Posted by: sommecourt | 06/09/2011

Return to Holland & Germany

I’ve had the honour to accompany the York Branch of the Normandy Veteran’s Association to Normandy several times now, and for 2011 the group decided to travel to Belgium, Holland and Germany to see the places they served in 1944 and 1945. There were nine veterans in the group this time; three could not make it at the last moment and sadly one, Fred Patrick, passed away a few weeks ago. On our three tour days we visited the ground around Arnhem, which several of them had liberated in 1945, and went down to the Island, north of Nijmegen. Veteran Ken Smith had fought here with 5th DCLI, 43rd (Wessex) Division, in the s0-called ‘Driel Dash’ in September 1944. We saw where his battalion linked up with the Poles and visited a 5th DCLI grave in Driel Churchyard, as well as their memorial in the village. Former Captain Cyril Howarth also served at Driel and had established an Observation Post for his 25-pounders in the church spire. We then moved on to the excellent Island Museum where the veterans were amazed at the collection. Next day we went down to the Belgium border to see where Cyril had been taken prisoner at Wuustwezel in October 1944. Here we were met by a local WW2 expert who showed us round, and later we met more locals at Merksplas, taking a visit out to the site where Sgt J W Harper got the Victoria Cross in September 1944.We ended the day at Grave Bridge, crossed by several of the veterans and defended by one of them with Bofors guns; Roy Robotham was able to show us where his guns were. On our last day we went into Germany to see the places where the British crossed the Rhine at Wesel and Rees in March 1945. Ken Cooke revisited where he crossed with the 52nd (Lowland) Division and Douglas Howe recalled the Bailey Bridges he crossed with the RASC. We then finished in the Reichswald Forest battlefield, a bitterly contested battlefield where we held our final service of remembrance.

Another excellent trip, and a special experience to be with the veterans and their families.

Ken Cooke at Arnhem

Veterans at Wuustvezel

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