240 CHILDREN COMMEMORATE 100 YEARS LIBERATION – IN PASSENDAeLE AND HOUTHULST
On September 28th the municipalities of Zonnebeke and Houthulst and the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 commemorated the liberation of the Vrijbos and the capture of the ruins of the village of Passendale by the Belgian army. In cooperation with the Belgian Defence, the Flemish and the Federal Government, they organised a double ceremony exactly 100 years later at the Belgian Military Cemetery and in the center of Passendale. In total, some 240 children from the primary schools of Passendale and Houthulst participated.
Time capsule with peace messages of youths from Passendale
During the ceremony at Passendale, the focus was on the story of the inhabitants of Passendale and the peace messages. The story of the civilians was largely brought by reenactors, including 9 children. One of the reenactors brought a testimony about his great-grandfather who was killed fleeing from Passendale. Four school children brought two other testimonies. One of the highlights of the ceremony was provided by toddlers and primary school children who presented their personal peace messages while they placed them in a time capsule. Two soldiers subsequently buried this time capsule in front of the church. The ceremony was closed by more than 50 children who formed an honour guard for the platoon and the music chapel.
Home-made ‘forget-me-nots’ on graves
The reenactment and texts in Houthulst centered on the Belgian military story. Thus two testimonies brought the story of two brothers who fought during the Final Offensive. A reenactor told the story of his great-grandfather who fought together with his brother during the Final Offensive. The great-granduncle of this reenactor is buried at the cemetery of Houthulst. At the end of the ceremony the children of Houthulst placed self-made forget-me-nots on the graves.
One whole with military elements
Both ceremonies were matched to each other and formed a mix of evocation, personal stories, music and military aspects. The Royal Band of the Belgian Navy musically accompanied the ceremonies and brought along singers, drums, piano, wind players …. To the tune of the introductory music an honorary detachment of the Karabiniers-Grenadiers and 12 emblems with their escorts marched on. In both Passendale and Houthulst nine children handed the wreaths during the floral tribute. This floral tribute was closed by a fly-over by a helicopter.
‘Zonnebeke and Passendale were badly affected by the war. It remains difficult to imagine that, a hundred years ago, this region was turned into a desolate environment full of destruction and war suffering. Those who want to talk about war and peace today must preserve the connection with this war past. We want to sincerely thank the schools that so enthusiastically support this project and hope that they will take over the torch to keep remembering ‘, said Dirk Sioen, Mayor of Zonnebeke.
‘This ceremony in Houthulst was an important piece in a series of events that commemorate the end of the first World War. 81 Italians, that are buried at the Belgian Military Cemetery, were given honour in a ceremony last weekend. Today, it’s time to remember what our own Belgian soldiers gave for our country. Quite some people of our village and a lot of local school children participated in this ceremony. For that, we are really grateful’, said Ann Vansteenkiste, Mayor of Houthulst.