WWII Heroes Who Died Liberating The Netherlands
Published on 19 September 2019
British troops on route to Holland (Picture: PA).
A Dutch town is granting unique honorary citizenship to 328 British soldiers who died fighting to free the Netherlands during the Second World War.
Troops parachute from the sky in Operation Market Garden (Picture: PA).
The special honour is being given to the men buried in Brunssum, to mark the 75th anniversary of the town's liberation.
This comes as part of a series of memorial events held near Arnhem in the Netherlands to mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden in September 1944, which featured 35,000 British, American and Polish troops behind German lines in an effort to end the war before Christmas.
Family members of the fallen heroes travelled from across the world to attend the ceremony.
The inscription on the soldiers' medal of honour reads:
"Their lives. Our freedom"
One of the men buried at Brunssum is Rifleman Sidney Arthur Davies, who was 23 years old when he was killed in 1944.
Rifleman Davies was wounded fighting with the Scottish Rifles near Geilenkirchen in German, dying in possession of a letter that announced the birth of his son.
The very same son, John Davies, travelled from Australia to join the ceremony. His mother was given back the letter she had written.
He said: "It is very moving for us to know people remember and I know the Brunssum people will be coming to this cemetery for many, many years.
"War is a terrible thing. Look at what happened. Look at the sacrifices that were made."
The southern Dutch town, near the German border, now has a population of 28,000 and is home to a NATO base.
Honorary citizenship is Brunssum's highest honour, with only 15 citizens having received it in past decades.
Airborne troops engaging the enemy with 3-inch mortars during Operation Market Garden in Arnhem (Picture: PA).
Brunssum acting mayor Gerd Leers said the war cemetery had been "at the heart of the community" since the first burials.
He said: "Now, with the 75th anniversary of our liberation approaching, there was a widespread and heartfelt feeling that we should make a special gesture to express our deep gratitude to these men.
"The city council elected to make them honorary citizens, a distinction only rarely awarded and never before posthumously."
Over 1,500 British soldiers were killed during Operation Market Garden.