Hon. Captain RNZN Freddy Declerck retired from the Royal Belgian Navy in 2004 after 35 years of service and continued to serve in the Belgian Reserve Forces until 2014. He began his career in 1969 as an NCO in anti-submarine warfare on board mine hunters and sweepers as well as a scientific research vessel and a supply ship. Freddy was attached for two years to the Dutch Navy serving on a cruiser, destroyers and frigates and in 1976 he trained in Halifax on Canadian sonar systems being equipped on Belgian Navy frigates. He was an instructor during the 1970s before transferring into Information Technology for Human Resource Management and becoming a commissioned Officer in 1989. In 2000, Freddy was seconded from the Belgian Navy to become co Information Technology for Human Resource Management would become his duties for 20 years and he was commissioned in 1989. In 2000 Freddy was seconded from the Belgian Navy to become the commander of social services for Defense for the provinces of West and East Flanders.
Upon his retirement in 2004, Freddy Declerck became deeply involved in Great War remembrance and commemoration. He became Chairman of the Passchendaele Society 1917 in 2004 and President of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, positions which he retained until 2015. In those positions, he was mainly responsible for commemoration events such as the annual November 11th Canadian remembrance service at Crest Farm in Passchendaele and the renewal of the Passchendaele museum. His work in this regard took him to Canada in 2013 to negotiate a joint agreement with the Canadian Department of Veteran’s Affairs for cooperation on remembrance and commemorative events during the Centenary of The Great War.
Freddy has been strong supporter of the 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project since its beginnings in 2007 and was instrumental in obtaining permission for the sites of the project’s very first memorials at St. Julien and Gravenstafel ridge in the Ypres salient area. He also conducts annual 11 November wreath laying ceremonies at all three 15th Battalion memorials in Belgium and regularly conducts on site research and photography in support of the Project.
His military service and commemorative activities have been recognized with numerous awards and acknowledgements:
Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015 – Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)
Ridder Leopoldsorde (Knight Order of Leopold)
Officier Kroonorde (Officer Order of the Crown)
Officier Orde van Leopold II (Officer Order of Leopold II)
Militair Kruis 2de Klasse (Military Cross 2nd Class)
Militair Ereteken 1ste Klasse (Military Medal 1st Class)