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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 13:48 GMT
Veterans gather for air service
Veteran RAF glider pilots and airborne soldiers gathered in Shropshire to commemorate the biggest and most successful air assault in history.

Operation Varsity was the last major assault before the end of the Second World War.

A commemoration service was held at RAF Shawbury on Sunday as part of a series of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

RAF Chaplain-in-Chief, the Ven Ron Hesketh, led the service.

Replica glider

It was followed by a fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Dakota, a display by pipers and a military salute.

The ceremony took place in a hangar containing a replica Horsa glider and a restored Dakota plane. Both types of aircraft were used in the battle.

Operation Varsity focused on a 10-mile stretch of the River Rhine in Germany on 24 March 1945.

The purpose was to land 14,000 British and American servicemen on the east bank and suppress German artillery and small-arms fire that would otherwise have been directed at soldiers crossing the water.

The armada of transport carriers included 392 Horsa gliders and 14 Hamilcar gliders.

Many RAF aircrew were drafted in to man the aircraft and cover for the Army pilots, who normally manned the gliders, but were lost in action during Arnhem.

Most of the 3,500 Horsa gliders built in Britain between 1942 and 1945 were constructed in Birmingham.

Many of them were test flown at airfields across the West Midlands, including RAF Shawbury.

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06 Jun 04 |  Northern Ireland


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