Heroes to reunite in Holland

By Richard Jones

SECOND WORLD WAR heroes from Swansea and West Wales will join their comrades from the 53rd Welsh Infantry Division in the Dutch city of 's-Hertogenbosch in October to celebrate the anniversary of the ferocious six-day battle they thought to liberate the city from Nazi occupation.
About 30 former members of the divison from South West Wales will be among the 500 troops and their 300 guests to return to the 1944 battlefield.
Last week, Mr. Luc van Gent and his wife Agnes were in Swansea and Llanelli to finalise arrangements for the visit.
Mr. van Gent has organised the thanksgiving reunion to coincide with the town's 800th. anniversary celebrations. The reunion's motto is "No 800 years existence without our liberators of 1944."
Mr. and Mrs. van Gent visited Major David Morgan at his Blackpill, Swansea, home. Forty-one years ago, the then Captain Morgan led a daring raid into the occupied town in the first assault of the battle.


The three of them talked about the liberation battle and what it meant to the people of 's-Hertogenbosch.
"I was 19 at the time and the Germans were always on the lookout for young men to work digging trenches or to work in Germany. They would seal off whole streets and arrest all the men in it," said Mr. van Gent.
"I let myself be arrested and dug trenches. But when we stopped for meals I would say I was going home, when the Germans were not looking I would slip some hand grenades under my coat and take them to the reststance headquarters. It was dangerous work because if they saw you, they would shoot you."
The liberation began with British raids on outlying villages and then the full battle for 's Hertogenbosch began. Two hundred civilians were killed, more than 800 wounded, every single building in the town was damaged by shelling, and five per cent of the town was totally destroyed as the battle raged between the 30.000 troops.
The battle came just one month after the abortive Allied attempt to capture Arnhem, which dashed the hopes of the occupied Dutch people.


"When the liberation started we felt a mixture of fear and enjoyment. Fear of losing your life and enjoyment at being liberated. After four years of Nazi terror, it is a great moment when you are freed. We had spent four years just waiting for the moment when you were killed by Germans," said Mr. van Gent.
The first attack on the Nazis was a daring raid which the troops mounted by crossing German lines along a railway track under cover of darkness. But when the 1st/5th Welsh Infantry company reached the bridge they were heading for, they found themselves hopelessly outnumbered.
"If anything we were too successful; we went straight through German lines. There were three platoons and two got lost. When we got to the bridge the Germans were just shooting down at us. A lot of people were killed," said Major Morgan.
Memories of the battle to lift the Nazi seige are obviously strong in Wales as well as in 's-Hertogenbosch. A total of 800 invited guests will be put up in the town for the, reunion between October 23 and 27 and hundreds more Welsh tourists are expected.
Among the special events will be a march of the liberators into the city along the old battle route, civic welcomes a fly-past, and commemorative services. But perhaps the main point of the reunion will be for the liberators and the victims of the Nazi occupation to join in a celebration of victory over the Third Reich.

South Wales Evening Post, Monday 17 June 1985