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Second World War veteran receives medal days before 98th birthday

Second World War veteran, who will celebrate his 98th birthday on Saturday 4 March, has recently been presented with the Dutch Liberation medal for his service in the Netherlands.

Dennis Stevens, who resides in Trafalgar Park Care Home in Nelson, travelled to Woody’s Lodge, Amelia Trust Farm in Barry to be presented with his medal where a presentation and speech that depicted his time during the war was given by Colonel Richard Piso, Military Attaché.

The Dutch Liberation medal is presented as a token of gratitude from the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to those men and women who contributed to the liberation of the Netherlands during WWII.

Dennis Stevens served in D Company 1/5th Battalion Welsh Regiment after signing up in 1943. After months of training and exercises, Mr Stevens landed at Gold Beach in Normandy in June of 1944.

As 1/5th Battalion in the 53rd Division, Mr Stevens was part of the battle of Falaise pocket, South of Caen, in August 1944 in what historians call: The divisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War.

From there, Dennis fought his way up in the North West Europe Campaign until reaching the Dutch borders. Here, he became involved in operation ‘PHEASANT’ which was designed to clear the Scheldt, a river but also a very large Delta area, which was the part of the Netherlands that allowed the port of Antwerp to be used by allies for supplies.

Operation ‘PHEASANT’ was broken down into two smaller sub-operations, codenamed ‘COLIN’ and ‘ALAN’. Operation ‘ALAN’ tasked the 53rd Division and the 7th Armoured Divisions to clear the city of ‘Den Bosch. Dennis’ battalion was then tasked on 22ndOctober 1944 to clear the northern part of the city and to capture the River Dieze Bridge; the only remaining bridge as the rest were blown by the Germans.

It was there, that Mr Stevens had to face the 712th Wehrmacht Infantry Division in the morning of October 24th. The bridge Dennis helped capture got blown off and he was then forced to surrender to the Germans.

On October 27th, Den Bosch was finally officially liberated.

In his medal citation, Colonel Richard Piso, Military Attaché said, “Although there were English, Scots and Irishmen within the ranks of the 53rd Division, The battle of Den Bosch was largely a Welsh one. For us Dutch, it was Operation Alan where the Welsh soldiers distinguished itself, there in the Liberation of ‘Den Bosch’.

“The reason we are here today is because of your contribution, dear Dennis, in the liberation of the Netherlands and for the moments you gave the Dutch hope, hope to be free again one day as happened on May 5th 1945 until this day forward!

“The people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will forever remain grateful and will never forget the brave men and women who took part in the liberation of the Netherlands.

“I salute you!”

A small gathering was organised on Friday 3 March at Mr Stevens’ care home, where he was presented with a birthday gift from Caerphilly Council representatives.

Cllr Teresa Heron, Caerphilly Council’s Armed Forces Community Covenant Champion commented, “It was a pleasure to meet Mr Stevens at Trafalgar Park Care Home to celebrate his 98th birthday.

“I’d also like to share how truly humbling it is to hear of Mr Stevens’ bravery during the Second World War and how his contribution led to the Liberation of the Netherlands.”