This year, France, Belgium and Holland are celebrating the seventieth anniversary of their liberation. After all the time that has passed, their joy and gratiiude is expressed not only by the elderly who suffered the oppression of occupation but also by each succeeding generation – they joy can be seen and felt in these countries.
I was part of the British forces advancing from France through Belgium into Holland. Near the town of Budel, there was torrential rain and I sought shelter in a farmer’s barn – much to the interest of the farmer’s children! I have kept in touch with the children since 1944 and have visited from time to time.
This September I was delighted to receive an invitation from the town of Budel to attend their Liberation Ceremonies as a guest of honour. These events were linked with the publication of a book entitled ‘Memories from the Past’, told by citizens of the area to the author Rene Vos, detailing the history of the occupation over the years 1940 – 44. I was asked to write the foreword for the book:
Citizens of the Cranendonck Community
To remember and to celebrate is not to glorify militarism but to show the united will of the people for a peaceful world.
It is important that events of the 1930s and 1940s are told to each generation so they can avoid the ‘mistakes’ made during that period: the ‘mistake’ of tolerating racism, the ‘mistake’ of ignoring the fascist states’ determination to expand their control over others, all of which led to world war.
It was the ordinary people of all lands who finally defeated that eveil; it is the ordinary people of all lands, armed with the knowledge of the past, that will safeguard the future.
The kindness, friendliness and hospitality expressed to me as a World War II representative was overwhelming. This is the main reason for this letter; to tell you of the great feeling of gratitude to the people of the UK and of their joy of liberation and freedom from fear and suppression.