The Liberation of Utrecht in 1945

I posted Monday about Bevrijdingsdag, the liberation of the Netherlands at the end of World War II, but also mentioned that the allied forces didn’t arrive in Utrecht until 7 May. Today marks that anniversary, so I thought I’d share a few of the photos from the Utrecht Archives showing the anticipation and arrival of the troops.

They came through Biltstraat in order to enter the old city center at the Wittevrouwenbrug. They followed that street, which becomes Voorstraat, before eventually making their way through the rest of the city. People lined the streets in masses to celebrate their arrival. The photos I’ve chosen start with people waiting for the forces on Biltstraat and then follow them down Wittevrouwenstraat and Voorstraat.Waiting on BiltstraatAllies on WittevrouwenstraatAllied Forces on VoorstraatAmong the allied forces that played a part in the liberation of Utrecht was the CanadianEnglish 49th Reconnaissance Regiment, known as the Polar Bears. (See comment below.) They’re seen marching along Janskerkhof. There’s now a Polar Bear monument dedicated to the regiment at a spot on Biltstraat. There will be a memorial service held there this evening.Canadian Polar Bear regiment at JanskerkhofFinally, a charming photo of a couple dancing in celebration in Framboosstraat.Liberation celebration in Framboosstraat
All photos via Het Utrechts Archief.
Biltstraat
Wittevrouwenstraat
Voorstraat
Janskerkhof
Framboosstraat

Bevrijdingsdag in Utrecht

BevrijdingsdagToday is Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) in the Netherlands. It marks the 69th anniversary since the Germans surrendered at the end of World War II and signed the capitulation documents in Wageningen. There are various celebrations held throughout the country today, including here in Utrecht. Today is also one of the official days when the flag is flown and there are flags fluttering in the sunshine across the city and on most streets. Our neighbor is flying the flag and it looks lovely against the bright blue sky.

Although today marks the liberation of the Netherlands, the full component of allied forces didn’t arrive in Utrecht until 7 May (and later in other areas). However, in the days leading up to their arrival, food began to make its way into the city as part of Operation Faust. Food had been dropped by airplane in various cities in the country and then was gradually distributed to help feed the starving citizens of the Netherlands.

The Utrecht Archives has some photos of the early arrival of these important food deliveries, which I found particularly fascinating and poignant, as many were taken here in my neighborhood. This first one shows some of the trucks arriving on the eastern edge of the city center, having driven up Biltstraat (in the background) and then crossing over to Wittevrouwenstraat. On the right is the turn to Lucas Bolwerk.
http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/collectie/beeldmateriaal/fotografische_documenten/1940-1950/97576In fact, in this next photo, you can see the trucks lined up along Lucas Bolwerk. There’s a narrow park that runs along this street, with the city ring canal on the other side. It’s where we used to take our dog Pippo every day, so it’s an area I know very well. That makes it seem that much more real and not just a historic photo.
http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/collectie/beeldmateriaal/fotografische_documenten/1940-1950/22187The final photo is of an allied motorcyclist riding up Voorstraat in the last few days leading up to the liberation of Utrecht. From the waves of the hats, he was surely a wonderful sight to see. And once again, it’s a street I know so incredibly well — in fact, we walked along there on King’s Night last week — which makes it more personal and yet still so hard to imagine.http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/collectie/beeldmateriaal/fotografische_documenten/1940-1950/97699After the liberation of Utrecht, a tree was planted on the south-eastern side of the city, in the park area at the end of the Nieuwegracht. It’s where my beloved Spoetnikkijker statue now stands. The Bevrijdingsboom (Liberation Tree) has a painted, ironwork sign in front of it to mark its commemoration of the liberation of Utrecht and the country in May 1945.BevrijdingsboomDirect links to the photos:Wittevrouwenstraat
Lucasbolwerk
Voorstraat

Unexpected Fanfare

Fanfare Korps Der Genie
Because I seem to be incapable of going out without passing through the Domplein, we were lucky enough to come across a performance by the Fanfarekorps Der Genie (Engineers Regiment Fanfare Corps) on Sunday afternoon. We had just begun to approach Achter De Dom when we suddenly heard the sound of drums. There, behind the cathedral, they began to perform and we raced up to get a good view and listen.

Per the Corps’ website:

In 1888 the Royal Dutch Army Engineers Regiment Music Corps was first formed by NCOs and volunteer soldiers in the city of Utrecht. Now, 118 years later, volunteers from the Engineers Regiment again uphold the musical tradition of the Engineers Regiment (1748 – 2006).

Due to a re-organization within the defense department, the “Engineers Regiment Fanfare Corps” was disbanded. At the beginning of 1997 the idea occurred to breathe new life into the “extinct” music corps. After discussions with the headquarters of the Engineers Regiment Corps, we started to correspond with almost all of those earlier recruits of the Engineers Regiment Fanfare Corps.

In September 1997, the first meeting was held at the “Lunetten Barracks” in the town of Vught, a terrain well-known to us. From this moment, the band was named “Old Members of the Engineers Regiment Fanfare Corps”

Presently, the band consists of 50-65 musicians, all dressed in the historical 1888 uniform.

Fanfare Korps Der Genie
As we were watching, we couldn’t help noticing two women in their ranks with small casks. It seems that it is a tradition that a small tot of brandy be poured from the cask carried on shoulder straps by the serving girls. Special guests are now usually the recipients of the glass of brandy. The group also sells special bottles of the brandy to help raise money for uniform maintenance.
Fanfare Korps Der Genie

Finally, here’s a brief bit of the drummers performing.

Fanfare Korps Der Genie

Another Moment

Dodenherdenking
Today is Dodenherdenking, otherwise known as remembrance day. It’s the commemoration of all civilians and members of the armed forces of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War II. (Source)

The main celebration is held in Amsterdam at Damplein, with a national two minutes of silence at 8 p.m. Radio, tv, and I gather even traffic halts at this moment. I will be in Amsterdam tonight, although I’ll be in the Melkweg waiting for the second Flight of the Conchords show. I’ll be curious if they do anything inside at that moment.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day), celebrating the Dutch liberation from German occupation during WWII. There will be celebrations and music performances all over the country.

ETA: They did, in fact, observe the two minutes of silence at the Melkweg last night. They had a sign on the door announcing they would do so, and someone came out and announced it at the time.