Norfolk veterans to return to Dutch town they liberated 70 years ago

Anti-tank gun in Helmond, September 25, 1944. Bill Holden out of view crouching behind the gun.

Anti-tank gun in Helmond, September 25, 1944. Bill Holden out of view crouching behind the gun. - Credit: Archant

A group of Norfolk D-Day veterans is heading to a Dutch town later this month for a series of commemorations, 70 years after they liberated it from German forces.

Bill Holden

Bill Holden - Credit: Archant

Members of the 1st Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment D-Day Veterans Association will spend almost a week in Helmond to mark the anniversary of its liberation on September 25, 1944.

Only a handful of surviving members – all in their late 80s and early 90s – will make the journey to the town in the south of the Netherlands, but they will be warmly welcomed by local people.

Among them is Bill Holden, 91, from Norwich, who after landing on the Normandy Beaches on D-Day in 1944 pushed further into Europe with his unit to drive

German forces out of towns such as Helmond.

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'I remember vividly the moment we arrived in Helmond, it was like a ghost town,' recalled Mr Holden.

'There was absolutely nobody about and then one or two people started to come out and then more and more and more until the whole town seemed to be on the streets; there were hundreds of people greeting us.'

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Mr Holden recalled the kindness and gratitude shown by the people of Helmond on their liberation and over the last seven decades a strong bond has grown up between the former Second World War soldiers and the townsfolk.

There are five members of the veterans group on the trip along with family members and children of some comrades killed in action.

In June, Mr Holden joined veterans in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Mr Holden has been pivotal in the Royal Norfolk Regiment D-Day Veterans Association for decades; raising funds, tracking down comrades and organising visits to France.

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