A SOLDIER who died at the age of 24 while fighting in the Second World War is being honoured with a honorary citizenship from Holland.

Thomas Eric Wakefield, known to all as Eric, was born in St Helens to Thomas and Edna Wakefield in 1918 and along with elder sister Ivy lived on Parr Stocks Road before the war.

Eric, from Parr Stocks Road, travelled across the Channel within a few days of the Normandy landings, taking part in Operation Market Garden in Arnhem.

St Helens Star:

Eric's grave

Later in November his regiment, the Royal Engineers, was ordered to advance in the direction of Geilenkirchen, Germany and to the River Our, with the aim to build bridges, maintain roads and clear landmines.

On November 10, the division came from the area south of Arnhem to Brunssum. Three days later on November 13, they were ordered to remove 1,400 American landmines from the front line so that a future attack would not be disrupted.

In the morning of November 14 1944, the mines were collected from the front line. However, while they were being unloaded elsewhere, one of the mines exploded, igniting the others, resulting in the deaths of 14 soldiers, including Eric.

Six others were injured.

His death at the age of 24, just weeks before his 25th birthday, devastated his family back home.

However years later his great nephew Darren Tarrant tracked down his great uncle’s grave.

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After getting in touch for information, Darren visited the site. He has been invited to attend a ceremony today (Thursday) where Eric, alongside the other 328 brave men who gave their lives to help liberate Holland 75 years ago, will be honoured with posthumous citizenship from the Netherlands.

Darren, 48, who lives in Nantwich, said: “We are very proud to have this honour given to Eric. Obviously we are very sad this happened to him but it is an honour to be invited to see this.

“This is a very special honour.

“My family and I are travelling across to Brunssum to show our respects to Eric and all the other men.

“The town of Brunssum look after the cemetery as if it was their loved ones buried there.

“The cemetery is a big part of their community and all the graves were and still are adopted by local people.

“My grandma Ivy never got to see her younger brother’s grave. She was 25 when he died and the family missed him very much, which is shown in this letter his mum wrote to him after his death.

“My grandma said that her mum always left a key under the front door mat all of her life because she did not believe that he had died.

“I am very happy we found Eric’s final resting place and feel truly overwhelmed to be taking part in the ceremony in his and those other men’s honour.”

The ceremony will take place at Brunssum, Holland today, Thursday, September 19 at 11am.

St Helens Star:

The letter (pictured above) from Edna to her son after his death, reads: “You left a Mam that always loved you and cherished you with care.

“But how much I never knew Eric, till I see your vacant chair.

“Your own Mam”