Midhurst soldier remembered at WW2 ceremony in The Netherlands

A soldier from Midhurst, who died 350 miles away from home in The Netherlands during the Second World War, has been remembered at the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Venray.

Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 4:50 pm
Emrys Nicholas, who was a cowman, pictured at Pitsham Farm before the Second World War started. The photo appeared on Emrys' grave in Venray during the anniversary celebration.

Emrys Nicholas, who was living with his widowed mother and siblings in Well Lane, near Midhurst, at the outbreak of World War Two, died just three days before the liberation on October 20, 1944.

That is according to the nephew he never met, John Nicholas, who uncovered further details about his uncle after meeting Gerald Kersten — a Venray resident — 20 years ago.

John, 71, said he was working in Tainan, Taipai in 2001, when he met a 'group of fellow Europeans in a hotel', including Gerald.

Emrys Nicholas, who died 350 miles away from home in The Netherlands during the Second World War, was one of the many soldiers remembered at the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Venray on Sunday. Photo: GeraldKersten

Having told him about his uncle Emrys, John heard how, as a child, Gerald and his schoolfriends had visited the cemetery and put flowers on the graves.

John, who lives in Midhurst, said: "We talked about my uncle Emrys, who is buried in a war grave outside Venray. We exchanged business cards and thought no more of each other.

"With the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Venray due to be celebrated on October 20 this year, the people of Venray were looking for anyone who had photos of the soldiers and airmen who were buried in the war cemetery that they still cared for.

"Gerald remembered his meeting with me and asked if I had a photo that could be placed on my uncle's grave. The only picture I had of Emrys as an adult is the one of him as a cowman on Pitsham Farm."

Emrys Nicholas, who died 350 miles away from home in The Netherlands during the Second World War, was one of the many soldiers remembered at the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Venray on Sunday. Photo: GeraldKersten

John said Emrys was the 'family bread-winner'.

"He could have avoided conscription by his protected occupation as a farmworker but volunteered and was enlisted into the London Rifles," John said.

"His war ended on October 17, 1944 just outside Venray in The Netherlands and he was buried in a small cemetery there."

John said he was 'absolutely elated' to find out his uncle's grave had been so well looked after, and said there had been a 'tremendous response' to the story on social media.

Emrys Nicholas, who died 350 miles away from home in The Netherlands during the Second World War, was one of the many soldiers remembered at the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Venray on Sunday. Photo: GeraldKersten

"The whole family were very pleased," he said.

"I took my parents to the cemetery and they were very moved by it. We are especially pleased with the way the Dutch have looked after them [the graves].

"It is nice to know that the cemetery is still lovingly cared for, and that the British are not just thought of as wanting to leave Europe."

Emrys Nicholas, who died 350 miles away from home in The Netherlands during the Second World War, was one of the many soldiers remembered at the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Venray on Sunday. Photo: GeraldKersten