Normandy veterans return to Holland after 70 years

John Mellor has written about Ken Riley and many Normandy Veterans and was invited by the Normandy Veterans Association to visit Holland on the 70th anniversary of the Dutch liberation from Nazi rule.

Story: John Mellor/Photo: D. Bates

Holland had endured five years of brutal occupation including starvation during the winter of 1944-45. The war ended in Holland when two Nazi generals signed the surrender document in Wageningen on 5th May 1945.

The veterans are always received with extremely warm hospitality. 5th May is a Dutch national holiday marked by a silent march through Wageningen and the lighting at midnight of a ‘Freedom Flame’ with a lamp from Portsmouth. Torches lit from this flame are carried by young people to every town in the country. A procession of veterans from Canada, USA and Britain marched through streets lined with cheering crowds. One of the veterans who helped liberate Holland 70 years ago was Douglas Austin (pictured, right), now 92, of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade. Douglas arrived at Sword Beach in Normandy on board a tank landing ship in July 1944. This was the start of an arduous campaign from France, finishing at the Baltic Sea one year later. Douglas recalled,

“The brigade fought against the German army as we advanced through France and Belgium, past the 1st World War cemeteries, into Holland where we spent the cold winter months sleeping outdoors most nights. We had hoped to spend Christmas with Dutch families but had to move at short notice to stem a Nazi armoured advance.”

Travelling with these Normandy veterans made me realise how much gratitude and respect the Dutch people had for the men who had liberated the population after five years of ruthless occupation.

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The content on this page was added to the website by John Mellor on 2015-05-28 12:16:50.
The content of the page was last modified by John Mellor on 2015-05-28 12:21:05.

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