Ex-serviceman enlists help of MP Bill Esterson in campaign to ge

Jim Woodward and Bill Esterson

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson and a campaigner from Maghull have joined forces to make sure that British servicemen who died in Belgium during the Second World War are formally remembered.

Bill met with 86-year-old campaigner Jim Woodward who has spent years fighting to get the forgotten British heroes at Adegem Canadian War Cemetery recognised.

Retired engineer and photographer Jim who lived in Belgium, where he met his wife in the years after the war, campaigned to get the British servicemen mentioned at the annual liberation celebration and commemoration service.

So he launched a campaign, writing to British embassies, veterans, the Royal British Legion and even the Prime Minister.

In 2010, Jim was informed that the British Ambassador from the Brussels would start attending. He was also successful in getting the Union Flag added to the literature produced by local private museums detailing the exploits of the fallen heroes at the Adegem cemetery.

But now Jim has signed up Bill Esterson in his campaign to ensure that families of the fallen heroes are informed of their loved ones' final resting place and given details of the annual commemoration.

Jim explained to Bill how the cemetery had become named the Adegem Canadian War Cemetery.

Jim told Bill: "Field Marshall Montgomery was the overall Commander in that part of Europe after D Day. He was in command of the British, Canadian and Polish, each of whom had their own Generals and Command structure under him.

"He gave the task of clearing the coast to one branch of the Canadians while he advanced further up the coast with the other branch of the Canadian Army to take Antwerp then returning to join up and advance into Holland.

"Both the armies were Canadian with Polish and British on one part and with British and Canadians on the other. Canada by their laws could not send conscripted men outside Canada, only volunteers. These men could not be replaced as quickly when wounded or killed, so more and more British units were drafted in with the Canadians.

"British and Canadian historians agree that the Canadian armies had at that point a high proportion of British personnel and units. But the Belgians didn't know that and as the higher number of dead in Adegem are Canadian, 800, the next highest are British, 300, then Polish, 60, the War Graves Commission designated the cemetery as Canadian.

"The Canadian Remembrance Service later became the Canada-Poland Remembrance. No one took the part of the British. But what irked me and caused me to act was first of all our British Servicemen were never mentioned in official programmes and there were no British Ambassadors present to carry our flag.

"But the crowning hurt for me was that although they played the Canadian and the Polish national anthems, ours was never played. That has now changed. the other three nations have gracefully acknowledged their mistake and corrected it.

"Now there remains just one thing to do and that is to let the families of those killed and buried there, and in other parts of the Scheldt, know when and where their loved ones are being honoured and remembered."

Mayor of Maghull, Labour's Cllr Steve Kermode had written assurance from the British Ambassador to Belgium that there will be UK representation at the Adegem remembrance service and MP Bill Esterson is writing to the Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion to ensure that all the loved ones of the fallen British heroes are made aware of the service.

Bill praised Jim for campaigning so hard to honour the British Servicemen who had given their lives during the war.

Bill said: "Jim has done a fantastic job in making sure the role the British Servicemen played in fighting and laying down their lives for their country is remembered.

"After getting the British national anthem fittingly included during the service, he and the Mayor of Maghull have also had assurances from the British Ambassador to Belgium that there will be formal UK representation at the annual service.

"We now want to ensure that the families of the fallen 300 British Servicemen are made aware of the service so they can go along and attend.

"I have written to the Minister urging his department to ensure all the families are sent details and I have requested that the details are included in the Royal British Legion's magazine. I am certain families of the fallen would like to attend the annual commemoration events that are held at Adegem on the second Saturday and Sunday of September.

"I'd like to thank Jim for campaigning so hard on this matter. It is an issue that is close to Jim's heart and one which should be close to all our hearts. We cannot let any of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country ever be forgotten."
Jim Woodward and Bill Esterson

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