Ron the liberator lays ghost to rest

RON WRIGHT first glimpsed 's-Hertogenbosch through the narrow slit of a battle-scarred Cromwell tank. It was a frightening vision of a city laid waste by war.
Whole streets had been reduced to rubble. Each ruined house had become a potential fortress, each corner a potential vantage point for snipers.
"We were all scared," recalled Ron. "I'd been through France and Belgium but this was the worst fighting I had seen. The Germans fought from street-to-street and house-to-house and the city was devastated."
Forty-one years on the nightmare of 's-Hertogenbosch gave way to scenes of celebration that Ron could hardly have imagined as a 19-year-old corporal in the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.
He had gone back for the first time to take part in the Dutch city's festival marking its liberation from the Germans in October, 1944, and its 800th birthday.
And for the 61-year-old Norwich veteran, who had lied about his age in order to join the Army and who had won the Military Medal for knocking out a machine gun post single-handed, it was a deeply moving experience.
"It was simply overwhelming," said Ron, who works as a security officer at Betabake and lives in Sewell Road. "We were so choked, absolutely choked."
Along with 400 former members of the 53rd (Welsh) Division, including one VC winner and two major generals, he marched through the city streets, thick with crowds of waving Dutch people - many of whom were seeing their liberators for the first time.
Ron explained: "When we came through in 1944 the people were all sheltering in their cellars - and we were too busy fighting the Germans. We hardly saw any civilians and when the city was captured we pushed straight on."
This time round Ron and his wartime comrades were feted whereever they went. "The Dutch people were marvellous," he said. "They went out of their way to bring the memories back and thank us.
"During the march you could see many of the people lining the street were in tears, and so were a lot of us."
For Ron the journey back to the battlefields of his youth has meant more than merely reliving old memories. He expalined: "It was as if I had been bottling everything up for all those years and it's taken the Dutch to draw out the cork.
It's made such a difference to me.

Eastern Evening News, thursday 31 October 1985