The Dutch Connection
On 5th May 1945, hostilities in the Netherlands finally came to an end with the signing of the surrender of the occupying forces. This surrender was signed in the Hotel de Wereld, Wageningen. The event is marked by a monument and a permanently burning flame situated close to the Hotel.
The Netherlands were liberated in two parts, the southern portion including Eindhoven being liberated nearly nine months before Wageningen (Eindhoven on 18th September). When the Dutch talk about the Flame of Unity, they mean it in the context of the reunification of the two parts.
The people of the Netherlands commemorate their dead on the 4th May. In Dutch - Dodenherdenking. Unlike the UK, where our Remembrance Sunday commemorates our military dead, the Dutch commemorate all their war dead - the fundamental difference being that we in the UK were not occupied.
Over 300,000 Dutch civilians lost their lives through the violence and inhumanity of war, many of them to starvation or to concentration camps. The Dutch lost more of their population per head than any other western European occupied nation. Their Jewish population was close to extermination by the close of war and 22,000 died from starvation in the Hunger Winter of 1944/45.
At midnight - as the 4th becomes the 5th - the emphasis turns from commemoration to the celebration of Dutch liberation. In Dutch - Bevrijdingsdag - Liberation Day. Daughter Flames are taken from the Mother Flame and scattered across the Netherlands (around 70 at the last count) on foot and by bicycle and the Liberation is celebrated by towns the length and breadth of Holland.
Wageningen then celebrates the Liberation itself with a parade, including a flypast - watched by approximately 150,000 people in 2013. Hull's Normandy Veterans Association were again very privileged to have been part of the parade in 2013.
Our relationship has grown, resulting in the invite to bring the Flame to the UK for the first time since the original flame was lit by Montgomery in 1948. The men of Hull's Normandy Veterans Association wish to hold out the hand of Peace to continue that better future that they fought and lost many of their comrades for.