An Irish veteran of the second World War who fought at the Battle of Arnhem has been honoured by the Dutch government for his part of the Liberation of the Netherlands some 75 years ago this week.
Sam Kendrick (95), who lives at Kilmore in his native Wexford, was just 18-years-old when he parachuted into Arnhem in September 1944 with the British army's 1st Parachute Regiment as they sought to capture the bridge over the Rhine.
Dutch Ambassador to Ireland, Adriaan Palm presented the Medal of Remembrance to Mr Kendrick in a virtual ceremony attended by Mr Kendrick's friend and neighbour, Lt Col Ken Martin of the Royal British Legion Republic of Ireland.
"Sam Kendrick is one of those heroes, who as part of the Allied Forces, risked his life for our freedom in the Battle of Arnhem and elsewhere - he is also one of the very few who are still alive and can recount those days," said Mr Palm.
Mr Kendrick, who told his story to author Neil Richardson for his book Dark Times, Decent Men - Stories of Irishmen in World War II, left Wexford at the age of 14 to work on a farm in the UK before joining the Royal Navy at the age of 16.
Transferring to the army in 1943, he initially joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers but later transferred to the Parachute Regiment and took off from RAF Folkingham on the morning of September 17th, 1944 to take place in the attack on Arnhem.
Prisoner of war
Equipped with a flame thrower, Mr Kendrick landed with his comrades near the town of Oosterbeek where they encountered a German force comprising five tanks, 15 half tracks and enemy infantry and he was hit in the foot by shrapnel.
Later they were involved in a firefight around St Elizabeth’s Hospital as they sought to break through to British units at the Arnhem Bridge but were forced back to Oosterbeek where they overcome when the Germans sent in tanks.
“One of these tanks came up the road . . . I remember coming up and I had a Sten gun and I hadn’t fired it and this bloody tank came, and like an idiot, I fired the Sten gun at it,” he said, before recalling the kindness of the Dutch.
“There were all these Dutch people and they came with buckets of water to give us a drink. And what did the SS do? They shot the bloody buckets. We’d had nothing to drink and of course, the poor Dutch got scared then.”
Taken as a prisoner of war to Germany, Sam was liberated by American troops in April 1945 but almost every year since then he has returned to the Netherlands to remember his fallen comrades in Arnhem commemorations.
But now Mr Kendrick has been honoured here in Ireland with Mr Palm expressing his regret that he could not present the medal in person, something he hopes to do later in the year when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
“This medal presented on behalf of the Dutch people is a token of our gratitude to Sam and through Sam to all Irish citizens who fought for our freedom in those dark days and helped liberate the Netherlands.”