Sunday, 23 August 2009

Freedom of the Town of Echt, Holland

Click on the above photos to enlarge.

I took the above two snapshots on a beautiful Sunday in August 1955. All the RAF personnel at Bruggen, W.Germany, had been given the freedom of the town of Echt, a lovely small town on the Dutch/German borders.

One evening, some weeks earlier, the Mayor of Echt arranged for a concert to be given by the Echt town orchestra in the RAF Bruggen camp cinema/theatre. It was a great evening and introduced me to some lovely light classical music.

Our commanding officer was asked by the Mayor if the pipes and drum camp band would return the compliment and entertain the people of Echt. Now, some of you might well consider that a bagpipe band is not in the same league, entertainment-wise, as an orchestra. And I would agree with you.

However, many others will say that the bagpipes stirs the emotions, especially if you are a Scot, (which I am not). Our commanding officer was a keen bagpipe man - and he was not a Scotsman either! He was only too pleased to arrange for our band to play in the town square of Echt and the Mayor then said that all the RAF chaps who attended would be given the 'freedom' of the town.

Saturday came and the C.O. was upset to learn that one of the bagpipes had been damaged. He immediately ordered that one of our jet fighters fly from Germany to Scotland to pick up either a new set or a replacement part; I cannot remember exactly which. This was speedily carried out. All was now well.

The parade through Echt was a great success. It seemed that the whole town turned out to watch and applaud the pipe band. We were all treated with great friendliness; I've never yet met a Netherlander who was unpleasant. Many speak excellent English, putting most Brits to shame.

The Mayor gave a 'thank you' speech that day, during which he said how grateful the town was to the RAF during world war 2. Not one brick was damaged throughout the war. No person was killed or injured by our bombers as they roared over the town, seeking out enemy targets day and night. It was a genuinely emotional speech by a man who had been through those terrible years.

A day in my life that remains vidid. I wonder what's happened to all the bag-pipers?


Argent said...

Amazing! Sending a fighter plane to get bagpipe replacements! I bet they wouldn't let that happen nowadays. What an interesting memory you've found to share with us today. I've met a few dutch people and they are, as you say, nice folks (most of them are a bit mad, though).

The Bug said...

I would love to have heard them play - I like bagpipe music, to a point...

Land of shimp said...

Hehe, yeah I grew up hearing bagpipe music at every turn. I have a fondness for it, but think of it as a rather eccentric fondness.

What a lovely memory. I'm particularly struck by the kindness of the Dutch people in turning out in droves to hear the specially delivered pipes. It's wonderful that you have such vivid memories of the time. Thank you for sharing them. There is something very appealing about the thought of two different countries being so openly fond of each other, and accepting of each other.

Everyone I've encountered from the Netherlands speaks, and writes English very well.

In fact, I frequent a blog out of the Netherlands called Foute Huizen (Bad House -- it's a blog by two Dutch house stagers). I run everything through a translation program (the blog runners know that) but comment in English, and they dutifully put the comments up, in part because they are both very nice, but also because their readers are very likely to be able to read them anyway.

Very occasionally I'll get a really wacky translation, and they'll email with a further explanation of a particular post. I've never encountered people as nice about a language barrier, and yes, it always makes me blush with a sense of embarrassment.

Just saying, that lovely spirit of being accepting, patient, and tolerant still exists.

PhilipH said...

Ladies, I thank you for your comments.

The Duke of Roxburgh, just down the road in Kelso (our nearest town) holds an annual massed pipe band event in the grounds of Floors Castle. It's very near to the time for the 2009 show.

The colours, all the tartans, immaculate kilt-clothed bandsmen, swirling sounds and sights is very popular. We've had some similar events at Mellerstain but Floors Castle is a fixed event.

Here's one of the adverts for it:

Massed Pipe Band Day
Sunday 30th August
Join us for the 39th Massed Pipe Band Day when bands from all over the Scottish Borders play en masse tunes that have given courage and inspiration to Scots on battlefields throughout the world. As well as inspiring music, there is also a host of entertainment for all the family including highland dancing, carriage and pony rides . . .
Bands from all over the Scottish Borders play en masse in front of a magnificent backdrop. A host of entertainment for all the family.

lovelyprism said...

Oh how I wish I could be there for Massed Pipe Band Day! Sounds very entertaining. I loved this story Philip, you've led a very interesting life. We have "Highland Festivals" here to celebrate our Scottish heritage, if I get to go this year I'll tell you all about it. :-)

the walking man said...

Old Pipers may pass on but the notes squeezed from that bag ever ride the tides of time.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

I always appreciate stories from war times. We went to England when I was a child (1967) and we toured Europe. Everything we did and everywhere we went was focused on the war so we were taught an appreciation for our soldiers.

I LOVE bagpipes AND I'm a Scot descendant.