At 05:30 hours on a damp Saturday morning (7th September) twenty-two serving members and veterans of the Welsh Guards along with a number of Welsh Guards Association associate members and widows of some of the Guardsmen who liberated Hechtel-Eksel set off on the annual Welsh Guards Association Battlefield Tour.
This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the liberation by the Welsh Guards of the town of Hechtel-Eksel, this was a key and decisive action as the town lies on the axis of the Beeringen-Eindhoven road, which provides a direct corridor to the Northern Netherlands. The town was heavily defended by 1st Herman Goering Regiment and 10th Gramsel Regiment. During the five days that it took to secure the town, the townspeople hung out flags but when fresh German reinforcements entered the town they responded by taking reprisals and murdering 31 civilians and burning down over 80 houses.
Each year the town celebrates its liberation and remembers and pays respect to the those who lost their lives in the fighting and those executed by the Nazis.
This being the 75th Anniversary a very special day was arranged with a church service in the morning followed by acts of remembrance at the local cemetery where the murdered civilians are buried and at the memorial park dedicated to the allied soldiers who liberated their town. This was followed in the afternoon with a spectacular military tattoo featuring many excellent marching bands. As always, the warmth and generosity of the people of Hechtel is truly humbling and their gratitude and respect for the Regiment is palpable and unmistakable.
After the events at Hectel the tour continued on to Mons, Cambrai and Arras. We were very fortunate to have Alan Wood with us again this year as he is without doubt one of the best battlefield guides there is. His detailed research and attention to detail not only gave us an excellent appreciation of the strategic importance of the Welsh Guards Actions in both World War I and II but the level of detail that he has pulled out of the histories gave as a very intimate and insightful view of what it must he been like to serve in the Welsh Guards during both of these conflicts.
A full report on the Battlefield Tour will feature in the 2019 Regimental Magazine.