On D–Day 1944, the 2nd Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment landed at Normandy as part of the 56th Independent Infantry Brigade, where it formed the right flank of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division on Gold Beach. It remained attached to the 50th Division until 10 June, after which it was attached to the 7th Armoured Division until 12 June, then reverting to the 50th Division and came under command of the 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division in early August 1944. On 20th August the brigade was permanently attached to the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, known as “The Polar Bears”
Continuing to fight North West through Belgium and Netherlands and on route to its destination of Arnhem, the Division liberated the towns of Kalmthout, Poppel and on the 30th October 1944 Roosendaal.
Since then The Dutch Polar Bear Foundation has kept this memory going every year. What started as a school project, has now grown to an official foundation with three central focuses: remembrance, education and research. They aim to keep the stories of the ‘old bear’ alive by passing them on to the younger generations and recording them in documentaries, podcasts and short stories. They also have been involved in the creation of several monuments. They teach about the war in schools and are present at various commemorations in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. For an overview of their activities, you can visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thedutchpolarbears/
Next year is the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Roosendaal and the Dutch Polar Bear Foundation has made contact with our Regimental Association for potential participation in their celebrations.
I am therefore asking all members whether anyone has had previous dealings with this group, participated in any earlier celebrations, or any previous knowledge of either the group or the history of the Polar Bears, please get in contact with me soonest. I will also be sending this out on the Global email address list to maximise awareness. Thank you.