Eighty Years’ War soldier to be buried with military honours after 381 years

Schelte van Aysma's helmet. Photo: Abuwalda via Wikimedia Commons
Schelte van Aysma’s helmet. Photo: Abuwalda via Wikimedia Commons

A soldier from the Eighty Years’ War is to be reburied with full military honours nearly four centuries after he died in the Siege of Breda.

A chance discovery led local historian Andre Buwalda to the grave of Schelte van Aysma beneath the village church in Schettens. After the remains were identified, the ministry of defence announced it would hold a ceremonial reburial, with the former colonel transported to his grave on a gun carriage flanked by two trumpeters and four drummers.

Schelte van Aysma’s remains will be conveyed in a replica of his coffin made with iron melted down from the original. The procession will include 73-year-old Frans Lauta van Aysma, a direct descendant of the battlefield commander.

Despite rising to the rank of colonel during the war of liberation from Spain, the aristocratic Van Aysma had been almost entirely forgotten over the centuries since his death in 1637. The only visible memorial was his battle helmet that hung in the village church

Interest in his story was revived when Jeroen Punt, curator of the National Military Museum, saw a picture of the helmet online in 2015. He realised it was the only one of its type still in existence and decided to investigate further.

The discovery also prompted Andre Buwalda to locate the colonel’s gravestone beneath the church floor. The partially collapsed crypt below contained the remains of five bodies, four of which were identified through DNA analysis and genealogical research. They are thought to be Van Aysma, his wife, two of their sons-in-law and a granddaughter.

A spokesman for the defence ministry described the reburial ceremony, which takes place on Thursday, as a unique event. ‘Usually reburials are for victims of the Second World War,’ the spokesman told NOS. ‘The fact that this is someone from the Golden Age is unique. Moreover he was a colonel, whereas we more commonly see lower ranks from foot-soldier to lieutenant.’

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