Honour for war veteran brings memories back

Fleetwood veteran Eddie Holt at the dedication of a memorial bench to those who served in the Dodecanese Campaign 70 years ago.
Fleetwood veteran Eddie Holt at the dedication of a memorial bench to those who served in the Dodecanese Campaign 70 years ago.

A Fleetwood War veteran who is one of the last surviving Prisoners of War, has been honoured at the country’s National Memorial Arboretum.

Eddie Holt has been included in the dedication of a memorial bench to those who served in the Dodecanese Campaign in 1943.

Now in his 91st year, Eddie, of Pharos Street, attended the special service to mark the 70th anniversary of the campaign and was one of only three surviving veterans in attendance.

Private Eddie served with the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, now the Duke of Lancaster Regiment, during the Second World War, namely during the Battle of Leros.

He spent 10 days on the small Greek island, five of them fighting under heavy attack, before German invasion took complete control and the troops were captured.

Said Eddie: “There’s not much recorded about the Battle of Leros. We arrived on the island on November 5, 1943, and for days we fought until we were exhausted and could fight no more.”

Eventually enemy troops took over the island forcing the British to surrender.

He said: “On the evening of the 15th we were ordered to lay down our arms and surrender and in dribs and drabs, we were apprehended and became Prisoners of War.”

Eddie explained how he was thrown into a cattle truck with 40 other prisoners for a two-week journey to a stone quarry on the German and Polish border where he was held until April 1945.

He added: “I would never want to go through that journey again, it was dreadful.”

When Eddie was eventually released at the end of the war he recalled sitting on the floor of a plane and seeing the White Cliffs of Dover.

He said: “Everyone just burst into tears. At times in captivity we thought we would never see that sight again.”

Eddie travelled to the Arboretum in Staffordshire with his son, Mark. He added: “It was a very moving day. It brought everything flooding back, all the memories.”