For the second time in a week, the Mierlo War Cemetery in the Netherlands has been attacked by vandals. Locals woke up to find swastikas, random letters, random English phrases.
Many of which do not make sense and a reference to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that was shot down killing two hundred and ninety eight people over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 by a Russian made Buk missile.
Almost every headstone was defaced along with the outside wall, on a Cross of Sacrifice monument which are found in all Commonwealth cemeteries with forty or more graves and inside an open air chapel. As the only political reference was to MH17 and the one swastika, it seems the vandalism was random with no particular reason.
The World War II Commonwealth cemetery in Mierlo, a town in the southern Netherlands in the municipality of Geldrop-Mierlo, North Brabant includes six hundred and sixty four graves of British soldiers and one Dutch soldier. Seven of the graves are unidentified.
According to warcemeteries.nl, it was founded in the spring of 1945 with most of the casualties coming from the fighting of September through November 1944.
Two important battles in the area were Operation Market Garden in September of 1944. The plan was a daylight parachute jump into Antwerp coordinated with an air attack to keep Allied control of the bridges at Wilhelmina Canal, Zon and Nijmegen, among others. The operation was a failure and cost over six thousand Allied lives according to historynet.com.
The Battle of the Scheldt Estuary was another decisive battle in which the Allies fared better. From October to November of 1944 the Allies fought for three weeks suffering thirteen thousand dead, wounded or missing.
The goal was for the Canadian 1st Army, including the British 1st Corps and Canadian 2nd Corps to liberate Belgian and Dutch ports to allow Allied ships to dock with supplies and to cut off the German supply line. By November 28, 1944 the Allies had occupied the port in Antwerp, Belgium.
The Dutch gifted the land to accommodate burials of the World War II soldiers who helped liberate the Dutch from Nazi German occupation. The grounds are neatly landscaped and taken care of giving visitors a sense of peace which was shattered by the vandals.
According to bbc.com, a local woman who, along with her parents, has been taking care of the cemetery tearfully exclaimed, “My heart is crying. Here are 17 and 18 year old boys buried, who liberated us.” The Dutch police have issued an appeal to the public asking that anyone who may know who was a party to the destruction to step up and identify them.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission had just completed clean up of the previous attack involving a painted swastika just days before and issued a statement saying, “it is distressing to see the damage on the headstones themselves, behind every one of those war graves is a human story of someone who gave their life while in service”.
September 17th is marked for a ceremony to honor the fallen from Operation Market Garden and HRH Prince Charles will be present at a commemoration of the 1944 Battle of Arnhem giving the Commonwealth War Graves Commission a sense of urgency in cleaning up the mess.
The damage done in the Mierlo War Cemetery is not the first report of random vandalization in European military cemeteries. In 2010, two drunken teenagers knocked over seventy two headstones of German soldiers from World War I in Champ-de-Manoeuvre cemetery in the Picardy region in France.
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In February of 2019 vandals painted swastikas and anti-Semitic verbiage on ninety graves in a Jewish cemetery in the village of Quatzenheim in eastern France and just before the anniversary of D-Day in 2019 the graves of British soldiers were vandalized in West Yorkshire, England.