400 mile cycle for Dutch workers to honour soldiers

Four day trip from Pontypridd in tribute to soldiers who liberated their city in World War 2

by Kevin Emery   October 12, 2009  

s'Hertogenbosch.jpg

Twenty-five Dutch council employees from s'Hertogenbosch will pedal 400 miles from Pontypridd in South Wales back to the Netherlands to pay tribute to the soldiers who liberated their city in World War II. The cyclists will take a symbolic "liberty fire" flame back with them to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation.

The cyclists will be welcomed with a civic reception followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the s'Hertogenbosch stone on Pontypridd Common. After staying overnight at Cardinal Newman Catholic Comprehensive School, Rhydyfelin, they will then set off on the first leg of their journey on Sunday, when they cycle to Cheltenham.

On Monday they pedal to Stevenage and on Tuesday they join their ferry at Harwich, Essex, for an overnight crossing to the Hook of Holland. The final stage of the 400-mile journey will see the cyclists take the flame to the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Uden, where 106 casualties of the battle for the city are buried. The whole trip is expected to take four days.

Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, The Welch Regiment, who were based in Pontypridd, were the first to make it into s'Hertogenbosch in October 1944 as part of the 53rd (Welsh) Division.

Links between Pontypridd and the Dutch city were established 14 years ago by The Royal Welsh Regimental Association Pontypridd (s'Hertogenbosch) branch and since then officials and members of the public from both towns have been on exchange visits to remember those who fought.

But the 65th anniversary could be one of the last opportunities to commemorate the liberation while the surviving soldiers are alive due to those who are left mostly being in their 80s. Ten years ago, 300 were at the commemoration ceremony in s'Hertogenbosch, but now there are only around 40 survivors.