Brunssum, The Netherlands
– 11 November, at 1100, the annual ceremony of remembrance was conducted at the Brunssum War Cemetery. A touching service was well attended by local VIPs and the General Public. Prayers were led by Reverend, Wing Commander Paul Mellor RAF, whilst Happy Hendrix sang WWII songs, made famous by Dame Vera Lynn.
Amongst others, wreaths were laid by:
Mayor Wilma Van der Rijt - Mayor Brunssum, on behalf of the people of Brunssum;
Lieutenant General Stuart Skeates – Deputy Commander JFC Brunssum, on behalf of the staff of JFC Brunssum;
Squadron Leader (Rtd) Rex Thompson – on behalf of the Royal Air Force Association Limburg;
Colonel Jan Stinissen – on behalf of Netherlands personnel at JFC Brunssum;
Lieutenant Colonel Chris Middleton – on behalf of Canadian personnel at JFC Brunssum;
Mrs Suzan Scholten & Mrs Anne-Mie Koopmans – on behalf of the Foundation War Cemetery Brunssum;
Angela Lust & Petra Palmen – on behalf of Veterans Brunssum;
Mrs Marjo Thijssen-Nas – on behalf of the Netherlands America Institute Limburg.
On completion of the remembrance ceremony attendees made their way to the Brikke Oave where a book about the War Cemetery was unveiled. The book was a personal project of Mr Ruud Scholten who worked tirelessly for many years as Chairman of the British War Cemetery Foundation, in Brunssum. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year after contracting COVID.
Following an explanation of the book by Shirley van Dishoeck-Sinfield, first copies were presented to those who had contributed. Mayor van der Rijt and Lieutenant General Skeates then made sincere and moving speeches to those assembled.
Note: Brunssum was liberated in September 1944 by US forces. Shortly afterwards the British 43rd (Wessex) Division made their headquarters in the town; they, in turn, were succeeded by the British 52nd (Lowland) Division. The first burials in the cemetery were made by an Advanced Dressing Station and a Casualty Clearing Station both situated at Merkelbeek, in November 1944, when the 43rd Division were engaged in clearing a triangle between the Rivers Roer and Maas. Later, other casualties were buried in the same place; these included fifty men who were killed while clearing mines on the German border at the beginning of January 1945. Operations in the Geilenkirchen sector account for most of the casualties buried here. There are over 300 1939-1945 burials in this cemetery; they are comprised entirely of soldiers of the British Army, of whom one remains unidentified.