2020 Remembrance Day ceremony in Australia

This morning, Ambassador Marion Derckx and our defence attaché, Lieutenant colonel Elmar Hermans, held a small ceremony for two persons to honour the Netherlands National Remembrance Day at The Royal Netherlands and East Indies Forces Memorial in Russell. The ambassador laid a wreath, followed by a minute of silence and The Ode.

Every year on the 4th of May, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia organises a Remembrance Day ceremony in Canberra. Because of Covid-19 we had to cancel this year's ceremony for invitees.

Watch the video of the ceremony here: https://vimeo.com/nlinaustralia
Read the ambassador's National Rembrance Day speech for 2020, here.

Speech by H.E. Mrs. Marion Derckx

Today is the 4th of May, the Dutch Day of Remembrance.

Ever since the end of the Second World War, on the 4th of May we have been remembering the people who died. Our liberators, our countrymen and –women, soldiers and civilians, who lost their lives in war, in conflicts and in peacekeeping operations ever since the start of the Second World War.

Tomorrow, the 5th of May, we celebrate our liberation.

Dutch and Australian armed forces have fought side by side in armed conflicts since 80 years. During the Second World War, Dutch fighter pilots joined the Australian air force to keep the enemy off the Northern Australian shores. On the other side of the globe, Australian fighter pilots played an important role in the liberation of the Netherlands.

Looking back in history, a war, a conflict, often is an abstract phenomenon. But in reality, war is the sum of personal stories. Of life stories.

The story of Warrant Officer Jack Dawson Green, 21 years old, from Australia, is one of them. Jack joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 and in 1944 he was sent to Britain as a fighter pilot. In March 1945, as he flew his Spitfire over the Netherlands, he was shot down by the Nazis and Jack died as his plane crashed into farm land in the town of Barendrecht.
He was buried in that same town, the next day. I am grateful, that today, 75 years later, the people of Barendrecht still remember and honour Jack. His grave is looked after by the children of the local school.

It is not easy to truthfully commemorate. It requires humbleness, respect, admitting you cannot possibly imagine what soldiers and resistance fighters have gone through, especially if you yourself have never been in such a situation. The life of Jack helps school children in Barendrecht to imagine what it can be like, to declare yourself ready to fight for freedom. You may be paying the ultimate prize at a very young age.

This year marks 75 years since the Second World War came to an end. We were planning to have an extensive commemoration service at the Netherlands and East Indies Forces Memorial at Russell. Instead, we find ourselves limited to two persons. Our veterans and friends cannot join because of the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 is for many who grew up in Western countries the first encounter with a common threat. A threat that limits our freedom of movement, that leaves us unsettled, threatens our prosperity and future, but also shows us the importance of loyalty and sacrifice.

I sincerely hope that the next time we commemorate, we can do so the way we are used to.

Or even better.

I hope that our current time has a humbling effect on us, making us better value freedom, prosperity, the gift of life. And, make us really value the importance of people who are willing to work for the common good, also when endangering their own life. So, I hope in future we commemorate with a better, more honest understanding of what it really means and that we will be joined by many more. We have to involve more people in this tradition, especially young people.

Many people have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Today, the Netherlands, just like Australia, is a free country with unprecedented prosperity.

Thanks to brave people; Dutch people, Australian people, and other allied forces.

The freedom we enjoy should never be taken for granted. Never, ever.

We are eternally grateful.

Lest we forget.