Facing the sea on a bench overlooking the bay in a North Yorkshire town sits a giant steel sculpture.
It is of a man on a bench. One shoe lace is untied, his overcoat open to the elements, cap pulled slightly down over his forehead, one hand dangling in the air, arm draped across the top of the bench, the other gripping a walking stick.
This is Freddie Gilroy, the son of a Durham miner who worked as a brickie at the local colliery. Just an ordinary man from a poor background.
Then one day he went to war and his life changed forever.
On April 15th 1945 the British 11th Armoured Division entered and liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the horrors that lay within. Freddie Gilroy was one of those soldiers.
One month later Freddie ‘celebrated’ his 24th birthday, still within the camp.
When he was interviewed in the 1980s by a journalist he admitted that on every birthday since he had sat and cried.
Freddie Gilroy never married and died of cancer in November 2008.
The statue, ‘Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers’, is by sculptor Ray Lonsdale and is his memorial, “ not just about Freddie Gilroy but represents all the normal people that were pulled out of an ordinary life and forced into a very extraordinary and dangerous one during the World Wars.”
Words and photographs Copyright © 2014 by Antony J Waller