Last weekend was the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of of the Battle of Arnhem. JOHN CHEETHAM was there with a delegation from Croydon
The important folk there last weekend were the veterans of that battle in 1944 – not the most glorious chapter in our military history but one in which, as so often, the bravery of troops on the ground shone out against the confused leadership of the top brass. As did the welcome and stoic resistance of the Dutch inhabitants of the city.
With each passing year, there are fewer of the veterans of 1944 making their way to meet their comrades in arms – but they are there and are applauded as the men and women who are our living link with history.
I have attended the commemoration weekend for the past decade.
In Airborne Square on Friday evening this year, I saw Croydon’s Mayor, Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, lay a wreath at the foot of the shattered pillar from the old Law Courts as a part of the formal proceedings drawn to a close by a contingent of young Dutch school children whose circle of flowers surrounded the official tributes. Very moving – then a march past and for the official delegates on to a bunfight in Arnhem’s civic offices. I went and had a meal with my Dutch hosts and friends, Wim and Meike, Frans and Ria. Thank you all for your warmth and hospitality.
The next afternoon it was the turn of the small town of Driel, on the outskirts of Arnhem where, in the presence of King Alexander of the Netherlands and President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland, we remembered the incredible bravery of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade under their charismatic leader General Stanislaw Sosabowski, whose son and grandson laid flowers in his memory whilst the King, President and other leaders together with young people laid wreaths.
Purley’s Colonel John Power with his delightful wife Anne escorted me as we laid flowers from Croydon’s Polish community. I confess to not doing “humble” very well or very often but I did then.
On Sunday morning, to the military cemetery at Oosterbeek for the official memorial service where again Dutch school children tended and lay flowers simultaneously at the graves of some 1,700 British and Allied forces who gave their lives at Arnhem, Driel, Ede and Oosterbeek in September 1944.
Now, where does all this fit in with the twin town / sister city relationship of Croydon and Arnhem? Not just a memorial to incredible bravery 70 years ago but a recognition of links between people in both communities – including Croydon’s John Ruskin College and various sporting and community groups.
The formal twinning relationship is the prerogative of town and city councils but I would suggest that the sister city relationship needs to be delivered by the wider community supported by their town halls, who each have a modest public budget for this purpose. With the recent change of leaderships in Arnhem and Croydon, this is possible but perhaps it’s up to you, dear reader to encourage this to happen.
Coming to Croydon
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Organ recital, St Michael’s church, Poplar Walk, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Croydon 10km road race, Oct 19
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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