Hundreds of people turned out as Holyhead unveiled a memorial to celebrate its wartime links with the sailors of the Netherlands.
The ceremony, complete with a flypast by an RAF jet and with a Dutch minehunter moored in Holyhead harbour, was attended by members of the Royal Netherlands Navy and Dutch Embassy officials as well as the Royal Navy and RAF and local officials.
Also there were some of the sons and daughters of the 116 marriages of Dutch sailors and Holyhead girls as romance blossomed during the years from 1940 and 1946 when the mariners of the Netherlands were stationed in the port.
They were there after escaping the Nazi German blitzkrieg which rolled across Europe in 1940 and they served on minesweeping duties and convoy escorts to keep the vital sea lanes open into Liverpool.
The magnificent memorial, including a Royal Netherlands Navy insignia and built of stone selected from the nearby Jersey Quarry, bronze, oak and concrete, stands above Newry Beach and close to the award-winning Holyhead Maritime Museum.
The Museum had been at the heart of the project to erect a memorial and it was a special weekend for Museum volunteers Graham Van Weert, whose father, Mathieu, married local girl Megan Parry and settled in the town.
Retired firefighter Graham said: “It’s absolutely brilliant and the turnout for the unveiling has been tremendous, there are families here from as far afield as Canada, from the UK and from Holland, including my father’s family from Maastricht.
“It’s great that this link has carried on and now its permanent and people can see it and enjoy it and sit there and look out over the harbour for years to come.
“The Dutch Navy have brought a guard of honour which is a lovely touch and it’s good that all the organisations which have made this possible are here today.”
The day’s proceedings were led by local MP Albert Owen who said: “In the dark days of World War Two Holyhead really did live up to it’s reputation as a safe landing.
“Our Dutch friends have added colour to our culture and diversity to our community and I remember that in school the register was peppered with Dutch names and Dutch families have become an integral part of our proud seafaring community.
“That’s why it’s so important and why a dedicated project team worked to provide this permanent memorial, made with Pre-Cambrian rock, the oldest rock in Europe, which unites Europe and has united the peoples of Wales and the Netherlands.”
The unveiling ceremony was carried out by the Mayor of Holyhead, Councillor J V Owen, and Captain Jan Van Zanten of the Royal Netherlands Navy.
Captain Van Zanten said: “This memorial celebrates the enduring relationship between Holyhead and the Netherlands, and also with the Royal Navy and for me as a Dutch sailor that is unique and very special.
“Dutch sailors were warmly welcomed here and many married locally and made it their home and Holyhead has been special to us eve since and we’re very proud of this and proud to be here at this ceremony to honour the memorial.”
The Mayor added: “It has been a pleasure to see a Dutch ship sail into Holyhead . The Dutch have made a tremendous contribution to the town.”
The ceremony included the anthems of the UK, Wales and Holland and also a performance by the choir of Ysgol Morswyn Primary School, Holyhead, and a blessing of the memorial by the Rev Dr Kevin Ellis, Vicar of Holy Island.
Among those to have made the journey was Maureen Jeffrey, daughter of Cornelus Kortekaas, from Amsterdam, and Holyhead girl Megan Roberts, and herself married to George Jeffrey, who was brought up in Rhosygaer Road, Holyhead.
The couple, who live in Littlehampton, in Sussex, met when Maureen was visiting relatives in Holyhead, and she said: “My dad had been in the West Indies when the war started and he came back and served here and married my mum during the war and we went back to Holland.
“This is a wonderful day and I feel I am here on behalf of my dad and everyone else who came here from Holland.”
The memorial event was followed by refreshments in the nearby Holyhead Sea Cadets Headquarters when Commodore Keith Beckett, originally from Anglesey, accepted an Order of Nassau medal on behalf of the Holyhead Maritime Museum.
The medal had been awarded to Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Charles Guy Roworth, of the Royal Navy, in 1947 and was presented to Commodore Beckett by Captain Harrie Welmer, Defence and Naval Attache at the Netherlands Embassy.
Over the weekend a Dutch Families Day was held on Saturday in the Town Hall and on Sunday a special service of commemoration took place at St Cybi’s Church, Holyhead.