400 mile commemorative cycle ride The Netherlands to Cardiff in 5 days
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Welsh soldiers liberating s’Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, 26 Dutch city employees plan to cycle an epic 400 mile journey from their hometown to Cardiff next week, stopping off at various locations including Pontypridd and Caerphilly enroute.
This will kick start a busy anniversary year and will culminate with a ceremony involving the handing over of a Davy Lamp containing a symbolic ‘Flame of Freedom’. The cyclists will take this back to s’Hertogenbosch with them where it will burn in the city’s Cathedral until the major commemorations in October.
The cyclists will set off on Tuesday 2nd April on their first leg to Rotterdam. After an overnight ferry to Hull the tour will continue over the following 4 days with overnight stops in Hathersage, Telford and Crickhowell. Each leg is approximately 90 miles, except the final journey from Crickhowell to Cardiff via Pontypridd which is an easy 50 miles. Gareth Pennell of Pontypridd Branch of the Royal Welsh Regimental Association has been instrumental in organising this event, and raising sufficient funds to bring the project to fruition. He explained that:
‘s-Hertogenbosch, which is also known as Den Bosch, was liberated by the 53rd (Welsh) Division in October 1944, after more than 4 years of German occupation. In 1995 the Pontypridd branch of The Royal Welsh Regimental Association established a link with the city. I was Chairman of the Branch at the time and was honoured to be involved in establishing the relationship. An annual dinner established in Pontypridd to commemorate the battle continues to this day. Officials from Den Bosch have attended every dinner since its inception. It’s quite remarkable that the citizens of Den Bosch have never forgotten the sacrifice made by the 146 British soldiers who were killed during the battle, and commemorate the event annually. Even today, they feel a great debt of gratitude to the Welsh soldiers, value highly the freedom given to them by the Division, and still refer to the old soldiers as ‘the liberators’. Sadly, as the years have passed the liberators have become fewer in numbers, and those that are left grow frail. The City of s’Hertogenbosch want to mark this moment in time, realising that such a significant date will not see great attendance by the liberators.
In 2005 our branch raised sufficient funding for a commemorative stone and this was laid adjacent to the 5th Welch Memorial on Pontypridd Common. This is known now as The Den Bosch Stone and it recognises the losses of the citizens of the city during the 1944 battle. An annual wreath laying ceremony at the memorial is attended by officials from Den Bosch. As part of this cycling event a ceremony involving the symbolic ‘Flame of Freedom’ will be held on Pontypridd Common on Saturday 6th April. The cyclists will be joined by 46 of their fellow countrymen for this emotive occasion. We wish the team every success with their cycle ride and hope the general public will show their support during their journey’.
Following the ceremony on Pontypridd Common on Saturday 6th April, the next stop for the 26 cyclists will be lunch at Caerphilly’s Visitor Centre (approx. 1.30pm) before heading off to Cardiff on the last leg of their journey. They plan to arrive at their destination at 3.3pm.