Bernard Beekmans, our local hero in World War 2

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Bernard-Beekmans

Soldier Bernard Beekmans is the only resident of Best to ever receive a Military Order of Willemsorde. And that is really something we should be proud and never forget. Therefore, Harrie van Vroenhoven, chairman of The Best Heritage Association “Dye van Best” decided to dig up all details of this story.

Bernardus Beekmans was summoned when the Dutch army was mobilized in 1939. He was part of a battalion that took positions along the Meuse to prevent the Germans from crossing that river. Bernard was assigned to casemate S1 and literally stuck to his guns while all others were fleeing.

Beekmans succeeded single handedly in thwarting many attempts by the Germans but eventually was attacked and killed from behind. For his heroic behavior he was posthumously knighted in 1946 in the Military Willemsorde.

“Exactly the same award Marco Kroon received some time ago, which, at that time, was all over National News. And we had an exact same hero like that over here in Best ,” claims Harrie. “There’s a street named after him, but most people do not know the story behind it,. It is really important we keep those memories vivid because, as times go by, fewer and fewer people will be able to tell live stories from this war. ”

Best was liberated almost 75 years ago and next year there will be a special celebration. Harrie thinks something special must be organised for that occasion. “I am currently workig on a biking track through Best leading us past all second world war memorials. There a quite of lot of those to be found. For instance the local fire station. It is named after Paul Schouten, who died during firefighting when this old explosive grenade from the Second World War exploded.

Harrie feels it would really be nice when that biking track would become part of history lessons at Best’s schools. He even suggests all schools should adopt one of the memorials and keep it spic and span. That practical approach appeals far more to the kids than just listening to a teacher who tells about the second World War.

He is passionate about being the chairman of the Heritage Association. “I don’t just want to look after the store. I want us to reinvent ourselves all the time”.

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