldiers were also commemorated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Dutch military cemetery in the German town of Osnabrück. This is the last resting place of 393 Dutch soldiers who died as prisoners of war in work camps. The names of 140 other persons, whose bodies were never found, have been immortalized on a granite plaque.