Today I have been with Mary paying homage to fallen Dutch Soldiers who were buried at Jeffcock Road Cemetery Wolverhampton. During the Second World War the Dutch Army were billeted at Wrottesley. The fallen were buried at Jeffcock road, and every year the Princess Irene Brigade return to Wolverhampton to pay homage to these brave men, who had been forced from the Netherlands by the Nazi’s.
Both Mary and I have attended this ceremony previously. Today we were soaked as waves of rain hammered down on the service driven by strong gusts of wind.
Our links here in Wolverhampton with the Princess Irene Brigade is a long lasting one, and hopefully it will continue for many more years. During World War II the Dutch Crown Jewels were flown for safekeeping from The Hague to the UK and were kept in the vaults of Wolverhampton Town Hall.
Back in 2005/2006 during the period I was Mayor – I had asked The City Council to confer a special council meeting. This was held in order to confer the Freedom of the City, with no-less than two thirds of councillors voting having to agree the proposal. The good news was all our City Councillors agreed the resolution.
Although being awarded the Freedom of the City does not carry any rights or responsibilities, it is a considerable honour that is only bestowed rarely. Most recently awarded Freemen were Olympic gold medallist, Denise Lewis and Sir Jack Hayward.
Local authorities may grant Freedom of the City and Freedom of Entry.
The former is given to “persons of distinction and any persons who have rendered eminent services to the City”. It is the most honourable distinction that a city can bestow and the recipients are thereafter referred to as Freemen.
The latter is granted to current serving uniformed organisations (usually, but not exclusively, the military) “which have rendered conspicuous service and which are associated with the City”. Freedom of Entry grants the organisation the “freedom to march through the streets of the City with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying”.
Current holders of Freedom of Entry to Wolverhampton are West Midlands Fire Service, the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering at RAF Cosford, the Staffordshire Regiment and the 210 Staffordshire Battery 104 Regiment Royal Artillery.
Today Councillor Ian Brookfield and Councillor Paula Brookfield, Wolverhampton’s current Mayor & Mayoress played a lead role in the service and were the most gracious hosts later in the Mayor’s Parlour. They are a striking couple who have burnished the hand of friendship between our City and the Princess Irene Brigade, and Dutch people throughout the city.