On Saturday in London, a delegation of Belgian soldiers paid tribute to the Belgian and British fighters who lost their lives in the World Wars.
Press Release, Brussels, 15 July 2023: [auto-translated] On Saturday, a delegation of Belgian soldiers paid tribute to the Belgian and British fighters who lost their lives during the First and Second World Wars at the Cenotaph in London. This commemoration takes place every year on the Saturday before our National Day.
On Saturday 15 July, the area around Whitehall Street, in central London, was once again coloured black, yellow and red. For the 89th time, some 300 Belgian soldiers took part in the parade at the Cenotaph, a commemoration ceremony for those who fell during the First World War and the subsequent conflicts. An important moment of remembrance and solidarity for all fallen Belgian fighters – and also an opportunity to emphasise the good relationship with the United Kingdom.
Two national anthems: At around 11am, the parade set off through the streets of the British capital to the sounds of the March of the KMS, performed by the Band of the Scots Guards, towards the Cenotaph. Participants include platoons from the [Belgian] Royal Military Academy (KMS), the Royal School for Non-Commissioned Officers and the Reserve, the Air and Marine Cadets, the Belgian Defence Cadets, as well as an honorary detachment from the Navy, United Kingdom Marine Cadets and Belgian and British veterans.
Several wreaths of flowers were laid in front of the memorial in tribute to the fallen soldiers, in the presence of the Vice Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Marc Thys, Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, and several other Belgian and British authorities. After which the national anthems resound: The Brabançonne for Belgium and God Save the King for the United Kingdom. Flowers were also laid down at the Horse Guards Memorial.
Pride and pride: It is the seventh time that veteran Ivan Van der Auwera and his son participated as standard bearers in the Belgian parade at the Cenotaph, something they do with heart and soul. “As a memorial and respect for all soldiers who fought and died during both World Wars, but also and especially for my grandfather, who was taken prisoner during the 18-day campaign and spent two years in captivity,” explains Yvan with passion. “We are immensely proud to be here today to proudly represent our country and our servicemen and to tell the British people that we will never forget their servicemen and the fallen of the past and present.”
Marching armed and in uniform ~ a unique honour: The origins of the Belgian parade at the Cenotaph go back to 1934. On February 17 of that year, Albert I, King of the Belgians, died in a fall from the rocks in Marche-Les-Dames. In honour of his nephew, King George V of the United Kingdom granted the Belgians a unique honour: an annual parade in uniform to the Cenotaph. This makes Belgium the only country outside the Commonwealth that has the right to march armed on British soil.
Since then, this Belgian parade in London takes place every year on the Saturday before the Belgian holidays. After our own National Day, the Belgian parade at the Cenotaph is the largest Belgian military parade that takes place every year.