The Commonwealth-Netherlands Joint Committee organizes an annual Remembrance Day memorial service at the Westduin cemetery in The Hague. According to the traditional rotation within the organizing Commonwealth countries this commemoration is organized by another country every year. After a seven year period this was once again an honour bestowed to the Ambassador of Canada.
A section of the General Cemetery at Westduin is held and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There a total of 87 allied soldiers from World War II have found their last resting place in a scenic and well-kept part of the cemetery. These victims are mainly crew members of Allied aircraft shot down during World War II and they include a number of Canadians. These sacrifices are annually remembered by the Joint Committee during the commemoration.
After the conclusion of this first commemoration respect and tribute is also paid to the members of the so-called ‘ Stijkelgroup ‘ who also have been buried at Westduin. The Stijkelgroup is a group of individual Dutch resistance workers who almost immediately after the occupation of the Netherlands started their activities. Only by means of treason were 47 members of this group captured by the Nazi’s in 1941. They were eventually transferred to Berlin and there on 4 June 1943, ultimately 32 members of the group were executed. Eleven others later died in the concentration camps. Only well after the war could the ultimate fate of the group be established and could their bodies be reburied at Westduin in The Hague. In their memory, memorial stones have also been erected.
The Ambassador of Canada had invited a number of members of RCL branch 005 to attend the commemoration. Commitments in Apeldoorn meant that tasks needed to be divided. The honour to represent RCL 005 in The Hague was therefore bestowed to RCL Branch 005 honourable member Philip van Leeuwen.
Please read his quote of his experiences in The Hague:
The commemoration became an impressive, pleasant and very well attended occasion. Mayors from various towns including Wassenaar and Groesbeek took part in the commemoration as well as many military representatives from the Netherlands and the British Commonwealth countries. During the extensive commemoration Clergymen lead in prayer, in song and several speeches were held. On behalf of Canada the first wreath was laid by the Canadian Ambassador, H.E. Mr. James Lambert and Canada’s military attaché, Colonel Janine Knackstedt. Many other military and diplomatic representatives followed in the laying of their wreaths. It was my privilege and great honour that on behalf of RCL branch 005 I was given the opportunity to lay the Royal Canadian Legion’s wreath.
At the end of the ceremony an enjoyable and excellent lunch buffet was offered to all. During the commemoration a number of members of RCL 005 met each other at this impressive memorial service. The Ambassador himself expressed his gratitude and content that members of RCL Branch 005 had taken the opportunity to be present at this commemoration. It was our pleasure.
Text: courtesy of Philip van Leeuwen
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