Charles to watch parachutists in Netherlands mark Second World War operation
The Prince of Wales will watch European and American parachutists jump into the skies above the Netherlands on Saturday as part of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.
Charles, the Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, accompanied by Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, will meet veterans of one of the Second World War’s most significant and ill-fated operations.
In September 1944, more than 35,000 British, American and Polish airborne troops dropped behind enemy lines to capture key bridges over the River Rhine and open up an attack route into Germany.
The subsequent fighting, immortalised in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far, saw more than 1,500 soldiers killed, nearly 6,500 captured and five Victoria Crosses awarded.
Three jump waves involving 1,500 parachutists from the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Germany, France, Poland and Belgium will drop on to Ginkel Heath, one of the original drop zones 75 years ago.
One joint-nation jump forms the culmination of Exercise Falcons Leap, hosted by the Royal Netherlands Army, to train Nato airborne forces to launch parachute operations together.
Many paratroopers will be jumping using another country’s equipment and aircraft to earn that country’s parachute wings.
The Red Devils Army parachute display team will also be jumping into the Ginkel Heath drop zone to mark the anniversary.
Also due to jump as part of the plans for Saturday is war veteran Sandy Cortmann, 97, from Aberdeen, who was given the all-clear to take part in a tandem jump on Friday.
The parachute jumps are part of a host of commemorative events in and around the Dutch city of Arnhem this week, the site of bloody fighting during Operation Market Garden.
On Friday night, thousands of citizens gathered in the city centre to watch a memorial service and music, sound and light show remembering the Battle of Arnhem.
Minister for defence people and veterans Johnny Mercer, who will attend the commemorations in the Netherlands, said he was honoured to meet veterans who showed “such immense courage and determination on this ambitious operation”.
“We must ensure that the legacy of that special generation lives on by continuing to share their stories and remembering the sacrifices they made,” he added.
After watching the parachute jumps on Saturday, the Prince of Wales will visit Eusebius Church in Arnhem to observe the completion of renovation works and view an art exhibition created by local schoolchildren.
Charles will also travel to Driel to attend a service for the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade.
In 1944, 1,000 Polish paratroopers dropped in Driel fought through heavy fire from German forces to support the withdrawal of British soldiers.
The prince’s final visit on Saturday will be to the Airborne Memorial near the Airborne Museum Hartenstein to meet personnel from the Army Air Corps and to mark the contributions of the Glider Pilots in the Battle of Arnhem.
During the battle, 600 gliders were used to transport fully armed airborne soldiers and supplies to the front lines.
A replica of a Horsa glider used in those operations, built from some original parts by members of the Assault Glider Trust, has been temporarily put on display outside Airborne Museum Hartenstein.