Yesterday afternoon, the convoy of taxis took the veterans to a beautiful memorial service at Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, otherwise known as the Airborne Cemetery. It was established in 1945 and is home to 1759 WWII graves. Most of the men buried were servicemen killed in the Battle of Arnhem in 1944 or during the liberation of the city in 1945. I noticed that most were in their late teen’s or early 20’s. Many of the graves are unidentified.
Standing by the side of these graves with some of the men who fought in Arnhem and survived, now in their late 80’s and 90’s, was very moving. Around 5 or 6 men on the trip are from the Glider Pilot Regiment Association, so this service held a particular poignancy for them. Some lay wreaths in memory of their lost friends and colleagues during the service. Two Dutch children, aged 5 and 7, also laid flowers.
Local Dutch children, at the age of 8, are given a soldier’s grave to tend in the cemetery. During this time, they take a rubbing of the gravestone and find out all about this man who died in Arnhem, ensuring he is always remembered by new generations of Dutch children. They do this until they are 11, when they pass on their soldier’s grave to a younger child. It made me wonder whether this could or would ever happen in Britain.