Brussels Branch Remembers 2020
This year offered us more personal ways to commemorate the fallen. The Royal British Legion Brussels Branch put together the following COVID-compliant options for Remembrance in the Brussels area.
- Visit your nearest Commonwealth War Grave. Belgium has 625 war grave cemeteries commemorating those who fell in the First and Second World Wars. Go to this page for details of nine cemeteries in Brussels and the surrounding areas. Contact us for a wreath or poppy cross/stick. We would love to see your pictures so we can share our Acts of Remembrance widely. Note: visits to be conducted in accordance with Belgian COVID restrictions.
- Request a Remembrance Tribute. The Brussels Branch Committee will plant your personal tribute on a poppy cross/stick at a Commonwealth War Grave on your behalf. Send us your message here.
- Virtual Field of Remembrance. Add your personal tribute to a virtual Field of Remembrance. Follow this link to leave your tribute.
- Write to a Second World War veteran. We invite children to write a letter to our Second World War veterans living in Belgium. For more details, contact us.
- Watch Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph in London or livestream a service. The BBC coverage of the Cenotaph service will start from 11.15hrs on Sunday 8 November (also on BBC Radio 4). No BBC access? Watch a Remembrance Sunday service online at Winchester or Exeter Cathedral, or Dover Town Council.
- Observe a two-minute silence at 11.00hrs on 11 November. Take two minutes on 11 November to pause and honour those who gave their lives for peace and freedom.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
In 2019, the Royal British Legion Brussels branch marked Remembrance Sunday with a special ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Heverlee, just south of Leuven. A short report of the event follows. Needless to say, we welcome all who wish to join us in remembrance and will widely publicise the events planned for 2020.
The Royal British Legion Brussels Branch commemorated Remembrance Sunday 2019 on a beautifully sunny, frosty morning at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Heverlee, near Leuven.
For the second year running the commemoration welcomed a huge and wide-ranging number of people to the service, including our wonderful Branch members, with some travelling to the cemetery together on the transport provided, international serving military personnel, civilian staff from international organisations working here in Brussels, friends from charitable organisations and locals who were seeking a place to remember and reflect together on this special day.
The Reverend Canon John Wilkinson, Chaplain to the Branch was our officiant for the ceremony and the Master of Ceremonies was the Branch Chair Commodore Darren Bone, Royal Navy. We were delighted to be joined by the British Ambassador to Belgium, H.E. Mr Martin Shearman CVO. He opened the service with a heartfelt and thought-provoking reflection piece, setting the scene for the morning.
The organisers were keen to find a way to both highlight the stories of the men and women in the cemetery and create a deeper understanding and connection of the events to the large group of children who were taking a central role in the service. In the weeks leading to the event, Commodore Bone and Phil Hyde (the lead organisers) pondered on the best way to engage and involve the children. Inspiration struck while they were researching the moving story of the Royal Canadian Air Force crew of Halifax aircraft MZ588 of 432 Squadron who were shot down over St Truiden, Belgium on 28 April 1944. Tragically, this was their first combat mission together and six lives were lost. Their stories were told in a dignified and moving manner by the children from the 1st Waterloo International Scout Troop who then laid poppy crosses at the headstones of members of the six crew who were laid to rest in the cemetery at Heverlee.
The service not only brought together the generations, but it was also a truly international affair. Following the Act of Remembrance, senior national military representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Poland laid wreaths. Wreaths were also laid by Royal British Legion Brussels Branch, the Royal Air Force Association and members of the Scouts and Guides. We were privileged once again to be supported by the superbly talented Military Wives Choir, whose evocative and stirring pieces were perfectly pitched for the commemoration.
Special mention must go to our superb bugler and trumpeter, Lt Col Dick Ovey and Mr Robbe Claes and our fabulous piper Mr Scott James. Their skillfully played notes rang clear across the cemetery and added much to the event. Our thanks are also extended to Matthew Andrews for his work providing the excellent sound system (yet again!).
Although there were a number of frosty toes in the cemetery, the scores of children in attendance were both respectful and engaged in equal measure, despite the cool weather. As ever, the cemetery was in serene and neat form thanks to the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission staff who maintain the place with precision and care.
We will remember them.
The Royal British Legion is recognised as the national custodian of Remembrance. Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today.
In Belgium, Armistice Day is commemorated throughout the country with events held at memorials, places of worship and war graves. In 2019, the annual Armistice Day ceremony took place at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier at the foot of the Congress Column. King Philippe of Belgium took part in the ceremony, during which a wreath to honour the fallen soldiers is placed at the foot of the tomb.