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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Charles recalls Arnhem sacrifice
Three Arnhem veterans watch paratroops jump over Grinkel Heath
Three Arnhem veterans watch paratroops jump over Grinkel Heath
Prince Charles has praised the courage of the World War II soldiers who fought the battle of Arnhem in the Netherlands 60 years ago.

At a reception in the Dutch town of Oosterbeek, he called on today's youths not to forget the sacrifices of those who died to ensure liberation.

Earlier on Saturday, a group of British World War II veterans aged 79-85 staged a parachute jump over Arnhem.

They were followed by about 600 present-day paratroops.

He addressed an emotional gathering at the former Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek, once headquarters of the first British Airborne Division in 1944 and now the town's war museum.

The Prince said: "As we stand here this evening we can only imagine the ferocity of the fighting around this building and the surrounding area during the nine-day battle of Arnhem".

He then praised the courage and sacrifices made by the Dutch resistance and civilians, and of the allied troops.

"My father's and my grandfather's generations gave such service and suffered such unimaginable horrors in the course of two horrific world wars," he said.

Every time I open my eyes in the morning I remember
Ray Sheriff

"It is my generation that has reaped the rewards of their heroic actions and we must try to make sure that our children understand those values for which they died and for which our remaining veterans fought so hard to give us."

And indeed, for those who fought the battle today's parachute jump was a "doddle" by comparison - as veteran Harry Herbert, 80, a pilot with the 10th Battalion during the battle, put it.

"This grass was alight 60 years ago and we had a lot of people trying to shoot us down," said Mr Herbert, from Gillingham, Kent.

Out of the 10 former paratroops who staged a jump, three jumped solo from a height of about 3,500ft, while the others jumped in tandem with the Army Parachute Regiment's Red Devils Team.

Tom Hicks, of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, said of his tandem jump: "The thrill is that all our friends are here watching us. They are so welcoming when we come down it makes it all worthwhile.

Aerial view of the bridge at Arnhem
Arnhem was a daring attempt to shorten the war

Mr Hicks, formerly of the 1st Para Royal Engineers, said: "I'm only 85 so I've got a long way to go yet."

Solo jumper Tom Smithson, 80, from Sutton Coldfield said he landed in a tree, but just had scratches and grazes.

"It was very windy and I couldn't get back onto the dropping zone but it is wonderful down here," he said. All 10 of the veterans taking part in Saturday's jump were among the 16,500 paratroops and 3,500 troops in gliders who were dropped into Arnhem for the operation in 1944.

The British-led and ultimately failed effort to push through enemy lines was immortalised in A Bridge Too Far.

Field Marshal Montgomery's ill-fated Market Garden campaign was conceived to try to shorten the war by taking control of eight bridges along the German-Dutch border.

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

I think any serving soldier regards these great old gentlemen with veneration
General Sir Mike Jackson

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

General Sir Mike Jackson, the UK's chief of general staff, said after watching Saturday's jump that Arnhem's victory could be found in "the courage, the determination and the sheer unwillingness to concede" of those who took part.

"It might have brought the war to an end six months early, it could have saved an awful lot of lives," he said.

"I think any serving soldier regards these great old gentlemen with veneration - they did remarkable things."

He added that it was very humbling that the bonds between the veterans and the people of Arnhem had seen 100,000 people turn up to watch the event.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"The courage of these men will not be forgotten"



SEE ALSO:
The Battle of Arnhem
15 Sep 98  |  UK News


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