The freedom of Tenby is to be granted to members who served with the Belgian Forces during the Second World War, and were stationed in the Pembrokeshire seaside town.
The remembrance service and parade in Tenby later this month will revive memory of the warm welcome given in 1940 to members of the Belgian Armed Forces after the disastrous campaign to try and stem the Nazi Blitzkrieg in mainland Europe.
The Belgian Veterans Memorial committee have been working in close cooperation with both Tenby Town Council and Pembrokeshire County Council to plan the commemorative events taking place on events September 22 to 24.
It was proposed and agreed at an extraordinary meeting held by the Town Council on September 5, that the ‘Freedom of the Town’ is granted to officers, senior non-commissioned officers and junior ranked sailors, soldiers and airmen of the Belgian Forces in the UK (1940-1945) and their successor families, in grateful recognition of the gallant contribution and ultimate sacrifice for freedom and democracy they made, to ensure they are never forgotten.
Tenby’s Mayor, Cllr Dai Morgan said that that he hoped members agreed, as “if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
Cllr James Phillips seconded the proposal and it was unanimously agreed by fellow members.
At a meeting of the Town Council on the same day, the town clerk presented an update on the commemorative proceedings and expressed his gratitude to Cllr Phillips for getting on board and assisting in the organising. He hopes all members of council who can do so will attend the events planned.
The Belgian military headquarters was located in Tenby at the Atlantic Hotel, with troops being billeted in the town, surrounding villages and at Penally Camp.
Tenby has a very important place in the national history of the Kingdom of Belgium, with the re-formation of the Belgian Armed Forces taking place in the town in 1940.
An outline programme had been devised for the weekend with the main day being Sunday, September 24, and around 40 veterans and their families arriving on Friday with an introduction to the town.
On the Saturday, the visitors will travel to Caldey Island (weather permitting) to visit the Abbey. The Abbey’s Mother Abbey is in Belgium, and a number of Belgian monks based on Cadley joined the Belgian forces in Tenby during the war.
On return from Caldey, there will be a ceremony at Tenby Museum, when a bust of Lt. Gen Victor van Strydonck, the Belgian Forces Commanding officer during the war will be presented to be included in a special display being opened to commemorate the Belgian Forces stay in Tenby as part of the museum’s wider WW2 exhibition.
The main commemoration will take place on the Sunday, with service at St Mary’s Church at 10 am, to be followed by a parade to the War Memorial for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and a wreath laying ceremony.
The Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Ms Sara Edwards will be in attendance and the Belgian delegation will be headed up by Lt. Gen. Marc Thys, who was, until recently, the Belgian Vice Chief of Defence.
Lt. Gen Thys will be accompanied by the Belgian Defence Attache UK and senior ranking Belgian forces representing the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Their British Forces in Wales equivalents will also be in attendance along with the Chair, Leader and Chief Exec of PCC and the Chair and Chief Exec of PCNPA.
The Parade to the war memorial will take place at 11 am, with road closures for Tudor Square, High Street, White Lion Street and South Parade in place.
The parade will be led by a Belgian piper and Tenby Royal British Legion’s ownpiper Mr Graham Phillips.
The Mayor suggested a visit to the local schools to talk to children about the event. The Clerk felt this would be excellent as Col Le Hardy had received little feedback when he contacted them.
However, the office had received a recent visit from the school caterers suggesting they put on a ‘Belgian Menu’ meal for the Friday.
Cllr. Phillips offered to go to the schools with the Mayor and suggested that perhaps a representative from the Museum join them.
The Clerk agreed to contact the schools and the museum to see if a visit could be arranged.
Belgian flags and bunting had been supplied by the Belgian Government, and it was just a question of getting them our around the harbour, church, museum and war memorial by the weekend. The Community Engagement Officer said she would ask shopkeepers to dress their windows.
The Clerk referred members to the suggestion in the document that the Mayor host a small reception for veterans and their families, which would be something just for them.
Cllr Phillips proposed that the Town Council host a small reception on the Friday evening.
Cllr Lewis asked if there were any veterans who are alive who are unable to travel and suggested a package be provided to be brought home to them, which would be looked into.