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Croydon veterans mark 70th anniversary of Arnhem landings

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PARACHUTE regiment veterans joined serving soldiers and Croydon's mayor as part of the borough's contingent at a service in Arnhem, in Holland, at the weekend.

The service marked the 70th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated airborne landings in 1944 which were made famous in the film A Bridge Too Far.

Only 2,000 of the 10,000 troops dropped as part of the operation came out.

And 1,700 of those who lost their lives in the landings in and around Arnhem, now Croydon's twin town, are buried in a cemetery at Oosterbeek, just outside the town.

The centrepiece of the annual commemoration is the service at the war cemetery.

The event is also marked by hundreds of paratroopers being dropped over the site of the conflict.

Col John Power, president of the Croydon branch of the Parachute Regimental Association (PRA), said: "One of the most poignant moments is when children from Arnhem lay flowers on each one of the 1,700 graves, whispering the name on the headstone as they do so.

"It is very moving."

This year, about 20 members of the Croydon PRA - Second World War veterans and serving personnel - attended the commemoration.

Col Power said: "Unfortunately, our two remaining Arnhem veterans could not attend this year, but the 70th anniversary was particularly important because, in all honesty, as the Arnhem veterans get older, this is going to be the last really big event."

Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, mayor of Croydon, said: "It was a real privilege to be representing Croydon on this historic anniversary of one of the most well-known battles of the Second World War.

"Croydon's ties with Arnhem go back to 1946 and we have been formally twinned since 1985.

"Both towns were heavily bombed during the war and there was a common bond which formed over the years of recovery and rebuilding. It's sad to remember those who died, but events like this let us look forward to a better future."

Operation Market Garden was a plan to capture three major bridges in Holland, three months after D-Day, punch into Germany and hopefully put an end to the war.

It failed for a number of reasons, including troops being dropped too far away from the bridges, a lack of aircraft and strong German resistance backed by the presence of Panzer tank division.

Croydon veterans mark 70th anniversary of Arnhem landings


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