In May 2023, a composite RCMP Pipe Band of 42 hardy volunteers toured Europe. The group consisted of pipers, drummers, dancers and helpers from the Ottawa, Halifax and Regina bands. We were participating in Liberation ceremonies in the Netherlands and ceremonies of Remembrance in Belgium, France, and Germany. Two RCMP regular members carried our flags, providing the link to Canada for those who might not recognize us at first. Eight Dancers from the Ottawa band contributed high energy, providing audiences a special visual treat. They were very popular with everyone!
The visit was originally planned for 2020 for the 75th anniversary of the Liberation, but of course was pushed back due to Covid restrictions. We were delighted to finally be able to take the tour in 2023 for the 78th anniversary.
We honoured Canadian veterans and civilian victims of war by conducting short Remembrance services at community memorials and Canadian War Cemeteries in Groesbeek and Holten.
Visiting and performing at our national monument at Vimy and at Hill 70 were very special moments. We were told that our visit to Bienen and Rees in Germany was the first Dutch memorial service to be held on German soil.
May 4th is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, with the country pausing for two minutes of silence at 8:00 pm. We had the honour of participating in a Remembrance Day ceremony in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. On May 5th in Wageningen, Netherlands, we were especially honoured to lead the Liberation Day parade together with the City of Apeldoorn Pipes and Drums, following a small contingent of veterans that were able to attend.
We also had the privilege to play at the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, honouring 54,389 British and Commonwealth soldiers (including 6,940 Canadians) who died in the area around Ypres and who have no known grave.
The band performed at two sold out evening benefit concerts with local choirs and orchestras in Silvolde and Gendringen, both of which were live streamed. Short concerts were presented in many town squares, parks and other venues to very appreciative crowds. It was an extremely busy tour. The reception by the Dutch people was unfailingly enthusiastic and welcoming, especially in the small towns where the sacrifices of Canadian Liberators were marked by memorials and gravesites. The speeches and conversations by local mayors and dignitaries praised the contribution of Canadian troops in restoring Freedom to the Netherlands in 1945 and really emphasized how they value and recognize that gift. The children lining the parade routes in large numbers shows how the Dutch ensure their children also understand that others paid a high price for that Freedom.
The visit was a profoundly moving experience for all band members, and gave us all a better understanding and appreciation of the contributions of Canadian veterans and of our own freedom. It should be noted that the RCMP formed #1 Provost Company of the Canadian Provost Corps, who assisted in the Canadian Army’s liberation of the Netherlands in WWII. It was an absolute privilege for the RCMP Pipe Band and Dancers to represent Canada in the Netherlands for the 78th anniversary of their Liberation.
Thousands of photos and videos were taken and posted on social media by band members, spectators and friends, many of which can be viewed on our Facebook account. Over the coming weeks, a more detailed account of the band’s trip will be featured in blog posts with a selection of the best photos from that huge collection. We hope you will come back to visit the site again to enjoy the trip with us.