Parachute drop marks 65 years since Battle of Arnhem

20th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The parachutists made their drop over the Dutch village of Driel, near Arnhem, in a repetition of the drop made by 1,700 Polish paratroopers in 1944.

The Hague -- Thirty Dutch and Polish parachutists on Saturday marked the 65th anniversary of the failed Second World War assault on Arnhem Bridge which had hoped to end the war before 1945, organisers said.

The parachutists made their drop over the Dutch village of Driel, near Arnhem, in a repetition of the drop made by 1,700 Polish paratroopers in 1944, Arno Baltussen of the Driel-Polen association told AFP.

"Sixty-five years ago hundreds of heroes appeared here, in the sky," said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, alongside his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk.

"We think respectfully of the Poles and other Allied soldiers who gave their lives during the Battle of Arnhem," he said.

The Poles were to take part with mostly British soldiers in the Battle of Arnhem, part of the largest airdrop in history baptised Market Garden by Britain's Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery.

Soldiers in the operation were supposed to take control of Dutch bridges over the Rhine around three months after the D-Day landings and allow a daring offensive into Germany which could have ended the war in 1944.

But despite successes elsewhere in the Netherlands, Nazi forces at Arnhem Bridge -- the subject of Richard Attenborough's film "A Bridge Too Far" -- were underestimated and the battle ended with an Allied defeat.

Of the tens of thousands of parachutists and gliders deployed over and near Arnhem, around 8,000 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

The Netherlands' Queen Beatrix and England's Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, are to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of nearby Nijmegen by the Allies on Sunday.

AFP/Expatica

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