Speech Gerrit Staal introduction 1999

Welcome to this introduction of Airborne Beer, also on behalf of the designer Arie Visser and the brewer Aart van der Linden. It is nice to meet representatives of the Airborne Museum, the Lest we forget Foundation, the press and members of my family.

Airborne Beer, what is a private person trying to achieve in introducing this beer on the market?

Commemorations in general need themes and happenings to get attention of people to know what happened in the past and products can support this. In the past 1,5 years, I used to prepare this introduction, I got a lot of enthusiastic reactions. These stimulated me to continue. A lot of promoting messages about Airborne Beer were published in the newpapers. About the financial benefits, any bottle means one guilder for Lest we forget. I am glad this foundation is supporting the project and that representatives of them are present here. I would like to mention that 1.800 bottles have been sold, which means already 1.800 guilders for your foundation.

In my opinion Airborne Beer is a good supplement to Airborne wine, as mentioned by the director of the Museum, for its characteristics on taste. Wine has a sour taste and beer has a bitter taste. “Sour and bitter” is a good description of the history of the battle of Arnhem, not only for the soldiers but for the civilians as well.

The inhabitants of these surroundings had to leave their homes during the battle. Among them, the then Staal family, living in Heelsum, where the military operation began. This all happened when my father’s father remained in Germany as a convict. The other members of the family arrived finally in Friesland, a province in the north of the country in a small village, not far from Bolsward. Now – 55 years after that – Airborne Beer is brewed in that town, Bolsward.

The Airborne March has been the first acquaintance with the commemorations for me. I was five years old when I joined this world’s largest one-day-walking event. I have participated in it almost 30 times in it.

At a later stage I got also in touch with the landing-events and made contact with veterans. These contacts were very impressive for me. Please, let me read two letters I got from them. One veteran, who wrote to me, is from Mr. John Battley from Edlesborough, he is a veteran from the Royal Army Medical Corps, he landed by parachute on 17th September 1944 near to the vilage Heelsum. 50 years later, this man could not return to this place; he felt too emotional!!

In 1994 (at the 50th commemoration) he came here for the first time after the war. This commemoration was so crowded, so massive, which meant that he could not commemorate the battle and his lost friends. So he came back again in 1995. After these commemorations, in 1996, he wrote to me:
“I shall not be coming this year. The 50th commemoration in 1994 I found very confusing; there were so many people everywhere, so much going on. So I came back in 1995, and this was much more satisfactory. I was able to think clearly, remember all my old comrades who died, one by one, and say good-bye to them. I was able to come to terms with it all.”

And in another letter, written in the same year: “Incidentally, last year, with the help of my host I found the very field I landed on at 2:20 pm in that sunny Sunday afternoon, and talked to the farmer, whose father was there in 1944.

At any rate it was kind of you to write, and thank you for mentioning the article. He finished his letter by: “Arnhem, after so many years is a generator of much emotion. And I’ve been able to get in touch with two of my comrades. Yours sincerely, Remembrances John Battley”.

Mr. Verlinden (mayor, to whom Airborne Beer was presented), we do not know each other. I only read about you by reading the newspapers. Nevertheless we shortly met together last year [1998]. After the dropping we – Mr. Ron Etherington, veteran of the 2nd South Staphardshire Regiment (landed on 18th September 1944 by glider at Wolfheze) and his acquaintances, my brother and I were lunching at the Wolvenbosch restaurant. When you left the restaurant I said goodbye to you. You came back and asked the Mr. Etherington: “Are you one of the veterans?”. Etherington replied humorously: “They say, I am one of them!”.

I want to continue by presenting you the Airborne Beer.

Thanks for your attention.