On 13 December 2022, WWII veteran Henry ‘Harry’ Rawlins was presented with the 'Thank You Liberators' medal at a ceremony at the Netherlands Embassy.
Chelsea Pensioner, Harry Rawlins, 97, made the short journey from the Royal Hospital Chelsea to the Netherlands Embassy in South Kensington, where he was presented with the medal by Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.
Celebrating with him were a small group of his fellow Chelsea Pensioners from the Royal Hospital and volunteers representing the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans who work with the Dutch authorities to ensure that WWII veterans who participated in military campaigns in the Netherlands receive this important medal to recognise the part they played in the liberation of the Netherlands.
The certificate which was presented with the Liberators Thank You medal said: "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."
During WWII, Corporal Harry Rawlins served with the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and participated in Operation Market Garden between 17 and 25 September 1944. Harry’s unit was part of 8th Armoured Brigade, which advanced through Belgium and into the Netherlands.
Navy Captain Gerrit Nijenhuis, Defence and Naval Attaché of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom said: "We were honored and privileged to meet Harry and present him with the 'Thank You Liberators' medal. This medal is a sincere token of gratitude towards the veterans who served in the Netherlands during WWII and helped to liberate our country. Harry is a very modest, gentle and humble man and it is hard to imagine what he and his mates went through and I can only imagine the hardship and suffering those on the ground endured during the war.
"After four and half year’s occupation, Operation Market Garden most importantly gave the Dutch people hope and courage. Courage to resist the Nazis where possible and fight through the terrible hunger-winter of 1945 and hope to be free again one day. It is for this we are so grateful and the veterans deserve our greatest respect. Many of the allied soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and we must never forget them."
Dave Hemstead, London cab driver and volunteer for the Taxi Charity said: "It was an honour to represent the Taxi Charity at the embassy and witness Harry being presented with this important medal which I know he will wear with pride."
Harry’s service during WWII has also been recognised by other European countries. He received the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit, in 2015, and the Croix de Guerre with Palm from Belgium in 1945.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea
To find out more about the Royal Hospital Chelsea and the support it offers to older veterans or to donate, visit www.chelsea-pensioners.org.uk.
The 'Thank You Liberators' medal
Introduced in the year 2000, the ‘Thank You Liberators’ medal is not classified as an official Netherlands decoration, but it is a sincere token of gratitude towards the veterans who served in the Netherlands during WWII and helped to liberate the country.