6 December marks 80 years since Ruperra Castle was gutted by fire during the second world war. To commemorate the event we are telling stories from our book, Ruperra Castle War and Flames 1939-46.
A battalion of Dutch soldiers, the 'Princess Irene Brigade' were stationed at Ruperra Castle between the 29 August and the 10 October 1940. Some of the Dutch soldiers described in this account had escaped from Holland before the Germans invaded and had landed at Milford Haven. Six or seven weeks later, they came to Ruperra.
At first the food was not good but at night there were bus services to take us to Cardiff to the cinema or a good restaurant. The surroundings were splendid, and we remained in Ruperra Castle, for two months. We couldn’t criticise our training even though shortage of weapons enforced the usage of fairground guns but with instructions from military police.
Sergeant Kleerkpoper found good opportunities to play the piano in the Banqueting Hall, and encouraged other musicians in the regiment to give good performances for the soldiers. They left Ruperra in September two days before Yom Kippur, 1940.
At the end of the war members of a concentration camp were listening for the firing outside and hoping it was the Princess Irene Brigade coming to rescue them.
The Royal Netherlands Princess Irene Brigade landed in Arromanches on 8 August 1944. Attached to the 6th British Airborne Division, the Brigade took part in Operation Paddle for the liberation of the Pays d’Auge area starting on 17 August. The Princess Irene Brigade was thus the first Allied unit to liberate Pont-Audemer on 26 August 1944.
After the Normandy campaign, the Irene Brigade took part in the liberation of Northern France and Belgium, before returning to liberate the south part of their native land in September 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden.
80 years on and Ruperra Castle is still a ruin at risk of collapse - help Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust save the Castle and surrounding buildings and gardens by campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit, and to ensure a better future for our precious local heritage. Help us secure a future for this important monument - become a member before the end of 2021 and we will send you a free copy of our book – Ruperra Castle War and Flames 1939-46. You can also buy the book separately for £6.