Yesterday, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge alongside Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg at the Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne, Belgium.
Also in attendance was United States Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper; President of Poland, Andrzej Duda; and the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.Embed from Getty Images
The Mardasson Memorial honours American soldiers who lost their lives or were injured during World War Two’s Battle of the Bulge.
The King addressed those in attendance and began by saying, ” ‘The Belgian people remember their American liberators’. The inscription on this memorial stone is etched on our hearts as well. Our gratitude extends to all the soldiers of the Allied countries, whose many representatives I warmly welcome here today.
“The Battle of the Bulge was almost two months of intense fighting, hardship and suffering in the cold and snow. There were countless acts of bravery and heroism. The battle wreaked destruction and death. It resulted in even more civilian and military casualties than the Normandy landings. Belgium owes its final liberation from Nazi occupation to these brave soldiers.Embed from Getty Images
” ‘Nuts’, the famous word uttered here in Bastogne by American General McAuliffe, signifying his categorical refusal to surrender, will continue to resonate in our collective memory for many years. It encapsulates the courage and resolve of our liberators. It echoes the legendary tenacity of the people of the Ardennes. It expresses a rejection of barbarism.”Embed from Getty Images
He continued and concluded his speech by saying, “The fight for freedom continues in the form of constant vigilance for the appropriate use of freedom. It condemns calumny, polarisation and exclusion. Aiming, instead, to bring together and reconcile.
“Standing here, in the presence of veterans, before this monument, which is dedicated to the people who forged freedom and peace, let us make a solemn commitment to continue this fight. Let us serve truth, temperance and justice, with ever greater resolve and in every situation.”
His full speech, in English, can be read here.
Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume visited the National Liberation Memorial to participate in the commemorative ceremony for the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge where he spoke to veterans of the battle. He also laid a wreath during the ceremony. He later went to Lycée du Nord in Wiltz to open exhibits on the battle.
The Belgian King and Queen and Grand Duke Henri also travelled to the Hamm American Military Cemetery where 5,072 American soldiers are buried. The Grand Duke gave a speech at the cemetery where he said, “As exceptional as the presence of the veterans is, as prestigious as our distinguished guests are, it is the solemnity of this cemetery that affects us most. We are humbled by this place of contemplation, silence, remembrance, and prayer.
“The Hamm American Military Cemetery, entrusted to the care of the United States Government, will forever remain a sanctuary for my country. It symbolises the fight for our independence as a free nation and is, therefore, part of our identity. “
“To you, dear veterans who have made a long journey to be here today, I would like to express on behalf of the people of Luxembourg my greatest respect, my sincere admiration and my deep gratitude. In the course of your life, you will certainly have experienced many happy and less happy events, but the memory of those months spent with your comrades defending, ultimately, a certain idea of humanity will stay with you forever,” he went on to add.
Last evening, the Grand Duke and Hereditary Grand Duke concluded the day of commemorations with a reception at the Grand Ducal Palace where many veterans were in attendance.