Wrexham resident to pay tribute to Welsh soldiers during Dutch WWII liberation commemorations

Wrexham will be represented as a Dutch city liberated during the Second World War by Welsh forces formally commemorates its link with Wales one final time.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where 146 Welsh soldiers lost their lives.

Wrexham resident, Urcella Millward’s late husband, Michael was a member of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division who, after four days of brutal fighting, helped liberate the city from Nazi occupation on 27 October, 1944.

Since then the link between Wales and the city, known locally as Den Bosch, has endured and is marked annually.  Liberators, their partners and family members are invited to attend a three-day commemorative event in late October, allowing the city to express its gratitude and appreciation for the Welsh soldiers.

Now 93 years old, Mrs Millward has been attending the commemorations since the late 1980s, initially alongside her husband and latterly travelling with her son, Des; daughter, Freida and her husband, Roger.

Commencing on Friday 25 October, this year’s event consists of musical performances, concerts, parades and even a rugby match.   Memorial services will also take place in Den Bosch’s St John’s Cathedral and the Uden War Cemetery located just outside of the city where most of the 146 Welsh soldiers who died were laid to rest.

This year’s commemoration will be particularly poignant as organisers have decided it will be the last gathering of its kind.  With the number of surviving liberators dwindling, it has been the goodwill of people like Urcella, as well as second and third generations in the city and in Wales, that have kept the formal arrangements going for so long.

In spite of all the time that has passed, the names of the fallen soldiers have never been forgotten by the city.  To coincide with the 70th anniversary of its liberation in 2014, a major new road and railway bridge opened in Den Bosch named ‘The Royal Welsh’, which includes 146 bricks with the names of each soldier who died.  The City Hall also features a ‘Royal Welsh’ room where the 146 names are engraved in each of the window panes.

Despite the formal commemorations coming to an end, the city will never forget the sacrifice members the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division made 75 years ago.

The Millward family are all extremely proud of Urcella and Michael’s legacy and believe it’s important this high profile commemoration is remembered not just in Den Bosch, but also in Wrexham and throughout Wales.

Lesley Griffiths AM met with Urcella and her son, Des to discover more about their upcoming trip.

She said: “It was a pleasure to meet and speak with Urcella and to hear more about her late husband’s experiences in the Netherlands.  Den Bosch is the only major European city to commemorate its liberation in this manner and it is remarkable its citizens have never forgotten the sacrifices made by the Welsh soldiers in 1944.”

“Although this landmark commemoration is likely to be the final one of its kind, I believe the emotive link between Wales and ‘s-Hertogenbosch will last.   Future generations will always respect the soldiers’ dedication and bravery and never forget the sacrifices they made during World War II.”

“I wish Urcella and her family safe travels and hope they enjoy their time in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.”