A small crowd gathered at St David’s Church of Ireland in Mulrankin on Wednesday afternoon. Among them were impeccably turned out veterans of the Royal British Legion, stood to attention at the entrance of the church with flags bearing the legion’s name. Dutch Ambassador to Ireland Adriaan Palm made his way around, exchanging pleasantries with the gathered military personnel.
Their reason for being there was to mark the passing of Ireland’s last living link to an infamous historical event – the Battle of Arnhem.
Having endured the full horrors of war, Sam Kendrick of Ballylibernagh, Bridgetown, lived to 96 years of age; a feat which at times, he could scarcely believe himself.
Sam lived a remarkable life. Previously, he sat down with us to discuss his memories of World War II, providing a fascinating personal insight into huge global events which shaped the world in their aftermath.
He recounted signing up for the military as a teenager; joining the parachute regiment; dropping in behind enemy lines in the Netherlands armed with a flamethrower; friends and comrades lost in battle; being captured by the fearsome Nazi SS; surviving one of their POW camps and seeing Jewish people being rounded into cattle wagons bound for one of the infamous concentration camp.
The Bridgetown native had seen sights that most of us can only imagine. And despite some of the horrors he witnessed and endured, he retained his sharp wit and sense of humour. Having lost so many comrades in battle, Sam was all too aware how precious life is.
In a distinguished military career, he also served in places like Cyprus and Palestine and in truth, one could easily have filled a book with the tales that the Wexford man had to tell.
It was fitting that Dutch Ambassador Adriaan Palm was present at Sam’s funeral service. Last year he presented Sam with a Medal of Remembrance and a Medal of the 75th airborne commemoration at a small but respectful ceremony at Enniscorthy Castle. It was a great honour for Sam. Ever since those difficult days as a teenager, the Dutch people always retained an important place in his heart and he always enjoyed travelling to the Netherlands for various commemorations.
Speaking at the time of the medal presentation, Mr Palm said with sincerity, “without you Sam, none of us would be here today” noting that Sam’s story was extremely important and one which needed to be passed on.
At his funeral service, Sam’s dear friend Lt Colonel Ken Martin recounted some of his friend’s military exploits and adventures, surviving the war and finding time to marry the love of his life, Mary.
Representatives of the British Legion and UKDA Col Sean Grant representing the British Ambassador HE Paul Johnson, stood to attention as Sam’s coffin was placed in the hearse and brought for burial at St Mary’s Cemetery in Kilmore.
Although a direct link with the past has now expired with Sam, his story and the sacrifice he and his comrades made on the battlefields of Europe will always be remembered. May he rest in peace.