At Buckingham Palace on August 19, 1945, there were delivered to Their Majesties a letter and a bunch of flowers – the simple gift of Netherlanders who had served in Britain during the war. The flowers, picked that morning from some of the fields of Holland, were brought to England by plane and, with the letter, were presented to Queen Elizabeth by the Netherlands Ambassador, His Excellency Jonkheer van Verduynen. Here is the letter:
None of us has yet had an opportunity to thank the men and women of Britain who received us in their midst, not as refugees but as guests, and who have put with us and our thousands of fellow-exiles year after year. It is to these, our patient and generous hosts, that we now crave to say, “Thank you and thank you again.”
To the Ministers of State and the Members of Parliament who threw beleaguered Britain's doors wide open to the highest and lowest of us, and thus enabled some of us to hoist again our country's flag and all of us to serve it. To the ministers of God, in whose churches many of us have found that which can raise even the most sorely tried above the fears and sorrows of exile. To the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who protected us. To the farmers who fed us, the landlords who housed us, the miners who warmed us, the drapers who clothed us, the shopkeepers who served us, the doctors who cured us. To the housewives who allowed us our place in the longest of queues, and to the publicans who allowed us our share in the shortest of stocks. To the Bobbies who told us the way, and the cabbies who helped us to get there. To the air-raid wardens with whom we wardened, and the fire-watchers with whom we fire-watched. To the telephone operators who never lost their patience at our most weird pronunciations.
Your Majesties, in leaving your people to go home, our hearts are so full that there is much else we should like to say. But rather than speak we would do something, something that tells more convincingly of our feelings than mere words can do. But what use is a commemoration plaque, or even such a modest monument or gift to charity as our mere handful could provide, to the housewives, the bus-conductors, or the farmers of Britain? None, indeed. And so, forced to admit our inability to accompany this letter with 44,000,000 presents, we thought of something else. We thought that if we wanted to give some small pleasure to all the people of Britain there was only one way to do it, and that was to send our gift to those two persons whose joys are shared by all Britons in like measure, as all Britons' joys are shared by them. That, then, is why we decided to send these few flowers, picked from our own recovered fields, to Your Majesties, asking that you will accept them not only as a token of our gratitude, but also as an earnest of the resolve which is engraved in all our hearts in these four words:
We shall not forget!