THE HAGUE – Sunday November 13, 2022 Ambassadors, Consular representatives, Defence Attachés, officials of the Netherlands Government and Dutch Armed Forces, the Mayor and Aldermen of The Hague, as well as representatives of veterans’ and other related organisations, Scouts, Guides, and numerous interested members of the public, gathered at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission section of Westduin Cemetery in The Hague, the Netherlands, to pay their respects to the Fallen of the Commonwealth during both World Wars and all conflicts since.
The Act of Remembrance and wreath laying was preceded by a moving service at the Anglican Church of St John & St Philip.
Following a welcome by British Ambassador Joanna Roper, Reverend Canon Michael Roden led the opening prayers. A lesson (Micha 4, 1-5) was read by South African Ambassador Vusi Madonsela, followed by a reading of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5, 1-12) by British Deputy Head of Mission Lucy Ferguson.
At 12h00 (CEST), to synch with the 11h00 GMT observances across the UK, with the Dutch, British, and South African flags at half mast, bugler Capt. Henry Redshaw of the Royal Horse Artillery sounded Last Post, and all observed the Act of Remembrance and customary two minutes’ silence, to mark the moment when the guns of the First World War fell silent on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
Wreaths were laid at the Cross of Sacrifice, after which Scouts and Guides laid flowers at the graves of 70 identified and many more unidentified WWII casualties who lie buried there. Piper John Hermans then led a procession to pay tribute at the nearby graves of the Stijkel Group – 47 men and women who were actively involved in the resistance against German occupation after the invasion of the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, who were eventually betrayed, of whom 32 were executed on 4 June 1941 and 11 subsequently died in captivity.
The annual Service of Remembrance, held under the auspices of the Commonwealth-Netherlands Joint Committee of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is hosted rotationally by Commonwealth Embassies in The Hague. This year’s event was due to be hosted by South Africa, however, following the recent death of HM Queen Elizabeth II, who was also head of the Commonwealth and a bona fide WWII veteran, South African Ambassador Vusi Madonsela passed the baton to British Ambassador Joanna Roper.
Ambassador Madonsela was joined by the SA Defence Attaché to Brussels (EU & NATO), Rear Admiral N. S. Gogi. The South African Legion, represented by Europe Chair Andrew Bergman, was joined by Richard van den Berg, John Wertenbroek, and May van Vondelen of Veteranen Noordwijk, whose town hosts the graves of casualties of the SS Mendi, and with whom we have built-up a warm camaraderie over many years.
Text and pictures © 2022 South African Legion UK & Europe