Dutch veterans receive French Legion of Honour
7 June 2004
AMSTERDAM — The international commemoration of the Allied D-Day invasion at Normandy 60 years ago had a Dutch element on Sunday as General-Major Rudi Hemmes was presented with an honorary decoration by French President Jacques Chirac.
Hemmes was presented with the French Legion of Honour at Arromanches. The Dutch officer was one of 14 veterans from 14 countries who were personally presented with the honour in Normandy.
In total, 11 Dutch veterans received the Legion of Honour from the French government for their role in the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. But for logistical reasons, 10 Dutch soldiers were presented with the decoration earlier last week.
Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende attended the ceremony at Arromanches, where a Dutch stunt squadron of four F-16 jets participated in the air show. The transport ship Rotterdam was involved in the navy parade.
The Dutch monarch and prime minister had earlier attended a commemorative service at Pont-Audemer. The Princess Irene Brigade — of which Hemmes was a member of — had played a role in the liberation of Pont-Audemer 60 years ago.
On Sunday morning, the Queen inspected the veterans — three Dutch men from the navy air force, 14 sailors from warships and 18 members of the Princess Irene Brigade — before the parade started.
The navy’s planes and warships were directly involved in the Normandy landings, while the Princess Irene Brigade was involved in the liberation of Pont-Audemer on 26 August 1944.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Queen Beatrix laid a wreath at the monument in front of the Punt-Audemer town hall. Three commemorative plaques were also fastened to the monument honouring the Princess Irene Brigade and another thanked Belgian, British, Canadian and Dutch troops for the liberation.
The parade of French participants and Dutch veterans marched up the main street and after a reception with the Queen, the Dutch veterans were presented with a regional commemorative medal.
On the night of 6 June 1944, about 25,000 paratroopers landed behind German lines in the Normandy region and about 4,000 landing vessels set 133,000 British, American and Canadian troops on the Normandy beaches within several hours. About 250,000 died in the 80-day battle for Normandy after 6 June 1944.
More than a dozen world leaders — including for the first time a Russian and German head of state — travelled to Normandy on Sunday. They were joined by thousands of veterans for various commemorations.
Chirac advocated in a speech the “humanistic values of respect, justice, dialogue and tolerance for which they gave their lives”, while US President George Bush said at a wreath laying ceremony in the war cemetery at Colleville that veterans would be honoured “ever and always”.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder kept a low profile on Sunday, but had written that “the Allies’ victory was not a victory over Germany, it was a victory for Germany”, CNN reported. He was later seen to embrace French President Chirac at Caen.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II visited the British cemetery in Bayeux, along with Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chirac, after meeting Canadian and British veterans at Juno Beach, BBC reported.
Meanwhile, the only official service in the Netherlands was held at Scheveningen, where several thousand people attended a wreath laying ceremony and a parade of about 650 veterans.
The ceremony was held at the navy monument because the Royal Dutch Navy also played a role in the Allied D-Day invasion. Two gunboats bombed German positions in support of the land invasion and the navy air force destroyed the German armoured division’s headquarters.
And in the period shortly before the invasion, Dutch minesweepers cleared German explosives. The cruiser Hr. Ms. Sumatra was sunk of the coast of Normandy to make two artificial harbours for the Allies.
Personnel from the merchant navy and the Royal Navy were involved in transporting troops and material from Britain to the European mainland.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news