The British role in the liberation of the Netherlands came at a huge cost. The momentous Operation Market Garden alone, which consisted of a land and air assault to reach the bridge at Arnhem failed to make inroads in 1944, with 8,000 British troops killed, wounded or captured. The Dutch people had to endure a harsh winter at the hands of the Nazis before they were finally liberated on May 5 the following year.
Seventy years on, a convoy of over 96 vehicles carrying 120 veterans received a heroes’ welcome as it drove into Holland. The total party was 300 strong when carers, relatives, wives and other support staff including paramedics were taken into account.
Organiser Dick Goodwin said: “The first veterans who went back to Arnhem in 1946 hid their faces because of the devastation that had been caused to the place. The Dutch said, ‘why are you hiding your faces? You gave us hope and proved it was coming to an end’. Today it’s the same, they can’t thank our veterans enough and treat them like royalty everywhere they go. They bring the kids up to meet them and want to find out what they did in the war. It’s almost like rose petals at their feet.”
Mr Goodwin, a photographer with close links to the military, organised two previous veterans’ trips to Holland in 2012 and 2014 but the latest pilgrimage was on a much bigger scale. “There was the sight of the iconic London taxis stretching back for nearly a kilometre, and we were very grateful for the police escort which made our visit much easier.”
The veterans included many who took part in the liberation of Holland, the remainder having fought elsewhere in the conflict.
They attended the National Liberation Parade in the town of Wageningen, watched fly-pasts visited cemeteries and memorials to their missing comrades and attended Remembrance services at local town halls. Their last ceremony was to lay wreaths at sea as they sailed home.
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