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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Arnhem veterans remember comrades
A veteran walks among the graves in the Netherlands
Survivors of the Battle of Arnhem have visited a Dutch cemetery to honour their fallen comrades.

The 1,754 allied soldiers buried at Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery died fighting to liberate the Netherlands from the Nazis.

Veterans of the World War II battle laid flowers and paid silent tribute to those who died in the crucial phase of Operation Market Garden 60-years-ago.

The operation was a failure, leading to more casualties than D-Day.

'Bridge Too Far'

On Thursday 500 former soldiers crossed the bridge they fought to capture.

The battle was the British 1st Airborne Division's assault on the massive road bridge which spanned the Lower Rhine at Arnhem.

The crossing was later renamed the John Frost Bridge after the lieutenant-colonel in charge of the British soldiers.

Major Tony Deane Drummond
It is a time when the Parachute Regiment and the airborne forces are thinking about it.
Major Tony Deane Drummond
It became known as the "Bridge Too Far" after Field Marshal Montgomery's ill-fated Market Garden campaign to try to shorten the Second World War.

The plan was to take control of eight bridges along the German-Dutch border.

British paratroopers were deliberately dropped eight miles from the bridges, but it was impossible for them to reach their target before the Germans were tipped off.

More than 16,500 paratroopers and 3,500 troops in gliders were dropped into Arnhem.

Nearly 6,000 from the 1st Airborne Division were captured, 1,174 killed. Almost 1,900 men escaped.

Major Tony Deane Drummond, from Stratford-upon-Avon, watched Thursday's march-past.

The 87-year-old was second in command of the division's Signals Regiment.

He said: "It is an emotional experience coming back. It is a time when the Parachute Regiment and the airborne forces are thinking about it."

Major Drummond was captured by German troops several days after he parachuted into the area on 17 September, 1944. He was held for several weeks until he escaped.

In years to come it will be a great thing for a man to say: 'I fought at Arnhem'
Field Marshal Montgomery

Some 30,000 American, British and Polish paratroopers were air-dropped into the Netherlands during the military campaign.

Their aim was to capture key bridges and canals in the Arnhem area.

Arnhem was the last and most crucial phase of Operation Market Garden.

Despite the losses, in a message to survivors Montgomery wrote: "There can be few episodes [in the annals of the British Army] more glorious than the epic of Arnhem, and those that follow after will find it hard to live up to the standards that you have set.

"In years to come it will be a great thing for a man to say: 'I fought at Arnhem'."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"There is an enormous sense of pride among the veterans gathered here"



SEE ALSO:
A jump back in time at Arnhem
20 Sep 99  |  Wales
The Battle of Arnhem
15 Sep 98  |  UK News


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