WWII

Mass Parachute Drop Marks Battle Of Arnhem Anniversary

British troops landed where they had done 75 years before for Operation Market Garden.

More than 1,500 personnel from eight allied nations have parachuted into Arnhem to mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.

British, Dutch, French, Belgian, German, Italian, Polish and US paratroopers landed at Ginkel Heath drop zone - which was used during the operation.

Jumping with the British Army’s Red Devils display team was Sandy Cortmann, a 97-year-old Parachute Regiment veteran who served during the Battle of Arnhem.

Veteran Sandy Cortmann Parachute Arnhem
Veteran Sandy Cortmann returned to Arnhem the same way that he arrived 75 years ago - by parachute (Picture: MOD).

When asked would you do it again, Mr Cortmann said, "yes but not tomorrow", adding "it's a long way down".

He was just 22 years old when he parachuted on to the same drop zone in September 1944.

After landing Mr Cortmann, still wearing his red flight suit and returning to the area for the first time since the war, waved to onlookers and a mass of cameras from his wheelchair as he took his place for a memorial service on the heath.

Johnny Mercer Sandy Cortmann Ginkel Heath Arnhem
Veteran Sandy Cortmann with Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer (Picutre: MOD).

The Prince of Wales, as the Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, laid a wreath during the service bearing the handwritten message: "In everlasting remembrance, Charles."

He later shook Mr Cortmann's hand as he met several of the last band of surviving veterans from Operation Market Garden. 

Prince Charles Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands Arnhem
Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands with The Prince of Wales watching the parachute drop.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer also parachuted in with the Red Devils.

Many of the paratroopers jumped using another country’s equipment and aircraft to earn that country’s parachute wings.

Three jump waves took place, one of which formed the culmination of Exercise Falcons Leap, hosted by the Royal Netherlands Army, to train Nato airborne forces to launch parachute operations together.

Johnny Mercer Ginkel Heath Arnhem
Defence Minister Johnny Mercer landing on the Ginkel Heath Dropzone (Picture: MOD).

In September 1944, more than 35,000 British, American and Polish airborne troops dropped behind enemy lines to capture key bridges over the River Rhine and open up an attack route into Germany.

The subsequent fighting, immortalised in the 1977 film 'A Bridge Too Far', saw more than 1,500 soldiers killed, nearly 6,500 captured and five Victoria Crosses awarded.

The parachute jumps are part of a host of commemorative events in and around the Dutch city of Arnhem this week.