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Colwyn Bay Royal Marine buried 71 years after he was killed in Holland

Colwyn Bay Royal Marine buried 71 years after he was killed in Holland
9 June 2016
A 21-year-old Royal Marine was buried in Holland with full military honours – a fitting funeral denied him more than 70 years ago by war and circumstance.

For over six decades, the last resting place of Marine David Williams from Colwyn Bay in North Wales lay unmarked and forgotten by the banks of the River Maas.

But in 2010, the green beret’s remains were found – prompting a five-year investigation to discover his identity, by tracing his family, so he could finally be interred alongside comrades from the Corps in the village of Waspik, 50 miles south of Amsterdam.

On February 5 1945, 41 Commando planned a raid across the River Maas to snatch a prisoner of war from behind German lines.

Wearing combat boots, battle dress and leather jerkins, the three men struggled – Williams especially as he could not swim – and eventually drowned.

Bad weather forced the mission to be abandoned – but the collapsible canvas boat used was left behind on the far bank. 41’s leaders ordered the boat retrieved and Williams was sent across the river with comrades.

On the way back, the boat capsized, and three marines were swept down the cold waters of the Maas – here 650ft wide – by the strong current.

Wearing combat boots, battle dress and leather jerkins, the three men struggled – Williams especially as he could not swim – and eventually drowned.

The bodies of Mnes Charles Brandon and Kenneth Ratcliffe were subsequently washed up downstream and buried, while Williams’ corpse was eventually recovered from the water and laid to rest in a shallow grave by the river.

And there the 21-year-old’s body remained for 65 years, until work was conducted on the site – and the marine’s remains uncovered, plus his boots, gaiters and a small brown Bakelite Roman Catholic cross.

DNA testing was needed to identify the body – made trickier by the fact that Williams was given up for adoption shortly after birth.

Eventually, the marine’s half-sister was located in Colwyn Bay.

Now 72 and unaware she had a half-brother – their mother had never spoken of him – she was confirmed as a relative thanks to DNA testing earlier this year and attended today’s service.

Present-day Royal Marines acted as bearers of Mne Williams’ coffin, a Royal Marines bugler sounded The Last Post and Reveille, and a party from the Dutch marines fired volleys in salute of the fallen green beret.

According to his service record, David Williams was well thought of by his superiors who were impressed both by his character and his actions on the field of battle.

Having volunteered for service aged 17 in the autumn of 1940, he served in Sicily, Normandy and finally the Netherlands.

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