Colchester remembers Operation Market Garden

A COMMEMORATION service was held to honor service members who served in the Battle of Arnhem during World War II.

The Deputy Mayor of Colchester, Tim Young, the Bishop of Colchester, the Reverend Roger Morris, and the High Sheriff of Essex Simon Brice were all present at the Colchester War Memorial to honor the sacrifices of the Allied forces in the Netherlands in 1944.

The Battle of Arnhem was part of Operation Market Garden in which the 1st Airborne Division – the precursors of the Parachute Regiment – landed by parachute and glider at Arnhem on September 17, 1944 to capture the last bridge over the Rhine .

Anticipating that they would be relieved within 48 hours, the soldiers instead withstood nine days of prolonged fighting.

Over 1,600 British soldiers were killed in Arnhem and nearly 6,500 captured.

At Friday’s ceremony, poppy wreaths were laid by dignitaries including Mr. Young, Deputy Lt. Col. of Essex, Lt. Col. Hugh Toler and Lt. Col. Richard Piso.

Primary school students were also present and they laid sunflowers at the war memorial, replicating the Dutch tradition that takes place at the main memorial service in Oosterbeek, where Allied forces landed to begin the operation.

He continues the Colchester Council’s partnership with the Dutch district of Renkum – which includes the town of Oosterbeek – after the signing of a friendship bond between the two councils in 2019.

Lieutenant Colonel Toler was born three years before the Battle of Arnhem but his father fought in the campaign.

Lt. Col. Toler said: “The important thing is that if we don’t learn the lessons of yesteryear, we will repeat them in the future.

“I think it’s important for children to understand, however glorious an operation may seem at the beginning, that there will be people who come back that they will remember as children here today.

“My father was in WWII, my uncle was in Arnhem as a fighter pilot and he went out on the last day swimming across the river.

“If you come here as a young person at an impressionable age, you hear these stories about Lieutenant Grayburn winning his Victoria Cross, it’s really moving, and it was for me too.”

The Dutch flag and Pegasus – the emblem of the First Airborne Division and now the Parachute Regiment – will fly from Colchester Town Hall until September 25 to mark nine days of battle 77 years ago.

But Colonel Toler added a final note of caution.

“Of course the memorial will become cluttered – we have Afghanistan, we have Iraq, we have the Balkans, we have Northern Ireland – we don’t want to clutter the landscape anymore.”

Terri S. Tomasini