Gallery: Trio of services mark 70 years since Operation Varsity airborne landings
- Credit: Dominic King
A series of services were held to mark 70 years since Operation Varsity, the largest airborne landing in the Second World War.
The operation saw 16,000 paratroopers and several thousand planes and gliders descend on the River Rhine to capture key crossings.
A short parade and service was held in Hamminkeln, Germany, to mark the anniversary and was attended by veterans, locals who recalled the operation as well as members of 2 Battalion the Parachute Regiment, based at Colchester Garrison.
One of the veterans Arnie Hutchinson, part of 7 Parachute Regiment, recalled his aircraft overshot the drop zone in trying to avoid the heavy enemy fire, and as a result he and his comrades then had to march and shoot to the intended drop zone.
He said: “It was grim, but some of us were lucky. I often think of friends who died as a young as 19 years old and here I am at 90.
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“It was touch and go as to whether you were gonna get an extra 70 years or not.”
Veterans also gathered at Marks Hall, Coggeshall, which was used as an airbase during the war and has a memorial. The service there included a flypast of two Apache helicopters based at Wattisham.
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Across the Atlantic members of 3 Battalion the Parachute Regiment, also based at Colchester’s Merville Barracks, marked the anniversary by carrying out a jump with their American counterparts at the start of an eight-week long training exercise at Fort Bragg.
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Shervington, 3 PARA’s Commanding Officer, said: “The world is an uncertain and menacing place and if we can create an allied force comparable to 70 years ago it offers our political leaders a strong tool to use.
“Across its history 3 PARA has done four combat jumps, of which three were in partnership with American airborne forces. The relationship we are building on this exercise is nothing new, we are simply dusting off the history books and writing a new chapter.”