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Let freedom ring
Sat, September 23, 2006
Victoria Park bells show Dutch thanks for '40s liberation.

Bells of friendship chimed in London's Victoria Park yesterday from a gift Dutch-Canadians provided to honour Canadian military veterans who liberated the Netherlands 62 years ago.

An 18-bell carillon mounted on an eight-metre-high stainless steel tower pealed the notes of O Canada as dozens of veterans saluted and hundreds of people sang the national anthem.

The Memorial Carillon was dedicated yesterday along with a granite stone at the base depicting the locations of Canadian Forces cemeteries in the Netherlands and Belgium where 7,600 Canadians who fought for their liberation are buried.

The $150,000 tribute to their valour and sacrifice also includes a surrounding Dutch garden.

Most of the money for the memorial was raised in the Dutch Canadian community and spouses and children of veterans also contributed.

Canadians liberated the Dutch from five years of Nazi occupation in May 1945, igniting an "explosion of joy," said Richard Ter Vrugt of the fundraising committee.

Canadian veterans are "our brothers and sisters," he said, adding the memorial will be a permanent symbol of the gratitude of the Dutch people.

The "keys" to the carillon were presented to Canadian veterans Charley Fox, Art Stenning and Pat Reidy as representatives of the air force, navy and army. They, in turn, passed them to the city as the memorial custodian.

Dutch Consul Astrid de Vries said that as a member of the post-war generation, she hadn't experienced the horrors of the war personally, but she learned about them from her grandparents.

"My people, we will never forget" the sacrifices of Canadian liberators, she said. "We will remember."

Reidy said the carillon, gardens and granite memorial will be a "lasting symbol of a romance that began 62 years ago."

Canadian soldiers fell in love with the Dutch and the Dutch returned the affection, he said.

It's a mutual love and warmth with a welcome "that has no ending," he said.

"May the bells (of the carillon) always ring out peace, freedom, serenity and tranquillity," he said.

The event included a colour guard, brass band and members of the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association flying over the park in Second World War aircraft in a "missing man" formation depicting the loss of a comrade.

The event was attended by representatives of the Canadian and Dutch governments, local MPs and MPPs and several members of London city council.

The Dutch community was well represented and young people dressed in traditional costumes presented boutonnieres to the Canadian veterans.

Artist Gerard Pas said the memorial was designed to complement Victoria Park's cenotaph, not compete with it.

The carillon's design "carries our eyes to heaven," he said, adding it's meant to convey that "from brokenness, there can still be victory."



- The carillon is comprised of 18 bronze bells mounted on an eight-metre stainless steel tower decorated with a spiral of ascending maple leaves.

- Technically, they're chimes because at least 23 bells are required for a true carillon.

- The bells were cast in Holland. Bell bronze is about 78 per cent copper and 22 per cent tin.

- The Victoria Park bells will chime every hour, year round.

- They will play a full tune every day just after noon.

- They are sounded by computer-driven clappers.

- The bells can be programmed by a mini-keyboard to play any tune.

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