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Willemein Rieken (84)
As the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden begins tomorrow, one of the original 'flower girl''s of Arnhem is still remembering...
A heartwarming tale of dedication and rememberance has been revealed over a remarkable Dutch pensioner who still tends the grave of a fallen British Arnhem hero, 75 years after he perished in battle.
Every year, Willemien Rieken (84) still lays flowers at Oosterbeek War Cemetery in memory of Trooper William Edmond, who was shot by a German sniper in the early stages of Operation Market Garden in 1944.
Trp Edmond, of the elite 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron's final words, uttered to two comrades who came to his aid, were 'tell my wife I love her'.
Willemien was just nine years old when Oosterbeek became a bloody battleground in September 1944. The retired director's secretary, now aged 84, hid in a small cellar underneath her father's confectionary shop for five days while fierce fighting raged around their house and garden.
Twenty-five of her family, friends and neighbours packed into the confined space and cowered in fear in the deafening din of shooting and explosions.
After the war the grateful citizens of Arnhem arranged a poignant ceremony involving a nine year old Willimein and other school children from the town, to lay flowers at the graves of the British soldiers killed in the battle.
And the dedicated pensioner is now one of the last survivors to still undertake the task.