WW2 veterans get hero’s welcome in Netherlands at Operation Market Garden 75th anniversary

Memories flew back to Ron Johnson, 97, and Frank Ashleigh, 94, who flew into Arnhem Market Garden in September 1944 during the the tribute in The Netherlands. They were part of the daring operation where more than 600 gliders were towed into battle in an attempt to secure the River Rhine crossings and advance into northern Germany.

Although it ultimately failed, the determination and courage shown by the airborne troops made it one of the Second World War’s most famous battles.

A full-sized replica of the Second World War troop-carrying glider had been kept in an old hangar for five years in Shropshire but now, thanks to Dutch enthusiast Richard Westmaas it will be put in public view in The Netherlands.

An Assault Glider Trust spokesman said: “For over 10 years we have sought a suitable permanent display facility in the UK for our Horsa with the fully assembled aircraft available for unrestricted public viewing

“However, all approaches so far have either been conditional on being able to raise sufficient funds to build such a facility or were not followed up.

“The temporary storage facility at Cosford, while being a very welcome bolt hole since our departure from RAF Shawbury in 2014, has not allowed general public access for viewing and we have been increasingly concerned about the steady deterioration of the Horsa.

“In the autumn of last year, however, Richard Westmaas from the Dutch Wings of Freedom group approached us to discuss the feasibility of moving the Horsa to the Arnhem area as a focal point in their 75th Anniversary event.

“With funds and transportation secured by the Dutch we felt that this was a serious offer, and once Richard and the RNAF team had visited in May to confirm the viability of the move we decided to accept.

“The trustees, the volunteers who built the glider, surviving veterans and all those in the UK who have so generously supported the project since 2001 are naturally disappointed that a permanent UK home has not materialised despite the interest shown by several British organisations.

“However, without their financial and material means to translate intent into reality within a reasonable timeframe we decided to accept the Dutch offer as, crucially, it included the generous undertaking by the Oorlogsmuseum Director to display the complete aircraft permanently at one of the most impressive military museums on the Continent.”

“The momentous events at Arnhem 75 years ago arouse strong passions in the local population and it is therefore entirely appropriate that our Horsa glider should be included on permanent exhibition in the area as a major, but perhaps understated, part of that story.”

The event follows hundreds of veterans marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Wreaths were laid, a minute’s silence was held and veterans linked arms and sang, before watching an RAF flypast.

Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron thanked veterans who took part in June 1944.

President Donald Trump called former US soldiers “the pride of the nation”.

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