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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Veterans mark Arnhem anniversary
Veterans marking the Battle of Arnhem at the Imperial War Museum
The Dutch ambassador paid tribute to those who fought at Arnhem
Around 100 Veterans have met in London to mark the upcoming 60th anniversary of the World War II Battle of Arnhem.

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

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

Among those attending was a veteran who escaped from Arnhem then hid in a cupboard in a Dutch house occupied by German troops for 13 days.

The Netherlands' ambassador, Count Jan d'Ansembourg, paid tribute to those who fought at Arnhem.

"The people of the Netherlands will never forget what you have done," he told the veterans.

Aerial view of the bridge at Arnhem
Allied troops had to abandon their positions near the bridge
Planned jointly with US forces the operation was launched on 17 September 1944.

Arnhem was the last and most crucial phase of Operation Market Garden, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's daring airborne and ground offensive designed to bring the war in Europe to a speedy conclusion.

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

The British paratroopers were deliberately dropped 8 miles from the bridges, but it was impossible for them to reach their target before the Germans were tipped off about the attack.

In total more than 16,500 paratroopers and 3,500 troops in gliders were dropped for the whole operation.

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

Overwhelming odds

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'."

Among those attending the reunion was Major-General Anthony Deane-Drummond, President of the Arnhem 1944 Veterans' Club, who was second in command of 1st Airborne Divisional Signals and who made a remarkable escape from Arnhem.

He hid 13 days with hardly anything to eat or drink in a cupboard in a Dutch house occupied by German troops.

Also in attendance was Watership Down author Richard Adams, who served as a lieutenant with 250 Light Company, Royal Army Service Corps, 1st Airborne Division.

James Sims, author of Arnhem Spearhead, who with some 600 fellow members of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, held the northern end of the Arnhem bridge for three days and four nights against overwhelming odds was also at the museum.

Stan Langdon, a bombardier in the Royal Artillery serving with the 43rd Wessex Division, and his Dutch-born wife - whom he met when she nursed him in hospital after he was wounded - and a number of civilians from Arnhem who witnessed the arrival of the paratroopers in September 1944 was there.

Other guests included the chief of general staff General Sir Mike Jackson, and actors, including Edward Fox, who starred in Richard Attenborough's 1977 film A Bridge Too Far.


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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