King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima joined their Belgian counterparts, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde in Terneuzen yesterday to mark the start “75 Years of Freedom.” This will be followed by a year of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. These will continue until 2020 to mark the founding of the United Nations.
This particularly day focussed on the liberation of the southern Netherlands and the Battle of the Scheldt, which took place from 2 October to 8 November 1944. King Willem-Alexander rang a buoy bell that was used in the harbour of Antwerp in 1944 to mark the clear passage. Salutes were fired from 11 foreign naval ships towards the Westerschelde as a tribute to the veterans and the circa 10,000 soldiers and civilians that were killed during the battle.
Eight veterans, all well into their 90s, from several countries were also present to help mark the occasion. A veteran from the United States said, “I am touched by all the deference to us.” The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte held a speech in which he wondered out loud whether “we realise enough what freedom really is. We have been free to make our lives and our countries the way we want it for 75 years. That is something to cherish, to protect and to pass on.” He added, “Thank you for giving us the freedom to be who we are. Free to have our own opinions.”