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Service held to mark 74th anniversary of World War Two operation

PUBLISHED: 14:09 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:16 08 April 2019

Glider Pilot Regiment Society (GPRS) chairman Jane Barkway-Harney, Second World War veteran glider pilot George Elliott and, Officer Commanding Lt.Col. Richard Ball of the Army Air Corps Picture: GPRS

Glider Pilot Regiment Society (GPRS) chairman Jane Barkway-Harney, Second World War veteran glider pilot George Elliott and, Officer Commanding Lt.Col. Richard Ball of the Army Air Corps Picture: GPRS

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A service to mark the 74th anniversary of a famous Second World War operation has been held in Essex.

The service was held on Sunday, March 24 at Marks Hall near Coggeshall in Essex Picture: GPRSThe service was held on Sunday, March 24 at Marks Hall near Coggeshall in Essex Picture: GPRS

Operation Varsity took place on March 24, 1945 and was a vital part of what became known as the Rhine Crossings towards the end of the Second World War.

The Glider Pilot Regiment and other airborne units played a key role in the operation.

While ground forces crossed the river, British gliders and paratroopers landed further east in the middle of German occupied territory.

Those who landed by glider were tasked with capturing the strategic town of Hamminkeln and bridges over the River Issel.

The mission to breach the Rhine was the largest successful airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day in one location.

A service of remembrance was held on Sunday, March 24 at Marks Hall estate, near Coggeshall, which was a base for a squadron of pilots who left from RAF Earls Colne airfield for the operation.

The annual memorial service drew large crowds and included representation from the Glider Pilot Regiment Society, the Parachute Regiment, the Army Air Corps and the local community.

The guest of honour was Second World War glider pilot George Elliott, who had been drafted into the army’s Glider Pilot Regiment to make up the numbers for the operation.

Now in his late 90s, he is one of the last glider pilots left who took part in this operation, and has vowed to return next year for the 75th anniversary.

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