September in Arnhem and Oosterbeek is always filled with events to come to commemorate the Market Garden Battle in 1944. Earlier in the month we completed the Airbourne Wandeltocht and recently we participated in two other events. There is a memorial wreath laying service next to the John Frost bridge in Arnhem. Until last year this also involved bands and bagpipes marching over the bridge which I always thoroughly enjoyed. I find the bagpipes particularly emotive. Since last year however, there are fewer veterans and the whole event is staged by the war memorial, thus removing any need for the marching but still with the music. I was lucky the Gravy was at home as this always makes it easier when we go to events – two pairs of hands are easier than one when walking in a crowded area with two curious children! The bridge was closed to traffic so we could walk down the middle of the road and spend as long as we wanted looking at the boats below. As expected, it was very quiet at the memorial service are not necessarily the most ideal place to take children to. However I really believe that it is never too young to learn about humanity, respect and appreciation. I am extremely proud of how both boys were quiet and still, and started asking questions to further understand what was happening. We did have a flag but it lasted no more than two minutes before it was ripped apart from the stick which was then used to fight with; somewhat ironic considering the circumstances. We didn’t stick around all that long and galloped, jumped and skipped back over the bridge together.
The following day we went to one of my all-time favourite events at Ginkelse Heide. Hundreds of parachutists jumped out of the planes, re-creating the drop that occurred 71 years ago. What I love about this is the way that so many different nationalities jumped together in an obvious and
uncomplicated sign of peace and friendship. You have to be lucky with the weather, or you could risk hanging around for a long time waiting for the right conditions. Fortunately we were lucky, and it was quite profound to see such a display. This is my fifth time at the event. Every single time I have thought about how I would like to get involved with volunteering to help to run the event in some way. Yet I still haven’t done anything about it. Maybe if I write it down this year it might actually happen. It is a strange coincidence that I’ve moved to another country that has such strong ties with Great Britain. Perhaps half the audience has travelled from the United Kingdom either as Army members, cadets or enthusiasts. For the month of September the United Kingdom flag hangs all over Arnhem and Oosterbeek in remembrance of the battles that took place. In a strange way, it feel that if I can’t go home, then home is coming to me. I always have a little tingling feeling by the parachute drop because are so many members of the army around I am sure there are people standing in the field that have been to my hometown back in England as there is an Army base very close by. I could be standing next to somebody who has been for a drink in the same pubs that I used to go to. Isn’t that strange? I find it very comforting but also frustrating. It’s like you can see something you like through a glass window, but you can’t touch it. I hope next I can write something more about my personal involvement, rather than as an observant spectator.
* Apologies for delay in posting, we have been internet-free for 2 weeks – a time that was mixed with joy concentrating on our kids, and a feeling of isolation as the rest of the world passed us by without us knowing anything about it! Back online now. Whoop whoop!