A man from Llanbradach has been honoured as a freeman of the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
Gareth Pennell, 65, was awarded the title at a ceremony in the Netherlands on Saturday, October 26.
There were around 1,500 people in the audience, including first minister Mark Drakeford.
Mr Pennell, who runs Y Galeri in Caerphilly town centre with his wife, Jan, said it was a “huge surprise” to receive the honour.
For nearly 25 years, Mr Pennell has played a key role in maintaining the link between ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the Royal Welsh Regimental Association.
The city, referred to as ‘Den Bosch’ by locals, was occupied by the Nazis in WWII before it was liberated by Allied forces in October 1944.
The 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division played a key role in the liberation of the city, which now has a population of around 150,000.
Mr Pennell, who works part time for the Royal British Legion, said: “The city has always been grateful to Welsh soldiers for liberating them.
“They commemorate it every year and they won’t let the younger generation forget.
“There was a big celebration to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation.”
As part of his role with the Pontypridd branch of the Royal Welsh Regimental Association, Mr Pennell has visited ‘s-Hertogenbosch around “a dozen” times since his first visit to the city in 1996.
Mr Pennell was joined at the ceremony by his wife, his daughter-in-law Debra and his granddaughter, Emma.
His son, Martyn, was also at the ceremony, having cycled there from south Wales.
“It made it special for me. I felt quite humbled by it all,” said Mr Pennell.
He added: “I’ve had a huge response, it’s been lovely.
“I genuinely couldn’t say I thought I’d get anything like this. It’s a good feeling that my work has been recognised.
“The relationship with Den Bosch is in my heart now, so I will continue for as long as I can.”
Mr Pennell thanked Jan de Witt, the chief executive of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, for his contribution in maintaining the link.