19 September 2019

Remarkable tribute from Dutch town bestowed on British soldiers

To mark the 75th anniversary of their liberation, the people of Brunssum today bestowed a unique honour upon the 328 British soldiers buried in their local Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery.

A ceremony at Brunssum War Cemetery

A special ceremony was held to bestow Honorary Citizenship on the war dead at CWGC Brunssum War Cemetery – the town’s highest municipal honour and the first time the award will be granted posthumously.

More than 100 relatives of the soldiers buried at Brunssum travelled from as far afield as Australia, Canada and the UK to be among the guests of honour at the event, together with CWGC Director General Mrs Victoria Wallace and British Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr Peter Wilson CMG.

This unique award is a sign of the deep gratitude the people of Brunssum have for the sacrifice the soldiers made 75 years ago and reflects the special place their graves still have at the heart of their community.

Crowds at Brunsumm War Ceremony

Victoria Wallace, Director-General of the CWGC said:

“It is the CWGC’s privilege to care for the final resting places of all 1.7 million Commonwealth casualties who fell in the two World Wars, all round the world. But the commitment of the people of Brunssum, and their long-term respect, and commitment to honouring the memory of these brave men who died in liberating the Netherlands, is a wonderful thing. Every community should take the war dead to their hearts in this way and foster perpetual links between our countries. I am delighted to be able to mark this special occasion with the people of Brunssum.

Acting mayor Gerd Leers said: “The Brunssum War Cemetery has been at the heart of our community, ever since the first burials were made, almost 75 years ago. It was one of the first Commonwealth war graves in the world, of which every grave was adopted by local citizens. Now, with the 75th anniversary of our liberation approaching, there was a widespread and heartfelt feeling that we should make a special gesture to express our deep gratitude to these men. The city council elected to make them honorary citizens, a distinction only rarely awarded and never before posthumously. The inscription on the medal of honour reads: ‘Their lives. Our freedom’. Through awarding this distinction, the people of Brunssum wish to stress that these 328 men are not forgotten by us – and never will be”

As part of the Second World War 75th anniversaries, the CWGC is sharing remarkable stories from its online audio archive - Voices of Liberation. The archive included first hand testimonies from Second World War veterans, who fought in key battles of the war. The CWGC is also inviting the public to share their memories and reflections of the Second World War as part of the ambitious project. To find out more visit: https://liberation.cwgc.org/

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