There's nothing that can prepare you emotionally for one of the very last days ahead of us. Nothing.
What makes this event even more emotionally charged is what everyone is saying: That this would be the final year of celebration with our liberators. The final commemoration for the Apeldoorn parade.
I wake up especially early and with my laptop in hand, start preparing for the busy day of organization ahead of me. As I hastily reply to emails and review schedules I eat a big breakfast on the far side of the room. Our boys are starting to come down, complete in their greys and blues, with the rest of our excited friends and family.
Among them, is a special guest, Jan Bos, an instructor at the Police Academy of Apeldoorn, who had made aquaintances with my father and the Battlefield Tours several years ago. Along the way he had helped me come up with resources, ideas and opportunities that had helped mould the tour that we were on today. It was a delight to have him join us, and as he clambered onto the bus to join us we made sure to give him a hearty round of applause. He would take the journey with us from the parade in Apeldoorn, all the way through until our farewell dinner that evening.
Keep Them Rolling
Our first stop was to drop off our boys, as they would play a huge role in the parade. As Frank, Bud, Ray & George got prepared for the ceremonies, our group was offered the chance to explore the vehicles as they were prepared as well. What a chance for us to have!
We quickly dispersed and started to explore the well kept military vehicles in line waiting for the parade. The vehicles were organized and maintained by the Keep Them Rolling organization.
The club was established in 1972, now with over 1,500 members their ultimate goal has never wavered: to preserve and restore military vehicles from the Second World War. The effort
"KEEP THEM ROLLING" is a cry often heard from allied troops in the Second World War, in an effort to ensure supplies kept moving to the front lines. This included fuel & food, that constantly needed to get to the troops on time. The association continues to hold several objectives to this manner including:
-Assisting in the organization of tours and processions in order to show to the general public the preserved material
-Give support to events organised by foreign associations, and guide with renovations and work on objects to be restored.
To see more pictures of the vehicles we were lucky enough to explore, click here and be redirected to our full gallery. >>>
The City of Apeldoorn
Before saying goodbye to our boys, Emmy Matte, who had seen what Holland was like at the hand of the German occupation in 1945 when she was only 14 years of age, asks to be apart of the picture. "My Liberators!" She proudly exclaimed before the camera went 'click'.
After saying goodbye to our vets we make our way back to the main street, we take our time to explore Apeldoorn's serene sights and sounds.
Many explore the Het Loo Palace & gardens, a stunning building built between 1684 & 1686, it was the house of Orange-Nassau, until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962. It is now open for the public and holds a beautifully maintained museum of the state. Conveniently, this is where we had parked our coach, a mere few meters to where the parade was to start.
On the way back, a few of our Battlefield travellers bumped in to a familiar face: Kathy Duke! Kathy played a huge part as a traveller on our D-Day 70 tour of 2014, and had special family ties to the events taking place in the Second World War that again, reverberate into the events today in Apeldoorn. She had this to say later that day:
When coming to the main street, the excitement in the air was hard to ignore! Canadian flags, thank you flags, and people lined the streets. The street was marked with a banners every 6 meters, "Hello Again" it said, thanking the veterans for coming back after all these years. We got to get a few photos in before the parade actually started:
The man with two hats: To commemorate the special bond between Canada and the Netherlands,
this statue, sculpted by Dutch artist Henk Visch, was erected, and made of bronze measuring up to 4.6 metres. Its twin statue can be found in Ottawa, Ontario.
The two hats in and of themselves represent a time when to come through the war with one hat was something of a feat. It represents the end of the horrors of war but in the same vein the peace and freedom that continue to elude many countries today.
(Veteran Affairs, 2015).
The picture on the right marks the tragedy which occured in 2009, as a man attempted to attack the Dutch Royal family in his car on the day of the parade. Failing to do so, he crashed into innocent bystanders instead - kililng 8 people, before crashing into a monument near by, and killing himself. His motive remains unclear, but it was indeed an unforseen tragedy that Apeldoorn will forever remember in their time of peace. This small memorial, located just beside the man with two hats contains a glass case full of white and blue balloons. Flowers and candles are regularly laid at this spot.
The parade begins with pipes and drums, and the vehicles make their way slowly down the street. Despite the crowds, we all get a good view, and as the cheering commences, so does the celebration. Women bring their children to meet the vets rolling down the road "Thank you Thank you," they exclaim, many of them either too young or not even born before the end of the war, but still they come to celebrate their history.
^^^ Here is a 1 minute video I shot of the beginning of the 70th Apeldoorn Parade.
^^^ The military vehicles start rolling down, in all different shapes and sizes. Children and adults alike shower the vehicles with flowers, flags, and stuffed animals, as they cheer for their heroes on board each boat.
^^^ And the drums & pipes commence!!