Dutch navy memorial, Holyhead

Link to French translationDutch Navy memorial, Newry Beach

This memorial, created in 2014, commemorates the presence of a section of the Dutch Navy in Holyhead during the Second World War.

After the fall of France and the occupation of Holland by German troops in 1940, several vessels of the Dutch Navy avoided capture and sailed to the UK. Several were directed to serve in the Irish Sea and the first vessel to arrive at Holyhead, on 31 July 1940, was the liner Stuyvesant. This was to become an accommodation vessel and initially served as a temporary headquarters for the Netherlands Navy until a shore base could be set up.

In August 1940, the minelayer Medusa arrived at the port to become a guard vessel for the liner. It remained at Holyhead until January 1946 and was one of the last Dutch vessels to leave. In August 1941, the depot ship Oranje Nassau arrived to relieve the Stuyvesant.

The Dutch Navy requisitioned the Holyhead Breakwater railway’s engine shed and workshops, now a listed building.

Smaller vessels were attached to Holyhead to help protect shipping in the Irish Sea. They included fishing trawlers, motor torpedo boats, auxillary patrol boats, guard vessels and the famous lifeboat Zeemanshop, which had escaped from Holland carrying 46 Netherlanders, many of them Jews, to safety in the UK.

Alongside the Dutch sailors, a large number of Dutch Marines were attached to the port. In all, they numbered more than 100 men and they began to use the café in the old lifeboat station – now Holyhead Maritime Museum – as an unofficial mess, where they socialised and talked of home. They used the adjacent air-raid shelter for protection during air raids. Many of the Dutch sailors stayed behind after the war, marrying local girls and bringing up families.

The memorial at Newry Beach celebrates the close bond between the Dutch mariners and the townspeople. It overlooks the Outer Harbour, where the Dutch naval ships were stationed while they helped to protect the town and the shipping in the Irish Sea.

With thanks to Barry Hillier, of Holyhead Maritime Museum

Postcode: LL65 1YD     View Location Map

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