We would like to wish a very happy 104th birthday to Major Kenneth Mayhew, who achieved the highest honour possible from the Dutch Government for his heroism during World War Two. Major Mayhew was a former pupil here at Framlingham College, attending the school from 1936 to 1939, following which he was conscripted to fight in Northern Europe.
Major Kenneth began his war effort as an Officer of the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment in 1939 and went on to command a company landing in Normandy in 1944. He fought in the North West Europe Campaign, but sustained an injury while fighting in the Netherlands. However, he made a full recovery and resumed command of his company before getting injured again and returning to the UK. It was this heroism which saw him receive the honour of Knight of the Military William Order from the Dutch Government. He was even knighted by the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands in 1946.
Queen Wilhelmina said on 24 April 1946: “During combat to liberate occupied Dutch territory, Major Mayhew distinguished himself by committing excellent acts of bravery, leadership and loyalty. Moreover, he displayed an extraordinary sense of duty and great perseverance, and was in every way, through praiseworthy example, an inspiration to all in those glorious days.”
In 2019 and 2020, the anniversary of 75 years of freedom and the liberation of the Netherlands were celebrated. Major Mayhew and his wife Trish were able to travel and be part of the ceremonies in Arnhem and Venray in 2019. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, he and other veterans could not attend the ceremony in Wageningen in May 2020.
Major Kenneth is celebrated widely here in the UK, as well as in the Netherlands, having been an attendee at Buckingham Palace on several occasions and attended special memorial services in Normandy over the past 20 years.
The Embassy of the Netherlands in the United Kingdom said: “At present, the Netherlands has three other Knights of the Military William Order who are still on active duty. Major Mayhew is unquestionably the eldest and most famous Knight of them all.”
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